Finding the Vampires of New Orleans

By Marita Woywod Crandle | Arcadia Author

Author Marita Woywod Crandle has always loved a good scary story, and she’s found no shortage of them living in New Orleans, Louisiana. In her book New Orleans Vampires: History and Legend, Crandle explores some of the oldest legends of vampires in the French Quarter, and how they’ve lived on into today. Check out an excerpt from her book below!

Fog rolls over the slates on the square just in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. Spilling onto the wrought-iron benches, the mist thickens while the sound of hooves clip the pavement, the mule leading its buggy into the distance. There’s a reason Walt Disney fashioned his Magic Kingdom after the French Quarter in New Orleans. From the haunting buildings with Spanish lace balconies to the paddleboats floating down the Mississippi, from its bustling days with artists and musicians entertaining tourists on streets and in alleyways, to its mystical nights with lovers dining in romantic restaurants and jazz from nightclubs flooding the streets, New Orleans has a magic you can find nowhere else. Perhaps that’s why magical beings are so drawn to the city. In addition to the romantic balconies, the music, the art, the rich history of brothels and pirates and its flourishing ports, there is also a mystical draw to the city with a darker side.
 
Witchcraft, voodoo and even vampirism have found their place in the French Quarter. There are several voodoo shops, some touristy, some authentic, offering guidance in the religion. There are witchcraft shops selling spells, potions and insight on the pagan religion and culture, and the only vampire shop in the country also found its home in the very heart of the French Quarter.
 
While voodoo and paganism are true religions, vampires, on the other hand, are mythical creatures that somehow draw those with a taste for the unknown. Vampires have a remarkable history. Tracing back to Egyptian hieroglyphics, most cultures have their own version of a creature that sustains itself on human blood, a creature that draws one in, hypnotizing its victims and even promising eternal life to a select few. Super powers have been thought to give a vampire extraordinary speed and strength and possibly even the ability to fly and shift into bats, wolves and even fog, creating an allure around this creature that is enticing and even desirable.

The Boutique du Vampyre street sign at 709 ½ St. Ann.
The Boutique du Vampyre street sign at 709 ½ St. Ann. Reprinted from New Orleans Vampires by Marita Woywod Crandle, courtesy of the author (pg. 18, The History Press, 2017).
 
When I first stepped foot in the French Quarter, I was not only mesmerized by the sensory overload the city offered, but I also knew I was home. The pull to the city was unexplainable to even myself. I was spellbound, and like so many others, once I left, my heart ached to return. Maybe the pull that was tearing at my heartstrings was in fact the curse of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, instilling her all-consuming spell. As I walked through the streets, falling deeper and deeper under the spell, I imagined myself living here. All that was left was to devise a plan for my life in this magical place.
 
Anne Rice brought such wonderful attention to New Orleans with The Vampire Chronicles series. I could immediately imagine her characters roaming the streets. I became intrigued with the news of a vampire tour on a pamphlet I picked up on a counter somewhere. Engaged in the tour, I followed the guide and listened to the legends of the vampires of the French Quarter, and it was at that moment that I imagined the success of a vampire-themed shop tucked away on one of the streets. A place where tourists could indulge in the mystery of the species. This crazy little city, in my mind, was probably the only place a shop such as this could survive.
 
I also found, just shortly after moving to the Quarter, that people migrate to the city to become whoever it is they really want to be. Many who move to the Quarter drop their given names and create an identity more suited to their liking and desires. Those with a love for the nocturnal become fortune tellers, bartenders and tour guides, who in turn become vampire celebrities. It’s the closest to living the life of a vampire that I could ever imagine.

An eerie foggy morning in Jackson Square.
An eerie foggy morning in Jackson Square. Reprinted from New Orleans Vampires by Marita Woywod Crandle, courtesy of Mark Bennett (pg. 18, The History Press, 2017).
 
Having owned Boutique du Vampyre for over fourteen years now, I have been privy to varying beliefs of a tremendous amount of people from all walks of life, including vampire identifiers, vampire aficionados, those who simply adore the creatures and those who just find the shop too enticing to walk by without taking a look. Among all these visitors, I have come to the conclusion that almost everyone has some level of curiosity about the vampire. That, combined with Anne Rice’s popular vampires highlighting New Orleans as a vampire mecca, builds on visitors’ curiosity of why New Orleans has become synonymous with vampires.
 
The vampire tours highlight three legends in the French Quarter of people who either thought themselves to be vampires or, due to their suspicious behavior, those the city branded as vampires. Three stories, one from the 1700s, and two from the early 1900s, all permeate twelve mysterious square blocks. I personally have done a tremendous amount of research on all three legends, with the majority of the factual accounts being slim to none. However, the very definition of a legend is a story that is believed by many but cannot be proven. Many legends have some factuality behind them, such as Vlad the Impaler from Romania as the foundation for Bram Stoker’s character Dracula. While my research proved thin, the legends and lore of French Quarter vampires remain.
 
In this book I will provide accounts of these legends in a way one would hope they be revealed, as campfire vampire lore. What you choose to believe or disbelieve will be left for you to discern. But for now, walk with me through the streets of the Quarter, reliving the tales of the creatures who roamed the nights. Let your imagination run wild, and in the end, you may find yourself gazing upon the sites where these legends were born with a taste for the mystery.
 
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