Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Temptations Gentlemen's Club - New Orleans, LA (The Haunted Strip Club)

327 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
29.956071,-90.067999

            After over 60 haunted locations covered in the great city of New Orleans, I have finally reached the last one…at least for now, and what a way to finish! Allow me to be the first to warn you, if you are easily offended, you may want to skip this blog, as there is no way to sugarcoat and glorify a strip club. I understand the job market is tough and a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do, but I have never been able to understand the logic behind being a stripper. Sure, the successful ones may make thousands of dollars a week but what about all the others who are leaving their dignity behind as they crawl around on their hands and knees for three or four crumpled up dollars? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying every strip club is a rat-infested cesspool, but I have sure been to some horrible ones in my days!
            Fortunately, the location at hand is not such an establishment but I must take the time to honor some of these venues for their shear awesomeness. Word to you women out there who are entertaining the idea of becoming a stripper; just because you are a woman, does not necessarily mean men will want to pay to see you naked! Unfortunately, many of these low rent strip joints do not tell the ladies this during the hiring process. I have visited some of these locations that were so bad, they were enjoyable, as it was apparent they were an equal-opportunity employer, not discriminating against age, size, nor appearance. Let me be the first to say I am no Adonis by any means, which is why I keep my clothes on. There is nothing wrong with a woman with high self-esteem but sometimes a line needs to be drawn.

            Not mentioning the name of the venue, but one memorable establishment will be etched in my memory forever. It must have been “Caesarean Sunday”, as every one of the performers had been rode hard and hung out to dry. As one particular dancer stomped her foot, the cellulite continued jiggling to the music, which was quite an interesting talent. As she held on to the pole, which was actually a piece of unpainted PVC pipe that was not secured to the ceiling, it began to sway with the weight being applied. Due to her size, this poor gal could only get so low on the pole before she had to slowly pull herself back up. The song may have only lasted a brief moment but at the time, it felt like she was dancing to an instrumental version of Moby Dick!
            Regardless of the level of class, every single strip club has one goal in mind and that is to seduce you out of every penny you have, whether it be through watered down drinks, dry humps, or a combination of the two. The same routine is played out daily. Guy walks in and is quickly greeted by a young woman, normally with some awful stage name like Babydoll, Sapphire, or Naveah, which is heaven spelled backwards in case you didn't know. Those that are immediately hooked are offered a private dance and/or the option of buying the lady a drink, which turns out being an eight dollar Sprite. The ladies can spot these gullible and desperate guys a mile away and will milk them out of every penny. By the end of the night, the poor sap in love is left drunk and broke with a severe case of “turquoise testicles” (if you know what I mean) unless they are in “one of those establishments” where that can be taken care of too, for an additional fee of course.
            Now that I have enlightened you of the wonderful hustle that has been around since the beginning of time, let's move on to the epitome of every young male paranormal investigator's dream; a haunted strip club! With the French Quarter being known as an incredible place to party, obviously it would be home to its fair share of strip clubs, or as the “classy” ones like to call themselves, Gentlemen's Clubs. A quick walk down Bourbon Street and you are instantly greeted with free samples of some of the venues at hand, often furthering the enticement with signs advertising drink specials or no cover charges.
            As we have learned, every building in the French Quarter has served as a private residence or some other venue with an interesting history at some point or another. The plethora of strip clubs is no exception and in this case, the concentrated amount of haunted activity shows no bias either.
            One unique gentlemen's club at 327 Bourbon Street sticks out from the competition, not only
Décor that is definitely different than most strip clubs.
for its years of haunted stories but also for its décor. While most of the similar establishments seem to all be decorated in the same loud fashion, Temptations Gentlemen's Club resembles more of the historic Creole home that the structure was originally built as. I must say, it is impressive and unique to watch a scantily-clad woman showcasing her “assets” while simultaneously admiring nineteenth century frieze, ornate crown moldings and antebellum-period crystal chandeliers. This is important to remember, as if your wife ever questions you on the receipt she found in your pants, you can proudly say that you were there to admire the architecture and enjoyed your historical tour of the home. I'm sure she will believe you!

            Years before the two-for-one lap dances, provocative twerking and Cirque du Soleil-like acrobatics around a shiny pole, Temptations Club was the four-story mansion for a successful gentleman who would play a huge role in Louisiana's political history. Judah Phillip Benjamin was born on August 11, 1811, in St. Croix to Sephardic Jews, Philip and Rebecca Benjamin. By 1821, in an attempt to better themselves, the family moved to a large Jewish community in Charleston, South Carolina. While attending Fayetteville Academy, a young Judah was acknowledged for his exceptional intelligence even at an early age, although he was often a trouble maker. By the early age of fourteen, he attended Yale College but only stayed there for two years. His true reasons for leaving are unknown but some say he was caught stealing. By 1828, Judah moved to New Orleans with basically just the clothes on his back and his intelligence. After working in a mercantile business, he became a clerk for a law firm, where he began to read law, studying as an apprentice. In late 1832, at the age of twenty-one, he was admitted to the bar.
Photo of the building taken sometime in the 1930's.

            By 1833, Judah met a young woman from a wealthy family by the name of Natalie St. Martin. Although the feelings may not have been mutual, Judah showered her with gifts and built her a deluxe four-story mansion in 1835 at 327 Bourbon Street. Although the couple had a young girl together, Ninette, the relationship was strained. When things got rough, Natalie and her daughter would flee to Paris. Judah would occasionally visit, often convincing Natalie and their daughter to return to New Orleans. This would only last a brief moment, as this would happen on numerous occasions.  Judah would continue living in the mansion until 1845. Just a year earlier, he would try to win back his wife by building her a massive, twenty-room, Greek Revival-style mansion in Belle Chasse that sat on a three hundred-acre sugarcane plantation.
            All of Judah's attempts at impressing his wife fell on deaf ears, as she would never return. Judah would remain at the plantation, making a fortune in the refining of sugar. It is uncertain as to the type of person Natalie was, but many say she was quite promiscuous. Others say Judah was the issue, as he was also said to have affairs and some rumored him to be homosexual.
            Whatever issues Judah had in his personal life, he was extremely successful in business and politics. Before his death in 1884, Judah Benjamin would become the first openly-Jewish Senator, the Confederate Secretary of State and one of the most prominent American Jews of the nineteenth century. To show you how significant of a role he played, Benjamin was also featured on the Confederate two dollar bill. This would have been extremely ironic, if the Confederacy would have won the Civil War. Just imagine, if changes were made throughout the years with our currency, the strippers of Temptations could be shoving two dollar bills containing the portrait of the home's former owner up their cracks instead of George Washington!
Photo of the building in 1965. Used for a business
known as "Pepe's".
            After the period of time that the home was used by the Benjamin family, it has served as several other private residences and is said to have also been used as a brothel. Today, the successful Temptations Gentlemen's Club brings in hundreds of customers a week and thousands of dollars a night, while very few people stop to think of the building's history. While young guys throwback shots of tequila and enjoy their lap dances before they say, “I do” they have no clue that they may be sharing the VIP Room with a ghostly onlooker, as the strip club has been reportedly haunted for many years.
            About two years ago, I made a visit to Temptations Club, for investigative purposes only of course! After observing the sights and sounds of the entertainment and enjoyed my glass of whiskey, I was approached by a young woman with the same spiel I mentioned earlier. I guess I took her completely off guard as the nerd I am, I began asking her of the hauntings of the building. You could tell she was generally surprised, as I was not giving her the same old lecture about how beautiful she was and how I would like a private dance. Her demeanor drastically changed almost immediately. She dropped the seductive voice, changed her body language and actually began to speak to me as a regular young woman who had legitimate ghost stories to tell.
            The young woman had been working there a few years and had her fair share of ghostly encounters with the resident spirit of a young woman in a long white dress. She was most regularly seen on the second and third floors where the VIP rooms currently were as well as the adjacent building that once served as the slave quarters, but were now used as a place for a quick lap dance. She then told me of a recent event that, although it may not have played a role in the building's haunts, it definitely fit the conversation.
            I really would like you to get a mental picture of the conversation that was taking place. This was not your regular interview or preliminary investigation that I have conducted a hundred or so times. Instead of quietly sitting across a kitchen table talking to the homeowner, I sat in a large velvet armchair sitting across from a beautiful young woman wearing clothing no bigger than a Band-Aid. As we spoke about ghostly apparitions and disembodied voices, another young woman performed a dance number around a pole that would have made Mary Lou Retton proud! I have to admit, this was definitely a first for the paranormal community!
            The young woman began to tell me a tragic tale of one of her former co-workers who had made National news. On June 5, 2012, Temptation's employee, twenty-two year old Jaren Lockhart concluded her shift and departed the establishment with two unknown individuals. She would never be seen alive again. Two days later, miles away in the Mississippi counties of Hancock and Harrison, body parts began to gruesomely wash ashore. After examining the unique tattoos and piercings, the remains were identified as Jaren Lockhart. After several years of investigating, Terry Speaks and Margaret Sanchez were arrested and charged with her Lockhart’s murder. Earlier surveillance footage obtained from the club showed the couple leaving with Lockhart. This was the last time she would be seen alive. While Speaks was serving a Federal sentence in New York for failing to register as a sex offender, he is rumored to have made a confession to the murder to several fellow inmates. Their testimonies are what got the couple indicted.
            In true stripper fashion, the young woman told me it was her turn to dance on stage but she would go get the manager who could give me a tour of the building. Sure enough, a well-dressed
Surveillance footage capturing the alleged murderers of Lockhart.
gentleman approached me and identified himself as the manager. I must admit, I was quite shocked that the staff here were so willing to accommodate my inquiries, being it was obvious I was not there to spend wads of cash on private dances and drinks. Still, with loud music blaring and breasts in plentiful supply, the manager asked if I would like a tour of the building. He first took me to the second and third floors which were equally decorated in the first floor's style, giving the appearance of an old mansion instead of the venue it was. Here, he explained how many of the dancers were afraid to go into a certain VIP room, as they would feel very uneasy. It was here where the apparition of the young woman in white was predominately seen. He then took me to the fourth floor, which was partially used as dressing rooms. He claimed this to be the creepiest of all the floors and that most dancers traveled in pairs here. Other than the music coming from downstairs, it was hard to tell that this place was a strip club, as the décor and design was truly unique.


            The manager then took me to the rear courtyard where the slave quarters were. He began to tell me this area was where additional private dances were held. He said on numerous occasions, the doors to the rooms would open and close and even lock by themselves. As we continued talking, a
Photo of the courtyard taken in the 1940's.
It looks much different today, as one might imagine!
young guy who had just turned of legal age was being escorted to one of the private rooms. You could tell this young man was like a kid in a candy store as he was aimlessly led to the room by an attractive young woman. We began cat-calling and cheering for the young guy as he comically gave us a thumbs up, pointing to the woman and said, “She's a stripper!” Poor little fellow, so fresh and so new! I seriously thought of approaching him, just before the door closed, and tell him, “Oh, they didn't tell you this was a transgender strip club?”

            For obvious reasons, I didn't bother asking if we could conduct an investigation of the club. Being opened twenty-four hours a day, I knew this place had a huge business going for them and could not afford to close even for one night. I graciously thanked the manager for taking the time to show me around. He then told me that they owned two other clubs further down on Bourbon Street and those were reportedly more active than Temptations!
            So there you have it folks! Only in New Orleans, do strip clubs not only look, but also act like a nineteenth-century mansion. When I began writing this blog, I contemplated the idea of having a catchy title for each location but decided not to. If I would have opted for this technique, I had the perfect title for this entry:
           “Is that Ectoplasm on Your Pants or are You Happy to See Me?” 

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