Saturday, September 10, 2011

Samedi: Ghostly Tales

As the weather cools down, the leaves begin to fall and the smell of fireplace smoke drifts on the evening air, my thoughts turn to my favorite holiday: Halloween.  That, in turn, gets me thinking about ghost stories; remembering the ones I’m fond of and hunting around for new ones.  I especially enjoy the many ghostly tales that originate in my favorite city in the world: New Orleans.

Recently I’ve gone back to the chapter entitled simply “Ghosts” in perhaps the most wonderful product of the 1930s WPA Louisiana Writers Project Gumbo Ya-Ya.  Louisiana slang for a group of people making noise or “everyone talking at once” Gumbo Ya-Ya was edited by Lyle Saxon, Robert Tallant and Edward Dreyer.   I’m a huge admirer of Lyle Saxon whose wonderful books about New Orleans past and present are a treat to savor again and again, so seeing his hand in these old, familiar ghost stories is particularly dear to me.  

From now until the end of October, I’d like to honor both The Ghede and Mr. Saxon by repeating some ghost stories found in Gumbo Ya-Ya every Saturday here at HQ.  I’ll tell you the ones I remember so I can put the spin I heard on them rather than just regurgitate what’s in the book.  Today let us investigate the story of Hans Muller, the ghostly sausage maker.  This story was evidently remembered by a lady named Rica Hoffman, whose parents were friendly with the doomed Muller but it is also one told to this day in the Big Easy.

Hans Muller ran a popular sausage factory in New Orleans.  He and his wife were German immigrants and it seems that once they settled down in bayou country Hans began to look upon his wife – whose name is never mentioned in the story – as a dowdy if hard working frau when compared to the local beauties.  Emboldened by success, Hans took a lovely young mistress and got it in his mind to do away with Mrs. Muller.

One day, while she was working over the enormous grinder in the factory, Hans pushed his wife into the machine.  She was ground up along with the sausage meat and her husband thought he was free to marry his paramour.

A few days later, customers began returning sausage they had purchased complaining of bits of cloth and hair in the product.  Gossip flew around NOLA, as it always will; soon Hans was out most of his trade.  Worse still, his young lovely got wind of the rumors and dumped him without remorse.  Hans was in despair, and neighbors said they saw him wandering his factory at all hours.

On one of these midnight jaunts Hans heard a loud thumping near the grinder.  Hurrying over to investigate, he was met by the gruesome and mutilated specter of his wife.  She lunged at him and he screamed so shrilly that one of the neighbors came to the door of the factory to see if he was all right.

Hans thought fast and claimed to have fallen asleep in his office and experienced a bad dream.  When the neighbor enquired after Mrs. Muller, Hans claimed she had gone back to Germany for an extended visit. 

Not long after that night, one of Muller’s few customers broke a tooth on a sausage.  Finding that the culprit was a piece of gold ring in the casing, the customer called the authorities.  When the police arrived at his factory, they found Hans unshaved and unwashed, curled up in a corner and starring wide-eyed at the meat grinder.  Questioned, the sausage maker could not reply coherently but only rave about the gory ghost of his wife rising from the grinder and trying to kill him.

Since Muller would say no more on any subject, he was finally committed to an asylum where he lived out the rest of his days.

Next week, the story of a beautiful quadroon, her cruel lover and a cold December night.  Bon Samedi ~

Header: Rue Bourbon c 1933 via Retro-Snapshots


Timmy! said...

Good story, Pauline. Sort of Sweeney Todd-esque, if you will.

Pauline said...

Absolutely, but if Sweeney had cooked up Mrs. Lovett.

Charles L. Wallace said...

Finding a gold ring in one's sausage... even better than finding the baby in a King Cake! haha at least at the pawn shop ;-)

Pauline said...

Hopefully it would pay to fix the broken tooth.