On a recent trip to Louisiana, I toured several plantations and saw some fascinating nineteenth century artifacts. There was a flycatcher that lured flies with a mixture of sugar and arsenic. (Why-oh-why didn’t I know about this before I used arsenic as a murder weapon in my debut mystery, Plantation Shudders?)
A parlor in Houmas House featured extraordinary tapestries that took Ursuline nun novitiates years to create.
But my favorite item was this kit designed to ward off and/or slay vampires.
Now, I never jumped on the vampire bandwagon. I passed on every form of the Twilight series and chortled during the scene in the 1990s film, Dracula, where Gary Oldman slid across the floor like he was on a hoverboard. My husband and I spent months after we saw the movie entertaining each other by suddenly announcing in Romanian accents, “I am… Dracool.” And really, who can take these two fops from Interview With a Vampire seriously?
But that 19th century vampire protection kit got me thinking. I had no idea plantation dwellers suffered a fear of vampires so intense that it prompted them to shell out major coin for a case filled with an array of items designed to stave off an undead attack. My Cajun Country Mystery series is set in present-day Louisiana and features a modern protagonist, artist Maggie Crozat. But the presence of her ancestor, Magnolia Marie Doucet, looms large. Maggie was named after her and gives tours of Magnolia Marie’s home, Doucet Plantation. A portrait of the original Doucet matriarch hangs over the plantation’s parlor fireplace. And in the third book of the series, Magnolia Marie talks to her great-great-great-granddaughter Maggie in her dreams. (Or at least she does in the outline I’m currently noodling with.)
I began to wonder, could the vampire kit possibly inspire a prequel series? Sort of a Magnolia Marie Doucet, Vampire Slayer, where the nineteenth century southern belle hikes up her hoop skirts to battle bloodsuckers?
But as I pondered this idea, my thoughts drifted to a much more interesting character – the guy who sold these kits to gullible plantation owners. Considering some of the heinous practices that these men and women condoned, vampires should have been the least of their worries – which makes a peddler’s success at unloading items akin to snake oil pretty impressive. Bart Smith, Savvy Vampire Protection Kit Salesman – now that’s a series I can get behind.