indieBRAG Blog

The History of Vampires in New Orleans

    Vampires and vampire-like creatures have been found in the folklore of every civilization, every culture and every religion since the beginning of recorded time. New Orleans is no exception. The city was settled in the early 1700's and it was during this time in Europe that massive vampire hunts were occurring. The vampire tradition began in the early 1200's in Eastern Europe and spread into Western civilization over hundreds of years. Vampire hunters, usually church representatives, were digging up the dearly departed, driving wooden stakes through the corpses, then beheading and burning the body. The causes of vampirism varied and one could be predisposed at birth for vampirism. Having been born at certain times of the year (New moon, Holy days), born with a red caul, with teeth, or with an extra nipple were sure signs of a vampire. If the child was born with excess hair, white hair, red hair, a red birthmark or with two hearts, the theory persisted. The 7th son of a 7th son was believed to be doomed to vampirism. If the child was weaned too early, suckled after weaning or died prior to Baptism, vampirism was suspected upon death. If the pregnant woman received a curse or was stared at or attacked by a vampire, the child would be cursed to vampirism. This type of predisposition was considered a genetic defect, like a mutation and vampirism was inevitable. Vampirism happened after birth as well. Being fed upon seven or more times by a vampire without dying would guarantee one to become a vampire. Numerous things could happen before or after one's death that could lead to vampirism; committing suicide, practicing sorcery or witchcraft, eating sheep killed by a wolf, leading an immoral life (prostitutes, murderers, alcoholics, rapists), dying without last rites, having a cat jump over the corpse/coffin, having a shadow fall on the corpse, no burial or improper burial rites, death by violence, or death by drowning. There are ways to prevent vampirism should any of the above occur and a number of different things might be done in order to take steps to prevent that body from ever returning from the grave. Weighting the eyes down with coins, tying the mouth closed or stuffing the mouth with garlic were common practices as was placing coins or dirt on the eyes. Our ancestors would cover mirrors in the house and stop the clocks in the home of the deceased. In Louisiana, many families still practice a custom called "sitting up with the dead". When a family member died, a relative or close family friend would stay with the body until it is placed into one of our above ground tombs or is buried. The body was never left unattended. There are many reasons given for this practice today; most commonly respect for the dead but, this tradition actually dates back to vampire folklore in Eastern Europe. While sitting up with the deceased, the friend or family member was watching for signs of paranormal activity i.e. if a cat was ever seen to jump over, walk across, or stand on top of the coffin; if a dog was seen to bark or growl at the coffin; or if a horse shied from it, these were signs of impending vampirism. At that point, steps would be taken to prevent the corpse from returning from the dead. Ways to stop a vampire included burying the corpse face down and burying it at a crossroads. Often family members would place a sickle around the neck, tie body parts together or mutilate the body, usually by decapitation and placing the head at the bottom of feet. The most common remedy for impending vampirism was to drive a stake into the corpse, decapitate it then burn the body to ashes. This method was the only way to truly destroy the undead. By the 1700's, these practices were going on all throughout Western Europe, particularly in France and Germany where many were migrating to New Orleans. Believers insisted that vampires could have been smuggled over in ships with the settlers. The early French settlers brought over brides from Europe who transferred their belongings in large wooden casket-like boxes. According to folklore, even though vampires prefer the night, they are not destroyed by daylight. It was common for the vampire to walk about during the day but they generally hunted and fed at night. They would not have needed to be smuggled in coffins in the hulls of ships. This idea is that of fictional writers such as Bram Stoker. More than likely, vampires would have entered the ships like anyone else and blended in well with society. If being a murderer, rapist, or other criminal element would predispose one to vampirism, it is easy to see how they would have become so prevalent in New Orleans. The city started as a penal colony. All of the original settlers would have been predisposed to it! Once they blended in with the mortals, they could easily feed on the population without raising much suspicion. With people dying in great masses from diseases such as yellow fever, who's going to notice another corpse here or there? Nonetheless, our folklore has remained true to the casket girl theory. These women were housed and educated in the Ursuline Convent, located on Chartres and Ursulines Streets in the French Quarter. They were eventually married off to the settlers in the city. It is believed by many that the original caskets of these brides are stored in the attic of the convent and that the vampires still reside in them. The convent is no longer a working convent but now is a repository for the archives of the archdiocese. Legend states that late at night one of the attic shutters will open and the vampires escape. They attack unsuspecting victims, return and close the shutters before dawn. But is it more than a legend? By Kalila K. Smith New Orleans Paranormal & Occult Research Society, Read the full article at: http://www.neworleansghosts.com/vampires.htm   Fiction: Amaranth by Rachael Wade  

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Riptide – Michael Prescott

Author Interview: Michael Prescott I would like to introduce Michael Prescott, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Michael, please tell us about your book, Riptide. 

I came up with the idea for Riptide pretty much by accident, when I was writing an e-mail to another author. I was spitballing far-fetched story ideas, and one of them concerned a woman who finds the diary of Jack the Ripper hidden in her cellar and realizes there may be a family connection. After typing a few words about that, I sat back and thought, “Actually, that's not bad.” I strengthened it by adding the idea that the woman's emotionally troubled brother may be re-creating the Ripper's crimes in the present day. I set the story in Venice, California, which of course posed the challenge of trying to explain how a killer from London's East End could wind up on the West Coast of America. The story was a little different from some of the others I've done–a little more high concept. I thought it worked out well, but when I tried to sell it to traditional publishers, I hit a wall. Although I had published twenty previous…

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Opening Day – Joe Perrone

Author Interview: Joe Perrone I would like to introduce author Joe Perrone, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Thank you Joe for the pleasure of this interview. Could you please tell us about you book, Opening Day. Opening Day is the second in the Matt Davis Mystery Series, and is set in Roscoe, NY, a small fishing village where I used to be a fly fishing guide. Matt Davis is a former NYPD homicide detective who has taken early retirement following a near-death experience on the job, and has taken a relatively laid-back position as Chief of Police of a three-man department. While out fishing on the opening day of trout season, he stumbles across the badly deteriorated body of what turns out to be a young woman. The body is unclothed; there is no physical evidence or apparent motive; and the victim's identity is unknown. As the story unfolds, readers are introduced to three different young women at a time prior to the murder, any one of whom might be the victim. Their stories are interwoven with the ongoing events and investigation, until eventually two are eliminated, leaving the remaining woman as the…

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Peanut Butter For Cupcakes – Donna Aviles

Author Interview: Donna Aviles I would like to introduce Author Donna Aviles, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Donna please tell us about your book, Peanut Butter For Cupcakes. Hi Stephanie! Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my book with your readers. Peanut Butter For Cupcakes is the true story of my Grandfather, Oliver Nordmark, and his struggle to raise his six children during The Great Depression after the sudden and tragic death of his wife Estella. May, Bud, Oliver Jr, Margaret, Jim and Benny are all under the age of 10 as the story begins. With their mother gone, they will learn their life lessons from their Dad, who never had a real parent of his own - having been orphaned at age six. 

It is a social history of this very difficult period in America and puts a real face, specifically on the children, of that era. It is also a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit and proof that "boys will be boys" regardless of money, possessions or position - or the lack thereof. Although rightfully sad at times, there are also many lighthearted moments and…

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Her Last Letter – Nancy Johnson

Author Interview: Nancy Johnson I would like to introduce Author Nancy Johnson, the winner of the B.R.A.G MedallionRead the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Nancy I read your story, Her Last Letter and enjoyed it very much. Could you please tell us a little about your book? Her Last Letter is my first published novel, though not my first novel. I wrote two novels previous to publishing this one. It is a romantic-suspense mystery, and the setting is Glenwood Springs, Colorado, near Aspen. In the story, Gwyn, an artist and photographer, finds a letter written by her youngest sister Kelly, murdered two years before. Kelly writes that she was having an affair with her sister's boyfriend, and is scared for her life. Gwyn and her remaining sister Linda have since married their boyfriends. Gwyn hires a private detective to find out the truth, stirring up old secrets and new danger.... After trying for many years to get traditionally published, I decided to form my own publishing company, and published Her Last Letter. I wanted the years I'd spent writing and hoping to come to something, to at last see my words in print, and to hold my book in my hands. My…

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Dolphins Might Be Math Geniuses

In an article posted on NBCNews.com, Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News reports on a fascinating new study concerning dolphins published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A. The study suggests that dolphins use nonlinear mathematics to process echolocation bursts when hunting prey. The study was conducted by Tim Leighton, a professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at the University of Southampton, where he is also an associate dean, along with colleagues Paul White and Gim Hwa Chua. The scientists determined that dolphins emit echolocation bursts of varying amplitudes and that to effectively interpret these, along with the echoes from one another, requires complex mental processing involving nonlinear mathematics. While some questions still remain, if replicated the dolphins' sonar model has significant implications for humans, particularly as it relates to the detection of covert bugging devices hidden in walls, or mines at sea. Fiction: This article is another telling example of life imitating art as the dolphins' complex cognitive abilities suggested by the work of Professor Leighton and his colleagues, mirror those described in The Tempest's Roar by R.A.R. Clouston.

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Montfort – Katherine Ashe

Author Interview: Katherine Ashe I would like to introduce Author Katherine Ashe the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion for her novel, Montfort.Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Katherine, please tell us about your novel, Montfort the Founder of Parliament the Early Years. Montfort The Early Years is the first of four novels, all now in print, on the life of Simon de Montfort. The book begins with his arrival in England from France as a near penniless youth in the winter of 1229, and it follows his rise as he becomes the closest friend of King Henry III, the son of the notorious King John. 

Few people have experienced the "spin of fate's wheel" as dramatically as Simon, and this first book follows him from hapless petitioner to favored courtier, to exile, to candidate for Viceroy, to hapless petitioner again, to military hero and ultimately back to high favor with King Henry III. All this in fourteen years.

 This is not a fictional character. Simon was very real and these things, beyond question, really happened to him. Why his fate during this period was so tumultuous has been a matter of speculation from his lifetime onward. I offer a theory,…

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Montfort The Founder of Parliament – Of Journey and Research

Author Katherine Ashe's four book series depicting Simon de Montfort was completed in print in September of 2011 when Montfort The Angel with the Sword was made available for purchase. This concluded 34 years of research, writing, and travelling to the locales where Simon once lived. The series was written under the "aegis of fiction" owing to gaps and rampant bias in the historical record, but the conclusions Ashe reached follow a logical and well-reasoned strand, making her research take on the flavor of an investigation. Thirty-four years of investigative efforts are extraordinary, and result in some extraordinary and unconventional points of view in her novels. For many years it was considered a hanging offense in England to utter Simon de Montfort's name; thus what accounts there were of him were chiefly negative, which explains why modern authors often condemn him. What drew Ashe's curiosity to Montfort was the fact that he was acknowledged as pivotal in founding modern democratic government, but little about his life was general public knowledge and most of what was written cast him in a traitorous light. Concerning a man at the crux of something so revolutionary and as early as the 13th century, there had to be a reason for why he was so marginalized and maligned. This mystery piqued Ashe's interest. Her investigations began in 1977 as she read through every volume on Montfort available in New York City's public libraries. But these books, with historian after historian contradicting each other, spurred her to dig further, leading her to seek out the actual, original source material at the British Library and the Public Record Office in London and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. In 1978 at the Bibliotheque Nationale the request slip given to the clerk brought forth the Montfort Archive, a boxed volume of original early charters, trial notes of Simon's trial for treason in 1262 and a brief autobiography written by Simon himself in connection with the trial. At the London Public Record Office, the 13th century scrolls used by royal clerks for the purpose of tracking royal expenditures was offered, along with a pair of velvet-covered bricks so the reader, unrolling the scroll from one side and letting it roll up again on the other could brace the opened part, keeping the document from coiling itself shut. In the neat and orderly Latin of the Chancery script Ashe found items that provided new insights. A Pipe Roll entry in November 1238 concerned a payment to a physician who guaranteed that if the Queen and King drank an herbal tisane and prayed at the tomb of Saint Edward the queen's barrenness would be cured. Ashe knew that seven months later the Queen was reported (by Matthew Paris) to have given birth to a remarkably strapping infant, clearly not puny and premature. Christened Edward for the saint who worked this miraculous birth, that child would reign as Edward I, King of England. What was happening concerning this sequence of events? Where was the Queen nine months before the birth? The Royal Charters showed the King and Queen were at Kenilworth, the home of Simon de Montfort -- the same friend who, at the Queen's Churching -- six weeks after the birth and on the occasion of the Queen's first confession since her pregnancy -- would be accused by a distraught King Henry of being a seducer. The breach of friendship with King Henry was so sharp that Simon fled for his life and was in exile for four years. Following that incident, Henry would vacillate between cajoling Simon into serving him militarily and attempting to send him to death for treason. Henry needed a male heir far too much to be able to repudiate Edward, but once he had another son, his behavior toward Edward became treacherous as well, as evidenced by his sending the boy into perilous situations; Henry bestowed the rebellious province of Gascony upon him when he was only fifteen -- the same province where the King's brother Richard, as overlord, had narrowly escaped being murdered. Beginning with the payment to the physician, Ashe pursued a line of investigation that has lead to her highly controversial speculation that Simon de Montfort was the natural father of Edward I. Framing her work as an historical novel, she explores the question, and how and why it could have come about. But the issue of Edward's paternity comprises but a small fraction of the whole of the Montfort series. There are other speculations as well: for example, was Montfort the link between the Emperor Frederic II's use of a cannon at his siege of Milan -- the first known use of the weapon in Europe -- and the description of a cannon in the works of Roger Bacon? Additionally there is a crucial issue, mentioned twice by the thirteenth century chronicler Matthew Paris but ignored by every modern historian. After creating the Provisions of Oxford, which are in effect the constitution that defines the two houses of Parliament, the barons who had done this work abandoned the project. Going off in pursuit of the King's fleeing brothers, they lay siege to the brothers at Winchester, and there they were poisoned, many of them dying, others never recovering their health. The issue here is that Montfort did not go with the barons but stayed behind at Oxford, evidently thinking it was strategically more important to put the Provisions into effect. The logical thread indicates he did not seize power as he is accused, but stepped into the power vacuum resulting from the illness of virtually all of the other active barons. He was not a tyrant seizing power, but a military commander who had a clearer idea of priorities than his fellow lords had. This gives a very different view of Montfort than the power-hungry despot his detractors portray. Again, Ashe's tenacious research has led to an unconventional conclusion as she followed the trails of logic. Eventually Ashe's research was carried on at the Astor Tilden Lenox Library in New York where 19th century reprints of a broad range of 13th century documents widened her understanding of the period, and the prejudices of Montfort's contemporaries both for and against him. In addition to the J.A. Giles translation of Matthew Paris's Chronica Majora, on extended loan to her through the kindness of the librarian at The New York Society Library, she was able to obtain two Stewart era reprints of the work in the original Latin. The Monumenta Franciscana opened for her a view of Simon's friendships, chiefly with his mentor Bishop Robert Grosseteste and Grosseteste's followers, Bishop Walter Cantaloup, Geoffrey de Boscellis and Adam Marsh, all of whom were of the Franciscan order. Not only did she read his friends' letters pertaining to public marital harmony, but, from covering letters that accompanied loaned books, she also discovered Simon's reading list -- as much as was available. Chiefly these were religious tracts such as Saint Gregory's Commentaries on the Book of Job -- which no doubt Simon must have found very heartening during his years of travail as Viceroy in Gascony. Concerning his faith, from the writings of his friends and even his enemies it was clear to Ashe that Simon was a deeply religious, yet a flawed man who found that harsh penance could scarcely atone for his sins. Ashe gives readers an informed look into his spiritual condition which helps explain why his mentor Grosseteste played such a major role in his life. Reading the same books, religious tracts, and biblical commentaries Simon read, afforded Ashe a deeper than usual view into Montfort's spiritual and psychological makeup. In her books Grosseteste's admonitions and encouraging words to Simon, some quoted, some literary invention (which she always grounded on the spirit of Grosseteste's own writings) contain practical, biblical wisdom and underscore why Simon read such spiritual works as the Commentaries with special interest. The Book of Job concerns a timeless message of spiritual resolve during harsh trials – a man alone amid his enemies is symbolized by the lily among the tares (choking weeds.) This is a vivid metaphor that mirrors Montfort's need for endurance during his time in rebel Gascony. And it makes clear why he changed his shield's blazon from his accustomed fork-tailed red lion rampant to a lily. In her second volume, The Viceroy, Ashe uses this research detail in this exchange between Simon and his son Henry: "When we reach La Reole I must have a new shield made," Simon mused. "I'll have it painted with a lily. In white on an azure ground." "Not our red lion?" Henry asked, dismayed. Simon shook his head. "I want the lily that Saint Gregory writes of—that grew among the tares, like Job who lived among the wicked folk of Uz but kept his faith." Scouring the same books Simon read not only enabled bright detail, but it helped explain Simon's transformation from a man given solely to harsh penance into a figure who begins to apply the years of practical wisdom from his mentor Grosseteste. This is not a lapse or an unwonted character swing; it is Ashe's intimate knowledge of de Montfort and his maturation. She has captured the subtle changes in Simon's personal beliefs and passions, based on the books he read and the clues he left behind. Her knowledge and appreciation of de Montfort's reading matter gives readers an unbiased and intimate look into the religious transformations that were slowly growing across Europe during this period, and how individuals such as Simon were drawing upon those changes. There was the entire world in which Montfort lived that needed to be understood. Ashe threaded her way not only through the period's religious views, agriculture, economics, armor and architecture (palatial, military and vernacular.) In her words, "My research has been done almost entirely the old fashioned way -- going to the original sources as much as possible, and reading, and reading, and reading." However, her practical research brought her as far as taking sword lessons and renewing her riding skills. One of the most persistent questions she found, in writing about a time before modern transportation and communications, was how long did it take, normally or at top speed, to get from one place to another? The beginning of her first book describes a joust between a young Simon and a seasoned challenger. By interviewing jousters, she was able to capture Simon's well-schooled, but yet, untried skills and merge those with his documented nearsightedness. However, as with her riding instructors, she found that each jouster had his own style and few agreed with one another. Conversely, replica distributors and manufacturers have now recreated the armor and the high saddles of the period; however, the heavy breeds of horses, though deft and swift, have not yet been recreated. There is only so far that research can go before speculation must fill in the gaps. Ashe visited Simon's manors, not only Leicester and Kenilworth, but Chawton, Hinkley, Asheby de la Zouche, and his wife's castle at Odiham. Other sites, including the battlefield of Evesham, and places relevant to Simon in Paris, Normandy, Poitou and Gascony helped her craft the vivid scenes in the series. In addition, Ashe walked where Simon, his peers and enemies walked, even retracing King Henry's tour of Paris with King Louis. She visited La Reole, Simon's stronghold in Gascony with its grand tower room, the towns where he held court as Viceroy, each of the cities he conquered in England, and the spring that formed at Evesham where he died. The use of primary sources coupled with practical application enabled Ashe to have a keen understanding of the cultural and physical world in which Montfort lived. She took no detail for granted. To further illustrate how Ashe's practical approach buttressed her research: she drew upon her time spent in theater as a playwright, director, and actor. In a stage play everything written must be do-able and there must be continuity. If an actor is instructed to pick something up, he must be told when and where to put it down. Every detail must be very clear in the playwright's, or the director's, mind. Every scene requires to be played out in a logical and well-informed fashion. Historical fiction authors can gain much from Ashe's method of investigation, and readers will appreciate the tenor of her novels. Not a little space is left at the end of each novel where she details the flow of her logic, providing the phrase in question, the source, cultural milieu, and oftentimes the direct reference in her source. Many historical fiction authors devote a page or two devoted to source information or perhaps a paragraph that states that the novel is a fictional work. Ashe clarifies from the outset in her novels that Montfort is written "under the aegis of fiction" because of the gaps in the historical record. She does take liberties that would not be allowed a historian, which is why she novelized this account of Simon de Montfort and calls it "informed speculation." However, the evidence and passages where she used conjecture, which she provides in the notes section illuminates her logic and reasoning when she fills in the historical gaps. Some might call her evidences circumstantial, or say that her cause and effect approach lacks validity. But no historian of so distant a time in the past works with complete evidence. All must speculate, and many repeat others' earlier speculations, making them appear, by repetition, to be "facts." Ashe makes her cases on each point with conviction. Montfort is not a dry work of research, but a fast-paced story of adventure where Ashe's 34 years of investigative research have resulted in sweeping, life-like scenes. She shares with readers the delight she experienced during her journey in a way that connects with her audience. She has critics, but her answers parallel the reasoned approach she takes in her novels; she answers with a dexterity, grace, and polish that few authors could replicate. Many would ask why she would spend 34 years researching such an ambiguous individual and novelizing his life. But her reasons are quite simple: "My intent is not to write a definitive biography, but to rouse public interest in a man whose life truly changed the world — who has affected all of our lives up to the present, and will into the future as long as governments seek their authenticity through people's elected representatives." vist Katherine Ashe at her author's page on amazon.com to experience Simon de Montfort's 13th century world and visit her blog to learn more about Simon de Montfort. Scott Higginbotham

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My Temporary Life – Martin Crosbie

Author Interview: Martin Crosbie I would like to introduce Author Martin Crosbie, the winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion.Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Please tell us about your book, My Temporary Life. Thanks, Stephanie, I'd love to, and thanks for the opportunity to do this, too, I really appreciate it. My Temporary Life is a story told in two parts. The first section is a coming of age story about young lad who never has anything permanent in his life. He's shipped between his parents, his father who lives in Scotland and his mother who lives in Canada. Throughout his childhood, he's faced with not only two very different cultures but also bullying and poverty. The second part of the book picks up twenty years later where the boy, now a young man, is stuck in a major life rut. He meets a girl who had her own traumatic childhood, and through a series of circumstances, the most important being that he falls in love with her, he's given the opportunity to help her recapture something from her childhood. It's been called a coming of age/suspense/romance, and I know that sounds confusing, but hopefully it sounds intriguing too. Was there…

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Saint Maggie – Janet Stafford

  Author Interview: Janet Stafford I would like to introduce Author Janet Stafford, the winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion.Read the entire interview at: www.layeredpages.blogspot.com Janet please tell us about your book, Saint Maggie. Saint Maggie tells the story of a widow, Maggie Blaine, who has two teenaged daughters and runs a boarding house on the square of a NJ small town in the year 1860. Maggie's collection of boarders is eclectic, ranging from an undertaker's apprentice, an unsuccessful writer, an aspiring lawyer, and an elderly indigent Irishman. What really upsets town folk, though, is the fact that she also lives with her two closest friends, Nate and Emily, who are African-American. To make matters worse, Maggie begins to court Elijah Smith, the free-thinking, abolitionist editor of the town's newspaper. (It's a good thing the town doesn't know that Emily, Nate, Eli and Maggie manage a stop on the Underground Railroad.) Enter Jeremiah Madison, the new Methodist minister. Maggie is asked to provide him with a room because there is nowhere else for him to lodge. Both Maggie and her church have high hopes for Jeremiah – and he appears to fulfill them: he is charming, respectable, and an inspiring pastor.…

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