Edith/Maddie here, thrilled to share a release date earlier this week with my buddy Ellen Byron, who has a new Cajun Country mystery out – set at Halloween! She’s giving away a copy of Murder in the Bayou Boneyard to one lucky commenter, too. I just finished reading it, and you’re going to love this story.
Ellen: Louisiana proudly bills itself as the most haunted state in America. Whether or not you believe this, it’s certainly a state rife with unique customs surrounding death and the afterlife, as I learned when I took the Creole Mourning Tour at St. Joseph Plantation. St. Joseph was so happy with the post I wrote about the experience, they added it to their website.
The St. Joseph tour inspired me to write MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD, my new Cajun Country Mystery. It also motivated me to do something I’d never done in all of my many visits to New Orleans: take a ghost tour. Three of them, actually, through a company called Haunted History Tours. (https://hauntedhistorytours.com/) One focused on the French Quarter, another on the Garden District, and the third was a treat to myself: a Haunted Pub Crawl.
As we wandered the old brick sidewalks of the city, I picked up some fascinating facts…
- According to one of my guides, New Orleans is a city “Built on dead people. They’re right under your feet.” Here he is, illustrating that creepy fact…
- Some houses have an upside-down keyhole to confuse the spirits and chase them away. I don’t know if this house is one of them, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit…
- In past centuries, there was always the chance that a patient pronounced dead was actually in a coma, hence bells were installed in some of the city’s famous cemetery crypts in case of a misdiagnosis. In a few crypts that unfortunately lacked bells, researchers have found fingernail scratches on the interior walls. The thought of what prompted that desperate clawing still makes me shudder.
I learned other, less disturbing facts. You know how funeral second-line participants often wave handkerchiefs as they march? Originally this was seen as a way to confuse and chase off the spirits, much like the upside keyhole. (Confusing the spirits plays a role in a lot of Louisiana superstitions.) And if a ghost walks through a wall, it means the wall wasn’t there when said ghost was alive.
I packed all my tours into one day. By the time night fell and I linked up with the Haunted Pub Crawl, I was ready for a drink. A stiff one. But after an hour listening to sordid tales of vampirism, ax murders, and opium dens, I opted for a palate cleanser of jambalaya and a Pimm’s Cup at a bar with a less sordid history – the Napoleon House, which earned its name when the then-mayor of New Orleans offered his residence to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile.
[Edith: I ate there when I was in New Orleans!]
I got so much from these tours, all banked for future writing projects. And I look forward to further ghostly adventures in the Crescent City.
But I think I’ll stay out of the cemeteries. Or at the very least, wear a bell around my neck.
Readers: what are some superstitions you find interesting? Are there any you follow? Who’s not afraid to walk under a ladder? Comment to be entered in a US-only giveaway for a copy of Murder in the Bayou Boneyard.
Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Her new Catering Hall Mystery series, written as Maria DiRico, launched with Here Comes the Body, and was inspired by her real life. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart.