Friday, October 25, 2013

Cemetery "research" in New Orleans


Hey, internet friends. Long time no talk. Haven't blogged much lately because...well, there hasn't been much to blog about. But I'm starting a new job next week and thought now was the perfect time to take the trip to New Orleans I've been planning.

The novel I'm currently working on is about a group of necromancers in New Orleans. The protagonist has a strange fascination with death and even wants to become a mortician. And what better place to have fun vacation research death in New Orleans than a cemetery tour? So I booked a tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and spent this past Wednesday walking around the French Quarter. (Don't worry, I didn't go alone-I dragged my parents along with me.)


The French Quarter is not for the claustrophobic. The streets are already narrow and people park on them, leaving limited room for driving. Fortunately there are parking lots, but the bathrooms are a tight squeeze too. Right before the tour, mom and I slipped in a bar to use the bathroom...and I got carded. Just to go pee.

But they did have some pretty sweet Halloween decorations.




The cemetery was just as narrow as the Quarter streets (and bathrooms). I was surprised at how small it was-probably about half the size of a football field, if that. But they've managed to cram hundreds of bodies in the vaults by what our tour guide referred to as "shake and bake." Once a body was buried, the tomb had to remain sealed for a certain amount of time to allow the body to decompose. Once another family member died (assuming the minimum time had passed), they removed the last person's remains, shook them around to break them down a little more, put them in a bag, and stuck the newly dead person's casket on top. So the vaults were the size normally used to house one body, but dozens of people could be buried there.



There was also a "society tomb" that held over 200 bodies of people who didn't really have families.

And the grave that Nicholas Cage will apparently be buried in one day.

And, of course, there was the tomb of Marie Loveau, the famous voodoo queen. Apparently the belief is if you mark three x's on her tomb, she'll grant you a wish. But this is considered vandalism, and the tomb owners don't like it, so a lot of people leave offerings instead. I saw flowers, lip gloss, and even a Saints flag.


Toward the back, I saw a group of workers and the morbid side of me got excited because I thought they were actually burying a body or sealing a tomb. Turns out they were just building one.

I found another tomb with x's on it, just like Marie Loveau's grave. There are rumors she wasn't really buried in the grave marked as hers, so some people marked another tomb they thought was hers.

And some other generally cool photos:


Our tour guide's name was Ernie, and he was awesome. If you ever want a cemetery tour in New Orleans, the Haunted History tours are great. I want to go back sometime and do the Ghosts and Gardens tour through Lafayette Cemetery, where I initially wanted to go but didn't even know there was a tour until I got there.

And what better post-tour activity than stopping by Cafe du Monde? It was completely different from what I expected-not exactly a place to sit down and read. But the bengeits are amazing.


We went back to the French Quarter for dinner and headed home...where I watched American Horror Story, where the current season follows a coven of witches in New Orleans.

It was an awesome trip. I learned a lot, got a lot of inspiration, and had a lot of fun. My NaNo novel takes place in the Redwood Forest...wonder if I can scrape up enough change to buy a plane ticket? Or maybe move it to some forest nearby. It wouldn't be as hot there, right?



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