There’s not many places where cemetery tours would be one of the cities’ biggest tourist attractions, but in New Orleans it is! We stumbled upon Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 while we were strolling through the Garden District checking out some of the beautiful homes. There are dozens of cemeteries in New Orleans. Lafayette No. 1 is one of the oldest. Whatever cemeteries are like where you’re from I promise you, they’re different in New Orleans.The city of New Orleans actually sits below sea level. While a city being below sea level is less than ideal, cities like New Orleans are generally ok, because they’re surrounded by levees that keep flooding down.While levees are great and usually prevent severe flooding, they can fail. The levees in New Orleans famously broke in 2006 when hurricane Katrina ripped through and demolished most of the city. Because New Orleans sits below sea level, tombs in the city are built above ground so that when flooding does occur, the deceased do not rise back to the top of the soil. Tombs are owned by a family. The family name is put on the top of the tomb and all decedents of that family are then buried in that tomb.
All care for the tomb is left in the hands of the family. Some tombs are persevered quite well like the one above. While others, are busted and ruined, like the ones below. Some of the tombs have even been opened up and possibly “grave-robbed”. New Orleans is known for being a spooky city of sorts and legend has it at night the spirits of the deceased come out to socialize together. The picture above shows perfectly how they can fit an entire family into one tomb. When someone passes away, they are put in their casket on the top shelf. There they sit until the next member of their family dies. Then the remains of the person on the top shelf are taken from the casket and moved to the bottom of the tomb to decompose the rest of the way into the soil. Then once the newly deceased is placed again on the top shelf, they close the tomb back up and it stays closed until the next family member passes. While I was a little skeptical at first about how interesting a cemetery tour could really be, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the tour a lot! I asked a lot of questions and got a great feel for some of the history of the city.
If you go
- There are several cemeteries to choose from. The most popular ones are St. Louis No. 1, Lafayette No. 1, and St. Roch No. 1.
- A quick search online will give you plenty of tour companies that offer cemetery tours, both day and night.
- Be mindful of which cemetery your tour will cover. Many of the cemeteries have numbers that correspond to different cemeteries. For example, St. Louis No. 1 and St. Louis No. 2 are different cemeteries.
- Bring cash to tip your tour guide! This should be a given but I always like to remind people most of these tour guides make their money on tips so be generous.