Paranormal Yakker with your host Stan Mallow

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Season 2 Episode 5

Leonard Crist. New Orleans Ghost, Vampire, Legends and Cemetery Tours of the haunted French Quarter.
Leonard Crist. Copy for extended blurb about interview: Leonard Crist, along with his aunt, Charlotte Crist, operate the New Orleans tour company Gators & Ghosts. In his interview with Stan Mallow, the Paranormal Yakker, Leonard Crist talks about the different tours offered by Gators & Ghosts in New Orleans, considered by many to be America’s most haunted city. New Orleans is known by many names. The Big Easy is one of the more well-known names. But it is also referred to as the City of The Dead. Leonard explains how the city got that name. When you find out, you will see how it earned that name. Leonard tells us about his Ghost and Vampire Combo French Quarter Walking Tour where visitors hear about famous ghost and vampire stories and the real-life history behind them: murders, fires, suicides and torture that led to unrestful spirits. He also talks about what is covered in his Ghosts & Legends Tours. His tours cover many famous haunted locations. This includes the infamous Laurie Manson where Delphine LaLaurie, a wealthy New Orleans socialite and serial killer tortured and murdered slaves in her household. Her mansion is considered one of the most haunted locations in the French Quarter. Leonard also talks about his tour of the Saint Louis Cemetery where many famous historical figures are buried. This includes Marie Laveau, a Creole Voodoo Queen who had a powerful influence on the inhabitants of New Orleans. Pirate Jean Lafitte lived in New Orleans as did numerous other figures who helped shape not just Louisiana, but the entire country as well. Leonard tells us about them. Leonard also shares some of the many paranormal incidents on his tours, including countless photos taken of orbs and sprits. He even relates one harrowing story of a tourist that had a spirit follow her home. Further, Leonard shares his own incredible and very personal paranormal experience wherein he encountered the ghost of his landlord who spoke to him from the spirit world. For the benefit of viewers of Paranormal Yakker, Leonard tells us about his other tours. This includes a New Orleans City Tour, an Airboat Swamp Tour, and Plantation Tours.

Transcript of video Interview

Paranormal Yakker
(eerie music) Alien footsteps
Stan Mallow
Hi everyone. I'm Stan Mallow. Welcome to Paranormal Yakker. My guest on today's show is Leonard Crist of the New Orleans tour company, Gators and Ghosts. I'll be discussing with him, his French Quarter ghost tours. Leonard Crist, welcome to Paranormal Yakker.
Leonard Crist
Stan, thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.
Stan Mallow
Great. I love the name. Whoever came up with it, kudos to them.
Leonard Crist
It was me. Yeah.
Leonard Crist
Thanks.
Stan Mallow
It's a great, great name. Now Leonard, you are a native of Louisiana. What was it like growing up in a state that has so much diversity and history attached to it?
Leonard Crist
Sure. Well, so I was born in Louisiana. My dad's side of the family is all from Louisiana. I actually grew up most of my childhood in Pennsylvania, and then I moved down here like seven years ago. So I got a lot of family history here, but I did not grow up here. So it's, you know, I kind of see things from the tourist point of view sometimes, which I think helps me with my business. But yeah, it's, I mean, living here now, it's an amazing, like, you know, melting pot of different cultures and the history. Just feels like so alive and palpable here. So.
Stan Mallow
Sure. Now, when did you first decide to get involved in the tourism industry in New Orleans and specifically conducting different types of tours? All of which I will be discussing with you during the course of our interview.
Leonard Crist
Sure. So 2013, I was languishing away in law school and I was not happy about that. I spent, you know, pretty far in before I decided to leave. But my aunt Charlotte, she had a business selling tickets on Bourbon Street for the different tours and she needed some help. And so it was like, you know, this is my way out of law school. So I just kinda like packed up one day mid semester and came down to Louisiana and started helping her, learning the business and then as time went on and not much time, I started kind of taking over the business more and more and adding more and more elements to it. And then we became, we rebranded, it became Gators and Ghosts in 2015. And we've been doing that ever since trucking away. And we have a nice new store in the French Quarter. We opened up last year, 728 St. Louis Street, like right off of Bourbon Street. And things are going pretty good here.
Stan Mallow
Great. Now two popular walking tours of the French Quarter, you offer are a ghost and vampire combo and a ghost and legends combo. I would now like you to describe the itinerary of each of them separately. First, we'll go the ghost and vampire combo. When people take that tour Leonard, what can they expect to see and hear?
Leonard Crist
Yeah. So the ghost and vampire tour is the tour that I personally myself do, I work with. So what we do as a company is we generally marketing, ticketing for a bunch of different tour operators in the city. So our ghost and vampire tour is run by a company called French Quarter Phantom, who we're very good friends with. And I work with them as well as one of their guides. And on that tour, it'll really find you're walking around the French Quarter at night. You're hearing about all these real life tales of murder, suicide, torture, assassination, crazy things that verifiably happened in history that led to all of these crazy ghost stories, which are kind of relayed through oral tradition and folklore and things like that, you know. So we're not out here making up ghost stories, quote unquote, we're are telling other people's tales as they have reported to over the years. You know, a lot of it comes from books or from first-person accounts or different things like that. And then the Ghost of Legend's tour is done by one of the biggest companies in the city called Haunted History, who we also work with pretty closely. And their version is they skipped the vampires log. That ghost stories are gonna be similar, but they do it with a little more theatrical flair. Sometimes, a lot of the tour guides will dress up in a Gothic manner, top hats and all that kind of stuff. So, you know, you have different flavors. I'm more maybe, academic version, it's not academics, it's not boring, but it's like yo, maybe a more straightforward version than a more theatrics.
Stan Mallow
New Orleans is known by many names, the big easy being one of the more popular well-known names. But is also referred to as the city of the dead. And that leads me to one of your tours. And this is a perfect segue to it. That being a cemetery tour. What do you cover or rather uncover in that cemetery tour?
Leonard Crist
Yeah, so normally, things are a little bit different right now because of COVID-19, but normally we get to go to St. Louis number one, which is the oldest cemetery in the city that still survives. That's the place that has Marie Laveau's Tomb. So you're gonna see the famous voodoo Queens too, and people who used to leave offerings there. And it's a really interesting and beautiful place. A lot of historical figures are in there, including Paul Morphy, a famous chess master. I believe Homer Plessy from the famous Supreme Court case, Plessy versus Ferguson is buried there. A lot of interesting historical things are in that cemetery. It's not really a spooky tour. We do it in the daytime. This church always makes us get out by about three o'clock in the afternoon. So... But recently it has been closed to the public by the church, by the archdiocese of New Orleans. So we don't have access to it at the moment. Although we are offering a tour of the Canal Street cemeteries. So Greenwood cemetery, which is where Confederacy of Dunces Author, John Kennedy Toole is buried.
Stan Mallow
Have any visitors on your ghost or cemetery tours, experienced a paranormal activity? And if they did, can you share some of their stories?
Leonard Crist
Sure. I mean, it happens all the time. Me personally, on my tour that I do, I give this ghost and vampire tour, you know, a couple nights a week. Same exact spot, three tours in a row. Somebody got the same exact orb, three different people, at the same exact spot, right in the front of the LaLaurie Mansion which is like the famous haunted house in the French Quarter. People report weird things all the time in these tours. One time we had a lady who had gone on the Argo store, already gone home, called us up on the phone and said, "Something has followed me home from the LaLaurie Mansion What can I do to get rid of it?" No, we're not the experts. People report things all the time. I myself have occasionally seen weird things in photos. You know, you often don't see it with your eyes on these tours, but you see it after the factor, or you realize that something was amiss. People don't go running away screaming on these tours, but people do often. And the more you believe, you know, the more it helps. And also the more you drink, the more it helps.
Stan Mallow
So bourbon, I guess, I don't know. What you just said is sort of a segueway to my next question to you. So Leonard, have you yourself experienced any paranormal activity that can't be logically explained and that personally spooked you out?
Leonard Crist
I have. So besides that very recent thing where the three orbs and the three different people, three different days apart, same exact spot, that wasn't really weird to me. I was living in the French Quarter myself several years ago in like a little one bedroom apartment. It was really run down, built in 1830s I believe. Kind of a rundown hole in the wall paying too much for a space, but in the French Quarter. It's was close to where I worked and all that kind of stuff. I met a landlord. I had a landlord who was eccentric. He used to be a jazz musician. And he had somehow, like he was older now and he'd go become like Agoraphobic. He very rarely left the house. He'd go to the corner store to get some snacks and then come back home. But he'd always Snoop around the courtyard a lot. So I'd see him all the time. And he's always, you know, in my business, you know, trying to see what's what. So like for while I had a girlfriend and I was not staying at my apartment all that often because it was a pretty rundown place. So I came home one day after like a period of like maybe three days away from home and my shower, I went in my apartment and my shower was soaking wet as if somebody had been inside it. Which I thought was a little strange. So I went upstairs and asked my landlord about this. I knocked on the door and it took him for what seemed like forever to answer the door. I was gonna ask him if it was one of the other neighbors, one of the other tenants in the building, cause never assumed that my landlord would have been in my apartment. But, he opens the door and he is soaking wet. Like unusually abnormally wet. In a way that, I don't know, it's weird. And I ask him about it he was like, "Was somebody in my apartment or were you in my apartment, in my shower?" And he just says to me, kind of a blank look on his face. Like, "I don't know what to tell you, man. I don't know what to tell you, man." That's like the only words he says. And so I'm freaked out. I think my landlord's like a huge creep. So I instantly like I go down there and I start like looking for a new apartment, which I find one right away. I start moving my stuff out and I don't even give my landlord notice. Cause I'm so freaked out about it. I just start moving, but I'm doing it in a car. It was car load by car load. So it's taking me three days to move my stuff out of this apartment in and out in and out. Like I was saying, he was always previously in the courtyard, you know, in your business. So I figured I would see him at some point and be able to say, "Hey, I'm moving out." But I never saw him. And so I moved out and then I sent them an email one final time, like, Hey, "I'm moved out of the place. You can keep my security deposit as the final month's rent since I gave you no notice." He never emailed me back. So I figured, Hey, that's that maybe he's got bad feelings. Maybe he was a creeper who got caught. But then like a year later, going through, talking to my girlfriend about this, I'm like reminiscing about my creepy landlord and I wonder what he's up to. So I went and Googled him and I found, I was hoping, I figured I'd find something about him, maybe find his Facebook, but I found his obituary. And he had died the day before the whole shower incident. So I believe that I maybe have interacted with his ghost. And I'm not sure if, you know, if it was water he was covered with, or maybe some kind of like ectoplasm or... I don't know what it was, but it was super weird. That's my ghost story.
Stan Mallow
Wow. Well that is incredible. I give that five stars out of five stars. Wow. That is great. Wow. Okay. I can see where that could sort of shake you up and make you think why and three times about things. Wow. Now I have to ask you this Leonard, why do you think New Orleans has experienced such an abundance of paranormal activity over the years?
Leonard Crist
Yeah, I mean, I think there's several reasons. Like part of it is like many places in America or in North America. It was once inhabited by native Americans who were displaced, who were killed, who were given diseases and passed on. So there's a lot of that residual energy that's coming up. You know, just all this historical injustice against the indigenous people here. And then beyond that, you know, New Orleans, when it was first inhabited was a place full of, you know, criminals and prostitutes. Like people that France had sent over kind of like, you know, more or less against their will or like, you know, you can spend the rest of your life in jail or executed or you can come to the new world. It's a lot of them came here like that. And so we have an interesting base population of people coming in. Many of them ended up dying untimely death. So it was a very rough early environment year. Of course, we also have the horrors of slavery on top of all of that. So there's all of these further kind of psychic injustices that are happening that might cause somebody to maybe not, you know, be unrestful in their afterlife. And then we had many outbreaks of yellow fever over the years, which was, you know, a disease that would just decimate the city every summer. Ultimately we discovered it was caused by mosquitoes, but they didn't know that back then. A lot of them attributed it to supernatural forces. But so a lot of deaths through, you know, a fifth of the population every year might die from yellow fever. And then hurricanes, of course, and even through hurricane Katrina, you know, there's all sorts of different terrible things over the years that have happened in this area that I think contributes to it's reputation. Then over the years too a lot of fictional things have come up that kind of give the city an aura to Anne Rice. Her vampire books of course have greatly contributed to a kind of a mythical aura of a Gothic, steamy, sexy New Orleans.
Stan Mallow
Do you ever have psychics or mediums go on your ghost or cemetery tours? And if you did, were they able to pick up any paranormal activity that you were not previously aware of?
Leonard Crist
Yeah, so I haven't been privy to any of, like having a psychic on my particular tour, but I know that like haunted history, for example, one of those ghosts tour companies that I work with, they, I think many of their ghost stories that they've written a very famous book on New Orleans Ghost and legends that's kind of become like the tour guide Bible for ghost stories in the city are written back in the nineties. Many of their stories were augmented with psychics. Like, you know, they had the base of the story. They asked the psychic to come along and see what they could find and add to it. So I don't have a lot of details about that, but I know that that has definitely been done in this city.
Stan Mallow
In addition to your French Quarter ghost tours, your company also offers New Orleans city tours, air boats swamp tours, and plantations tours. I wanted to make sure we mentioned them now, can you describe those tours?
Leonard Crist
Right now, pretty reduced schedule on the city tours. We were only very recently allowed to resume them due to COVID-19. But generally speaking, what happens if you're on a bus and you're going around covering a lot more than you could ever cover yourself walking. You're gonna see, you know. We'll stop at one of the cemeteries. You will see the French Quarter. Some of the ninth ward that was involved during Hurricane Katrina. A beautiful uptown in Garden district area for a lot of beautiful architecture and trees and things like that. So you get a good overview of the entire city outside of like the tourist trap that the French Quarter can sometimes be. So that's the city tour. Our plantation tours, you'd go out to like historical exhibits essentially, former plantations that now kind of discuss, you know, both what it was like to live there if you were one of the owners and also increasingly what it was like to be there, if you were one of the enslaved people working on the plantations. That has become more and more prominent with each passing year. One of the most famous ones we have is Oak Alley plantation. And you know, we offer a bus trip. We'll pick you up at your hotel and take you out to Oak Alley, give you some time there, do the tour of the house, bring you back when you're done. And then there's also like Whitney plantation, which is big. A lot of coverage in the New York times, the last few years. Dedicated, solely very somber experience to the kind of horrors of slavery in the South. So the plantation chorus can be nice, but it can also be a kind of a deep experience.
Stan Mallow
In a way it's like living history too. You know, so rather than reading about something in a book, you see the actual places where they happened and you use your imagination of what it was like. And you could probably appreciate everything that happened even more when you actually see the quarters and everything that's happening.
Leonard Crist
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And there are swamp tours. That's like our most popular tour by far. We make most of our money off the swamp road. It's a really fun thing. So the main swamp tour that we do is the airboat swamp tour. The air boats are like those it's got a flat bottom and a big, almost like airplane propeller on the back of it and it zooms you over the water. You need about an inch of water to go. It's like super, you know, you can go on very shallow water. And you're zooming through the Bayou Sea and all sorts of different things, alligators of course. And you have local Cajun captains as your guides. These guys are like crazy dudes who are kinda like on the show of "Swamp People." Like they're, I want to say like it's, the swamp people's a little exaggerated, but only a little bit. These guys are, you know, a lot of fun. And you see a lot of times you get to hold a baby alligator when you're on the tour, take a picture with it. You know, it's a really, really, really fun tour. So.
Stan Mallow
By any chance, do you have any other types of tours on the horizon that you're working on? Because there there's so many avenues you could take from food tours, restaurant tours, et cetera, that we do have is really great. I was just curious if you had anything on the agenda that you may maybe planning down the road.
Leonard Crist
You know, I've been thinking about, and I don't know, maybe if I don't wanna, you know, give my competitors the edge here.
Stan Mallow
You're absolutely right. Your absolutely correct. To be discussed at a later date, when you do it. I agree with you.
Leonard Crist
I can talk to you a little bit about my idea though. So, I mean, so like, there's like three main characters that are like some of the most famous people in history, in New Orleans history. And that would be Marie Laveau, Delphine LaLaurie and Jean Lafitte, the pirate. And they all lived at the same time, roughly. And so I really think a tour that really delved into the history of all three of these people and maybe positioning Marie Laveau kind of as the hero of the stories and Jean Lafitte and Delphine Lalaurie were some terrible people. It would be a very interesting tour. It just might be, you know, more involved, not necessarily a supernatural tour, but like a history tour that really talks about what it was like in New Orleans, in the period between like 1800 and like 1835. So yeah.
Stan Mallow
I think you have a winner with that one and you're right. You know, what did he say? You know, slippery lip sinks a ship and stuff like that. So you're right not to say too much, but I think you're onto something. And when you do go through with it, I'd love to interview you about that. Because it really sounds like it would be great. Now New Orleans is considered to be one of the top tourist destinations in the U S and probably the world. Everyone knows New Orleans. And I'm sure when my viewers visit New Orleans, they will want to include your tours in their visit. That being the case Leonard, could you let my viewers know how they can get details about your tours and reserve tickets for them?
Leonard Crist
Absolutely. So we have a website, GatorsAndGhosts.com, GAG, A and G is spelled out GatorsAndGhost.com. just Google is Gators and ghost and you'll find us. We're on, you know, Instagram and TripAdvisor and you know, Yelp and all those kinds of things. You know, whatever. We're in all the avenues that you might already expect a company to be. And then we have a store located at 728 St. Louis Street in the French Quarter. And it's like a few doors down from Bourbon Street, right in the middle of the French Quarter. And then we also occasionally, it's been closed since the pandemic started, but normally we have a little pop-up shop in the daytime at 500 Bourbon Street, which is a famous club called the Chris Owens club. She is famous dancer. She was a burlesque dancer all the way back to the fifties, and she still owns the club and still does a show to this very day, but it's been paused because of COVID-19. So we're hoping to get that opened up again one day in the near future, but we're waiting. But as at now, our store is open. Right now it's open on the weekends, Friday through Sunday, and our phone lines are open 24 seven. You can always call us at +888-481-8188. And yeah, we are happy to help you out. You email us or, you know, contact us whenever you want and we'll get you some ideas of what's fun to do.
Stan Mallow
Oh yeah. I think that would be a beautiful. Because while, you know, happily people are still going out and visiting and doing that. A lot of people are planning their itineraries. When what we're going through now is over and Paranormal Yakker is gonna remain on the web for a long, long time. So they'll definitely go to that. Cause I really read up a lot about your tours in depth and how you got involved with it and bringing the economy there. So I compliment you and you're aunt and everybody. And she made a wise decision bringing you on there too. What I gotta say now is Leonard Crist, I thank you for being my guest on Paranormal Yakker. I wish you much continued success with your tour company, Gater and Ghosts that I absolutely love that name again.
Leonard Crist
Oh, thank you so much, Stan. It was very kind of you. Thank you so much. - Hi everyone. I'm Stan mallow, the Paranormal Yakker. I hope you enjoyed the interview you just watched. It is my goal my pledge to always bring viewers of the show, a great cross-section of guests from the vast body, mind and spirit metaphysical and paranormal worlds. To be sure you don't miss any interviews on my free YouTube channel, all you have to do is press the subscribe button on your screen.