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The Most Haunted House of New Orleans: The LaLaurie Mansion

Standing majestically at the corner of Royal and Gov. Nicholls is the Lalaurie Mansion, named for the infamous Mme Lalaurie. At one point it was the largest mansion built in the French Quarter, its three stories taking up 1/4 of a block and one of the few mansions including a full slave quarter.

Mme LaLaurie was born Marie Delphine Macarty between 1770 and 1780 in New Orleans. She was born into a wealthy family with plantations and political connections (an uncle was Governor of the Spanish American provinces of Louisiana and Florida and a cousin was mayor of New Orleans). Her first husband, Don Ramon de Lopez y Angulo, was appointed to the position of consul general for Spain. As the family was traveling to Spain to join the Spanish Court, Lopez died mysteriously. She also gave birth to her first child, a daughter. LaLaurie remained in the Spanish Court for a short time before returning to New Orleans in the early 1800’s.

In 1808, Delphine married her second husband, Jean Blanque, a banker/merchant/lawyer and legislator. She had four children with Blanque, before he, too, died a mysterious death and leaving her a small fortune.

In June, 1825, Delphine married her third husband, Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie. She purchased the property on Royal Street and built the mansion. The mansion soon became the center of New Orleans society, with lavish soirees and parties. No one attending the parties were aware of the horrors that were taking place in the attic of the mansion.

Rumors begin to circulate about the treatment of the slaves being held at the LaLaurie mansion when a teen girl threw herself from the top balcony of the residence. Before dying, she is reported to say that she killed herself to keep from being taken to the attic because “no one comes back”. This incident led to an investigation and the LaLauries were found guilty of illegal cruelty and the forced to forfeit nine slaves (the slaves were later returned through relatives).

In April, 1834 a fire broke out in the mansion. When officials arrived, an elderly woman was found chained to the stove. She said that she started the fire to commit suicide and avoid punishment in the upper rooms. At the same time, bystanders were attempting to enter the slave quarters to save the slaves who might be in the quarters. The LaLauries refused and the people forced their way into the rooms. What they found there was the thing of nightmares.

They found emaciated men, women and children in chains, in cages and with various wounds and injuries. According to reports, many were bound in restrictive postures and one was reported to have had bones broken and reset as to appear to be in a “crab” position. Stories began to circulate that Doctor and Mme LaLaurie were using their slaves to conduct cruel medical experiments. Following the fire, officials dug up the courtyard and found evidence of additional people who had been tortured to death and buried in shallow graves.

The LaLauries supposedly fled back to Paris to avoid prosecution. According to French archives, Delphine died in Paris in December, 1849.

The house built by the LaLauries still stands at the corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls. The building has been used as a public school, a music and dance school, a refuge for delinquents, a bar and a luxury apartment building. It was purchased by Nicolas Cage in 2009 but sold in auction. It is currently owned by a single family who uses it as a vacation home. It is reported to be the most haunted building in New Orleans. Visitors report seeing terrified faces in the upper window, hearing the cries of tortured slaves during the night and even the Mme LaLaurie has been reported as trying to smother young children who visit the home.

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