The city of New Orleans, Louisiana is considered one of the most haunted places in the United States, but one house in particular, on the corner of Royal Street and Governor Nicholls Street, just a block from Bourbon, is said to be “the most haunted” in the otherwise spooky city.
A French Quarter House of Horror
The LaLaurie Mansion at 1140 Royal Street is home to one of the most gruesome tales of torture and mystery in New Orleans. On April 10, 1834, a fire broke out at the home of Madame Delphine LaLaurie and her third husband Dr. Louis LaLaurie and what the fire brigade found inside was horrified neighbors and the entire town.
This infamous mansion, featured in the FX show American Horror Story: Coven, would end up being one of the most horrifying crimes of the entire 19th Century.
“These people were best known in the city for being socialites. They threw lavish cocktail parties; they constantly entertained people,” Kalila Smith a tour guide with Haunted History Tours in New Orleans told Rare. “When this fire broke out, they were having a party at the time and partygoers became aware of people outside screaming, ‘Fire! Run, run!'”
Inside, the fire brigade found a 70-year-old woman chained to the kitchen stove. She admitted to starting the fire and pointed rescuers to an attic above the slave quarters.
“When they got up there, the doors were bolted and locked, but they could hear people inside screaming. They broke down the door to find slaves chained to the walls, victims of obviously mutilation and they were starved,” Smith said. “They had scars from being beaten numerous times, but they also looked like they’d been recipients of some sort of crude medical experiments.”
While Dr. LaLaurie was a surgeon, it was unclear if he was experimenting on his slaves or if he was performing legitimate — for the time — medical procedures, Smith said.
The slaves, dead and alive, were brought into the streets from the attic, many still clasped in iron collars, as horrified neighbors looked on at the result of their gruesome mistreatment in the LaLauries’ hidden torture chamber.
As the chaos built, the LaLauries and their two children vanished into the night.
The LaLaurie House was Immediately Seen as a Hotbed of Paranormal Activity
“It’s a mystery as to where they went. A lot of people say there’s evidence as to where they went – which I have not seen — that they may have gone back to Paris,” Smith said, adding that there is some evidence that Madame LaLaurie died in a boar hunting accident in France sometime later. Other tales claim after she died, her body was brought back to New Orleans and buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the city’s oldest and most famous cemetery.
Soon after the fire and its horrific revelations, the LaLaurie Mansion became known as “The Haunted House” and locals went out of their way to avoid it. People claimed they heard screams and cries coming from the home.
As far as its real estate value goes after the LaLauries fled, the mansion went 40 years before it had another occupant.
“Many people shared the house for some time; it was a tenement,” Smith said. “One story was from a young woman who was the mother of twin infants and she said that she got up one night to check on her babies and when she crossed the hallway, she said that a figure of a woman dressed in black was at the top of the stairway and that she’s throwing her baby down the stairs.”
The mother ran into her babies’ room and found them sleeping soundly in their crib but the following night, she saw the figure standing over the crib in the middle of the night.
“When she rushed towards it, the woman vanished but a sock was shoved in the baby’s mouth,” Smith said.
Others say they have seen the ghost of a young girl playing around the mansion. (Possibly a slave girl.) Many ghost tour guests have photographed orbs and ectoplasm along the balcony when they are near the home.
“And, of course, we’ve had over 100 people faint on the tour. All in the same place in the area right across from the courtyard in someone’s driveway and it’s sort of been where the onlookers would have been standing the night of the incident,” Smith told us.
The phenomena in the home takes place only in the area where the slave quarters were, according to Smith.
“There was really no energy in the house, the main part of the house; it was all in the back apartments where all the phenomena takes place,” she said, adding that many people have seen the apparition of a woman who appears to be peeking from behind the curtains, perhaps the mistress of the haunted house.
Unfortunately for ghost seekers, the home has been privately owned for years (including by Nicholas Cage, who owned it from 2007 to 2009) and is not currently open for tours. But if you are curious about the home and in the New Orleans area, check out Haunted History Tours for more about this mansion and other NOLA ghost stories.
This article was originally published October 30, 2017.