My Love, the City of the Dead

It was my first encounter with a predator.

I was in a store in New Orleans called Voodoo Authentica. It was a place that came highly rated online as a place that offered, well, authentic items. This was my during my 2nd trip to New Orleans in February of 2017, and I found myself in the store on a particularly slow day, right after they opened their doors. As I wandered around their farthest room, taken back by all the items for sale mixed in with actual altars, I found myself alone.

Meandering slowly around the room, I found myself in front of a shelf that was home to effigies of Ogun and Legba and other vodoun loa, or spirits. Suddenly, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

I slowly turned around...and standing just a few inches away from me, looking up at me, was a female. I say female, because I didn’t know if I should call her a girl or a woman. She could have been anywhere between 15 and 25 and had short brown hair, and unassuming, plain clothes in drab colors. There really wasn’t anything memorable about her.

Other than she was a predator.

She stared up at me from a frame that was small and maybe 5’7” at best, and while there wasn’t any one thing I could put my hand on, this person terrified me. Every hair on my body stood up as if I were being circled by mountain lions or wolves, and every fiber of my being told me to get away, and get away fast.

Which made absolutely no sense to me. There was nothing physically intimidating about her...except her eyes. Everything in her eyes wanted to drink me in, to consume me, and I immediately felt what it was like to be a mouse in the jaws of a cat.


That tiny little word, combined with those hungry, piercing eyes, caused me to do everything but sprint from the room.

I don’t know who or what she was, but I’m sure she was a predator of some sort. And while that experience terrified me to my core, it made me love the city of New Orleans all the more.

Weird, I know...but I’ve always been a weird kid.

I’ve been in love with New Orleans since I was a young boy, reading and adoring the vampire and witch novels of Anne Rice. The history, the sweeping vegetation, the music, the mixing of so many cultures, the vast architecture, the propensity for the dark arts and witchcraft...all of this combines to give this city a feeling one can’t easily put into words.

It’s intoxicating.

I’ve just returned from what is my 3rd trip to New Orleans - my family and I went to visit my cousin and her family for Thanksgiving, in Lafayette, two hours north of New Orleans. We spent a couple wonderful days in Lafayette and then found ourselves in New Orleans for a couple days, simply because Isaac, my husband, hadn’t ever been there.

And if I found myself in love with New Orleans, I knew he was surely going to love it. And he did, for all the reasons I love it, and more.

During my trip in February of 2017 I participated in a guided ghost tour with my cousin and my friend. The three of us wandered to different parts of the French Quarter with our group, becoming familiar with the dark, ghost-ridden parts of New Orleans...and this two hour tour just scratched the surface. We were taken to Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Tujaques Bar, the Ursuline Convent, and my cousin, myself, and my friend were all taking pictures of all the buildings we were touring around. During this trip we captured some pretty incredible pictures of orbs, particularly around the Ursuline Convent, one of the oldest buildings in the city and home to the oldest vampire myth of America. I’ll attach some of the pictures of the blue orbs we took pictures of, and here’s a great article explaining the myth of the Casket Girls of New Orleans:

This trip was prior to me opening up to the idea of speaking with spirits, and now that I look back on it, I can say that going to New Orleans and becoming exposed to such a culture of psychics and mediums and magick workers helped me embrace my gifts. When I went this time, in November of 2018, it was different, and more intense.

Going to New Orleans now, with my ability to confidently interpret the messages and intuitions that come through me, was a completely different experience. It was a family vacation so I had very little opportunity to fully immerse myself in a spiritual exploration of the city...but I did get a feeling of quite a bit.

I believe the spirit world has its own set of laws and principles and while I’m learning fast about dealing with these laws and principles, I have barely scratched the surface. When I provide psychic readings and mediumship, it’s a role I have to step into, and if you have ever received a reading from me, you know there’s an initial amount of warm-up that needs to occur - sometimes just a few minutes and sometimes just a few seconds. I try not to go around in my day-to-day life open up to the energies of people and spirits, and while I won’t say it’s like flicking a switch, there’s a certain amount of transition that I go through to really tune in.

That’s why this last vacation, being a family vacation, didn’t give me much opportunity to step into that role and get an in-depth feel for the city...but that’s not to say I didn’t get a feel of the spirits of the city at all. I think there are many reasons New Orleans is so special - from the cultures that call it home to its place on the map.

New Orleans is a city like no other - there is such a mix of cultures and spiritualities and religions that it is an absolute nexus of spiritual activity. First, look at the geography - it’s the city that resides on the part of the Mississippi River that dumps out into the Gulf of Mexico; it’s a city on one of the most powerful boundary points on the planet. New Orleans sits at the mouth of one of the mightiest rivers on Earth, connecting to the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf.

One of the things I’ve discovered about spirits is that water somehow affects them greatly. I know there’s a better explanation out there than the one I can provide here, but I’m convinced that veins of water underground (especially when they criss-cross on top of one another) and bodies of water above ground, especially rivers, can affect spirits - just like the old world legend of vampires being unable to cross running water there’s some connection between water and the ability of spirits to move.

That’s why the mouth of the Mississippi River is such an incredible nexus of energy - there’s a lot of power in that city. It’s a city that is known for revelry and excess and beautiful, bold displays of color and life. The energy of the city is electric and intoxicating, like I said before. There’s also a lot of authentic and tangible spiritual practices going on in and around the city. I’m not sure how much of it is by design or by accident, but the city of New Orleans is a powerful hub of spiritual energy.

Bourbon Street is probably one of the most famous parts of New Orleans, and sadly, it’s also one of the most disgusting. It smells like urine and there’s an incredible amount of drunken revelry and excess on display, but it was one of those destinations I had to see at least once. As I was on it and avoiding puddles of fluids, I got a sense of the spirits above the city...and especially Bourbon Street.

Think Chinese dragons, and how you’d see them move and undulate in a parade. That’s what I could sense - that  there were large, spiraling spirits swimming around in the energy of revelry above the street, drinking it in. That’s what I could sense on my trip in February, before I was using my senses with intention. It was one of the first experiences where I realized that spirits could drink in the energies of emotions and intoxication. I’ve wondered ever since if spirits have the ability to alter a person’s normal inclination towards intoxication.

One thing’s for certain in this area of work: the more you discover, the more questions you have.

During my most recent trip, we went on a cemetery tour, going from cemetery to cemetery. The last cemetery we went to was the site of a place where the city of New Orleans dumped hundreds of corpses in mass graves of unclaimed victims of yellow fever and influenza outbreaks. Charity Hospital Cemetery was sandwiched between two walled-in cemeteries on either side, and as we wandered around the lawns and trees, there were large sunken holes in the lawn from the settling of the lawn.

The cemeteries in New Orleans are a lot different than the ones where I come from in northern Vermont & New Hampshire - the ones in New Orleans are FULL of ghosts. This one certainly was. This cemetery was full of spirits and I learned a lot about the culture of New Orleans, and the spirits there.

First, there is a spiritual hierarchy, especially in New Orleans. I imagine this sense of hierarchy exists in other parts of the world, but it was especially strong in New Orleans. There are competing factions of spirits that are working on behalf of human sorcerers who have learned how to conscript them to their services. There was some very powerful, very controlling, very manipulative magic at work in New Orleans, with spirits somehow kept in service of other, more powerful spirits, or human sorcerers, or both working together. I found this to be especially true as I stood under a giant oak tree in the cemetery - the spirits there were gathered together in some sort of huddle, as it seemed like there was some sort of conflict going on between different groups of spirits.

I believe spirits are very much like humans, in many ways. There are some strong ones, some weaker ones, some who work in the service of others and those who work in service of self. I also believe that we can carry some of the stronger imprints of ourselves back into the spirit world - if a person was angry and despondent in life, there’s a chance they’ll remain so when they pass over.

It doesn’t surprise me that spirits of people still have prejudices and misunderstandings, or that they respond to other energies that have power or charisma. Right now, there are large groups of spirits in New Orleans that are working towards their own agendas, and on the behalf of other powers. There is vibrant spiritual ecology at work in this city - and thereby our world - that I’m only beginning to understand.

And this is what I got from just a very short period of time there. I believe there is much more to be discovered in the city, and many, many more truths to learn.

I can’t wait to go back.

Josh Simonds