The LaLaurie House New Orleans, Louisiana Truth is often stranger than fiction. Diabolical men and women litter the
pages of books and blaze across the movie screens. Their faces may be calm and
gentile on the surface, but their hearts hold the blackest of purposes. More
startling still is to realize that people such as this exist in real life and
to look at the aftermath of their twisted actions. The evil people do during
their lives is not always interred with their bones. Such is the case of the
LaLaurie House in New Orleans.
While New Orleans is known the world over for its spirits and ghosts, its
magic, and the voodoo traditions that still thrive there, one would be hard
pressed to find something that would shock its citizens. But the atrocities
of Madame LaLaurie not only filled the entirety of New Orleans with dread, they
continue on in the form of screams in the night, tortured souls, and a house
that will forever bear its owner’s name in infamy.
In 1832 Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine, took up residence in the
French Quarter. Their wealth and influence were felt throughout the city with
Madame LaLaurie becoming remarkably influential despite her French-Creole heritage.
She carried herself well and let it be known that she and her daughters were
ladies of class and wealth.
Madame LaLaurie was fond of throwing lavish parties in her home as the three-story
mansion was quite literally built for entertaining. She was, to most who knew
her, the pinnacle of womanhood: smart, beautiful, and kind to all. However,
the most beautiful of creatures are often the most poisonous. There were those
who suspected that her gracious smile and kind eyes held a dark secret. There
were others who did not need to suspect as they knew from first-hand experience
that Madame LaLaurie was as cold-blooded and cruel as anyone before or since
her time. She was, to put it mildly, quite insane.
For one thing, there were whispered rumors about the LaLaurie House slaves.
It seemed that they were constantly purchasing new slaves to replace old ones
that had "escaped." Those that whispered agreed they’d never heard
any reports of slaves that had escaped, nor did they actually ever see any of
them leave. Many had their suspicions confirmed when a neighbor witnessed Delphine
chasing one of her young slave girls through the house with a whip. The child
fled to the third floor and leaped to her death to avoid her mistress. Rather
than report the incident to the authorities, Madame LaLaurie buried the girl
in her garden.
The window the slave girl crashed through was sealed up with concrete.
Today the sealed window stands as a forboding reminder of past terrors.
slave abuse continued until a fire broke out in the LaLaurie kitchen in April
of 1834. The firefighters extinguished the blaze and went to investigate the
rest of the house. What they found, even by today’s standards, seems impossible
to imagine. Behind a hidden barred door in the attic, they discovered more than
a dozen slaves chained to the walls. Several were locked in small cages, one
having had her arms and legs broken so she could fit inside. The poor woman’s
arms were reset then at odd angles for Madame LaLaurie’s amusement. Others,
the women, were sliced open in the middle with their organs wrapped around their
waists, while some were simply dismembered. One man who was found shackled to
the wall had a stick protruding from a hole that had been drilled in his head.
The stick was apparently used for "stirring." Body parts were strewn
about the room in a carefree way that suggested that the Madame cared nothing
for them and saw them as even less than other slave owners did.
While most of the unfortunates found in the attic were already dead, several,
mutilated and scarred and begging to be put out of their misery, clung to life.
When word circulated about what was found, the entirety of New Orleans society
converged on the LaLaurie House with ropes and torches to lynch the villainous
couple. When they reached the gates, the livery door flew open as the Doctor
and Delphine made their escape. They were never found, and there is no record
of any legal action filed against them.
The LaLaurie House hosted several endeavors over the following years including
a school and a dance studio. Everyone who attempted to occupy the house, however,
left within a few short years amid rumors of ghosts and spirits. In the late
1890’s it became a source for cheep housing for immigrants; however, despite
the low rent, no one would stay more than a few days. After word spread of the
nature of the ghosts, the house was abandoned, making way for a tavern and then
a furniture store. Both businesses closed their doors in less than a year.
The hauntings began on the evening of the LaLauries? departure. Police took
away the corpses of the mutilated slaves, and the house was looted by the mob
that had gathered. Some who went in to partake in the destruction claimed to
hear agonized screams but paid them no mind. The house sat empty for many years,
but people still claimed to hear screams from within its darkened windows. Some
said they could see shadows moving quickly past the windows as if people were
running through the abandoned house. During the time the house was used for
immigrant housing, tenants spoke fearfully about a naked black man in chains
who attacked them and a woman who assaulted them with a whip. Both apparitions
disappeared before the startled victims? eyes. Others who lived there complained
that their animals were butchered in their rooms. One young mother fled in horror
when she found a woman in elegant evening clothes bending over her sleeping
daughter. Through all of this, the screams got louder and the cries more insistent.
The souls of the tortured slaves have been reported throughout the house along
with that of the old cook whom Madame LaLaurie kept chained to the stove.
The house was eventually bought and renovated by a gentleman who turned it into
luxury apartments. Although most of the tenants refuse to talk about the goings-on
in the house, there are still worried glances and tight lips. Most recently
the owner of the house was in the midst of renovating the kitchen when he found
a pit full of human bones beneath the wooden floor. The investigating officials
stated that the bones were relatively recent in origin, just old enough that
everyone knew who put them there. The owner had stumbled across Madame LaLaurie’s
private graveyard. Although it is known that Delphine murdered quite a few people,
an accurate count has never been made as records of how many slaves were owned
at the time are sparse. The discovery of the hidden burial pit does raise the
question of how many suffered under her diseased eye.
Anyone interested in seeing the LaLaurie House can do so at any time of the
year as New Orleans is well aware of its history, and many "haunted tours"
have sprung up. The tours usually leave from one of the many bars on Bourbon
Street and walk through the French Quarter for three to four hours at a time.
Although admittance to the LaLaurie House is heavily restricted, one can still
stand in its shadow and feel the chill of murdered eyes looking down from the
windows and rooms, begging for release from their continued existence of pain.
See you in two weeks!
Original artwork by Bill "Splat" Johnson