27 May 2016 | May 2016
My tour group trailed behind me as we navigated the crowded streets of the French Quarter, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood. Night had since fallen and the city had come alive: the haunting sounds of a harpsichord sliced through the booming laughter of tourists and the seductive notes of jazz.
I picked my way through the groups of people loitering on the street, listening as one my group members regaled me with a paranormal experience. “What’s one of the weirdest ghost stories you’ve heard?” she asked.
“There’s this one particular story that’s spine-tingling,” I said, gathering the group as we neared our next location. “I can take you there at the end of the tour.”
“Oh, great!” she said, nodding enthusiastically. A few other guests heard my offer and asked to tag along, which was how we found ourselves standing before the Cornstalk Hotel some thirty minutes later.
The hotel itself is an elegant affair, with a bubbling three-tiered fountain in its front courtyard and a green cast-iron fence that personifies the hotel’s name. Rumored to be one of the most haunted hotels in the city, the Cornstalk Hotel is home to a few different ghostly residents—one of whom being a small boy. It’s said that he was born in the 1800s and, in death, became incredibly fascinated by modern technology.
Guests of the hotel have reported their lights flickering. TVs turn on in the middle of the night. And lucky guests, well, they find that the boy spirit at the hotel is rather fond of cell phones.
Nearly a decade ago, however, the spirit’s prankish antics instilled the sort of fear in a person that makes it difficult to sleep easily. A couple staying at the hotel had spent a few days sightseeing in the French Quarter. It was their last night, and though they had a few more photos to take on their disposable camera, they decided to stop where they were at. Sleep came easily that night, and they left for home the next morning. When they brought the disposable camera to the local drugstore to process the pictures, they discovered something chilling . . . the last two photos on the roll had been taken and they were of the couple sleeping on the bed.
With fear skittering down their spine, the couple called the hotel and demanded to know who had entered their room—but no one had. No one, the hotel said, but perhaps the ghost of the little boy.
In finishing my tale, a few members of my group visibly shuddered. I knew the feeling well, since I’d reacted the same way upon first hearing about the mischievous spirit. After a few minutes of talking, we said goodnight and parted ways. I want to say that the sensation of feeling watched happened almost immediately upon heading back to my car, but it wasn’t until I had parked in front of my house that the goosebumps teased to my skin.
It didn’t help that upon entering my house, my dogs—two black labs who don’t understand the meaning of ‘personal space’—wouldn’t come near me. Normally perky ears were flat; their wagging tails were tucked between their hind legs. I slipped my work bag from my shoulder and placed it on the table, dropping to my knees so I could welcome their slobbery kisses. Nope. Not happening. Both pups made a wide angle around me, aiming for the door so that they could be let outside.
Strange, but I tasked it up to probably smelling like the French Quarter. A sudden bang came from the spare bedroom and I nearly leapt out of my skin. I reassured myself it was nothing, even when I discovered that it was nothing. Nothing was on the floor, nothing had fallen. My level of uneasiness kicked up another notch.
After letting in my dogs, and both of them still acting as though I had contracted the plague, I settled on the couch to read on my Kindle. The being-watched sensation continued, prickling my skin and making me check over my shoulder. Another bang! from the spare bedroom that I desperately tried to ignore. Nervously I played with a silver ring that lived permanently on my pinky. But then it slipped off and fell on my chest. I glanced back to my Kindle, eyes picking up where I had left off as I reached for the ring to slip it back on . . .
It was gone. My hands flattened as they patted my chest, my stomach, the sides of the couch. Nothing. I yanked up the cushions and checked in every hidden crevice. I would not panic. I checked the pillows, each one sailing over my shoulder after my search proved futile. Leveraging my weight, I shoved the single couch back four feet to scan the floor. For an hour I checked every section of the living room, feeling like I was losing my mind.
Like any other panicked twenty-five year old, I called my mother. She lived in Boston, and although it was late, I knew she’d pick up. But the moment she did, I should have known that she would pick up on the incredibly weird activity occurring in my house. You see, my mother is a medium and after telling her “hello” and “something weird is happening” her only response was: “There’s a little boy with you.”
Shock straightened my spine. “What are you—”
My mother cut me off. “Did you tell a story about a little boy tonight?” (It should be noted here that my mother had never taken my tour). “He wants to play, Maria.”
Gently, as though not wanting to alarm me, she murmured, “But he does. He’s harmless.”
One would think as a ghost tour guide I’d be all about the spirits, but I wasn’t then and I’m not now either. Running my hands over my arms, I glanced over my shoulder. “I’m all for harmless but not here.”
“Well, he wants your attention.”
“He has it,” I muttered. “My pinky ring is gone—the one from Greece.” My fear was that it was not the little boy at all playing ghostly pranks on me but something much darker, something that terrified my dogs and terrified me too. “I’ve checked everywhere. I’ve torn apart the house. I can’t find it.”
There was a small sigh on the other end of the line, and I found it calmed me.
Never mind. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed. “What can I do to make him leave?”
“Just ask him. He isn’t aggressive. But he wants your attention and I imagine he’ll do whatever he has to in order to get you to play with him. Also, ask that he return your ring.”
Somewhat skeptical, I did as my mother said. Slowly the tension seeped from my shoulders and I found it easier to breathe. I checked the couch again, hoping that it might reappear. It didn’t. That night there were no more loud bangs, no more uncomfortable uneasiness. My dogs continued to avoid me for the rest of the night, preferring to sleep on the couch than to sleep with me. Every night for the next three weeks I continued to search for my ring. I checked every room in the house. That couch and I became best friends, as I didn’t stop checking its cushions, its crevices, the floor beneath it for nearly a month. That ring had been given me to my father, who had been deceased five years at that point.
Then, during Christmas time some five months later, I was putting up the Christmas tree with my boyfriend. We decided to rearrange furniture.
“Hey, Maria?” he asked as I strung up the ornaments. “Is this your ring?”
My gaze shot to where he stood, to the little silver ring that he held between his thumb and his forefinger. It was my ring. “Where did you find it?” I demanded.
He pointed to the floor directly under the couch—where I had checked a hundred times over. I slipped the silver ring on my finger, and for the first time in months that weird sensation of being watched returned once more and I had the funny feeling that it was the last move in the spirit boy’s game. Check mate.
Since then, I don’t think his spirit has completely left. There are still random noises from our spare bedroom, sometimes so loud that I turn on all the lights in the house to pacify my fear. Our dishwasher will turn on and off at random, even when there is nothing inside and it isn’t even snapped all the way shut. As for my dogs, they won’t go in the spare bedroom at all.
While I have no proof or hard evidence—and honestly prefer not to know—I think the little spirit from the Cornstalk Hotel has taken up part-time residence inside my house. While he once played pranks on the guests, he now prefers us instead.
About Maria Pinheiro
Maria first came to New Orleans to attend Loyola University, only to quickly realize that the Crescent City’s weirdness matched her own. Since then, she’s left only to visit her hometown in the Northeast and to attend graduate school across the pond in England. She’s been a tour guide in a medieval townhouse, a Viking museum, and, most recently, a guide for Ghost City Tours. Through working as a tour guide for Ghost City, Maria was offered her current position of Media and Public Relations Director. Her role for the company comprises her favorite topics: writing and history. If you’re looking to talk murder, mystery and scandal in Pre-20th century America or Medieval Europe, she’s your girl! When not working, Maria can generally be found bringing her two black labs on adventures.
For more information on Ghost City Tours, visit their website at https://ghostcitytours.com/new-orleans-ghost-tours/.
Submitted by Maria Pinheiro
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