The Strange and Horrifying History of the LaLaurie Mansion

The Strange and Horrifying History of the LaLaurie Mansion

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New Orleans is full of ghosts. In fact, some people claim that it’s the most haunted city in America. But one haunted house in particular stands out, both for the horrors of its past and the odd tale of its more recent history.

Spoiler alert: Nicolas Cage is involved.

Delphine LaLaurie

The house at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter is one of the most popular stops on New Orleans ghost tours. Made of sober gray stone and ringed with a wrought-iron balcony, it looks like any other grand old building in the Quarter. Tourists flock to see the haunted mansion–but they might not know that it isn’t the original house where unbelievable atrocities took place in the 1830s.

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Delphine LaLaurie, a wealthy socialite, lived at the address with her third husband. They hosted the highest of high society in lavish parties at their home. The guests never suspected that the lady of the house was torturing and mutilating slaves.

The first hint that something terrible was happening in that house came when a young enslaved girl fell to her death from the third story of the house after being menaced by Delphine over a minor mistake. But it wasn’t until 1834 when a fire broke out at the house that the true extent of Delphine’s depravity became clear.

What They Found at the House

The 19th century first responders found the elderly enslaved cook literally chained to the stove. She had set the fire intentionally and told the rescuers that more slaves were kept in a locked room at the top of the house. The LaLauries initially refused to give over the key to the room, and when the door was broken down, witnesses reported finding “seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated … suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other.”

Once it became widely known what Delphine LaLaurie had done, an angry mob demolished what the house fire had not already destroyed. She fled to France to escape justice. The house as it stands today was built on the ashes of the original property in 1838.

Delphine LaLaurie has continued to be a major presence in pop culture. Fan of American Horror Story will recognize the name–and the house–from season three. Kathy Bates sank her teeth into the role as a serial killer who tortured her slaves and killed them for ingredients in her “beauty potions.” Elements of her backstory on the show are accurate, although obviously a lot of the details are invented.

Chad and Carey Hayes, the twin filmmakers behind The Conjuring franchise, reportedly wanted to create a film centered on the LaLaurie house in 2019, but we’re still waiting to hear updates.

The Haunting

If ghosts are created by trauma and death, then it’s no wonder that the LaLaurie Mansion is so terribly haunted. Even if it’s not the original house, the ground itself might well be tainted with the horror that happened there.

However, when the building was converted into a boarding house in the 1890s, a resident was murdered there. Strangely, he claimed to be stalked by something sinister in the house shortly before his death.

In their infinite wisdom, a later owner converted the building into a school for young Black girls. The students complained of scratches and bruises on their arms. And they said “that woman” did it to them. It’s hard not to draw a line between the abuse of these girls to Madame LaLaurie.

Modern ghost hunters have experienced paranormal phenomena and intense psychic distress at the house.

The Nicolas Cage Connection

We all know that Nicolas Cage is… let’s go with “eccentric.” The story of how he blew $150 million on weird, extravagant purchases is internet legend. Stolen dinosaur skulls, shrunken heads, and the world’s rarest comic book were just a few of the items on his shopping spree.

Most of the money, however, went to property. He bought multiple houses (and a private island) with a large chunk of that cash. One of the properties he purchased was the LaLaurie Mansion, which cost him $3.4 million.

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Cage has an affinity for New Orleans. In fact, he plans to be buried in the Big Easy and has already purchased his own tomb. He bought the last two remaining plots in the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where he erected a 9-foot-tall white pyramid marked with the Latin motto of the Rosicrucians. Honestly, we could probably do an entire post just on the weirdness of Nicolas Cage. But back to the mansion.

Here’s what he said about buying the mansion, as told to the Daily Mail: “I once lived in the most haunted house in America. The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans used to belong to Madame LaLaurie, a well-known 19th century socialite and serial killer. I bought it in 2007, figuring it would be a good place in which to write the great American horror novel. I didn’t get too far with the novel.”

The property was later sold in a foreclosure auction (likely during Cage’s battle with the IRS over back taxes) and was bought by a development company.