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The LaLaurie mansion, as it stands today.


The mansion, as it appeared when Madame LaLaurie lived there.


Madame Delphine LaLaurie, murderess and torturer.


The garden behind the mansion, possibly the very place the young slave girl leapt to her death.

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This story so bothered me, that I set out in search of proof of the existence of Delphine LaLaurie. I really hoped the above couldn't possibly be true. Much to my dismay, I found Louisiana legal records supporting the existence of them. Links to screenshots are below. You'll have to push 'back' on your browser to return. You can find links to the actual documents above this box, under Related Links.

Mme. LaLaurie - Defendant
Slavery Emancipation
A Lawsuit

The LaLaurie Mansion

New Orleans, Louisiana

Note: Not for the weak-of-stomach!

Have you ever walked or driven through a wealthy neighborhood and wondered what went on behind those closed fancy doors? No one wondered about the LaLaurie's in the 1830's. At least, not at first.

Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife Delphine were the elite of the upper class. Madame LaLaurie handled everything from running the house to business affairs to financial affairs. Well-respected and reknowned for their parties and social standing, no one had cause to suspect them of any wrong-doing.

Unfortunately, during this time, the wealthy still had slaves and the LaLaurie's were no different in that way. Rumors eventually circulated about how odd it was that new slaves arrived fairly often, yet no mention was made to friends regarding any being sold or set free. In spite of the speculation, the neighbors didn't interfere in the matter... until Madame LaLaurie's personal servant was pursued out onto the roof by non other than the Madame herself, whip in hand.

According to the story the neighbor told police, the girl then leapt to her death, rather than face the wrath of her owner. There's some discrepancy as to what happened to the servant girl's body. Some versions say the child's body was thrown into a well, while others claim she was buried in a shallow grave in the yard. When the police arrived at least a day later, there was no finding her. Nonetheless, because of a law to protect slaves from cruel treatment, the LaLaurie's were fined, their slaves impounded and sold at auction.

Unbeknownst to law enforcement, Madame LaLaurie made arrangements with some of her relatives to purchase her slaves back for her in secret. (Once you finish reading, think back to this point and imagine what they must have thought or the fear they felt when they were returned to her custody.)

Word spread, as did the stories about the abuse. More and more former friends and business colleagues declined invitations to dinners and other social gatherings. April of 1834 brought a fire, and with it, the mind-numbing truth that would leave a city devastated.

The fire started in the LaLaurie kitchen, which is historically accurate. Whether an accident or intentionally, the fire was set by her cook, who was kept chained in the kitchen. One source goes so far as to say it was started not only because of the servant's living conditions, but moreso as a personal vendetta becasue the cook was told her grandson was taken to the attic, and once someone went there, they were never seen again.

Relatives of the LaLaurie's arrived to assist in the retrieval of belongings, and a few asked why the servants weren't helping, and where, in fact, the majority of them were. Police and fireman soon answered that question. They searched the house for damage, busting down the locked door to the attic.

Madame LaLaurie had renovated the large room into a torture chamber of sorts. Hideous and heinous procedures had been brutally performed on many of the slaves. It's reported that the officials vomited at what they saw, and who could blame them?

Many former slaves were deceased and still chained to walls or strapped to makeshift operating tables. One woman's mouth was allegedly stuffed with animal excrement and sewn shut. Some were still living, likely praying for Death to claim them. Among these, a woman in a dog cage that had her limbs broken and reset in such a grotesque manner she resembled the shape of a crab or spider. Another woman had her abdomen cut open with her entrails wrapped around her waist as a crude belt. A man chained to the wall had a stick protruding from a hole in his head, which had been used to stir his brains. These were just those who were still mostly intact. All were found nude; most castrated to some degree.

Others, perhaps the fortunate ones, had been not so professionally operated on, and amid the foul stenches and dead bodies were pails with expired human organs. Body parts, like a collection of grotesque souvenirs, were strewn about and stacked on shelves, almost like trophies.

Word spread among the people of New Orleans and the LaLauries fled when a lynch mob formed. Her name turns up nowhere else in history, so no one really knows what happened to her. Some say she and her husband escaped overseas, and other claim to see her ghost at the mansion in the French Quarter, which would indicate she didn't survive long enough to flee.

The mansion remained deserted for decades, at least, uninhabited by living souls, that is. The only exception was some homeless who sought shelter there from time to time, some of whom disappeared after entering, never to be heard from again.

Eventually, the house went through brief periods when the current owner would attempt to lease out its rooms, only to have tenants plagued by eerie screams of agony. In the 1870's, it became a school for girls, until segregation forced the school board to open it to slave children only, and within a year, it sat empty again. Sometime during the 1890's, the house was acquired by landlords as cheap housing fro the latest wave of Italian immigrants. One such renter reported being attacked by a naked black man in chains who abruptly vanished into thin air.

Today, the house still stands, refurbished and renovated, and less bizarre occurrences are reported, though its history is widely known among the residents.

Quite a bit less unsettling is to know that little is archived in the way of cited newspaper sources. Also of note, though, sadly enough, authors who have written books about the ghosts of New Orleans claim to have found undeniable proof this story is absolutely true. One such author even uncovered a possible motive, still inexcusable, for the horrible treatment after his book was published. He claims to have found proof that Madame LaLaurie's first husband and children perished in the Haitian slave revolt of the 1790's. If that's true, it's reasonable to assume Delphine LaLaurie harbored resentment and attempted to dole out what she thought was justice, and in some way in her twisted psyche, thought she was getting her revenge.

If spirits truly haunt the LaLaurie mansion, it's no wonder they aren't resting peacefully.

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The LaLaurie article to the left was written and 2004 and beyond, by Gelana Roseman, All Rights Reserved. Do not post any portion of this article as written in any printed document, nor website, without my permission. Thank you.

Copyright 2004 and beyond, Gelana Roseman, The Cold Spot, All Rights Reserved.
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