Check out our episode here! Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw
When Mina was six, she dressed as a vampire for Halloween, stalking the rest of her class. She even bit Billy White for saying that vampires weren’t real and her teeth pierced his skin. He had it coming! Now it’s 1995. Mina is seventeen and in New Orleans, visiting her older sister, Libby, for the summer. Fang Fest, a week of vampire and horror-themed events, starts in two days.
Libby takes Mina to the ugliest building on the street, the Mansion of the Macabre. Outside, Mina meets the very handsome Jared who works at the Mansion with Libby, and Della, Libby’s new girlfriend and her companion on the tour. Tour? Yes, the Mansion of the Macabre recreates scenes from famous horror movies and patrons are led on tours throughout the rooms. Pennywise lurks in the bathroom, Freddy Kruger chases tours through fog, Chucky cuts at your heels and Libby, in her tuxedo dress costume, guides the tours. The most intriguing room is last. The vampire Lestat lays in a huge bed and seduces the crowd with his confidence and words. He singles Mina out, pulling her forward, touching her neck and leans in to bite...
The lights flash red and Mina can feel a liquid trickle down her throat. Libby has ushered the tour out and now Mina is alone with Lestat, well, Jared. Man that was hot! Jared takes Mina to see the Mansion’s owner, Thandie, an imposing woman who seems to have her staff in equal parts in awe and terrified of her. Libby has arranged for Mina to work at the Mansion over the summer, but first she must pass a trial run tour the next day. Settling in to wait for Libby to finish her shift, Mina pulls out her battered copy of Interview with the Vampire and disappears into its pages.
Hours later, Libby and Jared head home where Mina should meet fellow housemate Lucas. On the way, the sights and sounds of Bourbon Street fill Mina’s senses. As do the smells, both good and bad. They walk past a convent with a crowd of people and police mulling around the gates. A girl has been attacked there. Jared tells Mina it’s the same convent where, rumor has it, in the 18th Century a group of girls was sent to the convent and brought with them empty coffins. The story goes that the coffins weren’t empty. The girls brought a vampire with them over the ocean crossing, and sometimes, a shadowy figure would be seen leaving the attic windows at night. Two paranormal investigators spent the night outside the convent walls in the 70s and when they were found, their bodies were shriveled husks. Cool story.
At home, Mina, Libby and Jared grab popcorn and watch The Burbs. Later they are joined by Lucas, Libby and Jared's roommate, who seems really out of it. When she finally goes to bed, Mina hears a strange noise, so she goes to investigate. Mina finds Lucas with a bloody stain on his white vest, but it's okay, it’s just paint. Lucas got hit with inspiration for his artwork, but then got drunk and passed out. The next morning, Mina reads the newspaper and sees that the girl from the convent was murdered. She then gets a call from her aunt to make sure she made it to Libby's okay.
They make plans for the morning over breakfast. Libby is going to visit Della at the bar where she works and Jared will take Mina to St. Louis Cemetery 1 with Lucas tagging along. Lucas wanders off with his camera while Mina and Jared visit Marie Laveau’s tomb. On the way out they pass another tomb with the inscriptions Carter 1899-1932 and 1903-1932. Jared, of course, has another New Orleans vampire story to tell. Fishermen John and Wayne Carter were New Orleans natives who one day got a taste for something other than fish. They kidnapped people and kept a collection to feed from until one day, a girl escaped and they were caught. During the standoff with the police, the brothers killed several officers before being dragged outside where they were weakened by the sun and able to be subdued. The Carter brothers were hanged and entombed, but some say they still roam Bourbon Street at night...
During the walk around the cemetery, we find out that Mina and Libby’s mother left them the previous year. Not long after, Libby took the opportunity to move from the University of York to New Orleans. Everyone seems to leave Mina. We also find out that Lucas used to work at the Mansion as a set designer. Jared tells Mina he’s rough, but a good friend and worth the effort. On the way to meet Libby, Jared takes Mina on a tour of the French Quarter. They eventually walk to the Mansion where Jared borrows a photocopy of Wayne Carter’s diary. Thandie owns the original and has it in a museum at the mansion. They meet up with Libby who brought beignets and walk around a bit, looking at the street vendors. Mina goes into a fortune teller's tent. The man inside, who calls himself Armand, offers Mina a free reading. He gives some vague fortunes about love, happiness and a tragedy in an attic, the usual stuff, then hands Mina his card and bids her farewell by name… Soon the party heads home where Mina enjoys the diary pages. Wayne talks about being drunk, hearing a scream and finding a woman ripping into a man's neck. A vampire! Wayne notes his brother's fascination and fears for the next chapter in their lives.
At the Mansion, Mina is preparing for her audition. She’ll be a victim in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre room and Heather will take over after she’s given it a go. It goes off wonderfully, Mina’s screams are louder than the chainsaw and her panic incites the tour group. Perfect. Heading back to the changing room to find Heather, Mina heads up the stairs for some reason. She spots red splotches, a new exhibition perhaps? But no, there is more… and a pool of blood at the top of the stairs… and Heather, in a chair with her throat cut. Mina screams.
Quickly Libby, Jared, and other Mansion workers run up and see what is at the top of the stairs. Thandie gets everyone into the kitchen and calls the police. Detectives Boudreaux and Cafferty arrive with police and forensics. Detective Boudreaux interviews everyone individually, except Mina as she is a minor. Typical questions are asked, then she interviews Libby by herself. Free to get their regular clothes, they change and head back to the kitchen where a forensic worker has interrupted the proceedings. They found hair in Heather’s hand. Detective Boudreaux asks for samples of Libby and Mina’s hair because they’re the only ones with color similar to the sample. Back in the house things blow up between the sisters, Libby wants to go out to her girlfriend Della’s bar, Mina needs to talk about finding a dead body. They don’t have a communicative relationship, so loud accusations fly and they go their separate ways, except Mina is taking Jared with her. They are going to look for the fortune teller she met. Armand knew there would be trouble in the attic, so he might know more.
Mina and Jared reach Armand’s house, he lets them enter and wearily informs them he has no control over what he sees. He saw a girl, blood everywhere, a knife slice to her throat and a bite mark on her neck. He will arrange for a friend to meet them the following night to try to help them more. He tells them to dress as Claudia and Lestat at Empire of the Dead (that’s Della’s bar) and his contact will find them. They get home shortly before Libby, who is drunk, and Della. The sisters scream at each other some more. Libby doesn’t think Mina is safe and tries to call their aunt. While Mina retires to her room in anger, Libby makes food. Della does try to reach out to Mina and says she'll be there should she want to talk. Instead, Mina dives into the Carter Diary. In this entry, Wayne tells of his forced turning to a vampire by John and how he is left with an insatiable hunger. At 3am, Mina gives up on sleep. Images of Heather mixed with Libby plague her imagination so she heads into the kitchen where Jared is sitting reading. He tells Mina that this isn’t the first time a girl was killed in the same way. Madame LaLaurie was a famous hostess, but one night there was a fire in the upstairs rooms. Bodies were found in her attic, chained and tortured. Jared pulls out a newspaper clipping about a girl named Betty Watson who was killed in her home with an axe, in the same way the Axeman of New Orleans stalked the city in 1918. If you include the girl at the convent, there are an increasing number of murders where the victims mirror the gory myths of New Orleans.
Back in her room, Mina reads the Carter Diary, this time of his first victim. Stopping for an awkward silent breakfast with Libby, Mina returns to her room with the newspaper. Jared soon joins her and Mina shows him the paper. The headline is about Heather’s death and it confirms both what she saw and the bite mark Armand said would be there, however evidence points to Heather being murdered somewhere else and being staged at the Mansion with someone else’s blood. There is also a small article and picture of the convent victim. Her name was Ella Tinton.
Later that day Mina, Libby, Jared and Lucas head to the Mansion to borrow costumes for the party. Libby tries to talk to Mina about her and Jared but Mina brushes her off. Mina picks out a Claudia costume to match Jared’s Lestat and as they leave, Jared tells the others he wants to show Mina the museum. There are lots of glass displays of historical and sometimes grisly items including the original Carter diary. Jared wants to show Mina three specific displays: a blunt axe, a picture of Madame LaLaurie and one from the convent. Back at the house, Mina spends time reading the museum brochure Jared pocketed for her, then some more of the Carter diary. It turns out it was John’s decision to keep humans as food and he used his powers of compulsion to kidnap them. These powers also work on Wayne. As interesting as all this is, it’s time to get ready for the party at Empire of the Dead.
Jared asks for Mina’s help with his makeup and things heat up between them being pressed so close together… which Libby sees. Drat! Not long after everyone has finished applying their costumes and final touches, Claudia, Lestat, Buffy, Dracula and David from The Lost Boys head to Empire of the Dead. The music is loud but good, the drinks are red and served in test tubes, and vampires are everywhere. When a dance contest is announced, Lestat grabs Claudia’s hand and leads her on to the floor. It might be so they can catch a killer, but it doesn’t mean Mina can’t enjoy herself. Soon after they start dancing and their bodies inch closer and closer, they are taken to Armand's contact, it’s the club owner, Marsden. He tells them to head to The Underground, a blood bar, there they will find the killer. Jared wants to turn all their finds over to the police and in no way wants to go in there. The rest of the night is spent talking, laughing, drinking and dancing before they head back home. Mina sits and reads the rest of the diary, about the torture John subjected his brother and victims to until one night one of the victims escapes. Then there is a knock on the door. Jared has come for a goodnight kiss.
The following day, Libby is all prepared to confront Mina and Jared about their budding attraction when Jared outright tells her they kissed. Now that’s done, they can head to the police station where they speak to Detective Cafferty and tell him their suspicions, hand over the pamphlets, and point him in the direction of The Underground. Before they leave Mina suddenly realizes she’s seen the Detective before the murders. He toured the Mansion! He did, to take a look at the Axeman exhibit but the museum was closed. When they get home, Libby has a flyer for New Orleans Hell Tours Presents The Horror Quest. Excellent, just the distraction Mina needs. A scavenger hunt!
Starting from Empire of the Dead where Veronica, a surly attitude-filled waitress gives them a start time and a map, the group visit a dilapidated diner with a crazy chef and bloody waitresses, the Pharmacy Museum to find a Voodoo doll, and then an apartment on Royal Street where they find three dead bodies. Well, mannequins made to look like Carter Brother victims. As they are looking for clues, Libby screams. Lucas has been stabbed in the chest and is bleeding out. Jared keeps pressure on the wound, Della runs to call for help, and soon an ambulance arrives. At the hospital, Lucas goes into surgery and the police arrive. Detectives Boudreaux and Cafferty turn up and ask them to come to the station. Interviews take place and after what feels like forever, they arrest Libby.
Despite trying to get information from the Detectives, Mina, Jared and Della don’t know what evidence the police have against Libby. Hopefully Lucas can confirm it wasn’t her when he gets out of surgery. The following day, they meet at the hospital during morning visiting hours and Lucas is nearly awake, weak and on lots of pain medication so he can’t really talk. While Della heads to work, Mina and Jared try to talk to the Detectives and Libby with no success. They decide their only course of action is to go to The Underground and investigate themselves. But how will they get in?
It seems Lucas, and indeed Jared, have a little secret. Lucas is a semi-regular visitor to The Underground and Jared has been with him before so knows where to go and how to get in. They go to speak to Elvira, who is reluctant to talk especially as they won’t pay her with their blood. She does mention something about old ones and that humans are supposedly helping them. On the way out, through a slit in the curtains to a private section, Mina spots Thandie biting down on a girl's wrist. Mina could see Thandie’s throat working to drink the blood, the ecstatic reaction of the girl as she was being fed on, and the blood on Thandie’s teeth when she pulled away. Then Mina saw Thandie’s fangs retract back. Ooh no. Thandie sees them, too.
Taking them out the back exit, they head back to the house. As they sit around the kitchen table, Mina notices Thandie doesn’t breathe, barely moves and doesn’t have the usual twitches and constant movement of a human. She really is a vampire. Thandie explains that she is old, though let’s face it, it is rude to ask a lady her age. She warns Mina, Jared and Della not to investigate the murders, to let the police do it, and says that her lawyers will help Libby. After Thandie leaves, at supernatural speed, they decide to keep investigating regardless of her warnings. Later, when they are alone, Jared explains that he went to the blood bar with Lucas and saw how addicted he was to the bite. It's what helped Jared decide to major in nursing at college.
Mina and Jared visit Thandie at the Mansion and myth bust some of the vampire rumors and hearsay. Sunlight, yes; garlic, no; decapitation, fire and stake to the heart, yes; holy items, no. Vampires don’t need to kill to feed, heal quickly, have supernatural speed, and do not suffer from disease. Some have special powers, but that depends on their human life. As they leave, a big man dressed in black and wearing a balaclava knocks Mina over causing her to hit the back of her head on the hard ground and bundles Jared into a van. The hit makes Mina sick and dizzy but she is able to crawl back into the Mansion where Thandie makes her tea and calls the police. Detectives Boudreaux and Cafferty arrive, take her statement and leave, but within seconds of the Mansion door closing, there is a loud knock. It’s the Detectives, they have just heard on the radio that Lucas is dead.
Thandie calls Della to take Mina home. They try to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer to distract themselves, but a loud thud against the front door startles them. Della investigates and finds a handwritten note hanging from a dagger in the door. Della is careful not to put her finger prints on either the dagger or the note, but finds it’s addressed to Mina and has a cryptic clue as to where they can find Jared: “the street named princess, where a false prince lost his too-short life.” After looking through Jared’s books on New Orleans myths, they work out it's Dauphine Street which is linked to the myth of the sultan who stole his brother's harem and all the women were found slaughtered. Rushing over, Della preemptively calling an ambulance, they find Jared in an open grave, unconscious and bloody from puncture wounds on his neck. He has also been dressed in fine, elaborate clothes. The ambulance arrives and on the way to the hospital, one of the paramedics hands Mina a note from Jared’s pocket addressed to her. It mentions that their game will soon end and how easy it is to plant evidence. At the bottom of the note is a piece of tape with hairs stuck to it. The note is signed John Carter.
Jared is stabilized in the hospital but hasn't heard the news about Lucas. Della tells him, and he says he needs to rest. The Detectives are back in the hospital waiting room and request Mina and Della’s presence at the station. Mina and Della give the Detectives both notes and the dagger which are bagged as evidence. After some questioning, Cafferty drives Mina home. Police protection will be stationed outside the house and Della has arranged to stay over. As they pull up to the house, Mina notices Armand waiting at her door. He seems anxious and says he is there to help but it’s too late and he leaves. During the night, the sounds of the house keep Mina awake but then heavy footfalls put her on high alert. Armed with one of Jared’s heavy New Orleans books, Mina is ready to take down the intruder who is… Jared. Apart from wicked cuts at his neck, he's only got bangs and bruises, so he was discharged. The next morning, Libby returns home.
Bringing Libby up to speed on everything, Libby says they need to go to the Mansion. It’s arranged with the police protection and Cafferty turns up to drive them. Whilst Mina, Libby and Della talk to Thandie, he’ll tour the museum. In her office, Thandie reveals that she was the victim who escaped the Carter Brothers which led to their supposed execution; however, John holds grudges long term and found her during the 60s. To save her life, Wayne turned her. She hasn’t seen either brother since. At home, Mina visits Jared and he is looking rough. He's pale and clammy, shaking, and his eyes are ringed in red. He’s turning into a Vampire! Whoever took him forced him to drink blood while he was blindfolded, now he feels overwhelming hunger. Mina offers her wrist but hesitates. When he bites down, she screams.
Mina’s screams cause Libby and Della to come running, the latter gives Jared a good kick to get him off her. Jared has taken quite a bit of blood and Mina is woozy to the point of passing out. She wakes to find Jared tending her wounds. The puncture is deep and the tissue around it ragged from ripping teeth. Jared looks better, not desperately hungry now, and he regrets losing control. Libby and Della are very hostile toward him though. As he packs up the medical paraphernalia, he declares he is going to stay with Thandie, which is honestly for the best. After dark, once Jared has left, Della confesses that she believes her mother was killed by vampires.
The next morning, a letter arrives for Mina. Inside are more Wayne Carter diary entries, this time from 1994! In them he describes how a vampire progeny cannot stray from their sire without great pain for one year, but a sire may leave their progeny, which is less painful. Wayne also describes how they kept returning for short visits to New Orleans but had to remain in the shadows until John fell in love with a human called Emma. She wasn’t afraid of their supernatural state and eventually John turned her. Only a few hours later she fled. John bears grudges and has planned for some time how to get revenge. When he found out the woman who had them arrested and killed was still in New Orleans and was associated with Emma, things fell into place and he would need Wayne to carry them out, willingly or not. As Mina puts the entries down, her mind keeps coming back to the same detail. Her mother was called Emma.
Taking the diary entries to Libby, it’s finally time for them to talk. Libby reveals she came to New Orleans on purpose after she found a letter to their Aunt Sandra from their mom. It was on Mansion of the Macabre paper and though it didn’t have a postmark, Libby was able to find out where their mom had gone from the clues in the letter. She hasn't found their mom but agrees that the Emma from the diary is very likely her. Deciding to give the entries to the police, they are called in for further questioning. No one mentions the huge fanged elephant in the room, but the detectives agree it is likely their mom mentioned and that they are targets for revenge. So, Mina and Libby, how do you fancy being bait tonight at the Fang Fest event at the Mansion? Yes? Great!
Mina, dressed as Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Libby, back in her Dracula costume, head to the Mansion. Jared will spend the night at Empire with Della because the Mansion is just too much that night. Thandie, along with an army of disguised officers, will help keep watch for the Carter Brothers. Hours pass and nothing happens, but when the tourists and party goers have left and the police numbers have dwindled, Libby and Mina hear a crash in the museum and find Thandie staked. Veronica, the obnoxious girl who sold them their Scavenger Hunt tickets, is there with a mallet. As she is bragging about killing Thandie, Marsden, Della’s boss comes in and introduces himself as John Carter. All the noise summons one of the police officers who is promptly killed before John threatens Mina and Libby with the lives of their friends if they don’t come with him willingly. Of course they go. At the entrance to the Mansion, they stumble into Armand, causing John to remark about him scurrying away with the other rats. Once they reach Empire, they are promptly locked up in a cell in the basement which was, until a second ago, occupied by Elvira from the blood bar's corpse. John “tidied up” this loose end. John seems to be under the assumption that Mina and Libby's mother cares for them and will come and help them, but why would she change a habit of a lifetime?
A moan from the cell opposite draws their attention and Lucas rises from some rags, pale and weak. John posed as his father in the hospital and drugged him, making the staff believe he was dead, and brought him to the cell to feed on him. John comes back then, unlocks their cells and takes them further into the basement cell complex to where a bloody Jared is kneeling over Della who looks to be dead. Jared insists he didn’t attack her, but then John compels Libby to stake Jared. Lucas comes over then and forces some concoction down Della’s throat and she wakes up just fine. Lucas now stands taller and exudes confidence. He's a vampire! John issues an ultimatum to Mina, kill Libby or Della, but before she gives a name, Della headbutts and breaks Lucas’s nose, grabs the stake from Jared’s chest and stakes Lucas, killing him. At the same time John is killed by a crossbow bolt through the brain, fired by Armand, or should we say Wayne Carter!
Wayne apologizes for letting things get so far out of hand, oh and Jared isn’t dead. Mina and Libby help him up and they escape the bar, leaving Wayne to deal with the police. Back at home, Jared and Mina agree they still have a future together, but they just need to take things slowly. Libby and Mina talk and apologize, and Libby even invites Mina to stay with her after summer ends, which of course she will. The next day, Libby receives a phone call from Thandie’s lawyer. Thandie left the Mansion to Libby in her will. As vampire bodies decompose rapidly, there wasn’t anything left of Thandie to bury, but they still held a jazz funeral to celebrate her. John, or the ‘Fang Fest Fiend’ "escaped" New Orleans. A week later, standing outside their front door, Mina and Libby are reunited with their mom. She doesn’t lie about how she would have rescued them, and they don’t lie to her about being pissed off that she abandoned them. They might be able to build a relationship, or they might not. For now, Mina and Libby are happy that they have each other.