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Haunted Mansions: New Orleans’ House of Horrors

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Part III: New Orleans’ Creepiest Haunted Mansion

Planning a trip to New Orleans? From pub crawls, carriage rides, and historic walks of New Orleans storied cemeteries, there are dozens of activities to choose from. But with so many choices, which is the best New Orleans tour for first-timers to the city?

While there are many things to do in the Crescent City, a New Orleans ghost tour at night might be the best way to uncover its unique history.

For the skeptic, a cemetery tour or pub crawl that focuses on New Orleans haunted history might seem like a waste of time. But New Orleans is considered one of the most haunted cities in the entire country; it would be a shame to not explore its darker past that so often gets buried under the noise coming from its more touristy parts. Even the pubs of Bourbon Street house a haunted history that provokes an intriguing question; underneath the sounds of raucous revelers are there drunken ghosts imbibing amidst the unsuspecting mortals?

The best New Orleans ghost tours celebrate the fascinating splendor of the city’s ghostly tradition while still separating fact from fiction. The city has so much to uncover: cemeteries, history of voodoo, axe murders, pirates, and of course, haunted mansions.

And when it comes to New Orleans haunted mansions, there is one that stands out from the rest. The woman who lived there has become legendary for the ghastly deeds she committed in one of the most disturbing, bloody chapters of the New Orleans history.

Her name was Delphine LaLaurie, history knows her as Madame LaLaurie. Today we meet the haunted mansion on Royal street where she committed unspeakable atrocities. Once thought the most splendid home in the neighborhood, the LaLaurie House is now considered to be a house of horrors.

Its ghosts have a tragic tale to tell. And trust us when we say, their stories are not for the faint of heart.

The Unforgettable History of New Orleans’ Scariest House

If you were to live in the French Quarter in the early 1830s, you would know about Madame LaLaurie and the rather glittering soirees she hosted at her lavish mansion on Royal Street.
The house certainly must have lived up to its role as an architectural hostess for the social elite of its day. While its appearance has changed a bit over the years, it is easy to imagine what it might have been like during Madame LaLaurie’s day. Chandeliers, intricate carvings, wrought iron balustrades—a pristine, fashionable, postcard-perfect house.

And Madame LaLaurie herself?

She was born of a well-bred family, the kind with knights in its genealogy. She was no doubt attractive. She had, after all, been wife to three husbands—a high-ranking Spanish officer, who had left her widowed with a newborn daughter. After him came a well-known banker with whom she had another four children. Finally she married a physician, Leonard LaLaurie—this third marriage may have been troubled, but it would leave its permanent mark—after all, it gave Delphine and her house on Royal Street the name of LaLaurie.

Fire Reveals a Terrifying Reality

There were murmurs something was amiss at the house before the fire. Why did the house slaves look so malnourished? Why had other slaves simply vanished with no explanation?

Why did Madame LaLaurie’s daughters seem so quiet—so pale?

While slavery was a way of life for New Orleans at the time, Madame LaLaurie’s disregard for basic humanity seemed to be extremely egregious. She scoffed at legal counsel about the pitfalls of mistreating her slaves.

Some of the neighbors suspected, as various contemporary accounts testify, that the upper parts of the home were used as a prison for its servants. One of the most famous stories tells of a young girl who angered her sadistic mistress. Madame LaLaurie chased her with a whip, and the girl was so terrified that she jumped off the balcony into the courtyard below, where she perished. Her death was an accident, Madame LaLaurie insisted.

Rumors of a lantern-lit burial in her own backyard made her story less plausible.

With all the suspicions surrounding Madame LaLaurie, it seems there was at least some plausible suspicion of sadistic deeds. But the events of April 10, 1834, settled the question for good, bringing to light truths that might have remained hidden forever otherwise.

It began with a fire in the kitchen—a fire that was later said to be ignited by a slave that simply could no longer endure the cruelties inflicted upon him. Bystanders quickly gathered around the home as the blaze grew.

They worried about the slaves they seemed to know were undoubtedly chained within, unable to escape, condemned to perish in the flames.

They cried out to the master of the house; Dr. LaLaurie told them to mind their own business.

Firefighters arrived on the scene and the fire was extinguished. But amidst the fallout, they found something they didn’t expect. Something uglier than anything they could have ever imagined.

Words can barely describe the condition of the slaves found inside…

Slaves found with dislocated limbs. Iron collars. Spikes. Chains. Malnourishment.

The decades have added to the legends. Take a New Orleans ghost tour at night and you will hear of other gruesome discoveries tied to the fire at the “LaLaurie House of Horrors” including a slave with a hole in her skull, her living brain rotting with maggots. Some ghost tour guides speak of an actual torture chamber where the worst mutilations imaginable occurred.

The true extent of Delphine LaLaurie’s crimes is largely lost to time; only the dead souls who lived through her reign of terror can tell the truth of the tale.

It is notable that not long after the fire, the LaLauries fled New Orleans. Contemporary accounts described their carriage leaving the city at an unusually high speed. Is this a testament to the enormity of their guilt?

They eventually booked passage to Paris, which is where Madame LaLaurie spent the rest of her life until she died. Some say she never escaped her crimes, and the stigma of what she had done followed her to Europe.

The Ghosts of Madame LaLaurie’s Mansion

Since the fire, the LaLaurie Mansion has been left to the whims of tempestuous time. It has been a girls’ school. A homeless shelter. A private residence. Incredibly, at the beginning of the 1900s, it apparently housed a pub on its first floor. The owner, capitalizing on its eerie reputation even called it the “Haunted Saloon.”

More recently, the LaLaurie’s haunted mansion belonged to Nicholas Cage, who had hoped to write a horror novel within its walls. He sold it when he fell on hard luck—it seemed the house brought him nothing but bad fortune, and writer’s block.

It is a house rife with spirits of the dead—specifically, the ghosts who met a tragic and violent and at the hands of a cruel mistress. They say wails of agony plague its rooms at night. Doors slam. Furniture moves. Apparitions of slaves are seen walking around the property—some are even in chains.

Interesting in seeing the ghost of Madame LaLaurie herself? It seems the other apparitions have banished her from this particular haunted mansion—it may still bear her name, but most of all, it bears the scars she left.

Her spirit has been seen at the nearby St. Louis cemetery, where she once worshipped.

The LaLaurie Mansion Today: Haunted by History

If you were to wander down the streets of the French Quarter at the midnight hour, after the haunted ghost tours at night have departed, you might find the streets shrouded in fog. The lanterns might barely illuminate the dim streets.

If you were to happen upon the LaLaurie Mansion, you might feel a tingle in your spine—the kind of tingle that provokes even the most skeptical to believe in ghosts. Some places on earth whisper of a tragic history.

The LaLaurie Mansion has become a celebrity of its own right; if you go on a New Orleans ghost tour at night, you will certainly visit the most haunted mansion in town. It has been featured on several ghost adventure tv shows. If you are an American Horror Story fan, you might have seen the season that took place in New Orleans, in which the LaLaurie Mansion was prominently featured.

Recent owners, by all accounts, have renovated the place to Pinterest perfect perfection. You can see photos of at least one of the LaLaurie Mansion’s more recent remodels in this NOLA article.

Ironically, the house seems ready for its closeup just in time; the creators of The Conjuring have plans to make the LaLaurie Mansion a central figure in their upcoming horror franchise.

The staircase lit in blood-red seems particularly fitting.

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