Famous Haunted Places: LaLaurie Manison, New Orleans
by Christine B.
There are many haunted buildings in New Orleans, but the LaLaurie Manson is reportedly so haunted that it might be the MOST haunted building in the world—and for good reason!
In 1832 the mansion was owned by Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine. They soon became the toast of the French Quarter because of their social affairs and lavish parties held at their home at 1140 Royal Street.
Although a bit plain on the outside, the interior of the home was ornately decorated with hand-carved mahogany doors and lavish grill work. Madame LaLaurie was the most adored hostess of her era, and guests flocked to her parties and dinners in droves. However Madame’s social side was but a mask of her true self. Those who knew her intimately found her to be cruel and possibly even insane. She was the matron of many slaves; and she treated them all like animals. Her cook was said to be chained to the kitchen fireplace. Others were beaten on a regular basis.
The neighbors were the first to suspect foul play being perpetrated at the mansion. Slaves would suddenly disappear, never to be seen again. One neighbor reported seeing Madame LaLaurie chasing a
young child slave with a whip and watched in horror as the child jumped to her death from the roof in order to escape the mad woman. That same neighbor saw the child’s body being buried in a shallow grave on the property. The neighbor reported the incident to the local authorities and before long rumors spread about how Madame Lalaurie treated her slaves. Fewer and fewer socialites accepted her party and dinner invitations until she was avoided altogether by Creole society.
In April of 1834 a fire broke out in the LaLaurie kitchen. The blaze was assumed to be set by two slaves who had been chained to the stove. After fire fighters put out the fire they discovered a secreted barred door in the attic. More than a dozen slaves were found chained to the walls in this room. The room also contained tables where more slaves were strapped to, apparently for the purpose of horrible operations. Small cages with slaves locked inside them were also found along with severed human body parts (including heads and human organs) in buckets scattered about. Other gruesome human “trophies” were stacked on shelves near a collection of whips and other torture equipment.
According the New Orleans Bee, all of the victims found were naked. The poor sufferers were in such a deplorable condition that it was beyond human imagination that anyone could be so cruel to another human being. It was obvious that whoever had done this was quite mad. The slaves who were dead had suffered a slow and painful demise. The poor souls who were still alive begged to be killed so as to be put out of their intense misery. The fire fighters were so sickened by what they saw they fled the scene and called for doctors immediately.
It was determined that Madame LaLaurie was solely responsible for the heinous crimes and mutilations, while her husband turned a blind eye to her insane deeds. The residents of New Orleans were aghast at what had taken place at the mansion—in some cases right above their heads while they were visitors there. An angry mob gathered outside the house holding ropes and out for vengeance for the many slaves that had been tortured and murdered. Many were slave owners as well, but even they were appalled by what had transpired at the mansion.
During the heated demonstration a carriage pulled up to the front door and the Lalaurie family fought their way inside. It drove away and they were never heard from again. Whatever happened to them, no legal action was ever recorded against them.
The LaLaurie home was eventually looted and vandalized. It remained vacant for many years. Neighbors and passers-by reported hearing screams of agony from the empty house at night. Others claimed to have seen apparitions of slaves moving about the balconies and the yard. It is alleged that vagrants who took shelter in the home were never seen again.
In 1837 a man purchased the home, but left it after only three months. He claimed to be harassed by disembodied cries and groans and other strange noises during the night. He attempted to rent it out, but his tenants never stayed more than a few days before leaving it. He finally gave up and the house was again abandoned.
After the end of the Civil War, the home was restored and turned into a high school. In 1874 it was tuned into a school for black children only. A local English teacher turned the home into a dance and music school in 1882. Things went well for a while, but eventually rumors and accusations against the teacher caused her to shut down.
In the late 1880s Jules Vignie, a member of a wealthy New Orleans family, purchased the home. He was found dead in the home in 1892. A search of the home indicted that Vignie might have suffered some mental problems as he was living in fifth in one room of the house while other areas of the home were full of expensive antiques and treasures. Several thousand dollars was found in his mattress and bags of money were found in other areas of the home.
In the late 1890s the mansion was used as an apartment house. One occupant claimed to be attached by a naked black man in chains who disappeared before his eyes. Children living in the house reported being chased by a phantom with a whip. Figures materialized wrapped in shrouds, a woman elegantly dressed was seen bending over a sleeping infant and the home was still plagued by the sounds of moans and groans, screams, and cries that would echo throughout the night. No tenants stayed for long. The owner had no choice by to abandon the building again.
For a short time the home was used as a furniture store, but the owners grew weary of rearranging the displays every morning. Apparently “someone” broke into the store every evening and moved everything around, although no sign of a forced entry was ever noticed.
The home is now a building of luxury apartments. Time will tell if the owner will be able to keep his tenants. While they were renovating the building however, they found a graveyard in the back of the house underneath one of the wooden floors. The scary part about the find is that the remains that were found were not a hundred years old…they were of deaths that were much more resent. Is Madame LaLaurie possessing the home’s new owners? It sure seems possible.