April's "In the Vieux Carré" told the story of Jessica and the other maids of the Auberge du Rue Royale in New Orleans. It was a story based on personal observations and was what I would consider to be a golden age for sissy maids in that city. It sprang from the kindness of Catherine Thibodaux and her husband who saved many young runaways from a life of drugs, prostitution and other depravations of life on the streets. But, it was by no means the city's only episode of boys put into domestic service in the guise of what we would now call sissy maids.
All stories have a beginning and great historical event beget unforeseen consequences that spill forth like an avalanche from a snow laden mountain covering everything in its path. In this case the triggering event was the French Revolution and as had happened so often to the Frenchmen of New Orleans, far off events fall upon them as though dropped from the heavens. The Seven Years War (1756 - 63), called the French and Indian War in America; fell on them with the unwelcome surprise that New Orleans was suddenly under Spanish rule. A secret treaty ceded Louisiana to Spain to prevent it from being turned over to Britain as a war prize. As a result of France's defeat in that war, they had to cede their remaining North American territory, Canada to the victorious British in 1763.
Jumping forward to 1789, the spark of liberty ignited in 1775 and brought to fulfillment by Washington's army and the Treaty of Paris reached France in 1789 proving two truisms; "No good deed goes unpunished" and "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you". The French king had helped Americans overthrow their king. This was a good deed from the American point of view, but an unintended consequence was that his own people were so inspired by the American Revolution that they did onto him what he had done onto the English king - only worse because his experience involved a Guillotine. It also demonstrated that most revolutions end, not in democracy and freedom, but in dictatorship and tyranny.
That Revolution reverberated throughout France's colonies, but nowhere as much as in the colony of Saint Domingue. With its rich volcanic soil warmed under the tropical sun and ample rainfall, its slave-based sugar and coffee industries thrived making it the most profitable of any European colonies anywhere in the world. It was the "Pearl of the Indies". Plantation owners, already split by regional rivalries within the colony, were further split by the revolution into Royalist and Revolutionary factions. Adding to that split, the mixed-race population and "freemen of color" embraced the French revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, but found that such ideals were for Frenchmen only, and not for them. Resentment from this, the terrible inhumanity in the treatment of their slaves, and help from the British all created a perfect opportunity for a slave rebellion in the northern part the colony that began in August 1791 and lasted a dozen years.
Napoleon Bonaparte took dictatorial powers in November 1789 but was in no position to help the rebellion and wasn't even sure if he should given the ideals of the Revolution. But, Napoleon soon began plotting a major comeback for the French Empire in America.
In 1800 Napoleon forced Spain to return the Louisiana Territory to France in yet another secret treaty - the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. His plan was to build up a powerful French Army that he would send to Louisiana to defend "New France" from British and the U.S. incursion. In 1803 the entire US Army numbered less than 2,500 men and was commanded by a Spanish spy. So, a well trained well equipped French Army of 20,000 could not only protect Louisiana but take much of the US if they chose.
On its way to the once again French city of New Orleans this massive French army would stop off in Saint Domingue, quickly put down the slave rebellion, return the colony to profitability and continue on to Louisiana to rebuild the French Empire in America. It was a good plan with one very small flaw - a mosquito, or more specific, yellow fever carried by mosquitoes.
The expedition landed in December 1801 and, after initial success, the rainy season came and a vast majority of the army died of Yellow Fever. By then, the British were at war with France and blockading French resupply of their army in Saint Domingue. Between disease and the blockade the numbers of French soldiers diminished to a trifle and it ended in a French defeat at the battle of Vertières after which the British allowed departure of surviving French troops back to France in December 1803 as the colony declared independence and renamed itself Haiti - an African word meaning "land of high mountains". The victors then embarked on a campaign of genocide killing most white people including those that had helped them. Many of the whites, free people of color and their slaves had already left the colony and many had settled in southern Louisiana.
If they had treated their slaves better, there likely would have been no rebellion, slavery would have eventually ended and Haiti would be a rich well run country today. But, without those rebelling slaves and the local mosquitoes the history of the United States would have been very much different. This misadventure in Haiti and the loss of his army there led Napoleon to give up any hope of rebuilding a French empire in North America. So, he sold the Louisiana Territory to the US government to fund his European wars instead. For the Frenchmen of New Orleans, however, this outcome inflicted two scourges from which they could never rid themselves; the American Government and the Voudous religion. And therein lays our story.
The following is edited down from "New Orleans as it Was" by H.C.Castellanos (1895).
"That mysterious religious sect, imported from the jungles of Africa and implanted in south Louisiana, known as Voudous (Voodoo in English) with its creed and bestial rites, made progress among the low and ignorant of our population in the early period of this century, and established itself among the servile classes through most of our Creole parishes.
According to Africans who claim to have preserved unsullied the faith and ceremonies of their religion, the word "Voudou" signifies an all-powerful and supernatural Being, from whom all events derive their origin. A serpent, under whose auspices these religionists gather. The attributes of prescience and knowledge of the past are ascribed to it, and these he manifests through the medium of a high priest selected by the sect, and most frequently through the lips of the black wench, whom the love of the former has elevated to the post of a consort.
These two ministers of the god-Serpent, claiming to act under its inspiration, assume the pompous names of King and Queen; at other times the despotic titles of Master and Mistress, and sometimes those of a more affectionate nature, Papa and Mamma. They hold office by a life tenure and exact unbounded confidence from their adepts.
As soon as this system of domination, on the one hand, and of blind submission on the other, has been well established, they hold meetings at stated periods, at which the king and queen preside, in accordance with traditions borrowed from Africa, and varied at times by Creole customs. These reunions, whenever they are conducted in their primitive purity, are always strictly secret, are held in the night time, and in a place so secluded as to escape the gaze of any profane eye.
The king and queen take their positions near an altar, on which is placed a box, wherein the serpent is imprisoned, and where the affiliated can view it outside the bars. As soon as a strict inspection assures them that no intruder is within hearing or sight, the ceremony begins by the adoration of his Snakeship, by protestations of fidelity to his cult, and of submission to his behests. They renew into the hands of the king and queen the oath of secrecy, which is the corner stone of their order, and, while this part of the ritual is being accomplished, horrible and delirious scenes follow. The worshippers being thus prepared to receive the impressions which the Sovereigns seem to infuse into them, the latter, assuming the benign tones of a fond father and mother, extol the happiness which is in store for every faithful Voudou, exhort them to confidence, and urge them to always seek their advice, whatever the emergency may be.
The group then breaks up, and each one, according to his wants or right of precedence, comes forward to implore the Voudou god. As the majority were slaves, they would ask for the gift of domination over the minds of their masters. One would solicit money, another success in love, while a third would crave the return of some faithless swain, or a speedy cure or the blessings of a long life. While a withered hag would be conjuring the god for a youthful admirer, a young one would hurl maledictions upon a successful rival. There is not a passion, to which human nature may be prone, that is not incarnated or typified in these motley assemblies, while crime itself is frequently invoked by those carried away by malice.
To every one of these petitions or invocations, the Voudou king lends a heedful ear. When the spirit begins to move him, he suddenly seizes the precious box, lays it on the floor, and places the queen upon the lid. No sooner has her foot touched the sacred receptacle, than she becomes possessed, like a new Pythoness. Her frame quivers, her whole body is convulsed, and the oracle pronounces its edicts through her inspired lips. On some she bestows flattery and promises of success; at others she thunders forth bitter invectives. Following the trend either of her own wishes, of her personal interest, or of her capricious mood, she dictates irrevocable laws, in the name of the serpent, to a set of idiots, who gulp down every absurdity with stupendous credulity, and whose rule is blind obedience to every mandate.
As soon as the oracle has answered every question propounded, a circle is formed and the serpent is put back upon the unholy fane. Then each one presents his offering, and places it in a hat impervious to prying curiosity. These tributes, the king and queen assure them, are acceptable to their Divine protector. From these oblations a fund is raised which enables them to defray the expenses of the meetings, to provide help for the needy, and to reward those from whom the society expects some important service. Plans are next proposed, and lines of action prescribed under the direction, as the queen always affirms, of the god, "Vou dou." Of these many are contrary to morality and to the maintenance of law and order. An oath is again administered, which binds not only everyone to secrecy, but to assist in carrying out the work agreed upon. Sometimes, a bowl, dripping with the still warm blood of a kid, seals upon the lips of the assistants the promise to suffer death rather than reveal the secret, and even to murder a traitor to this obligation. And then the Voudou dance begins.
On the termination of the ceremony, the king places his hand or foot on the box where the snake is ensconced, and experiences a shock. He communicates by contact this impulsion to his queen, and through her the commotion is conveyed to everyone in the circle. Everyone then begins to experience convulsions through the upper portion of the body, the head and shoulders. A work of dislocation of the bones seems to be going on. The queen particularly appears to be most violently affected. She goes from time to time to the voudou serpent, to gather a new supply of magnetic influence. She shakes the box, and the tinkling bells, that are usually suspended from its sides, increase the general delirium. Add to this copious draughts of spirituous liquors. Then is pandemonium let loose. Fainting fits and choking spells succeed one another. A nervous tremor possesses everybody. No one escapes its power. They spin around with incredible velocity, whilst some, in the midst of these bacchanalian orgies, tear their vestments, and even lacerate their flesh with their gnashing teeth. Others, entirely deprived of reason, fall down to the ground from sheer lassitude, and are carried, still panting and gyrating into the open air. These singular details are gleaned from a work entitled "Souvenirs d'Amérique," written by a talented Creole lady of New Orleans, who seems to have made a special study of the subject.
The Voudous, as an organization, have been suppressed in a great measure by the efforts of our municipal authorities. Besides the potent incantations which they claim the power to perform, it is an admitted fact that they use philters, drugs and poisonous substances in their wicked operations. These they call "gris-gris." One of the favorite ingredients used is a decoction of the "concombre zombi," - Jimson weed - which they mix in coffee. It is the plant from which that rank toxicant, known as stramonium, is extracted. They use dirt taken from graveyards and employ certain powders, which they scatter around such places as they suppose their victims are apt to touch with their hands or feet, and the effect of these powders is to produce inflammation, pain and fever. Even feather pillows are impregnated with deleterious substances, in the guise of poisoned crosses, coffins, images etc., but how they contrive to introduce these objects therein without detection, is as yet an unsolved mystery. Perhaps, someone may answer: "By the black servants, of course." But I and hundreds of others have heard of various well authenticated cases in families where no menials were engaged, and every household duty was performed by the inmates themselves. I am no believer in supernaturalism, but I am free to confess that the mystery appears at this present day as far from explanation as ever." End of quote
With total devotion to a Voodoo king or queen as described above and a flow of information between queen and subject one can see how secrets of powerful families could and did make their way into the wrong hands through well meaning servants merely seeking advice or guidance from "Papa" or "Mamma". Add to that the unquestioning obedience of cult members and you have a readymade network for blackmail and other types of organized crime.
Officer John McGillicutty of the Metropolitan Police Force noticed that young boys were disappearing each year in mid June. They usually vanished in pairs with no similarity other than victims being from 9 to 12 years of age. At first it was assumed they drowned while swimming in the river to escape the summer heat. The first occurrence in 1869 was two brothers from the Irish Channel, then a year later two black boys disappeared from the Bywater followed by an Italian boy from Faubaurg Marigny and a Creole boy from the Treme. Then the neighborhood of Algiers Point across the river got its turn in 1871. By then the newspapers had picked up on the trend and parents were in a panic. The next year two boys vanished from Arabi.
There was no expectation that the hated Metropolitan Police would protect residents. Controlled by the State but paid for by taxes levied on the city, they were nothing but an armed military force which the State Government maintained to put down riots and enforcement edicts of a state government dedicated solely to enrichment of the few. Crime was rampant, the people hated the police and a relatively honest cop doing his job couldn't count on support from anyone.
In June 1873 a Cajun boy in Westwego escaped from two black men who tried to abduct him. That was the first break in the case, offering a chance for Officer McGillicutty to prove that he was a real cop, not just a thug. He caught a mule drawn streetcar from the third district police station to the Gretna Ferry landing on Tchoupitoulas Street and was met on the other side of the river by a Jefferson Parish deputy who took him to see the boy. Both the boy and the deputy were standoffish and distrustful. Resentment was still high after the last year's November election results had been overturned by one man kicking the entire elected state legislature and most of the municipal judges out of office just to keep the carpetbaggers in power.
To make matter worse, US Senator Schurz of Missouri had condemned the action on the floor of the United States Senate and his speech had just been published in all the local papers:
"The history of the infamy, which, in the name of law, was perpetrated in New Orleans, in December of 1872, is well known. The non-elected Legislature was placed in power by Federal bayonets, called into requisition by an order issued by a Federal judge named Durell. A returning-board which had not, and did not pretend to have the election returns before it, yet which was the only one recognized by Judge Durell, who was firm in his policy of usurpation, seated the Kellogg government, and struck a direct blow at the will of the majority. There was, I believe, not a single one of them who was returned by a board that had the official returns of the election in its hands or had ever seen them. By virtue of what, then, were those men put in the Legislature? Not by virtue of votes, not by virtue of returns, but upon the ground of newspaper reports, of wild guesses, of forged affidavits, of the usurpation of a Federal judge, and of Federal bayonets. That was their whole title to the legislative capacity which they assumed."
So for those who think "judicial activism" is a modern phenomenon, it isn't! The appointed legislature, most of whom could neither read nor write but did as they were told, immediately impeached the elected governor without any grounds at all and replaced him with Kellogg, a crony of Judge Durell. Riots ensued and were put down by force using Federal troops and the Metropolitan Police. With his boss's legitimacy now called into question in newspapers all across the country, McGillicutty's days were numbered and outside of the city of New Orleans he actually had good reason to fear for his personal safety. The speech in the newspapers that day just made things worse. His uniform made him a man without friends.
When they finally reached the boy, age 11, he was still shaken from the event. He told them he had been playing in the rail yard by the train ferry when two men approached with lose rope and tried to put a large sack over his head. He said he ducked and they missed and he yanked his sheath knife and cut the left arm of one of the men. Then both men ran away. McGillicutty was glad to have the Jefferson Parish deputy with him. The Irish cop spoke a bit of French, but Cajun French was different and the boy's accent even while speaking what the deputy called "English" was completely unintelligible to him, but the deputy understood the boy and translated.
Westwego, the only city in America whose name forms a complete sentence, was the western terminus of the train ferry that carried railcars across the mighty Mississippi River that had yet to be bridged by rail anywhere south of Davenport, Iowa. From there the trains could precede westward, thus the name; West we go!
A Westwego policeman followed the trail of blood into the marsh finding imprints of a flat bottom keelless boat in a mud bank. He concluded the men had escaped in a pirogue. Search parties went out into the marshlands to the south and a fisherman on Bayou Segnette reported seeing two black men in a pirogue going into an oxbow halfway down to Lake Cataouatche.
It wasn't long before the pirogue was found on a levee where the marsh meets swampland. There was no doubt it was the suspect's boat because a small nail protruding from one side had left its signature in the mud bank in Westwego as they fled. The two men were found in the shanty under a sprawling Cyprus tree. One man was treating a deep wound in the other's left arm. They were arrested and taken back to Gretna and put in a cell at the parish jail.
One resource readily available to Officer McGillicutty through the Metropolitan Police was a large pool of black police officers, some of whom he trusted. That's not to say they weren't on the take, like everyone else, but he knew to whom they were beholding, and with that he could use them in such a way as to insure that there were no conflicts of interests. One advantage of having government unaccountable to the people is that corruption doesn't have to be hidden.
Hearing of the capture, he headed back to his police station and persuaded Robert Nance, a black police officer, to help him. Because Nance was old and scruffy looking, he would be dressed as a town drunk in clothes that had been doused with whisky and urine and he'd be placed in the cell with the two men. Nance was fluent in their pigeon French dialect and pretended to be passed out drunk. It yielded results exposing the involvement of a prominent Voudou King. Making matters worse, word came that two more boys had been abducted in New Orleans that very day.
Now things began to fall into place. St. John's Day, the 24th of June, is the day consecrated by the Voudou religion as their high holly day. It is a day that often corresponds with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. So, whatever was being done with these children would most likely be done on Saint John's Night. McGillicutty and Nance feared the worst - human sacrifice. But, how could they find the location of the ceremony? The men from the swamp would not talk, fearing death and eternal damnation. So, Officers McGillicutty and Nance went directly to the named Voodoo king and told him they knew of his involvement, they had witnesses and evidence and that he had better come clean.
The king called their bluff. Instead of denial, fear or deceit, he laughed in their faces telling them that they would be in deep trouble if they pursued it. He said the people he "sold" these boys to were "untouchable". He taunted the two police officers saying the boys "would be clipped and sent to their new owners very soon". At least that removed human sacrifice from the equation.
Undeterred, back at the police station he suddenly began getting interest in the case from above both inside and outside of the department, Officer McGillicutty used his knowledge of which cops were bought off by whom to get a sense of who had suddenly taken an interest in the case. Meanwhile, Officer Nance had been scared off the case, not by voodoo, but by credible threats of death. It was additionally made known that no police officers would be available for a raid on any Voodoo ceremony. This order after they had basically been told these two boys would be present was frustrating as hell. Clearly, the fix was in, but sometimes strange things happen.
It turned out that the Jefferson Parish deputy, impressed by the jail cell stunt, had told his boss - the parish sheriff, about Officer McGillicutty's investigation and despite him being in the hated Metropolitan Police, he had spoken highly of him lamenting the lack of support he was getting. The sheriff, perhaps already knowing, or suspecting, who the buyers were, telegraphed his friend in Washington - Senator Carl Schurz who had been a major general in the Union Army. He in turn went to his old boss and friend President Ulysses S. Grant with the telegram explaining the situation in hand. You know how this goes! Poop flows down hill like the avalanche mentioned above, covering everything in its path too.
A coded telegram was quickly sent just in the nick of time to the commanding general of the army of occupation from the President of the United States. He contacted the chief of the Metropolitan Police and, while not in his chain of command, ordered him to muster his officers for immediate action. In a tyranny the guy with the most guns holds power and a chain of command doesn't really matter. Just by luck, this was done on such short notice that neither Governor Kellogg nor his boss Judge Durell had any warning, so neither did their cronies.
The Jefferson Parish sheriff knew where this sect held their meetings but since it was in Orleans Parish, he lacked jurisdiction and never trusted anyone enough to risk exposing his source. But now, that information was conveyed to Officer McGillicutty who then led a massive raid with police and Federal troops rescuing the two boys unharmed and arresting hundreds of Voudous.
Interrogation of those arrested including the Voodoo King turned up all the missing children and revealed the buyers who fled the state one step ahead of the Kellogg's slow moving lawmen and were never brought to justice. The boys had been drugged and castrated during ceremonies and then sold to rich carpetbaggers who publically professed their hatred of slavery, but privately engaged in "white slavery" now called "human trafficking" to satisfy their lascivious desires. It was presented in the press as religious rituals, but they were really crimes of violence done strictly for money to provide eunuchs for rich psychopaths' peculiar desires.
The Kellogg government hung onto power until the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 when Federal troops were removed. Without brute force to prop it up, his government disintegrated with cronies taking their ill-gotten money and fleeing the state. It was replaced by duly elected officials. But, the free spending ways of the previous decade had left the city and state so deeply in debt that it would take generations to pay off. When the hated Metropolitan Police were disbanded with many fleeing the state, John McGillicutty became Detective Chief McGillicutty of the New Orleans Police Department. Because of this case he had become known as a good cop and was now a man with friends.
The other boys were recovered soon after the raid, but I can't say they were rescued. Either by hypnotism or Voodoo drugs the boys had no memory of their former lives or identities. Perhaps it was amnesia due to the sheer terror of finding themselves drugged and publically mutilated but it was irreversible and they would never recover in mind or body. The mind control was so strong that they only derived joy from performing domestic duties. Perhaps through Voodoo magic or some unknown drug, not one of the boys ever showed any sign of aging for the rest of their lives. They always looked like young women even decades later and choose freely to remain in domestic service as maids for the rest of their relatively happy lives.