300 LaLaurie

"Haunted House with Ghost," a hand-colored glass slide of the LaLaurie Mansion, 1890

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Elvert M. Cormack/The Historic New Orleans Collection

The gruesome story of what happened to slaves at LaLaurie Mansion, like any tall tale, has grown over time. The house at 1140 Royal Street was built by Delphine LaLaurie, a Creole socialite, married to Dr. Leonard LaLaurie, her third husband. While there was talk of how badly she treated her slaves, it was unknown just how badly until April 10, 1834, when a fire, set by a kitchen slave chained to the stove, broke out in the mansion.

Guests broke into the slave quarters after LaLaurie refused to give them the keys. There, “seven slaves more or less horribly mutilated were seen suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other,” according to a story in the New Orleans Bee newspaper. Once word of the tortured slaves was reported, a mob descended on the home, demolishing everything but the walls, according to the Bee. LaLaurie reportedly escaped to Paris.

The tale of the tortured slave was retold by George Washington Cable and others who added gruesome details to the stories. In Jeanne DeLavigne’s 1945 “Ghost Stories of New Orleans one slave’s intestines were pulled out and knotted around naked waists. LaLaurie has gained further notoriety in the 21st Century, perhaps because the mansion was owned by actor Nicholas Cage from 2007 until 2009. LaLaurie is a character in a board game, a video game and in the third season of “American Horror Story,” LaLaurie, played by Kathy Bates, was brought back to life.