Resting on the residential end of Bourbon Street, where the noise and stench of rowdy partygoers fades, sits the stately Lafitte Guest House. The click-clack of mule-drawn carriages and the smell of fresh al fresco dining are a welcome change from the drunken revelry blocks away.
Room 31 is the largest suite in this solitary hotel. The centerpiece room boasts a large, king-sized, four-poster bed that sits high up from the floor and has an antique trunk at its foot. The bed is covered in soft white linens, and flanking it are two large floor-to-ceiling windows adorned with heavy, rose gold-colored velvet curtains.
The window to the left of the bed opens and leads out onto a private balcony. Around the corner of the main bedroom is a full tiled bath, and then a petite bedroom where a queen-sized bed consumes most of the space. The same bulky velvet curtains hang from the windows. This is the bed where I would be sleeping that evening, in a room I will not soon forget.
My friends and I had traveled to Lafitte Guest House for a wedding. One of the women from my group was getting married the next day—and I was going to photograph her wedding. As I stepped into the bedchamber and set down my camera bag, a light-headed feeling washed over me and there was a great heaviness in my chest. I thought, “I hope I am not getting sick” and quickly passed off this feeling so I could enjoy the evening with my friends.
After a rousing time bounding around the French Quarter together, we entered Room 31 with full bellies and weary eyes. I felt the weight in my chest again and shrugged it off, crawling into bed craving sleep before what was sure to be a very long day photographing.
Except I couldn’t relax. My eyes kept darting around, as if someone were in my room with me. The darkness at the end of my bed began to morph into recognizable shadows. I quickly turned the lights on and tried to sleep again ... but I couldn’t. Sweat covered my brow and my heart was racing. Much like the effects of night terrors, I felt a heaviness on my chest; it was like someone was pressing on it and preventing me from breathing. I closed my eyes. As I took the last deep breath before real sleep, I heard a thump.
I jolted up and peered over the side of the bed. My camera battery charger had fallen off the nightstand.
I noticed that it wasn’t charging like it should and tried plugging it into another outlet. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I couldn’t shake the fight or flight feeling coursing through my body. I started to tremble. I quietly moved to the bathroom and closed the door, doing my best not to wake my friend and bride-to-be asleep nearby. Trying to compose myself, I splashed cold water on my face. I looked up into the mirror. What are you so afraid of? There is no one here. It’s just a creaky old hotel…
That's when I felt that there was a man in the room—I could sense his presence. He called me by name and demanded that I come out of the bathroom. I shut out this vision and began talking to myself. People will think you’re crazy, Kristen. Gathering my composure, I washed my face with a washcloth. With sweaty palms I grasped the brass doorknob and opened the creaky wooden door once more.
My heart plummeted as soon as I took in the humid air that filled the room. I felt like I was going to fall over. I went to my friend's bed whispered to her: “Heather, I’m having nightmares, can I climb in this giant bed with you?” She responded by opening the covers to invite me in and then rolled onto her side. Just like when I was a child, I held those covers over my face and adjusted it to where my mouth was the only thing sticking out so I could breathe. I rested on my side and felt paralyzed. I sensed movement as if someone had sat down on the end of the bed and was staring at me.
Afraid to move, to speak, to breathe, my hands trembled. I could barely keep my eyes open. Deprived of my precious sleep, my eyes were burning and I said out loud: “Please, just let me sleep.”
Early morning light peeked in through the windows and I sat up from underneath the bulky covers of my friend’s bed. She was still sleeping soundly. I slowly walked into my own room and crawled into bed. Trying to close my eyes, I heard a stout man’s voice bellow out: "Jessica... Jessica... JESSICA!"
I cried again, this time more because I just wanted this all to end so I could rest. Suddenly, I heard a woman’s cry ... a profound, hallowed weep so vivid I could make out the saliva building in her throat and cracking as she opened her mouth in agony.
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Then, out of nowhere, I lost consciousness. I woke up hours later from the chirping of my alarm clock, utterly exhausted. Caffeine and a hot meal could be a temporary fix, but it was going to be a long, rough day.
I walked into the main bedroom and saw the heavy velvet curtains stirring in the breeze of the open balcony window. I heard chattering voices and the clinking of glasses and silverware. Nervous that no one would believe me, I decided not to share every detail of my evening in Room 31.
I went downstairs to prepare for the day when I saw the front-desk clerk, a man named Billy.
“Hey, Billy. Anyone ever tell you about Room 31? I know room 21 is supposedly haunted ...”
“This whole place is haunted,” Billy said with a chuckle. “Why, did something happen?”
Just then a staff member came around the corner.
“Hey, Jessica,” Billy said.
My heart dropped. I could hardly believe it—Her name was Jessica.
Hearing her name solidified everything for me. This was no dream, or nightmare. I never met Jessica before, so there was no way I could have known that a woman baring the name also worked at the inn. Putting my emotions aside, I grabbed my camera, and went about my day as best I could.
The entire day of the wedding I felt I was being watched. Every time I went to my room, I was petrified to be alone. It took me days before I felt normal. It’s taken me over a year to write about my haunting experience at Lafitte’s Guest House. I never stayed anywhere before or since that had such a strong sense of heaviness and sadness. I truly believe something happened in that room generations ago, something distressing, something terrible.
When will you be booking Room 31? Will the haunting of an angry man and a weeping woman disrupt your precious sleep? Will you climb into the tall four-poster bed and under the soft covers, knowing that someone might be resting at the edge? Say hello to Billy at the front desk for me and tell him I sent you, if you make it through the night.
You might find me sipping hot chocolate at Cafe Beignet on Royal Street while writing about what I see in the French Quarter. I might be sitting on a bench in Jackson Square with my sketchbook drawing St. Louis Cathedral, or standing on a streetcar heading to the Garden District where I will wander around Lafayette Cemetery and the local neighborhoods exploring with my camera. I may be out with my husband perusing local flea markets and antique stores for some unique finds to add to our quaint bohemian home in the woods of the northshore of Louisiana. But most times I am sitting on the old wicker swing of my lazy southern porch tending to my plants, a hot cup of lemon mint tea in hand, a cat on my lap, a basset hound at my feet, and reading a good book.
As a creative writer and artist for Ghost City Tours, I have the opportunity to blend my creative soul with my love of local history, folklore, and the paranormal. I tell stories both imagined and genuine, fanciful and authentic...from the Axeman of New Orleans, to my own haunting experiences throughout my travels, to historical fiction, and to the tales of timeworn southern antebellum plantation homes. I am eager to hear the tales of the past; what will the peeled walls of those plantation homes reveal? What will the victims of the Axeman declare in their own stories? What are the hauntings I have encountered trying to confess? And most importantly, what will my own pen and camera expose behind the closed wooden doors, away from the light of the rotting windowsill, absent of a testimony other than my own?
Learn more about Kristen and her adventures around the globe at KHphotographics.com
All photos courtesy of Kristen Wheeler