The Horrific Brutal Madame Delphine and Her House of Horrors
Madame Delphine LaLaurie is largely considered America's first female serial killer. She mutilated and tortured the enslaved people she hired to maintain her mansion.
Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a high society lady who lived in New Orleans. As with many families during these times, she kept enslaved people. She was considered a respected member of society and could be seen in public treating her staff well. However, it was behind closed doors that the truth lay. Laurie was one of the cruellest mistresses in history and America's first female serial killer. Rumour has been mixed with reality throughout the years, but even the truth proves her to be one of the most brutal women in history. So what is the truth of the socialite that experimented and murdered her slaves?
Marie Delphine McCarty was born in 1780 in New Orleans. Her father had moved from Ireland to Louisiana before her birth. Some records state that her mother was killed by one of their slaves. Although this would point to a motive for the cruelty, it has never been proven.
She married her first husband very young; he was a Spanish Officer, Don Ramon de Lopez Angulo. The couple had one daughter together before he died. Four years after this, Dephone married her second husband, Frenchman Jean Blanque. Blanque was a wealthy banker and lawyer; the couple had four children, three daughters and a son. Unfortunately, Banquo also passed away in 1816.
1140 Royal Street
Her third husband was a much younger doctor called Leonard Louis LaLaurie. Some reports state that Leonard left his wife much to her own devices and rarely saw her; other accounts will say that he was a willing accomplice in the murder and torture of the slaves. What is known is that Delphine was a rich woman, having inherited from two husbands. With this money, she purchased the property at 1140 Royal Street, New Orleans, later to become The Mansion of Horror.
To run such a large house, Delphine employed many Black people; it is thought as many as seventy-five at a time. In public, Delphine was polite and kind to them. She showed this further by granting two of them their freedom in 1819 and 1832. However, rumours soon started that she was not the same in private. This was also where rumours started that her husband was experimenting on them. It is a fact that she was also harsh to her children, whipping them as punishment. As stories continued, fewer people attended her lavish parties.
The House of Horror
Two stories that records can prove are the story of two enslaved people who took their own life to avoid her punishment. The first was a man who jumped out of a third-floor window rather than face his mistress. The window was then cemented shut, which can still be seen today. The second incident was a twelve-year-old girl; whilst brushing the mistress's hair, she pulled it by accident. Delphine flew into a rage and started trying to whip the girl. To escape her torment, the girl climbed onto the roof of the building, slipping and falling to her death.
Witnesses would state that they saw a body being buried in the garden. The police investigated; New Orleans had laws protecting enslaved people from cruel treatment. The mansion and Delphine were found to be inadequate and they fined Delphine $300. They also demanded that Delphine sell nine of her slaves. In a clever move, she sold these to family and friends to repurchase them a couple of months later.
The Cook Who Started a Fire
The parties continued until April 1834, when a fire broke out during one. It is thought that the seventy-year-old cook started it deliberately. Having been chained to the oven, she saw this as a means of escape. When the fire broke out, neighbours rushed to help, as did the local firefighters. When they arrived, only Delphine was out of the house. The group decided to search the building and help the others evacuate; what they saw would change everyone's perception of the high society lady.
This is where stories vary; when the rescuers went into the house, they found a locked attic room; kicking down the door, they found several enslaved people restrained there. They were all tortured; they were beaten, bloody and close to death. Reports state that their bodies had been mutilated, eyes removed, and skin frayed. There were also several dead bodies in the attic. Some reports say a handful of bodies; others state hundreds.
Some of the more gruesome reports tell stories of a woman whose bones had been broken and reset so she resembled a crab, holes that had been bored into skulls and enslaved people with their mouths sewn shut.
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. Language is powerless and inadequate to give a proper conception of the horror that 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. - Source
Some say these crimes were put on display for all to see, which is why a mob rioted. Some will state that it was simply the fire's aftermath; either way, a crowd of townspeople ransacked the house until almost nothing was left but the outer walls.
You may ask, where was Delphine during this? She had fled from the building, some state with her husband. It is primarily thought that she fled to Paris. Her daughter claimed that she received letters from her, although no one saw her or knew of her whereabouts.
In the late 1930s, a copper plate was found to have Delphine’s maiden name on the inscription stated she died in Paris on 7th December 1842, otters records cast doubt on this having the date as 1849. It is widely believed that she fled to Paris, only to once again return to New Orleans with a new name and continue her brutal ways. Her body has never been found, or any records that indicate conclusively what happened to her.
The House Remains
The house of horrors remains standing; it is a ghoulish place for thrill-seekers to visit. It is considered one of the most haunted houses In America. It is also cursed with strange noises, hauntings and a run of bad luck for owners. Everyone who has owned it has fallen on some misfortune. Nick Cage is one of the famous owners of the property and went bankrupt whilst living there. No one has lived there for longer than five years.
History may have exaggerated the horror within the house throughout the years, but it is clear that the cruelty occurred to these people. Although police did not use the word serial killer during Dephine's time, she would be considered one, in hindsight. Whether her husband was part of the torture has never been proven. It could be that she acted alone, or it could be that the couple were an early version of Fred and Rose West. Regardless, her hellish legend lives on.