Haunted House: The Spirits Inside the LaLaurie Mansion

The LaLaurie Mansion sits at the corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, an area that has been shrouded in mysterious and fantastical stories for centuries. Named for its most well-known and brutally cruel owner, Madame Marie Delphine MacCarthy LaLaurie, the mansion has been home to various owners, businesses, and institutions since it was first built.

Throughout its history, visitors and residents to the LaLaurie estate have reported strange, supernatural sightings and experiences, and thanks to the home’s dark history, there are plenty of theories as to the origins of these mysterious phenomena. So, who, or what, might be haunting the LaLaurie Mansion?

Madame Marie LaLaurie was not a nice woman. She was known throughout the city for her many marriages, love of lavish living, and passion for torturing slaves. When Madame LaLaurie and her physician husband moved into the mansion in 1832, slavery was still legal, a fact that Madame LaLaurie particularly relished. It quickly became known that Madame LaLaurie was particularly cruel to the enslaved people she kept in her home, and in fact, an investigation was even made at one time by local authorities who had heard of her cruelty.

For several years, the LaLaurie home ran without a hitch, with only the whispers of neighbors to bother the occupants of the mansion. Then, one day, a neighbor witnessed a child running in panic from a whip yielding Madame LaLaurie, who had chased her up to the roof and was threatening to flog her mercilessly. In a terrified effort to escape the enraged woman, the girl leapt from the roof, dying from the impact of hitting the ground below. The neighbor, who witnessed the whole thing, summoned the police, but there was not sufficient enough evidence to suggest that the LaLauries violated the law.

Madame LaLaurie’s illusions wouldn’t last long however, since only two years after the couple moved into the estate, the house caught fire, erupting in massive flames that sent Madame and Dr. LaLaurie running from the house. The neighbors, who knew the LaLauries to keep slaves, jumped into action at the first sign of the flames, working together to kick in the doors and run through the house in search of the people who remained inside.

What the neighbors and firefighters found in the home was horrific and has fueled stories of hauntings ever since. Several slaves were found, with one old woman in particular chained in the kitchen. Later, it was determined that this woman was the one who had started the fire in an attempt to kill herself rather than live under the tyrannical rule of Madame LaLaurie any longer.

More horrific still was the scene discovered in the mansion’s attic. There, the authorities and neighbors discovered countless African American people hung from the rafters, most deceased, covered in the signs of horrendous and extended abuse. Subjected to beatings, mutilations, starvation, and every manner of torture imaginable, the attic of the LaLaurie Mansion was surely the site of countless deaths at the hands of the wealthy socialite.

Though the LaLauries were chased out of the home, New Orleans, and the U.S. entirely, the imprint of their horrific acts still haunts the mansion today. Visitors over the years have reported hearing blood-curdling screams, the sounds of chains clinking, the sounds of whips cracking, and the moans of what sound like humans being tortured, earning the LaLaurie Mansion a place among America’s most haunted buildings.

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