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New Orleans Casket Girls

The New Orleans Casket Girls are a legendary group of young women who arrived in New Orleans in the early 18th century. These women were brought to the city to marry French colonists and were known for the small caskets or casquettes they carried with them. The history of the Casket Girls is steeped in myth and legend, and their story has captivated the imagination of people for centuries.

According to legend, the Casket Girls were accused of being vampires and locked in the Old Ursuline Convent, where they died mysteriously. While there is no historical evidence to support this claim, the story has become a part of New Orleans folklore and is often retold during ghost tours of the city. Despite the lack of evidence, the story of the Casket Girls continues to fascinate people and has become an integral part of New Orleans history.

The history of the Casket Girls is a fascinating look at the early days of New Orleans and the challenges faced by the French colonists who settled there. While the legend of the Casket Girls may be shrouded in mystery, their story has become an important part of New Orleans culture and continues to inspire people to this day.

Historical Background

Arrival in New Orleans

In the early years of the French colony of La Nouvelle Orleans, there was a shortage of women. To address this issue, the French government sent young women to the colonies to marry. These women were known as “filles à la cassette” or “casket girls” because they carried their clothes in small chests called casquettes.

The first group of casket girls arrived in New Orleans in 1728. They were greeted with a bustling port filled with shouting men, stamping horses, and scraping boxes as the ships were unloaded. For the young women aboard the ship, New Orleans was a taste of the forbidden and the unknown.

French Filles à la Cassette

The journey to Louisiana for the casket girls began with a young woman hearing of the programs to bring women to the colonies through the nuns of their convent, school, or orphanage who wanted to reduce the number of girls in their care. The women then made marriage contracts with men who arranged their trip.

Of the 258 women shipped to Louisiana between 1719 and 1721, twenty-nine were from orphanages, thirty-five were from poor houses, and 194 were convicted criminals from the infamous prison La Force. They were called the casket girls after the cassettes or small trunks they brought with them.

The French filles à la cassette played an important role in the early history of New Orleans, helping to establish a population in the colony and contributing to the cultural diversity of the region.

Myths and Legends

Vampire Associations

One of the most popular myths surrounding the Casket Girls of New Orleans is their supposed association with vampires. According to legend, the girls arrived in the city with caskets that were filled with soil from their homeland, France. The belief was that the soil was necessary for the girls to survive, as they were actually vampires. It is said that the girls were kept locked up in the attic of the Ursuline Convent, where they would only come out at night to feed on the blood of unsuspecting victims.

Despite the popularity of this legend, there is no evidence to support its claims. Historians believe that the caskets carried by the girls were actually filled with their personal belongings, such as clothing and other necessities.

Supernatural Folklore

In addition to the vampire legend, there are other supernatural tales associated with the Casket Girls. Some say that the girls were witches who practiced dark magic and were responsible for various curses and misfortunes that befell the city. Others claim that the girls were ghosts who haunted the streets of New Orleans, searching for their lost caskets.

While these stories are intriguing, they are likely just that – stories. There is no concrete evidence to support any of these claims, and it is more likely that the Casket Girls were simply young women who were brought to the city to marry and start new lives.

Cultural Impact

Literature and Media

The legend of the Casket Girls has been a popular subject in literature and media. The story of the young French women who arrived in New Orleans with only a small casket of belongings has been romanticized and retold in various forms. Novels such as “The Casket Girls” by Alys Arden and “Casket Girls” by Susan Castillo Street have been inspired by this legend. The Casket Girls have also made appearances in popular television shows such as “American Horror Story: Coven.”

Tourism and Local Lore

The Casket Girls have become a part of the local lore and tourism industry in New Orleans. Visitors can take ghost tours that include stops at the Ursuline Convent, where the girls were said to have stayed upon their arrival. The legend has also inspired various events, such as the annual Casket Girls Festival in the French Quarter. The festival includes live music, food, and drinks, and celebrates the history and culture of New Orleans.

The legend of the Casket Girls has become an integral part of New Orleans’ cultural identity. While the true history of these women may never be fully known, their story continues to capture the imagination of locals and visitors alike.

The Casket Girls Today

Descendants and Heritage

Today, the descendants of the Casket Girls are proud of their heritage and the role their ancestors played in the history of New Orleans. Many of them gather together to celebrate their unique culture and history. They have formed organizations and associations dedicated to preserving the memory of the Casket Girls and their contributions to the city. These groups organize events and activities to educate people about the Casket Girls and their legacy.

Annual Commemorations

Every year, the city of New Orleans hosts an annual commemoration to honor the Casket Girls. The event takes place in October and includes a parade, music, and other festivities. The parade features floats decorated with caskets and women dressed in traditional French attire. The event attracts locals and tourists alike, who come to celebrate the Casket Girls and their impact on the city.

Overall, the Casket Girls have left an indelible mark on the history and culture of New Orleans. Their legacy lives on in the city’s traditions, celebrations, and the proud descendants who continue to honor their memory.