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Madame LaLaurie of New Orleans
Popular and well-loved, Madame Delphine LaLaurie and her husband were highly regarded within Louisiana's 19th century aristocracy. But hidden within the walls of their house were horrific secrets that would come to shock a city that’s seen it all.
by Tom Crawford
Located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA, the LaLaurie House is probably the best known haunted house in the entire city.
To a person quickly passing by, the house appears to be just like the other surrounding homes in the French Quarter; an elegant remnant of a time that has long passed. But upon closer and more careful observation, scars on the outside of the home begin to shed light to the horrific past hosted by this house.
The scar in reference is located on the third floor of the main side of the house. Anyone who stops to look at the house for a moment will probably notice that one of the third floor windows has been cemented shut. This seems quite odd, but when you learn the reason for this, it is perfectly reasonable.
Let us go back to 19th century New Orleans. The city is still a part of France and the French Quarter is filled with wealthy and respectable French citizens. Among these are the LaLauries. Popular, and well-liked, the LaLauries were part of the aristocratic community that populated the city at that time.
And who wouldn't like the LaLauries; they were famous for their large and extravagant parties that entertained and delighted much of New Orleans's upper-class. But it wasn't this side of the LaLauries that would make this house famous. Rather, it was the dark secret that the LaLauries kept securely hidden on the third floor that would forever shock and appall the city. Soon, everyone in the New Orleans would know why the LaLauries always kept a certain door in their home locked.
While the LaLauries were quite agreeable and pleasant in their public lives, behind closed doors, horrible tempers and sadistic pleasures ran rampant. Madame LaLaurie, in particular, could fall into a monstrous rage when upset. When this happened, she would often take her anger out on one of her servants by severely beating them.
One evening, a young girl less than thirteen years old who was a slave of the LaLauries fell victim to her rage. Madame LaLaurie was preparing for an evening out and was having her slaves prepare her. The young girl was in charge of the Madame's hot curling iron. Mistakenly, she burnt Madame LaLaurie's scalp. It would prove to be a fatal mistake.
Madame LaLaurie was incensed. She immediately began beating the girl. Terrified, the young girl ran from the room and down the hallway of the third floor. She was desperately looking for a place to hide and began turning the knobs of the doors in the hallway. She ran to a particular doorway that was always locked. But tonight it wasn't.
When the young girl entered the room, she witnessed a horror even more frightening than the one chasing her in the hall. Looking around the room, she saw fellow slaves chained to the walls. Every single one of them had been victim of some sadistic experiment of the LaLauries. One gentleman's limbs had been broken by the LaLauries and then shaped to grow back in a contorted and horrendous form. Some had limbs removed, while the remaining bore scars from the removal of teeth, ears, and other body parts. Overcome with fear, the young girl ran and jumped out the window, falling to her death.
The event stirred concern, suspicion, and rumors within the New Orleans community. But the LaLauries were not caught. They simply cemented the window shut, paid a small fine, and went back to their daily lives.
The discovery of the LaLaurie's secret would not happen until a few years later when a fire broke out in the home. Because the homes were so close together, the law at that time required that the firefighters check every room in a house that has been on fire to ensure that there were no remaining embers. For the LaLauries, this meant that the firemen would have to enter the third floor room. Anticipating what would happen, the LaLauries left the city. When the firemen came upon the room, they chopped down the door and were disgusted with what they saw. Word of the LaLaurie's demented actions spread across the city faster than fire and within a short time a mob had formed to lynch the LaLauries.
Because the LaLauries anticipated this, they were able to escape the city and go into hiding in the surrounding swamps. Although the city searched for them, they were never found. It was later rumored that they somehow escaped to France where they lived out the rest of their lives.
Ever since this event, the city has looked upon this house as being haunted. Those who have lived in the house since, have confirmed it. Maniacal laughing, the sound of whips cracking, and a ghostly Madame LaLaurie have all been reported by later inhabitants of the house. One individual who was of African descent reported having been attacked by the ghost of Madame LaLaurie. He claims to have been awakened from his sleep while being choked by her ghost. Fortunately, his life was saved by another ghost that he described as resembling a slave (possibly one that died at the hands of the LaLauries).
To this day, the people of New Orleans remember the dark history of this house. The scarred exterior serves as a daily reminder of the LaLauries and of the tragedy and terror once experienced by this city.