Vampire legend and lore has been around for centuries. These sultry, deadly creatures have captured the fancy of their prey, and in our city, the undead not only walk freely in the daylight, but are the proprietors of businesses. You can get a saucy, vampy haircut at the Vamp Salon then take a ghostly tour of the French Quarter with Lord Chaz as your guide, for instance. And that’s not all the undead can do here.
The most visible vampire business is the Boutique de Vampyre, a shop located at 709 St. Ann Street in the French Quarter. Owner Marita Jaeger became enamored of the city while visiting and felt compelled to be a part of it and its storied history. “When I first came here, I fell in love with the city, and I never left. I didn’t believe in ghosts before I moved here, and now I absolutely do. There’s something here. I think it’s because of the history of the city and the culture with the pirates, brothels, prisoners and all the strange ways people died here – things like that don’t just happen anywhere. People come here to disappear. People want to be here for a reason: the food, the music, the camaraderie, family. But there’s still that underlying element.”
Jaegar’s store is the only vampire shop in the country and one of only three in the world. “It really is a special shop; you can’t find things in our shop anywhere else. Little by little, our shop is becoming more of a destination. We have a map of the French Quarter with all of the Gothic shops in it. Even if people aren’t coming here just for vampires, voodoo and ghosts, it’s at least part of their trip,” explains Jaeger. Boutique de Vampyre has an emphasis on local and/or artisan.
Jaeger describes some of her products: “Almost everything here is made locally; we have 130 artists that make things for us. Almost all of our books are signed by the author, including Anne Rice; she signs books for me for our dog rescue organization. We make our own candles here; they have a pewter charm in them. Our chainmail artist had one of his necklaces featured in the movie Twilight. We have hot sauce from Transylvania, Louisiana. We have leather journals with handmade paper. Our perfume is really neat; it’s made by Huvé, the oldest perfumer in New Orleans. It comes with a scroll about vampires’ attraction to roses. That’s what makes our shop so special: it’s either local artists or artists that come to our shop and make things that we don’t have.”
A newer item that the Boutique carries will last you a lifetime, and if you’re a real vampire, it can last your never-ending lifetime. “Vampire Lesson Boxes: you can buy one as a gift or for yourself, but it can never be regifted,” explains Jaeger. “You learn the lessons that vampires have learned over the centuries – how to build wealth, the gift of patience, the gift of giving – and you add something to the box every year. You register the box with us, and each year something new happens. At the end of your life, you can will it to someone.”
Boutique de Vampyre has a new employee who will draw people in with fortunes and gifts, a fortune teller named Saint Germaine who sits in his glass box and will give you a prize upon giving him a token of your appreciation.
You can’t be a vampire without a great set of fangs, and Maven Lore has been crafting them locally for years. Maven Lore hails from New York City and never left New Orleans after attending a convention here. He creates custom fangs in a variety of styles and is the producer of the biggest vamp bashes the South has ever seen.
“There’s no one type of person who gets fangs. Most of my clients are ordinary people: business people, factory workers, exotic dancers, people who just want something to wear on Halloween. Everyone seems to be into the genre these days,” says Lore.
One party that Lore puts on is the Bad Things Ball, a multi-faceted dark party with music, other acts and, of course, lots of vampy goodness. This year, the Bad Things Ball will take place on Halloween night on Bourbon Street at Lucky Pierre’s.
“The idea behind the Bad Things Ball is local talent and local organizers. We’re keeping the money within the city,” Lore says. “We had issues with outsiders not paying local talent and leaving town. We want to heal the hurt that’s been going on for a decade and a half. You can learn more about the Ball and purchase tickets at badthingsnation.com. It’s going to be a dark carnival with trapeze artists, stilt walkers, illusionists, belly dancers and high-wire acts. Our special VIP room is called the Caligula Room. They’ll have a full absinthe bar and private performances. It’s going to be a massive event.”
Lore has joined forces with Boutique de Vampyre to strengthen the vampire’s hold on the French Quarter.
“Right now, as far as I can see, we’re the only ones actively trying to create an economic system within the French Quarter," explains Lore excitedly. “Vamp Salon, fangsmithing, Boutique de Vampyre: they’re the only vampire-related businesses. We hope to grow that. When I lived in New York, every kind of ethnic group had its own economic system, which is one of the reasons why New York prospers economically. Why not have vampires have their own businesses? We’re a small group trying to create businesses around what we love,” states Lore.
The big question surrounding these fascinating niche businesses, their proprietors and their customers is: Are vampires real? “There is a real vampire culture. But are you going to turn into a bat? Probably not. My personal belief is that it’s a philosophy and culture rather than a physical state of being,” answers Lore. “Things have changed so much over the centuries that if vampires were real, they wouldn’t be dangerous like they used to be because there are ways to get around that stuff with technology. People want them to be real so badly. You can’t get away from vampire mythology. People want to escape from reality, and vampires are sexy and dangerous,” says Jaeger. Whether or not blood-sucking, non-aging creatures of the night really exist, the industries that their legend has created are indeed real and open for business.