New Orleans (WGNO) – Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 was alive Thursday night.
A second line led by the Skinz N Bonez bone gang kicked off a fundraiser in support of a very special family tomb that’s getting a makeover.
The name on the tomb reads, “KARSTENDIEK” — but it’s better known as “Lestat’s tomb,” because Anne Rice was inspired by its intricate design and elaborate style. The regal white-but rusting cast-iron structure needs repairs inside and out, to the tune of $50,000 to $70,000, according to Amanda Walker, the Executive Director of Save Our Cemeteries.
The Karstendiek Family tomb is one of only 16 cast-iron tombs in New Orleans. It bears a strong resemblance to the one featured in the movie version of Rices’s Interview with the Vampire.
“Unless someone steps in, these structures are going to fall to the ground–and unfortunately a lot of tombs have fallen to the ground. We ‘re the only ones doing this in New Orleans so we’ve got to save these treasures–and this one is very unique,” says Walker.
Two members of the Karstendiek family, Pepper and Peggy, traveled from Austin, Texas to join the fundraiser–and they proudly led the second line parade.
“My great-great grandfather immigrated from Germany sometime in the 1850s. We don’t have the exact papers, but we know by 1860 he was established here and that he imported the cast-iron tomb from Germany,” says Pepper Karstendiek. Since discovering the family tomb by chance more than 30 years ago, they’ve been visiting it at least once a year.
Peggy says they have no idea who is actually buried inside, and hopes the restoration project may reveal some answers. The family is thrilled that pop culture has put a spotlight on the tomb and given it star status in New Orleans.
Pepper says they were “flabbergasted” when they learned the Karstendiek tomb had been a source of inspiration for Rice.