New Orleans Vampires: History and Legend. Marita Woywod Crandle. Haunted America/ History Press, 2018 (2nd ed.). 112 pages. $21.99.
New Orleans has a reputation as a home for creatures of the night. Popular books, movies and television shows have cemented the city’s connection to vampires in the public’s imagination. In New Orleans Vampires: History and Legend, Marita Woywod Crandle explores three of the city’s most famous vampire legends.
The first legend involves the Casket Girls. In the early days of Louisiana’s colonization, rumors swirled about the fate of the Casket Girls, a group of mysterious maidens traveling to the New World from France with peculiar casket-shaped boxes. Did vampires travel with these girls to New Orleans? Are they still held captive in the attic of the Ursuline Convent?
And what about the charismatic man who moved to the French Quarter in the early 1900s who eerily resembled a European aristocrat of one hundred years prior bearing the same name. Why did he vanish after one of his would-be victims escaped his lair on Royal Street and report him to the police? And what of the two brothers who terrorized the city with their desire to feed on living human blood during the Great Depression?
Crandle not only investigates the origins of these legends intricately woven through New Orleans’s rich history, but she also separates the facts from the fiction, all the while raising provocative questions, the most engaging of which comes in the thrilling final chapter in which she recounts her own mysterious experience with what could very well have been a vampire. Whether you believe in vampires or not, this is a highly informative and entertaining book, grounded in historical research and replete with flights of imagination into the shadows of the Quarter at night.
The book is also a love letter to the city. In the introduction, Crandle writes, “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 suiting 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 thing to living the life of a vampire that I could ever imagine.”
Originally from Germany, Crandle enjoyed a successful marketing career in California before moving to New Orleans. A resident of the French Quarter, she owns the Boutique de Vampyre, the Vampire Café, and Potions (a vampire speakeasy). She is also the author of Johnny White’s Sports Bar: The Tiny Joint That Never Closed—Until it Did and a holiday children’s book, Rufus, the Yuletide Bat.