There are hundreds of fascinating and frightening tales that come down to us from the days of Old New Orleans, but though they all puzzle us only a few of them actually reach out and touch our present-day lives in a real way. The Legend of the Devil Baby, the enduring ghosts of Marie Laveau and Prince Ke’yama, the Chicken Man are only a few of the legends that repeatedly surface, year after year, in modern tales experienced by local residents and visitors alike.
Among these tales one of the most tragically gruesome is that of Little Violette whose name rings through infamy, forever associated with the epithet “The Zombie Child.”
Here, then, is her story, just as it was told to me by a grand old dame of the secret Vodoun sosyete founded by New Orleans legend Marie Laveau who had heard it firsthand from her grandmothers and aunts, all followers of Laveau’s successor, Mam’zelle Malvina LaTour. According to most sources, Malvina experienced the entire event while an adolescent child learning the dark arts of her African ancestors alongside her mother, who was a student of Marie Laveau, and numerous aunts who were all members of Laveau’s sosyete.
It is said that the child was born into one of the wealthiest families in Old New Orleans; although the surname has been obscured by the passage of time (perhaps deliberately so), the given names of her parents never change in the telling: they were called Robért and Yvette among the Europeans and Creoles.
Most believe they once lived in a beautiful home on the edge of the Old Quarter on lands then owned by members of the great Marigny family. Their marriage, while both were still quite young, had been a joyous occasion and the source of celebration among all the extended members of their family. But though they were wealthy and rich in love, for several years the greatest blessing – that of a healthy child – seemed to elude them.
On the advice of an elderly aunt, Robert sought the help of one of the most famous physicians then practicing in New Orleans, Dr. Joseph Victor Gottschalk, known to all as “Physician, Surgeon, Occultist and Accoucheur.” In these last two capacities, particularly, Dr. Gottschalk was to serve his clients only too well, for when his skills as physician helped produce the desired result – pregnancy in Yvette – his services as an “accoucheur,” the French name for male mid-wife, were then also required. However, in a tragic twist of fate, his dabbling in the occult, and his association with others who practiced the forbidden crafts, would secure a place in legend for Yvette’s child.
Beautiful little Violette , it is said, came into the world in one of those vibrant New Orleans springs that make a person happy to simply be alive. In the courtyards and alcoves of the old Quarter the foliage was growing lush and every breeze smelled like mimosa and honeysuckle in the day while in the evenings the scent of jasmine hung heavy on the air. Across the Marigny estates the native azaleas were budding and the dogwoods bursting into bloom. It seemed that the entire landscape had been painted by some unseen hand to be a gift in celebration of the arrival of little Violette.
Relieved of her nine month burden, the young mother, Yvette, held socials in her home where the landed and the wealthy came bearing tokens of welcome for the little girl whom the doting parents had named Violette because her eyes were the color of pure amethysts. While the women cooed over the gorgeous child, the men heaped congratulations on the proud father, Robert. For the first time, the couple felt their married life was now complete.
For the first year of Violette’s life the feeling of joy and contentment reigned over the little family. The child thrived under the care of Dr. Gottschalk who had secured a mulatto woman to provide constant care for the beautiful little girl. Violette’s life was once of pampered elegance, because her parents had so longed for a child; the baby lacked nothing and the budding little girl had no wants. The doctor himself presented little Violette with a pair of beautiful amethyst earrings, a mere reflection of the color of her eyes, that had been sent to him by his sister Adelaide in Philadelphia as a gift for the little girl.
Robert’s business often took him to more distant areas of the estates where he is supposed to have acted on behalf of Count Marigny in the capacity of manager of the estate overseers. Little Violette would watch wide-eyed when her father rode away to work and would wait patiently in her nursery, sometimes for several days, for his return. Eventually, as she grew, she made her discontent with Robert’s absence well known, throwing a tantrum every time he prepared to depart and insisting that he take her with him. Yvette, however, always objected to the mere suggestion that Robert might take Violette into the swampy lowlands and woods of the unoccupied estates where she might be exposed, so Yvette assumed, to all sorts of dangers, not the least of which were the slaves and Native Indians who resided there.
Violette lacked nothing and the budding little girl had no wants.
But even the most doting mother cannot be at hand all the time and one day Yvette received a message that her mother was ill and had asked for her daughter to come and nurse her. Reportedly, Yvette’s mother lived a sizeable distance outside New Orleans, among the Acadiens of St. John Parish, and Yvette was adamant that Violette should not make the rigorous trip perhaps to be exposed to the dangers of the road. So Violette was to remain at home in the care of her mulatto nurse while Yvette went to her mother’s aid....read more here...http://www.hauntedamericatours.com/zombie/violette/