Sleeping with Ghosts at the Bourbon Orleans
It won’t come as a shock when I report that the supernatural is good for business in New Orleans. The voodoo and vampire capital of the south wraps itself in ghosts and dark legends to keep tourists tingly with fear while they drink their hurricanes and buy their mojo root souvenirs.
A property as historic as the Bourbon Orleans in the French Quarter has more than its fair share of ghost stories and resident spirits, and it puts those to work in its publicity and branding work. That’s a bit of fun marketing, but it’s not necessary to believe in supernatural activity to enjoy this hotel. It’s mix of prime location and classic southern luxury makes it a prime Crescent City destination.
Let’s get the ghosts out of the way first. The Bourbon Orleans advertises itself as the most haunted hotel in New Orleans. Obviously, they’re doing that to attract would-be ghost hunters and tourists who like a little illusion of thrills and chills in their travels. And it is the illusion that’s being sold here.
There’s a reason why the Bourbon doesn’t sell itself as the “most scorpion infested hotel in New Orleans.” First of all, it’s not true. But, people are also afraid of scorpions because they can be generally dangerous. Folks are rightly scared of them. The trick to marketing the would-be dark side of a hotel is that you’re selling an illusion – while the reality is all soft linen, good food, free wifi and plenty of hot water.
During a very pleasurable two-night stay a few weeks ago, I didn’t meet a single spooky thing in the Bourbon Orleans – except for the odd tipsy travelers who stumbled into the wrong building off Bourbon Street.
I found myself at the corner of that famous thoroughfare and Orleans Street during a busy time for its home city – smack in the middle of the Sugar Bowl, Mardi Gras and Super Bowl run. The city always hums with upbeat energy, but all of the activity and floods of excited tourists upped the ante. The Bourbon Orleans was a perfect perch from which to watch all of the activity with its mix of history and modern comforts.
The building was first constructed in 1817 and served as everything from a ballroom to a convent over the years. Its mixed past explains its menagerie of ghost stories, with a Confederate Soldier, suicidal nuns and lost children all reportedly haunting the halls.
I was fortunate enough to get a a third floor room with a private balcony overlooking Rue de Orleans – with a view from Bourbon to Dauphine Street highlighting one end – and the massive, stately outline of St. Louis Cathedral dominating the other. That’s prime real estate during the street-crowding, bosom-flashing height of Fat Tuesday. Out of season, the balcony offers an ideal spot to watch over the mellow locals and happy tourists as they explore the Quarter.
Furnishings are high quality and amenities above average for New Orleans. It is a working hotel, however – with plenty of guests coming and going, frequent corporate events causing a fuss and weddings occupying the ballrooms. That makes for a lively, lived in atmosphere managed by an eager, hospitable staff. If you’re looking for pure peace and quiet or a spa atmosphere in a hotel, you should probably look to another property outside the Quarter.
The Bourbon Orleans was undergoing renovations when I was there – with improvements inbound for everything from balcony furnishings to ballroom trim and salt water pool decor. The final effect should only further cement the historic properties place amongst the elite hotels in New Orleans.