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Evil Women

~ Madame LaLaurie ~

Known as "Madame LaLaurie - a prominent socialite in New Orleans, twice widowed, she was born Marie Delphine McCarty, in 1775 to Louis Barthelemy McCarty and Vevue McCarty, prominent members of the New Orleans community. 

Augustine McCarty, Delphine McCarty's brother, was elected mayor of New Orleans in 1812, certainly helping to further Delphine's position of social prominence in the New Orleans community. Both Barthelemy and Vevue died during a slave revolt in Haiti between these times. This event may have influenced Delphine's attitude towards her slaves.

In 1831, she and her physician husband, Dr. Louis LaLaurie bought a beautiful mansion at 1140 Royal St.  It majestically sat on the corner of Governor Nicholls Street and Royal Street. 

Delphine reveled in maintaining her position in the center of the social circles in New Orleans.  She enjoyed throwing lavish soirees, entertaining the most prominent people in the city.  In addition to being renowned for her parties, she was best noted for her well-behaved slaves.

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In the spring of 1833, Delphine had planned what was to be the finest soiree to impress the upper crust of the city.  She had catered the finest cuisine known to the city.  Her slaves had made sure that all of the china and silver were cleaned and polished to perfection. She had the most beautiful gown which she had purchased in Paris.  Everything had been planned for what she expected to be her most elaborate celebration to date.

As party guests arrived, Delphine remained in her boudoir preparing herself for her entrance. It was customary for her to make her appearance well after the guests had arrived.  It seemed being fashionably late gave her the opportunity to make the biggest impression and receive the most attention.

Madame LaLaurie had long black hair that her slaves would strategically style on top of her head. It was a tedious process. Delphine LaLaurie’s hair was being combed by Leah, a 12-year-old slave girl.  As Leah combed the Madame’s long tresses, she accidentally hit a snag, pulling Madame LaLaurie’s hair.

In a fit of rage, the angry Madame reached into a drawer and pulled out a bullwhip. She began to chase Leah around the room in an attempt to beat her. Leah ran out into the hall and through a door that led to a small balcony that hovered over the carriageway.  Madame LaLaurie continued to chase the girl, screaming at her in French.  In an attempt to flee the angry Madame, Leah climbed onto the balcony railing. She lost her footing and plunged to the courtyard below. Her limp body hit the ground just as Madame LaLaurie’s cousin was stepping out of his carriage. 

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Unable to conceal the crime, charges of abuse were brought upon Delphine LaLaurie.  This was one of several charges that had been placed upon her for abusing slaves.  The court charged Madame LaLaurie a fine of only $300.00, a mere slap on the wrist for a woman of her wealth.  Her slaves however, were taken away from her and sold at public auction. Delphine LaLaurie convinced a relative to purchase the slaves and return them to her.

Soon the incident was set aside and life returned to normal in the LaLaurie household. On April 10, 1934,  Delphine LaLaurie had yet another incident, taking place during a party.  A fire broke out in the kitchen of the home.  The large gray mansion was typical of Spanish architecture at the time. The kitchen was separate from home, over the carriageway building across the courtyard.  The fire brigade entered the building through the courtyard. Much to their surprise there were two slaves chained to the stove in the kitchen.  It was apparent that these slaves started the fire in the hopes of bringing attention to the activities inside the house.

The slaves directed the fire brigade to small attic crawlspace located directly off of the balcony.  The door was bolted and locked from the outside, yet screams and cries could be heard within. The fire brigade used a battering ram to knock down the door of the room. As the door flung open, seasoned firemen who had no doubt been exposed to death before, literally fell to their knees vomiting at the stench of death that permeated from the room.

Once composed, they entered the room. There inside were at least a dozen slaves that had been the obvious victims of very crude medical experimentations.  They were chained to the walls, maimed and disfigured.

Their faces had been disfigured, making look them more like gargoyles than humans.  One man looked as if he had been the victim of some crude sex change operation.  One poor soul, a woman, had managed to break free from her shackles.  Instead of being relieved that someone had come to rescue her, she ran in fear of further torture. She made it past the rescuers, in through the house, then jumped through a window. She fell to her death on the balcony below.  The window remains sealed to this day. 

Another victim had her arms amputated and her skin peeled off in a circular pattern, making her look like a human caterpillar.  Yet another, had been locked in a cage that the newspaper described as barely large enough to accommodate a medium size dog.  Breaking the cage open, the rescuers found that the LaLaurie’s had broken all of her joints resetting them at odd angles so she resembled a human crab.  Body parts were in jars on shelves in the room.

 As the survivor’s were being removed from the residence a mob of the party guests assembled outside, outraged at what had obviously been going on within this house.  They had no idea what kind of monsters the LaLaurie’s were.  Before the angry crowd could  ransack the house and find the LaLaurie’s, the family slipped out through the carriageway and disappeared at the river’s edge.

Many believed that the LaLaurie’s perhaps went back to Paris.  But later evidence points to them possibly settling on the northshore of New Orleans near Mandeville.

 Immediately following the episode, the building became known as the “Haunted House”.   Neighbors swore they could hear screams and cries coming from within.  Superstitious New Orleaneans refused to walk on the same side of the street.  Many avoided the block completely.   The house was vacant for forty years.

Forty years later, the area was home to Italian immigrants. There are stories from the families who lived in the house at that time of seeing a large male covered in chains and blood walking the balcony.  The children reported seeing a woman screaming in French chasing them with a whip.

One woman, a mother of twin babies, awoke in the middle of the night to find that a sock had been shoved into the mouth of one of the babies. Animals were found decapitated in the courtyard.  Another resident of the house, reported seeing a man wandering around the courtyard holding his head in his hands. Before long these people vacated the home. Again, the house was vacant for several years.

It later was used a furniture store.  Shortly after the store had opened for business, the owner entered the shop one morning to find that the entire inventory had been covered in urine, feces and blood.  Believing he had been vandalized, he had the mess cleaned up and ordered a new inventory.  When he experienced the same thing a second time, he decided to wait in the building with a shotgun. In the morning, the inventory had been destroyed again, but no vandals had entered the building. He soon moved the business. 

One individual tried to open what was to be “The Haunted Saloon” but locals refused to patron the place.  Again, it sat vacant. Eventually the house was renovated into apartments as it is today.  Much of the house was in serious disrepair.

When floor boards were replaced in the 3rd floor slave quarters, the bodies of seventy five people were found who had been buried alive.  The screams and cries heard in the early weeks after the fire were real.  Thinking these cries to be ghosts, no one even attempted to save these poor souls. The remains were removed from the property. To this day, this house is considered to be the most haunted in the city.  It is said that on dark, stormy nights, one can still hear the scream of a young girl echoing down into the courtyard.

References:  Wikipedia:  Delphine LaLaurie;  Joseph John Myers, An Evil on Royal Street, 1972.

More Evil Women:

The Charleston Boo Hags

Erzsebet Bathory

The VooDoo Queen - Marie Laveau

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