Saturday, October 13, 2012

Samedi: Ghost Stories

I'm watching The Walking Dead marathon on AMC in anticipation of Sunday's season three opener. I'm a junky for this stuff. Anyway, it's late and big, fluffy snowflakes float down outside my window but a ghostly tale couldn't hurt. So here's a repost of a NOLA tale set in the infamous Parish Prison. What could be more appropriate?

For anyone who has studied, hunted or read about ghosts, it goes without saying that places like prisons are often more susceptible to haunting than other structures. The negative energy built up in prisons and penitentiaries cannot be denied and the wraiths that haunt these types of places are often as twisted and malevolent as they come. This is certainly the case in today's ghostly tale.

The story comes from Parish Prison which once stood at the corner of Saratoga and Tulane in New Orleans. This story made its way into the New Orleans Daily Picayune on my birthday, January 23rd, back in 1882. The brief article indicated that fourteen separate suicide attempts had occurred in the prison the prior year, all committed by inmates of cell number 17. Those who managed to survive told horrible stories of a pale woman - sometimes she was said to be a seductive redhead, other times a silent nun - who appeared in their locked cell and tortured them mercilessly all night long. She went about her grim work while wearing a pleasant expression and a tender smile.

When the prisoners' bodiees were examined, they revealed agonizing burns in the shapes of hands and fingers. The authorities, realizing something was up but unsure what to make of it, stopped using cell number 17. The haunting calmed, but only for a few weeks. Soon enough the redheaded haint was back, this time in cell number 7. Six women killed themselves over the course of a three month period.

Now the officers who worked at Parish Prison began to claim they had seen the ghost, but she appeared to them as a beautiful, regal woman. Employees dubbed her "The Redheaded Countess" and it was at this time, when the article was written, that the warden of the prison claimed to have met up with her on the back stairs. Captain Bachemin swore he passed the Countess; she smiled at him and touched his arm, searing his flesh right through the sleeve of his uniform.

While the story is certainly intriguing, it is impossible to verify over 100 years later. As the storyteller in Gumbo Ya~Ya ends the tale: the captain met the specter, or so he claims...

Header: Red-Haired Man from Swank Magazine c 1958; art by Charles Copeland via Mid-Century ~ it really has nothing to do with the story but it has a nice, creepy vibe, don't you think?


Timmy! said...

That story sounds very familiar, Pauline... it is creepy though.

I do like the painting, too.

Blue Lou Logan said...

That's an awful lot of good ingredients in a single tale: New Orleans, hot ghosty redhead, prison, and my favorite number (17). Meanwhile, the art is an all-but-naked woman being led by a ginger=haired man who seems to have already turned into a walker. Plus Alaska snow (sigh). What's not to like? OK, if the perky, scantily clad femme was the redhead, then I'd be up all night. Can't sleep anyhow.

Speaking of walkers, we were right there with you on the zombie marathon. And Season 3 is off to a damned fine start, IMHO.

Pauline said...

Hey, thanks Lou. Sorry about the insomnia. I'm sure it is probably an unfortunate component of your illness. More positive energy your way!

We loved "The Walking Dead" opener too. Timmy! is certain our favorite DVM is done for. Our daughters and I are on the other side of the fence, however. We'll see...