Casket girls, Ursuline nuns. How did vampires come to New Orleans?

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Do you believe in vampires? There's vampire folklore in every civilization, every country, and every religion. They're known under various names.

"One culture would call them the Umpire. There's the Lamia, the di Ardent, or the Palmary," explained Lord Chaz, owner of Dark Theatre Productions, a ghost and vampire tour company in the French Quarter.

And throughout history vampires have been more than just hearsay.

"The most documentation came from the Eastern Europeans," said Kalila Smith of Haunted History Tours. "These people, the gypsies, actually had a lot of vampire folklore and they documented it. There's case upon case upon case from as far back as the 1200s of people being visited by vampires."

But in New Orleans, the stories have some truths, even today.

"If we're talking here in New Orleans of course, I always credit the Ursuline nuns and the casket girls that were brought over from France in the 1720s," said Chaz.

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Brides were sent over for the first settlers of New Orleans. With them, they carried hope chests, but to the town's people they looked like coffins.

"Imagine what those settlers saw when they saw a ship coming into their port, young women escorted into a catholic convent followed by deckhands carrying what looks like coffins," Smith said.

Shortly after the casket girls arrived in New Orleans, Chaz said death rate doubles. "That's when we see legends of vampire-like murders and people drained of blood."

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Many believe the casket girls smuggled vampires over from Europe in the caskets. And to this day, the original caskets are still stored in the attic at the Ursuline Convent. Or so the folklore goes.

"If you look at the Ursuline convent, you'll notice that all of its attic windows are covered with shutters, but if you go around the French Quarter, you'll notice that attic windows don't normally have shutters," Chaz explained.

Do vampires still live in New Orleans

"I believe that there are people among us today that believe they are vampires. Now do I believe that there's the traditional corpse that comes from the grave and lives immortally. Well, that's fiction," Smith said.

"I think there are things out there that we don't understand. It's highly likely, it seems to me, that if there is a creature, a predator in our world that preys on humans, it would be in its own best interest to do everything it can to make humans believe that it's a product of fiction," Chaz said.