Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Truly Evil are Never Obviously Evil

Madame Delphine LaLaurie is one of New Orleans most wicked things to ever come this way, and the woman does deserve the infamy. Born somewhere around 1775, Marie Delphine Macarty was part of New Orleans social elite from birth. Married and widowed twice before she became the wife of Dr. Louis LaLaurie, she took up residence at the beautiful 1140 Royal Street mansion that would become her undoing.

Madame Lalaurie was known for her lavish parties and invitations to any of her soiree's were deeply coveted. Rumors of her brutality toward her slaves started making their rounds, but most people chose to ignore them. One incident, it is impossible to know which, became impossible to ignore and the LaLaurie's were fined $500.00 and their slaves were taken for them and auctioned away. Delphine, not to be outdone, paid her family members to purchase them and got every single one back.

One of the more well know rumors is that madame LaLaurie's neighbors witnessed her chasing a young servant girl through the yard. The child, no more than 11 by most accounts, fled to the house and up the stairs, throwing herself from the roof rather than being caught by Madame LaLaurie. Her body was buried in a shallow grave in the yard of the mansion.

The night of infamy is believed to have happened in April of 1834, though the exact date and whether or not there was a party going on is disputed by many. On this afternoon a fire broke out at the LaLaurie mansion. While neighbors rushed to aid in retrieving valuables from the home, questions started to circulate about the whereabouts of the LaLaurie's slaves. Whether it was firemen or locals who found the slaves is up for debate, but what is constant is the story about what was found. Slaves shackled to walls, limbs broken and reset at odd angles, a bucket of gore including genitalia and entrails, slaves with their stomachs cut open and sewn back shut with their entrails on outside. The monstrous nature of the abuse was something New Orleans had never seen in any social circle, but certainly not high society.

Madame LaLaurie dashed from the scene in her horse drawn carriage and was never seen again in New Orleans. Where she went , no one knows for sure. Some say she moved on to the other side of the lake to continue her experiments on humans in a more solitary manner, and some say she went on to Paris where she is rumored to have died in 1842. What is certain is that Madame LaLaurie will never be forgotten in New Orleans, and that her home at 1140 Royal Street will never be the same again.

Over the next few weeks I will be attempting to visit the LaLaurie mansion, now an upscale apartment building, and speak to current residents about whether or not they have any strange stories to tell about things that go bump in the night almost 175 years later. I hope to bring you photos and interviews. Wish me luck.

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