An architect from Baltimore named Francois Correjolles designed this historic Greek-Revival style New Orleans home at 1113 Chartres Street in 1826. Over the decades, it has had many residents, including Confederate General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, hero of the First Battle of Bull Run. Since 1970, the Keyes Foundation has opened the house for tours and events. Today, visitors come to view its beautiful gardens and author Frances Parkinson Keyes’ rare doll and porcelain teapot collection. Some have gotten more than they bargained for, as rumor has it a number of tormented and restless spirits stalk the house.
The antebellum history of the Beauregard-Keyes House was mostly uneventful, aside from being the birthplace of 19th Century chess champion Paul Morphy. PGT Beauregard lived there after the war, from 1865 to 1868. His sons and he rented the home from its owner, Dominique Lanata. In 1904, a Lanata descendant sold it to Corrado Giacona, who operated a wholesale liquor business there called Giacona & Co.
In the summer of 1908, the Sicilian Mafia tried to extort $3,000 from Giacona, with disastrous results. On June 18, 1908, Corrado and his father Pietro gunned down three mob soldiers on the back gallery. Another was wounded. After a lengthy investigation, New Orleans authorities dropped the charges.
The house deteriorated in the 1920s and was in danger of demolition. Local citizens stepped up to buy it, but accomplished little. In 1945, it was sold to author Frances Parkinson Keyes, who restored the home and exhibited it to guests. She lived there until her death in 1970. The foundation she established maintains the home to this day, and tours are conducted hourly, Monday through Saturday, from 10am to 3pm.
Many visitors have reported encountering a variety of ghosts in the 189-year-old home, including a large white cat and Francis P. Keyes’ cocker spaniel. At night outside the home, passersby have heard gunshots and shouting, smelled sulfur or gunpowder, and seen shadowy figures in the garden. These sense impressions are supposed to be remnants of Corrado and Pietro’s gunfight with The Black Hand.
One of the strangest manifestations began after World War 2 when visitors reportedly began hearing the eerie sounds of a different battle emanating from the courtyard. The breeze brought the strange sound of cannon and musket fire. In what was probably a literary flourish, Victor C. Klein wrote in his book New Orleans Ghosts (1993), “Men with mangled limbs and blown-away faces swirl in a confused dance of death… Horses and mules appear and are slaughtered by grapeshot and cannon. The pungent smell of blood and decay permeates the restless atmosphere.” According to legend, these are the tortured dead from the Battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War in which General Beauregard played a pivotal role.
New Orleans is filled with beautiful historic homes, and the Beauregard-Keyes House is no exception. If you are looking for ghosts, most of its paranormal activity can be experienced while walking by–if you are lucky. However, it is worth taking a tour of the interior as well. Who knows, you just might hear Francis P. Keyes’ cocker spaniel Lucky scampering across the floor. Failing that, you can feel good knowing you helped support this cultural treasure so that it can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.