The LaLaurie House

Nightmare Mansion in the French Quarter

The LaLaurie Mansion in the French Quarter
Reading Tom / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Of all the haunted houses, in America's most haunted city, the LaLaurie House has surely endured the most gruesome history, and its reputation for otherworldly visitations is well-deserved and well-documented.

The LaLauries

In 1832, Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine, moved to their splendid quarters at 1140 Royal Street. They were wealthy Creole socialites who entertained on a grand scale, and Madame LaLaurie was reportedly both beautiful and intelligent. Louis, a native of France, was her third husband. New Orleanians who attended affairs at their home were wined and dined with the choicest food and wine, on the finest china, linens, and silver imaginable. What was unimaginable was the horror behind the facade of gentility.

The Slaves

While the institution of slavery is indefensible, it nevertheless existed in the antebellum south, and certainly in New Orleans. Madame LaLaurie, it is told, had a particular fondness for the practice, and owned many slaves who were methodically brutalized to keep them "under control." There were many rumors, reportedly fanned by the "jealous Americans" who were systematically excluded from all things truly Creole. Among other things, it was said that in the LaLaurie household, slaves disappeared on a regular basis. A neighbor reported seeing Delphine chasing a slave girl onto the roof of the house with a whip. The child jumped to her death. It appeared that Madame LaLaurie enjoyed her many luxuries at the cost not only of her slaves' freedom but also of their lives.

The Fire

On April 10, 1834, a fire broke out in the LaLaurie home, and when the volunteer fireman came to the scene, they discovered the horror hidden inside the facade of gentility. Dozens of slaves were reportedly chained to the wall in a secret attic. Some were in cages, and body parts were strewn about haphazardly. Horrible mutilations had been perpetrated, and some slaves cried out begging to be put out of their pain and misery. The monstrous and insane experiments carried on by Madame LaLaurie were beyond anything imaginable, either before or since. It was a sight that no one in the city could comprehend, and the population was sickened, calling for Delphine to be brought to justice.

But she had disappeared. Some people found evidence that she and her husband fled across Lake Pontchartrain and lived there, while others say she went from there to France, escaping in a horse and buggy on the night of the fire. However, a tombstone bearing her name has been discovered in St. Louis Cemetery No.1, indicating that she died in 1842  and that perhaps her children arranged to have her remains returned here. A mob vented its anger on the home, destroying everything within its walls. For some years after that, it was an abandoned wreck. One window in the house, visible from the street, was sealed over and remains so today. Rumor has it that a slave fell to her death through that window during the rescue attempt on the night of the fire.

The Hauntings

The LaLaurie house has had many incarnations before returning to its purpose as a residence. It was a saloon and a girl's school, a music conservatory, an apartment building and a furniture store. The stories began almost immediately. Many have reported seeing the phantom of that young slave girl fleeing across the LaLaurie roof. Agonized screams coming from the empty house were commonplace. Those who stayed there after it became occupied left after only a few days. At the turn of the century, a resident, one of the many poor Italian immigrants who lived in the house, encountered a Black man in chains. The entity attacked him on the stairwell then suddenly disappeared. The next morning, most of the other residents abandoned the building.

The bar, "The Haunted Saloon," opened in the 20th century. The owner kept records of the odd experiences of his patrons. Later, it seemed the LaLaurie House did not care to be a furniture store. The owner’s merchandise was often found covered in a mysterious foul-smelling fluid. After staying up to catch the suspected vandals, the owner found the liquid had somehow re-appeared in plain sight, although no one had entered. The business closed.

Animals were found butchered within the house. Delphine was reportedly seen hovering over the infant child of a turn-of-the-century resident, or chasing children with a whip. She also apparently attempted, late in the 19th century and long after she was dead, to strangle a Black manservant. Today, people just passing the building on tour report fainting or becoming nauseous, and of course, disembodied screams or wailing are still occasionally heard. Some tourists are able to photograph orbs around the roof area.

The LaLaurie House Today

Today, the house has been restored and is a private home. The owner claims no ghostly or ghastly happenings since his residence there. Further, it should be noted that some claim Madame LaLaurie was the victim of yellow journalism, perpetrated by the jealous Americans who disapproved of her wealthy and exclusive lifestyle. However, fairly recent renovations to the building unearthed graves hidden underneath the wooden floor of the home, indicating the bodies had been dumped rather than buried. The skeletons apparently date from the time of the LaLaurie horrors. Draw your own conclusions.

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