Of all the haunted houses, in America's most haunted city, the LaLaurie House has surely endured the most gruesome history, and its reputation for otherworldly visitations is well-deserved and well-documented.
In 1832, Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine, moved to their splendid quarters at 1140 Royal Street. They were wealthy Creole socialites who entertained on a grand scale, and Madame LaLaurie was reportedly both beautiful and intelligent. Louis, a native of France, was her third husband. New Orleanians who attended affairs at their home were wined and dined with the choicest food and wine, on the finest china, linens, and silver imaginable. What was unimaginable was the horror behind the facade of gentility.
While the institution of slavery is indefensible, it nevertheless existed in the antebellum south, and certainly in New Orleans. Madame LaLaurie, it is told, had a particular fondness for the practice, and owned many slaves who were methodically brutalized to keep them "under control." There were many rumors, reportedly fanned by the "jealous Americains" who were systematically excluded from all things truly Creole. Among other things, it was said that in the LaLaurie household, slaves disappeared on a regular basis. A neighbor reported seeing Delphine chasing a slave girl onto the roof of the house with a whip. The child jumped to her death. It appeared that Madame LaLaurie enjoyed her many luxuries at the cost not only of her slaves' freedom, but also of their lives.
On April 10, 1834, a fire broke out in the LaLaurie home, and when the volunteer fireman came to the scene, they discovered the horror hidden inside the facade of gentility. Dozens of slaves were reportedly chained to the wall in a secret attic. Some were in cages, and body parts were strewn about haphazardly. Horrible mutilations had been perpetrated, and some slaves cried out begging to be put out of their pain and misery. The monstrous and insane experiments carried on by Madame LaLaurie were beyond anything imaginable, either before or since. It was a sight that no one in the city could comprehend, and the population was sickened, calling for Delphine to be brought to justice.