Here are 14 weird, strange things that have happened in our magical, mystical city over the years.
1. There was the unlucky fellow who drowned at a party for lifeguards.
In 1985, Jerome Moody attended a party for lifeguards, celebrating the fact that an entire year had passed without any drownings. Four lifeguards were on duty during the party, and many of the guests, were themselves lifeguards. However, Mr. Moody was found at the bottom of the deep end of the pool, at the end of the party. He had died from drowning.
2. We once named a street for the canal that would be built...and then didn’t build the canal.
Canal Street was so named because the city had great plans to install a canal along the street. The canal never happened, but the name was never changed.
3. And we also once installed light posts emblazoned with some highly inaccurate history.
Several light posts downtown are engraved with a seal and proclaim “Confederate Domination 1861-1865.” Someone clearly didn’t study their history.
4. There was that time when a serial killer promoted jazz music...and it worked.
Joseph John Devilla/ Public Domain
When The Axeman of New Orleans was on the rampage, killing people in their homes with his axe and straight edge razor, residents were terrified. He sent a message to the local paper, stating that he wouldn’t harm anyone who was playing jazz when he walked by, looking for a target. The entire city became fans of jazz music, pretty much overnight.
5. There was that plague that started a weird, but charming tradition.
When Yellow Fever swept the city, more than 40,000 people died. The horror of the death toll left people wondering if the dead were coming back to life to infect the living. So, during funeral processions, they began to map out crazy routes through the city, in order to confuse the dead. At some point, they added jazz music to the processional.
6. And the same plague created another, much creepier tradition.
To protect congregants from the Yellow Fever, one Reverend decided to create a shrine to Saint Roch: the Patron Saint of Good Health. People started leaving prosthetic limbs, false teeth, glass eyes and other false body parts at the shrine.
7. There was also the time that people hired a witch doctor when someone died.
Because you definitely don’t want your crazy mother-in-law coming back to life, “sitting up with the dead” became popular in the 1800s. Corpses were never left unattended between death and burial, in case the deceased tried to come back to life. If relatives started feeling nervous, they called in a witch doctor, just in case.
8. When the neighbors noticed blood pouring from underneath the front door of a mansion.
Richard Koch/Public Domain
When “The Sultan,” a renter who had taken up residence in the Gardette-Lepretre mansion, moved in, parties happened almost every night. After all, it’s typical to have lots of parties when you’ve moved an entire harem in with you. One morning, though, neighbors noticed blood pouring out from under the front door. When police entered, they found that everyone in the house was murdered and dismembered. The Sultan had been buried alive in his backyard. The killer(s) were never caught.
9. There was that movie star who built a strange pyramid tomb.
It’s nearly impossible to get a plot in St. Louis Cemetery Number 1, but Nicholas Cage managed it. He installed a pyramid tomb on his plot, where it still sits now, waiting for his death. Some say that Cage feels like he is haunted by Marie Laveau, whose home he once purchased, and that being buried near her might reverse the curse.
10. And don’t forget the musician who was buried, dug up, then buried again.
When Gram Parsons (most famously of The Byrds) died, he was buried in New Orleans, despite his wish that he be cremated and his ashes scattered in Joshua Tree, California. His friends, outraged that his wishes hadn’t been carried out, dug up his body, had it cremated and were planning the trip to Joshua Tree when they were apprehended. The ashes were returned to New Orleans and reburied.
11. Our state legislature decided to create a law to protect alligators from being kidnapped (or gaternapped).
Somehow, our lawmakers decided that alligators were in mortal danger of being stolen, despite the fact that these 10-foot-long creatures can take your arm off if you mess with them. The penalty for stealing an alligator? Jail time of up to 10 years.
12. And then they created another law to keep people from stealing crawfish.
There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a delicious dinner of crawfish, only to have it stolen by an armed robber. Luckily the State Legislature created a law that made it illegal to steal crawfish. We can all breathe easier now, during our crawfish boils.
13. That woman who tortured and disfigured her slaves shook up New Orleans a bit.
Delphine LaLaurie was an evil woman who tortured her slaves in the 1800s. She reportedly performed experiments on them, chained them up for years at a time, and even killed many of them, including some children. A kitchen fire in 1834 led to the discovery of the poor slaves, and when people in the French Quarter found out, they rioted and destroyed everything in the house.
14. That time when an amusement park became the home of dinosaurs.
The Six Flags amusement park that was destroyed and abandoned after Hurricane Katrina was the perfect spot to film some of the movie “Jurassic World.” Going from a hurricane to dinosaurs isn’t that big of a leap, right?