The Unbelievable Story of the New Orleans Restaurant in a Haunted Old Church
Vessel was featured on a recent episode of “The Dead Files.”
Since it opened in 2016, Vessel has primarily been known for its inventive cocktails, Mediterranean-inspired fare, and noteworthy architecture. But after it was featured in a late-summer episode of The Dead Files, this New Orleans restaurant and bar is being recognized for things you won’t find on the menu.
A 1914 church-turned-restaurant that housed Christian’s Restaurant until it was shuttered by Hurricane Katrina, the space is hardly ordinary—even by New Orleans standards. And, according to managing partner Alec Wilder, the experience of transforming a crumbling old church into Vessel was anything but normal.
“Every day we walked in and wondered if we were cursed,” Wilder recalls of the renovation process. “It was a total disaster.” Not only was the building near collapse, but everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. And that doesn’t include the supernatural things that were happening. Strange noises, tape measures snapping on their own, shadows of a monk-like figure walking around the dining room, you name it.
They even learned that at one point it had gotten so bad for the last chef who worked there, that he called an exorcist.
But Wilder and his fellow managing partner Eddie Dyer got it done, and Vessel opened in the summer of 2016. Though it was up and running, they found that the men they hired never seemed to work out while the females were all great. Strange whooshes of cold air had servers afraid to use the stairs. And nearly every refrigeration unit they brought in seemed to mysteriously burn out.
It all started to come together one November morning in 2018 when the bread delivery mysteriously arrived wet. When they checked the security cameras, they were shocked by what they saw: a bright orb dancing around the patio in the middle of the night. A video shared with Southern Living shows the vibrant ball of light moving for more than five minutes, at one point, even scaring a stray cat.
Wilder says that’s when he knew they needed to get to the bottom of what was happening in the restaurant. So, he sent the security camera footage to The Dead Files, hoping they’d help unlock the history of the church.
Out of 15,000 entries, Vessel’s was one of 26 cases chosen for this season of The Travel Channel series. The cast and crew arrived in February to document their investigation, and what hosts Amy Allan and Steve DiSchiavi uncovered is astounding.
According to The Dead Files, Vessel is haunted by a number of spirits, but primarily by the female spirit of Baroness de Pontalba, a wealthy New Orleans aristocrat who owned the land the restaurant sits on in the 1800s. de Pontalba is one of the most incredible figures in New Orleans history, and is credited with shaping the city we know and love today. Her life, though glamorous, was not without trouble wrought by the hands of greedy men. After a failed marriage in which she was virtually imprisoned for two years in a cold chateau in France, she was shot four times by her father-in-law who was after her inheritance. She survived but was permanently disfigured.
With a life like that, it’s not hard to see why her spirit is opposed to men and refrigeration devices!
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Wilder says that Vessel’s paranormal activity is sporadic, so don’t expect your cocktail to be served by de Pontalba herself. But if you like dinner and drinks with a side of spooky history—and in a church, no less!—we highly recommend a trick to Vessel.
The “Deadly Vessel” episode of The Dead Files airs again this Thursday at 7p.m. EST on The Travel Channel.