The Vampire Legends of New Orleans

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Brian Harrison 

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New Orleans is an eerie place. It’s so Gothic in one sense, so dangerous in another. I have gone on a vampire tour in the French Quarter, so here, I share with you the details. Why? Because being frightened is better when you can share the experience, to release the fanciful fright of the mind, and so purge the imagination of terror by terrorizing the imaginations of others.

The Count St. Germain: "The man who knows everything and who never dies."
The Count St. Germain: “The man who knows everything and who never dies.”

The Count St. Germain and Jacques Saint Germain

Vampire stories stretch back to France in the illustrious 1700s when there was a mysterious man who charmed the courts of Europe. The Comte Saint Germain was a very strange, extraordinary, enigmatical character. He was a master of the piano and the violin, could converse in six different languages, and his skills as a conversationalist were unrivaled (a skill that is, nowadays, a lost art). His wealth was unfathomable: He carried gems around in his clothing, and no one knew how he came into such wealth. No one knew anything about his family, where he came from, or who he was. One of his greatest passions was alchemy and he was believed to have an extraordinary talent for not aging. Maybe it was his vast knowledge of cosmetics and herbs that kept him young.

The philosopher Voltaire called him “the man who knows everything and who never dies.” No one really knew his true age. He looked about 40 in all of his portraits and continued to appear so for over half a century. Although he was charming and engaging and graced the dinner tables of many dukes and kings, no one had ever saw him eat anything. He would only sip his wine, exquisitely, and ramble on about everything from history to chemistry.

Fast forward to New Orleans, Louisiana, and there appears a man by the name of Jacques Saint Germain who fits every description of the Comte above: Around 40 years of age, with heavy money bags, the most fascinating of dinner guests, and still a complete mystery. He would throw lavish parties and invite the elite. Everyone would sit enraptured in the conversation and food, but curiously enough, this Jacques would never eat a morsel, only sip his wine.

But one night he had a lady stay a bit late. Out on his balcony (at the corner of Ursuline and Royal Streets), this Saint Germain grabbed her and tried to bite her neck. She escaped by falling from the balcony and then reported the incident to the police. When the police came to investigate, Jacques Saint Germaine had vanished. They searched his apartment and found tablecloths with large splotches of blood on them. They searched the kitchen, where they found no sign of food or evidence that food had ever been there. All they found where bottles of wine, and after pouring themselves a glass, drinking it, and then spitting it out, they discovered that it was not only wine in those bottles, but wine mixed with human blood.

To this day, this mysterious figure has his own occult following, from theosophists to complete way-out-there mystics. The count was purported to die in the year 1784, although no one saw his death, and some claim to have seen him many years after this date. Nevertheless, he disappeared from court life (I would, too, if I knew that the French Revolution was coming, which some people claim he had foreseen).

New Orleans Cemetery
New Orleans Cemetery | Source

John and Wayne Carter

In terms of murder, New Orleans rates among the highest. It has always been a notorious place for missing persons— that is, it is a place where people just disappear and no one ever knows what happened to them. The blood of the French, Spanish, Indian, African, Creole, and English all mix together here where the mosquito is not so picky. Nor, perhaps, are other creatures.

John and Wayne Carter were brothers. They seemed to be normal in every aspect, had normal labor jobs down by the river and lived on a street in the French Quarter. It was the 1930s during the Depression and times were hard, so a man worked all he could. One day, a girl was reported to have escaped from the Carter brothers’ apartment and run to the authorities. Her wrists were cut— not enough to cause immediate death, but enough to cause her blood to drain slowly over the next several days. The policemen ran to the Carters’ 3rd story apartment and found four other people tied to chairs with their wrists sliced in the same fashion. Some had been there for many days.

The story was that these brothers had abducted these people in order to drink their blood at the end of every day when they came home from work. Police also found about 14 dead bodies. The cops waited for the brothers to return and when they did, it took 7 or 8 of them to hold down the two averaged-sized men.

A few years later, when the Carters were finally executed, their bodies were placed in a New Orleans vault. Cemeteries in New Orleans are quite picturesque: Not only are they more ornate than the rest of the nation’s, but they inter many generations of one family inside one vault. The remains sift down into the bottom of the vault and when it is all rubble, a new body is slid inside. Many years after the Carter brothers’ death when they were placing some other Carter in the family vault, they discovered the vault was completely empty: No John or Wayne. They were gone. To this day, many sightings have occurred in the French Quarter that match the descriptions of these two brothers almost exactly. Years later, an owner of their apartment saw two figures that matched their descriptions outside on the balcony one night, whispering to each other. Both figures jumped off the top of the 3rd story balcony and took off running.

The rumor is that if a vampire drinks of your blood seven nights in a row, then and only then can you become a vampire. Some of those found in the Carter brothers’ apartment had been there over 7 days. One warped fellow named Felipe went on to become a notorious serial killer. And of course, he would do more than just kill his victims; he was believed to drink all 32 of his victims’ blood.

Anne Rice's house, perhaps a model for the abode of the vampire Lestat.
Anne Rice’s house, perhaps a model for the abode of the vampire Lestat. Source

During the colonization of New Orleans, France was having a hard time getting women to go over there. This was mostly due to the fact that the men originally sent were thieves, murderers, and culprits of every type and cast (not to mention Louisiana’s snakes, alligators, mosquitoes, and humidity). Eventually, some women were sent. Some sources say they were nuns, while others say they were prostitutes, but nevertheless, a few of them made it. Many of them snuck off the ship in Mobile, Alabama when they ported there and were told what type of riffraff they would be tricked into marrying if they stayed on board.

These girls had the most interesting luggage, shaped like little coffins. So, to the New Orleans men’s dismay, all that arrived in New Orleans were 300 of these coffin-like suitcases. Some stories say they were empty, some say they contained the undead. These suitcases were reportedly stored in the attic of a convent in the French Quarter where they still sit behind windows that are nailed shut because they have a strange habit of just opening by themselves.

Years later, in 1978, two amateur reporters demanded that the convent’s priest let them in to see these coffins. The priest, of course, denied their entrance, so one night these two men climbed over a wall with their recording equipment and set up their workstation. The next morning, the reporters’ equipment was found strewn about on that street outside, and there on the convent’s front steps were found the almost decapitated bodies of these two men. 80% of their blood was gone. To this day, this unsolved crime baffles investigators.

Such are the stories that were told to me, and the reason it was hard for me to get to sleep. We were also shown certain settings of the movie Interview with a Vampire,based on the vampire books of Anne Rice, which was set in New Orleans.

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