Today we dive into the realm of the unknown. The mystery of the supernatural and specifically the supernaturally fabulous. We’re discussing Queer Hauntings. And because almost all of our information is from one book, we want to credit the author up front. Ken Summers, author of the book Queer Hauntings; True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts. The book is available on Amazon, with a Kindle edition for only $3.00. Or you can get the Audible version for just under $8.00. And if you don’t have an audible account we’ve got you covered. Your first month is on us just go to https://audibletrial.com/queer, and not only do you get a free audio book but you also support us. But now let us take on a journey of terror across America and around the world. We will cover 3 stories, two in the states and one abroad. And we must add a trigger warning, the stories only get bloodier and more horrific as we go. So strap in homos!
Our first stop is a place known world-wide for both it’s queerness and it’s hauntings – New Orleans, Louisiana. Any person who enters the city limits of New Orleans is bound to make an acquaintance with at least a few queers and ghosts. And what better way to do so than at the oldest gay bar in the country – some say even the world – Cafe LaFitte in Exile. Located in the notorious French Quarter at 901 Bourbon Street, the cafe lies in a structure built back in 1772. As one of the oldest standing buildings in New Orleans it is no wonder ghosts feel comfortable here. The original cafe was opened 1926 just a few doors down in the former blacksmith of infamous pirate Jean Lafitte.
Lafitte was a scoundrel in every sense, though he temporarily redeemed himself during the War of 1812. When he saved the Louisiana city during the battle of New Orleans. After bravely fighting to keep British troops from re-taking control of the colonies, Lafitte was granted immunity for his privateering ways by General Andrew Jackson. He was even granted a plot of land, though he would have to leave his beloved New Orleans. Instead the pirate relocated to Galveston, Texas where he built his own town boasting around 1,000 people. However, a pirate is always a pirate and eventually LaFitte again fell on bad terms with the American Government. In 1820 he was exiled from Galveston, and as revenge Lafitte boarded his favorite ship The Pride, and burned his town to the ground. He spent the rest of his life on the high seas dying just a few years later.
But it was his former blacksmith shop in downtown New Orleans which was converted into a bar in 1936 and ran by a woman named Mary Collins. We know almost nothing about Mary except that she was a proud lesbian and her open pride made the space a safe one for queer individuals. By the end of the 1930’s Cafe Lafitte was a thriving place of queer expression, though of course only on the inside. As time wore on the notoriety of the gay bar grew until finally the landlord could no longer deny the cafe for it’s true identity. So in 1953, after 16 years in Jean LaFitte’s blacksmith shop, the landlord refused to renew the bars lease. Undeterred, new manager Tom Caplinger simply walked down Bourbon Street a few blocks and found a new residence. Which he named “Cafe LaFitte in Exile” as homage to Captain LaFitte’s exile from Galveston, Texas. Before he fled on The Pride.
Cafe LaFitte in Exile still stands to this day. And over the years has attracted queers from all walks of life. Some who have never quite left. Two in particular were notorious gay authors, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. We will not get into their full stories here as we wish to cover both men at a later time. However, perhaps the tragedies of their lives and deaths is what their souls to the bar. Both men frequented Cafe LaFitte in Exile quite often. Partly for the atmosphere and the gay company, and partly to quench their vice. Both men were alcoholics and would die from the disease. Their alcoholism no doubt was tied to the pressures of being a gay man in mid 1900’s.
A few years before his death, Williams wrote of an incident where he was beaten by a man with whom he had previously had sex. He wrote;
Why do they strike us? What is our offense? We offer them a truth which they cannot bear to confess except in privacy and the dark – a truth which is inherently as bright as the morning sun. He struck me because he did what I did and his friends discovered it. Yes it hurt – inside. I do not know if I will be able to sleep. But tomorrow I suppose the swollen face will be normal again and I will pick up the usual thread of life.
Tennessee Williams would be beaten several times for his homosexuality. The pain and rejection haunted him, and perhaps that is why he cannot let go of this life. On February 25, 1983, Williams was drunk and sedated in a hotel room in New York City. As he went through his nightly routine, Williams laid back to administer himself eyedrops and the lid fell into his throat. Too drunk to stand up, Williams slowly suffocated. He was buried in St. Louis, but his spirit remains at Cafe LaFitte in Exile. A year later it was joined by his friend Truman Capote, who had died from liver disease and alcohol-induced dementia. Capote spent the final year of his life suffering from severe hallucinations and in seclusion. His body was cremated and his soul joined Tennessee.
Today both ghosts are frequently seen at Cafe LaFitte in Exile. Williams reclaims his lone seat at the bar. He can be seen sipping a cocktail, leaning against the wooden post, and staring vacantly into space. Some have suggested he fears he is going insane. A constant theme in Williams life, after he witnessed his sister undergo a botched lobotomy. Capote on the other hand can be seen mingling with patrons on the stairwell. Often striking up a conversation with an unsuspecting individual before abruptly disappearing. Other famous souls are said to frequent the Cafe LaFitte in Exile. But these two men seem eternally tied to the gay bar. Along with them is a mischievous ghost known only by the name Mr. Bubbles. He isn’t so much as seen, but if you feel a sharp pinch on your rear you can bet Mr. Bubbles is behind it.
We now go west to Reno, Nevada and the legend of Timber Kate and Bella Rawhide. The two sex workers had turned their job into a gold mine in the early days of the wild west. While the two women were deeply in love, it would have been dangerous to live openly as a couple. So they found a way around it by putting on a live show of their love making. They performed public sex in saloons up and down the desserts and gold mine towns of Nevada plastering the towns with posters wherever they went. They also did solo acts and continued their sex work as it was one of the few independent jobs a woman could work in those days. Bella in particular was quite beautiful with blonde hair, blue eyes and gorgeous curves. She did an act at the end of the show known as “Eve’s Leaves”. Where she would come out in a small outfit of leaves and remove them one by one with each pinch of gold dust dropped in her bowl. The man who dropped the final – and largest – amount of dust would win Bella for the evening. Kate on the other hand was large, rough and muscular but apparently a great lay in bed.
Though the situation may not have been ideal, the two women were happy and quite well off and settled down for a time in Reno, Nevada. That is until a ruffian by the name of Tug Daniels showed up in town. Daniels was a swindler who saw a chance to horn in on the women’s thriving business. And as is the case with most swindlers, he was also a bit of a charmer. Accounts vary on whether both women were attracted to Daniels or just Bella. It seems unlikely that Kate would have been interested in Tug, though she may have seen him as a good friend. Either way, one day Timber Kate woke up to find that Bella had run off with Daniels. Heartbroken, Kate attempted to go on alone. She didn’t have the seduction skills of Bell and Kate tried her hand at a weight lifting show. But eventually it just dissolved into an odd striptease. No doubt the men made it clear that they didn’t come to watch a woman stronger than them. It might make them too insecure. Kate slipped into a deep depression and might have faded away when she suddenly received notice that Bella needed help.
Surprisingly, a guy named ‘Tug’ wasn’t so trustworthy. After pimping Bella out and using her for all he could, Daniels took the money and skipped town. Leaving Bella all alone in the budding city of Carson City, Nevada. Kate came to her lovers aid reconciling with Bella, and two settled down and took a job at a local saloon named the Beehive. But Kate was constantly paranoid that Bella would leave her again and her worst fears came to light when Tug Daniels showed back up. The story goes that Kate was out for blood after Tug’s betrayal and Daniels was out for more money. The two squared off in the parlor of the Beehive and began to fight. But Tug never played fair, and when he realized he couldn’t beat the strong and furious lesbian he pulled out a knife. Quickly Daniels sliced Kate from “crotch to naval” and fled as she bled out on the floor, gasping and writhing in pain. Devastated by Kate’s death, Bella later drank cleaning fluid and died of poison.
But Tug Daniels was never caught and the ghosts of Kate and Bella still haunt Nevada in search of fiend. People say that for years if anyone tried to take down the posters of Kate and Bella’s show they’d be met with the sharp fist of Timber Kate. Residents of Carson city say you can still see the murdered woman in a bloodied nightgown, floating along the streets in search of Bella. While others claim to see her body, ragged and bleeding, holding the contents of her stomach, and crawling through the streets seeking vengeance on Tug Daniels. And as for Bella Rawhide, her soul is forever trapped in the now dismantled building of the Beehive. Frozen in the moment of time when she lost the woman she loved and betrayed.
Now we hop across the ocean to Slovakia, a small country landlocked in the middle of Eastern Europe. But this tiny kingdom has a long history of nightmares. And most of these come from Erzsebet (Or Elizabeth) Bathory. Raised in the infamous region of Transylvania, Elizabeth came from a home of horrors. In the words of author Ken Summers:
Her uncle was an alchemist and a devil worshipper, her aunt Klara was a witch, as well as a lesbian. Her own brother, Stephen, was labeled a reprobate prone to lechery and drinking binges. He became prince of Transylvania, while Elizabeth enjoyed her own savage youth.
Elizabeth was vain and narcissistic and this compiled with the abuse of her childhood left little hope of her being anything but a monster. At age 11 she was engaged to the Count Ferencz Nadasdy. However, Elizabeth was raped and became pregnant with another man’s child and was locked away until the baby was born. After which, the newborn disappeared and the young bride married her betrothed. The count, was 5 years her senior equally repulsive. Hopefully the illegitimate baby survived and was given to a good home. Either way, even death would have been better than being raised by Elizabeth and Ferencz.
The Countess was given her own castle and with her husband often away in other parts of the world, she took up her own lovers as well. Elizabeth had no specific tastes when it came to bed fellows. She was a beautiful woman and she wanted beautiful people. Her long list of lovers included both men and women and anyone who identified in between. She once ran off with a wizard for a few months, but no one could ever tell if the wizard was a woman or a man. And if it was nothing more than sex we would be discussing the Countess Bathory (she retained her own last name even in 1575 because she claimed it was more legendary than her husbands). However, Elizabeth had a very dark and sadistic streak which eventually turned cruel and deadly.
The countess loved women in many forms. But she especially loved to dominate and torture them. Initially it was simply a form of discipline for her servants, which was common at the time. But soon Elizabeth found that she liked the torture too much. On one occasion she forced a disobedient, female slave to stand outside naked in the middle of winter and doused the woman in water until she froze. During the summer sometimes Elizabeth would cover her servants in honey, tie them to trees and allow nature to have its way with insects and animals stinging and biting the poor women. And soon the torture turned to means to death. Historians believe this happened around 1585, though the most gruesome stories would not come to light until after Ferencz death in 1604.
After the count has passed, Elizabeth brought her lover Anna Darvulia to live with her at Cachtice Castle. Anna taught Elizabeth more about torture and the countess began to send a carriage drawn by 4 black steeds into town to kidnap girls and bring them back to the castle. There the women were chained to the walls, put in tiny cages along the corridors, beaten mercilessly, and put through every form of torure before eventually the dead bodies were disposed of outside. The amount of victims was quite substantial and therefore noticed, and reported by citizens. But because the young women were peasants, no one paid their disappearance any mind. It is likely that Elizabeth would have continued her murderous spree without hindrance had Anna not died. At this time the countess took a new partner and lover, the widow Ezra Majorova.
The widow convinced Elizabeth that she could get even more beautiful girls if she could lure away wealthy women. So the two conspired and created a fake school of social ethics for high ranking ladies in the region. Somehow the Countess had managed to maintain a respected image among the nobles and they were happy to send their daughters off the Cachtice Castle. Sadly, the naive young women met the same fate as the peasant girls. Being beaten, cut, burned and in some cases even eaten by the monstrous Countess and her followers. For by now, the Countess had acquired a group of individuals who aided her in her quest for torture and death. Some were there by choice, others on fear of death. One individual was a nurse who kept the captive women alive and able to endure more torture.
The murderous reign came crashing down in 1610 when a local priest began to out her to the Lords and Nobles in the community. Finally catching the ear of King Mathias, who was actually quite pleased to have a reason to investigate the countess. King Mathias owed Elizabeth a substantial sum of money which he could not pay. The castle was raided and imperial guards found more than they bargained for when they entered the bloody fortress. There were corpses of rotting bodies everywhere. In some areas of the castle and entire hallway would be covered in blood. Victims still alive were screaming in pain. One officer wrote “We watched in horror as the dogs ran about with parts of the girls in their mouth.”
Over 300 people testified at the trial for the Blood Countess as she was now known. The physical and testimonial evidence was overwhelming, and it was estimated Elizabeth murdered or oversaw the murder of at least 600 women. Yet even though all her co-conspirators were executed, Elizabeth’s title saved her. Instead she was walled up in her room with just enough space for a guard to pass her food and water each day. Four years later she died. Needless to say the castle is haunted. It has since been reduced to shambles and ruins. But to this day at least part of the structure remains, sitting empty of mortal life but possessed by the demons the blood Countess created. Those in the town nearby can hear the screams of the countless victims. Faces and forms are seen in the windows, a heavy mist of death still lingers in the air. They say Elizabeth still roams the dungeon below with the souls of her victims still entrapped.
And that is our story for today. Your recommended resource is Queer Hauntings; True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts by Ken Summers. And if you want to check out the story of Elizabeth Bathory further, we recommend the book Infamous Lady; The True Story of Ersebet Bathory. As for movies, there are not many modern day, english versions available. Though if you like foriegn films you can check out The Countess. Or there’s A LOT of other podcasts devoted to her story.
- Queer Hauntings; True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts by Ken Summers
- Jean LaFitte – https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Laffite
- Truman Capote – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truman_Capote#Last_years
- Indecent Advances; A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall by James Polchin
- Kate and Bella – https://publicism.info/history/ghostland/7.html