It was the second day of my first trip to New Orleans, and one I had looked forward to for a very long time. Being originally from Georgia, I suppose I felt a sort of kinship to the sister city of Savannah. The streets of the French Quarter felt familiar, even though I had never been there before. I felt quite at home in the strange city.
Although Mardigras did not officially begin for another three days, the atmosphere was one of celebration. The Saints were in the Super Bowl and the party had started early. My husband, Ken and I had enjoyed a late breakfast at the Court of Two Sisters and then decided to explore the city. As we walked hand in hand down the crowded sidewalks we stopped occasionally to enjoy the sounds of musicians performing in the streets. With no particular destination we eventually found ourselves on Royal Street.
One of the oldest and lovely streets in the country, Royal Street is lined with shops filled with gorgeous antiques and beautiful historic homes. As we approached an intersection, things began to take a strange turn. The weight of the beads around my neck seemed to increase to the point I had to stop walking. I began to feel very panicked and ill. At first my husband dismissed my complaints and thought perhaps I had a little too much to drink. Finally, I became frantic. My head was pounding and the beads felt like heavy chains around my neck, choking me. I was trying to avoid making a spectical of myself but became so uncomfortable that all pride was lost.
I began to pull the beads over my head, tossing them to the ground. Ken was now very concerned and tried to calm me as he quickly tried to help me remove the tangled strands. He took my hand and tried to lead me across the street. As we crossed, a bird flew toward my head, almost striking me! I watched as the bird flew to the second story balcony railing of a grey building. When I looked up at this house I knew immediately it was the source of my anxiety. As my husband was trying to help me cross the street so I could sit down he was unknowingly leading me closer. My unexplained level of fear was almost paralyzing! I pulled back, and managed to get the words out. "No!" I said. "It's that house! Get me away from here!" I was struggling to breathe as my confused husband said "O.K., O.K., calm down I'll get you outta' here!"
My eyes had filled with tears, as I turned and looked back at the house my head was pounding and there was a roaring in my ears that had brought on an instant migraine. We walked down a couple of blocks away from the house. We sat down; Ken rubbed his hand across my back and held me. He said, "You better now?" and as soon as I got calmed down a little, I was. "What the hell happened back there?" I said "I don't know, maybe I had a panic attack." I have never had any sort of panic or anxiety attack before, but I could not explain what had just happened to me. All I knew was, one minute I was fine; having the time of my life; and the next I was a hysterical mess. He helped me up from the bench and said we should go back to the hotel. I refused to walk back down Royal. I insisted we would have to find another way back. He couldn't believe I was serious. He argued it would take us an extra half hour. "I don't care!" I said, "That place is evil!" My husband humoured me, even though he thought I was being a little silly.
Later at the hotel he explained how he was worried about me because he could see that I was genuinely afraid, and he had never seen me like that before. He thought perhaps it could have been a reaction to something in my drink or maybe even to something I'd eaten. I didn't want to seem crazy so I agreed and we put it behind us.
It wasn't until the next day when we were trying to plan our evening that we discovered a brochure about all the tours of the city. As we flipped through its pages there was a picture of the house! The same home that had invoked that crippling pain and fear in me the day before was called the LA Laurie House. It was featured on a ghost tour as being the most haunted house in New Orleans and the sight of torture and mass murder!
A brief history of the house said, Madame LA Laurie was thought to have practiced voo-doo and after an abused slave who was CHAINED AROUND THE NECK to the wall of the kitchen set fire to the house in order to escape. Dozens of disfigured, mangled bodies of other slaves were discovered. Some slaves were found bound and tortured in the attic of the home still alive, but with afflictions such as limbs that had been broken and reset in monstrous positions. Some were found with body parts surgically removed and many with eyes and lips sewn shut as if they were human voo-doo dolls!
There is no doubt in my mind that the history of that house reached out and grabbed me on the street that day! The only question in my mind is whether it was her evil spirit toying with me or was it a psychic connection with the events of the past?