The Ever So Infamous and Haunted LaLaurie Mansion

Posted by US Ghost Adventures Contributor in US Ghost Adventures
The Ever So Infamous and Haunted LaLaurie Mansion - Photo

The horrid tale of the LaLaurie Mansion begins quietly, with a whisper, and a woman named Delphine LaLaurie, also known as Madame Blanque.

Delphine was a New Orleans socialite, born on march 19th 1787 into the city’s prominent European-Creole community. Her uncle, Esteban Rodriguez Miro, was the governor of the Spanish American provinces of Louisiana and Florida from 1785-1791. Her cousin was also the mayor of New Orleans from 1815 to 1820 — needless to say, she had family in very high places.

Little Delphine was just four years old when the Haitian revolution erupted in the state in 1791 — this made slaveholders in the south and the Caribbean very worried about resistance and rebellion. Delphine’s uncle had been killed in 1771 by people he kept enslaved, and the revolution had inspired further rebellions that created a culture of harsher discipline for enslaved people out of the fear of insurrection.

Delphine’s Married Life

On June 25th 1825, Delphine married a physician by the name of Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie, who was much younger than she. In 1831, she purchased property with Leonard at 1140 Royal Street, which she managed in her own name. In 1832, she had a two-story mansion constructed on the property, complete with an attached slave quarters. She lived there happily with Leonard and their two daughters.

All was not well in her paradise, however. Their marriage started to show signs of strain and on November 16th, 1832, she petitioned the First Judicial District Court for divorce from Leonard. She claimed that he was treating her in a way that rendered their living together ‘unsupportable.’ Her daughters confirmed the abuse — once we dig a bit deeper into Delphine’s doings, you may start to question whether or not she had her entire family manipulated under threats of punishment.

Leonard remained in the home, after all.

A Murder Mansion Is Born

It was custom at the time in New Orleans to keep slaves, and most homes came with slave quarters attached. The people enslaved by the LaLaurie family were kept in truly horrendous conditions, even by the standards of slavery. They were found half-starved and beaten ruthlessly. Accounts of Delphine’s treatment towards them are mixed, but most told of the nightmares that she bestowed upon the enslaved people she kept in her home.

Harriet Martineau, often seen as the first female sociologist, visited the LaLaurie Mansion. She recounted what she saw there and claimed that the LaLaurie slaves were particularly haggard and wretched, even though in the public eye, Delphine was always seen being polite to the African-American population of the city. She even stated that her concerns lie in the health of her slaves, always making sure they were taken care of — truly narcissistic and evil, two-faced, even.

Funeral registers between 1830 and 1834 document twelve deaths of enslaved people at the home, although the causes of death are not mentioned. Twelve lives were lost in just four years under Delphine’s ‘care.’

The deaths include those of Bonne, a cook and laundress, as well as Bonne’s four children, Juliette, Florence, Jules, and Leotine. Court records also show that Delphine freed two enslaved people, Jean Louis and Devince, perhaps to quell the dark, swirling rumors around town of her mistreatment of the enslaved folks on her property.

A local lawyer was even dispatched to the home to remind Delphine on the laws surrounding the care for enslaved people. During this short visit, the lawyer found no evidence of wrongdoing or mistreatment.

Other Cruelties

Harriet Martineau also recounted other stories of Delphine’s cruelty. She stated that right after the visit of the lawyer, one of LaLaurie’s neighbors saw a young enslaved girl fall to her death from the roof of the mansion while trying to avoid punishment from Delphine.

Her body was later buried right on the property. The case was later elaborated upon, and it was said that the young girl’s name was Lia, just eight years old. She had been brushing Delphine’s hair when she hit a snag, causing Delphine to go into a rage and chase the girl with a whip.

This led to an investigation of the LaLaurie’s, and they were found guilty of illegal cruelty and were made to forfeit nine enslaved people from their household. These nine folks were later brought back to the home through a relative of the LaLaurie’s after Delphine had persuaded them to purchase the enslaved people and return them to her. The horrors they faced upon their return are not documented, but based on Delphine’s track record, it couldn’t have been anything less than a total nightmare.

Martineau also recounted stories that Delphine kept her cook chained to the oven and even beat her own daughters when they attempted to sneak food to the enslaved people at the home.

A Fire Occurs

In a karmic twist of fate, a raging fire broke out in the LaLaurie residence on April 10th, 1834. The fire started in the kitchen. When police and firemen arrived, they found the cook, a seventy-year-old woman, chained to the oven by her ankle — the rumors were true.

The cook later stated that she set the fire as a suicide attempt because of the life she lived in the hands of Delphine. She stated that enslaved people who were taken to the top floor of the LaLaurie home never came back down.

Bystanders responding the the blaze attempted to enter the home’s slave quarters but were refused by the LaLaurie’s. They broke the door down and were met with something out of a nightmare:

‘Seven slaves, more of less horribly mutilated… suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other, imprisoned there for months.’

New Orleans Bee, April 11th, 1834

One of the local bystanders was Judge Jean-Francois Canonge, who also told of what he found inside the mansion. He stated that he saw a woman wearing an iron collar, and an older woman who had received a very deep wound on her head, too weak to even talk.

Other accounts told of emaciation, people bound in restrictive postures, spiked collars which kept heads in one position, day and night.

Upon the discovery of the horrors in the home, a mob of locals descended upon the LaLaurie home, destroying everything that they could get their hands on. A sheriff and a few officers were called to disperse the crowd, but by the time they arrived, the property had sustained major damage and was left with nothing but the walls remaining.

After the fire, the enslaved folks from the mansion were taken to a local jail and over 4,000 people came to see them. Several weeks passed, and two of the enslaved people died since their rescue. Two bodies were later found buried on the LaLaurie property, one of them that of little Lia.

A Coward’s Way Out

Delphine managed to escape justice for her crimes. She took a coach to Mobile, Alabama and then later on to Parish where she stayed until her death in 1849.

LaLaurie Mansion Rebuilt

photo shows the lalaurie home in black and white from the street level
The horrors of the LaLaurie home are unspeakable. Source: RW Images

Atop where the original home once stood, a new home was built in 1838 by Pierre Trastour and functioned as a high school, an apartment building, a refuge for young delinquents, a bar, and even a furniture store. The faces of the LaLaurie mansion keep changing, but the ghosts of its past remain just the same.

Hauntings of the LaLaurie Mansion

Rumored to be one of the most haunted house in the French Quarter, the LaLaurie mansion has been the subject of ghost investigations and media circuses since its horrors were unveiled. For close to two-hundred years, unexplained stories have come out of the home. Many of the hauntings are attributed to the slaves that Delphine kept here. There is a room in the LaLaurie mansion where slaves were often kept, and reports of moaning and groaning coming from where the room was are common.

Not all of the hauntings at the LaLaurie mansion can be traced back to human activity. In 1894, a tenant who lived at the mansion when they were converted into apartments was brutally murdered in his apartment. His belongings were found ransacked, but nothing was missing. An interesting account was told by one of his friends stating that the tenant had been having problems with ‘Sprites’ in the apartment.

His friend wrote it off, saying that it was just his imagination running wild, but he did tell that his friend claimed there was a demon harassing him inside of the apartment. This demon told him that it wouldn’t rest until he met his end. Could a demon have been responsible for the man’s murder?

The Girl’s School Years

The LaLaurie mansion was an all-girls school from the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Within a short amount of time, reports of physical assault started to come to light. These young girls would approach their teachers with bruises and scratches all over their arms. When asked who hurt them, all of the girls stated it was ‘that woman.’

It leads one to believe that this ‘woman’ could have been the phantom of Delphine, torturing the girls of the school, which just happened to be an all-African American population.

The LaLaurie Mansion These Days

Delphine LaLaurie was known as a sadistic and tortuous woman, whose appetite never seemed to be appeased until she had inflicted some form of torture on each and every one of her slaves. Ghastly tales of torture have come from the house since it was built and ghostly stories continue to come out of it today.

The history of the mansion tells of the nightmares that enslaved people of the past were faced with every day,. LaLaurie’s torture surely wasn’t an isolated incident. Today, the home stands as a stark reminder of the dangers of ignorance and backward-thinking. Many visitors flock to the home every year, hoping to catch a glimpse of a spirit and to learn the history of the home as well as the entirety of the historic French Quarter.

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Sources Cited:

Featured Image Source

https://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/1492

https://www.legendsofamerica.com/lalaurie-mansion/

https://www.frenchquarterphantoms.com/blog/the-real-story-behind-the-lalaurie-mansion-new-orleans-most-haunted-home