Friday, August 12, 2016

LaLaurie Mansion - New Orleans, LA (The House of 1,000 Screams)

1140 Royal St.
New Orleans, LA 70116

            Of the thousands of haunted locations throughout the country, what better place to start than with a location so notorious and shrouded in mystery. It's history is one of the most interesting and gruesome you will ever hear so why not start with the LaLaurie Mansion! The events that took place here would go down in the annals of American history as something that could have easily been coined from a horror movie. As a matter of fact, I believe much of this story influenced the season of American Horror Story that took place in New Orleans.
            I was first made aware of the LaLaurie Mansion as a young teenager. Strolling the urine and stale beer-filled streets of the French Quarter on a raucous Saturday night, my cousin and I were inclined to take one of the many haunted history tours that were offered in the area. I mean come on...where else could under aged kids walk around with drinks in our hands while listening to the mad and macabre that makes up New Orleans? I was all in! We paid for our tickets and met at a local bar that could have well been from a third-world country. To this day, I don't think I ever saw a filthier toilet in my life. I don't think I would even let my dog take a crap in there, for the fear of dysentery and staff infections that would have been obtained in there!

            We were greeted by an individual dressed all in black, with garb that gave me the impression that he thought he was a vampire. The blood that this poor sucker sucked must have been of the portly kind, as he was the plumpest Nosferatu I had ever encountered. With his fake Transylvanian accent and his dirty top hat, he guided us through the French Quarter, stopping at various locations along the way either to talk or simply catch his breath. The tour would conclude at the corner of Royal and Nicholls Streets, at what may very well be the single location that caused me to become so enthralled with the paranormal, especially in New Orleans.
Madame Delphine LaLaurie
            This incredible story starts off with a beautiful young French-Creole woman by the name of Delphine Macarty. One of five children, Delphine was raised into what many may consider for the time as a luxurious lifestyle. Her parents, Barthelmy Louis Macarty and Marie Jeanne Lovable, were prominent members of the local community. Growing up, Delphine had all the finer things in life and was said to be a very attractive woman, attracting the attention of many young men. She married her first husband, Don Ramon de Lopez y Angullo, in 1800. Angullo was a ranking officer in the Spanish Army. After an eight year marriage, Angullo died in Havana on his way to Spain. Delphine then married her second husband, a prominent local banker, Jean Blanque. Apparently, life expectancies were not very long in the 1800’s, as Blanque also soon died only a few years after marriage. Normally an odd coincidence, once you hear the monster that Delphine transforms to, you may begin to wonder if “black widow” could also have been added to her resume.
            In 1825, Delphine would marry her third and final husband, a young physician by the name of Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie. The now Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a very domineering woman with plenty of business smarts. With inheritances from her wealthy parents and deceased husbands, she would handle the family’s finances without little interaction from her husband. In 1831, Delphine would purchase a huge mansion at 1140 Royal Street. The successful woman was admired by the local community, as she was considered one of the more prominent individuals in the area. Simultaneously, Dr. Leonard sat in the shadows while his wife ran the show. From this point, things not only grow incessantly interesting but details are sketchy. Most say that the couple began to argue and fight constantly, while  Delphine made accusations that Leonard would beat her and the couple would separate on and off.
           It’s at this point I must also mention that due to the fact that Delphine was raised in a home where slaves were looked at and treated as sub-human; she would carry on this belief with her own slaves. Madame LaLaurie was notorious for the abusive treatment she gave to her servants. It has often been said that she kept one of her slaves chained to the stove in the kitchen. No one has ever been able to confirm whether or not Dr. Leonard was equally as sinister, though some have said he often took his work home with him, performing various medical experiments on his unwilling subjects. Those who knew Delphine on a personal level said that her immense hatred and mistreatment of her slaves did not begin until marrying the doctor. Did Delphine’s “Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde” persona culminate from an abusive marriage, did she simply go mad for no apparent reason, or was Dr. Leonard the catalyst to awaken Delphine’s inner demon? No one may ever know what set Delphine off. From my research, it is very possible that she suffered from a severe bi-polar disorder. Reports say that when Delphine was in public, she was quite respectful to blacks and it is documented that in 1819 and 1832, she even emancipated two of her slaves.
            As time went on, the LaLaurie’s relationship became more and more stressed and Delphine fell deeper into madness. Once looked at as the upper echelon of society, Delphine grew darker and more sinister with each waking day. However, no one knew exactly how evil she had become. Curious neighbors would often hear horrible screams and sounds of pain coming from the mansion and they would notice that the couple seemed to rotate their inventory of slaves on a frequent basis. No one could ever understand how it seemed as though Madame LaLaurie was always replacing her slaves with new ones. Where were they going? This question would soon be answered, although the results were beyond anyone’s imaginations.
"The Gate to Hell"
           On April 10, 1834, a fire broke out in the LaLaurie Mansion. The fire was said to have been started by a seventy year old woman in the kitchen area who could no longer take the years of abuse. As a way to escape, she had rather burn to death than continue to be exposed to the horrible scenes there were about to be exposed to the public. As locals rushed to the blazing home, they encountered the LaLauries, who refused to hand over the keys to the home. After a brief argument, locals kicked down the door to the mansion. While some made their way through the home to assure there were no casualties, others extinguished the blaze. It was at this time, they discovered the elderly black slave chained to the stove. She confirmed that she had attempted suicide to avoid inevitable murder from “being taken upstairs.”
            Curious as to what she was referring to, the locals made their way to the second floor and found a hidden door to the attic. What they found next was truly unbelievable. The locals opened the door to find a legitimate torture chamber, filled with pure carnage! History may have been embellished over the years on the number of individuals that were found and the severity of their injuries but the scene was horrible to say the least. According to an article in the New Orleans Bee of April 11, 1834, at least eight slaves, all naked, were found suffering from various degrees of torture and mutilation. Others who were present claimed to have seen individuals chained to walls, some strapped to hospital tables and others placed in makeshift cages. Each grizzly specimen looked like something from a morbid freak show, as each one was the victim of a gruesome medical experiment and torture session. The room was full of buckets containing human limbs, organs and entrails. Several individuals had their limbs crudely broken and reset in unusual positions to appear like crabs or spiders.  Some were covered with whelps from being beat, others were hung from the ceiling and some lay motionless with huge open wounds that were already beginning to rot! One poor soul that was found had his genitals removed and had a large stick protruding from his skull which was being used to manipulate various portions of the brain. Another woman was said to have her mouth stuffed with feces and sewn shut. Several days later, excavation of the land discovered multiple bodies buried in the rear of the home, some of which were children. Whether or not the stories have been embellished upon to add even more gore to the situation remains a mystery.
            The gruesome scene quickly garnered the attention of an angry mob. Although slavery existed, people still had enough compassion for a human being to find the actions carried out by the LaLauries were beyond unacceptable. The public began to ransack and loot the mansion, demanding that justice be served. In the confusion, Madame LaLaurie and her husband were able to flee from the property via carriage. Some say she bolted straight to an awaiting vessel on the river and traveled directly to France where she was never heard from again. Others debate this idea, as many feel she later returned to New Orleans for the remainder of her life. This may be evident from an incident in the late 1930’s, when Eugene Backes, who served as sexton to St. Louis Cemetery number one until 1924, discovered an old copper plate in alley four of the cemetery. The inscription on the plate read: "Madame LaLaurie, née Marie Delphine Macarty, décédée à Paris, le 7 Décembre, 1842, à l'âge de 6--."
            As the demise of the LaLauries may never be truly known, the home to the tragic events continued to fall into disrepair. It did not take long for rumors to flourish about the mansion being haunted, as locals claimed to still hear screams emitting from the area. In 1837, the home would be purchased by a man who only lived there for three months. Reports say he was constantly tormented with hauntings and could not take it any longer. He even tried renting the home out to people but that proved to be unsuccessful so he ultimately got rid of the home which continued to stay abandoned for some time.
Modern View of the Dining Room
Following the Civil War, the home would be converted into an integrated girls’ school. After various battles with those who were strongly in favor of segregation, the building became home to a music and dance school in 1882. Controversy would strike the location once again, as the teacher was accused of having inappropriate relations with the young students. The accusations quickly caused the school to shut down.

            Strange events would continue to take place at the LaLaurie Mansion when a man by the name of Jules Vignie was found dead in the home 1892. Although he is said to have come from a wealthy New Orleans family, Viginie was literally homeless, secretly living in the home. An odd individual indeed, when his body was found, large amounts of money and antique collectibles were discovered throughout the home.
            By the late 1890’s, with the sudden surge of immigrants to the area, landlords began quickly looking for cheap buildings to purchase to convert into affordable housing for the newcomers to the city. As one might guess, the LaLaurie Mansion was prime real estate for such a project. The home was converted into multiple apartments for low income families. It did not take long for the hauntings to return, as tenants soon began to experience violent and terrifying encounters. Among them was an encounter between a resident and a naked black man in chains who attacked him. The black man abruptly vanished. Others claimed to have found animals butchered in the house and children claimed to be attacked by an entity with a whip. Apparitions of strange figures wrapped in shrouds were seen along with a woman in a long evening gown. Despite low rent and high demand for housing, the apartments did not last very long and soon closed down.
            Sometime in the early to mid-1900’s the home was reopened as a furniture store and a saloon. As one might expect, the haunted bar was a success as drunk patrons were either fascinated with the hauntings or they were simply too inebriated to give a damn! The furniture store, on the other hand, was not as open to the numerous strange events. The owner constantly reported that his merchandise was moved during the night or covered in an unknown smelly substance. Further inspection found no one would enter the store at night and no one could determine what the putrid sludge was. Both establishments would ultimately close down and in the later 1900’s, the building would reopen as apartments, only this time, they were for high end tenants. Over the last few years, the mansion would be converted back into a single-family dwelling, owned by wealthy individuals and even celebrities, such as Nicholas Cage. He lost the home to the bank and has since been purchased by an energy trader from Texas.
            The house remains a mystery, as no one has ever been allowed to conduct a formal investigation of the home. The LaLaurie Mansion has always been at the top of my wish list in regards to investigation locations. Several of the most recent owners have had priests bless the home so it is unknown if the level of haunted activity is as severe as it once was but I would sure love to find out for myself. The gruesome history that is associated with this home has placed a stigma on it like no other. While some may refuse to visit such a place, my dream would be to spend the night in the attic area, now the third floor.

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