They asked if any ghosts were present, and received a chilling reply: “Come and find us ... in the back house.”
The paranormal activity started before the investigation at New Orleans’ Andrew Jackson Hotel had even begun.
At 7:00 p.m. on July 6, 2016, the sun was still shining and it was deathly hot outside as Ghost City Tours’ two paranormal investigators, Michael Bill and Elaine, and I made our introductions to an excited group of ghost hunters. Seated under red patio umbrellas, our guests’ attention fixed on us, they didn’t see the harried woman flying down the 19th-century stairs like a bat out of hell.
“Did any of you bring a child with you to the Hunt?” she demanded, hands clutching the banister and face red from the heat.
A chorus of immediate “No’s” greeted her, as well as a few, You okay over there? glances.
If she tightened her grip on the railing any further, it no doubt would have splintered. I took a single step toward her. “Are you okay? Did something happen?”
“Are you sure that nobody brought their kid with them? A boy about this high -- ” she brought her hand to chest-level, not more than four feet tall -- ”I was getting ready to leave my room… The door was open. Something tugged on the back of my shirt, and then I saw him run out onto the balcony.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but the Andrew Jackson doesn’t allow kids.”
Excited murmuring popped up in the group. Had the woman seen an actual apparition -- already? Were we in for an active night? And just like that, the investigation began.
Rumors Surrounding the Andrew Jackson Hotel
Decades-old rumors swirl around the Andrew Jackson Hotel. In hushed whispers, tour guides tell guests about the Fire of 1794 that swept through the cobbled stone streets of the French Quarter. The Andrew Jackson Hotel -- at the time a Spanish all-boys school -- was one of the fire’s casualties. Allegedly, five young boys were caught in the fire and never made it out of the building. To this day, their ghosts are said to haunt the hotel, playing pranks on the guests and standing guard in front of the property to ward off any evildoers.
My extensive research into the Andrew Jackson Hotel’s history shows that no fire ever took place here, especially not in 1794. While it was an all-boys school, it only became one after the original school on Bourbon Street, one block over, burned down in the fire. Whether there were any fatalities has been left out of the record books. Instead, the Spanish government partnered with real estate mogul Don Andres Almonester y Roxas to get a new school up and running.
The Andrew Jackson Hotel was the location of that second school, and operated as the U.S. Federal Courthouse during the 19th century, until being torn down in the 1890s when the structure that exists today was built.
But whether the boys died at the Andrew Jackson Hotel doesn’t matter, because the spirit of a little boy definitely haunts the hotel, and based on the collected evidence, he is stuck in “the back house.”
And So the Hunt Begins…
Thomas first made his presence known to Michael Bill and Elaine during a preliminary hunt at the hotel, where they posted themselves in Room 208 during a spirit box session.
“Is there anyone here?” Elaine asked. “Anyone from when this was a school?” No answer, except for three harsh sounds that could not be distinguished from the white noise.
The answer was chilling: “Come and find us.”
Were the souls lost? Were they playing a game? Michael Bill sat forward, hands clasped between his knees. “Where are you? We don’t know where to find you.”
“Come and find us.. in the back house,” came the eerie reply that sounded less like an adult, and more like a group of children -- or perhaps just one boy. A boy named “Thomas,” whose name Michael Bill and Elaine only caught when they asked if any of the young boys from the school were present. Seconds later another voice came through, and this one sent chills racing down Michael Bill and Elaine’s spines.
Two weeks later, during the first-ever public hunt at the Andrew Jackson, Thomas made another reappearance, this time again in Room 208 as Michael Bill sat with two guests and held another EVP session.
Thomas’ small voice broke through the white noise, when Michael Bill asked, “Are you there, Thomas?”
Michael Bill and the two women shared a glance. The women stayed silent, waiting for Michael Bill to lead the way. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you all the way,” he said, “Are you here, Thomas?”
“I can’t find you -- I’m scared.”
Over the next few minutes, the silence was broken only by words like “lost” and “afraid,” and no matter what the guests or Michael Bill did to ease Thomas’ fright, nothing helped.
But was Thomas one of the school boys who may have died at the old Spanish school on Bourbon Street? Or was he perhaps a servant, who worked at the U.S. Federal Courthouse or the hotel in its early days?
Room 208 remained active for the entirety of the paranormal investigation. And like the woman whose shirt had been tugged by an unseen force, another guest came into contact with Thomas around the same time.
That guest was staying in Room 208 and was in the bathroom doing her makeup. She placed her makeup bag on the toilet seat lid, pressed her hips against the sink counter to shove her face close to the mirror and brush on mascara.
Suddenly, the tub’s old fashioned faucet turned on. The sound of running water alerted the guest that something strange was happening. She twisted around, mascara clutched in one hand, as she saw her makeup bag fly off the toilet lid and onto the ground. Face powders, eye shadows, and other products slipped from the unzipped bag, scattering all around.
“There was no way it could have slipped,” she later told us. “It wasn’t anywhere near the edge and it just… something threw it. I know something did.”
As she retold the story to us during the Hunt’s introduction, she was so frightened after that she gathered her makeup and finished applying it all while sitting on her bed.
Was Thomas the perpetrator of this paranormal activity? It makes sense that he would be, but it’s possible that it could also have been a ghost named Nick, a ghost who made his presence known for the first time during the hunt.
A Dark Shadow in Room 204
Larry and his wife Missy were all set up in the Andrew Jackson’s Room 202 when they made ghostly contact with a spirit named “Nick,” who informed them of his name during an animated EVP session which mainly consisted of Nick commenting on Missy’s beauty.
As husband and wife went back and forth asking questions to the ghostly Casanova, Nick revealed that he had every intention in the world of staying in the room with them all night.
(Because there is nothing like ghost admirers to bump up your self-esteem).
They decided to move next door to Room 204, and it was there that Larry and Missy understood what it meant to fear the unknown. While conducting an EVP session, noises started up in the bathroom. Reaching out to tap her husband’s leg, Missy whispered, “Did you hear that?”
Larry’s gaze followed the stretch of her arm, to where she was pointing at the bathroom door. That was when he saw it. A dark, misty shadow. It was black, stretching out over the top of the white-painted doorway. Panic set in, goosebumps pebbling along Larry’s skin as he turned away and squeezed his eyes shut. What was it? Who was it?
It was the first time during the investigation where fear was a very real thing, and with Missy squeezing his hand hard, Larry let out a deep, muttering breath, “Wooow.”
“Did you see that?” he asked his wife. She had to have seen it, had to have felt it. It was a dark and cold feeling, negative in energy even though the shadow hadn’t crossed over to them. But the goosebumps were real and so was the fact that the air felt thick with worry.
Missy shook her head. “No,” came her hushed reply. “I’m scared.”
Larry glanced back at the doorway, only to find that nothing was there. The shadow had left, and the strip of white-painted trim around the door was once again visible despite the darkness in the room. Then, out of the corner of their eyes, they caught a giant orb flying across the bathroom entrance, right where the shadow had been moments before.
They heard the sound of the toilet flushing -- or maybe water running in the sink.
And then, just like that, there was nothing else. No moving shadows, no dancing orbs, no bathroom noises.
Maybe the dark presence was Nick, following the beautiful Missy from Room 202 to 204 … or maybe it was the reason that young Thomas needed saving, the reason that he was forced to hide. During the preliminary hunt, Michael Bill only ran up against one dark spirit that did not want him to enter Room 208. When he held his wooden cross up to the door, it snapped in half.
It was only in that moment that Michael Bill, an experienced investigator, felt trepidation. And it was starting to seem that anything was possible at the Andrew Jackson Hotel.
In the Back House
At the end of the night, the investigation was winding down and everyone had gone to bed. Michael Bill, hoping he might discover the reason that Thomas told him to search the “back house,” chose to sleep in Room 211, the small cottage at the back of the property.
The room itself was up on the second floor, with a narrow flight of carpeted stairs leading from the front doorway to the guest room.
Exhausted, Michael Bill was already dozing on the bed when he heard the room door creak open.
“Elaine?” he called out. “Is that you?”
Head face down in the pillow after a long night of investigating, Michael Bill didn’t even bother to look up. His eyes shut once more as he heard the quiet footsteps pad up the carpeted stairs.
The bathroom light flicked on, setting the dark room aglow. “Elaine,” Michael Bill said again, “Just shut the light off when you leave.”
The light went out.
Huddled under the blankets, Michael Bill waited for the thump of Elaine’s footsteps on the stairs, the creaking of the door opening and closing shut. He waited but no sound came. Slipping from the bed, he moved over to the bathroom and switched the light on.
As he stared at the empty bathroom, he came to one spine-tingling realization: He was the only one at the Andrew Jackson Hotel with the key to his room.
The investigation might have ended, but the ghosts were not done playing yet.