Lafittes Blacksmith Shop – New Orleans, LA

It isn’t every day that you see a haunted site, and even more so uncommon is a Blacksmith’s shop. Well in New Orleans you get both! Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop however has been repurposed, and is now supposedly the oldest “bar” in the United States. The building where it resides was built around 1772 and is one of few that survived the two great fires of New Orleans, in 1788 and 1794. This building happens to be one of few remaining buildings built by the earliest pioneers using soft clay bricks from the Mississippi River.

jean lafittes blacksmith shop - new orleans, louisiana

In 1806, Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre (a notorious pair) established their blacksmith shop along St. Philip St. as a base to sell the pirated goods and also to expand their smuggling business after
the “Embargo Act” forbade American ships from docking at foreign ports. Jean Lafitte was a prolific businessman who changed the pirates’ smuggling business from unorganized crimes into a well-run thriving criminal business. He consistently scheduled auctions of the pirated goods in New Orleans and also directly from the pirates’ warehouses in Barataria.

Jean Lafitte became famous during the war in 1812 when he helped defend the city of New Orleans from attacks at the hands of the British. This made Lafitte a local legend, which led to the further expansion of his illegal enterprise. The more money he made, the more ships he acquired to speed up operations. He took customer service to its peak by organizing his own fleet of barges that made speedy deliveries of the auctioned goods to their new owners. He profited enormously from his illegal activities and had mansions both in New Orleans and in Barataria.

Jean Lafitte - Privateer

Jean Lafitte was a handsome man who had many mistresses but one true love, the wife of the Governor. This affection made him a bad enemy of the governor, which helped in fueling nosey authorities suspicious of his operations.

There are so many stories about Jean Lafitte that makes it difficult to know what to believe. Some researchers assert that he was a pirate while others claimed that he was just a gentleman privateer. The difference between pirates and privateer involves only a few scary differences. A pirate is a ruthless killer that attacks ships and towns while a privateer sails on armed ships that carries letter of marquee from a country at war, which gave them the legitimate right to attack weaker commercial ships that sails under enemy flags.

A privateer could retain and offer any captured enemy vessel and its cargo. In the real sense, these privateers assaulted any weaker ship, paying little heed to the flag it sailed under, murder the entire crew and sold the cargo. The small Louisiana town of Barataria, about 60 miles south of New Orleans, was a favorite home for most of these pirates. The local merchants had intention of buying the low priced, stolen goods, but they were hesitant to deal with the dangerous pirates.

When Columbia started procuring privateers to man ships in Columbia’s new navy, to assault Spanish ships, Jean Lafitte for the first time joined their force and was part of a government-run plan to attack Spanish ships. Some say that he retired to his beloved Louisiana after that incident; others say that he died in a battle with one of these merchant vessels.

Since the days of the Columbian battle against the Spanish, locals have sworn that Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was haunted by evil spirits.

Most people described that the chimney on the first floor bar section of the building is surrounded by an unwholesome or dark aura (most likely Jean), with random cold pockets of surrounding air. They claim that when his spirit is not hiding in the chimney, he has appeared in the dark corners of the first floor, looking irritated and scowling at the living, while jerking his mustache with his gloved hands. He disappears quickly when seen by witnesses.

The Ship of Fire

On a certain evening every year, at the mouth of the wide Neuse River, a large bright object speeds into view. It looks like a sailing ship being destroyed by fire, its deck and masts in blazing outline. The apparition disappears, then reappears, then again disappears for another year. It burns furiously but is not consumed.

It is the ship of the Palatines. The Palatines were a group of German Protestants who left England in 1710 to settle New Bern. As the vessel crossed the Atlantic, the prosperous Palatines, pretending to be poor, hid their gold coins and silver dishes from the eyes of the ship’s sinister captain and crew. When the Palatines caught sight of the shore which they believed to be their future home, so excited were they that up from the hold and out from hiding places came all their belongings in preparation for landing. Unwisely displayed on the deck was their precious wealth, all of it in full view of the corrupt captain and his first mate.

Quickly the captain formed a plan. He announced to the passengers than no landing could be made until the morrow. The disappointed Palatines once more hid their valuables and lay down to a sound sleep in anticipation of soon landing at their destination. When all was quiet, the captain gathered his crew together and revealed to them his plan. They would murder every Palatine aboard–the young and the old, the women and children as well as the men–then gather together the gold and silver, set afire the ship filled with its dead, and escape in the lifeboats.

The strike was sudden. Many Palatines were knifed before they awoke and in a very few moments every one of them was dead. As planned, the ship was set afire, and the murderers pushed off in the small boats. From a distance they looked back at the ship. It burned brighter and brighter, the brilliant blaze of the fire shooting into the air, but the vessel did not sink into the water. And then the thing began to move.

“It continued to burn all night,” according to an old account, “–speeding on with the wind,–now passing out from sight, and anon, visible, flaming forever, back again, on the very spot where the crime had been committed. With the dawn of day, it had ceased to burn,–but there it stood, erect as ever, with the spars, sails, masts, unconsumed,–everything in place, but everything blackened, charred.” At sundown the flames leaped up again–“a ship on fire that would not burn!”

The frightened murderers could bear no more. They abandoned their boats on the bank of the river and fled into the forest. There they and their descendants lived on their “ill-gotten spoils.” To this day the crime has not been avenged, and so every year on a certain evening the burning ship appears off New Bern, and so it will continue to appear till the blood of the Palatines has been paid for in kind.

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