Surely there were some who speculated last night when the Super Bowl experienced a 37-minute power outage that it was the spell from the old Girod Street Cemetery striking once again. It was undoubtedly one of the oddest occurrences in the Super Bowl’s 47-year history.
While the NFL and the city of New Orleans still try to figure out exactly why half of the Mercedes Benz Superdome fell into darkness — with the lights on one-half of the Superdome’s roof suddenly blanking out, the Internet connections in the press box being cut and the scoreboards going dark — old timers in New Orleans had their own ideas about what happened.
They had no use for the official explanation released by the local power utility, Entergy, and the company that runs the Superdome, SMG:
“A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system. Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue. Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed.”
That technical mumbo-jumbo might have sufficed for some, but those in the know remember what used to sit near the Dome. The Girod Cemetery was extremely unusual because it was aboveground. It had rows of wall vaults and tombs that in some places rose seven or eight tiers into the sky — 2,319 wall vaults and approximately 1,100 tombs.
The cemetery was once segregated and was sectioned off into “society tombs,” some of which were even managed by societies of slaves, such as the First African Baptist Association, the Home Missionary Benevolent Society, and the Male and Female Lutheran Benevolent Society. It was used steadily in the 1800s, but by the 1900s it had fallen into disrepair. Eventually in January 1957, it was deconsecrated. The bodies were moved over the next several months. Because it was still the segregated South, the white bodies were moved to Hope Mausoleum and African-Americans to Providence Memorial Park.
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While many New Orleans natives say that the Superdome was not built on top of the cemetery site, others say it’s close enough for the Dome to be under the curse of the cemetery. It appears that the New Orleans Centre shopping mall and the Superdome’s southeast parking garage were built on top of the cemetery.
The many years of dismal football played by the Saints were blamed on the Girod Street Cemetery by many old-timers. And those whispers certainly weren’t quieted when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005 and the Superdome was the scene of so much death and despair as 1,833 people lost their lives in New Orleans.
Mercedes Benz came along and added a bright and ritzy veneer to the Dome — but the location remains the same.
So in the eyes of many, the power outage last night was just the latest blow struck by the Girod Street Cemetery.
What will Girod do next?