St Louis Cemetery #1 was built in 1789 on a span of one block. The grounds hold over 700 tombs with over 100,000 dead and counting, as it is still used today for burials for the price of only $40,000. This is considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the United States with over 200 years of reports having interactions with the ghosts of St Louis Cemetery #1. St Louis Cemetery #2 was built in 1823. Both cemeteries are on the national register of Historic Places and the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Accessing the St. Louis Cemetery
St. Louis Cemetery is now only accessible with a guided tour due to vandalism, the latest one being Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb as it was painted Pepto-Bismol pink. This resulted in the Archdiocese of New Orleans closing the cemetery to the public after March 2015, with only guided tours being allowed. The families of the dead buried here can apply for a pass to visit their loved ones. The cemetery is all above-ground burials. This is due to the city’s high-water table that makes in-ground burials impossible. A coffin buried underground would simply float back to the top.
Many of the tombs are called “oven vaults” or “wall vaults.” These tombs house the remains of many family members. They are stackable gravesites, placing remains in a cabinet style. Once a body is placed inside it is left undisturbed in the grave for one year and one day. After that time, the remains can be pushed to the back of the tomb making room for another body to be placed inside. Some families prefer to collect the remains and place them inside a muslin bag.
The Voodoo Queen in St. Louis Cemetery
One of the most prominent people buried here is Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, born in 1801 and died in 1881. She is said to be buried in plot 347 in Cemetery #1. She was born in the French Quarter and gained local fame as a Voodoo practitioner learning herbal remedies from her mother, and was a hairdresser to the wealthy. With those herbal remedies, she helped many people during the yellow fever of the 19th century, saving many lives. Using those herbal remedies gained her a reputation as a Voodoo practitioner. Many believe she still helps people from beyond the grave, with gifts being left at her gravesite, her ghost has been seen in many locations throughout the graveyard, although he is said to not be the friendliest spirit. People have reported being scratched, pinched, or shoved down to the ground. The legend is said that if you mark her tomb with 3-x’s and make a wish, it is granted, then the person must return and leave a gift at her grave.
Another ghost said to walk the cemetery is Henry Vignes, who was a sailor during the 19th century. He traveled all over the world and made his final home in a New Orleans boarding house. It was said he was always worried about important papers regarding his family’s tomb when he was at sea, and that he asked the owner of the boarding house to keep them safe while away. While out to sea, the owner of the boarding house sold his family tomb, once Vignes arrived back, he discovered the tomb had been sold and was never able to acquire the tomb back, and shortly afterward he died. Henry was buried in an unmarked grave. It is said that his ghost asks walkers by where the Vignes tomb is located as he is unable to find it himself. His ghost has been seen at funerals, often appearing behind the grieving asking if there is any more room in the tomb for him. His apparition has been caught on camera and the sound of a male’s voice saying “I need to rest”.
Alphonse is another ghost said to be haunting this cemetery. His ghost has been said to take a visitor’s hand and pull them to a stop while walking and asking them to bring him home. Also, he has been seen gathering flowers from others’ graves and placing them on his tomb. The legend is said that he was murdered by the Pinead family as he has been said to warn visitors from stepping near the Pinead family tomb. It is unknown why they might have murdered him. These are the most prominent spirits that are haunting St. Louis Cemetery #1, although there are likely many, many more.