“New Orleans can be very, very gloomy,” said vampire novelist Anne Rice when Where interviewed her in 2001. “The twilight can be oppressive and frightening, but it’s also very beautiful: The sky really does turn violet, the sunsets really can be blood red and the cicadas really do sing in the trees. I’ve described it many times in my books.”
With its gas-lit streets, crumbling cemeteries and three centuries of vampire, voodoo and ghost lore, New Orleans can indeed seem creepy. It’s easy to understand why Rice set many of her novels here—and why the city consistently ranks as one of the nation’s top Halloween destinations.
Oh, the Horror!
Love having the wits scared out of you? There’s no better place than the Mortuary Haunted House. Located in a former funeral home surrounded by cemeteries, the acclaimed attraction draws hardcore horror fans with state-of-the-art antimatronics and special effects. This year the Mortuary partnered with City Park for the new Scout Island Scream Park. A veritable terror theme park, the sprawling fright fest caters to kids early in the evening with hay rides and a “scare-free zone,” but once the sun sets the fear factor ramps way, way up. Explore the Devil’s Swamp, Blood Bayou, Cirque du Fear and Scream Factory Haunted House…if you dare. Both venues are open Oct. 5-Nov. 3.
A Tour of Tours
When former photographer Sidney Smith decided to focus on tours in 1994, there were only two ghost excursions in town. Today there are nearly two dozen, with Smith’s Haunted History Tours among the most popular, offering a variety of expedictions, from ghost and vampire to voodoo and occult outings. French Quarter Phantoms likewise counts a wide range of tours, from its twice-nightly Ghost & Vampire romps to guided paranormal explorations of the circa-1861 St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum. The New Orleans Spirits and Spells walking tour departs nightly from Hex: Old World Witchery and includes a real-deal ritual, while the American Horror Story Unauthorized Tour revisits legends and locations featured in the series’ locally shot “Coven” season.
Trick-or-treating starts early in City Park, with the family-friendly Ghosts in the Oaks Oct. 19-21. The annual event draws hundreds of little goblins with carnival rides, face-painting and a giant pumpkin patch, as does the Audubon Nature Institute’s widely popular Boo at the Zoo Oct. 26-28. The Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium gets into the spooky spirit Oct. 27-28 with Crawloween, where kids can gross out over spiders, scorpions and other critters, while vying to see who can “Guess How Many Maggots Are in the Jar.” The 10th annual Boo Carré Halloween Haunt takes place in and around the French Market Oct. 20, from 11 am to 6 pm. The free event, which encourages children to wear costumes, features a variety of fun activities, including trick-or-treating throughout the French Market District, in addition to a full day of live entertainment by Johnette Downing (11 am), the Gabriel Amargant Marzo Quartet (12:15 pm), Bamzy Baby (1:30 pm), Uptown Musical Theater (2:45 pm), the U.S. Marine Forces Reserve Band (4 pm) and the Arrowhead Band (5:15 pm). Boo Carré paves the way for the Krewe of Boo Parade, which rolls at 6:30 pm. Pint-sized revelers line Decatur Street to catch Halloween-themed floats and treats/trinkets thrown by costumed riders.
At 9 am on the morning of the Krewe of Boo parade, the undead rise up and gather at Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar for the New Orleans Zombie Run, a two-mile trek that winds through the Warehouse District. Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, pirate Jean Lafitte, notorious Madame LaLaurie and the city’s fabled Axeman serial killer are brought back to life during the Friends of the Cabildo’s Ghostly Galavant tour Oct. 20-21. The dead (hopefully) stay that way during Save Our Cemeteries’ Tombs by Twilight Oct. 27 after-hours exploration of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1; later that evening natty nosferatu descend on the House of Blues for the Endless Night: New Orleans Vampire Ball. The adult-oriented and frightfully fun Jim Monaghan’s Halloween Parade rounds things out on All Hallows’ Eve, kicking off at 6 pm from Molly’s at the Market. Be afraid...be very afraid!