Entering Magnolia Mansion in the Garden District is like a step back in time. Decorated in beautiful antiques of impeccable style, it is reminiscent of the pre–Civil War grandeur that the richest town in the country, New Orleans, could afford. But not just the sheer grandiosity captures you—it feels like a time portal.
As I wandered room after room, I could tell that the spirits of yesteryear still cling onto the home where they, too, had once held many a lavish affair. The parlours were thick with guests, both seen and unseen, and a definite welcome was heard and felt. Upon wandering the guest rooms on the second floor, the boudoirs were calling to me, and some rooms felt more active than others.
Because my first entering of the 1857 Magnolia Mansion was during a party to boast about in this day and age, it was of course something the spirits would want to attend—and did! From floor to floor and even out on the grounds, the crèmede-la-crème were there following me, both in flesh and not. Upon returning home that evening, my astral travel lured me back upstairs and to the last bedroom on the right at the end of the hall (I believe that was my room long ago in a past life). I found this especially interesting because of all the rooms I explored at the party, that was the room that felt the most clear.
Hollie Diann Vest, the mansion’s current owner, was gracious enough to invite me back and let me stay in that room where I encountered the sleep of the dead—my best sleep ever. I truly believe I had stayed there before. In the morning, when the house was quiet, I could talk to Hollie about the unusual encounters at Magnolia.
Built by Alexander Harris in 1857, the mansion was meant to be a home for his young bride, Elizabeth Johnson Thompson. The home stayed in the Harris family until 1879. Yellow fever took its toll on the Harris clan. In 1869, Alexander died in the mansion within 24 hours of his brother who also lived in New Orleans. After 10 years of fighting and lawsuits among the widows, the estate broke up. Throughout the coming years, the home saw more good times than bad, but the mansion did have its share of death and funerals. The building served an altruistic calling between 1939 and 1954 when Red Cross volunteers spent their time preparing bandages, schooling nurses, and helping the World War II and Korean War recovery effort.
Hollie and her mother bought this mansion in October of 2001 and worked seven 12-hour days a week with a crew of hard-boiled construction men to complete their renovations. This hard work continued until February of 2002, when the mansion opened her doors to guests. The result was fabulous, and you would think the house spirits would have approved—after all, Hollie verbalizes her thoughts out loud letting everyone in on her plans. But at least one spirit was unsure of intent, or perhaps did not take to the burly crew helping Hollie renovate. The renovations were halted one day in early November 2001 when the crew encountered an unexplained oily substance all over the walls and floors. Hollie announced to the house that she was there to make the mansion better and that the entity can’t scare or harm any of her guests or friends. This seemed to settle things down for a while. But more spirit encounters continued even after all of the work was completed.
In the kitchen, which adjoins the active dining room area, there was a large Cajun man on the phone. A very large 300- pound door, hard to manoeuvre on its own, slammed with such veracity to the level that the housekeeper thought a gun had shot off, and the Cajun man promptly left the premises. He had been talking to his girlfriend quietly on the phone and with no source of wind, this violent slam made him check out right away.
The dining area and the downstairs parlours where so many parties were held seem to still hold the spirits dear, but the upper floors are not without their spirits, too. Some say a spirit or two may slip into bed with you in some of the guest rooms. Icy chills down the spine and occasional forms of pressure upon the chest have also been reported.
As time goes on, many supernatural visitors show themselves now and then to the guests. A spectral housekeeper has been known to tuck some of the guests in bed at night, and a little girl has also been seen wandering the halls. But if a party is in the house, all of the spirits come out and the place slips into another dimension. The Magnolia Mansion’s spirits are clearly fond of a soiree, fine dining, and all the splendour of 19th-century New Orleans.
—Bloody Mary Mystic, Medium, Paranormal Investigator, Bloody Mary’s Tours
2127 PRYTANIA STREET
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA 70130
TEL: 1 (504) 412-9500