The tale is told that an apparition was being seen nightly walking from the Old Opera House on Rue St Anne and heading toward Royal. The spirit was in the shape of a woman dressed in the old fashioned style of mourning. She was a ghastly sight with long, flowing hair like spun silver, a sunken, ashen face and deep set, empty eyes like those one would see in a skinless skull. Her destination was a rooming house, of very ancient history, on Rue Royal. People who met her there, usually on the stairs, were sure to move out the next day. Because this ghost always took the same route, she was whispered of as the “Witch of the French Opera.”
Further digging turned up the history of the house. It was owned by an old Creole widow in the 1890s who took a young lover in her dotage. The two were happy for a time until the widow found that her paramour – whom she had been keeping in style at a Rue Bourbon address – was sleeping with a beautiful and very young quadroon. The widow, more experienced if not wiser than her feckless beau, did not let on that she knew what he was up to. One night, she crept into his apartment using her key and turned on the gas while her lover and his girlfriend slept. They died of asphyxiation.
The widow, according to neighborhood gossip, went mad. She dawned the mourning she had worn when her husband died and never went out except to attend the Opera until her death at the end of the century.
One evening in 1907, a new tenant who occupied the room that had once been the widow’s bedchamber found a delicate old love letter hidden behind the marble mantelpiece. As the tenant read the letter, the old widow’s ghost appeared. Her bony fingers reached for the letter and – terrified – the tenant threw it into the fire. The specter let out an otherworldly shriek and disappeared. According to the neighbors, the widow’s spirit was never heard from or seen again.
Header: The Widow by T.F. Simon c 1906