On the evening on April 10, 1834, a fire broke out in an elegant three-story mansion in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The rescuers found a slave woman chained in the kitchen who admitted to deliberately setting the blaze. She felt it was worth the risk of dying in a fire to escape further torture at the hands of Madame LaLaurie, the lady of the house. After the authorities released her, she led them to the attic where worse horrors awaited them.
The mistreatment of slaves was not a matter for concern during the 1830s in New Orleans, especially for wealthy, socially prominent ladies like Delphine LaLaurie. But even among the elite, there were boundaries. When a furious, whip-wielding Delphine chased a young slave girl over the edge of the roof, causing her to fall to her death in 1833, she crossed them.
She tried to hide the “evidence,” but the police soon discovered the little girl’s body thrown down a well. As punishment, Madame LaLaurie was ordered to sell her other slaves. She got around this by selling them to her family members, who quietly sold them back to her.
When the firefighters burst into the attic, they were greeted by the sight of slaves chained to the walls and makeshift operating tables. Others were crammed into tiny cages. Most of the victims were dead, but some were still alive.
All had been tortured unimaginably. Entrails ripped out, mouths sewn shut, eyes poked out, hands sewn to different parts of the body, private parts cut off … the ones who still survived begged to killed and put out of their misery. Body part and human heads were strewn around the attic and piled up on shelves. The rescue workers ran out in horror, and doctors arrived to tend the few victims still clinging to life.
This was the worst atrocity to ever occur in New Orleans, and word spread very quickly throughout the city of the horrific events unfolding at the LaLaurie Mansion. An angry mob gathered outside brandishing nooses and demanding justice.
Suddenly, a carriage violently crashed through the gates and disappeared in a cloud of dust. Madame LaLaurie and her family made a break for it and left New Orleans for good. Most believed they ended up in Paris. No formal charges were ever filed, but Delphine LaLaurie’s reputation was destroyed, the poor thing.
Not surprisingly, considering the house’s history and location, it has a reputation for being haunted. It was the scene of another strange death in 1892, when an eccentric member of an old New Orleans family named Jules Vignie died at LaLaurie Mansion in deplorable conditions, although he was surrounded by valuable antiques and many thousands of dollars. After his death, there were rumors of lost treasure hidden in the house, but no-one dared to actually search for it.
In recent years, the house underwent a massive remodel, and the new owners found a graveyard in the back end of the house hidden beneath the wooden flooring, which they believe was Madame LaLaurie’s private graveyard. The remains had been dumped hastily in the ground, and when examined, they were found to be from the same time period as Delphine’s reign of terror. This would explain how some of her slaves seemed to disappear into thin air, and could never be accounted for.