Sunday, 6 March 2011

Book Review: Haunted New Orleans by Troy Taylor

            Haunted New Orleans: History & Hauntings of the Crescent City by Troy Taylor is surprisingly the first ghost story book I have read about New Orleans.  Since, the time of my childhood I have had an unusual interest in the supernatural, and Halloween is my favorite holiday.  I read supernatural teen reads before it was cool in high school.  Although I have mostly lived next door to New Orleans, Louisiana most of my life my interest has only sparked six months ago when I began my job at Local History.  The peoples of the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Mobile are so closely related in history, and culture that we could be a state of our own.  (That is a line I have stolen from my friend, and New Orleans enthusiast Jerry.)  

        Taylor begins with a very brief history of the city, and I do not know if he really focused on the right points in the city's history.  He sort of just followed the stereotypes of the city such as Mardi Gras, and Voodoo.  I am not saying that those things should be ignored, but there is such a unique atmosphere in the city for many more reasons.  He was not able to communicate the merging cultures of the French, Spanish, African American, and Southern American culture that has developed since the 1700s.   In his biography in the back of the book it only mentions that he has written over seventy titles in the supernatural/true crime, and lives in Chicago.  I have to wonder if he actually left his home in Chicago to write this small volume.

"The history of Old New Orleans ends with the last shots of the Civil War." ~Troy Taylor 

       I cannot disagree with this statement on page twenty anymore.  Sure, the city has changed with modern times, but the retention of the things "Old New Orleans" makes city so special.  Taylor also skims the next hundred and twenty years of city history from the Civil War to Hurricane Katrina.  F.D. Roosevelt's New Deal, World War II, and desegregation had such an impact on our lives in the south as well as New Orleans.  

         The actual stories listed in the book were entertaining, and all the famous stories were included.  Marie Laveau, St. Louis Cemetery, and the famous LaLaurie Mansion that were touched on when I went on a ghost tour about three years ago.  It was a good introduction for someone that had a passing interest or wanted to do some reading related to a New Orleans vacation.  One ghost story that I enjoy that was not listed is the ghost at Muriel's Restaurant at Jackson Square.  You can read the full account at the link.  It is a fantastic place for a meal as well, and Edward recommends the shrimp and ghost cheese crepes!  

        In closing, I wish Taylor would have done more than secondary source research in order to write about the ghost stories.  The "history" of the hauntings was lacking when such wonderful sources are still available in the city with the New Orleans Public Library and Historic New Orleans Collection.  However, if you would like a quick ghostly read about New Orleans it is a good choice.  

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