Not every haunted building in New Orleans is featured on our haunted tours of New Orleans. It simply isn’t possible - though we do wish it was! New Orleans has more haunted buildings than any other city in the Country. I’m sure if we did try to fit them all onto one ghost tour, the tour would be about 3 days long. That’s a lot of walking.
That doesn’t mean, however, that if we do not feature a location on one of our haunted tours, it isn’t worthy of discussion. The Supreme Court of Louisiana Building, located at 400 Royal Street in the French Quarter, is one of those buildings that deserves the limelight for not only its history but also its paranormal activity.
For many years, people working in the Courthouse, and others inside for other reasons, have reported having paranormal experiences that range anywhere from phantom footsteps to a full bodied apparition of a lawyer.
Here at Ghost City Tours, we have heard stories about haunted courthouses all over the country, so maybe it isn’t that much of a surprise that the courthouse in America’s most haunted neighborhood has more than its own share of ghost stories to tell.
Built in the terra-cotta Beaux Arts style, the Louisiana Supreme Court Building can be found cordoned off amidst Chartres, St. Louis, Royal and Conti Streets in the heart of the French Quarter.
It was completed in 1910, after the City demolished the buildings that had stood previously for over a century. Early on, there’s been a preposition to actually build the structure on the sites of the Presbytere and Cabildo, but there was such a public outcry that that urban city plan quickly fell to the wayside.
But there was one part of the French Quarter which had fallen into disrepair, and where vagrants were the ones taking up residence in the old, abandoned buildings. Between Royal and Chartres Streets had once existed Exchange Alley (though part of it still exists today), a narrow pedestrian-only lane that spoke to political and legal offices. By 1903, however, Exchange Alley was nothing but a dark and deteriorated part of the French Quarter, and the city moved ahead with this new plan.
Even so, locals looked at the construction of the Supreme Court Building as an “intrusion” and were not so enamored with the prospect of it sitting there. In April 1906, the Architectural Art and its Allies wrote, “we feel assured that the artistic loss … in the invasion of the quaint old French Quarter by a brand new building where it will stand alone … will be fully realized only when the remedy will be forever impossible.”
When the demolitions began, The Daily-Picayune reported that the city would mourn the square as “one of the most historic sites in New Orleans. It is the very heart of the vieux carre … and while still palpitant with memories of pioneer bravery and colonial splendor, it must be torn to pieces that progress may continue its onward march.”
This “onward march” resulted in a structure that looked nothing at all like the rest of the Quarter, and New Orleans have always been known for sticking try and true with old reliable. “Change” was not something appreciated, and still isn’t for most in the Crescent City.
Then again, maybe locals had it right about the . . . “ugliness” of the Louisiana Supreme Court Building. In 1934, the architect Charles Harris Whitaker deemed it, “one of the worst examples of a public building to be found in all America.”
After its initial bumpy reception, the Louisiana Supreme Court Building settled in for a time. The offices opted to move elsewhere in 1958, thanks to the fact that the Supreme Court Building had been horribly taken care of for nearly forty years.
But, by the 1990s, the City voted to restore the Louisiana Supreme Court back to its rightful place on Royal Street, and it has sat there ever since 2004. It did, however, go through a major renovation beforehand.
This building has been featured in movies like Runaway Jury, and it has also been home to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as well.
More recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court has become famous for its more spectral residents.
That is what one of the clerks who works at the Louisiana Supreme Court Building told Ghost City Tours when we asked her about the rumored hauntings inside this historic building. Naturally we were curious; naturally we wanted to know what exactly it was that she had experienced in the past.
She informed our team that late in the afternoon, or sometimes in the early evening when she stays later, she’ll often hear the footsteps of someone who isn’t there. The halls of the Courthouse are not carpeted, so the footsteps of the ghosts tend to echo through the hallways. Inevitably, she’d leave the room she was in to check and see who was coming down the hallway. Each and every time nobody was there.
Do these spectral footsteps belong to the ghosts of two witnesses who were allegedly shot in the courtroom during the 1930s? According to local lore, such a violent event occurred during a murder trial that involved - you guessed it - the Mafia. No evidence can be found to prove this for certain, but the rumor alone continues to prove … hauntingly creepy.
Upon our visit to the Louisiana Supreme Court Building, Ghost City asked the clerk if she thought the ghosts in the Courthouse were malicious. She said she has never heard any anyone being terribly frightened by the ghosts of the Courthouse.
She did, however, tell us that one of her coworkers did have a run in with what is perhaps the most famous ghost of the Courthouse. It seems as if the ghost of a lawyer, from New Orleans’ past, is still wandering the halls of the Supreme Court Building in New Orleans.
Perhaps the most famous ghost and ghost story associated with the Supreme Court Building in New Orleans is that of a lawyer who used to spend a lot of his time in the Courthouse. Nobody knows for sure who this ghost is, but from the way he is dressed, when seen, suggests heavily that he was once a lawyer. The people who have seen this famous New Orleans ghost describe him as a man in his 40’s, who is dressed in a beige suit and is carrying a briefcase. More than a few people have seen this ghost wandering the halls of the Courthouse. Inevitably, as soon as he is seen he vanishes into thin air or walks around a corner, not to be seen again.
Even people outside of the Courthouse have reported seeing this ghost. On the east side of the building, people walking by have seen a man matching the description of the ghostly lawyer, staring out of the windows of the Courthouse, almost as if this ghost is watching the people of New Orleans go about their nightly business.
Who is he? Most tend to believe that this lawyer is one and the same with a man who, in the 1950s, lost a major case before the Supreme Court. Seeing no other option to salve his reputation and his pride, the lawyer then shot himself in the building.
This male ghost should not be confused with the female spirit who is often heard crying right outside of the Courthouse. Much like with the lawyer, there is not much information to go on . . . but if you were to hear a keening wail of frustration, do be kind to her if you stumble across her apparition.
Everywhere you turn in New Orleans it seems like you can’t go far without running into one of New Orleans’ famous haunted houses. If you would like to learn more about the haunted history of New Orleans, what makes New Orleans so haunted, consider joining Ghost City Tours on one of our world famous ghost tours. Every night we take guests to the most haunted location in the French Quarter of New Orleans on a haunted journey to discover the haunted side of New Orleans.
When visiting America’s Most Haunted City, New Orleans, you owe it to yourself to see the true haunted persona of the French Quarter of New Orleans.