What is the Mysterious Connection Between New Orleans, Vampires, and the Ursuline Nuns?
In my latest novel, Sex, Blood, Rock 'N' Roll, and Vampyr, all hell breaks loose when vampire Nadia goes on a vampire tour in New Orleans. In chapter seven titled Myths, Legends, and Real Vampires, she is offended that vampires are portrayed as evil by the tour guide and calls him out on it.
People often ask me if it's true that New Orleans has vampire tours. The answer is yes. Why would vampire and paranormal tours be unusual in a city that has so much haunted history? If you visit our magical city, you should plan one. They are walking tours that begin after dark and take you to various landmarks giving you the history of each one. They are entertaining and fun, but are they factual? Well! I'll let you decide.
Among the morbid tales, you are sure to hear the story of the notorious Carter Brothers. In the 1930s, John and Wayne Carter worked as longshoremen on the Mississippi River. One evening, before the brothers returned home from work, a young girl escaped from their French Quarter apartment and ran to the police. Her wrists were cut but not severely enough for her to bleed to death. She claimed she had been locked up for weeks and the brothers had been feeding on her blood. The police immediately investigated and found four other young women tied to chairs with their wrists cut. Over a dozen dead bodies turned up in the apartment drained of their blood. The brothers were arrested, tried, and executed for their crimes with their remains interred in the family tomb. Later, when another Carter family member passed away, the tomb was opened to make room for his remains, but there were no remnants of John or Wayne in the grave to clear. To this day, there have been reports of sightings of the brothers wandering the French Quarter.
One of the most famous stories is the legend of the casket girls and the Ursuline convent. The old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street is the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley. The building no longer functions as a convent. The first floor is a museum; the second floor is the home of the Archdiocesan archives dating back to 1718. But what's on the third floor behind those mysterious shutters that are always tightly secured? Nobody seems to know the answer to that question, but there are speculations.
The Ursuline nuns were sent to New Orleans from France in 1725 to establish a hospital and educate the young girls. Most of the early settlers were pirates, scoundrels, murderers, and thieves; prisoners who had been exiled from France and promised if they reformed in Louisiana, they could return to France. The men outnumbered the women five to one, so, in 1727 the city's founder, Jean Baptiste LeMoyne Bienville, sent two nuns back to France to ask the king to send over marriageable young women. In 1728, a group of orphans arrived to marry the colonists and populate the swamp called La Nouvelle Orléans.
When the girls arrived, they each brought with them one wooden chest shaped like a coffin which held their clothes, linens, and sometimes a bridal gown. Since their eccentric luggage looked like caskets, they became known as the casket girls. The girls were brought to the Ursuline convent to live among the nuns until they were married.
After the arrival of the fille à la cassette, nobody could explain why the mortality rate drastically increased. Suspicion mounted when the girls later opened their chests, and they were found empty. Fear of what the girls may have smuggled into La Nouvelle Orléans prompted the nuns to contact the Archdiocese. When people started dying in large numbers, and the vampires were figured out, the caskets were transferred by day to the convent attic. As a result of an investigation by the Archdiocese, the convent attic was sealed off; the doors nailed shut and the attic shutters sealed with thousands of nails; each one blessed by the pope.
Legend has it the caskets were used to smuggle vampires into La Nouvelle Orléans. They remain sealed in the attic to this day, and that is the reason why the attic shutters are always tightly closed. No one can explain why occasionally, late at night, someone will see them suddenly fly open followed by a mist escaping from the cracks.
In 1978, two curious paranormal investigators set up a camera in front of the convent and waited through the night for paranormal activity. Sometime during the night, the camera stopped filming. The next day, they were both found dead on the steps of St. Mary's Catholic Church next to the convent with their throats torn open and their bodies drained of eighty percent of their blood.
Now legends have been passed down my word of mouth, but this alleged crime that supposedly occurred forty years ago is something we should be able to find proof of, so it leads to the question. Is it fact or fiction? It may be challenging to verify something reported to have happened almost three hundred years ago, but it seems if this murder occurred in 1978, it should have been a major news story.
I was curious to see if there were any news reports to corroborate this tale. I started digging for information, but my investigation turned up nothing. The only stories I could find about it were related to the vampire legend. It seems if this murder happened, there would be something about it in the news archives, but so far nothing has surfaced. There doesn't seem to be anything to validate it so unless there's a special paranormal division of the New Orleans police department we don't know about, I have to assume it's either false or an exaggeration of another murder that happened around the same time, but what do I know?
Another reason for doubt is there are many variations of this tale, including stories that the girls themselves were vampires. If you tour the Ursuline Convent museum, the story they tell is when the girls arrived, they were pale and gaunt after spending six months at sea mostly below deck, and some of them had tuberculosis that caused them to cough up blood explaining the vampire connection. That could be, but, on the other hand, why are those shutters always tightly closed? Is it possible that something evil lurks in that attic? Are they keeping something locked in, or out?
So that brings us to the question; are the vampire legends fact or fabricated? Legends are legends so let's just say nobody knows. Whether they are true or not, I still recommend going on a vampire tour in New Orleans. Real or made up, they're always fun, but don't be surprised if a real vampire shows up and protests.
K. M. McFarland is a vampire paranormal romance author in New Orleans. She enjoys hanging out in the French Quarter researching her books as much as she loves writing them.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
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