The place is fairly small, but they pack a lot in. When you first walk in, you enter at the bar level. The bartender will greet you and give you the lay of the land. For a few pounds, you can pay admission to the museum, which is located on the lower lever down a precarious spiral staircase. You’re allowed to take beer or wine with you down into the gallery (cocktails are only allowed upstairs in the bar area, however). The admission price includes a little souvenir book, so my advice is to hit the gallery first, then pull up a table in the cocktail lounge and read all about the weirdness you just saw, like the gold-plated hippo skull that was owned by Pablo Escobar, Fiji mermaid or a taxidermied goat with wings.
The museum/bar hosts a lot of unique events, from literary readings to taxidermy classes, so make sure to check the calendar if you’re planning a visit. When I visited recently, they were hosting a temporary exhibition of witchcraft art and artifacts on loan from Cornwall’s Museum of Witchcraft. (Note to self: plan a future trip to Cornwall.)
On a recent trip to London, I lamented that there simply aren’t enough cool, creepy bars out there in the world. There are a lot of gimmicky goth bars. There are a lot of bars that claim to be haunted or have some sort of ominous past. And there are a lot of stylish, elegantly designed bars. But elegant, dark and just a bit twisted? That’s hard to find in the right balance. Thus, I have a new life’s mission: find all the best cool, creepy bars in the world and document them!
When you first hear about Muriel’s Seance Lounge in New Orleans, it might sound like it could skew a bit on the gimmicky side. Tucked away in an upstairs corner of Muriel’s restaurant in Jackson Square, this is where Muriel’s resident ghost, Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, is said to spend most of his haunting hours. Whether or not Pierre does call this place home, from the moment I stepped in, I wanted to settle down in Muriel’s Seance Room and never leave.
There aren’t many instructions for visitors on how to access the room; we had to sit down at the bar and ask the bartender. On the south side of Muriel’s main dining room is a door that looks like it could be an emergency exit, but open it and follow the candle-lined hallway and you’ll find a delightfully spooky surprise. At the base of a stairwell sits a table set with bread and wine for Pierre, should he happen to stop by. Head upstairs, and suddenly the chaos of the French Quarter feels a world away. The floor-to-ceiling red decor is complemented by ethereal music, both suggestive of a haunted house. Again, this could come of super cheesy, but the space manages to walk just the right line to provide atmosphere that’s quirky but not phony. Plenty of plush sofas, banquettes and arm chairs make the space very comfortable, and the eclectic artwork ranges from Rococo-style paintings to Egyptian sarcophagi.
I visited on a Tuesday night in November, and was delighted to have the place to myself for most of the night. I’m not sure if this is typical, or if on busier nights they might send wait staff upstairs to check on guests, but there’s no bar upstairs so getting refills on cocktails required going back down to the main bar. That didn’t deter me from spending a few hours there knocking back a few Saint 75 cocktails, a delicious arrangement of gin, St. Germain, lemon juice and sparkling wine..
I never did see Pierre’s ghost…perhaps I’ll have to make another visit.