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Hauntings in America: The Lalaurie House

Ed Gein

In 1832, Dr. Louis Lalaurie moved he and his wife, Delphine into a Creole mansion located in the French Quarter. Today that mansion is known as the most haunted house in the French Quarter, and for good reason.

As with most inhabitants of mansions, the Lalauries were very rich and very prominent in New Orlean society. They became well known for their influence and social events held at the house located at 1140 Royal Street. The three story house was as extravagant as its wealthy owners, but there was more than meets the eye when it came to Mrs. Lalaurie. Hidden behind her elegant clothes and impeccable personal style that so impressed everyone she met was a dark soul that would make most murderers blush. She took out her dark side on the many slaves working in the home. People began suspecting the brutality and mistreatment little by little. Slaves seemed to be disposable to the Lalauries and friends and acquaintances began wondering why so many of the Lalaurie slaves disappeared.

When a neighbor heard a scream from the mansion one day she looked outside to see Mrs. Lalaurie chasing a young female slave, whip in hand, all the way to the roof of the house. The young girl then killed herself by jumping to her death. The neighbor notified the authorities, who investigated. Personal slaves were regarded as personal property at the time but there was a law on the books prohibiting cruel treatment of slaves. The Lalaurie slaves were impounded and sold to others at an auction but unfortunately for a lot of them, some of the auction buyers were related to the Lalauries and they secretly sold the slaves back to her.

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Rumors persisted about Mrs. Lalaurie, her brutality continued and then in 1834 a fire broke out in the kitchen. After the fire, firemen discovered a horrific reality in the attic. Mrs. Lalaurie had chained a dozen slaves to the wall, some strapped onto homemade operating tables, some in cages and scattered about the room were human body parts to plentiful it looked like Ed Gein had been living there. The sight in the mansion was too horrible for words. The victims were all naked. Some had their stomachs cut open. Some had their eyes poked out and genitals sliced off. Mrs. Lalaurie had been creative in her massive tortures. Some victims had their limbs removed or broken and set back in odd angles so as to deform them. Some survived the ordeal but most were already dead.

According to Prairierghosts.com, public opinion was that Mrs. Lalaurie alone was responsible for the tortures and most believed her husband probably knew about her extracurricular activities but did nothing to stop them. The two fled and disappeared from New Orleans. There was no legal action taken against them and no record that they ever returned to New Orleans.

It’s no wonder why the Lalaurie mansion is now plagued with ghosts from all the souls who died there. The house was left empty after the fire and many claimed to hear screams pouring out of the windows and see slaves still walking on the balconies or in the yards. A future owner only kept the house for three months before moving out and his attempts at leasing it were equally disappointing.

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After the Civil War the Lalaurie House was made into a high school for girls, then a music school, before closing due to a sexual scandal. Then a wealthy New Orleans young man named Jules Vignie moved in. He was found dead in the house a few years later. In the house with him was a collection of treasure and several thousand dollars in his mattress. After that there were rumors about a lost treasure, even though most were too scared to look for it.

Sightings and strange phenomena continued when the mansion was converted into a low rent apartment house. One occupant insisted he’d been attacked by a black man in chains who disappeared after the attack. Some children once saw a phantom woman with a whip, perhaps the ghost of the insane Mrs. Lalaurie herself. Soon no one would bother to live there, even if the rent was cheap.

The house has since changed to a bar and a furniture store. The bar was aptly named the Haunted Saloon. Neither the bar no the store succeeded. Now the house is back to being an apartment house, but a luxurious one and tenants today are a bit easier to keep than in the past. It almost seems that time has healed the wounds of the history of the old house. But you might wonder if such a brutal past can ever totally be forgotten.