Built in New Orleans’ lush Garden District in the 19th century, Buckner Mansion has a long, spooky history rife with rumors of ghosts and other paranormal activity.
The oak-lined streets of the Garden District in New Orleans, Louisiana are home to some of the most beautiful homes in the country, ranging from narrow shotgun houses to opulent Italianate manors. And there’s perhaps none quite like Buckner Mansion.
Built in 1856, this 20,000-square-foot Greek Revival manor is one of the most photographed residences in the city, with thousands of tourists posing for photos outside its stately iron gates every year. In fact, the home’s appearance is so imposing that it was selected as the main set for the third season of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology American Horror Story.
But Buckner Mansion has a dark and haunted past all its own, beset with rumors of ghosts and other paranormal activity. It’s no surprise that more than 150 years after it was built, this historical landmark holds an air of mystery that continues to enchant visitors to this day.
The Origins Of Buckner Mansion
The story of Buckner Mansion begins with Henry Sullivan Buckner.
Buckner was a prominent figure in 19th-century New Orleans. Born circa 1800, Buckner went on to become a wealthy slaveholder and cotton kingpin, and used his vast fortune to purchase real estate throughout the city. He already owned several impressive homes by the time he decided to commission Buckner Mansion.
According to Visit New Orleans, when Buckner set out to build the mansion, he had one goal in mind: to make it bigger and more extravagant than Stanton Hall, the Mississippi home of his ex-business partner, Frederick Stanton.
This was a daunting task; Stanton Hall was two stories tall, stretched across an entire city block, and was so imposing that it’s said to have inspired the design for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride.
Still, in 1856, Buckner masterminded the vision behind Buckner Mansion, which would go on to become both his family home and a distinguished architectural landmark in New Orleans.
Inside The Mansion’s Design
Henry Sullivan Buckner certainly succeeded in his mission to wow the public, and possibly even to upstage his ex-business partner.
Buckner commissioned reputed architect Lewis E. Reynolds to design the house. According to SAH Archipedia, the building’s contract described it as a “two-story brick house with observatory and four pediments.” The result was an opulent, palatial manor in the Greek Revival style, painted stark white and gray and wrapped in endless verandas.
Buckner Mansion boasts 48 Ionic and Corinthian fluted columns, galleries on three sides of the house, and a three-story service wing. The inside of the home is just as splendid, with 16-foot high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and three grand ballrooms. An ornate stone and cast-iron fence encloses the entire property.
The mansion’s beauty is further embellished by its surroundings — the sea of oak trees, lush greenery, and grand estates of New Orleans’ Garden District. Today, Buckner Mansion remains one of the most popular houses to visit in the neighborhood, and stands as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture to emerge from the 19th century.
The Mansion’s Second Life As A School
After Buckner Mansion’s construction was complete, Henry Sullivan Buckner moved into the house with his wife, Catherine. After Henry and Catherine died, their daughter Laura, and her husband, Cartwright Eustis, took over ownership of the house in 1884. The mansion remained in the Buckner family for over 60 years until it was sold around 1920.
In 1923, the mansion became the new site of the esteemed Soulé Business College. Gambit reports that in order to transform the mansion into a school, George Soulé, the institution’s founder, added a two-story brick building near the back of the property to create more space for classrooms.
Today, visitors to the manor will see a sidewalk mosaic at the foot of the mansion’s ornate front gate bearing a quote from the 18th century poet William Cowper: “From education as the leading cause, the public character its color draws.” Soulé reportedly brought these tiles from the school’s old location to Buckner Mansion when he moved in.
The school was well-regarded and, at the time, considered the oldest business school in the South. It closed down in 1983, and a new chapter in Buckner Mansion’s history began.
Buckner Mansion Today
After the Soulé Business School closed down, Buckner Mansion once again became a private residence. According to Redfin, it’s worth over $3.1 million today.
In 2013, the television network FX rented out Buckner Mansion as the primary set for American Horror Story: Coven. In the show, the house serves as Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, a boarding school for young witches. Today, fans of the series flock to the house’s iron gates to get a glimpse of this famous filming location.
Unfortunately, Buckner Mansion isn’t currently open for public tours, though its owners have occasionally opened it up for private events and even as a vacation rental. Roadtrippers reports that when it was last listed on VRBO, it cost nearly $4,700 a night to stay at the mansion.
It’s not clear whether Buckner Mansion is still available to rent, though interested parties can look at the former listing on Villa Vacations to learn more.
But should you ever get the chance to see the inside of Buckner Mansion, it’s important to be aware of the home’s dark history before your book your visit.
The Haunting Of Buckner Mansion
Like many other buildings of its age, Buckner Mansion has its fair share of ghost stories. And while the manor’s appearance in American Horror Story certainly contributed to its haunted reputation, it has a dark history that far precedes the show.
The house was built in the American South pre-Civil War; in fact, most of the Garden District was originally plantation land. The Buckners themselves made their fortune on cotton and were known to have been slaveholders. Consequently, the house’s history is inextricably tied to the atrocities of slavery.
Today, it’s said that the house is still haunted by a formerly enslaved woman known only as Miss Josephine, who remained with the Buckner family after the Civil War. Some say she chose to remain in the house even after her death, and that she haunts the Buckner Mansion grounds to this day.
Over the years, people who have stayed in the mansion have claimed to have seen Josephine’s ghostly figure on the stairs, heard the phantom sounds of someone sweeping, and smelled lemon peel — which was supposedly one of Josephine’s favorite scents, according to American Ghost Walks.
Visitors to the house have also reported witnessing paranormal phenomena like flickering lights, doors that open and close of their own accord, and chandeliers that sway for hours despite there being no breeze.
Of course, these legends have never been verified.
But whether or not Buckner Mansion really is haunted, it’s undeniable that this historic home has an eerie allure that continues to draw people to its gates to this day.
After learning about the haunted past of Buckner Mansion, read about some of the most haunted houses across the United States and the ghosts that occupy them. Then, learn about the infamous LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans and its secret torture chamber.