Horror Writers Association Blog

“New Orleans Halloween Traditions” By Alexandrea Weis


The blending of cultures in New Orleans has left a myriad of different traditions ingrained in the eccentric psyche of the city. Perhaps the most profound occur around Halloween where the Catholic, Voodoo, Irish, and French influences converge. Celebrations for the dead begin days before the fall of Halloween. We have events such as the Day of the Dead Parade, numerous cemetery festivals, haunted houses, costume balls, and ghost tours to mark the creepiest day of the year. However, it’s the quieter and older traditions that are not as well known to outsiders.

The most sacred day in the city follows the revelry associated with Halloween—All Saint’s Day or All Souls’ Day. It’s a time to pay respects to the dead by visiting family tombs located in numerous above-ground cemeteries throughout the city. It’s considered an important day where family members clean and often picnic by their tomb. Since many of the vaulted crypts are made of brick, and then plastered over, the heat and humidity of the climate require they receive regular maintenance. The tradition of cleaning family tombs is French along with the architecture associated with the mini-mausoleums. The custom of “keeping up the family vault” continues to this day in the city, and many cemeteries prepare for the onslaught of visitors the morning after Halloween, usually following a mass to bless the dead. Tokens left at the tomb include wine, wreaths of flowers, along with personal items commemorating the loved one left behind.

Introduced to the city with the influx of Irish immigrants in the late 1700’s, the soul cake dates back to Medieval England and Ireland when children earned small, round cakes as they went door to door singing songs and praying for the dead. But instead of collecting candy, they would receive a soul cake for their efforts. Many believe for each cake eaten, a soul is freed from Purgatory. In New Orleans, soul cakes are part of the picnic lunch at the family tomb or consumed during the All Saint’s Day feast in memory of the dead. Many cakes sold in stores today resemble a king cake—a local carnival tradition made of cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, and sweet dough.

Another tradition is the voodoo ritual of the Dumb Supper. Recognized as a way to honor Creole ancestors, devotees participate in this Day of the Dead ritual in front of a family tomb under the direction of a priestess. The ceremony pays tribute to the powerful spirits or loas who advocate for the dead as they cross the dark waters of the Great Abyss. The Gede are the spirits who empower death and fertility, along with Mamam Brigitte— the wife of the keeper of graveyards, Baron Samedi. Offerings during the ritual include black and purple candles, sunglasses with one eye missing (to acknowledge Gede’s ability to see in both worlds – living and dead), cigars, rum, animal bones, graveyard stones and dirt, crosses, and black beads or rosaries. Devotees are often encouraged to bring photographs or other items that commemorate their deceased loved ones.

What New Orleanians love most about their city are their traditions, and nowhere is that more evident than in the range of cultures coming together for Halloween. It’s one of the highlights of the year, and when you throw in the spooky ghost stories, and numerous hauntings which thrive throughout the older French Quarter, you’re sure to understand why the dead are very much alive in the Big Easy.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Alexandrea Weis is giving away 3 ebook copies of Damned: Book 1 in the Magnus Blackwell Series. Comment below or email membership@horror.org with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.

Bio: Alexandrea Weis was raised in the motion picture industry and began writing at the age of eight. After finishing her Ph.D. in Nursing, she decided to pick up the pen again. She has published many novels and won several national awards for fiction. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown of New Orleans into her bestselling books, she believes creating vivid characters makes a story memorable. A certified/permitted wildlife rehabber with the La. Wildlife and Fisheries, when not writing, Alexandrea rescues orphaned and injured wildlife.

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Promotional copy for Damned: Book 1 in The Magnus Blackwell Series by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor.

Over a hundred years after the death of Magnus Blackwell, Altmover Manor sits abandoned.

Lexie Arden and her fiancé, Will Bennet, are determined to rescue the neglected Mount Desert Island landmark. They want to make Altmover Manor their home. But Magnus has other plans.

A spirit bound to his former residence, Magnus finds himself inexplicably drawn to the young woman. She has a supernatural gift; a gift Magnus wants to exploit.

As Lexie and Will settle in, secrets from Magnus’s past begin to surface. Compelled to learn all she can about the former owner, Lexie becomes immersed in a world of voodoo, curses, and the whereabouts of a mysterious dragon cane.

Magnus’s crimes won’t be so easily forgotten, and what Lexie unearths is going to change the future … for everyone.

Universal order link: https://books2read.com/Damned

Read an excerpt from Damned: Book 1 in The Magnus Blackwell Series by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor.

Startled awake from a sound sleep, Lexie gaped into the blackness of the strange bedroom. The storm had abated, and she detected the reassuring creaks and groans of the old house. A crack from the floorboards made her flinch. It came from Will’s side of the bed. She reached out to shake him, but he didn’t move.


She received a muffled grunt.

Another crack in the floor, but this time it happened right next to her side of the bed.

The dark scent of coffee lingered in the air.

A column of light glittering to her left made Lexie’s mouth go dry. The oddity soon took on the shape of a man.

His strong frame, arms, and tapered hands came into view. Good-looking, despite the cruel curl of his lips, his chiseled features and engaging eyes made her insides tingle. As the cut of his old-fashioned red vest, long black coat, and white ascot tie took shape, Lexie understood this wasn’t some hazy fantasy.

She clutched her bed sheet as a fearful scream rose in her throat.

“Please, my dear, don’t bore me with your petty shrieks,” the figure said, his tone condescending.

Like a light bulb getting enough electricity to reach its wattage, his image brightened, bringing out the details. Lexie scrutinized the buttons on his coat, the fine craftsmanship of his high black boots, and grasped the identity of her visitor. A loud pop rang out, and he was gone. It happened so fast, Lexie questioned if it had happened at all.

“Welcome to Altmover Manor, Ms. Arden.”

Oh, God. She recognized the voice of the apparition.

“I hope you enjoy your stay.”

This time, Lexie did not hold back her scream.

“Lexie,” a voice called from the darkness. “Wake up, baby.”

Her eyes flew open. Will stood over her, already dressed.

“You need to get up.” Sunlight streamed through the window. “It’s past eight. We’ve got to get started.”

Still groggy, she sat up in the bed. “I had an awful dream.”

Will lifted a mug of coffee from her night table. “Yeah, so did I. Here, black Columbian.”

“Thank you.” She sipped the coffee. “What did you dream about?”

He tucked his shirt into the waistband of his jeans. “Being eaten alive by this house.” He ran his hands through his damp hair. “I kept thinking of everything we have to do. Must have transferred over to my subconscious.” Will sat on the bed and picked up a tennis shoe from the floor. “Why? What did you dream about?”

She lowered her gaze to the black coffee swirling in her mug. “The ghost of Magnus Blackwell.”

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