Macabre History: The LaLaurie House

31 May

As I’m world renowned (in Hillary-land anyway, which admittedly consists of two basset hounds, falconesse, a husband, and a ham sandwich) for being a fan of all things creeptastic, I figured I’d return to my roots and do a post about GRUESOME FOUL DEEDS! Because nothing makes your day better than reading about maimed people, right?


Let’s start this off by talking New Orleans. Many moons ago – probably going on eight years now – falconesse and I got the brilliant idea to visit NOLA to see what the crap Anne Rice was talking about in all of her books. Plans just sorta come together when Lauren and I get talking, so when I brought a trip up as a “maybe this’d be fun” and she returned with “I want to try Chartreuse” (mistake, Lauren, that shit’s vile), possibility became “WE NEED THIS, YES THIS NOW”. It was a trip that promised food, debauchery, and lots of spooky stuff. We got our dudes on board and went to see a local travel agent, who was awesome enough to set us up in the Hotel Provincial in the French Quarter (which I’d highly recommend to anyone) that spring. We didn’t have much in the way of plans save for “eat a lot and see ALL THE THINGS”, and I really can’t tell you how we got hooked up with The Haunted History Tour , but we did and it was awesome. I especially liked the part when our “real life” vampire tour guide, Vlad Tepes, tried to make Lauren his love slave. (She might debate how awesome that part was, but trust me, it was amazing.)

Anyway, during one of the haunted tours, we passed the LaLaurie house on Royal Street and were regaled with stories about its haunted past and present. The ghost stories were tingly-cool, of course, but the really messed up part was the history that sparked the hauntings in the first place. Seriously Fucked Up Stuff. If you’re eating something and reading this post at the same time, might I suggest either putting the food aside or closing the browser for now. Shit’s about to get real (and graphically gross) up in here.

The LaLaurie Mansion, Where People Go To Get Grossed Out

Born in 1774, Marie Delphine LaLaurie was a prominent New Orleans socialite, a pillar of white Creole society. Her milkshake brought ALL the boys to the yard, but then, that was when they thought she was an upstanding kinda gal: well-bred, well-mannered, moneyed. She married three times, produced a bunch of kids, and built the house on Royal Street in 1832, when she was 55 years old. Like most mansions of the time, The LaLaurie Mansion was equipped with slave quarters. Now, something some folks probably don’t know (not like it makes it any BETTER, mind you) but there were laws about the treatment of slaves back then – as in you had to take care of your property. It’s an awful correlation to make, but think the humane treatment of animal laws today and you’re on the right track . Marie had a, uhh, “reputation” of being a horrible mistress. People who’d been to her house said her slaves were gaunt, poorly kept, and miserable. People talked, and talked, and talked about her abusive disposition. The rumor mill got so bad that a local lawyer actually went to Marie’s house to remind her of the laws regarding the upkeep of slaves. She assured him all was fine, and he bought into it simply because he didn’t see any proof of foul deeds during his short visit.

Then the fire happened! On April 10th, 1834 a fire broke out through the LaLaurie Mansion. Fire was a big fuckin’ deal back then; keep in mind that over 3/4 of the buildings in New Orleans were destroyed in 1788, and another 200 something were destroyed in 1794. French Quarter houses were so tightly packed together that once one place went up, it was almost impossible to make it NOT spread to the next door neighbors. So folks see the fire, freak out, and immediately respond for fear of another great city disaster. The problem was, when they tried to get into the LaLaurie slave quarters, the LaLaurie’s refused to give up the keys. They were just gonna let them burn to death. Sensible, non-psycho hosebeast bystanders said “Fuck you guys” and broke down the door anyway. Cause you know, they weren’t keen on the “folks burning to death” thing.

The reasons the LaLauries didn’t want to give up the keys became evident when the mob of do-gooders found seven slaves suspended by the neck inside. Some of them had their insides torn out, others had their mouths sewn shut (around a mouthful of poop – I told you not to eat while you read this). Others had limbs amputated and were left to fester for months. One old woman had a hole in her head that uhh . . . yeah. Not going there. A dude had his bones snapped at certain joints and reset so he’d heal as a human crab. The long and short of it? Madame LaLaurie had been performing “experiments” on her staff – tortures, maimings, etc. She’d killed a couple of them in the process, but would just replace them when someone had the gall to die (later on, during a search of her yard, they found two other adults buried in the yard plus some poor little kid). People, understandably pissed off that this was going on, went on a huge rampage and tore the LaLaurie mansion apart. The only thing left standing when they were through were the walls.

What happened from there is sorta unclear. During the chaos of the riot, some people claimed that Madame LaLaurie escaped to the waterfront to hop a boat. Rumor put her in Paris and France mostly, but no hard evidence was ever provided. In the late 1930’s, the sexton of St Lous Cemetary #1 (one of New Orleans famous above-ground graveyards) found a cracked copper plate in Alley 4 that said she died in Paris in December of 1842. It’s probably the closest to proof anyone’s ever going to get. As for the house? It was completely rebuilt, and has served all sorts of functions over the years: a school for girls, a music conservatory, an apartment complex, Nicholas Cage.

No, seriously, he bought it in 2007 for about 3.5 million.


One Response to “Macabre History: The LaLaurie House”

  1. Steve Simmons June 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    I almost hate to say it, Hill, but there’s a great novel in there. Something along the same lines as ‘White City.’

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