Halloween is the perfect time to share one of the spooktacular stories I heard on a New Orleans vampire tour. As I tell you this tale, keep in mind that New Orleanians are proud to trace their roots to these women.
What women, you ask? The infamous filles à la cassette (French for “girls with a case”), a.k.a., the Casket Girls!
Here’s what we know from the history books:
The French founders of La Nouvelle Orléans asked King Louis XV to send brides for the colonists, most of whom were felons that France had wisely shipped off to the New World. And in 1728, three hundred alleged virgins, pale and gaunt after months at sea, arrived at the port with their hope chests, i.e., cassettes.
To the colonists, these cassettes looked like coffins, and the word cassette soon morphed into casquette, which is Cajun French for casket (in France French it means helmet). Not surprisingly, the skinny, pasty, casket-carrying women were a little off-putting to the colonists, especially when they coughed up blood (from tuberculosis, one hopes).
Nevertheless, the ever-industrious nuns of the Ursuline Convent, who’d been tasked with the care of these girls, managed to arrange their marriages. But life in a swamp with criminal colonists wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, so many of the Casket Girls disappeared—leaving their creepy hope chests behind.
A rumor then began to circulate in the city: The girls hadn’t brought French clothes in those chests—they’d brought FRENCH VAMPIRES (of the ruffled shirt– and silk waistcoat–wearing variety)!
This is where the story gets weird (and a lot less historical).
After the girls had gone, the nuns moved the girls’ cassettes to the convent’s third-floor attic. A day later, someone discovered that the chests were empty. Fearing that something supernatural was afoot, the nuns bolted the attic door and used nails blessed by the pope to seal the attic windows, which were then mysteriously shuttered—unlike other French Quarter windows.
But one of those windows had a strange habit of opening. In the middle of the night.
So, in 1978, a whole two hundred and fifty years after the Casket Girls’ arrival, a couple of amateur reporters decided to investigate this window business. After being denied access to the convent’s attic—by none other than the Archbishop—they climbed the convent wall and spent the night outside, waiting for that attic window to open.
The next morning, their decapitated bodies were found on the steps of the convent. Eighty percent of their blood had been drained—as in, it was not on the ground, it was GONE. And their murders have never been solved.