Wednesday, 17 Jul 2024
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New Orleans: A Vampire’s Guide

Vampires in New Orleans: All You Need to Know

If you have ever walked the dark, rainy streets of the French Quarter at night, you have witnessed the mysterious and occult side of New Orleans. From voodoo shops selling gris-gris to the old woman in the French Market foretelling your death, the city is shrouded in the supernatural. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of New Orleans’ dark side is its association with vampires.

Excerpts from the Book “In the Footsteps of Dracula”

St Louis Cemetery in New Orleans
St Louis Cemetery in New Orleans. David Yeagley photo.

Like the Spanish Moss that drapes the trees of the nearby bayous, mystery and the occult have surrounded New Orleans since its birth. One fascinating practice that has its roots in vampire folklore is the custom of “sitting up with the dead.” When a family member dies, a relative or close friend stays with the body until it is buried or placed in an above-ground tomb. This tradition dates back to medieval Eastern Europe and is believed to be a way to prevent the deceased from turning into a vampire.

During this vigil, the watcher looks out for signs of paranormal activity, such as a cat jumping over the coffin, a dog growling at it, or a horse shying away. These signs are considered indications of impending vampirism. If such signs appear, steps are taken to prevent the corpse from returning from the dead, including burying it face down at a crossroads or driving a stake through its heart.

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The Casket Girls

Ask any member of the Old Families in New Orleans, and they will tell you that the first vampires to arrive in the city were the Casket Girls. These girls were sent from France as prospective wives for the colonists in the early 1700s. However, rumors and stories suggest that these young girls, bearing their belongings in wooden chests, were actually vampires.

Some believe that these vampire Casket Girls still rise from their casquettes on the third floor of the Ursuline Convent, where they resided until they found husbands. Legends say that they break through the windows and hurricane shutters to feed on the unsuspecting crowds that fill the darkened alleys of the French Quarter.

Le Compte de St. Germain

If there is one person who embodies the allure and danger of vampires, it is Le Compte de Saint Germain. Making his first appearance in the court of Louis XV, Saint Germain captivated aristocrats with tales of his past. Claiming to possess the elixir of life and to be over 6,000 years old, he fascinated those around him.

There are accounts from the time stating that Saint Germain never ate at banquets, only sipping red wine. After some time, he left France and moved to Germany, where he was rumored to have died. However, sightings of him continued throughout Europe even after his supposed death.

In 1903, Jacques Saint Germain, claiming to be a descendant of the Compte, arrived in New Orleans. Known for his charm and companionship with beautiful women, Jacques’ escapades met a gruesome end when a woman leaped from his French Quarter home, claiming he attacked her. When the police investigated, they found bloodstains and bottles filled with human blood. Jacques had escaped, and to this day, his house remains abandoned.

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Anne Rice and the Vampire Chronicles

No discussion of vampires in New Orleans would be complete without mentioning Anne Rice. Born and bred in the city, Rice brought the vampire into the New Age with her novel “Interview with the Vampire” and its subsequent films and books. Her contribution to vampire literature has influenced popular culture, laying the groundwork for franchises like “True Blood” and “Twilight.”

Many of the iconic locations in Rice’s novels and the film adaptation of “Interview with the Vampire” can still be found in New Orleans. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, where Louis de Pointe du Lac was turned into a vampire, is a must-visit for fans. The streets around Jackson Square, covered in mud for the movie, transport you back to the 1860s. The perfectly preserved Gallier House served as inspiration for the vampires’ house, and the Lalaurie House, known for its dark history of torture, is said to be haunted.

Vampiric Events in New Orleans

For those who want to immerse themselves in the vampire culture of New Orleans, various events and organizations cater to this fascination. The New Orleans Vampire Association (NOVA) provides support and structure for the vampire and other-kin subcultures while engaging in charitable outreach. FANGTASIA, an affiliation of musicians and producers, hosts vampire-centric events, and the annual Vampire Ball and Endless Night Festival offer unique experiences for vampire enthusiasts.

Additionally, the Boutique du Vampyre, a moveable feast of vampire and Goth-related items, showcases locally made treasures and books, including “In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide.” And for a taste of the vampire lifestyle, the Pirates Alley Café and Absinthe House is the perfect spot to indulge in the preparation and serving of absinthe.

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New Orleans has truly embraced its vampire legends and the dark allure that surrounds them. Whether you believe in vampires or not, exploring the city’s history and folklore will undoubtedly leave you captivated by its mysterious charm.

Author: Stephen Unger