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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Casket Girls and Vampires

I’m always late to the party, both literally and figuratively, and I don’t mean fashionably late. (We won’t get into my tendency to be tardy for most everything. Otherwise, my hubby will hijack the comments.) The most recent example of my lateness is my obsession with HBO’s True Blood.

If you haven’t seen it, the show has vampires, werewolves, fairies, shapeshifters, and some kind of priestess who wore a metal bull’s head, ran funny, and thought she was marrying a bull. Shh…she was a little off her rocker. I watched three seasons in about as many weeks, and now I’m a disgruntled Charter Communications costumer because they took Season 4 off OnDemand only two weeks after the season finale. What the hey?

One of the things I like best about True Blood is the setting. Louisiana is the perfect spot for a thriving vampire community, and although the show doesn’t take place in New Orleans where it is rumored vampires first came to America, it’s still a good choice. Earlier in the year I ran two blogs on the early history of Louisiana, and I promised to write more about Casket Girls, nuns, and vampires. (This sounds like one of those SAT test questions. Which word doesn't belong?) So, here it is folks.

And as an added bonus, anyone who leaves a comment today with their email address will be entered into a drawing to win Lydia Dare’s In the Heat of the Bite from her Gentleman Vampyre Series.

Hot regency vampires! I’ve been glamoured!

I won’t rehash the early history of Louisiana except to say the French had a difficult time settling the area. (If you are interested, you can read Early New Orleans History Part Un and Early New Orleans History Part Dos.) Some of France's efforts involved “recruiting” people off the streets, such as beggars and prostitutes, and later releasing prisoners and shipping them to New France. It wasn’t exactly a successful venture, because most were not cut out for the harsh realities of settlement life.

Women, in particular, had a hard time surviving, and there just weren’t enough females to go around. France made another attempt to increase the population and make the fellas happy. They asked for reputable female volunteers of marriageable age to come to the colony.

These girls mostly came from orphanages in France, so their future prospects in their home country were not good. As an incentive, each volunteer was given a trousseau with clothing and items needed to set up a household then shipped across the ocean. The girls’ trousseaus were placed in cassettes, which some people said looked like caskets and apparently sounded pretty close to that to the untrained ear.

Just like in any small town, the outsiders drew attention. Who were these pale, thin girls, and why were they traveling with caskets? Well, wasn’t it obvious? They were vampire smugglers.

The Casket Girls, as they became to be known, resided with the Ursuline Sisters in the convent while they awaited a marriage match. (The Ursaline Sisters were the first Catholic nuns to arrive in New Orleans in 1727. Their order was founded in Italy in the 1500s primarily to educate girls and care for the sick. In New Orleans, they established a school for girls and educated African American and Native American girls as well as white Creole. The Casket Girls arrived about a year later.)

Legend has it the girls’ caskets were kept in the attic, but when someone went to retrieve them later, the caskets were empty, which proves beyond a doubt the girls carried vampires, right?

If you visit New Orleans today, you can take haunted house, ghost, and vampire tours. I didn’t know about these tours when I visited, but I’m not sure I would have gone anyway. I'm not the haunted house type. Ghosts freak me out!

What are your feelings about things that go bump in the night? Are you easily scared? Do you love haunted houses? Do you have a favorite scary creature?

Don't forget to leave a comment, even if all you say is you want to be entered into the drawing for Lydia Dare's book. And include your email address so I can contact you if you win!


  1. The hubs and I did the exact same thing with True Blood! And Dexter, come to think of it. How can you not love Jason Stackhouse? And Jess? And Lafayette?! And those are just the secondary characters!

  2. I love the books, but they are so different from the show that I couldn't get into True Blood. Shhh. Don't tell Ava or Jerrica! ;D
    I spook very easily, I hate haunted houses, scary movies and when my husband thinks he's funny and grabs me from behind when I am concentrating on something else. The movie Gremlins scares me! On the other hand, I have a SM fascination with reading about scary things. I loooove paranormal novels, and articles about scary things, like hauntings or the history of Vlad the Impaler. Boy, let me tell you, THAT was a man in desperate need of a nice cup of herbal tea.

  3. Jessica,

    You just named my favorite characters. I love them! I would add Pam to the list, too. Her sarcasm cracks me up.

    Do you want to be part of the drawing? Let me know your email if you want to be included.

  4. Olivia,

    I never read the books, and that sounds like a good thing, because I would hate to have the show ruined. :)

    We are so alike. I hate to be scared! (I think it might have something to do with me being a bit of a control freak.)

    I forgot to mention I love Dexter, too!

  5. I have never read or watched True Blood. Nor have I watched (or read? Is it a book, too?) Vampire Diaries. I know, I know. It's a crime. A travesty, and all that. Sorry, but as referenced in some of my previous blogs here, I have a tendency to get so caught up in these things that I forget to do anything else, like even the most mundane things like showering or eating. It is better for all of us, and especially the people who have to see me every day, if I don't get involved. LOL.

  6. Agggh! No vampire Diaries?! Next time I see you, I might have to tie you up and make you watch the past three seasons a la Clockwork Orange. A travesty is right! ;P

  7. Catherine,

    Look into my eyes. You vant to vatch zee vampire showz. You love zee vampires. Showering iz for zee dirty. ;D

    Does the comment section look all wonky to anyone else? Blogger is up to it's tricks again.

  8. That's a super creepy story ... leave it to the French ...

    I wonder why the Vampires wanted to go to the New World anyway? Half of it was still open - not much cover from sun. But maybe the lack of authority was an incentive? Not sure, but now I'm thinking about it.

    Ammy Belle
    apereiraorama @ gmail . com

  9. For the record, Olivia, I do *not* like TB. Way too gory for me! I like my vampires CW-style :)

    Such a fun post, Samantha! I love, love, love spooky stuff! I love being in haunted places, and I love the idea that maybe, just maybe, vampires existed or still exist now. I'm into witches, too, which is a little more realistic. If I weren't so lazy, I would have studied and practiced witchcraft more (white magic, of course!)...but I'm happy to just watch it on TV (Secret Circle, anyone???) or in the movies (The Craft, anyone???)

    Great post! :)

  10. i love vampire movies and books.
    please enter me in the giveaway :)


  11. I'm with you. I can't do anything scary. The Twilight Zone and Creature Feature gave me nightmares.


  12. Ammy,

    Great question! But you know, disease was rampant in the New World, and people went missing without a trace. It would easy to blame deaths on disease and disappearances on Native American attacks or alligators. The Europeans were on to them and hunted them. They wouldn't have faced the same dangers here.

    Wouldn't this make a great story? Samantha :)

  13. Jerrica,

    I think the excitement of possibilities is what makes writing so fun!

    A witch, huh? I picture you as Glenda from Wizard of Oz. Definitely a good witch. :)


  14. Regina,

    Thanks for stopping by today. I'll add your name to the drawing. We will happily feed your love for vampires! :)


  15. I will never be a fan of scary, but I LOVE Lydia Dare's books. I have read every last one, and they veer much more towards sexy than scary :). I do like Halloween, but then, when else could I get away with wearing my Victorian Steampunk gown??

  16. Ella,

    I think I was traumatized by those darn flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz when I was young. I haven't liked scary things since then.

    One of the scariest movies I saw as an adult was The Blaire Witch Project. I wouldn't go into the basement for a couple of weeks because I was terrified of seeing someone standing in the corner. That's not a good thing when the washer and dryer are in the basement. :D


  17. Erin,

    I agree. Love Lydia's vampires! And I like Halloween, too. But I won't go to a Halloween haunted house, because I always think, "What if some maniac is pretending to work in the haunted house and really goes on a rampage?" LOL. My imagination is dangerous!


  18. First of all, I'm obsessed with True Blood! I also came late to the party. I watched my first episode on, beleive it or not, Halloween night two years ago. They were having a True Blood Marathon and I stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG to wathch them. I love going to New Orleans, but I have never taken one of the ghost tours. Not because ghost scare me, but I have always been too busy doing some of the other tourist attractions. Last time I was in New Orleans though, my husband and I gave ourselves a walking tour of all the old neighborhoods. Simply amazing. The curvy, cobblestone streets and looming houses are the perfect setting for vampire stories. This was a great blog!

    Julie Johnstone

  19. Julie,

    I'm so jealous that you live close enough to New Orleans to visit often, unless the legend is real and vampires really do roam the dark streets. ;)

  20. Oh! You must take one of the haunted walking tours in the French Quarter. There's a Vampire Tour, a Ghost Tour, a Voodoo Tour, and I think something else...? My fav is the Vampire tour. Very spooky. Very cool.

    I am a huge TB fan, though I think I do prefer Vampire Diaries. (But nothing - and I mean nothing - is as good as Game of Thrones, but that's a whole other blog.) And to comment on Jerrica's comment - I do watch the Secret Circle, mainly because it comes on after Vampire Diaries. It's growing on me, but I wouldn't throw a temper tantrum if it was gone.

  21. Great blog, Samantha!

    * And how sweet you all are to say such nice things about our vampyres. So glad James, Matthew and Alec have fans. *

    I have heard about the Casket Girls before... when I took a moonlit vampire tour around the French Quarter. :)

  22. Ava,

    You know what's funny is I had no fear of walking all over New Orleans alone, and I wandered into a not so great area. I was definitely out of place, because people stopped and stared. I wouldn't advise the Lost Tourist Tour.

    I guess if I had a crowd tour the haunted houses with me... At least one other person I could outrun. ;D

  23. Lydia,

    Thanks so much for donating a book for today's blog! You know, I can't decide which vampyre I like best. I think my favorite is still James.

  24. Am I the only one that loves to be scared?? Omgosh. I love haunted houses and take my boys every year. We haven't taken the little one yet but we will once he gets older. It's so much fun and I would love, love, love to go to New Orleans on a moonlit vampire tour in the french quarter! Once again I am soo jealous of Ava! She gets to do all the fun stuff! LOL. I think I'm putting that on my bucket list though.

    I guess I'm going to have to check out True Blood huh? It's on my to do list once I get moved into my new place. Along with watching GOT before Ava whacks me over the head for being behind the times lol.

    Okay I'm off to finish my packing. My alloted time on the net is up. Have a great day and great blog Michelle! See you all when I come up for air!

  25. Good luck with packing, Suz! Thanks for making time to stop by. :)

  26. I've read a lot of Heather Graham and I like to be scared a little. I'm much more comfortable with ghosts than other forms of undead. I use to watch Buffy and Angel, but have never watched True Blood or any of the Twlight movies.

  27. Gayle,

    I missed Buffy and Angel, but I've thought about renting the series. One thing I like about renting the full season is there is no waiting.
    True Blood is a bit gory, so if you are easily grossed out, it's not the best choice.

    Thanks for stopping by! :-)