The Story of New Orleans’ Lalaurie Mansion

New Orleans cemetery

As dusk falls, gas lamps cast a flickering glow, adorning the historic galleries lining Royal Street in the French Quarter. Amidst the sweltering heat and humidity, the deepening twilight only adds to the enchanting aura of New Orleans. Time stands still as wrought iron balconies adorned with lush ferns and greenery evoke a sense of bygone eras, imbuing every corner with an air of mystique and possibility.

Most Haunted Place in Louisiana

LaLaurie Mansion New Orleans Louisiana
Image Credit: Reading Tom – CC BY 2.0 / Wiki Commons.

At the intersection of Governor Nicholls Street stands a somber gray three-story building, nearly two centuries old, drawing groups of tourists and their guides. Their gazes are fixed on the silent house as they hang on every word of the macabre tale spun by their guides, their imaginations ripe with anticipation of encountering the supernatural.

This is the infamous LaLaurie Mansion. Its dark history fuels paranormal intrigue and captures the fascination of all who hear its chilling story.

The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans

Pubs and bars with neon lights in the French Quarter, New Orleans USA
Image Credit: f11photo/Shutterstock.

The LaLaurie Mansion is a privately owned residence in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter. When I first heard the tale, I thought it was something made up to scare people, but after some research, I realized it was one of those parts of history that make you stop and wonder what is wrong with the human race. 

The neoclassical building occupying this spot traces its origins back to 1838, yet it replaced another dwelling. This former residence belonged to Madame Delphine MacCarthy LaLaurie, who, along with her third husband, Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie, moved to the location in 1832. The notorious events unfolded in 1834 during a fateful gathering at the mansion, where a fire erupted in the kitchen. Reports surfaced of firefighters uncovering seven enslaved individuals, described as “more or less horribly mutilated,” within the premises. Accounts also detailed the outraged response of the townsfolk, with over 4,000 people amassing outside the property and subsequently pillaging the remnants of the burned structure, as documented in local newspapers.

Dr. And Mrs. LaLaurie Had a Reputation

Madame LaLaurie Mansion New Orleans Louisiana
Image Credit: Reading Tom – CC BY 2.0 / Public Domain / Wiki Commons / Wealth of Geeks.

It was documented that the fire was started by an enslaved cook who had been chained to the stove, and this was her suicide attempt to free herself from the Lalauries. Assumptions and blame were placed on Madame Lalaurie � especially as there is evidence that she was previously charged with cruelty towards her enslaved workers. However, little is said of her husband, who was also present at the party.

Cruel medical experimentation in the name of science was often carried out before the 20th century. Some people speculate that the real culprit here may have been Dr. LaLaurie. However, that doesn’t excuse the blind eye that his wife took if this was the case.  

A Legacy of Bad Luck

Nic Cage New Orleans
Image Credit: Wikicommons

The LaLauries fled New Orleans and never returned. Madame LaLaurie and her husband died in Paris in 1849. They were never persecuted for their crimes. The New Orleans property was sold to Charles Caffin and rebuilt in 1838. Over the next one hundred years, it had a variety of uses, including a school, a music conservatory, a furniture store, and an apartment building.

In 2007, actor Nicolas Cage purchased the property before having to foreclose only two years later. Another story I heard about the actor suggested he went to a fortune teller who advised him to build a pyramid-shaped mausoleum in a local cemetery to appease the house’s spirits. He still owns the grave site but not the house. The people who own the property now do not always reside there and have a caretaker and housekeeper looking after the house.

Fact or Fiction?

Kathy Bates Delphine LaLaurie American Horror Story
Image Credit: 20th Television.

Of course, the real history of the LaLaurie Mansion is so fantastical that it makes people question reality. In turn, it inspires the creatives amongst us to embellish the facts and create new stories that fascinate us, but sometimes, it can be challenging to distinguish what is real and what is not. The house has been the subject of paranormal investigation shows, documentaries, and non-fiction and fiction books. 

In 2021, screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes, who people may know from the Conjuring series, announced a new series titled The LaLaurie Mansion, but everything is still under wraps about how that’s proceeding. However, if the name ‘Madame LaLaurie’ sounds familiar, you may recognize it from the third season of American Horror Story: Coven � the 19th-century socialite appears as a character played by Kathy Bates.

The Ghost Stories

Inside LaLaurie Mansion
Image Credit: Spookt.

With its sordid history, you would expect numerous tales of ghostly encounters, and reports don’t disappoint. Various tales of hauntings began shortly after the LaLauries left. Locals reported that they heard screams issuing from the property late at night.

Chris Falvey of Unique NOLA Tours says that several people believe they have witnessed an enslaved man walking up the stairs. Another recurrent story from people who have lived on the property proposes that there have been instances when looking in the mirror, the viewer has not seen themselves but someone they believe to be Madame LaLaurie. “There are random dark shadows seen throughout the house, and the current owners now have a photo of one,” he shares.

Mansion Caretakers and Residents Share Their Stories 

Portals to Hell, LaLaurie mansion ghosts
Image Credit: Travel Channel.

The photo was displayed on the paranormal investigative show Portals to Hell on the Travel ChannelWhile the shape is indistinguishable, it appears to have two sets of eyes peering from it. Lisa Hadley, the current housekeeper of the mansion, says that she avoids coming into the house at night. “I’m scared. You just have an eerie vibe,” she says. 

Her mother, Carol Williams, the caretaker, has lived on the property for 13 years. She says, “I don’t like staying in the kitchen by myself. That door just flings open and shuts randomly by itself. I feel like we’re disturbing something. I don’t know what.” 

“And you can watch the doorknob turn by itself,” adds Ms. Hadley. The housekeeper also says she’s seen a little girl standing in the window. Another resident from the ’60s, Annie, also says that she saw a little girl sitting on the roof. Like the first people who reported hearing screams from the property in the 1800s, Annie also used to wake at night hearing screams.

Is the LaLaurie Mansion Really Haunted?

Portals to Hell featured the most haunted place in Louisiana, the LaLaurie mansion and its ghosts
Image Credit: Travel Channel.

The equipment on Portals to Hell detected some sort of humanoid form within the area where Annie’s former apartment had been.  When presenter Katrina Weidman leaned forward to touch where the form should have been, she said she felt something cold. While there are plenty of accounts of hauntings at the house, there are bound to be doubters and skeptics. However, regardless of your beliefs, the LaLaurie Mansion story will stay with you for a lifetime.

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