The Wikipedia description of Madame LaLaurie begins like this:
Marie Delphine LaLaurie (née Macarty or Maccarthy, c. 1775 – c. 1842), more commonly known as Madame LaLaurie, was a Louisiana-born socialite and serial killer known for her involvement in the torture and murder of black slaves.
And this is the New Orleans house where it all took place…
If you are a fan of the hit show American Horror Story, you might be familiar with this woman. Madame LaLaurie is played this season by none other than the superbly wicked Kathy Bates – whom we all love and remember as the deranged Annie Wilkes from the movie Misery. The writers of AHS: Coven (season 3) have mined the real life history of the sadistic socialite killer to depict on the small screen.
Here’s what you need to know:
Born in New Orleans in or around 1775, Delphine LaLaurie married three times over the course of her life and was a prominent socialite in the upper echelons of New Orleans society.
Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie
She was long rumored to be abusive to her household slaves – above and beyond what was even acceptable back then in the age of slavery – but the community largely turned a blind eye due to Madame’s wealth and social standing.
All that changed on the night of April 10, 1834 when fire fighters responded to a blaze at the LaLaurie mansion on Royal Street.
LaLaurie House in a 1906 postcard
The rescuers discovered an elderly slave woman chained to the kitchen stove. She admitted starting the fire in an attempted suicide to avoid the fate of the slaves in the room on the upper floor. Sure enough, the rescuers found bound slaves in the third floor slave quarters who exhibited evidence of malicious long-term torture.
An eye witness account describes:
seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated … suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other.
When word got out in New Orleans, an angry crowd assembled and ransacked the LaLaurie house.
Delphine LaLaurie subsequently fled to Paris where she died around the year 1842.
As of 2013, the three-story mansion where LaLaurie lived in New Orleans is still standing prominently at 1140 Royal Street.
I have this awesome blogger friend who just happens to be good with a camera and who just happens to be the resident Queen Bee of New Orleans.
My gal Cheryl from A Pleasant House waltzed down to the corner of Royal and Nicholls street and got me these amazing pictures…
This historic corner building in the French Quarter was built for “French royalty” according to the former Zillow listing. There are conflicting reports as to when the dwelling was actually built – ranging wildly from 1780 to 1832! Though 1832 is more plausible.
After Madame LaLaurie fled to France, her former home remained in ruins from the mob ransacking until at least 1836. In the 1880’s the building was renovated and subsequently used a public high school, a conservatory of music, a tenement, a refuge for young delinquents, a bar, a furniture store, and a luxury apartment building.
According to Wikipedia,
The entrance to the building bears iron grillwork, and the door is carved with an image of “Phoebus in his chariot, and with wreaths of flowers and depending garlands in bas-relief”. Inside, the vestibule is floored in black and white marble, and a curved mahogany-railed staircase runs the full three storeys of the building. The second floor holds three large drawing-rooms connected by ornamented sliding doors, whose walls are decorated with plaster rosettes, carved woodwork, black marble mantlepieces and fluted pilasters.
Interestingly, the house was purchased by actor Nicolas Cage in April 2007 for $3.45 million. A mere two years later, the property was put up for auction as the result of being foreclosed by the bank. Records indicate that the building was bought by Regions Financial Corporation for $2.3 million.
Cheryl pointed out that this last photo shows the back of the top floor that would have been the wing where LaLaurie kept her slaves:
And there is one more grim story I must share with you regarding that top level….
Before the fateful fire set by the slave woman in the kitchen, a neighbor of Madame LaLaurie’s reported that she witnessed a twelve-year-old slave girl jump from the balcony to her death while being chased by a whip-wielding Delphine LaLaurie.
The girl’s name was Lia and a subsequent investigation revealed that she had been ordered to brush Madame’s hair, but caught the brush in a tangle. Delphine was so enraged, she grabbed a whip and chased the girl to her death. Authorities determined that a crime did indeed take place and the LaLauries were found guilty of “illegal cruelty”. Their punishment was being ordered to forfeit nine of their slaves, which they later bought back through an intermediary.
Sick to your stomach yet?
This house –
– is said to be THE MOST haunted in all of New Orleans. And that’s saying a lot in the city of restless souls.
[A HUGE thank you to Her Majesty, Cheryl from A Pleasant House, for the great photos!]