613 Royal Street, New Orleans
The Court of Two Sisters on Royal Street is legendary for elegance and charm. The open-air courtyard and decadent restaurant is known worldwide for a live Jazz Brunch and romantic Creole dinners.
Many assume the ghosts who haunt the property are the two sisters who once ran a shop here more than a hundred years ago. However, there is more paranormal activity to this restaurant on Royal Street than meets the eye.
As the rumored location of pirate duels and Marie Laveau’s voodoo, the property has a storied past. More recently, the building is where an unsolved murder took place, followed by the prime suspect’s mysterious death.
We wanted to know what it’s like day-to-day inside the Court of Two Sisters to learn if the property is truly haunted.
We turned to current Ghost City Tours Manager, Walter Nata, who worked at the Court of Two Sisters for several years, to get a first-hand account.
Nata says certain spots in the Court of Two Sisters carry an eerie presence. He’s never seen the apparition of a ghost while working at the restaurant but felt as if someone there was watching over him during his shift. Paranormal activity would even occur while guests were enjoying a meal.
“In the dining room, bottles on tables would vibrate or shiver without anyone near” - said Nata.
Nata said unexplained noises and movement occurred daily at the Court of Two Sisters. However, it was difficult to discern if a ghost was the culprit or if the sounds were simply an aging building falling apart.
The Court of Two Sisters staff will conduct a flaming banana’s foster dessert demonstration on a side table for their guests. If a patron orders the dessert, waiters will prepare the dish tableside and mix the ingredients over an open flame.
Nata says it was extremely common for the cinnamon dish to tip over on its own during these demonstrations. With their eyes on the flame, patrons would assume the employee had accidentally knocked the dish over. Nata says staff knew otherwise. Whatever paranormal activity that existed on the property would flare up with the presence of the spice.
We did some research and found several connections between spiritual activity and cinnamon. In ancient Egypt and China, cinnamon sticks were bundled together and hung in the belief that it kept homes and temples free of evil spirits.
Others might argue the cinnamon spills are simply the work of the legendary courtyard fairies. Superstition says fairies are attracted to nutmeg, cinnamon, and brown sugar. If that’s true, the banana’s foster recipe would be a jackpot for a trickster fairy.
For decades, tourists and patrons have claimed to see apparitions of the two sisters the restaurant gets its name from.
In 1886, Emma and Bertha Camors opened up “The Shop of Two Sisters,” on the property catering to wealthy creole women. They sold costumes, gowns, expensive perfumes, and at times would have tea out back for their favorite clients.
The business only operated until 1904, but the women maintained their sisterly bond and died within months of each other in 1944.
Some claim to see a pair of two older women sitting in the courtyard together late at night. Legend has it that they leave feelings of happiness in their wake.
The question is, how fiercely do their spirits protect their shop?
Just ten years after the sisters passed, “The Court of Two Sisters” was surrounded by scandal and death. The bizarre events on the property during the 1950s would have been wildly upsetting to the two sisters.
According to the Court of Two Sisters website, the property passed through seven ownerships over the next three decades. The property value took a nosedive, declining from $39,000 to $14,000.
A man named Jimmy Cooper took over the space in 1940 and is now widely credited in part with making “The Court of Two Sisters” the world-renowned restaurant that it is today. However, he didn’t live long to see that success. His current reputation is much nicer than it was 70 years ago.
Cooper often put the "Court of Two Sisters" in newspapers for less than desirable reasons. He stood trial accused of brutally murdering his wife above the restaurant. A few years later, he mysteriously died a similar death.
In 1951, James Cooper divorced his first wife and remarried. His new bride was a beautiful young television singer and actress,
Amelie ‘Diddie’ Woolfolk Cooper. Diddie was a New Orleans socialite.
The honeymoon didn’t last long. Less than a year after they wed, Diddie was already living in a separate apartment above The Court of Two Sisters.
Though estranged, she and Cooper continued to spend time together. She reportedly went to a football game with him one night. And the next day she was found dead.
According to a 1956 The Times article:
The beaten body of Mrs. Cooper clad in a blue negligee was found on a blood-stained bed in the apartment … A gaping wound made with a blunt instrument was on her right forehead and her throat bore numerous evidences of strangulation.
No one was arrested in the case until a
mysterious woman in blue, supplied evidence to the Grand Jury nearly six months after the murder according to a Knoxville Journal article from 1954.
The prosecution accused Cooper of strangling Diddie because she would not get back together with him and wanted separation allowance. Newspapers described the trial as
one of the most sensational in modern New Orleans history.
An all-male jury found Cooper innocent in 28 minutes. Newspapers reported Cooper threw a large party at The Court of Two Sisters to celebrate the verdict. The case is still cold.
In a bizarre twist, two years after Cooper’s acquittal for his wife’s murder, his body was discovered strangled to death in his apartment above the restaurant. What happened to him remains a mystery.
A 1956 Daily World article reported the coroner made
a verdict of natural death due to a mysterious allergy which caused swelling in the windpipe and prevented Cooper from breathing.
What killed Cooper?
Modern forensics might have shed more light on the cause of his death. It's only natural to wonder if a paranormal force was at play, seeking vengeance for his past crimes.
Perhaps, it was just a peanut allergy. We’ll never know.
In 1963, the Fein Family took over the restaurant. Two brothers managed The Court of Two Sisters for years and maintained great respect for the memory of the women who started it all.
The sisters were buried in an unmarked grave in St. Louis Cemetery #3. To save their memory, the Fein Brothers searched for three years to identify their tomb and restore it. They found their graves just in time.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans was preparing to condemn the plot that held their graves and resell it due to its deplorable conditions.
The Brothers spent $4,000 to clean up the site and have the headstone made. Today many visit the grave and pay their respects to Emma and Bertha.
The Fein Family continues to operate the Court of Two Sisters. The upstairs apartments were converted to kitchens, dining rooms, and offices.
Customers rave about the magical atmosphere of the restaurant. The ghosts of Emma and Bertha are considered a blessing to the business. Former employee Walt Nata says staff believes their presence is playful and benevolent.
Despite the Cooper family scandal less than 70 years ago, no one seems to remember
The Court of Two Sisters for anything other than a pleasant New Orleans meal in an exquisite setting. The ghosts of the sisters are surely pleased that their business has maintained its pristine reputation.
If you stop by for a jazz brunch or evening dinner, be sure to visit the wishing well. Keep an eye out for a pair of ladies watching the tables from a distance. They aim to please, which is why the “Court of Two Sisters” is known as one of the best restaurants in New Orleans today.