Oct. 2, 2022

Lalaurie Mansion // 131 // Haunted

Lalaurie Mansion // 131 // Haunted

The LaLaurie Mansion is considered to be one of the most haunted places in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Manion is believed to be the site of torture, abuse and medical atrocities that was discovered when a fire broke out in 1834.  Madame Lalaurie has a reputation for being one of the most brutal women in history. 



Many of the stories are just that. Stories. There are bits of truth and loads of exaggerations. The majority of this tale begins in the 1830's, but the stories didn't start blowing up until the 1940's and a tale this wild, would certainly be expected to hit every newspaper if it were true. But, the local press at the time did say that they hesitated to report the atrocities due to their graphic nature.

There's a famous haunted house located at 1140 Royal St, New Orleans, Louisiana. This is the story of the Lalaurie Mansion, one of the most haunted houses in America. The mansion is said to be the site of torture, abuse, and medical atrocities. Madame Lalaurie was the daughter of a prominent Creole family. In 1832 the Lalaurie's bought the mansion. This was the perfect spot for the family to hold their exquisite parties. It was one of the tallest structures in the French Quarter. Madame Lalaurie was born Marie Delphine Macarty, her family was quite wealthy, and she had been married twice, but both men had mysteriously died and she was a very wealthy widow. Dr. Louis (Louie) had recently completed medical school and immigrated to New Orleans when he met Madame Lalaurie. Madame had six children with her three husbands and two of them lived in the mansion. Mr. and Mrs. Lalaurie were worth a combined total of $4.3 million dollars BACK THEN, now days it would be about $600 million dollars. They were throwing 5-6 grand balls per week.

In the spring of 1832, there was a lot of chatter about something bad going on at the Lalaurie Mansion, there was slave abuse happening inside. In Louisiana at this time, an “owner” had free rein to punish or kill slaves. The Code Noir (No-ar), was a decree that defined the conditions for slavery and it offered a teensy bit of protection by forbidding torture, mutilation, and sexual abuse. “Ordinary” punishments such as confinement, chaining, or whipping was totally fine though. According to historian Carolyn Marrow Long, Madame Lalaurie was first investigated in 1828 for cruelty towards enslaved people. The court records related to this investigation have not been found, but there is documentation that she paid for legal services and sold a number of enslaved people after the investigation.

I'm not entirely surprised that court records haven't been found. Assuming this is true, It's been stated many times that the local judge was actually a family member of Madame's and she was also a very powerful and wealthy woman. She would most likely have the ability to make things disappear so it wouldn't harm her status. It's reported that there are court documents that show that Madame emancipated two of her slaves on her own in 1819 and in 1832. This is interesting because it actually confuses the story more. She wasn't forced to release them, so this directly contradicts the stories about her. UNLESS, she did this every time the rumors started swirling? 

A young American lawyer was boarding in the neighborhood and he heard the rumors about the slave abuse happening inside the mansion. He went to the home to point out the section of the Code Noir that would strictly prohibit severe abuse. Madame Lalaurie was able to charm the young man and she told him she would never treat someone that way. This calmed people's minds in the town and they of course saw the court record from the 1820s that showed she had freed one of her slaves after the death of her second husband. People must have just been jealous. Madam Lalaurie was beautiful, had a lavish home, and someone must have started the rumor to ruin her social standing. Right? 

In 1833, a young girl named Leah was brushing Madame Lalaurie's hair and she hit a snag which sent her into a rage. She chased the young girl through the house with a bullwhip while shrieking at her. Leah fled up the stairs and got to the roof, but she lost her footing and fell to the courtyard. Madame Lalaurie saw the young girl die and she turned and went back inside. Other slaves drug her remains away, they dug a shallow grave and grieved for her that night. Madame was taken to court and the judge, who was a relative of hers, simply fined her $300 and took away her ten remaining slaves.........She was able to convince another relative to secretly buy the slaves back for her though.

After this event, you could hear people talking even more. Did you hear about Madame forcing her starving slaves to serve her with their shirts off? The only slave that people saw outside of the home was the coach driver and he was fed and looked healthy, but that was to keep up a certain appearance. On April 10th, 1834, an elderly woman who was chained to the lit oven, set the mansion on fire. She was the grandmother of Nina, the child that jumped to her death after accidentally pulling Madame's hair. Madame ran around desperately trying to save her valuables, not the humans. 

According to Haunted New Orleans!LaLaurie Mansion on YouTube, the fire happened as people were showing up to one of the balls. The guests started running across the street to get away from the fire and an army of servants were sent out with platters to offer the guests some food, the band started playing outside, and the wine started flowing. The police and the fire brigade show up and they find the old woman in the kitchen. She was chained to the stove by her ankle and there was a cot to sleep in and a bucket to go to the bathroom. She was unchained and hauled across the street and the woman confessed in front of the mayor and a newspaper editor that she couldn't stay in that house one more night. She intentionally set the fire and it was a suicide attempt. She had misbehaved that morning and was told she would be disciplined after the party was over and Madame would be taking her to the upstairs room. The cook didn't know what would happen to her in this room, but she did know that anyone that went to this room, never came back. She was SO scared about the possibility of what Madame could do to her that she chose to burn herself alive instead.

People around town were outside yelling at Madame, Where are the slaves?! She just told them to mind their business. The police and firemen decide they must check out this upstairs room to see what the elderly woman was talking about. There was a 300 pound oak door and it had been sealed within the last 30-40 minutes with hot tar and it had iron padlocks. They told Madame that they needed the key immediately and she said, “Never mind that; take this painting out.” The firemen worked for about 30 minutes to break the door down and when they got in, some of them began vomiting when their nostrils were filled with the stench of death. 

The slaves were chained everywhere...some naked...some dead. That wasn't the worst part though. They had been abused, starved, and mutilated. Some of the slaves had fainted or died from the shock. A blind woman tried to jump out the window and died. One woman had her skin peeled in a spiral around her body and in the book, they say it resembled a caterillar. A man and a woman appeared to have had a sex change operation that was clearly not consented to. The woman's breasts were sloppily sewn onto the man's chest and his penis was sewn to her crotch. Another man that was chained to the wall had a hole drilled into his head and maggots were inside his open wound. A woman had all of her bones broken and reset at different angles, so she looked like a crab and when the firemen had burst through the doors, she scurried to the corner, shrieking a high-pitched barking sound and the firemen saw buckets of miscellaneous body parts all over the room. Some of the slaves were chained up and coated with honey. Ants, cockroaches, and rats were gnawing at their flesh. 

One man had his mouth sewed shut and when they later removed the stitching, they found that his mouth had been stuffed with feces. The police chief found a male slave with his arms chained above his head. His face was sliced down the middle and across the center from ear to ear. Each quadrant of his face was peeled open and pinned back. There were maggots inside, feeding on him, and it was discovered that Dr. Louis had put them there himself as an experiment to see how long a human can live with the maggots feeding off the infections. 

The people that had been outside, enjoying the party, watched as the victims were carried out of the home and they became angry. The police had been paid off by the Lalaurie's to make sure that the angry mob didn't get them.

The slaves were all rushed to the Cabildo which is a massive building that served as the seat of colonial government in Spanish New Orleans and as the prison and slave holding area for the American government. The victims that were saved from the burning home, were now placed in slave holding cells on the first level of the building. Local papers reported that more than four thousand people showed up to view them. Then, they were all euthanized. 

The fire was put out at the mansion and the Lalaurie's went for their typical carriage ride at 6 PM, just like they did every evening. Some sources say Madame went alone and others say it was her and her husband. She waved at the mob of people as the carriage pulled away. The crowd of people were stunned at her disgusting behavior and they suddenly realized, she's getting away!! They began to chase after the carriage, but the horses were much faster. Madame arrived at the water's edge, gave the driver money and boarded a boat. It's unknown what happened to the carriage driver, but the mob eventually caught up to the carriage and they chopped it up and killed the horses.

On April 21st, 1834, Madame Lalaurie and her husband were seen in Mandeville and the rumor mill says they made it to Mobile (Mo-beel) and boarded a ship to France with their two daughters. There are two different versions about Madame's death. She either died in 1842 surrounded by her friends and family in Paris. Or, she was recognized at a party in Paris, so she fled, and was taken down by a wild boar. Once she died, however it actually was, her body was secretly returned to New Orleans and buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1....at least that's what they say......In reality, Madame, her husband, and her daughters, are all in unknown burial sites. 

There is a Madame Lalaurie burial record in St. Louis Cemetery #2, but it's believed to not be her. The families bodies are most likely under secret names to avoid further complications. The mob of people went to their mansion, looted it, and destroyed anything that the fire hadn't. Police and firemen had to stay at the mansion for 3 weeks to keep people from setting new fires. While the police were there, they claimed to hear low moaning sounds and scratching noises. They looked everywhere for additional victims and even searched inside the walls, thinking there could be hidden rooms, but they couldn't find anyone else. 

People walking by the home, just two days after the fire, said that they could hear noises and groans, so they were convinced that there was something demonic inside. They called the priest and asked for an exorcism and he said no. 

The home has been used for many things over the years. It was a school for girls, a music academy, a furniture store, a bar called the Haunted Saloon, housing for Italian immigrants, and a men's home called Warrington House. Most of the owners reported paranormal incidents and one person said they saw a man holding his head in his hands or heard someone scurrying around the attic, sounding like a crab. A woman that lived there reported that one night, she saw a woman holding a child and she threw the baby down the stairs. She said on another occasion, she went to check on her baby and saw a woman standing over the crib. She rushed to the crib and the woman disappeared and she saw a sock stuffed in her babies mouth. 

Neighbors reported the mansion's windows opening and closing by themselves and the front door did as well. People have heard moans and screams and they've seen a woman standing over people with a whip, and a child tugging on their sleeves. In the 1970's, renovations started and they began to divide the home into luxury apartments. Workers pulled up the floors and discovered 8 human skulls and there were scratch marks underneath the floorboards, indicating that 8 people had been buried alive. There had been reports of people saying they could hear screams, but it wasn't a language they recognized, so they believed it was other worldly. The people that were buried alive were actually illegally smuggled west African slaves. 

Almost every business that has opened up in the mansion, has ended in tragedy. When it was a school for young girls, this was during the Reconstruction era and a mob ended up physically removing the black girls from the school. When it was a music academy, it was closed due to a public scandal. The furniture store closed because the furniture kept getting ripped apart every night and would be coated in an unidentified goo in the morning. The store owner believed that it was vandals, so he stayed up one night and tried to catch them, but no one was there. The next morning, everything was ruined again, so he just closed up shop.

There is no proof that the medical experiments ever took place on the people that worked in the Lalaurie Mansion, but if it did, why was it solely pinned on Madame and not her husband? He was a doctor studying physical deformities, so shouldn't that make him the likely suspect? Some people actually believed that Dr. Lalaurie was testing Haitian-style “zombie drugs” on their troublesome slaves and when he poisoned them, they were thrown in the swamp. The zombie drugs were supposed to make slaves more compliant or obedient. Dr. Lalaurie has been associated with the Devil Baby. This was supposedly a deformed or insane child who was rumored to be the spawn of a mortal woman and a demon; the baby was found by voodoo queen Marie Laveau and given to the Lalaurie's to raise.

Harlequin-type ichthyosis (ick-thee-o-sis) is a genetic disorder that results in thickened skin which nearly covers the entire body at birth. The skin forms large, diamond/trapezoid/rectangle-shaped plates that are separated by deep cracks. This affects the babies eyelids, nose, mouth, and ears, and limits movement in their arms and legs. It restricts movement of the chest which can cause breathing difficulties. This was brought up in the book because it's believed that this “devil baby” was actually born with this. The description of the child along with the image that Ricardo Pustanio (Pus-teen-io) later painted are similar to this very rare birth defect. The spaces in between the scales on the skin will become extremely red, because the skin cracks instead of folding. This leaves them with constant open wounds and the baby can get many infections or illnesses. The babies are in constant pain because their nerves are exposed and their skin is splitting.

So, Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen, was said to be a midwife and she may have tried to save this infant. Legend says that a man wanted his wife dead, so the voodoo queen cursed the couple and that's when they had the baby and she took it away and gave it to the Lalaurie's because Dr. Louis had a huge interest in trying to study and cure physical deformities.

There are two images of Madame Lalaurie. One is a realistic painting of her in an 1880s style dress. The other is painted in reds and blacks. Both paintings were created by the same New Orleans artist, Ricardo Pustanio. He painted the first image in 1934 and the second was painted in 1997. He was asked to create the image by a resident of the Lalaurie house, but the painting ended up adding fuel to the legends and gained a reputation for being haunted. After the second painting done in reds and blacks was hung on the wall, Pustanio said, “The resident began to hold seances for his friends and even tourists and paranormal investigators, who always are trying to get a glimpse inside the haunted mansion. To their astonishment, the painting would actually rock on the wall and even fall loose from the wall, hitting the floor with a great thud.”

The owner got really scared of the painting and said he could smell smoke and objects in the apartment started moving around on their own. He gave the portrait to another tenant in the mansion, but she had problems as soon as she hung it up as well. She started hearing footsteps pacing around and the portrait's eyes would follow her, cold hands touched her, and the painting started whispering to her. 

In 1894, a tenant who lived in one of the apartments in the mansion, was brutally murdered. His belongings were ransacked, so police assumed it was a robbery, but nothing was missing. One of the neighbors said that the man had problems with Sprites, or fairy like creatures in his apartment. The man claimed that a demon was in his home and couldn't rest until he was dead.

At one point, actor Nicolas Cage owned the Lalaurie Mansion, he had at least three haunted houses in the New Orleans area, including Anne Rice's former residence in the Garden District. It was purchased in 2013 by a Texas oil tycoon who had zero interest in allowing the public inside and he didn't like that it was a tourist attraction. The Mansion is now owned by Michael Whalen, a collaborator with LA based film and TV. You still can't go inside, but there are tours that walk you around the outside of the building and tell you stories. 

People have seen smoke coming from the mansion and they can see someone wearing a gown, walking in the doors, but the doors are actually bolted shut now days. Some say that Madame can be spotted in the windows. One of the previous owners says she saw a little girl sitting on the roof one night and after she gasped, the girl disappeared. Another resident said he used to see a little girl in the courtyard and she would sit and hang her head down. 

The mansion sits on the corner of Nichols and Royal Streets. If you take a tour, the guide will give you a comprehensive overview of the building, from the outside of course. They include past residents and provide many stories about the legends. The guides have reported that many people have fainted during the tours, so go at your own risk!