If you dare, autumn is the best time to lurk in the most mysterious city in the South.

Haunting New Orleans

The Big Easy remains a town that, even in broad daylight, can spook the staunchest of those who believe ghosts and goblins to be mere humbug. At night, just steps from the revelry on Bourbon Street, creaky old hotels and haunted tours give many a tourist a delightfully bad case of the heebie-jeebies. It's the city to visit in October. Follow us on a frightening evening that will leave lingering memories long after the sun has come up.

Haunted Walks
An astonishing number of good ghost tours in New Orleans explore haunted houses and spooky cemeteries. One of the best treks spawns from Save Our Cemeteries, Inc., a nonprofit organization. Walks through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 enthrall history buffs. Both chronicle New Orleans' aboveground burials, the architecture of South Louisiana graveyards, and the famous residents of these "cities of the dead." Far from terrifying, the tours are fascinating and beautiful. For ticket prices and more information, call (504) 525-3377.

The New Orleans Ghost Tour is an excellent way to creep yourself out. No boogeymen jump out from behind bushes, but the tales told by the knowledgeable guides will terrify you nonetheless. Beginning at a bar called The Morgue (626 St. Philip Street), the group ventures around the French Quarter, listening to famous New Orleans stories such as the chilling murders in La Maison Lalaurie or the vampire mystery of Ursuline Convent. Tours start at 8 every night and last about two hours. Adult tickets cost $18, children under 12 go for free--but don't take them. For reservations call (504) 524-0708.

Haunted Hotels
After you've gotten a feel for the city by taking a guided stroll, bunk in one of New Orleans' spooky inns. I spent the night at Le Pavillon Hotel (833 Poydras Street; [504] 581-3111), one of the grandest hotels near the Quarter. My room on the third floor was well appointed, but the door creaked like a bad Vincent Price movie, and my night was fitful. In much the same manner as Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, I attributed the bumps and thuds to "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato."

The following morning, however, the front desk revealed a copy of a paranormal investigative report conducted at the hotel in 1996 by five ghostbusters. Scanning the document, my gaze fell upon a notation of an apparition in the vicinity of room 301--my room.

I've yet to return.

This article is from the October 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.