The Foremost Authority on New Orleans Paranormal Phenomena,

the Occult  and Louisiana Folklore

In the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s the area around the intersection of Iberville and Chartres Streets in the New Orleans French Quarter, so near to the Mississippi River docks, was a place burgeoning with bars catering to all sorts of predilections.  Some, like the infamous Upstairs Lounge on Iberville, catered to the still-closeted homosexual community; others catered only to straights; and still others had a mostly-straight clientele but turned a blind eye to homosexual activities taking place on the premises.  Candyland, located on the corner across Iberville Street from the old Upstairs, was this kind of bar.


In the early 1970’s dancers were the main attraction at Candyland and many who made a living there, entertaining sailors and men and women from all walks of life, are still alive today.  Their memories still as clear as a bell, each of them recalls the mysterious story of one of their own, a dancer named Sylvia, and her association with a strange creature they all believe was linked to the woman’s disappearance.


Inside the World of Candyland

Like most of the Bourbon Street bars of that area, Candyland showcased beautiful women dancing topless with scanty g-strings (city ordinances of the time prohibited full nudity) on elevated platforms so that the patrons could see them better through the haze of strobe-lit cigarette smoke and spiraling disco lighting.  Mirrors on the walls surrounding the dancers showcased them from every angle as patrons crowded around the huge, horseshoe-shaped bar that took up most of the ground floor.  Tables and chairs were scattered here and there, but these were hardly ever used and no room was provided for anyone else to dance: Candyland’s girls were meant to be the main attraction.


The atmosphere at Candyland was friendly.  There was a regular clientele who all knew each other; when a domestic or foreign ship would dock at the nearby Mississippi River levee this would often throw groups of unknowns into the mix.  Many times during its years of operations the doors of Candyland were kicked wide as bouncers threw out tangles of fighting seamen or other unsavory characters into the middle of Iberville Street.  Touching or hassling the girls was strictly forbidden and despite the presence of the large, beefy bouncers, one man had the job of protecting (or in some cases avenging) the Candyland girls.  This man was known to one and all as “Peanut.”


Described as a “short, Danny DeVito type, with bulging blue eyes,” Peanut never missed a minute of what went on in “his” club.  With his weapon of choice in hand – the business end of a broken pool cue – he would patrol the club, keeping constant watch on the dancers, making sure none of “them squirrels,” as he called the troublemakers, were giving the girls any problems.  Despite his diminutive size, Peanut was a force to be reckoned with and most of the former dancers agree that he probably tossed out more people over the years than all the other bouncers combined.  Candyland was his turf, and nothing came on his turf that he didn’t know about – with the possible sad exception of one time.

Sylvia and the Strange Visitor

In the rear of Candyland was a secluded courtyard that backed up to Exchange Alley across which were the kitchens of the Hotel Monteleone; a restaurant, an expansion by the club’s owner, was being built on the Chartres Street side, but was unfinished at the time the events related here occurred.


The Candyland girls used to take their breaks or have meals in the courtyard because it was recessed and hard to access, a place where they could unwind and get away from the intensity of the bar area.  The girls tried to stagger their breaks so that friends could eat or have a cigarette together and this meant that Sylvia, a new arrival on the scene, was generally kept out of the loop until the girls got to know her better.  So she would often retreat to the courtyard to have a smoke break or catch a quick meal – Peanut often had meals delivered in from some of the best restaurants in the Quarter – and relax before her next show.


Set as it was at the rear of several buildings, the courtyard was not only secluded but also quite insulated from the noise of the traffic and other nearby bars.  Sylvia enjoyed this immensely because it gave her head time to stop throbbing to the beat of the music inside and, because she worked long hours on stage, provided her with a little time to herself.


One night she had just finished eating and was sitting back to enjoy a cigarette when she suddenly became aware of a rustling sound in the ragged undergrowth of what used to be a garden against one crumbling brick wall.  Sylvia peered into the dark bushes, watching their branches rustle ever so slightly; something, as yet unseen, was definitely nosing around there.  Sylvia’s first thought was rats, for which the French Quarter was famous and remains so, ever since the zombies that used to feed on them were finally driven out generations ago.  She lifted her legs up onto an adjacent chair.  With her movement, the rustling in the bushes stopped.  There was a long, silent moment during which the hair on Sylvia’s arms raised slightly.  Something was in the bushes, and it was now aware of her.


A sudden fear took hold and she quickly extinguished her cigarette and headed for the bar’s back door.  Just inside the narrow back hallway she caught site of Peanut approaching through a cluster of people, on his way to the men’s room.


“I think there’s a rat out in the courtyard,” she told him.

“What?” he said incredulously.  “You saw a rat?”


“No, I didn’t see it,” Sylvia told him now, “but it was scratching around in the bushes in the back.”


“On the back side?”  Peanut replied, already unzipping his pants.  “Aw, that ain’t nothin’ to worry about!  Probably all that construction over there has them running around.  If it don’t come at you, don’t worry about it.  Oh,” he said, leaning his head out the door, “DON’T feed it!  It’ll just bring other ones!”


“Yeah, yeah, alright!”  Sylvia shouted back as the men’s room door slammed shut.


A few nights later, when she took her dinner break, Sylvia made sure to choose a table closer to the bar’s back door.  She figured the rat wouldn’t bother her if she didn’t bother it, but she wanted to put the extra distance between them just the same.  She looked warily over at the bushes; there on the ground was a rat trap set with a huge chunk of banana and peanut butter.  She smiled.  “So Peanut took me seriously after all,” she thought.


Tonight’s dinner was a treat.  It was Easter weekend, so the chef over at the Monteleone had put together a delicious meal for the girls; something special he did for the women who had to work holidays.  Sylvia popped the lid of her Styrofoam container and the wonderful aroma of ham and candied yams filled the courtyard; there was even a salad and a piece of pecan pie, which she lifted gingerly and placed on a napkin nearby.  “Excellent!” she thought, but then quickly realized someone had forgot to include anything to eat with.  “Shit!” she said and, closing the lid on her container securely, went inside in search of plastic utensils.


Barely five minutes had passed before Sylvia returned and settled in to enjoy her holiday meal.  She popped open the lid and, spearing a big chunk of yam on her fork, popped it into her mouth, savoring every bite.  But suddenly she realized something wasn’t right.  She looked at the table, moving the container aside, and there, where the piece of pecan pie should have been was … nothing.


Her eyes caught sight of the napkin, still sticky with the delectable syrup of the pecan pie, lying in plain sight in the middle of the courtyard, halfway between her table and the wall. 


“Fucking rats!” she blurted.  “I guess you little bastards don’t LIKE peanut butter?!”  She scowled in the direction of the bushes.  There was no movement, nothing to indicate that anything alive was looking back at her.  “God damn it!” she said, and went back downheartedly to her meal.


Just then Inez, another of the dancers, came out into the courtyard.  “What’s the matter?” she asked, pulling up a chair and sitting across from Sylvia.  “Ooh!  That looks good!” she added when she caught site of the meal.  “I can’t eat for an hour yet.”  She lit up a cigarette.


“Well, keep your eye on your food if you eat out here,” Sylvia grumbled.  “There’s a God-damned rat out here and it just stole my pecan pie, nice as you please!”


“What?!” Inez coughed.  “A rat?”  Immediately she lifted her legs up and held them close to her.  “Are you sure?”


“Well, it stole my damned pie!” Sylvia said.  “Has to be a rat!  Peanut said they’re coming from that building they’re doing over there.”  She nodded at the back wall.  Suddenly, she stopped.


“Wh - ?” Inez started but then she, too, fell silent.


The bushes along the crumbled brick wall were rustling, more aggressively than the previous night. 


“Honey, shit!” Inez said now, jumping to her feet.  “That’s a big, fucking rat!  I’m sorry, baby, but I can’t stay out here.  I’m deathly afraid of rats!  Eeewww!” she yelped in her best “bubble blonde” squeal, and headed for the door.


Sylvia, alone now, with the bushes still moving, and hearing in her mind Peanut’s admonition, “DON’T feed it!” now completely ignored those words.  Slowly, she broke off little bits of food from her meal and threw them in the direction of the rustling.  As soon as the first morsel hit the ground, however, the rustling stopped.


Just then the back door opened and Virginia, one of the bar managers, poked her head out.  “Almost time for you to come back!” she called to Sylvia.  The door slammed shut again.


Still no movement from the bushes.  Casually, Sylvia threw a few more morsels of food and this time some made it into the darkness of the bushes.  “Might as well sample the whole thing you little bastard,” she said.  And with that she got up and went back inside.


When she arrived for work the next evening, Peanut was in an uproar.  “Who the fuck threw all that trash out in the courtyard?” he was hollering, as Sylvia came in and dropped her purse and other bags on the bar. 


“I’m gonna kill me somebody!”  Peanut was ranting, walking up and down with a large trash bag in his hand.  “Who the hell put all that shit all over the courtyard?”  He looked at Sylvia.  His bug eyes were unusually bulgy.  “You do that?”


“Who, me?”  Sylvia snapped back.  “I ain’t did that!”


“Son of a bitch!” Peanut was yelling as he headed toward the narrow back hallway with Sylvia right behind him.


“I TOLD you there was rats back here!” she was saying.


“I put a God-damned trap out!” he yelled.


“One trap ain’t gonna catch that big bastard!” she hollered, as they burst out the back door into the courtyard.


Sylvia stood in shock for a moment.  She could barely believe her eyes.  There was trash everywhere, as if someone had dumped out two or three cans of garbage in the courtyard.  Peanut was kicking through some of it.


“This ain’t our stuff!” he was growling.  “This shit here came from the hotel!” he added, kicking an empty wholesale size can of Progresso Clams (In Juice).  “And what the hell is all this?”  He bent down and picked up what looked like a shredded piece of styrofoam container.  Sylvia gasped and remembered that she had left her empty meal container on the table the night before.  But it looked like every container that had been sent over was mixed into the pile of trash.  Still, she thought it best to say nothing.


Suddenly two bar backers came through the door, trash bags flapping.  Peanut swirled his arms around in a motion intended to encompass the entire courtyard.  “I want all this crap picked up,” he barked, “and NOW!”  Then, suddenly and completely unexpectedly, he let out a yowl and jumped up shaking his foot.  Everyone froze and looked at him.


“God damn it!  Son of a bitch!”  he was shouting as he pulled his foot from the rat trap.


Sylvia wanted to laugh – everyone did but knew better – and then she noticed a strange thing.  The trap was still baited.


Peanut marched inside, demoralized, but Sylvia hung around in the courtyard for a few minutes, having a last cigarette before going on.  She watched, detached, as the two bar men filled bag after bag with garbage.


“Man,” said one of the guys, “this rat must be diabetic or something!  He’s got a freaking sweet tooth!”  He held up a chewed up Hubig’s pie bag as evidence.


“So what?” said the other man.  “He likes pie!”  Sylvia perked up, remembering her own piece of stolen pecan pie.


“And Ding Dongs, and Twinkies, and Aunt Sally’s Pralines,” the other bar man replied, ticking off the items as he stuffed the empty packages into his bag.  “I’m telling you, that rat is addicted to sweets!”


Quietly, Sylvia slipped inside the bar.

For several weeks after the trashing incident there was no sign of any rodent activity in the courtyard.  Determined to overcome his foe, Peanut had responded aggressively to the trashing with more traps and enough D-Con rat bait to kill a small herd of cattle.  The girls told him they hadn’t seen any sign of rats, but Peanut made a particular point of asking Sylvia.


“You seen those bastards?” he asked her, being now convinced that no single rat could have trashed the courtyard as had been done.


Sylvia shook her head.  “I told you,” she said, “I never saw the thing.  I only saw the bushes moving; they must’ve been keeping in the bushes until nobody was around.”


“Yeah, well they ain’t there no more,” Peanut said, slightly triumphant.


“Yeah?” Sylvia came back.  “You sure?”  She smiled as Peanut, walking away, shot her the bird.


The usual gig at Candyland was four girls in a line up dancing a selection of four songs, then rotating back at the end of the night for what Virginia and Peanut called the “Titty Finale” – nude except for a barely-legal G-string and a pair of Springform pom-pom slippers.  The off-shift girls had to make do with the time the rotation allowed to take their lunch or bathroom breaks; this went on monotonously into the wee hours of the morning.  When Sylvia was assigned to this rotation she knew she had “arrived” and was finally part of the Candyland family.


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The other girls had warmed up to her, too, and she hardly ever took a break alone anymore, much less eat dinner.  She had even become close with one girl in particular, a beautiful brunette named Crystal who was popular with the patrons and often dated them.  One evening, instead of grabbing a bite with Sylvia, Crystal snuck out for a quick rendezvous with one of her men.


“Hey,” Crystal said as she headed for the alleyway, “I meant to ask you – is that a new perfume?”


Instinctively, Sylvia lifted her wrist to her nose.  “Oh, yeah.  It’s some oil I got at the Hare Krishna shop.  Supposed to smell like raspberries.”


“Yeah, it’s sweet.  I like it!”  Crystal said, then she was gone leaving Sylvia once again eating alone in the secluded courtyard.


Tonight’s fare was a roast beef po-boy – dressed, no tomatoes – courtesy of Johnny White’s on Bourbon; and earlier in the evening Crystal had bought a handful of homemade pies from the Pie Lady, so Sylvia was looking at a miniature sweet potato masterpiece for dessert. 


In New Orleans it’s a well-known fact that a roast beef po-boy isn’t any good unless it’s sopping wet, with gravy and mayo running down your forearms as you’re trying to eat it.  Sylvia’s po-boy was excellent and so juicy that she almost went through a whole roll of paper towels just trying to get past the first half.  And as she was wiping her hands and face for what seemed like the hundredth time when, Sylvia was suddenly aware that she was no longer alone.


Her attention was drawn to the crumbling courtyard wall and the low bushes there which were moving now.  Immediately her mind went to “rats,” but just as quickly something, call it intuition maybe, cancelled that thought out.  Something about the rustling was different; something proceeded from the sound, a feeling, a sense of foreboding and this took Sylvia completely off guard.  She peered into the darkness under the bushes, wishing for better light than the antique gas lamps that hung from rusty niches in the brick walls around her.  Great for ambience, but next to impossible to see by.


Suddenly, Sylvia was struck by a thought.  She reached over to her cigarette case and pulled out her lighter; next she picked up the sweet potato pie; finally, she quietly stood and gently, cautiously, stepped away from the table toward the bushes where they swayed in a pool of shadows against the courtyard wall.


She broke off a piece of the pie.  “Shhh,” she said softly, almost as much to calm herself as the thing that lurked in the bushes.  “Shhhh, it’s OK.  Are you hungry?  You must be.  Here you go,” she called and threw the piece of pie toward the bushes.  It rolled slightly closer to the shadows underneath where Sylvia could just make out the brick edging of a low garden wall.


There was a long moment of silence in which Sylvia threw yet another piece of the pie toward the bushes.  There was a slight movement, a gentle rustle, and Sylvia used this as her cue to hold out her lighter, prepared to flick it on the moment the bushes shook.  She did not have long to wait.  The old brambles and lantana vines rattled slightly and Sylvia flicked her lighter in time to see a pudgy little hand, with clawed fingers, and horrible, mottled flesh reach out of the darkness and snatch up the two pieces of pie off the ground.


Sylvia gasped in horror, the heat from the lighter burning her thumb and forefinger, and yet she could not look away.  There, in the dark recesses of the bushes, the little lighter flame reflected two glowing red eyes, staring directly at her.  First they were perfect circles of surprise, a look of “caught in the act,” then Sylvia was aware that the eyes became two glowing red slants.  She had angered it, whatever it was, and she knew she had to get away.


But the Devil Baby lurking in the bushes wasn’t about to let her do that.  In an instant he had lunged forward; she fell over, and the little beast climbed onto her chest, it’s ghoulish face twisted in a smile, razor sharp teeth full of bits and pieces of other meals already consumed that night, dripped drool upon her face.  And the eyes, the horrible, glowing, hellish eyes now flaming with delight.


The Devil Baby jumped up and down on Sylvia, riding her like a horse, its tail whipping about in the air, and wagging the remainder of the sweet potato pie about in front of her face.  Sylvia was petrified.  She wanted to scream but a scream would not come, not even when the devilish infant came to a frozen, nearly-inanimate stop.


She gaped and gaped and not a sound came out as slowly the Devil Baby began to sniff, running its nose all around her mouth and along her arms, lavishing in the scent of the gravy of the roast beef po-boy.  Thin strings of drool now hung from its mouth, and as Sylvia watched, transfixed in horror, the creature held one of her wrists to his nose, taking a long, deep sniff.  It closed its eyes in ecstacy.  Raspberries!!


“Man, what the hell?” Peanut was bitching as he made his way down the narrow back hallway.  “Where the hell is Sylvia?  It’s time for the finale and she ain’t nowhere to be found.”


Crystal, who was reapplying her makeup in the ladies bathroom, overheard Peanut.  “I left her eating in the back,” she called.


“What, the courtyard?”  Peanut hollered.


“Yeah, asshole, the courtyard!” Crystal snapped back.


“Bitch!” Peanut said under his breath and as he swung the back door open didn’t even look before breaking into his tirade.  “All right Sylvia, what the hell you think this is?  Hollywood?  Broadway?  You ain’t got no door with a star on it so you better get your ass –“


Suddenly Peanut stopped, aware that he was hollering to an empty courtyard.  “What the fuck?” he muttered.  “Sylvia!” he called.  “SYLVIA!”  he called again louder.  “Son of a bitch!”


Peanut was about to turn and go back inside when he caught site of several things at once.  One the table where Sylvia had been sitting was a half-eaten roast beef po-boy – no tomatoes – and a cigarette burning in the ash tray, like Sylvia had just stepped away.  He knew she wasn’t in the bathroom with Crystal, and then he heard it – a pitiful, muffled sound and the rustling of bushes, followed by a hollow “click.”


Running to where the sound came from, Peanut looked down and there, on the cobblestones, lay a single purple Springform slipper, it’s pink pom pom covered in blood.  The sound of stones crackling drew his attention to, to his everlasting horror, he caught the sight of Sylvia’s white foot being pulled through the crumbling old bricks of the courtyard wall.


It took a moment to register with Peanut that something had just pulled a whole human being through a fist-sized hole in a brick wall; but when he finally snapped out of it, Peanut rushed across the courtyard making the bar door.


“Where’s my stick?  Where’s my stick?” he was saying over and over.  “Oh, my God, where’s my fucking STICK!!”  One of the bar backs heard him and pitched the hefty old pool cue handle over the heads of the crowds.


Peanut was making tracks.  Only minutes had passed, maybe he could catch the thing, whatever it was.  “Come with me!” he hollered to two massive bouncers as he lunged through the front door, knocking patrons down in the process.


The door of Candyland was only a couple steps from the corner of building on the Iberville Street side.  Peanut sped around the corner, feet hardly touching the ground, with the two bouncers right behind him.  Together they made it about a half-block up an empty Chartres Street and the bouncers stopped, believing they were chasing nothing.


“Come on you bastards!”  Peanut was yelling as he continued on down Chartres Street.  “Don’t you see the thing?  It’s on the fucking roof!  It’s going over the roofs!!!”


Indeed, the hungry little Devil Baby was jumping from rooftop to rooftop, it’s usual mode of transportation, and this night it was dragging something limp and flopping, something that looked like an empty burlap bag, wagging along behind him. 


He was headed north, over the rooftops of the French Quarter, and would eventually cross scrabble over the spires of St. Louis, on and on until her reached the safety of his own little room, his own little cell, where, unhindered, he could feast at his leisure on the delicacy he had stolen.


After decades of study, some folklorists now admit to what was only speculated about before – they know the destination of the Devil Baby the night he allegedly stole sweet Sylvia was, in fact, the empty, darkened safety of the old Ursuline Convent.


Though some will point to the tiny windows of the third story of the old building and tell stories of vampire brides escaping to prey upon the people of New Orleans, what really lurks behind the little shutters of the windows that once served as the “cells” or apartments of the Ursuline Nuns is a terror more palpable, more real, and more enduring than any pale legend:  The Devil Baby lives up there. That’s when the little shutters are thrown back, and a little window opens on the gaping blackness of his cell beyond, and the Devil Baby is out  and sometimes he gets out searching for something – some rare delicacy perhaps - to satisfy his sweet tooth.


 © 2010-2013 Alyne Pustanio, All rights reserved worldwide.







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