A Southern Haunting - The Infamous LaLaurie Mansion Then and Now

Thursday, October 31, 2013

 If you've been watching the newest season of "American Horror Story - Coven" you may be familiar with the Lalaurie Mansion.  Kathy Bates plays the infamous Madame Delphine Lalaurie, the Louisiana socialite and serial killer whose atrocities against her slaves has become folklore legend.

Madame Lalaurie purchased the property at 1140 Royal Street in 1831.  The three story mansion was completed in 1832 and Delphine Lalaurie moved in with her husband and daughters.  By 1834 rumors were abound of Madame Lalaurie's poor treatment of her slaves.  A witness claiming to see Delphine chasing the daughter of a slave off of the roof of the mansion launched an investigation by a local lawyer.  The body of the young girl is claimed to have been secretly buried at the back of the property.  On April 10, 1834 the Lalaurie mansion was set on fire by a seventy year old woman, the cook, who was found chained to the stove.  She later confessed that she set the fire as a suicide attempt to evade her punishment.  What kind of punishment could create such fear?  For her it was being taken to the uppermost room.  Those who went to the uppermost room never came back. Neighbors and bystanders responding to the fire were denied entry to the slave quarters by Dr. and Madame Lalaurie.  Taking matters into their own hands, bystanders broke down the doors of the slave quarters.  Upon entry they discovered seven slaves described as horribly mutilated, suspended by the neck, stretched and torn from limb to limb. They claimed to have been imprisoned there for months.   It was reported that a search of the grounds uncovered two bodies, including that of a small girl.

Word of the horrors inflicted by Madame Lalaurie whipped the towns people into a frenzy.  Collectively they stoned and ransacked the mansion, driving Delphine into hiding.  It is believed that she fled to Paris, but her whereabouts are unknown.  In 1842 a cracked copper plate was discovered in alley #4 of the St. Louis Cemetery.  The inscription on the plate read "Madame Lalaurie, née Marie Delphine McCarty, décédée a Paris, le 7 Décembre, 1842".
The home was rebuilt after the fire.  From 1834 until 2010 1140 Royal Street has been turned over time and time again.  It has been multiple retail stores, a saloon, music conservatory, home for delinquents and chopped up into apartments.  The fact that no one stays for more than a few years is the only constant for this dwelling.  That and the claims of constant paranormal activity in the home.
In 2010 the Lalaurie mansion was purchased by Michael Whalen, an energy trader in Houston.  He called on interior designer Kati Stassi-Scott to help renovate the legendary home and take it from freaky to fabulous.  With time and a lot of courage this historic home is now a refined space with a wonderful mix of history and modern day design. 




 It's hard to believe that this beautiful home is watched from the street for signs of ghostly apparitions.  The ears of those passing by tingle with the anticipation of hearing the cries of Madame Lalaurie's victims.  Stassi-Scott has worked her magic, taking the country's most ghoulish abode and making it truly beautiful and inviting.  This may be the greatest challenge for an interior designer.  You can see the full house tour and interview with Kati Stassi-Scott here. 

Happy Halloween

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