Thursday, June 25, 2009

Life Amongst the Dead

A mid-afternoon thunderstorm is gathering outside, the boom of thunder warning of a five minute shower to come. The rain provides only a small hint of relief from the dense, record-breaking heat and humidity this week.

We woke up early this morning to try to beat the worst of the heat and visit some of the crescent city's famous burial grounds. One such cemetery is St. Louis Cemetery #1, the first official cemetery founded in 1718 by the Spaniards. Most notably, St. Louis #1 is purportedly the resting place of Marie Leveau, the famous voodoo queen who lived from 1801-1881.

"(Marie Leveau) led voodoo dances in Congo Square and sold charms and potions from her home in the 1830s. Sixty years later she was still holding ceremonies and looked as young as she did when she started. Her rites at St. John's Bayou on the banks of Lake Pon[t]chartrain resembled a scene from hell, with bonfires, naked dancing, orgies, and animal sacrifices. She had a strange power over police and judges and succeeded in saving several criminals from hanging." (Haunted Places: National Directory by Dennis Hauck).

Many more photos on flickr

Marie Leveau Tomb (Note the Xs where people have sought wishes):
Offerings to the voodoo queen.
Today, Leveau's legacy includes numerous sightings around town where she is said to wander St. Ann Street in a white gown. Many people make pilgrimages to her grave site where she purportedly grants wishes to those who knock three times and write three Xs on the tomb. Some interesting New Orleans haunting stories discussed by Skeptical Inquiry here. This article focuses exclusively on Marie Leveau.

Greenwood Cemetery Photos:

"Ovens," cheap burial places for the less fortunate.

Lakelawn Metairie Cemetery:

More from New Orleans: Life in the Big Bathtub and The Lower Ninth

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Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
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