New Orleans. Food, jazz music, Mardi Gras celebrations…but I came for the AHS filming locations.😆 American Horror Story: Coven, the third season from the American Horror Story franchise, was actually the first season I ever watched. I remember seeing commercials for season one and definitely thought it was way too scary for me. But when commercials for Season 3 started airing, I was strangely drawn to it. Some AHS fans felt season 3 was too “housewife-y,” but I honestly thought it was great to see a story focused around women and their relationships with each other within the “horror” genre. I especially loved the show’s focus on the temperamental mother-daughter relationship. And THANK GOODNESS we also get to see how race, class, and age play a role in those relationships. Like…yes, Ryan Murphy, YES.👏🏼
After doing some research, I found a gem of a walking tour — the unofficial American Horror Story Tour. Mostly in the French Quarter, the tour is the perfect mix of AHS fandom and historical facts. Bea, the tour guide, is also just amazing. She is super knowledgeable about what parts of the show are based on New Orleans history and what parts were embellished or fictional. And to my surprise, she knew those prime instagram spots AND was willing to help us stop to take photos. What more could you ask for?! Thank you, Bea!!
Our first stop was the LaLaurie house. Not only infamous for being the residence of Madame LaLaurie in the show, but a bonafide haunted mansion and the site of LaLaurie’s torture “chamber.” In Coven, we are slowly introduced to Madame LaLaurie’s fascination with blood and the human body. She was filled with “childlike curiosity.” And that was not a far departure from the truth. Bea explained how Madame LaLaurie was accused of over-punishing her slaves, but since she had friends that were city officials, she was able to escape any serious charges. But one time, the evidence was undeniable.
While hosting a party, the kitchen, which was in a separate back annex of the house, caught fire. After rescuers extinguished the fire, they found a 70-year-old woman chained to the stove. She later revealed that she started the fire to escape Madame LaLaurie’s torture and then led authorities to the attic where other slaves were imprisoned and tortured. The evidence and testimonials were overwhelming. So much so that her and her husband fled New Orleans shortly afterwards. However, in Coven, the family’s disappearance is due to Marie Laveau’s revenge against LaLaurie. Below is the green iron gate where Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau first meet and Laveau’s plan for retaliation is set into motion. In the show, it is shown as the front gate to the LaLaurie house, but is actually part of the neighboring building.
Even though the two women never met IRL, they lived within walking distance of each other in the French Quarter. Marie Laveau, aka the Voodoo Queen, was renowned in New Orleans and obviously was included as a character in Coven. She was the first practitioner to popularize Louisiana voodoo. And honestly, learning more about Marie Laveau was probably my favorite part about this tour. In the show, Marie is almost positioned as a villain against not only the Coven’s Supreme, but also Madame LaLaurie. Both white women. But hearing about Laveau’s real story, I was amazed to learn that not only was she a healer in the community, but she was also devilishly smart.
Accurately shown in AHS, Laveau was a hairdresser. And she would occasionally offer her healing “powers” to clients. Afterwards, she would simply tell clients to pay what they felt her help was worth. She knew satisfied patrons would usually overpay because they were so grateful for her services. Slightly Godfather-ish, but so admirable for a woman of that time to be so business savvy. And though it’s not thoroughly shown in the series, we do see glimpses of Laveau’s business acumen.
When Laveau had daughters, she would give them her name, Marie Laveau, with different middle names. The daughters looked just like their mother, so when the daughters were out, Laveau ensured that they were in different parts of town. When townspeople asked who they were, the daughters of course replied “Marie Laveau.” Baffled, people began to believe that Marie Laveau was actually getting younger! And since Laveau and her daughters were never in the same place at the same time, no one knew otherwise. This urban myth is also written into the show as LaLaurie and the Supreme meet Laveau in the hopes of obtaining her secret to “everlasting life.”
For Marie Laveau to build such a reputation during that time in history is impressive and inspiring. Complete #girlboss behavior. Granted she benefited greatly from the Code Noir, Marie Laveau found a way to make herself a legend. If I ever have to answer that icebreaker question about the one person I’d like to meet or have dinner with, Laveau would definitely be at the top of my list.
Saint Louis Cemetery
Our walking tour also took us to the Saint Louis Cemetary. Not only the site of Nicolas Cage’s semi-outrageous pyramid-shaped tomb, it is also home to Laveua’s tomb. Upon visiting her tomb, it’s evident how influential Laveau was. To this day, people still visit her tomb to make a wish. If the wish was granted, they revisit her grave and mark a triple X as proof. And if you see a lonely hair-tie or bobby pins, do not take them. Those are gifts left for the hairdresser, Laveau.
Our last stop was the street where the infamous witch’s walk takes place. It definitely didn’t feel as eerie as it seemed on the show since there were tons of tourists and cars around, but I made the most of it and strutted my witchy self up and down the sidewalk a couple of times. And now I understand why all the girls of Miss Robichaux’s Academy For Exceptional Young Ladies complained so much about the heat. Yeah, it’s hot and humid, but wearing an all black and mostly covered ensemble IN the heat is an entirely different story.
If you haven’t watched AHS: Coven, please set up a fort in your house and watch it ASAP. I personally love that it’s rooted in New Orleans history and shows the relationships, successes, and struggles of powerful women and women of color. It is a treasure trove for exploring the intersecting identities of women. And if you ever find yourself in New Orleans, please book this tour! You get to learn more about one of the most kickass women in New Orleans history and grab yourself a few insta worthy shots…there’s really nothing to say “no” to here, ladies and gents.😏