Vampire Hunting in New Orleans

I grew up in a devout Christian household that strongly opposed anything and everything relating to the supernatural. While my friends read Harry Potter I read the Bible… okay that is a bit of an exaggeration but my parents really never let us touch the series or anything similar for fear that witchcraft and the Devil would corrupt our mortal souls. It wasn’t till the sixth grade when I began reading The Twilight Saga, much to my parents dismay, that I became obsessed with vampirism and vampire fiction. It was entertaining and I adored it, so much so that I had a poster of Robert Pattinson, who played the main heartthrob in the movie adaptation, hidden in my closet. I know my parents only intended to protect me from evil, but my interest in the supernatural was purely for entertainment purposes and I was not at risk of being possessed by the devil just for reading a little vampire fiction. It did however raise questions of Heaven and Hell, and of goodness and evil and why:

People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil... Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.
— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

But why is that? Why is it so much harder to have goodness instead of evil? Near the top of the list of the evil and morally damned seems to rest the Vampire. Traditional Vampire depictions promise cold, pale creatures that turn into bats and haunt the streets at night with their fangs bared. They retreat to their coffin resting place before even a hint of sunlight can reach their soul-less exterior, cursed with eternal life and of course, an unquenchable thirst for the blood that pulses through human veins. Vampires have been rumored to lurk the streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans since its beginnings, and New Orleans has always been notorious for murders and missing persons which has earned the title of America's Most Haunted. Interview with the Vampire begins with the story of one of the Louisiana indigo plantations not far from the city, characterized by humid swamp lands and gnarled oaks dripping with Spanish moss which I imagine resembles the Whitney Plantation that stands just an hour outside of New Orleans. The story quickly transitions to the old city, the French Quarter, still largely preserved — and its streets of Creole cottages and colonial villas, with their battered shutters and secluded courtyards. The city is historically charged with voodoo magic thanks to the slave trade and heavily influenced by Catholic mysticism from generations of European immigrants; the combination suggesting all too obviously blood-spilling of a vampiric nature. New York Times best selling author Anne Rice begins weaving her tale in a city long identified with sexual permissiveness that is a plausible home and haven for dashing, irresistible and romanticized blood suckers. 

 Whitney Plantation 

Whitney Plantation 

 Creole Cottage in The French Quarter 

Creole Cottage in The French Quarter 

In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air, I knew I was home. It was rich, almost sweet, like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard. I walked the streets, savoring that long lost perfume.
— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
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I took a deep breath searching for the sweet smell of jasmine that the Vampire Louis describes, but instead I am drawn into the aroma of the beignets nestled in warm powdered sugar in front of me. Beignets are essentially glorified doughnuts, nothing is particularly special about them except perhaps that they are native to New Orleans and a ‘must try’ at Cafe du Monde. I dust off the powdered sugar that inevitably lingers on your clothing after even one bite of the flaky French doughnut and begin to head down Decatur Street. There is a vibrant electricity that possesses the streets of this city at all hours: an undeniable charisma that seems to be followed by a cloud of foreboding darkness. The streets can be calm until you turn a corner and are inevitably enveloped in chaos, which makes it no wonder that this city is ideal for the supernatural. A few drops of rain fall from the sky and within moments the sidewalks are flooded and an unforgiving storm erupts in what feels like the blink of an eye.

A summer rain had left the night clean and sparkling with drops of water. I leaned against the end pillar of the gallery, and I thought of what lay before me throughout the world and throughout time, and resolved to go about it delicately and reverently, learning that from each thing which would take me best to another.
— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

Anyone who has ever been caught in a rain storm has experienced the adrenaline of running through the endless droplets searching for shelter, and the overwhelming relief once you find it. You don’t expect the sky to weep so intensely on a ninety degree day but it only reenforces the fact that anything is possible, and that balance must always be restored. Rain is a cooling and  calming force that counteracts the opposing sides of nature like sunshine to maintain an equilibrium or natural balance that sustains our Universe. Everything in the world has a counterpart; for day there is night, for good there is evil, for Satan there is God— contrary to the affirmation of Lestat in Interview with the Vampire where he laments that

This evil, this concept, it comes from disappointment, from bitterness! Don’t you see? Children of Satan! Children of God! Is this the only question you bring to me, is this the only power that obsesses you, so that you must make us gods and devils yourself when the only power that exists is inside ourselves? How could you believe in these old fantastical lies, these myths, these emblems of the supernatural?
— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

Rice’s novel offers probing psychological analyses and pursues philosophical questions such as, What is the nature of good and evil? Does life have intrinsic value, or is it an unfortunate series of accidents mercifully ended? Is immortality the greatest possible gift or the ultimate and inescapable burden? A new perspective is gained on human nature through the lens of nonhuman eyes as our protagonist grapples with these existential struggles. My theme song for my own explorations of life and the city is Step by Vampire Weekend. The song feels uncannily unstuck in time yet nostalgic for the past. The track's atmosphere adds an element of muted, drizzly grandeur to the sharply observed lyrics, which have such a varied vernacular texture that they sound like clipped phrases overheard on a stroll through the city. Near the end of the song, an unbearably poignant observation cuts through the chatter of the lyrics, that

Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth
— Vampire Weekend

which makes you realize that we spend most of our lives striving to be better, smarter, and wiser, yet once we reach a certain point, we are left longing for our youth, and the chance to do it all over again. Whatever answers you are searching for, whether it be truth, wisdom, religion, or even Vampires, savor every moment and strive to find contentment even in the midst of chaos.