Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS-- Behind the thick walls of the Old U.S. Mint staffers say there are ghosts.

'We see different kinds of presences all the time, and things that we don't see, doors open,' said Louisiana State Museums spokesman Arthur Smith.

In a remote wing is a truly haunting place, a former federal prison with 30 cells, used during the 1920s and 30s.

'Of course, the biggest federal crime back then was violations of prohibition,' explained Smith. 'We housed bootleggers and rumrunners and bathtub gin makers. ... They didn't fool around.'

'This is pretty foreboding,' said State Museum System Executive Director Mark Tullos. 'I mean it is a feeling of confinement that I've never felt before. This is an amazing experience.'

The 6-feet by 8-foot cells have steel walls and no air conditioning during New Orleans summers. And now a ghost.

'There's a character that comes out in prison stripes by the name of Lonesome Larry, that's what we call him, comes out on the balcony, late evening, early evening, and smokes a cigarette,' said Smith.

Now the cells are never opened to the public because there is lead-based paint and asbestos in the area.

But on Saturday night, you'll get a rare opportunity. You can gaze in on the cells from the windows from the very balcony where Lonesome Larry can sometimes be seen, and at the same time you'll help the Louisiana Museum Foundation.

'This is the most important fundraiser the Louisiana Museum Foundation conducts throughout the year,' said Tullos. 'We're trying to educate people about our history.'

The fundraiser Saturday night includes food from 25 restaurants, music, and an auction. Tickets start at $55.

Call the Louisiana Museum Foundation at 558-0493, or visit their website at

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