St. Louis Cemetery #1, in New Orleans.
The end of October seems a fitting time to visit the Cities of the Dead in New Orleans.
Tradition holds that the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead is thin during All Hallow’s Eve; spirits may cross more easily into the world of the living at this time. Scary costumes most likely originated in order to scare those spirits – it’s best not to take chances.
When Europeans first settled New Orleans, they struggled over what to do with their dead. Traditional burials didn’t stick. Due to the high water table, air-tight caskets would sometimes push up through the earth when it rained heavily. Just imagine that happening some evening at the end of October – people must have been terrified.
Eventually, New Orleans took up a tradition common in France and Spain – housing the dead in vaults above the ground. After centuries of this, the cemeteries of New Orleans today really do resemble cities of the dead. They have grand avenues, meandering alleys, and dead ends. There are wealthier parts of town and humble areas, for death claims everyone in time.
Ask the innkeepers of your New Orleans bed and breakfast about touring the Cities of the Dead. It is generally not recommended for people to visit them on their own (beware the living, not the dead). A number of tour agencies offer tours of Saint Louis Cemeteries #1 and #2, as well as other cemeteries throughout the city. Tours are a great way to learn about the famous and infamous people who now dwell in New Orleans’ cemeteries, such as Marie Laveau, the “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans”.
Take advantage of the many specials offered by New Orleans bed and breakfast innkeepers at this time of year, and come visit the Cities of the Dead this fall.