New Orleans is a city rich in the macabre. One cannot go far in the French Quarter without passing a site infamous for its ghost and/or vampire lore. If ever there was a source for American vampire stories, New Orleans would most assuredly be that source.
One such destination is the old Ursuline Convent. Located a ways down on Chartres street, this three-story Colonial masterpiece sits behind a high wall accompanied by old gothic iron gates and a lush courtyard. During the day, one can marvel at the beauty of the architecture and the landscape, it's actually quite pleasant. Completed some time around 1750, this place holds some of the most gruesome history around.
Some of that history includes accounts of the first vampires to hit the New World. When New Orleans was still an establishing colony, the convent was a "sanctuary" for girls sent from France sent to help populate the colony. Much to their dismay, these girls would unknowingly be sent into the arms of the vagrants and thieves, usually never heard from by their families again. Legend has it that the king of France sent a group of handpicked girls as part of the colony's assistance. These girls were the poorest of the poor in France, yet they must've had something special, for each girl was sent to New Orleans with these casket-shaped boxes of all different sizes. Presumably, it held their belongings though no one knows for sure what they brought with them on their journey. All that is certain is that after they arrived, the mortality rate skyrocketed. To be more precise, the infant mortality rate was highly affected.
As far as their oddly shaped trousseaus, they were said to be stored on the third floor of the convent, not to be removed until each girl found the proper suitor. The problem is when they were removed, the caskets were found completely empty. The fear of what escaped those caskets brought the Archdiocese to the convent, where they took all the caskets and locked them in the third floor storage area indefinitely. No one, and I mean NO ONE that isn't part of the tight knit Vatican family is allowed inside the third floor of the convent to this day. Recently, I was told, they rigged the only stairway leading to the third floor with high-tech motion sensitive equipment (I mean a mouse could set this thing off). If set off, the police will respond to the convent with high priority and will be on the scene in five minutes or less. There's no going up there, ever.
As if that measure wasn't quite severe enough, they went further with the containment and sealed off all the windows to the third floor... 800 screws EACH. And if you think that would definitely be the end-all to their security measures, they had the Pope at the time bless each individual screw. That's 8000 blessed screws total keeping whatever is in the third floor hidden from the world. However, when confronted with these questions about the blessed screws, the Vatican denies ever having approved such a thing. However, I suppose anyone would deny their involvement in such a drastic measure when even 8000 blessings from the Pope doesn't keep the shutters from flying open on occasion in the middle of the night.
Yep, you heard it correctly; for no reason at all, locals have reported seeing the shutters with the 800 blessed screws fly open with no problem. We have either some really shitty carpentry work here, or something more powerful than we could imagine is at play here. There haven't been reports of what comes from these windows, the locals don't stay long enough to see...would you?
Back in the 70's, a small group of paranormal researchers made their way to New Orleans to look into the convent. Besides what you have read here, the stories continue with this place. Perhaps it was the coffin girls' story that brought them here. There is also an interesting story about the walls surrounding the convent. Some time ago, the city replaced the walls after they were found to be leaning into the street. Tearing them down, they found countless bones surrounding the walls. After some testing, they found all the bones belonged to infants housed in the convent at a time when it was being used for an orphanage. Most assuredly these infants fell victim to the plague at the time, though there was talk about the creatures still locked away in the third floor; they definitely needed to eat on occasion, else they turn to the city for sustenance. It definitely could've been one of the reasons the researchers came to the convent. They took the formal tour of the place, though none could even find where steps leading to the third floor were. They asked the caretakers of the convent to see the third floor or even chat for a while about it, though they were met with suspicious looks and unkind words. Needless to say, they were kicked out for asking the wrong questions. That night, two of the four researchers left to search the Quarter for a hotel while the other two stayed, technically camping out at the gates of the convent.
Around 2 a.m., when the street activities died down and they were alone on the streets, they had gone hours without anything remotely interesting happening. Off guard, they engaged in quiet chat, not even noticing the shutters slowing opening right behind them. I assume that bit only because when their bodies were found the next morning, there didn't seem to be evidence of much of a struggle. What was evident, however, was their bodies were completely exsanguinated, with ripped wounds all over their drained bodies. An interesting fact I've learned in my research is that in the most pristine lab conditions, it's only humanly possible to remove about 70% of a person's blood supply before the veins collapse on themselves. Even hanging a person upside down and completely severing every major artery in the neck, you could not successfully and completely exsanguinate a person. It begs the question; what the fuck is up there? What... thing could possible have the power to drain a person of their entire blood supply without eating them whole? The thing EVER reported to come from those windows is an unnatural mist, that tends to grow and completely surround the estate. It was a really foggy morning that day those two researchers were found, as well... at least, around the crime scene. If you're curious such as I was, you'd be surprised to know that those shutters were back in place before the police ever found the bodies.
With that in mind, I've seen these shutters with my own eyes, dozens of times in my trips to New Orleans. Only once did I see them open, and it was the last time I went to that block of Chartres street. In my foolish curiosity, I attempted the same campout in front of the gates, by myself. I feel the reader should know that I get myself into these situations a lot and it usually ends up uneventful, even disappointing. I've gotten so used to disappointment that I fail to bring tools to document, like cameras and whatnot, so I apologize for my lack of proof. The best I can do this this retelling.
Around midnight, a friend of mine (local tour guide) stopped by the convent on his way home after he saw me sitting and waiting patiently. He was talking about heading to one of the local bars to catch up until I told him of my plans. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who got me interested in the place to begin with. His friendly smile changed quickly to a confused frown.
"You think this is some sort of joke?" he asked, almost insulted.
"We don't tell these stories to lure you into this death trap, we tell you these things to keep you AWAY!" We argued for a while about how I need to learn to take warnings more seriously, but I'm a hard-headed person and after much persistence, he regrettably gave up. With sad, worried eyes, he told me he hoped to see me tomorrow, then we would catch up. He didn't sound very confident, I thought, as I watched him disappear down the street to leave me with my thoughts.
After a few hours, I was ready to give up and call it another failed night. I gathered my things, and looked at my watch. 3:30 in the morning. I'm sure even the undead at this point need some sleep. I didn't even notice one of the shutters was creeping open. I walked a few steps before I noticed I was surrounded in a foggy mist. My heart sank when I saw the shutter, then I watched every other shutter not only open, but fly open like something exploded up there. At that point the mist was pouring out of the windows like a rush of water. Terrified, I could only stare as this thick rolling fog pour down the sides of the convent and blanketed the courtyard inside. Then a slow, ascending hiss all around me. My eyes darted around, trying desperately to see through the thick blanket enveloping me. Nothing at all to see. Suddenly, I was thrown face first into the iron gates. Unimaginable pressure built, pressing me harder into the gates. I felt my heart pounding in my throat, gasping for air as a large hand grasped the back of my head, pushing my throat into the bars.
"Look at what they've done.." A raspy voice hissed into my ear. I felt bits of moisture hit my cheek with each word, and the stench of whatever this was, it was completely unbearable, nauseating. I couldn't answer it, though I couldn't see anything, anyway. Pressing my face even harder into the iron bars, I felt like my head was going to burst from weight on it. "Do..you..seeeeee" it hissed again with that stench of rot swirling in my nose.
All of a sudden the mist in the courtyard cleared and I saw them, not clearly, like looking at 4 shadows. Then their eyes, impossibly black, opened and moved my way. I couldn't answer, couldn't breathe, my heart beating out of my chest. Then I felt in slowly breathe in, maybe smelling me, I'm not even sure at that point. Then, as naturally as a breeze, the pressure was gone. However, I found myself instantly in the middle of this hedgemaze of a courtyard in front of the convent. The shadows were surrounding me now. The one at my back swirled around right in front of me. Even this close it was just a grey shadow with those big impossible black eyes and a crooked red wound-looking mouth. Looking into its eyes was like looking into the eyes of a hungry tiger, its entire being taken over by a killer instinct..no convincing this thing to spare me, I shook like a scared rabbit waiting for the instant of death by a swift predator. Then the madness of monstrous hisses and groans were instantly silenced by an elderly woman's voice. She screamed something at these things, maybe in another language, I couldn't tell. I was certain I was out of my mind when everything around me disappeared. I was just there, in the courtyard, looking like a scared idiot. Then I saw the source of that firm voice; a petite nun was standing there at the edge of the courtyard, looking back at me with disapproving eyes. She was adorned in an old-fashioned looking habit, holding something that looked like a stick in her hand. "You don't belong here, girl.
Better get going," she said in disappointed grandma voice. I didn't hesitate. She opened the gate for me to leave, the same one I was firmly pressed against not moments ago. I walked out, heard the gates slam close and lock. I turned around, wanting to at least thank the woman for saving me..I mean I'm pretty sure that's what happened, right? She was gone, though. I would imagine it would take an elderly woman some time to walk back through that huge courtyard, but sure enough she was gone. I looked up, the shutters were closed tight like they never opened at all. That was enough for me. I was gone. There was no going back to talk to this nun, either, especially when I found out the next day that there hadn't been nuns there in years. I left it alone, and though my risky death-wishy side wants me to go back with some cameras, I just logically won't.
I've been back to New Orleans since then, but never there. Shit... I still see those eyes in the darkest parts of the night, my nightmares...