February 26 2024 | New Orleans

 

According to a YouGov survey published in USA Today, 41% of Americans believe ghosts exist, and 20% claim they've actually seen one. Believers and skeptics alike will find the Haunted Tour at Destrehan Plantation an eye opener- even if they don't see a spirit. If you don't believe in ghosts, you'll still be fascinated by the tales you'll hear about life and death on this plantation, located just 25 minutes from downtown New Orleans.

Established in 1787, Destrehan Plantation is the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley. It is believed by some that places are haunted because they are associated with a strong emotion from the past such as remorse, fear, or death. On January 8, 1811, the largest slave revolt of its kind in the U.S., the 1811 Slave Revolt, swept through Destrehan plantation.

Along with this tragic event and other miseries connected with slavery, there were also Yellow Fever deaths. In short, if ghosts need a reason to haunt, they could find it at Destrehan!)

After gathering briefly in the gift shop, our guide Stephanie from NOLA Ghost Riders took us out into the Louisiana night where she began to tell us stories about what she and others have experienced here. As we stood beneath spooky live oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss, she warned us, "If you feel someone touch your hair, it's probably just Lydia, a 17-year-old girl who died of Yellow Fever." (Fun Fact: Lydia's room appears in the movie Interview with the Vampire which was shot in and around several plantations in Louisiana.)

Stephanie went on to hand several people in our group K2 meters which she told them they could use to detect the energy of any spirits who may have joined us on the tour. Others of us were armed with cameras. During the evening, these meters lit up continually and, before the end of the night, several people caught orbs, mists and what they believed were shadowy figures in their images.

Along with the ghost stories, we heard about Charles Paquet, the enslaved man responsible for building this plantation, and the methods he and his team used. We toured a former slave cabin where we could imagine what life must have been like here. And we got to wander through the Big House, where we saw haunting portraits, original furniture, a bathtub that was given to the family by Napoleon himself and more.

At the end of the tour, we were given "divining rods" (also known as "witching sticks") and were set free to see if we could hunt down some ghosts. As everyone dispersed to tour the plantation grounds, we heard murmuring into the night, "If you're here, make the sticks cross. Are you a woman? A man? Did you die here? Were you enslaved?" When we heard Stephanie speak in French, her sticks went nuts!

Whether the divining rods crossed by coincidence or under some spirit's power, we'll never know for sure. But we can tell you in all certainty that we enjoyed the night 100%. We think you will, too.

If you're staying in New Orleans, you can board a NOLA Ghost Riders bus at Voodoo Tavern & Po-Boy's at 1140 Decatur St at 7 p.m. If you have your own transportation, just meet everyone at Destrehan Plantation's gift shop. The tour is available Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and lasts about 2 1/2 hours.

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You'll definitely want to come back to learn more about the lives of the first enslaved people at Destrehan, the 1811 Slave Revolt, and to see how Destrehan Plantation helped former enslaved people with housing and assistance after the Civil War. Book a tour of the plantation with one of our historical interpreters and check out the exhibits.

 
 

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