807 Esplanade

by Angeliska on November 12, 2009

1431094854_0cd91cc617
(Photographer unknown)

I became friendly with the ghosts of 807 Esplanade
not long after I moved into the building. The house
held so much history, it would seem strange if it
weren’t haunted at least by a few souls. The place
was huge, and there was some heavy energy
out back by the the former slave quarter apartments
where the drunks and dealers and recluses made
their sad lairs in little garrets connected by a very
rickety and dangerous wooden staircase. The whole
place was falling apart, long neglected by the owners.
I originally moved into the tower, alone at age 20,
a new resident of New Orleans. One night, my neighbor
who had lived in her apartment for years decided she’d
finally had it with pieces of the ceiling falling in, and
trying to raise her little daughter, Aurelia, in such an
unsafe house. She stormed out in a screaming fury,
and I ended up moving into her much larger and grander
apartment on the third floor. Two balconies, a clawfoot
tub, a gorgeous chandelier and two Italian Carrera marble
fireplaces (outfitted with freaky, fire-spitting gas heaters).

Angel807
(Photographer known, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten his name!)

The ceilings were 15 feet tall, and there were leaks in
every room when it rained, which it did nearly every afternoon.
We were plagued with rats, mice, giant flying cockroaches,
stinging caterpillars, noisy drunks from Bourbon St., and
general decay – but none of that mattered at all. In fact,
none of the hard things about living in New Orleans
really affected me, as long as I was living in that marvelous mansion.
We called it “Crumblydown Manor” or “Bramblebee Estates”
but mostly I called it the “We Have Always Lived in the Castle Castle”,
because it reminded me of something out of a Shirley Jackson story.
It was the ultimate in Southern Gothic dilapidated opulence,
and I felt like a queen surveying the hoi polloi, hidden behind
massive oaks on the balcony overlooking the neutral ground.
I still feel like it’s my house, and I always will. I go there in my
dreams all the time. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss it.

edit6
This is where I would lock up my bicycle every day. (Photographer unknown)

Alas, I digress! On to the ghosts – they mostly congregated in the stairwell,
playing little tricks on the other neighbors, and making mischief.
I felt quite a few presences there, and I felt that there was something
about the liminal space of the staircase, the landings and the halls
that kept them there. I would generally greet them warmly and politely
when climbing up or down the three flights as I did several times a day.
They repaid me for my good manners by saving my life on more occasions
then I can count. I am not the most coordinated lady, and was frequently
in ridiculously tall heels and often quite inebriated. I was constantly
taking a misstep on the steep stairs and nearly toppling to my death,
but somehow- it never happened. I would trip, and start to fall backwards-
that horrible, slow-motion slant backwards, arms wheeling, a slave to gravity
preparing for the worst until I would feel hands on my back pushing me forward
and back up onto the step. Sweating and gasping, I would thank them profusely.
Lucky for klutzy me, to have such kind and watchful ghosts looking out for me, eh?

edit5
(Photographer unknown – Melissa G., are these yours perchance?)

One afternoon, I was locking my bicycle up to the big mahogany post
at the base of the stairs. As I bent over to attach the lock, I felt someone
standing near me, and I glanced to the side expecting to see a neighbor.
Our of my peripheral vision, I saw a man standing there, wearing an olive
green wool army uniform, I reckon 1940′s WWII era. He was solemn and
sad seeming, standing there very straight, almost at attention. His hair
was blond, and curled over his forehead, looking almost marcelled.
Blue eyes. I think he wanted something. I think he wanted help finding
the way out, or just desired company. I only saw him that once, and it
was so short. As soon as I turned my head to look at him head on,
he was gone. I sensed him lots of times after that, though. His energy
reminded me of one of my favorite descriptions from the His Dark Materials
Trilogy, by Phillip Pullman
:

“How much easier if his dæmon had been visible!
She wondered what its form might be,
and whether it was fixed yet.
Whatever its form was, it would express a nature
that was savage, and courteous, and unhappy.”

edit2
(Photographer unknown)

It was not too long after that that my friend Miss Carrin
came to visit. After her first night staying with us, she
informed me that our house was haunted. I was shocked to
find out that the ghosts had crossed the threshold! They
generally were very respectful, and stayed to the stairs
and the landings. She was drifting off to sleep, when
she suddenly sensed someone standing over her.
She opened her eyes to see a man staring down
at her lying there. He disappeared after a moment,
but not before she got a good look at him. I asked her
to describe the man she saw, and she told me that he
was wearing some kind of greenish uniform or suit,
and had blond wavy hair. I had not told her anything
of the ghost I had seen prior to this. A while later, a
guest told me that something in that room had kicked
him in the ribs while he slept. Perhaps the blond man
took a disliking to him, or maybe it was some other
mischievous phantom. I wonder how that soldier is
these days- if he’s crossed through, or if he’s made
any news friends. I imagine him still heartbroken,
searching. Maybe angry that I’m not there, and
making trouble for the filmmakers that are renovating
my old home and turning it into a production studio.

vieux37
This is the house a long, long time ago.
When the turrets were still in place, and the
oaks and ivy had not yet sprung up to clothe
her bare and sienna-stained edifice. Nary
a single tree in what I knew as a somewhat dank
and shady leaf-clogged courtyard. Dirt roads
and women all in white, men all in black.

To know what my room looked like, and
to know the story of the terrible things that
happened after, when everyone who lived
there was given the boot, and the house
was desecrated, please see: Mutatis Mutandis

I also advise you to find out what happened
after that, to know more about the angry ghosts,
do read: Ghost Story – it’s quite creepy.
I still can hardly believe it. So strange.

Some recent photos of the house from Gairid.

What is the history of 807 Esplanade Avenue?
- from Blake Ponchartrain at The Gambit

Tod Seelie’s photos of our mutual friends and various stompin’ grounds
in New Orleans are truly magic. He’s damn good, and his pictures
make my heart feel funny. Longing, and laughing.
Especially check out his post from the The Day Of The Dead
parade and Viking funeral for Colby
– they are breathtaking.
DRAGGIN’ SOMEDAY OUT TO SEA
and a perfect visual explanation for me,
of what it means, to miss New Orleans:
NEVER SANG A LOVE SONG, NEVER OWNED A CAR

☛ Details of cornices and murals from the house,
in a book I want very much: New Orleans Architecture Volume 4:
The Creole Faubourgs – By Roulhac Toledano & Mary Louise Christovich

More news about the renovations.

21 comments

Oh! This kind of broke my heart, the way seeing pictures of someone you were once so close to does. I return to it in my dreams more often than any other dream location. The most poignant one involved a suicidal stairwell, where one got the urge to throw themselves down the stairs when they walked past it. Those pictures aren’t by me, but here are some pictures of it post-eviction, pre-movie renovation. We snuck in past a curmudgeonly caretaker and a german tv crew filming a ghost show. I sat down on my old floor and hugged the creaky, dusty floorboards and wept.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ohalcyondays/sets/72157594388864620/

Thank you for all of this! We had ghosts too, in our leedle space, whose presence we felt or were made aware of on daily basis. They were very friendly and helpful and made me feel very, very safe. I did hate that back abandoned area, though, and was physically loathe to go near it. Heebie-jeebies. Mo’s place had a very, very old black female ghost who would shuffle up and down the hallway all night. I would dream about her, that her hands hurt, and would wake up with hands aching whenever I slept down there.

I miss it. So, so much.

by Melissa on November 12, 2009 at 1:32 am. #

you + your ghosts are always on my mind when i bike past that corner – oh how the heart aches to see it in it’s current state. worrisome.

e has a story about the third floor for you, but it’s too much to get into here – i’m writing a big letter to you anyway, it’ll be in that!

oh + that book is indispensable. it was gifted to us by friends after purchasing our house which is in it, but i find myself consulting it often to look up so many buildings i am wondering about… or to gaze at the ceiling medallion from our old place (front parlor, 735 esplnd) which i loved madly. there is a book place i know with a stack of them, i will send you one.

xxx

by kris on November 12, 2009 at 2:10 am. #

I have been wondering about that amazing place forever! I always feel its pull, and stop to gaze into it. Didn’t realize it was once your home, but of course it was…my heart always ached for it, standing empty, and the fireplaces -what a tragedy. I hope the new inhabitants will love and respect it, and whichever ghosties remain.

by alita on November 12, 2009 at 2:49 am. #

Oh my sweet lord. I haven’t even had the time to trundle into work to be abused by my employers and I am already crying into my coffee.

What a grand and wonderful old place was! How wonderful that you became a part of part of it for a time! It is of course terrible – the pilfering and pillaging of the guts and organs and lifeblood of your old home – I do not blame you one bit for weeping…but that you made your mark on such a place (and it on you) and that its eerie inhabitants sought you out for strange reasons their own …those are amazing mental keepsakes. Hopefully memory tokens like these outweigh the current ugliness.

by Ghoul Next Door on November 12, 2009 at 5:21 am. #

it’s so sad that everything the house was, as it stood is being remodeled and rebuilt and changed. the light in those pictures gives me a funny heart feeling, like a thread wrapped around it tugging. i can see how you loved this place so much. poor crumblydown manor, and its lost souls. the story of what happened to the spirits after the pillaging gives me goosebumps and shivers. whatever changes may come, you’ve left an indelible essence amongst those that still remain on the spot that can never be painted over or hammered out, i don’t doubt it for a minute.

by annie on November 12, 2009 at 6:37 am. #

I don’t think those ghosts could have had a better resident in you.

it’s funny, I always *wanted* to see ghosts and feel a spiritual connection to the dead, yet the environment I grew up in was so… logical and matter-of-fact (Communist Russia’s collapse), that it just didn’t seem to foster this kind of thing. Yet it seems there is something there after all. The town across the river from where Lawrence and I live has a cemetery that boasts graves from the 1700s. It’s in a state of collapse, ovegrown and completely forgotten, just on the edge of a small wooded area. When Laurie and I first got together and I would come visit him (he used to live in that town then), we regularly went to this cemetery at all hours of day and night and just hang out with the toppled and broken headstones, trying to feel the faded out names, our feet sinking into the spongy soil. Lawrence and his mother have a very close relationship, and both of them have always felt particularly drawn to the grave of one of the two Phebes residing there.

Since we live further away now, we don’t get the chance to visit as often. But we have, a few times, and when we did, he took a little bit of dirt from Phebes’ grave to keep. When the madness with our stalker began, we went to visit A local witch friend for help. There was no reason to bring up cemetery visits with her so we didn’t, yet one of the first pieces of adbvice she gave us was to visit a cemetery for dirt and ask protection of people resting there. After which, of course, it came out that we were regulars of the old Cold Spring graveyard – Bernadette seemed hardly surprised and very pleased, so she told us to visit again and bring some presents. We did so on our way up to the mountains, late at night. Because so many odd and scary things had happened recently with out stalker, I was feeling anxious for the very first time about visiting this graveyard at night. I was worried that perhaps we had overstepped boundaries with the folks there by taking dirt before asking and not giving back anything other than visits and conversation in return. The fact that all the streetlamps were out on the approach to the cemetery didn’t help. Yet the moment we actually set foot there and started greeting everyone, I felt calm again, and a lot more confident about the whole situation we were tangled in. Naturally, my anxiety was produced by the actions of a life person, not our visit. Helps to remember what Josephine Baker said – there’s a lot more to be afraid of from the living than the dead.

by Theo on November 12, 2009 at 8:13 am. #

oh the joy of visiting you there, to have the front door key lowered down in a basket from the balcony and climb up those rickety stairs knowing some magic awaited-it was like being lent the keys to the kingdom.
xo

by Brenda on November 12, 2009 at 10:11 am. #

wow angel, can u believe it, this effect new orleans has on our souls? i have been away for one year, quit smoking, am around more innocent people, no roaches and now i have this incredible opportunity to move back to a beautiful old house (forever) my friend is buying but i am reluctant…..

by sylvio on November 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm. #

yesterday i went to get you something from sword and the rose, and we settled on a “home of my heart” spell. i’ll write more in a letter but here you are writing about your heart-home.

this house, this house! it needs to be lived in, not movie-made in. shivers.

by verhext on November 12, 2009 at 9:55 pm. #

Such a wonderful place, I feel tears coming down my face. I totaly agree on verhext comments!! This house deserve to have people living in it. Not to be used as a working place. It should have people loving it and making it a home again. We do not have houses like that in Sweden, I live in a very practical country, since we where untouched after WWII, we had strong economy and people disliked old things that could remind them on our poor past. So, old thing and buildings was ruined and replaced with new “modern” ugly things. But nevertheless I try to track old things down, and collect as much as I can. Late at night they whisper to eachother, the dolls in the cabinette, the wax mannequin and all the furniture….very soft, I can not hear what they say, but it feels homy and comforting. Thanks for making my life more exciting!! Cecilia

by cecilia pawlowski on November 13, 2009 at 12:54 am. #

I don’t know you, but I read this, and then last night, the house and stairwell you described showed up in my dream. i was visiting for a barbecue. the ghost would not speak to me, but i could tell he was around,and others. the building was falling down in massive chunks, so i pitched my tent in the adjacent yard instead of finding a crash spot indoors. my companions did not seem to mind, saying ohhhh the building won’t completely fall down while we are sleeping in it. there were kittens also, and people meowing falsetto-style in conversation.

by alanna on November 13, 2009 at 8:35 pm. #

807 Esplanade reminds me of a beautiful old decrepit woman with stories to tell. So good of you to speak for her.

Your blond soldier ghost sighting was every bit as fascinating as I’d hoped! Thanks for not making me wait to hear about it!

by Sue on November 13, 2009 at 10:25 pm. #

What a beautiful post and a beautiful house. This completely made my day. Thank you.

by Em on November 22, 2009 at 10:23 am. #

you i and violet listening to ‘ free ‘ by catpower with the ‘ kalliope ‘ from the distant wind and the view of the setting sun on the roofs … brought tears to my eyes …

… ‘ Crumblydown manor ‘ goes on …

by deepbluehue on December 4, 2009 at 7:03 pm. #

Hey there all. This is Desier, the mom of Aurelia who lived in the top floor apt before storming out. I too miss this place and have fond memories of the building filled with creative friends. I gave birth to Aurelia in the 2nd floor slave qtr. apt in 1993. Must say though that I never felt any ghosts in this building. My family is from the quarter and this is one of the few buildings that felt clean. The hidden stairwell in the slave qtr. apts is another story. Hope everyone is well this winter and keeping warm. Desier

by Desier Galjour on December 11, 2009 at 10:18 am. #

You lived in my dream house! I recently had to move from New Orleans where I would sit on the neutral ground in front of this house all the time, eating my lunch, and stare at this house, I need it! Am I going to cry over this? Probably! Thank you, thank you!!

by taylor on December 12, 2009 at 7:50 pm. #

Dear Taylor,
Did you ever get to go inside? It’s such a magical place. Don’t cry, dearie!
One day, I’ll live there again and you can too, okay?

by Angeliska on December 12, 2009 at 8:50 pm. #

I will be the person over construction in the remodeling of 807 esplanade. The company I work for will be taking over the project due to the previous contractors not moving fast enough. I would really like some more info on your experiences in the house.

by Dennis on August 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm. #

Happened upon your site by accident. Visited this city last Christmas 2008. Was absolutely in awe of this property. Such mystery. Often wondered about the history and if it would be permitted to topple down as many historic sites there do. So glad to see that it’s being saved, and to find information on it. What a lucky woman you are to have been able to reside in such a special place. Green with envy from where I sit!

by sophie on December 27, 2010 at 9:31 pm. #

Oh thank you for this! I was visiting New Orleans for the first time in 2008 and this beautiful old house totally captivated me and I wondered about it long after I left. How great to read about it and from someone who lived in it, it’s all I imagined it to be as I stood out side it night after night for the short two weeks I had in New Orleans. And how devastating to read about the renovations, NO! But thank you again for the pictures and your lovely haunted stories. I want to visit New Orleans again and will see how this dear old place is, I guess not too well……

by regina Bartkoff on August 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm. #

I have my own history with what I remember to be a beautiful history filled mansion. In 1976 I was born in this building. I lived with my mother in what used to be apt.4. Second floor end of hallway, bottom balcony in the front shots.. I lived here for 16 years. The owner was a great man named Leon Impastato. I taught myself to swim in the glorious claw foot tub and in those days earned my allowance by sweeping all the hall’s and stair cases threw out the building. I played in the courtyard and buried my cat in the garden that I helped plant and tend. I walked to school every day without worrying about being kidnapped. I was the sweet little girl of the French quarter and all guys thru the quarter new my name. Thanks for the memories.

by Shannon Brake on October 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm. #

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