Deep within the French Quarter, on the corner of Nichols and Royal Street, lies the infamous LaLaurie mansion. This architectural Frankenstein stands three stories high, once the highest building in the Quarter, each story of the building done in a different style. Compared to its neighbors, the LaLaurie mansion definitely stands out, both visually and historically.
The house has been home to quite a few people, even Nick Cage (albeit briefly), but no one has left quite the impression as Madame Delphine LaLaurie. A woman of extremely well-to-do means, she and her third husband, Louis LaLaurie moved into the mansion around 1831 with two of her daughters. Being of such high social class, it was no surprise back then that LaLaurie owned many slaves. At the time, the mansion came complete with its very own slave quarters that LaLaurie wasted no time in filling.
LaLaurie's place in New Orleans' high society was set. She was well-known for throwing lavish parties in her home. Even surrounded with upscale music and food, LaLaurie's guests were witness to her cruelty towards the slaves, toned down as her act may have been in front of them. Most that frequented these parties, however, spoke little of what they saw, afraid to offend the most gracious hostess of such fine gatherings. Also, there's a good chance that most of that elite class shared similar experiences with their own slaves.
LaLaurie kept her true torturous nature hidden from public, mostly. On occasion, however, she had been known to lose control of her personal situations, thus making them a public issue. There was an account of LaLaurie going into a fit of rage after a young slave girl pulled a bit of her hair out while brushing it. She chased the girl around the third floor with a whip, until in an act of desperation, the girl jumped to her death to escape the wrath of Delphine. It's almost a certainty that she paid off the police, as it was surprisingly easy to do at the time, especially involving your "personal property".
It wasn't until 1834, when a sudden vicious fire nearly took the whole building that Madame LaLaurie's real passion, the experimentation/torture of her own slaves, came into the light of the public. The fire started in the kitchen, presumably started by one of the slaves chained to the stove. Southern Louisiana heat with no ventilation can be brutal WITHOUT being attached to a stove; one can only imagine at what point it would finally break a person.
In no time, the fire spread throughout the mansion. While LaLaurie desperately tried to save her precious belongings, she left all her slaves to burn to death in the inferno. The firefighters that came to rescue anyone left in the building were refused entry into the slave quarters. After breaking down the door, they found seven slaves chained up by the neck, torn to pieces yet somehow clinging to life. Two were found with their genitals cut out and sewn onto the other's body. One woman was found in a cage, her arms and legs broken and shaped to the effect of a human crab. All the slaves, along with each unique mutilation, also had been severely been beaten and emaciated.
The vicious nature of these acts were so unspeakably cruel that it started a mob. The swarm of people, outraged and ready to hang LaLaurie and her husband, only met with the back of a carriage. The LaLaurie's packed and fled quickly in the night, leaving little to no evidence of the experimentations that went on within the walls of the mansion.
It is rumored that Delphine and Louis fled to Paris, never to be heard from again. Years later, Doctor Josef Mengele would dedicate some of his most gruesome experiments to the inspiration gotten from LaLaurie's "lost" notes.
The horrors of the mansion have lived on for centuries. Tenants have come and gone, plagued with eerie accounts of moaning echoing throughout the rooms, chains rattling, and furniture being ruined by some dark, stinking liquid. Others have simply met with financial ruin.
One of the tenants, a man by the name of Jules Vignie was found dead in 1892, locked away in a room packed with priceless belongings on a mattress that was filled with a small fortune. The locals speak of another fortune hidden somewhere in the house, but no one dared to go looking for it. Some say LaLaurie's avarice has kept the treasure safe, hidden in a place only she knows about.
Fast forwarding to the present, the mansion stands as a grim reminder of an ugly Southern past and the corruption of wealth. Though strangely beautiful in its own unique way, there is a distinct sense of sadness that emanates from the house when the night touches it. On occasion, though, when the mood is right, the real tenants show themselves. Taking pictures of the house one night, I was surprised to see the lights were on.
My curiosity kept me there, watching. I waited to see any signs of life, a shadow pass by one of the windows, but nothing. As I watched on, I noticed a movement in my peripheral vision. The curtain in one of the bottoms windows moved slightly. Walking up to the window, I heard the faintest sound coming from inside. A young woman crying, perhaps. The stories of this house ran through my mind while I pressed my ear to the window to better the sound. The sound faded away almost immediately, to my disappointment. I pulled away, then fell to the street in horror when I saw a pale complexion looking back at me with bright blue eyes. Her smile did nothing to comfort, it was as if I somehow fell into a trap of some sort.
Running footsteps on the second floor balcony made me look up only to see the light on the balcony was off now. The darkness set a panic in me and I scrambled to my feet. The face was gone from the window and the curtain back in place. "See?" I nervously reassured myself, "Nothing to be scared of at all." "That's right! Nothing at all," a woman's voice called from the second floor. Shocked anyone was around to hear me, I looked up to catch a glimpse of the voice only to see a shadow of a woman with a long layered dress on. She laughed heartily as I squinted through the darkness, then as she came into focus, her face changed into a solemn, serious expression. That's when I realized who I was looking at.
In an instance, however, LaLaurie faded into the shadows completely. A cold chill came over me, having seen countless images of her in my research. Defeated by the sudden absence, I decided to take my leave back to my hotel.
My footsteps quickened when I heard her laughter again...
LaLaurie has definitely made a lasting impression on that house on the corner of Nichols and Royal. Her wicked presence and cold expression will be with me every time I journey to New Orleans..
On a side note, I have left a few spirit photos of the house that I've collected. It'll give you an idea of how active this place really is.