Marie Delphine LaLaurie was a Louisiana-born socialite and serial killer known for her involvement in the torture and murder of slaves.
On April 10, 1834, during a party, a fire broke out in the kitchen of the LaLaurie mansion. The kitchen was separate from the home and located over the carriageway building across the courtyard. The firemen entered the building through the courtyard. To their surprise, there were two slaves chained to the stove in the kitchen. It appeared as though the slaves had set the fire themselves in order to attract attention. The fire itself was soon subdued.
The slaves directed the fire brigade to the attic. The door was bolted, forcing the fire brigade to use a battering ram to open the door. Inside the crawlspace attic was the stench of death. According to contemporary accounts, over a dozen disfigured and maimed slaves were manacled to the walls or floor. Several had allegedly been the subject of gruesome medical experiments.
The exact details are unclear; owing to the horrific nature of the crime, many details were either swept under the rug or embellished. Perhaps the most gruesome of Madame LaLaurie’s killings was discovered by a young pickpocket by the name of Christopher Knowles. Knowles had broken into the LaLaurie residence with intention of stealing jewelry and other valuables. He broke in through the window and on the floor he discovered a bucket filled with mutilated human genetalia. Next to the bucket was a body. The body appeared to have been force fed the contents of the bucket until he eventually died from choking. LaLaurie was even reported to have tortured and killed local activist Adam Wescount, reportedly gouging out his eyes and letting crows devour his remains. One man looked as though he had been victim of some bizarre makeshift sex change. Another one had a hole in his head where a stick had been inserted to “stir his brains”. A woman was trapped inside a small cage where her arms and legs had been badly broken and then reset at odd angles, making her appear as some sort of “human crab.” Another woman had her arms and legs removed and patches of her flesh had been sliced off in a circular motion to make her appear as a giant caterpillar. Some had their mouths stuffed with animal excrements, sewn shut, and had then starved to death. Others had their hands sewn to different parts of their bodies. One woman had her entrails pulled out of her stomach and was secured to the floor by her own intestines. A small boy of about twelve had the flesh on half of his face peeled back, revealing muscle, veins, and so forth. The wound had since been infested with disease and insects. Two men were found to have had their tongues sewed together. One girl wore a suit made from the skin of several skinned slaves, the limbs of which were hacked and use to decorate the grand gore chamber. Most disturbing of all was an elderly man whose penis was cut into 5 equal strands, each of which was attached to a hook and the body hoist to the ceiling, with two candles placed in his eye sockets to form a macabre chandalier. Most of the victims were found dead. Those who were still alive begged to be put out of their misery and died shortly after
Also discovered in the attic were teacups and saucers, encrusted with a “red substance.” There were several bottles lying about with what was assumed to be the same red substance, later identified as blood.
The discoveries were reported and described in the papers the next day, and a mob gathered outside of the LaLaurie Mansion, demanding justice. Mme. LaLaurie escaped by horse and carriage to Bayou St. John, where she allegedly paid the captain of a schooner to carry her across to Mandeville or Covington. Many claimed they escaped to Paris. Others say they remained on the outskirts of New Orleans.
Rumor had it that when the mob rushed after the carriage, they heard screams from the house. They thought the screams came from ghosts, which led to the rumors of the haunted house. A hundred years later, the skeletons of 75 people were found during a renovation.
I managed to track down the original newspaper, dated 1834, reporting the fire and subsequent findings at the LaLaurie mansion. Here follows an extract from the article:
“…the doors were pried open for the purpose of liberating them. Predisposed to taking this liberty, (if liberty it can be detailed) several gentlemen impelled by their feelings demanded the keys which were refused them in a gross and insulting manner. Upon entering one of the apartments the most apalling spectacle met their eyes. Several slaves more or less horribly mutilated, were seen suspended from the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other. Language is powerless and inadequate to give a proper recollection of the horror which a scene like this must have inspired. We shall not attempt it, but leave it rather to the reader’s imagination to picture what it was!
The slaves were the property of the demon in the shape of a woman whom we mentioned in the beginning of this article. They had been confined by her for several months in the situation from which they had thus been rescued and had merely been kept in existenceto prolong their sufferings and to make them taste all that the most refined cruelty could inflict. But why dwell upon the particulars! We feel confident that the community share with us our indignation, and that vengeance will fall, heavily full upon the guilty culprit. Without being superstitious, we cannot but regard the manner in which these atrocities have been brought to light as an especial interposition of heaven.
Since the above was in type, the populace have retired to the house of this woman and have demolished and destroyed everything upon which they could lay their hand. At the time of editing this story, the mob remained unbridled and threatens the total demolition of the entire edifice.”
Feel free to take a look at the newspaper yourself, should you feel the need to learn more details. There’s a short documentary on Madame LaLaurie on Youtube, you can also check that out below. I’m going outside and having a beer.