For those who thrill at a chill, a project that has rapidly taken shape at the historic McMahon Funeral Home property by the Canal Street cemeteries promises to be a mecca of the macabre.
The classically designed, 19th century building, shuttered before Hurricane Katrina, has been transformed into the Haunted Mortuary, an amusement park-style haunted house filled with actors, technology and twisted décor to entertain guests. But the property has more to offer than its choreographed frights.
After Halloween, owner Jeffery Borne plans to continue developing the project as a year-round attraction for people interested in ghost hunting and related pursuits. Working with parapsychologist Larry Montz and his company, the International Society for Paranormal Research, Borne plans to build the property into a paranormal observatory and lab. Both Borne and Montz are convinced the building is actually haunted and hope it will become a one-of-a-kind destination.
“We did an initial walk-through and our investigators identified nine different entities right away,” says Montz. “If it wasn’t haunted, this project wouldn’t work.”
Borne is the president of PSX Inc., a Covington-based company that installs lighting and sound systems in large entertainment facilities around the world, with local projects including Harrah’s Casino and the Louisiana Superdome’s recent renovation. He has also operated several haunted house attractions in the area, including the Scream Factory in Covington. Borne says he’s been interested for years in starting a haunted attraction in New Orleans, which sees thousands of visitors each year interested in the paranormal but has few organized activities for them besides walking tours of the French Quarter and cemeteries.
He came across the McMahon property by chance and through a mutual friend met Montz. The two quickly developed the idea to make the Haunted Mortuary more than just a seasonal haunted house.
“Because New Orleans is known as a haunted city, people are drawn here to have a ghost experience,” Montz says. “But there really is no place for people for people to get an education about what [paranormal] field research is like.”
Borne says the property is being rigged with an extensive array of high-tech sensors, cameras and other gear to capture and record paranormal activity within the building. A central control room will help archive and mix the data and build a library of any events recorded there. They plan to run experiments, invite other investigators to conduct research and build interactive exhibits for the tours, classes and workshops they will conduct there throughout the year.
The Haunted Mortuary is scheduled to be open through Halloween and then reopen after continued renovation in its full paranormal research role early in 2008. – I.M.