Little Violette, “The Zombie Child”

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The Zombie Child

Violette was born into one of the wealthiest families in Old New Orleans to Robért and Yvette. 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. 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.” 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.

Violette came into the world in one of those vibrant New Orleans springs. They named her Violette as her eyes were of the color of pure amethyst. For the first time, the couple felt their married life was now complete. 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 of pampered elegance, because her parents had so longed for a child. 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 was 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.

One day Yvette received a message that her mother was ill 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. Now it was said that the nurse always spoiled the now five-year-old Violette, giving in to her whims and letting her have almost anything she asked for. So it was that on a day when Robert was departing and Violette was embroiled in another of her violent tantrums the well-meaning nurse gave in to Violette’s demands to accompany her father. And Robert, seeing no harm in it, agreed to take the little girl along. On the fifth day Robert came running home carrying Violette in his hands. Dr. Gottschalk was immediately summoned who took Robert aside. The news was grave. Violette had contracted a delirium fever, possibly Scarlet fever or malaria, and it had so drained her tiny body that there was little hope of her survival. “But I do not expect that she will be with us tomorrow”, said the physician. Robert, already wracked with guilt at having taken Violette against his wife’s constant wishes. Just before dawn she passed away.

The Zombie Child

Gottschalk made the funeral arrangements for Violette as her father Robert succumbed to his grief and could not be comforted. Word was sent to St. John’s Parish to tell Yvette that her dearest child was no more. They laid Violette in the soil of the Esplanade Ridge and were loathe to leave her there when the time came to go. Robert and Yvette were terribly grieved. All business, all domestic obligations seemed to come to a complete halt and had it not been for the reliable servants, the home and lands might have gone derelict.

Now in those days money might buy anything. Whether in league with God or the Devil, Robert did not care. He would find the person who would help him put an end to his pain and bring back the mind of his beloved wife. Thus, lurking outside the gates of Congo Square in the wild torchlight of one of the great vodoun “bamboulas,” Robert made the hellish pact with the mavens of Marie Laveau’s secret sosyete. They had agreed to attempt to bring back his beloved Little Violette. The decaying 1 month old corpse of Little Violette was removed from her resting place in the old Bayou Cemetery and taken to a secret location where for one full cycle of the moon it was subjected to the most powerful vodoun magic that had been performed by that most secret sosyete up to that time.

One night there came a knock at the front door. The couple rushed to open it and was puzzled to see an old vodusi matron standing there, with Violette. The couple burst into tears of joy and happiness. Yvette scooped the little girl into her trembling arms. With violet eyes once again burning with life, the little girl said in a familiar voice like the sound of tinkling glass: “Mama!” With that, the couple’s joy seemed complete. The woman was denied from visiting their home ever again after bring paid a hefty lumpsum. And joyful it was, at least for a time. When the servants learned of the child’s return they were puzzled as to how the child was reanimated. The mulatto nurse was the most frightened of all the house servants. Fear kept them all in place: fear of what she might be capable of doing. The once beautiful and vibrant Violette was now somehow different; something about her was never quite “right” and none of the servants liked being in her presence very long. Deep inside the house, pattering footsteps deep in the night troubled the servants; grunting sounds or the sounds of furtive eating could be heard in the darkness outside, but no one had the nerve to investigate. And while all this happened, Robert and Yvette seemed only to see Violette, living in a perpetual dream state, under the child’s spell. First it was the little night creatures that were found dead, hidden under the spreading low branches or covered in moss in the roots of trees. Some looked as if they had been scaled and skinned alive by claws; others were torn in half, with parts missing. Another strange occurrence was the disappearance of meat stock in the smoke house and pantry. No fresh cut of meat was safe, evidently, and although at first the cook staff were puzzled they became outright fearful when they observed marks in some of the cured meat that looked as if it had been gnawed upon by little HUMAN teeth… Robert and Yvette seemed blissfully unaware of the change, the servants watched in horror as the little girl seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be decomposing before their eyes. The black magic workers, who instead of restoring her to wholesome life had zombified her! Now the servants knew they were trapped in a horrible nightmare, and fearful for their own lives they first determined to leave the home. But it was the memory of the beautiful little Violette, the vibrant happiness she had brought to them all when she was alive, that combined with their fierce loyalty to her parents to keep them there. So it was that they made a pact among themselves when the opportunity presented itself, would take the zombie child from the home and kill it, or, if it could not be killed, then bind it to keep it from returning. But they knew they could attempt this without the aid of a powerful vodoun patron.

It is said that they took their case to the daughter of Marie Laveau, Mamzelle Marie, and begged for her aid. Not surprisingly, Mamzelle Marie was angered by what she saw as a horrible act that went against the practices of her mother’s sosyete and the vodoun beliefs in the sanctity of life and death. On the night that the servants appealed to her, Mamzelle Marie said to them: “For Violette, I will give you strength to do this thing. For Violette.” Of all people it was the faithful mulatto nurse who found the courage and the strength to face the little creature that had taken the place of her beloved Violette. Alone with the zombie child in the grim nursery, the mulatto woman was able to overcome her worst fears and trap the horrible creature in a bedsheet. Tying it tightly in knots and praying in the Krayol language of vodoun, the nurse rushed to a wagon that waited to take her to a rendezvous with Mamzelle Marie herself. When she arrived at the appointed place, the nurse was surprised to find Mamzelle was not alone: with her was the old vodusi woman who had brought the zombified Violette home. Thinking at first that she had been betrayed, the nurse was reluctant to turn over the kicking bundle that contained the zombie baby. But a look from Mamzelle Marie reassured her and she handed the bundle over to the powerful vodoun mambo. As soon as Mamzelle Marie took hold of her, the zombie Violette burst into a horrific tantrum, it sounded more like the ravings of a caged animal; there were even marks from the zombie child’s fingernails as she began to claw her way out. Mamzelle Marie shouted a word of Command and the tantrum stopped, then she turned to the nurse. “Go home,” she told her, “and perform the house cleansing ritual that I taught you earlier. Turn your back on this child immediately and forget her. She is in my charge now.”

Violette the zombie child never did return to the house of her parents, who, once she had been removed, seemed to return as if from a dream world; even their grieving had ceased. The loyal servants never mentioned anything about the horrible visitation of the zombie child, nor did the nurse ever reveal what she had done with it. A year and a day from the moment the nurse relinquished the child to Mamzelle Marie, the young couple was blessed with another child: this time a son came to live with Robert and Yvette.

It is said, the old vodusi was made to take the zombie child home to live with her. She kept the zombie Violette confined, but when she died there was no trace to be found of Voilette. No one ever knew for certain, but most other vodusi and members of the secret sosyetes assumed that the old woman had finally found a way to destroy the creature she had made. Generations later the new owners of this home – Mark and Andy purchased the house. They felt that there was something – a residual haunting or possibly an entity – in the home. Andy was constantly complaining about the sound of cats yowling. He and Mark would stand in the kitchen and listen to what sounded like a cat trapped in the other side, yowling to be let out. When they investigated there was nothing found until one day, when Mark was home alone working on the empty side scraping the old plaster from the gabled ceiling of the little bathroom. As he worked, he revealed what appeared to be a small door; assuming it went into the attic, Mark put some elbow grease into it and by the time Andy returned that evening they could both see the outline of a little trap door. It had been painted shut under the plaster coating and had all the appearances of having been sealed for generations. Working together they were able to pry the little door open.Peering into the darkness of the attic gable, pushing aside the bones of dead pigeons and rats, sorting through a rusty pile of chains and tattered rags, they came upon what appeared to be an old doll. It was the size of a young child, but it appeared for all intents and purposes to be a mummy doll wrapped in layers of tattered cloth – sheets, curtains, ropes, even lace and a kind of gauze around the face. What caught their eyes though, even in the dim light of the attic, was the dazzling purple flash of a pair of amethyst earrings, still brilliant – and still attached – even after all the intervening years.

Something about the horrid, lifelike “doll” terrified Andy and he insisted that the rickety attic door remain nailed shut at all times. Although Mark wanted to take the thing out of it’s attic home, Andy was having none of that and confessed later that he could barely stand living in the other side of the house knowing the little “creature” was in the empty attic. He even considered moving out at one point, when the confusion of Hurricane Katrina came roaring into everyone’s lives. Mark and Andy were forced to evacuate their home during the storm. When they returned to their home after the storm they discovered minor damage to their side and a collapsed Chinaberry tree piercing the roof of the empty side. Both men agree that their hearts fell when they saw this and not just because of the horror of insurance claims and FEMA paperwork. It was as if, they said, they “knew” the broken roof meant trouble.
Reluctantly, Mark held the ladder while Andy bravely went to the little attic door and, with a feeble flashlight, looked inside. The mummified doll was nowhere.

0 thoughts on “Little Violette, “The Zombie Child””

  1. this story interested me.
    However…i looked a bit deeper into it.
    Found nothing….nothing true about it.

    No Joseph Victor Gottschalk,living in New Orleans in that period.
    No pictures of the house???
    No surnames for the parents, who were wealthy and must have been known…

    the only person i could find thing about is Marie Laveau….what is kind of obvious to bring up a famous 'voodoo' person in this 'voodoo' story.

    Nevertheless i read the whole story, what is kind of the point 🙂

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