The LaLaurie Mansion history is one of the most haunted and best known of the New Orleans ghost stories. For over 150 years, the LaLaurie house has been called the most haunted place in the French Quarter. In 1832, Dr. Louis LaLaurie, his wife Delphine, and their daughters moved into the house at 1140 Royal Street. This was a Creole mansion located in the French Quarter. They quickly went right to the top of the social scene in New Orleans with Madame LaLaurie becoming an influential French-Creole woman, who was thought to be one of the most beautiful and intelligent women in the city. She was the perfect hostess and attended to all of her guests’ needs.
People considered themselves lucky when they were invited to social functions at the LaLaurie mansion and were properly amazed at the home’s appearance. The home was 3 stories high with a plain exterior, but amazing interior. The LaLaurie Mansion was made to be the scene of social events. There were hand-carved human faces and flowers in the mahogany doors that opened up to brightly lit parlors. Guests were served food on European China provenience that rested on expensive imported Oriental fabrics.
However, there was another side to Madame Delphine LaLaurie that the general public of New Orleans never got to see. Beneath her refined surface lurked a cold-blooded, cruel woman who was also probably insane. This was seen, however, by the many slaves that the LaLauries owned. Their cook was kept chained to the kitchen’s fireplace and she treated others even worse.
The neighbors started to suspect that something wasn’t right in the LaLaurie Mansion. They noticed that slaves in that house would suddenly vanish without explanation and were replaced. One day, a neighbor witnessed Delphine LaLaurie chasing her personal servant, who was just a small girl, with a whip. The girl ran to the house’s roof, jumping to her death. Later, the neighbor saw this girl buried in the LaLaurie yard under cypress trees.
Eventually, the stories of how Madame LaLaurie mistreated her slaves started to spread. This led to a gradual shunning by their former social circle. It was in April 1834 when the truth about everything that was going on at the LaLaurie house came out with a vengeance.
It was on that day that a horrible fire raged through the mansion. Once the fire was extinguished, the fire fighters found a secret door to the attic that was barred. Over a dozen slaves, both men and women, were chained to the wall and in terrible shape. A New Orleans newspaper reported that all of them were nude and in various states of mutilation. Doctors were brought in to see what could be done for these poor people, although most were either dead or dying.
This was one of the most horrific events to hit New Orleans. Everyone felt that Madame LaLaurie was totally responsible for these atrocities, and that her husband had known and simply chose to ignore it. A mob of angry people gathered outside of the LaLaurie house hauling hanging ropes and demanding vengeance for those poor souls. They were too late, however. As they stood there, a carriage flew out from the gates and disappeared down the street. No one saw the LaLaurie family again, though there have been much speculation about what happened to them.
The Hauntings of the LaLaurie Mansion
No matter what happened to the insanely cruel Madame LaLaurie, the hauntings in 1140 Royal Street started almost immediately. After the removal of the slaves from the mansion, the mob vandalized it and the house was unoccupied for many years. During that time, there were many reports of agonizing screams and ghosts of the slaves spotted on the property.
The LaLaurie Mansion was sold in 1837 to a man who lived in it for just 3 months. He kept hearing so many odd sounds, groans and cries at night that he soon moved out. He attempted to rent out rooms to tenants for a while, but none of them stayed past a few days.
After that, the house was used as an integrated high school for girls until 1874. It was turned into a center for New Orleans society in 1882 by an English teacher who taught music and dancing there. Things went very well until the teacher was accused of improprieties with the girls. The school closed immediately.
Even when the rent was low on the former LaLaurie house, tenants never stayed very long. When it became an apartment house, many things were reported. One such report was between a tenant and a naked black man wearing chains. The black man attacked the occupant and then instantly vanished. Other reports were about animals being butchered, children being attacked by a whip waving phantom, strange shroud wrapped figures, and the constant screaming all night.
The LaLaurie Mansion was then a bar and a furniture store, but neither of them worked out. Soon the house was abandoned once more. Today, however, the house has been remodeled and turned into a private residence.
Madame LaLaurie’s Graveyard
In recent years, the house’s owners were in the middle of remodeling when they discovered a graveyard hidden under the wooden floor at the back of the house. Skeletons had been dropped in the ground. After officials investigated, it was believed to be the secret graveyard of Madame LaLaurie.
Haunted New Orleans Tour
Even though the LaLaurie Mansion has gone through many changes as well as owners through the years, one of the most recent owners is the very well-known celebrity Nicolas Cage. He quipped at one point that, while other people have beachfront property, he has ghost-front property. Sadly, Cage lost the house in a foreclosure auction. The new owner reports no paranormal occurrences, but the house remains on the tours of haunted houses in New Orleans.
Photo by Megan Sauter