Leading up to 1834, the LaLauries were members of high society: hosting lavish parties and pampering their guests. Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a beautiful, charming woman who purchased the mansion in 1832 and maintained the household herself; her husband had little to do with the property and its affairs. Behind closed doors, she was known to be quick of temper and lashed out.
When a young female slave fell to her death from the roof (in order to escape being beaten after brushing a snag in the Madame’s hair), neighbours who had seen the Madame burying her in the courtyard called for law enforcement. This little girl was not the first reported death at the mansion; one man had purposefully jumped out a window to escape punishment. That window was quickly sealed with cement and remains so to this day.
As there were laws restricting the mistreatment of slaves, Madame LaLaurie was forced to give up her slaves. However, she convinced a relative to buy them back for her, and heads turned the other way. After that, rumours circulated Madame LaLaurie about her brutal treatment of her slaves, despite showing civility to them in public (and even manumitting two of her own). The LaLauries quickly lost popularity in the French Quarter, which worsened the Madame’s temper.
Suspicions were confirmed when a fire started in the kitchen in 1834: Madame LaLaurie was, in fact, torturing her slaves. Rescuers found that at least seven of her slaves had been locked in the attic and were mutilated beyond belief. Reportedly, the cook set the fire herself, either as a suicide attempt or to expose the horrors taking place. She named Madame LaLaurie responsible for the treachery in the attic. More exaggerated tales claim that these were macabre medical experiments and that Madame LaLaurie’s doctor husband aided her.
When the attic was discovered, locals flew into a rage and ransacked the mansion. The LaLauries were nowhere to be found; they had fled the scene amidst all of the commotion. Most rumours claim they left for Paris: others whisper that Madame LaLaurie returned under a new identity. However, a plaque with Madame LaLaurie’s name and death date can be found in New Orleans.
As for the rest of the LaLaurie slaves, witness accounts say that the slaves in the attic died from their wounds or were already dead when they were discovered. Some even swear they were put on display at an auction as proof of Madame LaLaurie’s brutality.
Today, the LaLaurie mansion is now privately owned and has been converted into apartments, but before then it had unoccupied. Nicolas Cage bought it in 2007, but never spent a night there and sold it a year later. It most recently came under the spotlight as a filming location in American Horror Story: Coven (according to Huffington Post).
Passersby claim the mansion itself has a spooky atmosphere about it, that ghostly screaming and the clanging of chains can be heard from within. On occasion, the little girl who fell from the roof can be seen around the place. Unfortunately, there are no tours of the interior since the mansion is privately owned, but walking tours of New Orleans usually make the detour.
Michelle is a second-year student in the Professional Writing program. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself.