616 St Peter St.
New Orleans, LA 70116
Centralized in the French Quarter is one of the most popular and successful little theatres in the country. For nearly a hundred years, this little theatre, or petit theatre, has presented plays, recitals and other great shows on a regular basis. The theatre troop was originally organized in 1916 by the New Orleans Chapter of the Drama League of America. Just starting out, this small group began by conducting performances in the drawing room of one of its members, hence later changing their name to the Drawing Room Players. The group and their shows became more and more popular in the area so they needed to expand to a larger studio. Sometime around 1920, the group began renting a portion of the Lower Pontalba Building adjacent to Jackson Square. If the name Pontalba rings a bell, remember the building was constructed by Baroness Pontalba from an earlier location we mentioned. See what happens when you have so much action in such a small grid of a neighborhood? History overlaps itself and locations begin to tie in with one another. Similar to the “six degrees of separation” only with New Orleans, you never get past the third degree before everything intertwines with each other.
The popularity of the Drawing Room Players continued to grow and so did their audience. Once again, they were looking to expand and move into a larger theatre. In 1922, they moved into the building at 616 St. Peter Street. The building which would soon be known as Le Petit Theatre was nearly as old as the city itself. The original structure on the property was built in 1789 but was later destroyed in the Great Fire of 1794. In its place, a grand home was built in 1797 for Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemas, the last Spanish Governor of Louisiana. Through the early 1800’s, the home would go through many different hands and used for multiple purposes such as a barracks for Union soldiers during the Civil War. As you can see in the following photograph, in 1885 the building was
|Photo taken in 1885 when the building was used as the|
Café de Louisiane
I had always heard that Le Petit Theatre was haunted but as I began to conduct more and more research, I really had no idea it was as haunted as it actually was! The number of reports here were quite surprising as well as the number of suspected spirits that reside here. The oldest spirits that occupy the theatre are said to be those of young Union soldiers that were housed here in the early 1800’s. Several apparitions of soldiers have been witnessed wandering down the halls with one particularly vane officer that has been seen adjusting his hat, gloves and medals, as if he was standing in front of a mirror. Staff has also heard the sound of boots patrolling on the second floor along with indecipherable whispering and chatter.
|Building circa 1900.|
Other ghostly figures that have been reported here are the apparitions of a nun, a black male and an elegantly-dressed Quadroon woman. For the music lovers out there, the sounds of a piano have been heard echoing through the building in the wee hours of the morning. Many also feel that Le Petit Theatre is also haunted by the less than friendly spirit of a former manager who reportedly
As I mentioned, Le Petit Theatre is in no short supply of quality stage performances and haunted activity. With the property having such a rich history, it is no wonder that such an eclectic bunch of spirits still reside here. Visitor take heed; If you are ever at the theatre, watching a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar and think to yourself, “Since when have they added a naked woman to the show?” don’t worry, this is not an X-rated version. You are simply joining the large group of others that have had a paranormal experience at Le Petit Theatre!