In the 1920s and into the 30s, the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States was the busiest port in the country and was thriving with a vibrant culture and nightlife scene. It was a carefree era for a city that was being called “The Big Easy,” fueled by the emerging jazz scene and a city of wealth, partying, and general debauchery, drawing in visitors from all over the country and known as a mixing pot of cultures, a booming, fun city to go to unwind and experience the colorful atmosphere. If vampires do indeed exist, it would have been a perfect feeding ground at the time, and if the story is to be believed then there were at least two real vampires who supposedly called this decadent place their home.
In 1932, a police officer on Royal Street was surprised to see a scared looking and disheveled little girl wandering about in a zombie-like daze. The concerned officer approached her to help and could see that it looked as if her wrists had been cut, the wounds still trickling blood, and when he asked her what had happened she had quite the tale to tell. According to her, she had been held captive by two brothers, along with several others, all of whom had been tied up and had their wrists cut so that their captors could drink their blood. These two brothers were vampires, she explained, mostly sleeping during the day and then emerging at night to drink her blood and prowl the city for more victims. According to her, she had only been able to escape because her wrists had not been tied properly and she had been able to slip out of her binds.
The police officer was perhaps understandably skeptical of this story of bloodsucking undead fiends, but considering her injuries and her distressed state he knew that something very bad was going on and he decided to go with her to the residence of her alleged attackers. After getting some backup, the officers followed the girl to a home on the corner of Royal and St. Ann, in the French Quarter, and it turned out that it was the house of two unassuming dock workers by the names of John and Wayne Carter, which was surprising as they seemed to be two mild-mannered men who mostly kept to themselves and never made any trouble. When the police knocked on the door there was no answer, and worried that there might be other victims inside they let themselves into the darkened interior. There in the gloom they were met with a horrific sight.
It did not take them long at all to locate four people tied to chairs, barely alive and their wrists cut and bleeding just as the girl had described. Some of the victims had had their bloodied wrists bandaged up and one was on the brink of death, barely alive and in need of urgent medical attention. Around them were several bloody cups, and this was thought to be so that the captors could drain the blood into the cups in order to drink from them. While these poor victims were still alive, others would turn out to not have been as lucky. In another room, the officers found 15 more people, all cut and bleeding, with some of them still clinging to life and others pronounced dead at the scene, their bodies wrapped in sheets and estimated to have been lying there for several days, creating a terrific stench and drawing flies in the sweltering New Orleans heat. Of the Carter brothers there was no sign, and so the police decided to wait to ambush them when they came home. Around ten burly officers gathered at the home to lie in wait, and it was thought that they would easily be able to apprehend the two brothers, but this was to be easier said than done.
According to the main version of the events that played out, when the police jumped them the Carter brothers put up quite a fight. Most accounts describe the Carters as being rather small men, around 5 feet 6 inches and weighing under 160 pounds, but despite this they were allegedly able to easily take on ten brawny police officers, by some accounts throwing them around and even knocking a few of them out before finally being subdued. In a more dramatic version of the account, the men actually succeeded in fighting off the police, after which they performed a superhuman leap from the balcony and landed smoothly to run off into the night. No matter what the version, they were arrested, either right there on the spot or the next day, and they wasted no time at all in admitting that they were not only immortal vampires, but that they could be killed by fire or decapitation, and saying that the police should do so because they would invariably kill again in their never-ending quest for blood.
The two men were allegedly tried and found guilty of murder, after which they were hanged and buried. I guess besides fire and decapitation, hanging seems to kill vampires too. But the story isn’t over. It is said that the locals were so worked up about the stories of the men being vampires that they insisted the bodies be exhumed, just to be sure. In order to appease these vocal residents, the bodies were then dug up, but rather eerily the coffins were found to be empty, sparking rumors that the brothers had actually survived to escape their graves and go out into the night to kill again. Making it even more spooky and bizarre is that two of their surviving victims supposedly went on to descend into madness to become serial killers. One of these, known only as Felipe, allegedly killed 32 people before vanishing, and kept a diary in which he rants about having dreams of blood. Another unnamed victim purportedly went on a deranged killing spree that eventually ended in hundreds of deaths. Several of the other victims did not kill, but rather went stark raving insane and were committed to asylums. In later years it also seems as if the Carters returned to their old hunting grounds, as there have been supposed sightings of them in the city all the way up to this day.
It is all a pretty wild and scary story and a great account of a real modern vampire report, almost too good to be true, and maybe that’s because it is. There are a lot of problems with the story. For one, there is very little to verify whether the two brothers ever existed and there is also a lack of any real details, such as the name of the cemetery where the brothers were buried or even the full names of their supposed victims who went on to kill. Courtney Mroch, of the podcast Haunting American True Crimes researched the case of the Carter Brothers for an episode and found that the story doesn’t even seem to have been in the papers of the era and that there is no official record of the executions of a John and Wayne Carter anywhere. Mroch says of it all:
It was a riveting tale that both got my hopes up and perplexed me. How had I never heard of it before? This didn’t seem like the sort of tale that would be forgotten. I immediately set to work researching it, prepared to include it in “The Vampire Episode.” The trouble was, it appeared the reason I likely never heard of it before was because it wasn’t true. Anyway, I pressed on with my research. Because even though the article said it was a forgotten story, it was sensational. You’d think something like this would have definitely hit the papers, but I couldn’t find any mention of anything like it at all. Which was suspicious. For Haunt Jaunts in general, but especially while researching stories for the Haunting American True Crimes series, one thing that quickly became apparent was that papers love sensational, weird, and wild stories —regardless of the decade. It’s as true now as it was back in 1921.
Had the story of the Carter brother vampires somehow been kept from the press? Perhaps. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and thought about how to research it from another angle. What about executions? Could I verify men named John Carter and Wayne Carter had been executed in Louisiana? That’s what led me to DeathPenaltyUSA.org. DeathPenaltyUSA.org has an index of all Louisiana executions from 1911 to 1961. But the only Carters I could find that had been put to death in Louisiana was a man named Sampson Carter in 1933 and a Herman Carter in 1943. Maybe the date was wrong? Maybe this vampire incident didn’t happen in 1932? So I checked all of the Louisiana indexes that DeathPenaltyUSA.org had. No men named Carter were executed from 1911 to 1932 either. None appeared on the 1722 to 1875 index either. An Aaron Carter shows up in 1878 on the 1876 to 1910 index.
These were alleged vampires we were talking about. Maybe they’d somehow lived on death row for decades? Maybe when capital punishment resumed in 1976 they were still there? Nope. No Carter has been executed on death row in Louisiana since Herman in 1943. Unless, of course, DeathPenaltyUSA.org missed one.
Taken along with all of the supernatural elements of the tale, according to Mroch, it is likely that not only did none of this ever really happen at all, but also is the product of an Internet urban legend started online and passed around and written about as if it was a real story from 1930s New Orleans. It is hard to say for sure, but no matter what the case may be, it is certainly a bizarre tale, indeed.