Hello everyone, and thank you for the invitation to tell you a bit about myself: I’m Tess Conrad, New Orleans Graveyard Rabbit.
I’m originally from NY, and fell in love with NOLA on my first visit in 1994, finally moving down with my fiancee and daughter in 2002. The time has flown by and I’ve just sent my kiddo off to her first semester at college, so I’ve found lots of time to be re-allocated to my other loves- writing, photography, our menagerie (2 parrots, 3 dogs and various wandering cats) & garden- and of course, the Graveyard Rabbits blog!
I work with the Preservation Resource Center here in New Orleans, which works to preserve our amazing architectural history and have recently begun volunteering for RAOGK and FindAGrave.com, but unlike many Rabbits, my interest has not been so much genealogical as cultural. Like the homes I deal with in my day job, the tombs have their own architectural styles with fantastical detail work and are worthy of their title of “cities of the dead.”
From the very beginning I loved them- how could I not? More than any other place in the US, death continues to be a comfortable part of life here, filled with unique rituals and a genuine joy that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
There’s always a reason to have a party in New Orleans, and funerals are no different. To the usual wake and mass we add jazz and second lines- parades to and from the grave site to see your loved ones off with a smile and a good hip-shaking, soul-affirming boogie. From the most affluent to the very poorest, everyone has a different unique tradition, and death truly is a family affair.
And it definitely pays to make nice with your annoying Uncle Bill before he dies, because you’ll likely be spending eternity with him in a very real way, because most burials here are in family tombs. Most have just 2 vaults inside, but they’re used dozens of times with the remains of the previous occupants moved down into the base to mingle with those of their ancestors.
For those too poor to afford their own tombs, there are several options, from Society Tombs (death guilds, in essence, with a very specific sort of ‘clubhouse’) or wall vaults (essentially apartments for the dead where you’re welcome to stay as long as you like- assuming your family’s kept the rent paid up- another reason to make nice with them before you die), or as a last resort there’s the New Orleans version of Potter’s Field, and even there people carve out and personalize a niche for themselves and their families, returning to that same spot for generations to bury their dead.
Plus, of course, there are all the strange things only found here. Voodoo Queens. Pirates. Jazz greats, heroes and revolutionaries, to say nothing of all the tall tales and hauntings courtesy of romantic fancies by the likes of Anne Rice.
We have a bumper sticker here: We put the FUN in funeral. I hope to do the same for my Graveyard Rabbit blog, and I hope you stop by and dance along with us!
Welcome to New Orleans’ Graveyard Rabbit site!