Saints and Sinners

The city of New Orleans is known for its “Saints and Sinners” but why is that?  A lot of history actually plays into where that phrase originated.  You’ll see it in the street names, intersecting each other, one direction named after the saints:  St. Ann, St. Charles, St. Philip, and the other direction named for King Louis XIV’s illegitimate children (sinners): Dumaine, Toulouse.

St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans

The main reason the Big Easy, the Crescent City, NOLA is known as the town of Saints and Sinners is because only two key buildings survived the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788:  St. Louis Cathedral and Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (AKA: Speakeasy).  So there you have it, the saints and the sinners.

The Church has been rebuilt several times surviving fires and hurricanes.  And Lafitte’s, now known as the Blacksmith Bar, remains one of the oldest surviving buildings of New Orleans.  And, it’s on the ghost tour…

So who was Jean Lafitte?  Simply put, he was a pirate.  A quick-witted businessman, he set up “shop”  as a ruse to throw off the government and law officials who he had common run ins with.  Little is known as fact about Lafitte, a journal supposedly surfaced which described him as a Robin Hood of sorts, except instead of giving his treasures to the poor, he kept them for himself.  It is believed by New Orleans locals that the Blacksmith Bar is haunted by several ghosts, victims of Lafitte’s rage.

     And rage he did.  Four men were brought in for questioning by Lafitte’s thugs as payback for their loud mouths.  When all four refused to talk further, they were tortured one by one.

The thing about the blacksmith shop is that the fireplace inside isn’t big enough, nor does it have a proper chimney to filter out the smoke.  If the building were to actually be used as a blacksmith shop, the smithy would pass out from the heat that the building contained.

The story says that the four men were forced to watch as one by one their heads were placed in the opening of the fireplaces, scorching their flesh until their eyes burst out and they died.  Imagine being the fourth guy…

Locals believe the tales because several people, natives and tourists alike, have mailed in photographs that depict ghostly images around the fireplace.  I don’t think I caught anything, but I’m wondering if that’s cause we’re going digital now.  Does it make it trickier for ghosts to transcend this new technology?

     The other ghost story that occurs here happened years later.  I can’t recall exactly how it happened, whether it was a bar robbery or just a wrong place wrong time, but a man coming out of the restroom was stabbed and killed just outside the door.  Customers at the bar have reported hearing moaning sounds coming from the restroom and again photos have shown strange figures in this corner.

Blacksmith Bar, back right, the intersection before it

I always say you know it’s legit when the animals are spooked.  I think if an animal perceives some kind of danger or bad energy, you know something’s going on.  The intersection outside of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar has had the most accidents from horse drawn carriages.  There are several tour companies that offer carriage rides around the French Quarter, and apparently, those horses have taken out more street signs than anything.  The driver will stop at the bar to allow guests time inside trying to capture any ghoulies or ghosties on film, and it’s happened several times where nothing is seemingly around the carriage, but the horses get so spooked, they’ll bolt up onto the sidewalk taking out the street sign in the process more than once.  That, to me, is the freakiest part of this story.

What do you think?  Ghosts?  Historical energy emissions?  A Ruse?  What ghostly places have you visited?

27 responses

  1. I remember the first time I went to Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop. It was night, and there weren’t many lights in there. It was a dark, interesting place. The last time I went, ghost tours had picked up in popularity and started to meet there. It was crowded and not as pleasant to sit in there. I always liked walking down to that end of the French Quarter. It feels more “real” than the more traveled areas. Thanks for such a cool post.

    1. Definitely agree with you on the “feels more real.” It’s at the end of Bourbon St. and not a lot of people go down that far. You start getting into the more residential areas.

  2. Saints and Sinners, eh? A city full of ghost stories and a ghost tour to boot – sounds fun. The pictures add a lot to the post and blog, as well. 🙂

    1. Lots of ghost history, anyone would it, regardless of whether you believe in spirits or not. Of course, I know you do!

  3. Never visited a ghosty place but enjoy reading about them. Thank you for another intriguing historical post, Catie. Cool. Loved the pictures as well.

    1. It was probably the coolest tour I did aside from the entertainment of the swamp. LOL.

  4. Please forgive me, Jess, for calling you Catie. I had just read her blog and my mind is still in the “too early” mode!

    1. 😛

  5. Love your travelogues Jess! Every time I read one I want to visit the location more. New Orleans is now on my list. Thanks very much 🙂

    1. I would recommend staying in the French Quarter or close to Canal St., you’ll be in the main hub for sightseeing and won’t need a car to get around. If you’re feeling brave, you can rent a bike!

  6. Great historical post, Jess!I love hearing the history of different cities. I think ghost stories are mostly folk lore, people love to feel scared and to believe there’s life after death. Normally i don’t believe in ghosts myself, but the horses getting spooked is odd…could be there really are ghosts roaming that block.

    1. That’s what I think, when animals start getting frisky for no reason, I think something’s going on. In high school I used to walk my neighbor’s dog after school each day and I’d take her (the dog) to the video store I worked at. We allowed pets inside. She was the friendliest dog, go up to anybody. I tried walking around to the comedy section with her and you had to pass our back room where our mini office/fridge were located and she suddenly sat down and wouldn’t budge further. She just stared at the door to that back room. When I finally DRAGGED her forward, she bolted past the door and down the aisle and waited for me at the other side. Isn’t that weird? And I totally believe that place was haunted.

  7. What a great story! New Orleans is on my list of places to visit.

    1. Fun city! The tour guides were all amazing! They all have to be certified and trained so they really know their history.

  8. New Orleans seems like a city custom-made for ghost tours. I definitely believe that animals can sense things humans cannot – how many times have we seen our beloved pets stare at something in the middle of the room, when we see nothing there? Freaky!

    1. Oooh does Sydney have psychic abilities?

      1. She has on occasion stared at invisible objects…

  9. Yikes…Monsieur Lafitte doesn’t sound like a very nice guy…I’d certainly heard the name before, but didn’t know anything about him until I read your piece, Jess!


    1. I’m curious about that journal they found. The site I checked out didn’t confirm whether the journal was truly authentic or not. It’d certainly be interesting.

  10. Getting scared now. I’m just glad I haven’t seen any. Otherwise, I would’ve shivered to death.

    1. Me too! I kinda like it.

  11. You writing about NoLa makes me want to go back…

    I love St. Louis Cathedral – for one, Harry Connick Jr. was married there, and for two, it’s absolutely breathtaking. I went inside to buy my godsons St. Louis medals wtih my new voodoo dolls inside my purse. I did leave my beer outside. There are just some things I can’t take in to church. 🙂

    I do believe in ghosts, and I think the history of New Orleans makes it the perfect ghost town. I mean, seriously – above ground cemetaries. That alone is spooky. I want to do a midnight ghost tour next time.

    1. Yah, they are above ground, but most of them are pushed back into the pits below. Just think about all those piles of bones laying there…*cue creepy music*

  12. […] The ever fantastic Jess Witkins brings us another incredible travelogue from her recent adventure in New Orleans: Saints & Sinners. […]

  13. I just returned from a trip to New Orleans where I visited Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. I live just a few hours outside the city and had never been there before, so my friend and I decided to go on a day trip. We had no knowledge of any of the history of the city, so we decided to take one of the ghost tours. For the tour we had stopped at the bar for a quick break, and my friend instictively pointed out a table in the back where there weren’t any other patrons sitting and said “Hey, let’s sit there”. We had large fans from the tour that information on the back, and I was reading about the other tours offered by the company then placed my fan on the small table. I grabbed my phone out of my purse to check if I had a reply to a text I sent earlier, then chatted with my friend for a few more minutes before deciding it was time for us to get up and meet the rest of the group outside to finish the tour. She had kept her fan in her hand the whole time, but when I went to grab mine off the table, it was gone! We checked all around us to see if it dropped on the floor or if I had accidentally placed it in my purse, but it was nowhere to be found. Keep in mind we were in the back of the bar and not a single person had been around us to take the fan off of the table (not to mention, who would want to steal a silly paper fan, anyhow?). We gave up looking for it and jokingly said, “A ghost must have stolen it!” and walked outside… but after our tourguide gave us the story of the bar, we werent laughing. Apparently, the exact spot we were sitting in — the spot my friend specificly pointed out from across the bar — was the place of a grizzly murder when a business deal between two thieves had gone wrong.
    Who would want to steal a silly paper fan? How about the ghost of a century old criminal? That was enough of a ghostly experience for me!

    1. You better check your photos! Thanks for sharing your experience, I totally know what table you were at.

  14. […] Shop. It’s a bar now, but the building is roughly 300 years old. Lots of stories there. Two-sided brick fireplace Jean Lafitte […]

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