It still stands on the Esplanade end of Decatur st, only a shadow now of the majestic dynasty that it once portrayed. The “Casa do Diablo” once owned by Alberto De Leonne, head of one of the most powerful mercantile families of the old Port of New Orleans. The home is a three story french style improvement with a lovely courtyard that had been stocked with exotic seedlings. The courtyard would become a haven for DeLeonne and his lovely bride, spending many evenings under the tropical foliage that had been designed for him by Jacques FelixLelievre, a reknowned landsacaper of that era. A large lime tree stood as the centerpiece of the courtyard, DeLeonne had seen to having one shipped in from an exotic island off the Cuban coast, it’s purpose was to remind him from where he had come.
DeLeonne immigrated to New Orleans in the 1830’s and worked his way up from a being a clerk at the Port into having one of the largest and most well respected mercantile companies in the area. Once DeLeonne had become successful, he decided to wed and build a home and family in the French Quarters of New Orleans. DeLeonne would marry a beautiful creole lass, but by marrying he not only acquired a dowry, a shady brother-in-law came with the package. Though DeLeonne did not care for Ramon, he appeased the family of his new bride and assigned menial responsibilities within his estate to him in order for him to be gainfully employed. Ramon, now with frequent coin in his pocket would wander the streets of the French Quarters drunken on rum. He had rightfully earned the reputation of a trouble maker as he was typically found in the midst of it. For and amongst this reason, Deleonne was heartbroken to give the responsibility of maintaining the courtyard to Ramon, as his wife had so requested.
As time passed, DeLeonne would father several children as well as expand his business. As his responsibilities grew, he was unable to keep an eye on Ramon who’s habits had completely overtaken him. Ramon had even sunken to frequently visiting the “Green Fairy” and had also become addicted to both absinthe and laudanum. Though Ramon was incoherent most of the time, he managed to maintain the courtyard as he had become obsessed with it. According to legend it was on one of these drug laden evenings that Ramon stumbled upon members of a secret vodoun sosyete in the midst of a black magic ritual where on of the vodusi men held up two fingers of his left hand and spat a curse at him through them; this is where his legend begins.
Ramon began to neglect his duties and began to sleep through the day, becoming mostly nocturnal in his lucid hours. In the evenings when he arose he would eat his only meal of the day before going out into the courtyard to maintain the foliage, the only responsibility that he had not let lapse. After his work was done he would wander from the DeLeonne house and into the French Quarters only to return home by dawn full of absinthe and screaming of terrors that had nipped at his heels all of the way home. Soon after a night came where Ramon failed to show up for his nightly meal. DeLeonne went into the garden to look for him and found him lying dead at the roots of the lime tree that he had so obsessively cared for, DeLeonne was heartbroken, he decided to have Ramon buried beneath the roots of the tree that he had loved so dearly.
As the servants began to dig at the base of the tree, screaming could be heard all about the courtyard. DeLeonne came funning to find that the servants were uncovering decomposing body parts. Legs, feet, heads and torsos were beginning to pile onto the courtyard grounds. DeLeonne fell to his knees at the sight of it as now it had become apparent why Ramon would work in the garden all night long.
DeLeonne had called the authorities in to remove the bodies and file a report, in the mean while he would have Ramon buried in his family plot in St. Louis No. 1. As Ramon’s body was put the rest, the official report was released to DeLeonne. The report stated that all of the body parts had been drained of blood. DeLeonne’s household was now in a full uproar, his servants and slaves were near the point of riot as their master had been housing the “Devil bloodsucker” under the same roof.
After several weeks had passed, the French Quarters had begun to settle. Locals were taking Ramon’s addictions into consideration for his behavior and things were beginning to normalize once more, everyone except the servants and slaves that remained in the employ of DeLeonne after the incident. His staff seemed nervous and uneasy as the went about their chores, fear could be seen in the eyes of many of them. Something had recently caused several of the staff to fall ill, two had passed away. This fear could be seen most obviously in the eyes of the gardener that had been assigned Ramon’s task of maintaining the gardens. The man would work quickly if at all, and only in the light of the day. Most staff would not enter the garden and the slaves would have to be beaten into submission.
DeLeonne soon became tired of the rumors, he would pull each member of the staff aside and ask what the root of their fear concerning the garden was. Each time the answer was the same; The servants and staff alike confessed that they feared Ramon had not died and that he ahd returned to the garden where he would be able to prey upon or even kill them. DeLeonn was irritated by the uneducated ramblings of his staff, he decided to put the rumors to an end and spend the night in the garden himself to disprove their irrational theories.
DeLeoon gathered some books, a blanket and a lantern and despite the pleading from his wife and children, he set out to spend the night in the courtyard. All was well as DeLeonne wrapped himself in his blanket to ward off the winter’s chill as he read by the light of his lantern. Sometime after midnight he began to feel that he was no longer alone in the garden, DeLeonne saw a shadow just out of the range of his feeble lantern as it passed through the banana trees. He stared into the darkness but saw nothing afterwards and began to read again. As soon as he settled he began to hear shuffling and scraping coming from behind him. He lifted his lantern and walked toward the noise. He searched but found nothing so turned to make his way back to his books. As the light of the lantern shined onto the roots of his prized lime tree, DeLeonne realized that something wasn’t right; the ground was moving, in fact rolling in lumps amongst the roots of the lime tree. DeLeonne leaned closer with his lantern to be horrified at the sight beneath him. There is the composting soil was Ramon, slithering through the soil and staring back at him with glowing red eyes. Before DeLeonne could run for the horrid sight, the creature was upon him, slashing him with his claws and tearing at him with his newly fanged teeth. He fought with all of his might as Ramon began to drain him of his blood. Just then he remembered having placed a revolver in his vest as an afterthought. He reached into his vest, drew the revolver and fired. The beast released him as the sound from the gun had startled it, but only momentarily. The beast lunged again onto him as the bullet had no affect on him. He would not release DeLeonne until the sound of the staff’s feet approached. The beast immediately released DeLeonne as the glow of lanterns approached, he quickly slithered back into the soil beneath the roots of the mighty lime tree. It was DeLeonnes’ son Charles that found his lifeless body, as he lifted his father to bring him inside he saw a set of red eyes glowing up at him from beneath the roots of the lime tree. He called out for help, several of the men ran to assist as they roped the beast and held him down. One brave black man by the name of Sadugh who was larger than the rest of them, ran quickly to retrieve a sharp object, he returned quickly with a large hewn piece of metal that resembled a spike. Sadugh began to speak in heavy African dialect while another translated: “He say turn him over” the translator ordered. The men struggled with the writhing beast and could not overcome him until Sadugh joined in and pinned the beast face down into the ground. Sadugh spoke again, “He say dig!” The translator shouted. Everyone including Charles, dug frantically unitl Sadugh gave the signal to stop, he then stood over the beast and drove the large metal spike into him with full force. Ramon writhed in pain hissing and gurgling as blood spewed from his body. The men would stand watch over him until the sun rose when they would fill the hole beneath the lime tree where Ramon’s remnants lay spiked into the earth.
Days later, Charles ordered the tree cut down and burned, he removed one healthy branch and placed inside his Father’s crypt before sealing it. DeLeonne no rests in his family plot in St. Louis No. 1 with his wife and children.
Locals claim that the courtyard still exists and that the remnants of the once majestic lime tree is market by a greying stump, if you look closely into the intertwining roots, you can just see the rusted metal spike protruding from the soil beneath. It is said that when the moon is full and the thick mist of the Mississippi fill the streets of the French Quarter, Ramon can be heard from beneath the ground swearing that he is indeed the devil and that he wants for someone to remove the spike and free him so that he may walk amongst us once more.