Be aware and beware – this is a non-fictional account so it’s not folklore … nor is it hearsay … nor is it all some urban legend …. nor is it a story for the faint-of-heart!
In 1832 when the well-educated wealthy Creole socialite widow, 57-year-old Delphine LaLaurie, re-married, the mansion along with its slave quarters and statuesque Italianate facade was built. The mansion hosted many parties to the upper-crest echelon of the New Olreans’ society who while in attendance at the grand events were served the finest-of-delicacy on the best china and silver one had ever seen. Despite the droves of people to come through the mansion’s doors over the years, few knew what really took place behind the walls of 1140 Royal Street.
It was well-known that the LaLaurie family kept slaves; however it was the treatment of said slaves that set this family apart. Although in public they were respectful to people of color, behind closed doors it couldn’t have been further than the truth! Stories of blood, horror, terror and brutality were whispered in the shadows! The media back in the early 1800s reported many locals were aware of the torture bestowed on the slaves specifically from Madame LaLaurie.
Once a visiting reporter stayed with the LaLaurie family simply to return home to describe the LaLaurie’s slaves’ appearances as “singularly haggard and wretched” [looking], how the kitchen slave was chained to the stove and how Madame LaLaurie would beat her daughters when they attempted to feed and treat the slaves. Widespread gossip sprung from the visit; telling of the brutal treatment of slaves within those walls captured the attention of local law enforcement that sent a local ‘lawyer’ to the home to investigate. Despite no evidence of mistreatment was uncovered during the visit, her report told more tales to support the claims which weren’t as easy to dismiss. During her short stay at the mansion, one of the LaLaurie neighbors shared the tale of witnessing a 14-year-old slave leaping to her death in order to avoid punishment for accidentally pulling on a snag while brushing the Madame’s hair. Fearing the wrath of whip once again, this young child leapt to her death from the top floor of the mansion. Rumor had it the body of the 14-year-old slave was quietly buried somewhere on the mansion’s grounds. Again, the incident sparked the interest of local law enforcement. This time their investigation lead to the LaLauries being charge and found guilty of ‘illegal cruelty’ and were forced to ‘hand-over’ all of their slaves – nine total. The respite didn’t last long though. One of the LaLaurie relatives finagled their way and saw the slaves returned to the mansion and once again in the care of Madame LaLaurie.
By luck all of Madame LaLaurie’s secrets were blown wide-open on April 11, 1834 when a fire broke-out within the mansion. It was then when local law enforcement and firefighters entered the property and discovered the 70-year-old cook slave chained to the stove. It was this BRAVE slave who admitted to setting the fire in an attempt to commit suicide out of fear of Madame LaLaurie’s wrath. Fearing she too would be taken to the upper-most rooms of the mansion – rooms where she witnessed many slaves taken, rooms from where screams echoed through-out the home were born, cries for help by slaves who were never to be seen again!
Once inside the home firefighters reported finding dozens-of-slaves chained to the walls in the attic; some slaves were still in cages with endless body parts strewn as evidence of Madame LaLaurie’s ‘experiments’. So it was no surprise when after the locals busted into the slave quarters with hopes to save a soul or two, they found more slaves being held captive. A total of seven slaves were found; some mutilated, others hanging by their necks with their limbs stretched so far they were pulled from their bodies. Not all of the brutalized slaves were dead though; one male had been kept tied-up, beaten, and a prisoner for months; another, a young female, was found unable to move from being bound by an iron collar; and an elderly woman, who had received such a deep wound on her head would she was left crumpled upon the floor no longer able to walk.
It wasn’t long before word of torture made its way through the streets of New Orleans. Mobs of angered citizens attacked the mansion and destroying everything in their wake; even the sheriff arrived too late to save the integrity of the building – all that was left were the walls.
After the findings of skeletal remains buried with the mansion grounds, even those belonging to a young girl, tales of macabre mutilations, slaves crying-out begging to be put out of their pain and misery from the monstrous and insane experiments carried upon them on by Madame LaLaurie were spreading through-out the community faster that wild fire! The city was in shock and was unable to comprehend such evil doings. The tortured slaves who had survived were taken to jail so that the evidence of the brutality they had to endure could be made for public display; over 4,000 individuals stopped to catch sight of the heinous doings of the hands of their ‘beloved’ Madame LaLaurie.
The local law enforcement couldn’t calm the masses who called for Madame LaLaurie to be immediately brought to justice. However, Madama LaLaurie had a different plan – and, it was too late – she had taken flight using her horse and buggy during the flurry of insanity the night of the fateful fire! She was never found nor held accountable.
Rumor has it that she and her husband fled and simply lived across Lake Pontchartrain while other rumors were fueled with tales of the two returning to France although a headstone was later erected in St. Louis Cemetery No 1. bearing the name of Madama LaLaurie’s citing she perished the night of the fire. A truth we will never know!
Eventually the brave came forward and then the mansion changed ownership many times over the 150+-year period – including the hands of actor, Nicholas Cage. Over the years it has been home to a saloon, girls’ school, music conservatory, used as an apartment building and also a furniture store. Despite who was housed on the grounds, stories of visions of ghostly images have been shared by many throughout the years. Many report seeing the image of a young slave girl fleeing across the roof of the mansion. Others have reported hearing disembodied shrieking, loud, paining screams coming from the unseen. One person even reported not only seeing a chained, large black man, but cites he was attacked by the entity while on a stairwell – just for the apparition to disappear as quickly as it appeared! These happenings became so prominent many who tried staying within the walls fled after a mere few days. The bar, aptly named ‘The Haunted Saloon’, kept a journal of the events that took place since they were so becoming so commonplace. And, the furniture quickly store closed its doors after the owner stayed a night in the store to rule-out foul play after personally enduring unexplained foul smells and finding puddles just to witness a puddle of liquid from nowhere take form in plain sight. Purportedly, animals have been found unexplainably butchered after being brutalized. And, a turn-of-the-century couple who tried to call the mansion home reported their children being chased with a whip and witnessing Madame LaLaurie hovering over their infant. Over the years one single window has stayed boarded-up – still boarded to this day – the same one used by the frightened 14-year-old girl who used it to commit suicide.
Although the building still stands today, many who pass-by the structure report to take ‘ill’ or feel sick while in its presence while telling tales of hearing screams coming from inside the mansion.
But, the home is now a private residence and those who own it deny any ‘ghostly’ activity; however, recent renovations have unearthed graves hidden underneath the wooden floor of the home. The skeletons apparently date from the time of the LaLaurie horrors. So deduce what you desire but remember, ‘bones don’t lie’!
Hugs & happy hunting …