It was a warm day, like any other of the season. We were loading up the ship to go to the New World. Men were busy, scurrying around the deck preparing for departure with the tide. I noticed long rectangular boxes being loaded and stored below deck. They seemed longer than the typical cargo box. I continued the job I was assigned, preparing the ship to sail. The captain made a point to speak to every member of the crew, informing them not to go into the storage below deck, orders of the king himself. The crew exchanged glances and then shrugged. Whatever we were shipping was none of our concern and nothing would be worth the trouble of being caught disobeying orders.
We set off and the journey was as ordinary as it could be. Weather and wind were on our side. One night I was awoken. I opened my eyes and lifted my head. The ship was quiet and the night air seemed calm. There was a faint wailing sound. I rolled out of the hammock and stumbled down the alley. The sound was coming from the storage room. I leaned into the door to listen closer when a sharp hiss came from behind me. “You don’t belong here.” I whirled around. An old woman with piercing blue eyes was inches from my face. “Be gone from here.” she snarled and I backed up before turning and quickly returning to the bunk room. For fear of punishment I kept the interaction to myself. For the next few days I wondered what was in that room, what was the woman hiding.
I avoided the storage until I could no longer stand it. The curiosity was getting the best of me. I waited one day before dawn and crept back down to where the wailing was coming from. The door to the storage was cracked open. I heard murmuring softly flowing from it. I snuck closer and peered in. A woman was kneeling, her long curls flowing down her back. I must have made a noise, for she slowly turned her head. Her face was as pale as the moon. Her eyes were bulging and seemed to protrude from her skull. As her lips parted, blood trickled from her mouth. A flash of something pale moved from within deeper in the room. The door slammed shut and I could hear a bolt being slid across. Was it to keep me out or the young girl in? What cursed beings had our captain agreed on bringing on behalf of the king?
Casket girls were originally known as cassette girls. They were women that were going to New Orleans after King Louis IV was asked to provide women that were appropriate for men to wed and raise families with. Apparently, the prostitutes that were originally sent to settle the swamp that would become New Orleans did not make good long term mates. Women from convents and orphanages were arranged to be sent to be wives in the new colonies and would be sent to Mobile or New Orleans. Since they needed to be sure that their virtue was intact, they would have an escort. I do not know if they would be hidden away from the crew, however, it makes for a more mysterious story.
The journey from France to America would take months. Since a typical person would use up their vitamin C supplies in their body, scurvy would typically take about 4 weeks to set in. Some of the symptoms of scurvy does include bloodied gums and mouth. Add into that if the woman were kept below deck and hidden away from the crew, a pale woman with scurvy would be a frightening sight.
Like all myths and legends, one does not know where they originate, but the history of the Casket girls would be a likely start for the beginning of vampirism in New Orleans. Take a trip and visit the city and convent and learn your truth of how so many stories of vampires surround the city.