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I must start this article with a warning, my spooky-loving fiends. Because I am about to tell you the history of the building now known as the haunted LaLaurie Mansion. Even though I know we all love everything dreadful and dark, this particular tale is truly horrifying, disturbing and downright shocking, so proceed with caution.

A Grandiose Structure

The Lalaurie Mansion is widely known for being one of the most haunted buildings in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Built in 1832, this grandiose mansion on Royal Street is an eye-catching baroque beauty complete with intricate wrought-iron balconies. This impressive home, still one of the largest in the French Quarter, belonged to Delphine and Louis Lalaurie. Louis was Delphine’s third husband; she was already twice widowed when they met. After having a child out of wedlock, the two married in 1828. According to those close to the couple, the marriage was not a happy one. Unhappy marriage aside, after moving into their magnificent mansion, the pair gained a reputation for the lavish soirees they liked to throw.

The reconstructed LaLaurie Mansion as it stands today.
Photo courtesy of Preservation Resource Center 

Now, the building that stands today on Royal Street is not the original home that the LaLauries occupied. Because, in 1834, an angry mob burned the original LaLaurie Mansion to the ground after the citizens of New Orleans discovered what had occurred in this cursed home. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised they rebuilt the place at all, given what I’m about to tell you.

Still reading? Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you…You see, the details that made the LaLauries truly infamous came to light after a fire broke out in the mansion’s kitchen in 1834. It turns out Doctor and Madame LaLaurie were hiding a vile secret; they had a penchant for inflicting brutal sadistic torture on the enslaved people working in the mansion

Warning: Gruesome facts below about the LaLaurie Mansion

Rescuers broke down the door into the slave’s quarters, and encountered a truly gruesome sight. They discovered mutilated slaves, all covered in scars and held in place by multiple heavy chains. Among their poor enslaved victims, many torture devices were found. The men and women were they chained up, some even suspended by their necks. In addition, they were also routinely tortured with pincers, whips and heavy iron collars with sharpened points to pierce painfully into their necks. Everyone had various shocking injuries. Some people had gouged out eyes, grisly wounds from large areas of skin that had been flayed off and left to fester, and fingernails brutally ripped completely off from the root.

But…it gets worse

As hard as it is to imagine, it gets much worse. The enslaved woman that started the fire was discovered bound by chains in the kitchen. Once freed, she led her rescuers to the attic, where even more men, women and even children were kept. When they opened the heavy door, they were overcome with the smell of decay and rot. Some of these victims had body parts stitched to other areas like tongues sewn onto chins or a severed hand sewn onto their abdomen.

Clearly, the LaLauries were a couple of sadistic sickos!

A few of the women had mixtures of offal and ash stuffed into their orifices. Others were smeared all over with honey in the hopes to attract armies of ants. Some victims even had holes drilled into their skulls so Madame LaLaurie could use a stick to stir their brains around. One woman was locked in a cage and had had her limbs all broken and reset in such a way that she resembled a crab. Y’all, there’s so much more heinousness but I’d like to not lose my lunch. Clearly, the LaLauries were a couple of sadistic sickos!

It could have ended sooner, but…

Sadly, years before this macabre discovery, rumors swirled about Madame LaLaurie’s ill-treatment of her enslaved people. She was even investigated for cruelty in 1828. Records show she paid for legal services to get out of any real trouble.

News of the first responders’ ghastly encounters quickly spread throughout the city. An angry mob gathered outside the mansion, forcing the LaLauries to flee New Orleans. The LaLauries eventually made their way to Paris, where they successfully hid from authorities. Delphine died in Paris almost twenty years later, without ever having to pay for her heinous crimes. And then an investor rebuilt the mansion in 1838 as an African American girl’s school. Eek!

But, is it all true?

While Madame LaLaurie will go down in history as a sadistic serial killer, many revisionist historical accounts say her crimes have been exaggerated over the years. Revisionists say no one was “experimented on,” and many of the more disgusting offenses seem to change with each telling. After all, much of the “reports” of her abuse come from her neighbor, Monsieur Montreuil. Montreuil had a bit of a crush on Delphine, which she spurned. Since that time, the crimes committed by Delphine LaLaurie have gained the allure and life of folklore.

That said, the LaLauries were not saints. They did chain, whip, and brutalize the enslaved people in the mansion. But, it’s likely the tortures they inflicted on these pour souls were no worse than the tortures inflicted on enslaved plantation workers. Genteel NOLA society would have found these methods gruesome. But in the countryside, the LaLauries would have been no different from their neighbors. And that, my friends, is possibly the most heinous part of all.

Regardless, there’s a bunch of ghosts haunting the LaLaurie Mansion

Yikes! I warned y’all this one was especially gruesome! So obviously, with the amount of atrocities perpetrated inside the LaLaurie mansion, there’s plenty of paranormal activity. If you aren’t too freaked out, come back next week to get the deets on the ghosts haunting the mansion today. And if you get the chance, check out some of the haunted tours that include the LaLaurie Mansion!