Ghosts of Pirates Haunt this New Orleans Pub
If you’ve just booked a trip to New Orleans, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activities the Big Easy has to offer. From historic cemeteries, to gorgeous mansions, to the world-famous beignets at Cafe du Monde, New Orleans is a veritable jambalaya of food, music, and culture.
And for those who love a good ghost adventure or two, New Orleans is the perfect travel destination; after all, it is considered one of the most haunted cities in all of America.
If you are asking yourself, which is the best way to discover the city’s storied history, the answer might be a New Orleans ghost tour at night. There might be nothing better than a dram of whiskey to prepare you for your ghost encounter; and you are in luck. Beyond the more crowded parts of the French Quarter, beyond the glittering beads and the plastic decanters two feet tall, and you will find the most incredible haunted pub in all of New Orleans.
If you are lucky, you might even meet the ghost of a pirate or two.
The Unforgettable Story of New Orleans’ Resident Pirate
If you lived in New Orleans in the late 1700s, you would have surely known about the Lafitte brothers, Jean and Pierre, who ran a rather profitable smuggling operation out of New Orleans. Their legend takes us to a little ramshackle bar on Bourbon Street known these days as Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar.
With its briquette-entre-poteaux (bricks between posts) style and its slated roof, entering Lafitte’s Black-smith Shop feels much like a passage back to New Orleans history, a time one cannot help but be fascinated by, even with all its rough edges and uglier truths laid bare.
Jean Lafitte is one of New Orleans’ historical figures whose true story has become better than anything fiction could write. He was called the “terror of the Gulf,” the “hero of New Orleans” and, perhaps most romantic of all, the “prince of pirates.”
If contemporary accounts are true, he was probably a pirate of the Captain Jack Sparrow variety. A man shrouded in just enough mystery to keep his admirers wanting more, his reputation was that of a handsome, intelligent, and charming we even venture, debonair man.
Barbarous or benevolent, one thing is sure about Jean Lafitte, his story has become irrevocably tied to New Orleans, and much like Marie Laveau, his name is a veritable institution in the city with everything from coffee brands to bed and breakfasts named after him.
But who was Jean Lafitte, really?
Jean Lafitte: Pirate or Patriot?
One thing seems certain, Lafitte did not appreciate being called a pirate. He much preferred the name privateer. While one could split hairs on the terminology all day, it boils down to this, privateers worked for governments, so their plundering was more or less more socially acceptable than their pirate peers.
So how should history paint Jean Lafitte? Was he a villain or a hero? Perhaps this is best answered by imagining yourself a newcomer to New Orleans during Lafitte’s era.
Your reasons for migrating to a place plagued with yellow fever and mosquitoes might be dubious at best. Perhaps you had a bit of a tempestuous past back home, maybe you even served a bit of time in prison. Whatever your story was, you probably stood a good chance of finding a new career with Jean Lafitte; he was sure to give you a job in his plundering band of buccaneers.
Lafitte’s operation extended to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and even the vast network of New Orleans waterways. They searched for treasures of all types: spoons, fabric, gold, and what they shame-fully called black ivory (their way of referring to slaves, one of their most valuable “commodities”).
Lafitte provided goods to a growing city in desperate need of them; this made him popular. He was also known to be a man of certain codes of honor. His self-made “kingdom by the sea” prevented him from dishonoring the laws of the land, at least technically speaking.
He became somewhat of a patriotic legend when he received an offer from the British government to fight against the Americans. The British offered his rather powerful Barataria network a handsome 30,000 pounds sterling to help them infiltrate New Orleans. After all, did anyone know the dangers that lurked in the city’s swamps and waterways better than Jean Lafitte?
Jean Lafitte considered the offer, then promptly offered his services to the American government. The Americans returned the favor by storming one of his outposts, even capturing several of his schooners. Needless to say, the relationship between Lafitte and America was rocky, but eventually, Captain Andrew Jackson saw Lafitte’s value. In the ensuing Battle of New Orleans, Lafitte’s role in American history was forever cast his band of brigands would prove essential to the war efforts.
Afterward, however. Lafitte was unable to stay in New Orleans perhaps his reputation as a pirate finally caught up to him. He ended up in Galveston, Texas, where he set up another “kingdom by the sea,” married, and by all accounts lived a rather lavish lifestyle.
But Lafitte’s ghost has seemed to take up permanent residence in New Orleans. And if you want to meet the man himself, perhaps your best bet is to venture into the oldest operating bar in America, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar.
Grab one of the famous “voodoo juices” from the bar, and take a seat near the fireplace. Of all the seats in the bar, it might be the best choice to encounter an apparition or two.
You might even meet Lafitte’s ghost tonight.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: Ghostly Apparitions
The most famous ghost at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is that of the pirate himself and incredibly, unlike so many other New Orleans ghosts, it seems Lafitte prefers to make himself known as a full-bodied apparition. None of those spectral visions or misty apparitions of other New Orleans ghosts as he lived his life, bold and daring, it seems so his ghost has lived on. He may not speak to you, but you might catch a glimpse of him in darkened corners.
His spirit is said to have a particular preference for the ladies and if you are in the women’s restroom, you might feel a cheeky pinch or two.
But if Lafitte is the friendly ghost of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the fireplace holds an entirely different kind of paranormal encounter. This one is said to be less friendly some even call it demonic. Visitors speak of red eyes glaring at them from within the fireplace. It is said that there is still a treasure hiding amidst the blaze. Is the ghost simply protecting a secret lost to time?
New Orleans: Haunted by Pirates
If you were to wander down the streets of the French Quarter at the midnight hour, after the haunted New Orleans ghost tours at night have departed, you might find the streets shrouded in fog. The lanterns might barely illuminate the dim streets.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop beckons you and somehow, you feel the ghosts that greet you here are of the friendly variety.
The bar has seen several updates over the years, but for the most part, continues to evoke the look and feel of its rather storied origins, with a few exceptions: inside, you might find a piano bar, and perhaps most uncanny of all, a frozen daiquiri machine.
Surely, Lafitte would not judge your citrusy drink, we suspect he would be happy to join you for tipple of any kind.