The Ghosts of Pat O'Briens Bar

You can’t mention about haunted Irish pubs and bars in New Orleans without mentioning good ol’ Pat O’Briens, which is located on both St. Peter and Bourbon Streets in the French Quarter. After all, their slogan is “Have Fun!” and they’ve been in town serving up good alcohol—and creepy ghostly activity—since 1933.

The History of Pat O'Briens

Originally built around the turn of the nineteenth century, 718 St Peter Street—where Pat O’s sits now—was once part of the Orleans Theater, the first French Theater in the city of New Orleans. A fire ravaged two-thirds of St. Peter Street in 1816, however, and the Orleans Theater was also consumed in the flames. The Theater was no more, at least not then, and the current building was constructed on the property a year later in 1817 by John Garnier.

By the 1930s, New Orleans was in the midst of the prohibition and 718 St Peter Street had become one of the many speakeasies which dotted the French Quarter landscape. Sometimes called a blind pig, or even a blind tiger, such establishments sold alcohol to customers on the sly in the hope of escaping prosecution.

Pat O’Brien converted his speakeasy into a legitimate drinking business after prohibition was lifted at the end of the 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Pat O’Briens was doing swimmingly well. Because there had been a shortage of whiskey, bourbon and scotch, he used rum to create the bar’s infamous Hurricane drink. (The drink was once served in a hurricane lantern, thus earning it its name).

Since these early days, Pat O’s has also opened in Orlando and San Antonio--proving that the Hurricane special can also make a dent in popularity in other cities across the United States. (And, interestingly enough, should you visit the one in Orlando or San Antonio, you’ll find that the interior decor has been done to look identical to the Original Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street.

But Pat O’s has always been more than just a bar. It’s served as a home to weddings, company outings and just about any other event under the sun.

More spectacular, however, is upstairs in the Piano Lounge, where O’Brien once set up two dueling pianos in the 1930s—drinks flowed, people laughed, and everyone danced in the aisles to whatever music was playing. Today, patrons of Pat O’s continue this tradition with much delight.

The Ghosts of Pat O'Briens

To this day, Pat O’Brien’s continues to be one of the most preferred haunts for tourists and locals alike . . . and also for the bar’s more permanent, ghostly residents.

The wrought iron tables and chairs are often moved around in the courtyard by what employees claim to be ghostly forces. Some staff who are getting ready for work have suddenly realized that their green vests are suddenly “misplaced”—the culprit, they say, are the bar’s notorious and bold ghosts.

According to staff and the bar’s current owners, the Piano Bar and the upstairs Ladies Room are the two most paranormally active locations.

The Piano Bar

Up in the Piano Bar, the ghostly activity is quite active, especially early in the morning when no one is around. Employees working the early shifts have been completing their tasks when, quite out of the blue, they’ve heard the distinct sound of footsteps padding across the floor. For many of the staff members who experience hearing these disembodied footsteps, they continue with their duties, knowing without a doubt that something otherworldly has made its presence known.

Others have experienced feeling cold spots, and one employee was one day restocking the bar when those inexplicable footsteps started again. Wherever he went, the unseen presence followed him as well, the tap-tap-tap of shoes sending chills running down his spine. Then, he heard the tinkling of the piano keys. Not a soul was sitting in the barroom—no one but him.

For those brave souls willing to take on anything, head on up to the Piano Bar. You might hear the lilting sounds of the pianos playing, when no one sits at the bench to do so; you might hear ghostly footsteps following you about . . . And if you’re really lucky, you might even be touched. In this area of Pat O’Brien’s, employees and patrons have been known to be pushed about by an unseen force.

The Ladies Room

Rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a past restroom attendant, the Ladies Room’s paranormal activity is frequent and vibrant.

Some women have heard footsteps trailing after them as they enter the bathroom. Below the stall’s dividers, no feet are ever seen, evoking the hair-raising question of who followed them into the restroom, if it wasn’t a member of the living?

Others have reported similar paranormal activity, as well as hearing bursts of laughter when no one is around. Even stranger, this author experienced something strange when I visited with a friend. Unaware that my friend had followed me into the restroom, I heard her rummaging about in the stalls. I even asked her what she was doing, and the only response was shuffling feet and more banging around.

Stepping out of the stall, I realized that there was no one in the restroom. No restroom attendant, no other ladies freshening up after spending time in the humid outdoors. With my nerves strung tight, I left the restroom only to find my friend sitting on one of the plush couches by the stairwell.

Apparently she hadn’t come into the bathroom after me . . . and nor had anyone else.

For many new workers of Pat O’Brien’s, the poltergeist activity on the third floor proves eerie enough that for the first weeks, they prefer not to go alone. People have witnessed shadows moving past them, as well as doors slamming shut on their own volition.

Pat O’Brien’s might be famous for their delicious Hurricanes, but they’re just as famous for their other spirits as well.

Visiting the Haunted Pat O'Brien's

Besides Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (which is also on Bourbon Street), no bar in the French Quarter is as visited as Pat O’s. Immediately upon entering the narrow hallway of the establishment, there’s no hiding the history that clings to its walls.

Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans isn’t just as a bar, it might as well be a compound of good fun, good drink and also touchy-feely ghosts.

While we can never guarantee paranormal activity, we highly encourage you to stop on by Pat O’s while you are in town. It’s the perfect place to hit up before or after our New Orleans Haunted Pub Crawl.

Really, nothing quite sets the tone as dueling spectral piano players