Friday, September 30, 2016

Pat O'Briens Bar - New Orleans, LA (Home of the Hurricane)

718 St. Peter St.
New Orleans, LA 70116

            Make no bones about it, New Orleans is in no short supply of bars; ranging from the most ragged watering holes around to the most exquisite martini lounges. I’ve often wondered how much alcohol is actually consumed on an average Saturday night in New Orleans. I’m sure the dollar amount and the sheer volume would be staggering. Even more interesting, would be to find out how much of that alcohol is actually kept down and figure up a percentage of ultimately digested booze. I’ve woke up many a Sunday mornings in New Orleans, giving myself the same speech of, “If I just survive today, I promise I will never drink again!” As with many of us, that solemn vow normally last a whole day or so, quickly searching for the hair of the dog that bit me! I’ve always loved that old saying. In a completely unrelated piece of useless information, I once read that the famous saying came from centuries ago, when individuals were bitten by a rabid dog. At the time, they believed the cure was to take a pinch of the rabid dog’s fur and actually rub or stuff it into the wound. Sounds very sterile!

            New Orleans is known for some of its world famous bars such as the Tropical Isle, home of the infamous Hand Grenades, and the previously mentioned Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. However, no bar is probably as famous as Pat O’Brien’s. Although the bar has been duplicated all over the country, the original sits right on the corner of Bourbon and Saint Peter Streets. People flock from all over the world to visit this great establishment for the entertaining piano bar, great food and most importantly, their signature drink, the Hurricane. 
            The history of this deliciously potent concoction is as interesting as the bar itself. During the
The one and only Hurricane.
1940’s and World War II, liquor such as whiskey, gin and scotch were in very short supply. Rum, on the other hand, was quite plentiful. The basic rule for businesses was that the only way you could purchase the rare liquors was to purchase large amounts of rum. This left local bars with exorbitant amounts of rum that no one really knew what to do with. Bartenders and aficionados all began experimenting with the excess rum to create an enjoyable drink. After many failed attempts, the Hurricane was born. The drink simple consisted of four ounces of rum and four ounces of a special blend of fruit juices, poured over ice and garnished with a cherry and an orange slice. The drink was served in a tall glass that was shaped like an old hurricane lamp, hence the fitting name. Simple to make, covertly powerful and allowed the large rum supply to finally go down. Today, the signature drink truly makes Pat O’Brien’s one of the most popular hangout spots in the French Quarter. I have consumed quite a number of these little beauties and could sure go for one right now! If the potency and size of a Hurricane is too much to handle for a first timer, I highly recommend a smaller drink called the Rainbow.

Photo of the building sometime in the 1920's.
            Now that I have drooled all over my keyboard and have begun the first stages of D.T.’s, I will focus on the bar itself. After all, this blog is supposed to be about haunted locations, not my insatiable appetite for alcohol. What you may call an alcoholic, I simply call an overachiever! Our story begins in the early 1930’s when a local business man, Pat O’Brien, opened up a small speakeasy known as Mr. O'Brien's Club Tipperary. During Prohibition, the location was not advertised as a bar, so only those who knew the secret password, “Storm's Brewin," would be allowed in. Once Prohibition was over, O’Brien moved his now legal bar, simply called Pat O’Brien’s on the corner of Royal and Saint Peters Streets. The bar was a popular hangout spot for locals, as the resident piano player kept everyone dancing and working up a thirst. The popularity of the bar began to outgrow its location. O’Brien started to look for a new larger location to accommodate his growing clientele. Along with his new partner, Charlie Cantrell, the two found a larger building at 718 Saint Peter Street.
            In 1942, Pat O’Brien’s officially moved to its new location, where it would reside to this very day. The building is actually one of the oldest structures in the area, being built in 1791. The location was initially built as the first Spanish theatre in the country and was known as the Tabary Theatre,
View of the courtyard in the 1930's.
named after the leader of the resident performers. The building would later be purchased by the Deflechie family and would become their family home for years to come until it would end up as the famous bar in 1942.

            As busy of a bar that Pat O’Brien’s is, this does not deter the supposed spirits that are said to live here. Several staff has reported doors closing on their own, hearing disembodied footsteps and even seeing shadows passing by them while walking down the hall. We were unaware of an investigation ever taking place at Pat O’Brien’s so late one night, upon visiting the bar, we decided to take our chances and speak with the management. To our utter amazement, the gracious management was completely open to having us conduct an investigation!
            We knew how busy this part of the town would be so a weekend investigation would be totally out of the question. We figured a nice quiet Tuesday night would be the opportune time to investigate. We arrived at the bar in the late evening, as they closed down for the night. As we began setting up our equipment, we noticed an excessive amount of noise and bright flood lights that seemed way out of place, even for the French Quarter on a late Tuesday night. We soon found out what was supposed to be a quiet Tuesday night was actually March 11th. Fans of the popular band 311 would know this is a special day, as the group has made March 11th a mock holiday, in which they perform a concert somewhere in the country. Take a wild guess as to where the band just so happened to have a live
Modern-day view of the courtyard.
Things have changed quite a bit!
concert while filming a music video? Yep, you guessed it; right outside the windows of Pat O’Brien’s! The rest of the night was filled with screaming, loud music and flood lights, not quite the best conditions to conduct a quality paranormal investigation.

            We tried our best to make chicken salad out of chicken crap and investigate the best we could. We moved to the far end of the property, away from much of the noise. Fortunately, this was where much of the prior activity had been reported. We focused our attention on the upstairs apartments over the restaurant and in Pat O’Brien’s old office which is now used as a storage room. This was also the location where the apparition of Mr. O’Brien himself has been seen. Unfortunately, we were unable to capture much in regards to untainted evidence. Any audio recordings taken were obviously contaminated and could not be used. The only interesting thing that occurred was a significant temperature fluctuation in one of the apartments after several investigators had asked if the entity could generate a cold spot. This fluctuation was greater than five degrees and was accompanied by a significant spike in electromagnetic energy.
            By midnight, we were fighting a losing battle and decided to call it a night. We would love to make a return visit when things aren’t so hectic. People often ask me why we have not investigated more locations in the French Quarter than we have. The answer is quite simple. A majority of the locations in this particular area are open twenty-four hours a day. Those that do close at night are literally on top of another establishment that remains open. To conduct a proper investigation, at least by our standards, we require that there be as few contaminants as possible and such cannot really be accomplished in much of the French Quarter. Sure, there are plenty of places here I would love to have to myself with no interruptions, no noises and no rock concerts taking place, but the chances of that happening are about as successful as jello surviving in the microwave!

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