The Case of the Crimson Skull
There's an old legend that floats along the sleepy streets of St. Bertrand, Louisiana. Some say it stretches back to the days when the French built the old fort on the bend in the Mississippi River. Others say it dates back to the days when the Chitimacha tribe dominated the land. Either way, the true origins of the story are as shrouded as the cypress trees in the bayou on a foggy morning.
An Intrepid Soul
No matter the origin of the legend, the story always starts the same way. A young girl is wading at the edge of the swamp, collecting shellfish for her family's supper. She lived in a native village in some versions; a beautiful Chitimacha princess. In others, she was the daughter of an accomplished French merchant. Either way, she had no business out in the swamp, alone or otherwise. A young woman of her social status should have been catered to by servants and courtiers alike, but she was an independent spirit and loved nothing more than wading in the shallows collecting shellfish for the evening stew.
Blood on the Bayou
It's here that the legend diverges depending upon the teller of the tale. Some say a sixteen-foot-long gator sprang from beneath the water and gobbled her up whole. From toe to neck, her entire body was in the literal belly of the beast. He couldn't quite get all of her though, and when his powerful jaws snapped down; off popped her head. Others say the Frenchman's daughter was set upon by the same natives in the other version of the story. Not satisfied simply kidnapping or murdering the hapless girl, they chopped her head clean off. Some even say it was neither of these fanciful tales, and the poor girl simply fell victim to some murderous scoundrels roaming the bayou. Not wanting the body to be identified, they lopped off her head and carried it off. No matter the telling, the poor girl loses her head.
Don't Get Ahead of Yourself
There was something strange about this bit of bone, though. Even centuries since the flesh rotted away, the skull is the deep crimson of the blood that was spilled separating it from its original owner. This likely was what drew so many to desire it, and why it still fascinates the locals to this day. But one must be careful what they covet, for many say the skull is cursed. From those first fateful hands to the last, they say anyone who holds the skull too long will share the fate of the young girl and lose their own head. Some believe the legend and avoid even mentioning the foul thing, others spit in the face of fate and still seek out the Crimson Skull.
This might seem like the end of the story, but it's just the beginning. From here, the tales all agree on one more thing. Once the head was removed from the young lady, it passed from one hand to another. Again, who had it first depends on who you ask. But, over time, the stories all mention French merchants, missionaries, and madmen. Many say a voodoo witch doctor put a spell on the skull, and others say he removed a fateful curse from it. Eventually, after the Americans took control of Louisiana and more settlers came to the bayou, others came into possession of the skull.
Old Retro Antique by Dariusz Sankowski
The Skull's Whereabouts
Nobody knows for sure where the Crimson Skull is now. Some say it's lost forever, cast into the bayou itself by an angry widow after her husband's obsession with it brought about his own doom. Others say it was long since carried away from St. Bertrand by a travelling collector of curiosities. Maybe it's molding away in some attic in New England, or collecting dust in a cupboard in the mid-west. Many think that none other than Andre Broussard is in possession of the skull. Amid the thousands of curiosities in his privately curated museum on Barracks Road, nobody has ever seen the skull. Still, some say he has it secreted away somewhere in his personal collection. Perhaps he's fallen victim to the allure of the artifact, or perhaps he's protecting the people of St. Bertrand from its wicked curse.
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