Search as one will, no written records are to be found of the ghastly secret of the old Le Pretre mansion on Bourbon Street.
There is a good reason to believe that New Orleans authorities decided it would be advisable to destroy the reports both of the police and Harbormaster Armand Ravenal following the discovery of the several headless bodies. Nevertheless, the story which quickly sped throughout the French Quarter is well known to many present day residents, especially to Robert Pretre, the prosperous Creole merchant in whose home the multiple murders took place.
Late one November evening in 1872, M’sieu Le Petre received a strange unexpected visitor in his house. The foreign looking visitor with a luxuriant black moustache wearing European clothes and a red fez adorned with a black tassel introduced himself as Hamid Pasha and stated his business in halting French.
He explained that he had been sent by an unnamed Turkish personage who wished to sojourn in New Orleans for an indefinite period. He was sent in advance to seek a suitable residence for the anonymous personage and his entourage. The Le Pretre mansion fulfilled the requirements satisfactorily, and therefore the M’sieu would have to vacate the place for a period of six months for a generous rental fee.
Not a person who would reject any opportunity to make money, Le Pretre was interested indeed. The deal was closed and Hamid Pasha immediately paid an amount three times greater than Le Pretre’s asking price.
The owner and his family promptly departed on a long visit to relatives in Paris.
Weeks later, a mysterious ship flying a flag with a star and a crescent docked on the Mississippi harbor of New Orleans. Muted drum rolls could be heard marking every half hour of the watch.
Curious spectators on the waterfront speculated that it belonged to a Turkish merchantman, judging by the ship’s design, flag, and drum rolls heard instead of clanging bells.
On the first day of docking, no sign of activity was seen except for the occasional appearance of a sailor upon her deck. Late in the afternoon Hamid Pasha went aboard.
That night, the Turkish ship stirred to life. Hamid Pasha was seen talking with a plumpish man in oriental garb. There were young, finely shaped female figures clad in flimsy pantaloons and open bolero vestees seen gracefully moving about the deck. In the brilliant moonlight, golden earrings, bracelets on wrists and ankles, and jeweled rings and necklaces glistened.