The Jean Lafitte House
The history of the Jean Lafitte House, or the ‘Pirate’s House,’ starts with the notorious pirate himself, Jean Lafitte. Jean was a French pirate and privateer who operated in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. Jean is infamous for interrupting his smuggling activities to fight rather heroically for the United States during the War of 1812. Some say he ‘saved America’ by providing his army of smugglers of over 1,000 men, a massive asset to the American war effort. He was pardoned for his crimes after the war as the country was indebted to him.
Nestled along a beautifully tree lined New Orleans boulevard in the historic French Quarter sits an aqua-blue hotel that dates back to 1809. Considered to be one of the most haunted lodgings in all of Louisiana, the Jean Lafitte House has a reputation it lives up to fully — but what is going on at the home to warrant it such a title?
A History of the Lafitte Home
During 1718 the French Quarter was being laid out upon the arrival of the city’s founder, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne. The need for a quick passage from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain was becoming obvious as trade began to pick up and the city began to grow.
Esplanade Avenue filled that role for the early 18th-century French colonists. The avenue stretched five miles and became the easiest and most popular route to bring goods from the river. As the 19th century began, Esplanade Avenue watched as homes started to pop up along the route. It soon became one of the most sought-after residential areas in the city, and was continued to be used by sailors, merchants, and pirates, too.
Pirates of the Lafitte House
613 Esplanade Avenue was said to be the living quarters of the legendary pirate, Jean Lafitte. New Orlean’s historic relationship with pirates started when the French Crown left the colonists in Louisiana to their own devices, forcing them to fend for themselves. Smuggling and piracy quickly became common and Esplanade Avenue is believed to have been a popular smuggling route for black-trading merchants due to its easy accessibility.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Jean Lafitte and his crew using the route as well, recognizing the need for lodging as they made their way up and down the avenue. There does exist some proof that Jean Lafitte did in fact stay at the home, and it comes in the form of the underground archaeology of the house itself.
The Underground Tunnel
In 1984, the owner of the Jean Lafitte house hired contractors to install a below-ground pool in the spot where the courtyard is. Digging in historic ground always turns up interesting finds, such as the man on Burgundy Street who dug up fifteen water-logged coffins from the 18th century as he dug a space for a pool as well. The underground mysteries remain hidden in the moist Louisiana soil most times, since the city has developed over most of the land. It is only when a resident or business is starting construction that historic artifacts and secrets begin to whisper.
As construction of the pool at the Jean Lafitte House began, the contractors discovered an underground passage that ran parallel with the guest house and the Avenue. Could this tunnel have been used as an ultra-secretive underground smuggling route? What else would this tunnel have been used for? One can ponder on that question as we move onto the next piece of the puzzle… something was hidden in the walls.
Carpentry soon began on the Jean Lafitte House to prepare it for guests and timeshare owners. Behind the plaster walls of the historic home were the buildings original wood beams… not too much of a surprise, until you learn the story those beams had to tell. In this case, walls can talk.
In the early colonization period of Louisiana and New Orleans, especially, it was common for incomers to sail along the Mississippi River, being pushed back by the current and being forced to abandon their route. Realizing they needed a safer way, many sailors left their boats and sold the lumber for quick cash. You can see where this is going — the boat’s wood would then be manufactured into timber for homes, sidewalks, or anything else the city needed. In fact, most of the homes bordering the Mississippi River in the area are made from the wood of the abandoned boats.
When the plaster at the Lafitte Home was removed, old ship wood was discovered. Some pieces even had the original bolts from when it was carrying colonists to the area on the rough waters of the Mississippi. Once again, the Esplanade home gave more questions than it did answers. While the history of the home is not sure, the hauntings of the home are well reported, time and time again.
Hauntings of the Jean Lafitte Home
A building and property steeped in such history is sure to have some leftover spirits. The history presents itself in obvious ways, through the old beams of the home to the underground passages that were once thought to be used by pirates. The Jean Lafitte House is so well-known for its hauntings that the main question of hotel guests isn’t about the pool, or when breakfast is, but ‘is this house haunted?’
There are a few hauntings at the Lafitte Home that are reported.
The Woman in White
The Woman in White is seen on the property’s street-side window, dressed in a flowing and ethereal white gown. Her spirit is known to huddle in the corner of a side room which overlooks the courtyard. She is a silent ghost, floating around the home without a peep. Employees and guests alike have come across the mysterious woman, and while her identity is unknown, she is surely an integral piece of the hauntings at the Lafitte House.
One of the most commonly reported occurrences is that of unexplained noises, almost as if a huge party is occurring outside in the courtyard. Ghostly conversations and heated discussions are common, and guests have even woken up out of a dead sleep to check the street only to see no one alive below. Perhaps these disembodied voices and strange noises are coming from the spirits who once joined Lafitte for his banquets, celebrating the bounties of their labor.
The Haunted Guest House
According to staff, the most haunted place in the hotel is the guest house in its entirety. One of the most astonishing stories is that of the owner, when he was doing paperwork at the table of Unit 1. The owner had scattered these papers across the table alongside a glass of water. As he worked, he heard the glass slide across the old wooden table, looking up only to see the glass being slid by an unseen hand.
He couldn’t move or stop the glass before it reached the edge and then crashed to the floor, shattering. Of course, he didn’t stick around to investigate.
Jean Lafitte House Today
Today the Jean Lafitte House is a small historic hotel that guests can enjoy the history and haunts of. This timeless property has seen scores of pirates, illegal smuggling and countless other moments that we can only begin to ponder. Have you ever visited the Pirate’s House?