Not many hotels will offer you a peanut butter & jelly sandwich late at night as a treat, but Le Pavillon isn't like most hotels. (For those wondering, PB&J sandwiches are also accompanied by cold milk and hot chocolate topped with fluffy marshmallows. I know, sign me up to stay at Le Pavillon right now).
Nicknamed the "Belle of New Orleans," Le Pavillon is located just minutes away from the French Quarter in the Central Business District. With 219 guestrooms and seven themed suites, the hotel is luxury on a very grand scale. Much of the furniture used within the hotel is actually from the Grand Hotel in Paris. (If you're wondering what may be in store for you here at Le Pavillon, follow this link and prepare for your jaw to drop.
Staying at Le Pavillon means staying in a hotel dedicated to ensuring the height of hotel luxury for every guest that steps through its front doors. In fact, for more of its existence, it has been a popular destination for the rich and fabulous.
Despite such lavish and ornate furnishings, Le Pavillon has only been called such since the 1960s. Although the building has always been a hotel since its construction in 1907, the site on which the hotel sits today has a very extensive and intriguing history. Which might possibly explain the fact that Le Pavillon is reported to be one of the most haunted hotels in New Orleans, and guests and employees account for all sorts of ghostly and paranormal experiences.
Is that peanut butter and jelly sandwich still worth it? (Having stayed at Le Pavillon on multiple occasions, and having sampled the sandwich and, in my opinion, the city's best creme brûlée, yes, the ghosts are worth it).
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the land where Le Pavillon sits today was not only deemed totally inhospitable but it was also incredibly dangerous. One nineteenth century author remarked that this area was once a place of "foul deeds and midnight murders . . . the dismal willows could be heard uttering plaintive sounds with every gust of the wind." Poydras was not the bustling and traffic-laden street that it is today, but rather a noxious canal that was later drained to make room for the city's first streetcar depot. Soon, that, too, fell into disrepair.
Not until the mid-nineteenth century did this plot of land become a predecessor for the opulence that stands there today. First, the old and crumbling streetcar depot became home to traveling shows like circuses and other strange entertainments. Then, once that building was demolished, the National Theatre usurped its place in 1867. Commonly referred to as the German Theatre, or later on as Werlein Hall, the National Theatre truly embodied the culture of sophistication. It is said that the theatre, with its four levels of seating, could hold approximately 1,500 people at any one performance. Seat boxes were draped with the same painted curtains that decorated the stage; 80 twinkling gilded candelabras lit the interior, exuding an ethereal glow for the patrons as they sat poised in their seats to watch the performances acted out on the stage below. The theatre was even adorned with a frescoed domed ceiling, which not only provided ventilation for guests but was also just beautiful to behold (and no doubt helped with the acoustics of the performances).
In early New Orleans, many venues that enjoyed an extravagant and affluent origin soon flirted with sin and temptation--the National Theatre was no exception. (Our beloved Crescent City was founded, after all, on pirates, crime and prostitution . . . and naturally the ghosts of these lovely folks). By the 1880s, the National Theatre was in complete shambles. The city delivered multiple fines to the Theatre because of the number of lewd and bawdy performances put on, and at one point, the theatre's license was even revoked. (One has to wonder which performances the citizens of New Orleans preferred . . . comment below on which performance you'd rather have attended).
The National Theatre attempted to turn away from such salacious performances and revert to its former days of glory in 1880, when the property was purchased by German immigrant, Philip Werlein. In 1887, however, a fire consumed the entire building when a spark ignited in an upholstery business that resided on the first floor of the building.
(Many paranormal investigators argue that some of the ghostly activity of Le Pavillon Hotel originates from the site's time as a theatre. With so many performances being put on, with so many different personalities and people from all over the world converging in one singular venue, it would be surprising if some of that residual energy has not remained until today.)
In 1899, the property was purchased by the La Baronne Realty Company with the intention of building a grand hotel on the site. Though the structure was not completed until 1907, it was named the New Hotel Denechaud early on. The Old Hotel Denechaud had once stood at the corner of Carondelet and Perdido Streets, and had been considered one of the finest hotels in all of the American South. Yet another Hotel Denechaud existed in Galveston, Texas. The hotel erected on Poydras and Baronne Streets was meant to continue this lineage of opulent hotels, but on an even larger and grander scale, if such a feat was even possible.
Apparently it was, but only for a matter of years. When the New Hotel Denechaud was completed in 1907, it offered some of the most luxurious amenities in the entire country. The hotel was equipped with the first ever hydraulic elevators, and New Orleans' first basement was dug and installed beneath the hotel, as well. (Legend has it that during the Prohibition years, that basement actually existed as an underground passageway between the Denechaud and another building two blocks away. The passage was used almost exclusively by politicians and foreign dignitaries in need of a quick--and secret--escape.) Still, financial debts quickly burdened the new hotel and it was only for so long that it was able to keep its doors open.
By 1910, the New Hotel Denechaud was forced to close and hand the keys over to a new generation of hotel owners.
In 1913, the New Hotel Denehaud had found new owners: the Hotel De Soto. Not only had the Hotel De Soto purchased the estate for a staggering $600,400 but the management also installed new great advancements, like electricity, to the hotel. The hotel would ultimately survive the Great Depression and both World Wars with nary a dent in business.
During this period, the city's first radio station, WDSU, operated out of the top floor of the hotel. And even Louis Armstrong's parents were said to have worked at the De Soto during some of his childhood. Nevertheless, not all of the hotel's history was on the up-and-up. Rumors that prostitutes were using the hotel as a "home base" were brought to light in a Times-Picayune article in the late 1910s. The General Manager was incensed that such bald lies had been spread, arguing that he ran a clean establishment; for their part, the Times-Picayune released a statement that they were simply discussing the news of the day. (Apparently the GM's threats were so vocal that the newspaper released another statement soon after, claiming, "Our observation of the DeSoto warrants the assertion that it is an exceptionally clean and well managed hotel.")
Rumors were squashed and the Hotel De Soto's reputation upheld: the De Soto was not housing prostitutes on its property.
The Hotel De Soto also played a part in the death of the infamous and dictatorial New Orleans politician, Huey P. Long. (Stay tuned for an upcoming article about this political aspect of the Le Pavillon's history).
By the 1960s, the the Hotel De Soto had lost most of its elegance. Allegedly, the finest piece of furniture within the hotel in the 1950s were a pair of portraits of City Park in New Orleans. The once opulent De Soto had grown seedy, and in 1963, it would once again swap ownership.
Once under new ownership, Le Pavillon management set upon conducting a massive restoration project. Everything from a mahogany Victorian-era bar from Chicago to the marble bath that French Emperor Napoleon used himself during his campaigns now furnish the property. Le Pavillon certainly deserves the accolade, "the Belle of New Orleans." Next year, the hotel will be undergoing a $25 million renovation to again keep the hotel up to par with its guests' expectations. People visit from all over the world and the hotel management welcomes guests with wide, open arms. And, if you're under about six years old, they welcome you with home-baked chocolate chip cookies on your pillow, too.
Wouldn't we all love to be so young again?
Beth Lytle, the hotel's Director of Sales, informed us when we toured the hotel that a large part of Le Pavillon Hotel's pride comes from its independence. Unlike the Hilton or the Marriott, for example, Le Pavillon is not part of a larger chain. That means when you stay at this grand hotel, there are none like it anywhere else in the world. They have their own preservation/restoration team; the employees they seek have not only a natural knack for the hospitality industry, but they also have a passion for it. The nightly PB&J sandwich is just one example about how Le Pavillon makes your stay at the hotel an experience that you won't soon forget.
But it is entirely possible that the reason you won't forget your stay has nothing to do with management or the utter beauty of the building, and everything to do with the hotel's more permanent, and paranormal, guests.
With such an intriguing and rich history, it would be strange if Le Pavillon Hotel didn't have some ghosts haunting its corridors and guest rooms. But in the case of Le Pavillon, it's not just one or two ghostly spirits who have stuck around after death, but a much larger number. One paranormal investigating team that visited the hotel claimed that they caught nearly 100 entities during the night they stayed at the haunted Le Pavillon Hotel. Yet another argued that the reason Le Pavillon is so paranormally active is because the land on which it sits is actually a portal to the other side. So, we knew that we had to include it in our list of New Orleans' most haunted Hotels.
Unlike some haunted hotels in the city, management at Le Pavillon Hotel truly embraces its paranormal guests. Upon arrival, guests can ask for a pamphlet regarding the hotel's history and a paranormal investigation that was conducted in 1996 by the famous parapsychologist, Dr. Larry Montz. And guests who are looking for that something extra to happen to them while they're vacationing in New Orleans can certainly ask to stay in one of the hotel's more haunted rooms. As Lytle told us, though guests have experienced paranormal activity all over the hotel, there are a few rooms that seem to be more active than others. Even so, management can't guarantee that a ghost sighting will occur. My suggestion to you: keep your fingers crossed and be mentally open for something to happen. (If only we could get ghosts to be on a timer . . . though perhaps that might be bordering on Haunted Attraction territory).
While Dr. Montz and his team of psychic investigators registered more than a few ghostly entities during their night at the hotel, it's safe to say that a few of the spirits they came across made their presence exceptionally well-know during the nighttime hours.
One particular brave man turned not so brave after booking a room on the famously haunted ninth floor of the hotel. The activity here is incredibly vibrant ... incredibly real. One guest reported that when he woke up in the middle of the night, it was only to find a woman dressed in all black sitting at the foot of his bed. She leaned in, the bed creaking under her nearly transparent body, and ran her icy cold fingers through his hair.
"You belong to me," she whispered to the guest, "I'll never let you go."
It probably comes as no surprise that the male guest never stayed another night at Le Pavillon!
The ghostly apparition of a well-dressed couple in 1920s evening attire has been frequently spotted on the first floor lobby. The ghost of the woman is said to be dressed in a flowing gown; the light from the chandeliers always catch on her jewelry, as she and her ghostly husband meander through the lobby, hands together clasped between them. Countless people have noticed a couple walking toward the elevators; they enter the elevator, but the elevator itself never ascends to another floor. Instead, moments later, it pings open with not a single soul, living or dead, inside.
Dr. Montz and his team suspect that the ghostly couple also likes the second floor and especially Room 221.
But as for why their spirits still manifest in Le Pavillon Hotel? That is anyone's guess. Historical records show nothing about a couple who passed away in the 1920s within the hotel (then, the Hotel De Soto). When we asked Beth Lytle, the Director of Sales, if she has any opinion about the origins of the ghostly couple, she simply lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. "I think they just like it here," Lytle said with a laugh.
Whether the ghostly couple ever visited the hotel during their lifespans will have to remain unknown. What we do know is this: apparently Le Pavillon Hotel suited their tastes after death and they've made themselves at home on the property ever since. So, if you happen to be staying at the Belle of New Orleans and you spot a man and woman dressed in 1920s evening attire, know that there isn't a costume party that they're planning to attend later on. Instead, the spirits of the couple have decided to enjoy all the amenities the Hotel has to offer.
When Dr. Montz and his team held the investigation, they felt the air alter and electrify as they neared Room 930 on the ninth floor. Entering within, they immediately noticed the spirit of a girl, probably between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, in the far corner of the room. One of Dr. Montz's psychic investigators was given the impression of a name, although there is some speculation whether it is Eva, Ada or Ava. As for how the girl died? It seems that sometime in the mid-nineteenth century (ca. 1840s), Ava was rushing to the port to catch a departing ship when she was abruptly hit by a passing carriage on Poydras Street, just steps from the front entrance of the Le Pavillon Hotel today. According to reports, Ava's body rolled under the carriage when it struck her; the impact crushed her back under the weight of the horse-led transportation, and she suffered extensive internal injuries.
Ava never made it to the departure of the ship.
Since her sudden passing, Ava's spirit has never left the general property on which the Le Pavillon stands. Her ghost has been spotted countless times in Room 930; most commonly, she is seen perched on the far bed in the room as she cowers into the bed linens. Guests have reported experiencing an acute sense of confusion and fear, though it seems Ava's ghost does not physically interact with visiting guests in any way save allowing them to absorb the terrifying emotions she felt at the time of her death.
No stay at a haunted hotel would be fulfilling without a ghost who enjoys playing pranks on the cleaning crew and guests alike. In this respect, Le Pavillon is no different, for on the 3rd floor of the hotel the spirit of a dark-haired man has been spotted rather frequently. Though management and staff alike are unsure if this ghost was once a worker at one of the hotels on this site, or if he was at one time a visitor who decided never to leave, it's clear that the spirit has decided to make it his after-death's mission to play jokes on whoever stays on the third floor.
Guests have reported their sheets being yanked right off of their bodies as they're tucked into bed for the night; the cleaning staff has muttered on about their equipment always being moved around while at work. (I can only imagine the initial squabbles they might have before they realized the culprit was, in fact, a ghost and not of the currently living).
During their investigation, Dr. Montz and his team entered the corridor of the 3rd floor from the stairwell. They looked to the right and saw nothing, swung their gazes to the left and were shocked to see a man's apparition between Rooms 301 and 302. Immediately they scurried down the hallway to get a better glimpse of the shadowy figure; just as they neared the apparition, they watched as it glided over the carpet and moved into Room 301 through the very wall itself. Though they tried to find him again during the night of their investigation, the spirit did not reappear.
A shy prankster? It seems rather unlikely.
Over twenty years after Dr. Montz's initial investigation, the ghost of this prankster is still making himself known to guests and employees of the hotel today. Belongings are always being moved and shifted; the ghostly sound of heavy, male footsteps can be heard from the guest rooms; and cleaning equipment is still being hidden like some bad paranormal game of hide and seek.
Beth Lytle has named him "George," and it seems safe to say that George's ghost is going nowhere anytime soon.
Le Pavillon is more than just a place to stay while on vacation; it's an enterprise, a piece of history and a legacy.
And it is for this exact reason that we at Ghost City Tours have decided to delve into everything that Le Pavillon has to offer, both paranormal and historical. Over the next two months, Ghost City Tours will be putting out a series of articles that focus on specific areas of interest about the hotel and its correlation within New Orleans as a whole.
If you're wondering if there will be ghosts involved? We've got you covered. Will there be first hand accounts of haunted experiences at the hotel? Absolutely. Get ready to see Le Pavillon Hotel in a way that you never expected, and remember . . . if you want a piece of all of the action for yourself, head on down to New Orleans and reserve yourself a room. Not only will the hotel's management and staff greet you like a long lost friend, but your ghostly roommates will, too.
We at Ghost City Tours want to give a personal thank-you to Beth Lytle, Le Pavillon's Director of Sales. We appreciate the time you took to give us a personal tour of the hotel and to tell us all about your experiences working at the hotel. We admire your dedication to providing the best for your guests. (And I especially have to give a thank-you for showing us the gold-leaf and marble toilet fit for royalty. That piece is seriously one of a kind).
Here's to demonstrating that the stairs of Le Pavillon really do have their own stories to tell.
Thank you, Beth.