[First published in AOL Travel/Huffington Post Canada]
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — Each night, Muriel’s restaurant sets a table for Antoine. It’s beneath an ornate chandelier at the foot of a staircase leading to the upstairs bar. The table cloth is white, there’s a candle and a setting for two, with plates, utensils, napkins and glasses for red wine. A waiter will place a basket of French bread in the centre as well as a bottle of wine, usually Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. This is the way Antoine likes it and there’s nothing unusual about the scene except Antoine has been dead for 198 years.
The ghost table at Muriel’s has become a draw for this city’s many paranormal tours. Groups stand outside an iron gate and peer through the window to catch a slight glimpse of the table, which Muriel’s put in place after Hurricane Katrina, in part to help calm the active spirit. With Mardi Gras approaching on Feb. 21, visitors will arrive by the thousands looking for fun, excitement and the bizarre happenings that have brought this city fame. Muriel’s is sure to attract more than a few party-goers looking to scare up a good time.
“This is the most haunted place in the city,” declares George Dubaz, a tour guide with Spirit Tours. Dubaz stands outside the restaurant on Chartres Street in the French Quarter and points to the large, two-storey building that has stood on the property in one form or another since the mid-1700s. “Some of the staff members will tell you they’ve seen glasses fly across the room.”
Dubaz says he wasn’t a believer in ghosts until he moved from Biloxi, Mississippi to New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane that devastated the Crescent City. Now, he says, “I’ve seen and heard of too many strange things for there not to be something to it.”