Well, I couldn’t leave New Orleans without visiting the grave of Voodoo queen Marie Laveau, could I?
St. Louis No. 1 is the most famous graveyard in New Orleans, probably because she’s buried there. Nick Cage, despite still being alive, also has a grave there. Apparently he bought it after he visited a local voodoo practitioner for help with some life problems, and she told him he’d been cursed and would need to buy a plot in order for the curse to be lifted.
You can’t visit the graveyard without a registered tour operator – I chose Two Chicks Walking Tours and was given a fascinating, in-depth tour by Mike. As it happened, I was the only one who turned up, so I got a one-on-one tour, which was even more special. Mike knew a lot about the graveyard and the history of the town in general, and I’d definitely recommend Two Chicks’ tours if you’re planning a NOLA trip.
The graveyard is, of course, atmospheric as hell. The cloudy weather helped.
There’s an excellent mix of well-maintained graves alongside slightly crumbly ones and some that have completely fallen to the ground.
Some of the better maintained tombs were what’s called ‘society tombs’. This was for people who couldn’t afford an entire plot for their families, but didn’t want to be buried in the cheaper wall vaults. Instead they’d buy a vault inside a larger mausoleum, which would be devoted to everyone within a particular community.
This was the Italian society:
This is the military society, easily the best maintained society mausoleum:
These are the tombs of voodoo priestesses. Reports vary regarding what the Xs represent, but concensus is that either you go and mark ‘XXX’ on a grave when you’re asking for something, or you mark it when you’ve received what you ask for. Maybe it’s both. The offerings (flowers, beads etc.) are left to curry favour with the spirits of the dead.
It’s impossible to say how long people have been buried in St. Louis No. 1 since records haven’t been particularly well maintained, but this is the oldest confirmed grave, from 1800.
That little triangle you can see in the middle distance? That’s the top of Nick Cage’s tomb.
Marie Laveau’s tomb was surprisingly understated, but interesting to visit all the same.