New Orleans is known for her uniqueness. She is a city like no other and makes certain her eccentricities and colorful culture is served up by the spoonful. Her energy, her darkness, and her ghosts are a part of the Crescent City’s recipe for living fabulously. We had he honor of experiencing some of that goodness by way of a private paranormal investigation at the sadly soon to be shuttered New Orleans original, Musee Conti Wax Museum.
We arrived at 10pm with cases of equipment ready to investigate the under-the-radar New Orleans landmark in its final days. It was uncommonly cold and oddly quiet in the French Quarter. The chilly air stayed with us inside the Musee Conti, but the silence did not.
Once inside we popped open our cases and started sorting out the gear. Tim, the founder of Ghost City Tours, immediately grabbed his Roland voice recorder and headphones to see if there was anything chatty in the lobby. It only took two minutes for the voices to start. Let the ghost stalking commence!
Armed with voice recorders and cameras, we decided to walk the museum’s 22,000 square feet first. There were eight of us, so we split up in teams of two and ventured into the darkness. Tim and I headed into the wax figure hallways without any expectations, but honestly, we were feeling pretty optimistic considering the eagerness of the voices we had picked up in the lobby. Our optimism was spot on.
As we were settling in near The French Opera House wax exhibit, we immediately picked up some EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon). Some were more clear than others. One even seemed to welcome us with a very hearty, “Hi!” Moments later we heard a man say, “just turn around in here,” as if he was giving someone instructions. We have been told that the building holds one of the oldest freight elevators in the city and it is believed to have once been the home of Regal Beer. The elevator would have been used for the beer trucks to load up their deliveries. Maybe our voice was still giving orders to a delivery driver? I can almost picture the scene from the pre-prohibition days when the city was booming and, well, folks here have always been drinking.
As we roamed around a bit, grabbing more EVPs, we eventually made our way back to our spot at The French Opera House. We were joined by two of our tour guides and paranormal investigators in training, Michael and Elaine, who had just come down from spending most of their time on the second floor – navigating a “dark figure” in the doorway of the kitchenette.
They joined us in sitting on the cold floor and began to tell us abut the shadow person that lingered in the doorway of the upstairs kitchen area, giving them both a menacing feeling of anxiousness. They watched him for what “felt like ten minutes,” observing the dark outline of his body as it seemed to threaten them with the possible entrance into the room. They eventually watched him fade into the air; they took that as their queue to exit, quickly.
It was only a few moments after Michael and Elaine shared their experience with us that we began to hear the sound of shoes squeaking across the floor, as if they were walking right past us. These squeaks were audible to the ear, not EVPs, and all four of us heard them, clear as a bell. Then, in a flash, Michael saw the glimmer of a pair of wing tipped shoes take a few steps past him. No idea where the rest of the body was…
Once the shoes made their way past us, Tim and I decided that we had worn out our welcome downstairs and began to head upstairs to see if we would be able to rustle up a few experiences of our own on the second floor. It’s a beautiful space. The original hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and huge windows overlooking the French Quarter transports you back to a different time. The history of the room could be felt as we walked the space that feels suspended in time over the Vieux Carre.
I sat down on the stage of the big room, facing the windows that look out into the night. I had my voice recorder queued up and began to soak up the atmosphere in the darkness. I wanted to be fully present up there. I had a feeling something was trying to reach us and it was important for me to be available for whatever it was that was going to try and contact us. Tim was asking if anyone was with us, and sure enough, just minutes after I sat down with my clear intention and seconds after he asked the question, he got a young girl’s voice saying, “Do you want to see me?!?!” Of course we do!
We waited for a bit and then decided to go looking for our little girl. We she playing hide and go seek with us? Did she want to be found? We were drawn to a small side room off of the big main hall; we sat on the dark green sofa and noticed the lovely antique dresser that stood next to it. I sat on the side closest to the the dresser with Tim next to me, to my right. We could feel something with us immediately. Had we found our little girl?
Then it happened. The timing was unbelievable. I was facing forward when I heard a rustling or swishing sound coming from over my left shoulder, like taffeta on top of an organdy petticoat. It was loud and crystal clear. I saw Tim out of the corner of my eye look over at me just as I was hearing the sound. I turned to face him with what I was later told was “a look of complete surprise and a little shock.” We began to speak at the same time, simultaneously questioning one another, “Did you hear that?!” Did you see that?!” “Wait… What?”
As I was hearing the swishing sound, Tim was seeing our little girl. She was popping up and down between the sofa and the dresser – over my left shoulder. She was playing a little game of peekaboo with us! And we were honored. As well as completely in awe at the experience we had just had. It was truly a special moment.
We tried for a while to coax our little girl back out again, but, sadly, I think she had had her fun and retired back into her darkness. So, we began to head downstairs to share our story with the others. You see, when something “big” like that happens if fills you up with excitement, like a child that has just opened the perfect Christmas present and can’t wait to share the thrill. I’m pretty sure we were beaming.
All of us began to reconvene in the lobby of the museum so that we could talk about our experiences and take a breather, as too much time in the blackness can tend to feel stifling. It was amazing that every single one of us had an experience. One group had a lot of activity on their K2 EMF Meter, which detects spikes in electromagnetic energy, and on their Mel Meter, which measures changes in temperature and reads electromagnetic field changes. While another group heard voices and saw shadows.
Michael and Elaine had taken their exploration down into the dungeon. They found a spot facing the exit door and planted themselves patiently. As they sat, listening to the random whispers and voices, they saw a figure standing in the doorway. As they peered harder, focusing through the darkness, they could see it was wearing a white shirt and dark pants, it was a young boy, and it was a full body apparition.
Seconds passed and the boy began to move ever so slightly into the light, then out of the light, then back into the light, almost taunting his watchers. Teasing them and their senses, causing his audience to question if they were in fact seeing him. They sat in silence, each with their own pen and paper, taking notes, privately. When the boy finally left, they realized that their plan had worked. They had agreed to individually write down anything they experienced without speaking it to one another, then show each other their notes at the end of their “investigation session.” When they looked at what they had written, they had seen the same thing – a young boy, 10-12 years old, with a white shirt and dark pants, standing in the doorway, stepping in and out of the light. He was there for both of them to see. A special moment for Michael and Elaine.
Initially, we thought that our experiences at the museum didn’t have much rhyme or reason to them. Not that a ghost hunt should make sense, but why were there so many different voices? Children, women, men… and all behaving differently. Who were these people? Who were these children? Who was our little girl playing hide and go seek with us? What was the story of the young boy teasing Michael and Elaine?
Our researcher, Maria, spent hours digging through archives in an attempt to discover the history of 917 Conti St. We had heard stories of it being a coffin factory (which we could never find any solid proof of), and a distribution hub for Regal Beer, as I mentioned earlier in this post, but we also uncovered a few other things that would make sense of some of the other spirits and shadows we encountered.
The Musee Conti was in fact, at one time, a home for boys in the late 1800s. At the turn of the century it was sold and became a garment factory that suffered a horrible fire and was forced to shut down. There aren’t any records indicating that anyone perished in the fire, but it is common knowledge that the working conditions were mostly deplorable back then, and child labor was the norm. I’m guessing that the children we met that night in the halls and rooms of the museum are still attached to the property from a century plus ago.
Do we know for sure that there is a direct correlation to the past of the museum and the experiences that we had? No. But it does seem to make the most sense. And in some way, it’s a bit comforting to know that at the very least, we can attempt to piece together the mysterious puzzle of all of these lost voices and shadows that are still roaming the property. I sometimes feel sad for them. I don’t know what happens when we pass, none of us do, but I can’t help but feel a bit lonely for some of these voices and shadows that we have become friendly with on these hunts. I think about how isolating it must be to live in a dimension that is so far removed from where they were, and not understood by those trying to communicate with them now. I hope that they are able to find some comfort in our efforts and even some joy in their silly games that they play with us.
We’ll be back to play with these shadows for a public ghost hunt on January 29th. A final farewell to a New Orleans landmark. A proper New Orleans farewell – where we say our goodbyes to not only the building, but to the history and the people of the past that have kept it alive through the decades. I secretly hope that our new friends don’t leave when the roof comes off and the condos go up; I not so secretly hope that they stick around and find some new folks to play hide and go see with in the dark corners of their fancy new digs.