The LaLaurie Mansion
New Orleans, Louisiana is home to some of the most haunted spots in the entire United States. The history of the legendary city is steeped in stories of spirited individuals who lost their lives under tragic and often mysterious circumstances, only to return beyond the grave years later to inhabit certain buildings or areas of the city. People travel from all over the country to see the old buildings, college campuses, and sprawling graveyards, each with their own harrowing ghost stories.
Today I’d like to talk about what is arguably the most famous haunted structure in New Orleans, the LaLaurie Mansion. The LaLaurie Mansion is named after the proprietors of the building, Mr. Leonard Louis Nicholas LaLaurie and his wife Mrs. Delphine LaLaurie (or “Madame LaLaurie), who owned it in the 1830s. The main actor in the story of LaLaurie Mansion is Madame LaLaurie, who reportedly spurred the strange and horrific events that transpired there.
A Grisly Past
Madam LaLaurie had married Mr. LaLaurie, a physician, in 1825 in New Orleans. Supposedly, Mr. LaLaurie was her third husband, and together they purchased the spot at 1140 Royal Street that is now infamous in New Orleans. There they built a three story mansion, capable of housing the many slaves and servants who worked in the mansion. At this time slavery was still alive and well in the South, and it wasn’t at all uncommon for wealthy families to house several slaves for menial labor. Unfortunately, the LaLauries were no exception to this practice.
Much of what we know about these rumors stem from the writings of the British essayist Harriet Martineau who mentioned the LaLaurie Mansion in connection with New Orleans. According to Martineau and other sources, there were rumors circulated about how the LaLauries mistreated their slaves, subjecting them to abuse and even torture while at 1140 Royal Street. Nothing was ever done about these rumors, though they continued to circulate throughout the early 1830s.
A fire at 1140 Royal Street changed everything. While the LaLaurie house was ablaze, citizens and volunteer firefighters broke into the residence to free out anyone potentially trapped inside. As the story goes, volunteers went into the slave quarters and found several slaves chained to the walls in various methods of torture. A few of the slaves looked as though they had been operated upon in grotesque ways, while others simply looked beaten and malnourished. The LaLaurie Mansion survived the blaze, but the reputation of the Madam and her husband—who everyone suspected of having carried out such gruesome surgeries on the slaves—never recovered.
Eventually an angry mob of residents tried to oust the LaLaurie family from their mansion, compelling Madame LaLaurie to flee the city. Legend has it that the Madame passed away in France, haunted by the memory of those who she willfully tortured with her husband.
The LaLaurie Mansion Today
Though it stood vacant for many years, the LaLaurie Mansion still stands today at 1140 Royal Street, though the ownership has changed hands many times over. The site is supposedly haunted by the spirits of those who were tortured in the slave quarters at the hands of Mr. LaLaurie. People claim to hear screams and moans, surely echoing those of the slaves who suffered so much hardship and wretched treatment in the mansion. It’s a particularly gruesome chapter in the haunted history of New Orleans, and it serves as a potent reminder of the evil that can lurk in the most unexpected of places.
Bio: Mariana Ashley is a freelance blogger who primarily writes about how online education and technology are transforming academia as we know it. Having spent a good portion of her professional career trying to reform high schools in East St. Louis, Mariana is particularly interested in how online colleges in Missouri make higher education a possibility for students of all backgrounds. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to discuss this article or education in general.