French Quarter Phantoms

The Charbonnet Labat's Unusual Wakes

The Charbonnet Labat's Unusual Wakes

The Charbonnet Labat is a funeral home in New Orleans known for their very strange alternative to wakes. Located in the Treme district, this funeral home will embalm and pose the dead in a way that reflects their personalities and interests from when they were living. For example, a recent funeral had a young boy who died posed playing video games in his favorite armchair. He was surrounded by the snacks he would eat during a long gaming session, and wearing a Boston Celtics jersey for his favorite team. Although these funerals may seem odd or gruesome to some people, for those that choose them for their loved ones, they are very cathartic.

Although Charbonnet Labat offers traditional wakes and funeral services, it's their ability to put together these more unusual services that draws clients in. Some other examples of unusual funerals include a socialite who was posed in a theater with a glass of champagne in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and a local brass brand drummer leaning against a street corner holding his beloved wristwatch. These celebrations are unique in many ways, but for many people, they feel particularly special because they are able to capture the essence of how the person was in real life.

The funeral home received publicity from the New York Times in 2014, which spawned requests for these non-traditional funerals from people around the world. The concept has really struck a chord with many people, who have contacted the funeral home asking to be posed in certain situations or positions to reflect their personalities. Family members and friends find it an easier way to accept that their loved one has passed and say goodbye to them.

While traditionalists out there worry that these wakes are sacrilegious or inappropriate, they seem to fit with New Orleans' particular knack for turning a funeral into a party. Charbonnet Labat is already well known for throwing extravagant parties with music and dancing for their clients, and local priests have supported the idea. As it becomes more popular, we can expect to see even more unusual and exciting wakes to celebrate people who were just as unique.