Hotel Villa Convento: Quaint, Charming, Haunted

Since we just gave you some insight on the Ursuline Nuns of New Orleans, it’s only fitting that we carry on around the corner and explore a spot that the ladies with habits once owned. 

Many believe this boutique hotel is the legendary House of the Rising Sun. We don’t know about that, but we do know that the creole townhouse was built in the 1830s and has gone from Ladies in service to Ladies who service.

The Ghosts of the Hotel Villa Convento 

Hotel Villa Convento is one of the few locations where the ghosts leave nothing to the imagination. And no, it’s not the Ursuline Nuns roaming the halls whispering “sinner” in guests’ ears as they return from Bourbon Street. These ghosts are much less pious. 

History Makes Hauntings

The Ursuline Nuns were the first land owners where the Hotel Villa Convento sits. But in 1805, the nuns partitioned some of the land off, including 616 Ursulines Avenue. 

Jean Baptiste Poeyfarre purchased the property and, in 1833, built the lovely creole townhouse that is the Hotel Villa Convento today. When Poeyfarre died, his widow sold the property to Octave Voorheis. 

The Civil War broke out shortly after the sale, and Voorheis could no longer hold on to the property. But if there is one thing that doesn’t suffer during a wartime crisis, it’s vice. 

The townhouse then became a brothel (supposedly). The land formerly owned by the Church was now a house of ill repute through the turn of the century. 

Or maybe longer… This is where history gets murky, just like the mighty Mississippi. 

We know that Pasquale Taromina purchased the property in March of 1902, and the family-owned it until 1946. Some say the family made it their residence for the entire 44 years. Others claim that it was run as a brothel, again, during Pasquale’s ownership. 

One ghost tour company wrote a lengthy article that states both – the townhouse was a brothel after the Civil War and again under Pasquale’s ownership through 1946.  But they also say it was the family’s home during this time, which is either extremely progressive for the time or terribly traumatic. 

French Balls Storyville New Orleans 1908

1908 French Balls Storyville – Wikicommons

It’s worth noting that in the early 1900s, Storyville was booming – the legalized district for prostitution in New Orleans. And there are plenty of op-eds in the Times-Picayune during this time stating that it’s best to keep Storyville regulated but “close down the ‘houses of assignation.’” 

House of Assignation is a place where married women can go for private sexual encounters with men for money, without the risk of someone seeing a man enter their personal private residences when the husband is away.  

House of Assignation is bad, Storyville is good. The reasoning? According to the 1908 Times-Picayune:

Let us try to make men as they ought to be, but at the same time let us realize what they are.

Their words, not mine. 

 

Back to the Hotel Villa Convento…

Considering the paranormal activity inside the Hotel Villa Convento, either or both of the brothel speculations could be accurate. 

When Pasquale sold the property in 1946, it became the Old Town Villa. A short-term rental/rooming house for people who were in New Orleans without a place to stay. Jimmy Buffet was one of the short-termers at Old Town Villa and stayed in apartment 305. 

In 1981, The Campo Family purchased the Villa Convento and kept all 25 rooms with their historical room numbers intact. And not long after they began charming New Orleans visitors with their lovely Inn, the ghosts made themselves known. 

The Ghost has a Preference

I started in this industry as a ghost tour guide in New Orleans in 2015. Hotel Villa Convento was one of my favorite stops for a few reasons: quiet corner (for the French Quarter), great proximity to Jackson Square, and on the first tour I ever gave two of my guests had personal experiences staying at Hotel Villa Convento. 

Happy Haunted Anniversary

A fun couple from Dallas was in New Orleans for the weekend to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They had been to the city a few times and were excited to stay someplace they had never stayed before – Hotel Villa Convento. 

It didn’t take long for their experiences to begin. They made their first night an early night; knackered from the long drive, they crawled into bed and turned out the lights. Then, coming from the room nextdoor, they heard “the sounds of love.” They laughed and thought they must have “honeymooners as neighbors.” The sounds got louder.

Eventually, the mystery lovers quieted down, and the couple got some rest. The next morning they chatted with the hotel clerk and mentioned the concert of love coming from the room next door. The clerk looked a bit confused. “Are they newlyweds in the room next to us?” asked the woman. “Ma’am, nobody is in that room; it’s under construction,” the clerk replied. 

In disbelief, she and her husband persuaded the clerk to go have a look with them. As the clerk unlocked the door, they saw what was in the room: a sawhorse and some tools. And their weekend in the Hotel Villa Convento had just begun.

On their second night, after a day and evening of French Quarter fun, the Dallas couple had retired back to their room when they heard someone trying to enter their room. They assume a reveler had too much to drink and got their rooms mixed up. 

A few minutes later, the attempts happened again. This time, the husband headed for the door to see if he could sort out the confusion when a knock happened on the door. The husband unlocked the door, slowly opened it, and to his surprise, nobody was there. 

They had one night left and decided to stick it out at Villa Convento. The ghost didn’t disappoint. As her husband was showering, he saw a strange woman come into the bathroom. When he opened the shower door to peek at who was invading his ablution, nobody was there. He asked his wife, “did you come into the bathroom?” You know the answer… “Nope.”

The husband also claimed that at one point in the room, he felt someone brush the back of his neck. He said it felt heavier than air but lighter than a hand. 

Is the Madame Guilty? 

Most ghost tours in New Orleans that make the Hotel Villa Convento a stop claim that the hauntings are the madame who ran the brothel. They point out that men generally experience the most activity, including actual physical contact.

Men have reported staying the night with their “lady” at the Villa Convento, and after a bit of intimacy, they roll over to see the apparition of a woman in black standing at the side of their bed. She gazes at the man, looking right through him. 

When the man frantically says, “Look!” to his bedmate, the partner sees nothing. It’s as if the apparition is only visible to the man. Is the madame waiting for him to pay and free up the room? 

Room 301 has been most active with disembodied voices. Men claim to hear a woman’s voice in that room. Sometimes it says, “hey, baby.” Other times men swear they hear the strange female voice say their name. 

Haunted Rooms

Staircase Hotel Villa Convento

Staircase Hotel Villa Convento – From Hotel Villa Convento

Room 305 at Hotel Villa Convento has quite a reputation in the paranormal world. Personal items are said to be moved or disappear. 

One man and wife staying in 305 started their stay with a game of “where are the keys?” He swore he placed them next to the television on top of the cabinet. But, the next morning, they were nowhere to be found.

After about thirty minutes of moving furniture and crawling on hands and knees, they decided to go out and enjoy the day. There was nothing more they could do, and it was New Orleans on a Saturday morning, which means a spicy bloody mary was to be had. 

They returned to the room for a nap before their dinner plans and had forgotten about the missing keys. After their power nap, they began to get ready for dinner. As the husband passed the cabinet with the television, the keys were right there in front of him, in plain sight. 

Room 209 is another room with secrets and mysterious activities. 209 holds the macabre legend of suicide. It’s believed that a man took his own life inside 209 while living there. Today, guests in 209 claim to hear voices and have their personal belongings get moved around the room without their knowledge. Madame or suicide guy? 

Staying in the Quarter

Cafe Du Monde      If you have plans to visit New Orleans, give Hotel Villa Convento a go. There’s nothing like a morning cup of chicory and some beignets from Cafe du Monde in the courtyard of Hotel Villa Convento. It is truly magical. And Hotel Villa Convento is quintessential New Orleans: Charming, quaint, and full of ghosts! Just like the French Quarter.