BRUTAL "FEMALE" SLAVE MASTER:
Known as "Madame LaLaurie,” (first photo) a prominent
socialite in New Orleans, twice widowed, was born Marie Delphine
McCarty, in 1775 to Louis Barthelemy McCarty and Vevue McCarty,
prominent members of the New Orleans community.
Augustine McCarty, Delphine McCarty's brother, was
elected mayor of New Orleans in 1812, certainly helping to further
Delphine's position of social prominence in the New Orleans community.
Both Barthelemy and Vevue died during a slave revolt in Haiti between
these times. This event may have influenced Delphine's attitude towards
In 1831, she and her physician husband, Dr. Louis
LaLaurie bought a beautiful mansion at 1140 Royal St. It majestically
set on the corner of Governor Nicholls St. and Royal St. Delphine
reveled in maintaining position in the center of the social circles in
New Orleans. She enjoyed throwing lavish soirees, entertaining the most
prominent people in the city. In addition to being so renown for her
parties, she was best noted for her well-behaved slaves.
In 1834, a crime occurred that shocked the city beyond
belief. A crime that eventually became known...as the blemish of the
city. A woman by the name of Delphine LaLaurie became a common name in
New Orleans’ dark history.
In the spring of 1833, Delphine had planned what was
to be the finest soiree to impress the upper echelon of the city. She
had catered the finest cuisine known to the city. Her slaves had made
sure that all of the china and silver were cleaned and polished to
perfection. She had the most beautiful gown that she had purchased in
Paris. Everything had been planned for what she expected to be her most
elaborate celebration to date.
As party guests arrived, Delphine remained in her boudoir preparing
herself for her entrance. It was customary for her to make her
appearance well after the guests had arrived. It seemed being
fashionably late gave her the opportunity to make the biggest impression
and receive the most attention. Madame LaLaurie had long black hair
that her slaves would strategically style on top of her head. It was a
Delphine LaLaurie’s hair was being combed by Leah, a
12-year-old slave girl. As Leah combed the Madame’s long tresses, she
accidentally hit a snag, pulling Madame LaLaurie’s hair. In a fit of
rage, the angry Madame reached into a drawer and pulled out a bullwhip.
She began to chase Leah around the room in an attempt to beat her. Leah
ran out into the hall and through a door that led to a small balcony
that hovered over the carriage way.
Madame LaLaurie continued to chase the girl, screaming
at her in French. In an attempt to flee the angry Madame, Leah climbed
onto the balcony railing. She lost her footing and plunged to the
courtyard below. Her limp body hit the ground just as Madame LaLaurie’s
cousin was stepping out of his carriage.
Unable to conceal the crime, charges of abuse were brought upon Delphine
LaLaurie. This was one of several charges that had been placed upon
her for abusing slaves. The court charged Madame LaLaurie a fine of
only $300.00, a mere slap on the wrist for a woman of her wealth. Her
slaves however, were taken away from her and sold at public auction.
Delphine LaLaurie convinced a relative to purchase the slaves and return
them to her.
Soon the incident was set aside and life returned to
normal in the LaLaurie household. On April 10, 1834, Delphine LaLaurie
had yet another incident, taking place during a party. A fire broke out
in the kitchen of the home. The large gray mansion was typical of
Spanish architecture at the time. The kitchen was separate from the
home, over the carriage way building across the courtyard.
The fire brigade entered the building through the
courtyard. Much to their surprise there were two slaves chained to the
stove in the kitchen. It was apparent that these slaves started the
fire in the hopes of bringing attention to the activities inside the
The slaves directed the fire brigade to small attic
crawl space located directly off of the balcony. The door was bolted
and locked from the outside, yet screams and cries could be heard
within. The fire brigade used a battering ram to knock down the door. As
the door flung open, seasoned firemen who had no doubt been exposed to
death before, literally fell to their down, vomiting at the stench of
death that permeated from the room.
Once composed, they entered the room. There inside
were at least a dozen slaves that had been the obvious victims of very
crude medical experimentations. They were chained to the walls, maimed
Their faces had been disfigured, making them look more
like gargoyles than humans. One man looked as if he had been the
victim of some crude sex change operation. One poor soul, a woman, had
managed to break free from her shackles. Instead of being relieved that
someone had come to rescue her, she ran in fear of further torture. She
made it past the rescuers, in through the house, then jumped through a
window. She fell to her death on the balcony below.
The window remains sealed to this day. Another victim
had her arms amputated and her skin peeled off in a circular pattern,
making her look like a human caterpillar. Yet another, had been locked
in a cage that the newspaper described as barely large enough to
accommodate a medium size dog. Breaking the cage open, the rescuers
found that LaLaurie’s had broken all of her joints resetting them at odd
angles so she resembled a human crab. Body parts were in jars on
shelves in the room.
As the survivor’s were being removed from the
residence a mob of the party guests assembled outside, outraged at what
had obviously been going on within this house. They had no idea what
kind of monsters the LaLaurie’s were. Before the angry crowd could
ransack the house and find the LaLaurie’s, the family slipped out
through the carriage way and disappeared at the river’s edge.
Many believed that the LaLaurie’s perhaps went back to
Paris. But later evidence points to them possibly settling on the
northshore of New Orleans near Mandeville.
Immediately following the episode, the building became known as the
“Haunted House.” Neighbors swore they could hear screams and cries
coming from within. Superstitious New Orleans townsfolk refused to walk
on the same side of the street. Many avoided the block completely.
The house was vacant for forty years.
Several different accounts of Delphine LaLaurie’s
death are given. One report says she was killed by a wild boar in a
hunting accident in France. Another story in The Daily Picayune in March
1892 insists she died among friends and family in Paris. Other accounts
say that Delphine Lalaurie never left Louisiana and dwelled on the
Northshore of Lake Ponchartrain for the remainder of her days.
Forty years later, the area was home to Italian
immigrants. There are stories from the families who lived in the house
at that time of seeing a large male covered in chains and blood walking
the balcony. The children reported seeing a woman screaming in French
chasing them with a whip.
One woman, a mother of twin babies, awoke in the
middle of the night to find that a sock had been shoved into the mouth
of one of the babies. Animals were found decapitated in the courtyard.
Another resident of the house, reported seeing a man wandering around
the courtyard holding his head in his hands. Before long these people
vacated the home. Again, the house was vacant for several years.
It later was used a furniture store. Shortly after the store had opened
for business, the owner entered the shop one morning to find that the
entire inventory had been covered in urine, feces and blood. Believing
he had been vandalized, he had the mess cleaned up and ordered a new
inventory. When he experienced the same thing a second time, he decided
to wait in the building with a shotgun. In the morning, the inventory
had been destroyed again, but no vandals had entered the building. He
soon moved the business.
One individual tried to open what was to be “The
Haunted Saloon” but locals refused to patron the place. Again, it sat
vacant. Eventually the house was renovated into apartments as it is
today. Much of the house was in serious disrepair. When floor boards
were replaced in the 3rd floor slave quarters, the bodies of seventy
five people were found who had been buried alive! The screams and cries
heard in the early weeks after the fire were real.
Thinking these cries to be ghosts, no one even
attempted to save these poor souls. The remains were removed from the
property. To this day, this house is considered to be the most haunted
in the city. It is said that on dark, stormy nights, one can still hear
the scream of a young girl echoing down into the courtyard.
In April of 2007, Actor Nicolas Cage quietly paid
$3,450,000 for the mansion. Cage purchased the mansion through his
Hancock Park Real Estate Company LLC, according to public records.