Changing Planet

Inside New Orleans’ Vampires and Voodoo

Voodoo

As a New Orleanian, I often forget about Voodoo — until I am reminded by businesses with Voodoo in the title or dolls in French Quarter gift shops. It all seems so commercialized …

And that’s because those who do practice Voodoo keep it a secret.

During a recent conversation, one of our team members, Jake Clapp, explained that there are indeed people who practice Voodoo in New Orleans (Jake wrote a piece on the topic last year for Baton Rouge daily newspaper The Advocate).  He said there are two types of Voodoo that independently grew out of African and Catholic customs, New Orleans Voodoo and Haitian Voodoo.

New Orleans Voodoo developed when Catholic plantation owners forced slaves to exercise their faith. While slaves embraced Catholicism, they held on to African religious traditions — using herbs, poisons and charms. These practices are seen as good luck and connections to a spiritual world, not unlike the customs of other religious sects.

Then there is false interpretations of Voodoo that link them to satanic rituals or magic.  The rise in films and stereotypes negatively portraying Voodoo in the mid-20th century is what caused practitioners to keep their beliefs close to the vest.

A newly finished pair of realistic (and very sharp) vampire fangs modeled by team member Jake Clapp. Photo by team member Emily Slack.

 

Vampires

When I was about 13 or so, I remember walking through the French Quarter one night after dinner with my family. On this stroll, we passed a man with red contacts wearing a top hat. My parents told me matter-of-factly that the man was a vampire. I had always heard of New Orleans vampires, but this was the first evidence of it I saw first hand.

As I grew older, and started to go downtown with friends, I began to notice businesses that were frequented by people identifying themselves as vampires or that hung vampire art (with vampire either as the subject or the artist).

Jake Clapp also wrote a piece for the Times Picayune about New Orleans vampirism.  He explained that people gravitate toward vampire culture for several reasons: religion, being part of group, enjoying the mysticism, or simply for the fashion.  His story focused on a French Quarter fangsmith who crafts pointed dentures for both vampire fans and vampires themselves.

The storeowner explained that his clientele had dropped since Hurricane Katrina, when a lot of the New Orleans vampire community left the city. However, the rise in vampire pop-culture from “Twilight” and “True Blood” has brought business back to some vampire shops.

Most vampire devotees seem to focus mostly on demeanor and costume, while only a minority take it to the extreme, drinking blood or eating raw meat.  Overall, they are similar to other enthusiasts, taking bit of tradition and giving it new life in the modern world, and adding to New Orleans’ multi-layered cultural landscape.

Caroline Gerdes recently graduated from Louisiana State University where she studied journalism and history (her major and minor, respectively). As a native of the Greater New Orleans Area, she decided to explore her own backyard with help from a Young Explorers Grant. Caroline is currently conducting an oral history project about the New Orleans Ninth Ward. She seeks to record the community’s full history — its immigrant beginnings, the development of jazz, the depression and prohibition, desegregation and hurricanes. Caroline’s exploration is also a personal quest as her father and paternal grandparents grew up in the Ninth Ward. Her blogs reflect an inside look at New Orleans life and culture, especially the edible aspects.
  • Lalisa Derrick

    To correct a few things in your article: Voodoo and hoodoo are spelled as such, though the correct spelling of the former religion can also be voudon or voudou. Hoodoo and voodoo/voudon are both legitimate, valid expressions of African Traditional Religions, aka West African Diasporic Religions. To state that hoodoo is a simply commercialized voodoo/voudon/voudou is completely erroneous and insulting to practitioners of hoodoo. Hoodoo is more Americanized and incorporates aspects of Native American beliefs and knowledge, as well Catholic, Pennsylvania Dutch PowWow, and ATRs, along with Western folk and herb magic. I truly expectmore from NatGeo writers in terms of research and respect for faiths.

  • Britney Campa

    Hi, I’m a huge vampire fan. I think the question still stands: Are vampires real? If so, do they all reside in New Orleans or do they travel across the country? Do they really burn in sunlight, do they drink blood, and is it possible to become a vampire? Please answer me via E-mail.

  • Maggie

    i would really like to know if vampires are real or not? please answer me.

  • Sabrina Murphy / blood tears

    Britney Campa of Ohio
    Yes there r reall Vampiers I am indeed one of them if u want more info friend me on Facebook at
    Vampire_icp_love@yahoo.com

  • John

    They are real. Unfortunately movies, tv, recording artists, etc. provide a smokescreen for the real thing.

    I’ve seen one; they are demonic (ashuras) in my opinion.

  • John

    Vampires are real. I’ve seen one; my cousin confirmed sighting this “person” as well. It’s something I always thought I imagined or hallucinated but decades later my cousin recounted to me the seeing the same things.

    They are demonic (ashura, jinn, etc.) in my opinion.

  • Abi b

    Very interesting article well done! Any one else that has information on vampires please email me thank you!

  • n/a

    Iam from new orleans and in my family we always talk aboutour auntie she always knew where we was even when we move from one location we notice early that she never aged no matter how long its been its been to this day we don’t know where she at and no one in the familt knew where she live

  • Edward

    There is no need to question myths. Myths are real, just take a look into any bible to seek the answers you wish to know. I believe that Vampires are real and I also believe in other life forms on other planets, that is more inteligent then us humans. I visit New Orleans a few times and at the time, I just I saw something strange. What was strange? I saw this guy walking on the other side of the street, I then looked to my left and there he was. Hmmm… To my self… He then entered this building and I kelp walking. Two blocks up the street from the French Quarter, I saw it or him again in window, maybe like on a 4th floor and I was so spooked, I never been back. That place is evil and very much creepy.

  • makayla

    okay so were can you see a vampire at in new orleans cause I’m looking for info on them and i just wanna just talk to one because my greatgrand papa was one

  • vicki

    , I’m a huge vampire fan. I think the question still stands: Are vampires real?

  • Vita

    Yes,I am a death angel..most commonly known as a “vampire”. I believed but was truly convinced when I met more than one and was turned into. If any of you have questions just email me is be glad to hear from you.

  • alesgia

    So vampires are real 9 that’s interesting to talk about .but of course I wld hart to see one to believe it .

  • Aleshia

    So ur tellinge vpires exist among us ? If so true proove they are real

  • The Oracle & BlackKnight

    Anyone left? I am here. Where are you? The city is empty.
    theoracle_blacknight@yahoo.com

  • corey farrell

    i need answers just lik everyone else, if vampires are real then why are you on the internet trying to be seen? do you want to be seen? are you tired of hiding away for years? are there vampires across the world? are you a night walker? is it possible to become one? email me… CKFarrell@hotmail.co.uk serious answer tho people

  • Andy tait

    I don’t know if I believe vampires exist but I would love to know. If there are vampires one of them please prove it to me. Email me tait_andy6534@yahoo.com

  • theresa

    I think you have serious mental issues if you believe in vampires. Yes you can look and act like one, but to live forever and have powers, come on hahaha. You live in a fantasy

  • Kristi C

    I suppose anything is possible, but if Vamps are indeed factual creatures then why is their not one bit of actual proof? Same goes for bigfoot, aliens, werewolves etc. Seeing is believing. I would need hardcore proof, and not any of these wanna be goth vamps. If anyone could prove that then feel free to emal me kcummins04@yahoo.com

  • […] kicking some crocodile ass, you could head straight back to the French Quarter and chill with some real-life vampires. Sounds like one hell of a virtual experience, and that’s why I’m holding out hope that […]

  • Akanksha

    Well well I am still confused whether vampire exist or not coz if they exist why the hell do thy show up in towns like this n if they don’t and are just fictional characters like vampire diaries, night world or take game of thrones. Then plz ppl stop manipulating fiction with reality ✋

  • K

    Vampires do not eat raw meat

  • Daniel

    I am not looking to quench my curiousity. I have a goal. A goal that I feel I can’t complete in one lifetime. I am not looking for vampirism exclusively. I am looking for immortality. Immortality period. If you have any information on the matter, please contact me. CryptJack@Hotmail.com

  • Ankit Singh

    Their Voter ID cards, electric billes, Driving License have DOB. Apart from the police and Govt of New Orleans every one have seen Vamps. Strange…

  • Simran

    Please edward from albama and n/a from sacramento reply me had u saw vampire how do they look really dy exist in this century..please tell me the proper address .i am having a huge curisoty to become or talk to a vampire..as they are immortal..

  • Brittany

    Some of these comments are so funny. But all jokes aside, all things are possible. We dont have proof that they do exist… But we also dont have proof that they don’t. Think about it, there are still thousands of species of creatures that haven’t been discovered in the ocean. So its possible that there are many creatures that haven’t been discover on land to or have proof of their existance.

  • Justin Buzek

    In my personal opinion, along with the research I have done, these “vampires” are not a species of their own. They’re human beings who have a chemical imbalance causing them to have major energy loss. They have various ways to gain that energy. There’s the Sanguinarian which are “vampires” who derive their energy by drinking blood. The Psychic which is a “vampire” who feeds on the ambient energy given off by all living entities. As well as the Pranic who derive their energy from all prana energies given off by the body, including sexual contact. Of course there are people in it just for the culture. The whole vampire community in itself is very social. They care very much about the community as a whole. I’m not saying all of the “vampires” are 100% good people, just like all cultures and all societies they have nut cases who take something to the extreme. So yes, in a sense, vampires do exist. They have been around for centuries, but the media has put a little spin on them to make the movies and books a bit more interesting. To finish this off, vampires are not the immortal monsters that they are said to be.

  • John Griffin

    If there is any PROOF please contact me. Hard to believe in something that I haven’t seen . I’m a vampire Diaries Fan

  • Evelyn

    VAMPIRE FAMILY

    You are welcome to Vampire Brotherhood

    Vampire are REAL, I was give birth to as a FULL BLOOD VAMPIRE MEMBER here in California, United State.

    If you want to JOIN the VAMPIRE FAMILY ORGANIZATION which also mean you want to become a VAMPIRE then kindly visit our web site to fill the Vampire Form.

    Kindly go to our web site to get more information about the Vampire Family Home.
    Jiang Shi Paul
    Vampire Email: worldofvampir@hotmail.com
    Web Site: http://welcometoworldofvampire.yn.lt/

  • Cherryl Walker

    Vampire fandom really took off after Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire in 1976. This fandom is still going strong. As you must understand, I cannot give specifics, but there is a Vampire cult in a house right next door to me. It has been a while since anyone showed up in what I will call “Lestat” mufti (based on the 1994 movie based on the novel), the ruffled shirt, the tan gabardine pants, the brown riding boots, and bleached bond hair. Such individuals have made appearances over there, but not of late. At Halloween, costume stores do seem to run short on fake fang dentures. One thing I am thankful for, is that the individuals who live in the house next door leave me alone.

  • Chrishine Robertson

    I think that vampires are really real because there was a vampire attack on Bourbon Street.

  • Chris knight

    Actually for the people who think vampires look demonic are retarded because from legend vampires are seductive creatures when they see blood that’s when things get heated so from the shows you see are accurate its because people speculations are getting in the way vampires do exist when people say vampires aren’t immortal, strong or etc then your officially the dumbest person on the face of the planet because vampires are supernatural which is the occult hidden knowledge, knowledge neither of us have the government keeps UFOs from us simply and have been hiding it for centuries and continue to deny there existence even when we clearly know of there existence people see UFOs all the time but in very unexpected moments same with vampires & werewolves the government manipulated the history of vampires and werewolves to give scientist and skeptics a reason to diagnose everything medically because it just a bit odd how vampires and werewolves just vanished in history and no talks about it or brings it up and how scientist just shut it down with out a single thought that’s because science can’t touch the supernatural. So think twice before you say something doesn’t exist

  • c

    some one email me i am doing a project on the history of vampires in new Orleans i strongly believe they are really so if someone could email me about this please go ahead i would really appreciate it thank you.

  • D A. Moran

    No. Movies and Hollywood did not inform me that voodoo is satanic. The Bible did!

  • Jade

    Hello. I’ve been interested in learning about vampires. I

  • Jade

    Hello. My name is jade, im 17 and I’d like to learn more about vampires.. I’ve always been fascinated by them and i would like to learn about how they live… You can reach me at the email above!

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