With the mid-season première of The Originals only 2 weeks away. We have gotten some pretty good spoilers. One is a flashback involving Rebekah. We’ve seen a glimpse of that in the preview. So looking at the “girl power” theme of the episode. I decided to have a real look at who “The Casket Girls” really were and their link to vampires.
On a recent trip to New Orleans’ awesome Musée Conti Wax Museum, I was introduced to a brand new topic I had never heard of before: Casket Girls.
Mwa-ha-ha! Sounds creepy, no?
Sources vary on the specifics, but the basic story is that the city’s founders asked France to send over prospective wives for the colonists. They obliged and all these young girls showed up, bearing only as many belongings as would fit in a little “casket,” which appears to be the 18th century equivalent of an overnight bag.
Some accounts say they were fine young women, some say they were orphans, some say prostitutes. Some even say they’re the ones who brought vampires to New Orleans! And, yet, I’m told New Orleanians are proud if they can trace their heritage back to these women. Prostitutes? Vampires? Intriguing!
After exhausting my online search, I decided to get to the bottom of this. So, I headed over to the Ursuline Convent, where the girls were said to have resided until the nuns could arrange for marriages. Actually… first, I headed over to Croissant d’Or, a block north on Ursulines Avenue. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t open when the mademoiselle arrived in the 1720s, which is a shame. A sublime raspberry croissant and French Market coffee might have softened the blow of arriving in what must have been a sweltering, mosquito-infested swamp-village. But, I digress.
Wouldn’t you know? I arrived at the convent, only to find it closed for the day while they installed a new exhibit (the subject: Pere Antoine. Yet, another interesting historical Crescent City character and restaurant namesake). But, as luck would have it, a friendly employee who was coming through the gate was all too happy to share her considerable knowledge about the girls.
As it turns out, yes, France had sent plenty of shady characters over to populate New Orleans. Convicts, prostitutes, and all-around ne’er-do-wells — but not in this group. Where did all the creepy vampire stories come from? The Ursuline ambassador shared a few theories. First of all, these girls endured a long and arduous journey across the Atlantic. At best, they were pale and gaunt from traveling below-deck much of the time. At worst, they were deathly ill. A nasty case of tuberculosis could cause a girl to cough up blood – hence the vampire link? Also, their suitcases were called “casquettes,” or “caskets.” A-ha. Nothing says Nosferatu like a coffin handbag!
But, wait – what about the infamous third floor windows, said to be nailed shut to keep in (or out?) the vampires? Pish-posh. I’m told those are fully functional hurricane shutters that weren’t installed until a century after the Casket Girls’ arrival.
So, there you have it. But, just because the Casket Girls didn’t bring ‘em, doesn’t mean they’re not here. Take one Vampire Tour or a trip to The Dungeon and you’ll be convinced.
For more on the Old Ursuline Convent, read NOLA History: The Old Ursuline Convent in the French Quarter. To learn about other spooky tours, read Get Into the Spirit with a New Orleans Ghost Tour!
Croissant d’Or is at 617 Ursulines Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116-3203. (504) 524-4663
Think back to the show..Davina stays in the attic of the old church. I guessing that church represents the Ursuline Convent. It further explains why Marcel did not want her looking out the window either. So I’m guessing Rebekah is somewhat responsible for the lore pretending to The Originals. I love how this show uses the real history and lore of New Orleans, perfect fit for our family.
Don’t Miss the return of The Originals, January 14th at 8pm on The CW.