Inside the White Walls: A Haunted House in New Orleans
*Written by Lis, edited by Kristen*
My first summer of college, I was living in New Orleans, working at a summer camp. The group I was working with rented out this mansion in the garden district. It was the epitome of every mansion in the South–ornate, beautiful, and filled with a dusty, old energy–what you feel when walking through a grandparent’s home, after they’ve passed away. There was a heaviness to the house.
It had nine bedrooms and three floors, enough space for people to get lost inside, which was perfect for the large group of us. Outside, a veranda porch with huge columns loomed out from the white-washed walls. The color of the house, too, was different; the other houses on the block were mauve and yellow, soft colors–this house wanted to be noticed. And it was. When we had rented the place, the property manager had told us that the house was “haunted.” And the rooms were decorated that way, with this old-timey feel. But we’d needed a house to hold us all, and it was right by the school where we worked. And honestly, I don’t think any of us really believed it was haunted.
The first afternoon we were there, the tour group arrived, and every day after. Every afternoon at 3 o’clock, a haunted tour of New Orleans would stop outside our front door. Sometimes we’d sit and listen through the wood as the tour guides told told stories about the home we were living in. We felt on display if we happened to walk outside during the tour; the tourists stared at us like we were the ghosts. “Who would ever live in that place,” I’d heard them say before.
The guides talked about the house’s previous owners, and the crimes they had allegedly committed. Most of the stories revolved around a man who had lived there, and all of the wives he’d had, one after the next; nobody knew what had happened to them. Some guides were better than others; they’d tell the stories in such a way that those of us who were listening were tempted to run out the front door and join the tourist group. We became aware of the separation between us and them–the tourists were momentarily scared by the legends of our house. But we were living them.
One thing though I never got used to was the sounds. You could always hear noises, faint, coming from the corners and closets of the house, or sometimes a sound rising up from the floorboards. It was a creaking or a moaning, like any old house, but these noises were somehow different. And in every room, I remember there was a distinct energy. Sometimes, you felt a chill, a shiver on your neck, and you’d leave the room immediately. Other times, there was a drowsiness in the air, like some kind of comfort enticing you to sit down and close your eyes. I’m a logical person; I tried to explain away these things. But in this house, you could feel the presence of other beings. It was beyond the rational.
Outside the house, we had one car port. We’d rotate, and the rest of us parked our cars on the street. That car port is where it all happened. I was walking home that night and stopped at my car; the side had a huge scratch on it, the paint chipped off along both doors. I went inside and instantly my roommate Ali walked up to me; she’d been waiting for me to get home.
“I have to tell you something,” she started. “But I don’t really know what happened.”
“So when I got home early today, I parked my car in the car port. It was a few hours ago,” she said quickly. “I was inside working and then, an hour ago or so, there was this loud knock on the door. I ran downstairs and the neighbors were here, all frustrated and mad. They told me that a car was in the middle of the street, and I’d better move it fast.”
“What? Whose car?”
“I know! I had no idea, but I looked out and it was my car! I had just parked it in the car port, and I’m sure I turned everything off. You know me. I wouldn’t have left it running or something; and we’ve never put the emergency brake on. But my car was just there, in the middle of the road.”
“Well what happened?” I asked, “How could it have gotten there? Do you think someone tried to steal it?”
“No, I would have heard that; I was just inside. No. Somehow, it backed out of the car port. But it bumped your car on the way, that’s why there’s a scratch. And then it just stopped there, until the neighbors came to get me.”
We tossed ideas back and forth. If someone had indeed tried to steal the car, Alie would have noticed. And she wouldn’t have left the car on; her keys were inside the house. There wasn’t a hill; there was no need for an emergency brake. Our reasoning waned. How had she not heard a thing, we wondered. In this old house, where the wind could creep through the planks and startle you, she hadn’t heard a car engine start, nor had she heard the sound of two cars scratching, that horrible metal-on-metal shriek. Nothing. She’d heard nothing, until the knock on the door and the angry neighbors telling her she had to move that car. It was just sitting there, blocking traffic, as if it was waiting for something.