EG, a resident of New Orleans, if very fond of the Mardi Gras season and the treats that come during it. One of these is King Cake. King Cakes originate in France as a cake to eat during Carnival season. It is a sweetcake covered in sugar and icing. A tradition for carnival season. They begin selling them on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and stop on Mardi Gras day. Some stores sell them any time of the year but not as a true “king cake”. A Baby is inside of the king cake. In many traditions if you get the baby you must buy the next king cake. In school every Friday one person would bring a king cake and the next week another person would have to get the king cake.
EG is a college aged resident of New Orleans. She was born there and has lived there her entire life. This was collected in a conversation at my home. She has been to Mardi Gras every year since her birth and considers it to be a central part of her life.
I enjoy the history and idea of king cake not just as a New Orleanian who likes the food, but as a tradition. The whole idea to me is that we eat this super unhealthy food so much during this carnival season as last hurrah before Lent begins right after Fat Tuesday. The baby being inside of the cake as a reward is very interesting. I like the tradition of having the recipient of the baby bring the king cake the next week. The wide variety of them in New Orleans also would mean that different people would bring in different king cakes which would give everyone in her class a different experience each time they eat it.
Mardi Gras ladders are used during Mardi Gras each year. They are used to put children higher up in the air to see the parade and to keep them safe from going in the street. Usually decorated in purple, green, and gold with a family’s name. They are on a ladder so that kids can see a float. Wheels are on the sides to help them roll easier from the car to parade route. On top of the ladders are seats which children sit in and they usually have a bar on the front to keep the kids from falling. Cup holders are put on the side for a parents’s drinks. They are put 6 feet away from the curb on the sidewalk or neutral ground, all painted differently. Families tend to put their ladders in certain spots next to each other forming a long row of ladders.
SG is my mother and has been to Mardi Gras with kids since I was born. She is from New Orleans and attends every year. This was taken during a conversation with her in our backyard while reminiscing Mardi Gras. She still brings ladders out each year for her younger children.
I like this piece of folklore a lot as it brings me back to when I was much younger attending Mardi Gras. When I only went with my parents and not friends, my mom would put me in a ladder with my twin sister as we shouted at the float riders to throw us beads and other items. The uniqueness of these ladders is very important to me as I had the opportunity to decorate the newest ladder that we use for my little brothers. We painted it purple, green, and gold, while also putting our hand prints on it. This is something I had grown up with and realized how specific a ladder with a seat on it like this is to New Orleans and that you rarely see it elsewhere.
SG is a mother in New Orleans. Crawfish boils are major events throughout New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole. They tend to be more of a social hour rather than a meal. Holy Name of Jesus, SG son’s school, has an annual crawfish boil as a fundraiser for their school. Around 10 different groups, parents and relatives of kids at the school, compete to see who makes the best crawfish boil. Generally each boil has potatoes, corn, crawfish, seasoning, but everyone puts their own spin on it trying to win the competition. The voters are the students and families visiting, and they each get tickets which they can give to the group that they think had the best crawfish. We have gone a couple of years in a row, and they usually have good music, atmosphere, and of course food. As a social hour, since Crawfish at typically eaten standing up, you stand around a table with others and socialize more than just eat crawfish. SG says that crawfish boils are a big aspect of Louisana culture.
SG is a resident of New Orleans who’s youngest sons attend Holy Name of Jesus School. She has attended this with the rest of her family since her youngest sons attended the school, and plans to go after.
The idea of this being a social event is really appealing to me. The idea of dining as a social event has always been present be it with dates, luncheons, or business dinners, but this is different. It is similar to a barbecue or cookout, in which you invite others over to eat with you and socialize, but is unique in how people are positions. The fact that you are usually standing at a crawfish boil is interesting to me because that is more like behavior at a bar which functions mainly as a social place. The idea of it being a competition is also interesting because it shows the culture of food in New Orleans. It shows that everyday people in the city care about perfecting the craft that their city is known for and that they want people to socialize around it.
“Okay, so there’s this convent and off the top of my head I don’t remember it but if you google like “New Orleans Convent Vampires” you’ll find like a version of it. So that’s when New Orleans was being like built into a new city and there were all these traders and fur trappers or whatever. So women, so they has women brought over from Europe who were essentially going to be mail order brides for these men. So there are crude jokes of it being like early human trafficking and the women were like exposed to the sun on the trip over on the boat so they got like severely sun burned so the men like freaked out when the women got off the boat and rejected them. So they took the women in at the local convent and they like turned the top floor into the places for them to stay. But somehow because it’s New Orleans and this is what happens, people started saying that the women up there can’t be exposed to sunlight, they must be vampires…and it turned into this whole legend about the vampires of the convent. So like if you go on the voodoo tour in New Orleans, you will go to this convent and be told the story.
Me: That is so interesting, wow.
Storyteller: It is crazy! I mean the stuff in New Orleans…like who thought that was true and you know…it’s New Orleans so who knows if it’s true…you never know there.
Background: The storyteller is from New Orleans so she had a couple stories to pick from but decided to share this one. She told me that although she couldn’t remember the exact name of the story (I later looked up the real name and titled this post with it), she knew that because of the weird history of New Orleans, an ancient event turned into a creepy legend.
Context: I asked her if I could interview her for this project. I knew that she was from the south and after collecting a couple stories from people who grew up in the south, I was fascinated with them and wanted to hear more. She gave me a few stories…one is this legend. I drove back home to meet her for some coffee before diving into the interview (along with another storyteller who is interviewed in a different post).
Thoughts: I have come to realize that there are many legends and ghost stories that come from the south. The reason for this is probably because of the south’s horrible history especially with slavery and the general mistreatment of black people and women. I think that whether or not this legend is true and the women actually were vampires (even though it seems unlikely), it is interesting to me how easily skewed a simple story can become in New Orleans. It seems like the city has a rich culture and likes to accumulate as many interesting stories as it can. It makes it unique.
Storyteller: “So my mom’s entire family is from New Orleans, which is essentially the most haunted city in the world…like there is so much tragedy and everyone…like if you grew up there you kind of believe in ghosts? Like you pretend you don’t but you do. No city can have that much tragedy and death and not have stuff wandering around. So my great grandmother had this really nice house. And I remember like being…sort of with it enough as a kid to be like ‘we are not rich, how did she afford this really nice house.’ And it was because it used to be a brothel and there was a murder there and so my family got it really cheap. So it was a murder house right? So the story was that one of the women that worked int he brothel was married. And her husband came in and dragged her up to the attic and they had a huge fight and he killed her. And there were these dark stains on the floor up there that everyone said was blood stains…that would not come out. Whether they were or not I don’t know, but that’s what I know this story was. So, basically they would always tell us that ‘Herald’, essentially, used to live in the attic because it’s where he killed his wife. And we were like ‘yeah whatever. Ha ha. Very funny.’ So my cousins and I are upstairs one day and we are playing in the attic and all of this weird crap starts happening. Like a door slams and a window that like…things like open and not a problem open and like weird weird stuff. And so we were like ‘oh you know what it is. It’s uncle M, he’s trying to scare us…because my uncle was notorious for scaring the kids all of the time. So we were like, ‘it’s just him.’ And then we were like ignoring it and then I looked out the window and my uncle M was downstairs. And we literally screamed and ran downstairs as fast as we could [laughs]. And to this day…NO explanation for what was happening in that attic. We were like ‘maybe it was like the uncle? or whatever…’ but could never prove that it was another human in our family.” [seeing my disturbed face she adds] “Yeah…it’s very upsetting! [laughs] I did not enjoy that! But yeah, that is the story of my great grandmother’s murder house.”
Background: The storyteller is from the south (specifically New Orleans) and she got to spend a lot of time growing up there. As a result, she not only has a lot of knowledge on the stories people told about the city, but she also had her own personal experience with a ghost in her great grandmother’s murder house.
Context: I asked her if I could interview her for this project. I knew that she was from the south and after collecting a couple stories from people who grew up in the south, I was fascinated with them and wanted to hear more. She gave me three stories…one of them included this first person narrative of her experience with what she still to this day believes was a ghost. I met up with her and another storyteller for coffee to go over the details.
Thoughts: Like the storyteller already pointed out, New Orleans is famous for being one of the most haunted places in the world. There really is so much tragedy that has occurred in that city throughout the years that it is not hard to believe that there are many ghost stories and legends that derive from it. It is scary to hear and see things out of the ordinary especially when we cannot figure out the realistic cause of it. Many people refuse to believe in such things as ghosts and live in denial with the fact that they may be real. Some things that cannot be explained frighten us.