Harem of Horror: The Massacre at the “Sultan’s Palace”
At the corner of Dauphine and Orleans Streets sits the Gardette-LePrete house, named for the architect who designed the home and the local plantation owner and businessman who bought the mansion in the early 1800’s. One of the most photographed homes in the French Quarter, the pale pink exterior is accented by green shuttered windows and is graced with the ornate scrolled wrought-iron balconies that so define the architecture in the Quarter.
The mansion was home to the LePrete family until the Civil War, when LePrete found himself in financial trouble and he was forced to seek out a new owner for the mansion. The story says that LePrete was approached by the brother of a powerful Turkish sultan, who was forced to flee his native Turkey for fear that his brother would have him murdered to prevent him from seeking the throne.
The sultan’s brother arrived in New Orleans, bringing with him rich tapestries, lavish furniture and decorations and his harem of women and eunuchs. According to the legend, neighbors could hear music and the sounds of sexual pleasure coming from the home every night. This went on for several months, until a massive storm struck New Orleans. When the storm was over, a man was strolling down the street, and as he passed the mansion, he noticed a stream of blood flowing down the front steps onto the sidewalk and into the street. Terrified, he notified the police.
The police arrived and cautiously entered the home to find a grisly sight. Walls and furniture were soaked in blood. There were dismembered bodies and bodies that had been sliced open, with their insides spilling out onto the floor. Gagging, the police made their way to the small courtyard and found a freshly dug grave with a hand sticking out from the ground….the sultan’s brother had been buried alive.
The police could find no evidence to direct them to who committed this horrific massacre. There were rumors of a pirate ship docked at the port, which disappeared during the storm. Others spoke of assassins sent by the sultan to kill his brother and ensure no threat to his rule.
The property exchanged hands many times over the next century, with no one remaining in the home for long. Inhabitants complained of a fair-haired man dressed in colorful silks wandering the halls and the screams and crying of women. Eventually the home was abandoned and became a harbor for the homeless. It was purchased in the 1960’s, restored and made into 6 individual apartments and remains this way to this day.
As exciting as this tale is, there is no evidence of a sultan or anyone of royalty purchasing this home or of a horrific massacre taking place on the property. Residents do report strange things occurring, such as items going missing and strange noises. Some have also reported seeing the ghostly figures of a man dressed in Civil War clothing and a woman wearing a dress of the same time period.