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What happened to the remains of Josie Arlington, the Storyville madam? 

Blake Pontchartrain: The New Orleans N.O. It All

click to enlarge Storyville madam Josie Arlington built this majestic tomb in Metairie Cemetery, but it later was sold to the Morales family.

Photo by Kandace Power Graves

Storyville madam Josie Arlington built this majestic tomb in Metairie Cemetery, but it later was sold to the Morales family.

Hey Blake,

I recently read the book Fear Dat, which mentions Josie Arlington, the Storyville madam. It says she was interred at Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery and after protests, her remains were removed but her mausoleum still stands. It is not mentioned what happened to her remains. Can you help?

William

Dear William,

  Josie Arlington's former tomb remains one of the highlights of any tour of Metairie Cemetery, which is remarkable when you consider the list of high-profile New Orleanians buried there.

  Born Mamie or Mary Deubler in 1864, Arlington took her working name from a popular saloon in Storyville. She also named her four-story brothel on Basin Street the Arlington. It was one of the most ornate and successful establishments of the red-light district during Storyville's heyday (1897-1917).

  In her book The Haunting of Louisiana, author Barbara Sillery says Arlington purchased a $2,000 plot in Metairie Cemetery and built an elaborate tomb, desiring to be buried among the social elite of the city. Made of polished red marble, the tomb features a life-size bronze statue of a woman standing outside its large copper doors.

  Soon after Arlington died in 1914, there were tales of a red glow coming from her tomb at night. A flashing beacon from the nearby New Basin Canal was one explanation, but it didn't quell rumors of Arlington's afterlife appearances. There also were reports that the female statue was seen walking the cemetery grounds at night.

  Whether Arlington's remains were moved because of protests or fear is still a question. One explanation centers on the fact that her heirs sold the tomb to pay off debts. It was purchased by the Morales family, whose names now are etched onto the tomb. Arlington was moved to an undisclosed location at the cemetery — possibly a "receiving vault" where unclaimed or relocated remains are kept. The exact spot is said to be one of Metairie Cemetery's most closely guarded secrets.

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