New Orleans attracts visitors from all over the world. The city is recognized for its famous Mardi Gras events, exquisite down-home Southern cuisines and lively spirits. Besides the presence of fanfare and mellow cheers in the French Quarter, manifestations of the dead seem to appear around certain parts of the city.
Spiritual talks, apparition sightings and conjuring voodoo spells are nothing new for residents in New Orleans. In fact, these spirits seem to have found a way to reconnect with their beloved city.
Eager visitors can be found wandering the downtown streets listening to ghost stories told by tour guides. If you ever get a chance to venture around the French Quarter, make plans to go on one of these paranormal outings. Although some people shy away from these scary exhibitions, others may find it quite interesting to learn about the history behind each ghost story.
Many homes in Louisiana have a tale to tell behind each beam, window and door. The stories have been infused into the very foundation of these homes. One example is the infamous Lalaurie mansion. This residence still resonates in the minds of citizens in the French Quarter. The murders that took place there continue to captivate the city.
Marie Delphine Lalaurie and her third husband, physician Leonard Louis Nicholas Lalaurie, moved into the home in 1832. The couple resided at 1140 Royal Street not far from Voodoo priestess Queen Marie Laveau — who was thought to have special powers over the city.
Lalaurie and Laveau were powerful women during the antebellum period of New Orleans when money and greed ruled the high-class society.
The art of manipulation was in full swing as money was no object for Madame Lalaurie. She supplied her home with the best furnishings, silverware and paintings. Known for hosting parties with high society elites and having political ties in the city, it was only a matter of time before folks discovered Madame Lalaurie’s devilish ways.
In 1836, neighbors gave eyewitness testimony about the death of 12-year-old Leah. Leah was one of Madame Lalaurie’s slaves. As the story goes, Leah was brushing her mistress’s hair until she hit a tangle. Immediately, Madame Lalaurie responded by grabbing her whip and running after the little girl.
What happened next was tragic. To escape the lashing, Leah ran to the roof of the home. Frantically looking back, trying to avoid the lashing, she fell to her death.
The city of New Orleans charged Madame Lalaurie a $300 fine for cruelty and made her release nine slaves. But that was not the end of the story. Needless to say, she continued to abuse her slaves.
On April 10, 1834, a fire broke out at the Lalaurie mansion. Firemen responded and found a 70-year old slave woman, the cook, chained to the stove. The old woman confessed to starting the fire in an attempt to avoid punishment from Madame Lalaurie.
The Lalauries were entertaining company when the fire broke out. Eyewitness accounts say that Madame Lalaurie was more concerned with retrieving the items from her home than helping her servants out of the fire.
As firefighters rescued the servants they made a grim discovery when they reached the third floor attic.
From the New Orleans Bee written in April 11, 1834:
“Upon entering one of the apartments the most appalling 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.”
As a result, people at the scene of the fire spoke of the atrocities that were going on inside the home. They found naked slaves bound and chained to the walls inside the attic. It was even speculated that some individuals were used for human experimentation.
Public outrage poured and boiled over as citizens vandalized the home. In the end, the Lalauries quietly slipped away.
Madame Lalaurie and her husband were said to have fled to Paris but nobody really knows. The Lalaurie home is listed as one of the most haunted mansions in America.
Over the years, there have been several sightings of Leah standing on the roof and Madame Lalaurie herself walking the grounds of the home.
If you would like more information about Madame Lalaurie or haunted tours in New Orleans visit www.neworleansonline.com/new
orleans/tours/hauntedtours.html for more information.