Forgotten Ghosts of New Orleans

Has had a true love affair with the City of New Orleans, thanks to Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite since I was 15. Though I have never had the pleasure of visiting the Big Easy, it has everything on paper that I love; History, the Supernatural, a strong identity and an appreciation of the peculiar. I also have a fascination with true crime and women who commit acts of ‘double deviance’. Which is when a woman disobeys the social expectations of all women and commits a crime. By this theory, women are deemed to be kinder and gentler then men; so when she acts in opposition of her maternal ‘instincts’. She is being deviant against what society expects of her. So when you have story that features all these factors, it is fascinating beyond words. So I give you Delphine Lalaurie.

Delphine Lalaurie was a prominent socialite in New Orleans during the early 19th century. She and her family lived in 1140 Royal Street (see last picture), a beautiful grand house which threw lavish parties. As was typically for the time, the Lalauries had slaves who did all the hard and domestic labour. On the surface, the family appeared to be the 19th Century version of Jay Z/Beyonce, living an opulent lifestyle few could only imagine. Rumours had surfaced about Lalaurie’s treatment of slaves but since these were only rumours and the strength of her social position. These did not go anywhere.  However 10th April 1834, everything changed.

Fire broke out at the Lalaurie mansion, the fire services hurried to scene. During the chaos, the firemen entered the house and found their way to the basement. There they were met with grisly sight. Seven slaves were found chained and horrifically tortured. Here the extend of Madame Lalaurie’s cruelty was revealed, how she beat them with a whip, starved them, gouged out their eyes, removed their fingernails and made them wear iron collars. Once she had whipped a young girl so severely that she fell out of a window to avoid more punishment (her crime, to pull too hard on Lalaurie’s hair as she brushed it). New Orleans high society was outraged by the scandal, a mob looted the mansion, but what happened to the Lalauries? Officially no one knows, some theorise that they went to France. What is clear is that Delphine was never punished she deserved and her victims were never given the justice they deserved either.

Even with the passage of time, the horror of Madame Lalaurie’s crime has not lessened. The mansion has had many make overs since the tragic events, legend has it that the spirits of Lalaurie’s slaves still haunt 1140 Royal Street, hoping to have their voices heard and their stories told.

DELPHINE-LALAURIE

Lalaurie house

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