Learn voodoo 101 at one of New Orleans' most notorious cemeteries


Beware Marie Laveau!

The great thing about New Orleans is that there's something for everyone. Maybe you find the jazz music too peppy, the hurricanes too sweet, and the bright colors of Mardi Gras too cheery... in which case, this walking tour of the city's most infamous cemetery, known for being the final resting place of voodoo priestesses, pirates, and murderers is for you. 

The burial ground is called St. Louis Cemetery #1 , and it opened its gates in 1789. The Roman Catholic graveyard features above-ground tombs, which are commonly found in New Orleans, thanks in part to the city's high water table which led underground graves to become waterlogged, and also thanks in part to the city's French and Spanish heritage-- above-ground burials were en vogue in Spain at the time. Either way, the cemetery is approximately the size of one city block, but is home to thousands of the dearly departed. Take a moment to wrap your brain around that.

Of the thousands of residents of the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, you'll find some recognizable names. Homer Plessy, from the famed Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson (that's the one that made racial segregation legal, if you don't remember your US History) is one. Early chess champion Paul Morphy is another. Barthelemy Lafon's name might not be famous, but his boss's name is; Lafon worked for famed pirate Jean Lafitte. Delphine LaLurie is also allegedly buried here. Madame LaLurie was a wealthy socialite and serial killer who tortured and murdered many of her slaves (she was featured on American Horror Story, remember?) Oh, and keep at eye out for Nic Cage's crypt, too!

But the most famous grave at this cemetery has to be that of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo priestess. Not a lot is known about her life, but we can confirm that Marie Laveau was born to free people of color in The French Quarter in 1801. We don't know how she got into voodoo, or became so powerful, but according to legend, she was the first Voodoo Queen who used her powers for profit. She was said to be especially skilled at helping people find love and granting luck with money, and her clients included some of New Orleans' most prominent citizens. When she died, her funeral was attended by thousands, and she was buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1's Glapion crypt with her second husband.

Taking a tour of the cemetery is now the only way to get in to see Marie Laveau's grave-- the Diocese recently closed the graveyard to the public after rampant vandalism on the old crypts became too much of a problem. A tour will also help you navigate the burial ground-- with thousands of bodies and hundreds of crypts, it would take hours to find the most significant ones on your own. Plus, your guide is an expert on telling ghost stories and knows a lot about voodoo-- so don't be afraid to ask questions. Your tour will also get you a few voodoo basics, like gris-gris-- all of which will come in handy if you're looking to cast a spell or make a wish while visiting the grave of Marie Laveau. To make a wish, you have to draw an "X" on her crypt, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, and yell out your wish-- and if it comes true, you have to return, circle your X, and leave an offering. Just be careful what you wish for... 

Here are some other awesome ways to let the good (and creepy) times roll in NOLA!

Visiting America's weirdest grave: Nicolas Cage's pyramid tomb in New Orleans

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Meet Madame LaLurie: the baddest bitch in New Orleans

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Here's how to experience New Orleans' real Cajun Country

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Header via Flickr/JasonParis and Wikipedia

Places explored in this article:

This was originally written for Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
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