Paranormal complex will tell more stories about haunted New Orleans.
Story by Deborah Reinhardt Palmer

There are spirits pervading the French Quarter of New Orleans, and we’re not talking about cocktails. No, these spirits are souls of the long departed who just can’t seem to leave the city they called home. And a man who has made communicating with ghosts his life’s work for more than 30 years is opening a complex in mid-city that will bring New Orleans’ ghosts to life.

The front entrance to the Paraplex and The Mortuary, a haunted house attraction on Canal Street. Elliott Thompson photo

“Everyone is well aware of New Orleans and how haunted it is,” said Dr. Larry Montz, who founded the International Society for Paranormal Research in 1972. His Paraplex is due to open in January 2009 inside a 14,000 square-foot building on Canal Street once used as a funeral home. The Paraplex is billed as the world’s first interactive paranormal complex and will include a working research lab, observatory and museum. The Paraplex Annex–718 Orleans, across the street from the Bourbon Orleans Hotel–will open Sept. 5 in the heart of where all the paranormal action happens. New Orleanians and visitors interested in all things paranormal can participate in tours and field studies–even Psychic Boot Camp–offered at the annex.

Why is New Orleans such a hot spot for ghostly activities?

“There’s a lot of death here,” Montz said. When the city was founded in 1718, the French sent its criminals to the territory. Horrific fires in 1788 and 1794 wiped out many early citizens, and disease in the early part of New Orleans’ history took out more of the populace. A good amount of these souls, Montz said, are hanging out in the confines of the French Quarter.

Larry Montz

Dr. Larry Montz, noted parapsychologist. International Society for Paranormal Research photo

One of the projects Montz is working on is a documentary with a working title, “Ghost Stories from New Orleans.” The film will be premiered at the Paraplex and then make rounds at various film festivals throughout the country. Montz would like to see the documentary about his boyhood home on television.

“We’ve put other documentaries on TV before,” he said. “Obviously we would really like to put this one on TV to promote New Orleans.”

Recognizing Abilities

Montz, who lives in Los Angeles, was born into a military family in Rhode Island but grew up in New Orleans. When he was about 10 years old, he was visiting his aunt and saw a woman in period dress appear and disappear, seemingly walking through doors and walls.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” Montz said. When he talked to his aunt about this, she discounted what her nephew had seen, but later admitted she had experienced the same spirit encounter.

As a child, Montz also loved to take electrical gadgets apart and put them back together, which led to his degree in electrical engineering and work in telecommunications and information technology. He said he had always believed there to be a connection between electro-magnetic energy and spirits, so he pursued a post-graduate degree in parapsychology.

Over the years, Montz and his ISPR team have conducted innumerable investigations, including more than 300 in Louisiana between 1990–1996. In 1997, Montz drew up plans for the Paraplex, but put them aside for other projects–books, films, television specials and increasing field research.

“I wanted to have a center where people could come and be educated, taking away the fear of ghosts,” he said.

Ten years later, Montz received a call from a friend and New Orleans real estate developer, Troy Von Otnott, who had purchased an old mortuary at the end of Canal Street. Von Otnott had a successful professional haunted house attraction called Scream Factory on the North Shore, and he wanted to develop the Canal Street property into a second haunted attraction.

ISPR investigators have identified nine spirits living at the mortuary, including a family of four who died not far from the mortuary and took up residence there because it was one of only a few buildings in the area at the time.

Montz and Von Otnott will share the large space. Paraplex activities will shut down in August giving time for Von Otnott to set up his annual haunted house attraction. After Halloween’s haunting season, Montz will reopen Paraplex to visitors and anyone interested in learning more about their psychic abilities, which we all have, according to Montz.

“Everyone has these abilities. It’s not hereditary or a gift. We have been socialized not to recognize these abilities, but what is a cop’s ‘gut feeling’ or a mother’s ‘intuition?’ Learn how to use your ability and like anything else, the more you use it, the better you’ll get.”

In addition, Montz wants to teach his patrons through his parapsychology expeditions how to sift through legend and bad information.

“It’s gotten so out of hand, but TV has seriously abused what’s real and mislead the general public,” Montz said. “Today, it’s almost impossible to tell who’s real and who is not. But the people who are supposed to find us do.”

Activities at the Annex

Beginning Sept. 12, visitors to the Paraplex Annex can purchase admission to The Mortuary, plus tickets for several tours and expeditions. Montz invited author Anne Rice to do a tour. As a result, Rice and former assistant SuzieQ created “Vampires and Other Supernatural Beings” that will be offered through Paraplex. The Annex in January will host the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat exhibit.

Other experiences available through the Annex will include parapsychology expeditions–field workshops at haunted sites that will allow participants to work with ISPR-trained paranormal researchers and learn how to conduct paranormal investigations. Identify and develop your psychic abilities at Psychic Boot Camp, and who knows what you’ll find at the UFO and Ghost Hunters Nighttime Swamp Investigations.

“The Annex will serve as the base for the slate of original new paranormal reality events, all backed by experts in different fields,” said Daena Smoller, Paraplex executive producer. “There’s something here for everyone.”

Everyone seen–and unseen.

Deborah Reinhardt Palmer is managing editor for AAA Southern Traveler magazine

Sept/Oct 2008 Issue

For more information about Paraplex and its Annex, visit MySpace.com/Paraplex or call (504) 585-1408.

Tickets for Anne Rice’s Vampire tour are $24. The tour is offered at 11 a.m., 2, 6:15 and 8 p.m. daily. Parapsychology Expedition tickets are $24, with departures daily at 11 a.m., 2, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Nighttime Swamp Investigations are offered at 6:30 p.m. each evening, with a midnight trip on Friday and Saturday. Call for times for Psychic Boot Camp, $45.

The Mortuary haunted house will be open from 7–11:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27; Oct. 3–5, 10–13, 16–19, 23–31; and Nov. 1. Tickets are $20 and $30. An online coupon is available at www.TheMortuary.net.

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