My tour company’s proprietor, Voodoo Bone Lady, has her own shop right near the meeting location, so I decided to go inside. The shop prohibits photos, so I have nothing to show here, but it’s a small shop with informational plaques on what voodoo is and what it isn’t, ensuring you that you’re entering into a safe space that you are welcome. I browsed through herbs, trinkets, voodoo dolls. It’s a common misconception that voodoo dolls are used to harm, but it’s actually the opposite; they’re used to lure positive vibes towards yourself or wish them on another person. There are multiple voodoo shops within the French Quarter, and if you are like me and enjoy the general vibe of metaphysical bookstores, they’re fun to browse.
I suddenly heard the sound that every movie featuring New Orleans has trained my ears to understand as the audible cue for the setting, a second line parade. So, quick factoid I learned: the “main line” or “first line” is the brass band itself that leads, while the second line is anyone that follows them, forming a parade. In short, they’re a jazz funeral without a body. These parades are a daily occurrence, because anyone in New Orleans can have the cops block off a portion of the street so they can have their own parade, for a nominal fee of course.
As I walked, I found myself near Jackson Square and suddenly…alone. I put my back up against the wall of a tavern and flipped out my phone to look at my map. The second the soft blue glow of the screen hit my face, a man emerged from the shadows of the square and immediately started towards me. Noticing him, I put my phone away, to which he commented, “Aw, I can’t use your phone then?” “No, sorry.” Why did I say sorry? I walked on, keeping an ear out to see if he followed but staying well within the view of the bar patrons who were inside facing out the windows. I found a mother and daughter walking the opposite direction with their standard poodle, so I joined their flock and followed wherever they were headed just to put some space between myself and what other surprises lurked in the square.
When I took a closer look at my surroundings, I saw that Jackson Square was populated by little pop-up fortune telling booths. Lone tarot card readers, fortune tellers, and voodoo practitioners had set out small folding tables covered with table cloths and tea light candles to read the palms of tourists and passersby. I noticed that the guy who had talked to me had found another (male) tourist to occupy his time who actually seemed to be eating up everything he was saying. He then leaned down and put toothpaste on the tips of each of the man’s shoes, saying, “There. You’re in New Orleans now.”
Because it’s me, my first tour had to have a haunted slant to it. I chose Voodoo Bone Lady’s 5-1 Haunted Tour where you learn about ghosts, pirates, vampires, witches, and voodoo. Our tour guide, Brian, is like a human megaphone, which was especially useful to hear the tour information over the din of drunken revelers and bar music. As we began walking at night in the French Quarter, I became keenly aware of how many haunted and night time tours this city has to offer, with every corner busy with a different tour group. This mishmash of haunted lore right within earshot allowed me to indulge in my guilty pleasure of eavesdropping.
“…And everyone was bleeding from the mouth…”
“Back in the day they didn’t have many surgical options available, so they’re going to tell you that that arm has gotta come off!”
“Bonafide! Prison! For vampires!”
That last one was a story about the history of the Ursuline convent, which if you take the time to look it up, is like a combination of an Anne Rice novel and a Seinfeld episode.