"New Orleans Sultan Palace"
To the casual passer-by, a house on Dauphine Street offers no outward clue to the horror and carnage that took place within its walls more than a century ago. A legendary tale has it, that a mass murder took place inside the house, formally known as Gardette-Lepretre mansion.
As the old story goes, Gardette-LePrete Mansion was leased in 1878 to a mysterious Turkish man, who claimed to be a deposed Sultan of some distant land. A short time before, a vessel of war had arrived in the New Orleans harbor at night. Men came and went from the ship on official business and finally, a wealthy Oriental man, dressed in a regal costume, came ashore and was received with great respect by city officials.
The owner of the mansion, Le Prete, was called into a private conference and asked if his property might be available for lease. He agreed to the generous terms offered, not realizing the danger he was bringing to the mansion. According to what he could learn, the “Sultan” was a deposed ruler from a distant Asian country. It seemed that he had fled the land with his brother’s favorite wife. He had hidden away in Europe for a time and then had sailed for New Orleans. He had brought with him his entire entourage, including armed guards and a harem of women and young boys. They were of all ages and descriptions and rumors swirled about the Sultan’s unseemly desires.
Then, one night some months later, a storm hit the city. Everyone in the French Quarter buckled down, dimming their candles and closing their shutters. Under the cover of darkness, an unfamiliar ship with a strange, crescent banner sailed into the harbor. In the morning, it was gone and it had taken the storm with it.
That morning, neighbors passing by the mansion noticed that trickles of blood were running out from under the iron gates. The authorities were summoned but could raise no one, so they forced open the doors and went inside
At some point in the night, a massacre had taken place. Blood splattered the floors and walls, headless bodies and amputated limbs were scattered about, and all of them had been butchered by sword or ax. No room was without a horrific scene. The bodies and limbs were scattered about, mutilated, and burned in such a way that it was impossible to tell which body part belonged to which person. No exact count of the dead was ever determined, and the horror didn't stop with murder. The beautiful harem girls, the Arab boys, the Sultan’s children and even the guards, were raped and subjected to vile sexual assaults. The scandal was so horrendous that the details of that night have still not been chronicled completely to this day.
The Sultan's mutilated body was found in the garden, where he had been buried alive. In his struggle to free himself from his earthen prison, he managed to partially tear himself from the grave, but it was not enough. He had choked to death on mouthfuls of pungent earth. Over his hasty grave, a marble tablet was placed, bearing an inscription in Arabic. It read: “The justice of heaven is satisfied, and the date tree shall grow on the traitor’s tomb.” It is said that a tall tree did indeed grow on this spot and was known locally as “the tree of death.”
While the tree has long ago perished, the legends of the house remain. The identity of the murderers was never discovered. Some say they were the members of some pirate's crew who had business with the mysterious Sultan and some say the crimes were the work of the Turk's own brother, seeking revenge for the theft of his wife and of the family wealth.
No one will ever know for sure that night, but what soon became clear was that the Le Prete mansion was now haunted.
The Truth About
The Sultan's Palace
The story told above is just one version of many that are told regarding the Sultan's Palace. The key parts always remain the same: The Sultan's harem moved in, the all-night orgies, and the vicious murder which ends it all....But is there any historical truth at all to the legend? Probably not. There are no extant newspapers accounts that our researchers can find that lends credence to the tale. In fact, the only mention of Sultans in the New Orleans newspaper are about those still living in the Middle-East. See fake news could have existed even back then! The legend of The Sultan and Gardette-Le Prete mansion remains a famous tale however.
Jean Baptiste Le Prete continued living in this house until 1878. The only truth told in the legend deals with Le Prete's financial difficulties. The Civil War had struck his family hard, but there remains no reason to believe that he leased his home to anyone during this period. In 1878, Citizen's Bank foreclosed on the property. One historian even goes as far as to claim that the turn of events was ironic, as Jean Baptiste had been one of the men to found the bank in the first place--in his own parlor at 716 Dauphine, no less!
By 1922, the legend of the mass massacre had stuck, cemented fully when Helen Pitkin Schertz penned the tale in her book, Legends of Louisiana. For better or worse, the fate of the Gardette-Le Prete House was sealed.
In the 1940s, the New Orleans Academy of art had taken up residence, but was forced to close shortly after when too many of its students were drafted during World War II. The once grand mansion then became home to the homeless, and remained as such until 1966 when it was purchased by Frank D'Amico and Anthony Vesich, Jr.
After a large-scale restoration, they converted the property into six independent apartments and it exists today, though under different ownership, just the same.
But who exactly is haunting the Gardette-LePrete House/Sultan's Palace? There have been reports of hauntings for over a century now from residents and visitors alike, and even past owners of the property have experienced paranormal activity a time or two.
Residents of 716 Dauphine have experienced all sorts of paranormal activity at this location, including one man who moved into the first floor and half-raised basement not so long ago. While going down the stairs to do laundry, he saw his dog shoved bodily down the flight of stairs by some unseen force. The same dog, it should be noted, refuses to enter the living room unless brought inside by his owner. Animals have been known to have a sixth sense in sniffing out ghosts and spirits, and it seems that this dog certainly knows that something isn't quite right about the Gardette-LePrete House.
Below is a re-enactment of the murder of the Sultan. Enjoy!