I am one of the lucky few who got out again, after being shut up in a cemetery for the night.
But let me start at the beginning. I’m in New Orleans for a quick trip with a friend. The trip was my idea. He loves the city and I’ve never seen it, so I wanted to be introduced through the eyes of someone who loves it, you know? Anyway, we arrived at night and on our first day out we both wanted to see cemeteries.
We went to Metairie Cemetery first. Built on the site of an old racetrack, some of the curved shape of the track can still be seen today. The cemetery is simply gorgeous, with white shining marble everywhere, manicured lawns and mature trees. Patrick wanted to see the weeping angel first, so we drove to it and parked the car. You can see my photo of her above. The expressiveness of the statue is heartbreaking, and the inscription “Sister” at the base brought tears to my eyes.
Then we walked. And walked. The place is enormous! We didn’t really intend to walk around for two hours, but that is what happened.
The city was founded in 1718 and people have been dying there ever since. As you know, half of the city of New Orleans is below sea level and protected with dikes and flood walls and massive water pump systems. It doesn’t take too much imagination to realize that you don’t want to bury your dead in the ground. So tombs are built on top of the ground. As we walked between them, the ground was often marshy beneath our feet and there were standing pools of water in low spots, reminding us that it is no myth: the city of New Orleans is level with the water table.
Interesting aside: we noticed many Woodmen of the World markers on graves, with marble markers in the shape of logs. There were at least six styles of log markers that we noticed, and I became curious. Founded in 1890, Woodmen of the World is a fraternal benefit society. From 1890 to 1900, WOW’s life insurance policies had a proviso that provided for the grave markers, free of charge for members. From 1900 to the mid- 1920’s, members purchased a $100 rider to cover the cost of the monument. Since then there have been no discounts for grave markers.
Next we went into the Garden District to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. This one is famous because author Anne Rice used to live near it and based the tombs of the Mayfair Witches and the vampire Lestat on the tombs she found here. And consistent with that history, this cemetery was more what I anticipated in a New Orleans cemetery: not crumbling apart, but certainly a very old and storied place in the center of busy neighborhood streets.
As we approached the front gate, there was a crowd encircling a tour guide, and other people milling about in every direction. We slipped as quickly as we could through the tourists and between a row of tombs to begin our cemetery explorations in peace. We actively avoided all people while we were in there…which was likely the reason we did not hear the warning to get out.
After an hour in this much smaller cemetery, Patrick and I had become separated and I found myself near the front gate. I could hear the chatter of people on the sidewalk outside the cemetery. I heard a man’s voice say, “Does that lady know she’s locked in?” I glanced up. “Hey, do you know you’re locked in?” he said to me. I responded with a half smile. He reached over and grabbed the bars of the gate and shook them – presumably to show me that he knew what he was talking about. “I am not even kidding,” he said. Uh-oh.
I began walking up and down the paths until I found Patrick. “Hey, there may be a problem.” “Oh yeah? With what?” When I told him, he remembered that the cemetery was supposed to close at 3pm. It was a few minutes past.
We went back to the gate and laughed with the people on the outside, and eyed the cast iron gate for footholds. I handed my phone through and one of them got a picture of me. Then suddenly, two tour guides showed up.
The person with the key had locked the gates and left, but these two were still sitting in their parked car nearby and no one had noticed them till they came to the rescue. “We have someone trapped in here once a week,” one of the women told us. “Step here, then your left foot goes here…”
And Viola! We climbed right out.
After that we went to the waterfront and walked along the river. I didn’t get any more decent photos, so I don’t have much more to show you. We took a lovely dinner cruise on a paddlewheeler Creole Queen down the Mississippi River and back again. It was warm and lovely and I was on a ship in the country’s longest river. Our view of the city in the sunset from the water was a pretty nice final scene for the day.
13 thoughts on “Cemetery escape in New Orleans”
Quite an adventure. You kept us in suspense as you wandered around 🙂
Were you scared for me? ha ha
I have every confidence in your ability to look after yourself 🙂
You’ll have a great story to tell people for years to come! (Happy you were able to escape).
I do have a great story! You know what is so funny; I thought that very thing the moment I realized the man on the sidewalk was right, and I was locked inside. My very next thought was “This is going to be a good story.” I had eyed the gate already, and was pretty sure I could climb out, so my only worry was that Patrick felt comfortable climbing out too. He reminded me later that he climbs constantly for his job (repairs equipment on an oil rig). So both of us (thank goodness!) were confident that we would escape.
Oooh, good to see the happy end. 🙂 I thought it might have been for the entire night! When I posted photos from the Non-Catholic cemetery in Rome, some commented that it seemed like in New Orleans. Here is one post but will post more. See if the angel reminds you of something. 🙂
Oh my goodness! You are right! It is exactly the same angel. Loved your post & thanks for giving me the link.
Luckily we did not spend the night in the cemetery, but that would have been a fun story too, albeit less comfortable. Patrick is the one who made the joke, ‘usually people don’t get back out,’ (meaning the interred) and I stole his idea.
Loved the cemetery tour I went on. Did you learn how they just stacked the bodies / caskets on top of one another in the famly tombs? Fascinating history!
Getting locked into a cemetery is a great story!
I did not know about the stacking. That is interesting, and also not surprising. Yeah, I am pretty sure I’ll be telling the cemetery story for years. 😉
So glad you enjoyed your visit to New Orleans! What an adventure that must have been—almost getting to spend the night in Lafayette Cemetery! It’s such a beautiful and mystical place. And, thanks for the photo credit and trackback!
Hi Gayla! As you can see I have not been on WP since my NOLA visit so I am seeing your comment for the first time. I’m so grateful your photo was out there so I could show my peeps what the situation was when I was trapped. It was an unparalleled adventure and I hope to get back to that amazing city as soon as I can.
Nice post by you… ps NOLA anniversary coming up.
Hm. I imagine I missed it by now, not having checked in to WordPress for so long. But I will look it up. Thanks for the tip!