NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– For today’s Hometown Horror Story, we take you to lunch in the French Quarter to feast upon a banquet of a ghost story.
“There are lots of ghosts at Tujague’s. I can’t claim to know them all but I know for sure that they are friendly ghosts,” says Poppy Tooker, the author of the Tujague’s restaurant cookbook and historian of the restaurant.
Culinary history in New Orleans is not complete without Tujague’s, the possessor of the oldest stand up bar in the country and also the birthplace of the notion of brunch. All of that seasoning leaves a taste and many a colorful character has walked through the doors. One day, Poppy Tooker met one of the infamous characters first hand at the prelude to a distinctive brunch with drag queen guests from across the city. Before the guests arrived, Poppy Tooker was setting up the dining room.
Poppy Tooker recalls, “when I would ask people, who is that in the photograph they would tell me that is the crossdresser. Julian L. Tinge was the Kardashian of the 20th century. All of a sudden, both Jake and myself over our right shoulder heard Yoo Hoo. If you say yoo hoo, you can feel it and I felt the breath of a yoo hoo over my right shoulder. Jake turns to me and says, drag queen in the house. We expected one of the guests had walked in, but when we both looked to see who was coming in the bar door, nobody was there.”
The attic of the restaurant is often the source of creepy accounts. Once, the bartender made his way up to the attic and out of the corner of his eye a small dark figure with long hair dashed from one room to the next. On a different occasion, a guilty dinner guest had returned to the scene of their crime with his own tale about the attic, saying, “I stole a photograph that I found up there and when I walked out the restaurant with it that night, the next thing that happened was, I lost my wallet, my cellphone and my car keys. My wife was in a car wreck and my best friend had had a stroke. Before I asked for you, I walked up to the attic and put the picture back where I found it,” Poppy Tooker recalls.
Before the building became Tujague’s, it was known as Madame Begue’s. Her and her husband Hippolyte ran the restaurant until Madame Begue died in 1906. Hippolyte closed the restaurant and mourned for three days… then reopened the restaurant; “why was that you ask, because of the young kitchen assistant Francois. Francois knew all the recipes and knew how to run the kitchen. In very short time, Masseur Begue marries Francois, creating a new Madame Begue,” says Poppy Tooker.
As it is, the sound of glass breaking in the liquor cage upstairs can be heard every now and again. Some say, it could be the two Madame Begues fighting into eternity.
Tujague’s is 163-years-old. Next September, Tujague’s will be moving from it’s historic location into the old Bubba Gumb Shrimp Company building on Decatur street.
Our Hometown Horror series is brought to you by The Mortuary. Make sure you tune in every day during News with a Twist at 6pm to here more ghost stories.