the Lalaurie Mansion
the Lalaurie Mansion

The haunted history of the Lalaurie House is perhaps one of New Orleans'
best known ghostly tales

For more than 150 years, and through several generations, the Lalaurie House has been considered to be the most haunted and the most frightening location in the French Quarter.

The origin of the ghostly tales dates back to 1832 when Dr. Louis Lalaurie and his wife, Delphine, constructed their Creole mansion in the French Quarter. They became renowned for their social affairs and were respected for their wealth and prominence. Madame Lalaurie became known as the most prominent French-Creole woman in the city, handling the family's business affairs and carrying herself in great style. Her daughters were among the finest dressed girls in New Orleans.

But this was the side of Madame Lalaurie which the public was allowed to see. There was another side.. a cruel and cold-blooded one that some only suspected, but others knew as fact. Madame Lalaurie was brutally cruel to the slaves that she and her family owned. She kept her cook chained to the fireplace in the kitchen where the sumptuous dinners were prepared. The other slaves were treated just as badly, something suspected by many of the neighbors.
A neighbor was climbing her stairs one day when she heard a scream and saw Madame Lalaurie chasing a little girl with a whip. She pursued the girl onto the roof of the house, where the child jumped to her death. The neighbor later saw the small slave girl buried in a shallow grave in the back yard.
A law that prohibited cruel treatment of slaves was in effect and the authorities who investigated the neighbors claims impounded the Lalaurie slaves and sold them at auction. But Madame Lalaurie coaxed some relatives into buying the slaves and then selling them back to her.

In April of 1834, a terrible fire broke out in the Lalaurie kitchen. Legend has it that it was set by the cook, who could endure no more of the Madame's tortures. Regardless, the fire swept through the house.
After the fire was put out, the fire fighters discovered a horrible sight behind a barred door in the attic. They found more than a dozen slaves here, chained to the wall and in a horrible state. They were both male and female... some were strapped to makeshift operating tables... some were confined in cages made for dogs... human body parts were scattered about and heads and human organs were placed haphazardly in buckets... grisly souvenirs were stacked on shelves, and next to them a collection of whips and paddles.
The fire fighters fled the scene in disgust and doctors were summoned from the nearby hospital. Most of the slaves were dead... but a few still clung to life, like a woman whose arms and legs had been removed and another who had been forced into a tiny cage with her limbs all broken and reset at strange angles.
Needless to say, it was the most horrible thing to ever occur in the city and word soon spread of the atrocities in the Lalaurie house. A crowd gathered outside the house, calling for vengeance and crying hangman's ropes. Suddenly, a carriage roared out of the gates and into the milling crowd. It soon disappeared out of sight.

Madame Lalaurie and her husband were never seen again. Rumors circulated as to what became of them... some said they ran away to France and others claimed they lived in the forest along the north shore of Lake Ponchatrain.
After the mutilated slaves were removed from the house, it was sacked and vandalized by the crowd. It remained vacant for many years after that, falling into a state of ruin and decay. Many people claimed that they heard screams of agony coming from the house at night and saw the apparitions of slaves walking about the balconies and in the yard. Some stories even claimed that vagrants who had gone into the house seeking shelter were never heard from again.

Forty years passed and the house was occupied once again. In the 1870's, it was turned into a girl's school and then a music conservatory. In the 1890's, the house was turned into an apartment dwelling and many strange encounters took place that have luckily been recorded over time.
-Men claimed to find animals in the house brutally butchered.
-Children were attacked by a phantom with a whip.
-One man encountered a naked black man in chains who tried to attack him.
After this final encounter, most of the people living in the building moved out and the house was deserted once again.

The house would later become a bar and then a furniture store. The saloon, taking advantage of the building's ghastly history was called "Haunted Saloon". The owner knew many of the building's ghost stories and kept a record of strange things experienced by his patrons.
The furniture store did not do as well in the former Lalaurie house... the owner first suspected vandals when all of his merchandise was found ruined on several occasions, covered in some sort of liquid, stinking filth. He finally waited one night with a shotgun, hoping the vandals would return. When dawn came, the furniture was all ruined again and owner closed the place down.
Today, the house has been restored to its former glory and serves as luxury apartments to those who can afford them.

Is the Lalaurie house still haunted? I really don't know for sure, but one has to wonder if the spirits of this type of tragedy can ever really rest....

Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
thanks to Ghosts of the Prairie

A Picture of the Lalaurie Mansion from my recent trip to New Orleans
Ghosts of the Prairie for more haunted tales