Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Legend of the “Mardi Gras Death Mask”

I am working on my next Murder Mystery which will be titled: 

"The Mardi Gras Death Mask"

I thought I'd give you a little peek/teaser from it.

The Legend of the “Mardi Gras Death Mask”

Immediately after the Civil War the DeLong Family was perhaps the most powerful family in New Orleans.

At that time 80% of the sugar consumed in America came from Sugar grown in the south. The rest came from either the Caribbean or Hawaii. Hawaiian Sugar Cane was just beginning to become a serious competitor, although high tariffs and shipping costs were keeping the quantities imported relatively small.

When the Civil War broke out, the North found its supply of sugar virtually cut off and the price of sugar jumped from $3 a barrel to over $50 a barrel. The price would continue to raise to as much as $150.00.

Elroy DeLong, the head of a family with a small Sugar Plantation outside New Orleans, made a fortune smuggling sugar up the Mississippi River to the northern states during the war. In the process he began buying more and more of the other Sugar plantations and managed to gain virtual control of the Sugar  industry. The family became enormously rich.

After the war to enhance their standing in New Orleans Society, the DeLongs decided to host an annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Party. It was named the Bayou Ball and has been an annual tradition for over a century and a half.

As a gift for his wife to wear at one of the first Bayou Balls, Elroy DeLong commissioned an extraordinary Mardi Gras Mask to be created. He wanted a mask so striking that it would highlight the family’s wealth and power. He had it handmade in France by the most talented artisans of the time and enhanced its value by having it encrusted with precious jewels. The mask was said to be the most beautiful Mardi Gras mask ever made –and it was certainly the most valuable, worth over one hundred thousand dollars when it was created.

Elroy DeLong’s wife often consulted the famous New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. Marie became Mrs. DeLongs ‘Spiritual Adviser’ and close friend. Then in 1869 the two had a public falling out. Marie Laveau, who normally did not care about politics, made an offhanded comment that the DeLong’s had been traitors to the Confederate States because they made a fortune smuggling sugar to the North. That comment was widely repeated and was printed in the newspapers. The incident seriously hurt Mrs. DeLong’s status in New Orleans high society. In retaliation Mrs. DeLong denounced Marie Laveau as a charlatan, fake and swindler. Upon hearing that, Marie Laveau became extremely angry and knowing the value and importance of the mask she publically cast a spell putting a curse on it. The curse said that anyone who wore the mask would die and all who came in close contact with it would suffer illness. New Orleans society immediately nicknamed it the “Mardi Gras Death Mask”.

In spite of the curse Mrs. DeLong wore the mask to the Ball. She died mysteriously a week later. Although it was not worn again during the next 3 years, many of the DeLong family and servants reported becoming sick just from being in the room where the mask was displayed. Elroy DeLong finally had the mask put into storage and family members refused to discuss it.

In 1927 the mask was taken out by the then head of the family, Mrs. Emily DeLong. She worn it at that years Ball. In the months following the Ball Emily DeLong became paranoid and began losing touch with reality. She was committed to an asylum where she remained until her death in 1933. The mask was worn one more time the following year, this time by her daughter, Alice. When Alice perished in a carriage accident a month later, the mask was taken off display again and hidden away until this year.

Agnes DeLong, the current matriarch of the DeLong dynasty and a ruthless business woman, publicly repudiated the superstition and vowed to wear the mask at this year’s Bayou Ball. She also had a brochette made in the image of the mask. She had it cast in pure gold and set with large diamonds and a large emerald.

Will Mrs. DeLong wear the mask? If she does, will she fall victim to the curse? Or will someone take advantage of the curse to try and kill her? What about the brochette?

You'll have to wait and find out when the book is released this fall.....

Live Long and Prosper...

No comments: