Step back in time at this atmospheric testament to New Orleans’ long and diverse history.
Located in the city’s Garden District – which is itself a National Historic Landmark – Lafayette Cemetery is named after the original settlement on the banks of the Mississippi that was gradually swallowed up by its more dynamic neighbour, New Orleans. Step back in time as you enter the gates and start to explore the rows of tombs and crypts that line its peaceful avenues.
The cemetery, like the cosmopolitan city it serves, is a melting pot of denominations and nationalities, with immigrants from over 25 countries sharing their final resting-place with their fellow citizens. From simple “ovens” or wall vaults to ornate family tombs and flamboyant monuments, the graves are as varied as their occupants, with epitaphs that tell of plague and war and chronicle the city’s Creole past and multicultural present. Look out for the shared crypt of New Orleans’ destitute orphan boys and the memorial to the deceased woodmen of the world.
Lafayette has been the inspiration for the gothic novels of Anne Rice, as well as the setting of films such as Interview with the Vampire and Double Jeopardy. Notorious for ghostly sightings, sudden chills and strange scraping noises, it’s said to be one of the most haunted burial grounds in the USA, a reputation that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Over the years subsidence has caused some of the monuments to sink precariously into the ground, while ancient tree roots coil eerily around lichen-covered headstones, adding to the spooky feel.
Lafayette Cemetery and its sister site to the north are maintained by the Save Our Cemeteries Group, which runs one-hour tours every day except Sunday, when the cemetery is closed. The St. Charles tram stops nearby. Don’t forget your camera and be prepared for some surprises! Then head across the road to revive your spirits with a meal at Commander’s Palace, one of New Orleans’ favourite Colonial-style restaurants.