April 10, 1834 in New Orleans, Louisiana…
A fire erupted at the mansion located at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter. It was the home of Delphine LaLaurie and her husband, Dr. Leonard LaLaurie.
The fire was started by the cook, a 70 year old slave. The woman had been chained to the stove and was beaten regularly. She allegedly started the fire in an attempt to kill herself and escape the cruelty of her master.
Marie Delphine Macarty was born March 19, 1787 in New Orleans. She was the one of five children born to Louis de McCarty and Marie-Jeanne L ‘Érable. Her uncle was Governor of Louisiana and Florida and her cousin was mayor of New Orleans.
At 14 years old, she married Don Ramón de Lopez y Angulo, a Spanish royal officer. He married without permission of the Spanish king and was exiled. He was eventually given a new position as consul to New Orleans, but died shortly after the birth of his daughter in 1805.
In 1808, Delphine married Jean Blanque. He was a banker and lawyer. The couple had 4 children before Jean’s death in 1816. When he died, the couple was deeply in debt, but Delphine was able to build herself back up with the help of an inheritance from her parents.
Delphine married her third husband, Dr. Leonard in 1825. He was 16 years younger than her. She met him when she took her daughter to see him for a curved spine. He didn’t fix the girl’s spine, but he stole her mother’s heart. By this time, Delphine had her own fortune and commissioned the mansion on Royal Street herself. She gave birth to the couple’s son 5 months before they were married.
The happiness was short lived and the couple began fighting so loudly that the neighbors could hear. Some reports say that Dr. Leonard moved out in early 1834.
Fighting wasn’t all the neighbors heard. There were also rumors that Delphine treated her slaves inhumanely, despite laws in New Orleans that prohibited such treatment.
In 1833, Delphine’s personal slave, 12 year old Lia, fell (or jumped… or was pushed) to her death from the 3rd story of the house. The young girl was brushing her mistress’s hair when she hit a snag. This sent Delphine into a rage. She chased Lia around the house, finally cornering her by the window. The young slave died when she hit the sidewalk below. Rumor says that she was buried that night in the yard of the property.
This led to an investigation of the treatment of the LaLaurie slaves. The inquest found that their conditions were deplorable and 9 of them were sold, Delphine was fined and the window from which the young girl fell was concreted over.
Unfortunately, the slaves were sold to a relative of Delphine’s who bought them back and secreted them into to the mansion in the middle of the night.
When the fire broke out in the house in 1834, the police, fire marshals and neighbors rushed to the scene. They found the slave quarters locked. They needed to evacuate and requested the keys to the attic, but the LaLauries did not hand them over. A group of men broke the door down and the literal skeletons in Delphine’s closet were exposed to the public.
Accounts vary, but there were at least 7 slaves in the small room who had clearly been there for months. All of the men, women and at least one child had suffered torture. Their bodies were mutilated.
Judge Jean-Francois Canonge said that he found a female slave wearing an iron collar and another with a deep cut to her head that was unable to walk. Judge Jean said that he asked Dr. Leonard about his slaves, but was told to mind his own business.
The slaves found in the LaLaurie mansion were starving and showed signs of being beaten.
They were taken to be cared for and displayed to the public as proof of the crimes committed against them. Almost 2000 people came to see them.
Two of the slaves taken from the mansion that day died soon after. A search of the property uncovered at least two shallow graves on the property.
Delphine fled from the mansion in her carriage and never returned to New Orleans. Dr. Leonard abandoned her and their son a few years later.
The house was ransacked by an angry mob.
The house stayed empty for many years before it was converted to a school for girls in the mid to late 1800s. It was a mixed raced school until it became a school for African-American girls only.
Actor Nicholas Cage purchased the house in 2009. In 2011, it was auctioned off after the actor filed bankruptcy.
It is currently a private residence.
There is some debate as to whether the slaves were mistreated solely by Delphine, or if her husband was also to blame. In fact, on two occasions, Delphine had freed slaves that she owned. One after the death of her second husband, as a condition of his will. The other, in 1832. It was also said that she seemed to show her slaves kindness in public.
Some reports say that much of the abuse inflicted on the slaves was done by the doctor who was conducting medical experiments on them.
Delphine died in Paris in 1849. Her body was taken back to New Orleans and buried in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in 1851.
The house is now a regular stop for ghost hunters and tours of New Orleans. Referred to by many as “the haunted house,” there are many reports of ghosts and other paranormal activity in and around the house.
A video summary of this week’s post can be found at