Jessabelle: Mediocrity Lurks in the Bayou

A woman torments her wheelchair-bound daughter from beyond the grave with VHS tapes in this voodoo-themed supernatural thriller. Written by Robert Ben Garant and directed by Kevin Greutert, Jessabelle (2014) keeps you guessing until the end, but an engaging mystery and attractive lead isn’t enough to save this mediocre horror film from Blumhouse Productions.

Tragedy strikes pregnant Jessabelle “Jessie” Laurent (Sarah Snook) when her fiancé Mark is killed in a car accident, which also causes her to miscarry and become paralyzed from the waist down. Now wheelchair-bound, she returns home to Louisiana to live with her father, Leon (David Andrews). For some reason Leon has kept her mother, Kate’s (Joelle Carter) old bedroom sealed and reopens it for Jessie. Neither Jessie nor their housekeeper seem to think this is odd.

Jessie, who believes her mother died of a brain tumor, discovers tapes her mother recorded as a message for her eighteenth birthday. This instigates several disturbing encounters with a dark-haired phantom (Amber Stevens West). Leon tries to destroy the tapes but ends up burning to death. At his funeral, Jessie reunites with her childhood sweetheart, Preston Sanders (Mark Webber).

Together, Jessie and Preston investigate the strange events and their connection to a local voodoo church. They discover a baby’s skeleton buried in the bayou with the same name and birth date as Jessie. The local sheriff (Chris Ellis) discovers the child’s origin too late to save Jessie, who is attacked by the ghost of Kate and a voodoo priest named Moses (Vaughn Wilson). I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a crazy plot twist that might have been interesting if it was developed a bit more.

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Hotel Monteleone’s Unsettled Guests

Superstitious planners omitted the 13th Floor from this majestic hotel, but was the precaution enough to prevent it from becoming haunted? Some visitors say “No.”

  • Antonio Monteleone, a Sicilian immigrant, opened this beautiful and historic Beaux-Arts style hotel in 1886.
  • In 1954, Antonio’s son, Frank, razed the original structure and reimagined it as the luxury hotel that stands today.
  • Locals believe a man named William “Red” Wildemere and a toddler named Maurice, among others, haunt Hotel Monteleone.

Hotel Monteleone is such a fixture of cultural life in New Orleans, the city’s fabled French Quarter is said to begin in its lobby. Antonio Monteleone, a Sicilian immigrant, opened this beautiful and historic Beaux-Arts style hotel at 214 Royal Street in 1886. Easily recognizable, it is the only high-rise building in New Orleans.

It contains 600 guest rooms, two restaurants, a heated rooftop pool, and a rotating bar called the Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge. Over the years, the hotel has developed a reputation for being haunted by as many as a dozen different specters.

The Hotel Monteleone was born in a merger of the Commercial Hotel with an older French Quarter hotel. In 1903, Monteleone added 30 rooms, and in 1908, he added 300 rooms in a major renovation that included renaming the building from the Commercial Hotel to Hotel Monteleone.

In 1954, Antonio’s son, Frank, razed the original structure and reimagined it as the luxury hotel that stands today. The sky terrace, swimming pool, and cocktail lounges were added in 1964. Throughout its history, many literary figures, including Ernest Hemmingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Anne Rice (among others), have stayed there.

Locals have long believed a plethora of spirits, including former employees, a man named William “Red” Wildemere, and a toddler named Maurice, haunt Hotel Monteleone. According to the hotel, “Generations of hotel guests and staff have regularly experienced haunted events that would cause even the staunchest skeptic to take pause.

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Inside New Orleans’ Cemetery No. 1

Step inside New Orleans’ most fabled cemetery, final resting place for a Voodoo queen (and eventually Nicholas Cage).

  • New Orleans’ Cemetery No. 1 was established in 1789. It is packed with above-ground vaults, constructed due to the city being below sea level.
  • Voodoo queen Marie Laveau and the depraved Madame Delphine LaLaurie are rumored to make this their final resting place.
  • Some claim the ghost of Marie Laveau materializes on St. John’s Eve, and others say they have encountered her near her tomb.

Opened in New Orleans in 1789, Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 is one of the most famous cemeteries in the United States, if not the world. It is a Roman Catholic burial ground that replaced St. Peter Cemetery after a fire devastated the city in 1788. Located off North Claiborne Avenue between Iberville and St. Louis streets a few blocks from the French Quarter, its strange residents and aged, crumbling above ground vaults make this necropolis a popular tourist destination.

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the final resting place for a veritable who’s who of New Orleans, including Etienne de Boré and Ernest N. Morial, former mayors. Actor Nicolas Cage even purchased a crypt there in 2010. Some of the more infamous-but-unconfirmed burials include voodoo priestess Marie Laveau and murderess Madame Delphine LaLaurie.

Many details of Marie Laveau’s life are up for debate. Officially, she was born on September 10, 1801, but some sources say she was born in 1794. In 1819, she married a freed Haitian immigrant named Jacques or Santiago Paris, who disappeared a few years into their marriage.

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Do Tortured Dead Stalk the Beauregard-Keyes House?

Flamboyant Confederate General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard is only one of a large cast of colorful characters said to linger in this New Orleans home.

  • The house was built in 1826 on Chartres Street.
  • In 1908, the owner killed three mob soldiers trying to extort money from him.
  • Some visitors have reported hearing the eerie sounds of a battle in the vicinity.

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.

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My Favorite Haunted Places Along the Gulf Coast

As many of my friends and readers know, I spent the summer and fall of 2014 along the Gulf Coast. Not only did I find the weather beautiful, but I also found rich history and folklore. During that time, I was able to visit some pretty interesting places in cities like Naples, Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are some of my favorites.

Pensacola Lighthouse in Pensacola, Florida. Photo by Michael Kleen

Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum

2081 Radford Blvd. Pensacola, FL 32508
www.pensacolalighthouse.org (850) 393-1561

Pensacola Bay has long been a strategic harbor, and even today, it is used for military purposes. The Pensacola Lighthouse sits on the grounds of the Naval Air Station, home of the Blue Angels. The current lighthouse, located at the north side of the bay, was built in 1858 and lit in 1859. It is made of brick and stands 150-feet tall. In 1861, an artillery duel between Union and Confederate forces lightly damaged the tower. Today, some visitors claim to hear footsteps, heavy breathing, and their name being whispered. Others have had objects “thrown” at them in the keeper’s quarters. [Read More…]

Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi, Mississippi. Photo by Michael Kleen

Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library

2244 Beach Blvd. Biloxi, MS 39531
www.beauvoir.org (228) 388-4400

Otherwise known as Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home has an interesting history. It was built in 1852 by a wealthy plantation owner named James Brown. Jefferson Davis did not reside in the house until 1877, twelve years before he died. His daughter Winnie continued to live there until her death in 1898. The Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home opened on the grounds in 1903 and operated until the 1950s. It was home to around 1,800 Civil War veterans and widows of Confederate soldiers. Roughly 780 of them are buried in the cemetery located on the property. Several visitors have reported encountering someone who they assume is an actor playing Jefferson Davis in the gardens. [Read More…]

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