The Pelican Ghost

The great literatus — journalist, translator, critic, novelist and connoisseur of curiosities — Lafcadio Hearn recounts the tale of the pelican ghost:

“There used to be a Pelican in the neighborhood of Jackson Square. We used to attach considerable interest to that bird. It seemed to us like one of the sacred geese at the Capitol must have seemed to the old Romans. The destiny of the city seemed somehow connected with it. It enjoyed universal respect. Even the wicked little Creole boys refrained from tormenting it. Yet one day it mysteriously disappeared.

“We never knew whom it belonged to, and never discovered exactly what exactly had become of it. A friend hinted that it was really a sort of guardian genius, and had left the State in disgust, owing to the corruption of politics. But it would seem that it simply went the way of all flesh; for an aged man who haunts the Passage de Saint-Antoine declares that he sees its ghost sometimes of clear nights, perched upon the head of Gen. Jackson. He knows it is a ghost, because the stars shine through it.

“And the bird says–according to the ancient– something to the following effect, shortly before the midnight hour — ‘I was a Symbol. I am still a Symbol in my ghostliness. I betoken the old-fashioned life of the Pelican State that is passing away. I represent the quaintness that is dying out, and the antiquated thing that shall soon become as ghostly as myself. The old city is becoming Americanized; and I am glad that I am dead.’” — Friday 19 November 1880

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