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The "Haunted House" In Royal Street
by [?]




When you and—– make that much-talked-of visit to New Orleans, by all means see early whatever evidences of progress and aggrandizement her hospitable citizens wish to show you; New Orleans belongs to the living present, and has serious practical relations with these United States and this great living world and age. And yet I want the first morning walk that you two take together and alone to be in the old French Quarter. Go down Royal street.

You shall not have taken many steps in it when, far down on the right-hand side, where the narrow street almost shuts its converging lines together in the distance, there will begin to rise above the extravagant confusion of intervening roofs and to stand out against the dazzling sky a square, latticed remnant of a belvedere. You can see that the house it surmounts is a large, solid, rectangular pile, and that it stands directly on the street at what residents call the “upper, river corner,” though the river is several squares away on the right. There are fifty people in this old rue Royale who can tell you their wild versions of this house’s strange true story against any one who can do this present writer the honor to point out the former residence of ‘Sieur George, Madame Delicieuse, or Doctor Mossy, or the unrecognizably restored dwelling of Madame Delphine.

I fancy you already there. The neighborhood is very still. The streets are almost empty of life, and the cleanness of their stone pavements is largely the cleanness of disuse. The house you are looking at is of brick, covered with stucco, which somebody may be lime-washing white, or painting yellow or brown, while I am saying it is gray. An uncovered balcony as wide as the sidewalk makes a deep arcade around its two street sides. The last time I saw it it was for rent, and looked as if it had been so for a long time; but that proves nothing. Every one of its big window-shutters was closed, and by the very intensity of their rusty silence spoke a hostile impenetrability. Just now it is occupied.

They say that Louis Philippe, afterwards king of the French, once slept in one of its chambers. That would have been in 1798; but in 1798 they were not building such tall buildings as this in New Orleans–did not believe the soil would uphold them. As late as 1806, when ‘Sieur George’s house, upon the St. Peter street corner, was begun, people shook their heads; and this house is taller than ‘Sieur George’s. I should like to know if the rumor is true. Lafayette, too, they say, occupied the same room. Maybe so. That would have been in 1824-25. But we know he had elegant apartments, fitted up for him at the city’s charge, in the old Cabildo. Still–

It was, they say, in those, its bright, early days, the property of the Pontalbas, a noble Franco-Spanish family; and I have mentioned these points, which have no close bearing upon our present story, mainly to clear the field of all mere they-says, and leave the ground for what we know to be authenticated fact, however strange.

The entrance, under the balcony, is in Royal street. Within a deep, white portal, the walls and ceiling of which are covered with ornamentations, two or three steps, shut off from the sidewalk by a pair of great gates of open, ornamental iron-work with gilded tops, rise to the white door. This also is loaded with a raised work of urns and flowers, birds and fonts, and Phoebus in his chariot. Inside, from a marble floor, an iron-railed, winding stair (“said the spider to the fly”) leads to the drawing-rooms on the floor even with the balcony. These are very large. The various doors that let into them, and the folding door between them, have carved panels. A deep frieze covered with raised work–white angels with palm branches and folded wings, stars, and wreaths–runs all around, interrupted only by high, wide windows that let out between fluted Corinthian pilasters upon the broad open balcony. The lofty ceilings, too, are beautiful with raised garlandry.