Moans, cries heard on the grounds in 500 block of Toulouse Street
Along Toulouse Street in the French Quarter, one block is filled with more than just hungry tourists and locals passing by. From a feed store to a quarantine hospital and later a pub, three ghosts are said to be seen roaming the grounds along with the haunting cries of “Mommy! Mommy!”
The History Before The Haunting
This ghost story begins with the doomed Guillaume Marre and his soon-to-be-widowed new wife Mary Alice arriving in the French Quarter in 1803. They bought neighboring buildings in the 500 block of Toulouse Street, opening a feed store at 508 Toulouse above where they also lived. Next door, at 514 Toulouse, they opened an oyster-shucking house which naturally smelled to high heaven. This being 19th century New Orleans, Marre soon died of yellow fever, leaving the property and fortune to his widow. Mary carried on the businesses and eventually remarried to the chubby, balding Frenchman, Joseph Baptandiere in 1806, her third foray into wedded bliss.
It wasn’t long before her wayward hubby entered into a placage, the tradition whereby men of European descent took on mistresses of native or mixed blood. Joseph’s mistress was the fetching Angelique DuBois, who some sources say was also employed at the Toulouse Street feed store where she lived in a small attic room. Angelique grew quite attached to Joseph and eventually demanded he leave his wife (who controlled all the money) and marry her. Joseph refused and in 1810 the pair had a heated argument at the feed store. Angelique ran to the third floor where, it is surmised, she threatened Joseph she was going to spill the beans to the missus about their affair. In a rage, Joseph supposedly choked her unconscious and threw her limp body down to the courtyard below where she died of a broken neck. To cover his misdeed, Joseph stuffed the body into a sewer hole that had been dug in the courtyard and covered her up with dirt.
But his foul deeds were witnessed by a teenage slave looking out a fourth-floor window onto the courtyard. The young man fled after Joseph spotted him, leaving the murderer no choice but to kill himself to escape punishment. He went back to the third floor and hung himself from the balcony. The slave returned later and pointed out where Joseph had stashed the body of his mistress Angelique. Despite the scandal of adultery and murder that now attached itself to her home, the thrice-widowed Mary continued to run the businesses and live in the building until her death in 1817 at the age of 35.
The Hauntings Begin
Soon after the deaths of Joseph and Angelique, their ghosts began to appear. The ghost of Joseph was spotted hanging by the neck from the third-floor window and the ghost of Angelique was seen wandering the third floor right after sunset. In the mid-1800’s during the yellow fever epidemic, the building was turned into a quarantine hospital for doomed victims. In order to escape a lingering, agonizing death, many patients were said to throw themselves from the windows of the upper stories to end their suffering. To combat this, metal bars were put on the windows and remain there to this day.
In 1989, the building became home to the famed O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub and the ghosts were frequent visitors to the ensuing rowdy Celtic evenings. The ghost of Angelique herself was seen in the courtyard, described as slender with brown hair down to her waist. They say she liked to posthumously flirt with handsome young men, touching their hands or caressing their necks. She was also said to fling bottles across the bar when she was feeling petulant. The sewer hole where Joseph dumped her corpse became a brick-lined planter the area around which people found noticeably colder.
Her murderer haunted the balcony over the Ballad Room where Daniel O’Flaherty would perform his Celtic music. Visitors reported feeling pushed while others said they were scratched by the ghost of a portly, tall man. It was said that as you climbed higher into the house towards the top floors, the more intense his malevolent presence could be felt.
The less menacing spirit of Mary would also materialize on the balcony to listen whenever O’Flaherty would play the song “Red is the Rose.” She would often appear in the kitchen and restaurant to oversee that all was running smoothly and could be seen peering through a second story window down into the courtyard where Angelique had landed. It was said Mary would throw books off the shelves in the complex’s Celtic gift shop whenever a pretty young woman would walk in. Apparently, her experiences in life left her prone to fits of ethereal jealousy.
The eternal love triangle isn’t the only haunting of the premises. People reported flashing lights, coughing and moaning coming from the sealed off floors that once housed the dying yellow fever patients as well as the cries of sick children calling for their mothers.
The Location Today
O’Flaherty’s never reopened after Hurricane Katrina and the buildings were vacant for several years before being redeveloped into residential apartments. Today, the ground floor of 514 Toulouse is home to the New Orleans Creole Cookery restaurant. Several of the places where ghostly activity had been observed disappeared during renovations; the balcony over where Mary listened to music is gone and the raised, brick planter where Angelique was buried ain’t dere no more. However, Mary, Joseph and Angelique are still very active according to the staff, as are the yellow fever victims. An employee tells how a female patron recently ran in fear from the stairs in the courtyard, telling people she had heard ghostly children crying “Mommy! Mommy!”
One long-time employee, when I told her I was a bit of a skeptic told me, “Don’t be a skeptic…they’re real.” She went on to relate a long list of recent patron and staff encounters with the ghosts, including seeing Mary floating through the courtyard and of hearing the children’s cries for their mothers, even saying of Angelique “the bitch is even in the bathroom!”
Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of the French Quarter. Subtext Publishing, Savannah, GA, 2013
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Pelican Publishing: Gretna, LA, 2016
Historic New Orleans Collection, Vieux Carre Digital Survey. https://www.hnoc.org/vcs/property_info.php?lot=18437 (Accessed October 2019)
Schlosser, S.E. Spooky New Orleans: Tales of Hauntings, Happenings, and Other Local Lore. Globe Pequot, Guilford, CT, 2016.
Stuart, Bonnye. Haunted New Orleans: Southern Spirits, Garden District Ghosts, And Vampire Venues. Globe Pequot: Guilford, CT, 2012