Not that long ago, when someone said the words "Halloween haunted house" in New Orleans, chances are the conversation included Orleans Parish Sheriff Charles Foti's large display in City Park or the one staged by the Chinchuba Institute on the West Bank.
Chinchuba, a school on Barataria Boulevard in Marrero, was the site of one of the most popular local haunted houses. The Halloween project was a major fundraiser for the school, whose history stretches back 100 years. The Chinchuba Institute for the Deaf staged the annual haunted house on its school grounds from 1988 until 2008.
Chinchuba, whose name comes from the Choctaw word for alligator, opened in the 1890s in a rural area of northern Mandeville. The school operated there until a fire destroyed the property in 1934.
For many years, the institute was the only private facility of its kind to teach deaf, mute and hearing-impaired children from birth through age 16. It was run for many years by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the same nuns who opened St. Michael Special School in New Orleans in 1965.
Chinchuba moved to the West Bank in 1940, near Hope Haven and Madonna Manor, two other children's facilities operated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The school was operated with help from Catholic Charities and other nonprofit agencies until 1988, when a private group took over. Facing financial challenges and a changing education system for children with special needs, the school closed in 2010, ending more than a century of service to local children but leaving behind some special memories of a local Halloween tradition.