American Hauntings Podcast

Madame Delphine LaLaurie Part 2

Episode Summary

Cody and Troy break down the fact vs fiction on Madame Delphine LaLaurie and the infamous LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Episode Notes

Cody and Troy break down the fact vs fiction on Madame Delphine LaLaurie and the infamous LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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On April 10, 1843, a fire broke out in the home of Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine. The house, located on Royal Street, was one of the showplaces of Creole New Orleans. The mansion had played host to some of the most elaborate soirees and parties in the city but in recent months, rumors about the treatment of some of the LaLaurie slaves had caused some party invitations to be declined.

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Want to read ahead for this season? Check out the book Haunted New Orleans by Troy Taylor.

This episode was written by Troy Taylor. Produced and edited by Cody Beck.

Theme music by Charlie Brockus and Alan T Fagan.

Monologue Music by Josh Flori  and myuu.

Episode Transcription

Welcome to the new episode of American Hauntings, the podcast dedicated to the history, hauntings, legends, and lore of America’s past. The show is hosted by Cody Beck and Troy Taylor and we want to welcome you to our fourth season, “Haunted New Orleans.”

If you are tuning into the podcast for the first time, we suggest you start listening to the “Haunted New Orleans” season with episode 53, which is where this season begins and where we set the stage for the many dark tales ahead.

And here’s another warning too – this is the second part of a two-part episode about the LaLaurie Mansion, the most haunted house in the city’s history. If this is your first time listening, you’ll hear the beginning of this story in Episode 54.

So, burn some sage, make sure the lights are on, and prepare yourself for the next episode of Haunted New Orleans and the dark secrets of Delphine LaLaurie.

On April 10, 1843, a fire broke out in the home of Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine. The house, located on Royal Street, was one of the showplaces of Creole New Orleans. The mansion had played host to some of the most elaborate soirees and parties in the city but in recent months, rumors about the treatment of some of the LaLaurie slaves had caused some party invitations to be declined.

Members of Creole society were just about to find out that many of those rumors were true.

When the fire started, it began in the kitchen. Accounts say that it then spread to the upper floors. As smoke billowed out the windows overlooking the street, it got the attention of passersby and neighbors who hurried to the house to lend assistance. Legend says that the fire was purposely started by the cook, who was kept chained in the kitchen. She allegedly stated that she would rather burn to death than endure any more of the abuse she had suffered at the hands of Madame LaLaurie.

An alarm was sounded to the volunteer fire department, members of which were soon on the scene with water and to help remove people and household items from the mansion. Locals crowded into the house, some to help, others perhaps out of sheer curiosity. Many rushed about the scene, shouting and adding to the growing chaos. Delphine remained calm in the midst of it all, directing volunteers and steering firefighters toward the worst of the flames. She was intent on saving the house, and everyone who recalled that day stated that she never panicked or raised her voice.

Monsieur Montreuil, (MON-TREEL) the neighbor who had first aroused suspicion about Delphine and the treatment of her servants, assisted during the fire. He demanded to know if any of the household slaves were in danger from the blaze and was allegedly told not to interfere in family business.

Montreuil (MON-TREEL) then appealed to his friend, Judge Canonge, (CAN-OJ) and they began searching the house. They were accompanied by a man named Fernandez and many of the firefighters. Several of the servants were found as the men climbed the stairs to the upper floors and sent out of the house.

According to a statement that was later given by Judge Canonge (CAN-OJ), a man named Felix Lefebvre (LA-FEEV-RAY) had approached him in the house and told him that he had looked through a broken pane of glass and saw several slaves in a locked room. Several men went with Lefebvre (LA-FEEV-RAY) and broke into the room.

They found two slaves inside, both women. One of them had a heavy metal collar around her neck and chains attached to her feet. She directed the men to another nearby room where they found a third female slave stretched out on a bed. She was an old woman with a deep wound on her head. She was too weak to get out of bed on her own, and when the men helped her up, she was unable to walk. The men hoisted the mattress with her lying on it and carried her out of the house.

Meanwhile, Montreuil (MON-TREEL) and Judge Canonge (CAN-OJ) had finally reached the upper floor through the smoke to discover a wooden door that led to the attic. It was locked. According to the New Orleans Courier of April 11, 1834, Judge Canonge (CAN-OJ) sought out Dr. LaLaurie, who was also present in the house. He is said to have asked him politely to open the attic door so that they could check for the presence of slaves, but the judge received rude reply: “There are those who would be better employed if they would attend to their own affairs instead of officiously intermeddling with the concerns of others.”

It’s hard to know what to make of this statement by Dr. LaLaurie, and of his refusal to open the attic door. It’s possible that he felt the attic was in no danger from the fire and didn’t want the men poking around up there – since he undoubtedly knew what they would find. His statement was surely meant in reference to his neighbor, Montreuil, (MON-TREEL) who had already caused problems for the family over the treatment of their slaves. He had earlier tried to protect the reputation of his wife – or likely that of the entire family – by freeing a mistreated slave so that his story would not become public.  The couple had recently suffered embarrassment at having their slaves impounded, and he know that discovery of what was hidden in the attic would leave the family in ruin.

He turned out to be right about that.

Dr. LaLaurie probably believed that his refusal to open the door would be enough to turn the men away, but he had not counted on the persistence of Montreuil (MON-TREEL) and Judge Canonge (CAN-OJ). The judge ordered the firefighters to break open the door and they forced themselves into the attic. 

What greeted them behind the door shocked and dismayed the men. According to the New Orleans Bee for April 11, 1834:

“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. These slaves had been confined by the woman LaLaurie for several months in the situation from which they had thus providentially been rescued, and had been merely kept in existence to prolong their suffering and to make them taste all that the most refined cruelty could inflict.”

The New Orleans Courier added:

“A most appalling sight was presented in the shape of several wretched negroes emerging from the fire, their bodies covered with scars and loaded with chains. Amongst them was a female slave, upwards of 60 years of age who could not move… We saw one of the miserable beings. The sight was so horrible that we could scarce not look at it. The most savage heart could not have witnessed the spectacle unmoved. He had a large hole in his head. His body was covered from head to foot with scars and filled with worms. The sight inspired us with such horror that even in the moment of writing this article we shudder from its effects. Those who have seen the others represent them to be in similar condition.”

In some accounts of the discovery behind the attic door – and these are modern ones, NOT accounts written in 1834 -- detailed descriptions of all sorts of perverse tortures and experiments have added. Tales have been told of makeshift operating tables, slaves locked in cages, bodies cut open and holes that had been cut into human skulls in order for the victim’s brains to be stirred. In most cases, the New Orleans Bee is cited as the source for this horror, but a check of the actual newspaper accounts proves this to be untrue.

ALL the stories and eyewitness accounts of the time confirm the discovery of the badly treated slaves in the house, as well as the horrific condition of the slaves kept in the attic. The story of the hole cut in the man’s head “so that his brains could be stirred” undoubtedly came from the Courier’s mention of the man with the hole in his head, his wounds, and worms or maggots. This was referring to a deep wound, not an actual hole. Even so, he had been left in the attic with his wounds untreated for so long that maggots had been found in his cuts.

Later sources from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including some written by New Orleans natives who knew the case, also failed to mention anything other than the emaciated slaves who had wounds that were consistent with a long period of incarceration and abuse.

This doesn’t make things any better, of course. The slaves suffered horribly at the hands of a cruel and malicious master. Lurid tales of medical experiments take away from the fact that this was a horrible, vile situation.

The first mention that I located of the terrible experiments, which have since become a staple in the re-telling of the LaLaurie story, is in 1946. In the book Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans, author Jeanne deLavigne (DE-LA-VEEN) claims that the first men who entered the attic found:

…powerful male slaves, stark naked, chained to the wall, their eyes gouged out, their fingernails pulled out by the roots; others had their joints skinned and festering, great holes in their buttocks where their flesh had been sliced away, their ears hanging by shreds, their lips sewed together, their tongues drawn out and sewed to their chins, severed hands stitched to their bellies, legs pulled joint to joint. Female slaves there were, their mouths and ears crammed with ashes and chicken offal and bound tightly; others had been smeared with honey and were a mass of black ants. Intestines were pulled out and knotted around naked waists. There were holes in skulls, where a rough stick had been inserted to stir the brains. Some of the creatures were dead; some were unconscious; and a few were still breathing, suffering agonies beyond power to describe.

It’s certainly a terrifying scene – but there’s not a shred of truth to it. The story created for the book was picked up, told, and re-told by various authors over the years. It’s been repeated time and time again, often by people who should have known better. What Delphine LaLaurie did to her slaves was horrible, but apparently, by the 1940s, just mistreating and abusing your slaves was not horrible enough. To make the story even more frightening, it had to be taken one step further.

Looking back on this story today, we can see what Delphine did in the house on Royal Street was the work of a sadist and a sociopath – and more than ample reason for the house to gain a reputation for being haunted.

As the mutilated slaves were carried and led out of the house, a crowd gathered outside. Only one of two friends remained beside Madame LaLaurie. By this time, Dr. LaLaurie was gone. There is no further mention of him in accounts of what happened next at the house, but we do know that he and his wife were separated after the fire. This time, it was for good.

Delphine managed to get someone to lock the doors of the house and to close the wooden gates that led from the street into the courtyard. This effectively sealed the LaLaurie household off from the crowd outside, which was still milling about, waiting to see if any arrests were going to be made over the cruel treatment of the slaves. Nothing happened over the course of the several hours that followed. The fire was out by this time and little damage had been done to the house.

Word spread of the atrocity discovered in the LaLaurie home and people spoke again of the little girl that had allegedly been killed, the slaves that had been taken away from the LaLaurie family, and the rumors of the slaves that went missing and were never seen again. According to reports in the New Orleans Gazette, “at least 2,000 people” came to the courthouse to see the slaves that had been taken from the mansion. The slaves received food and medical care and were prodded with questions about their captivity and abuse. A long wooden table was filled with instruments of torture that had been brought from the attic. They included whips, shackles, and knives – some of which were said to be crusted with dried blood.

One of the statements given came from a female slave who testified that Madame LaLaurie would sometimes beat and torture her captives while music and parties were going on below. She would come into the locked room, still clad in her ball gown, and lash the slaves as they cowered on the floor. After a few lashes, she would appear to be satisfied and would leave. One of the women also testified that Delphine once beat her own daughter for bringing food to the starving slaves.

Passionate words swept through New Orleans as curious crowds came to gape at the starving and brutalized slaves. As the wounded men and women choked down the food that was given to them, Judge Canonge (Can-OJ), Montreuil (MON-TREEL), Fernandez, and Felix Lefebvre (LA-FEEV-RAY) all made formal statements to the authorities about their discovery of the locked chamber.

In the meantime, the mob was still waiting outside the gates to the house on Royal Street. They expected to see arrests made and for the authorities to demand entry to the house. Hours passed and the police did not arrive. The mob continued to grow. More and more people came and as each hour passed, they grew more restless and belligerent. Soon, threats were being shouted at the shuttered windows and calls for vengeance were heard from the street. 

Suddenly, late in the afternoon, the entry to the high-walled courtyard burst open and a carriage roared out of the gates. It plowed directly into the mob and men scattered before the angry hooves of the horses. The coach pushed through the crowd and disappeared from sight, racing down Hospital Street toward the Bayou Road. It all happened so quickly that everyone was taken by surprise. Someone cried out that the carriage had only been a decoy -- that Madame LaLaurie was actually escaping through a rear door. While some went to look, others swore that she had been in the carriage alone. Dr. LaLaurie was nowhere to be found. Delphine’s children -- it was rumored afterward-- had been forced to escape the house by climbing over a balcony and into a house next door.

But it was Delphine that the angry mob was seeking and she had easily escaped their clutches. The carriage drove furiously along the Bayou Road and it is said that a sailing vessel waited for her there and left at once for Mandeville. Another story claimed that she remained in hiding in New Orleans for several days and only left the city when she realized that public opinion was hopelessly against her. No one knows which of these stories is true, but we do know that she was in Mandeville nearly 10 days later because she signed a power of attorney there that would allow an agent in New Orleans to handle her business affairs on her behalf.

The seething mob that remained behind on Royal Street continued to grow. Delphine’s flight had enraged the crowd and they decided to take their anger out on the mansion she had left behind. The New Orleans Courier reported that “doors and windows were broken open, the crowd rushed in, and the work of destruction began.”

Feather beds were ripped open and thrown out into the street while curtains were pulled down from the windows and pictures torn from the walls. Men carried furniture, pianos, tables, sofas and chairs and hurled them out the windows to see them splinter on the streets below. After destroying nearly every belonging left in the house, the mob, still unsatisfied, began to tear apart the house itself. The mahogany railings were ripped away from the staircase, glass was broken, and doors were torn from their hinges and worse.

A reporter for the New Orleans Bee wrote a rather florid description of what the mob did to the house but it boiled down to them looting the place, smashing anything that was left, and leaving some pretty descriptive graffiti behind on the walls.

It was later suggested that the house itself be completely torn down, but cooler heads prevailed and instead the house was closed and sealed. It remained that way for several years, silent, uninhabited, and abandoned.

Or was it?

Most believe that Madame LaLaurie disappeared without a trace after the fire, but this was not the case. It turns out that at least some of her movements were pretty easy to trace.

After her flight from New Orleans, Delphine set up residence in Paris. The ghastly discovery in the attic had been enough to drive the family, despite their wealth and social standing, out of the country. Her husband did not travel to Paris with her. His reputation had been destroyed and Delphine insured that it would be further tarnished early in her exile. Her son, Paulin, wrote a letter to his brother-in-law, Auguste Delassus (DE-LASS-SEW), in which he spoke of the bad treatment that his mother received at her husband’s hands. Dr. LaLaurie had also been present when others had treated Delphine badly and had done nothing to defend her.

I’m sure that this was the way that Delphine saw things, and the way that she passed it on to her impressionable son. She was the tortured and abused one. Her husband had done nothing to defend her when she was attacked for beating her slaves, which she felt she had every right to do since they were her property. Louis had then abandoned her, unable to deal with her cruelty and sadistic nature, which Delphine saw as the ultimate betrayal. As far as is known, Dr. LaLaurie never saw his wife again.

He nearly vanished from history, only emerging in 1842 when he wrote a letter from Cuba to Auguste Delassus (DE-LASS-SEW). The two men had been friends years before and Louis called on that friendship to ask that some of his possessions be sent to him in Havana, Cuba. Dr. LaLaurie died in Cuba, but no record of his date of death has ever been found. He remained exiled on the island for the remainder of his life, his professional reputation in tatters, and his name all but destroyed. While never tortured, beaten or killed by her hand, Louis was nevertheless a victim of the sadistic cruelty of Delphine LaLaurie.

Delphine settled comfortably into her Paris life. When she arrived, she was accompanied by her six-year-old son, Jean Louis, her son, Paulin, and daughters Pauline and Laure. Despite some stories, she was never in hiding while living in Paris. She could not be prosecuted for any of the crimes she had committed in New Orleans, so her whereabouts were no secret.

 Delphine thrived in Paris, conducting her business in Louisiana from France. She paid her taxes and financed the repair of another residence in New Orleans that was later rented out.

In the early 1840s, it seems that Delphine began worrying about money and the state of her finances and decided to return to New Orleans. Her children were appalled that she would even consider such an action, but they were unable to talk her out of it.

There were a number of different stories that were told about what happened to Madame LaLaurie after she left New Orleans – and nearly as many stories that were told about her death.

One claimed that she was killed by a wild boar while hunting in France. Another story insisted that she died among family and friends in Paris. She didn’t. She came back to New Orleans because her name appears in legal papers filed after the death of her brother, L.B. MacCarty, in 1850.

Her name next appeared after her death. A newspaper advertisement appeared in the New Orleans Times in 1858 about the sale of “parcels” to settle her estate. However, no burial notice appeared in the newspapers at that time – or at any other time. Based on how long it normally took to settle an estate in those days, Delphine probably died between 1855 and 1858, but no one knows for sure.

And where was she buried? No one knows that either. She could have been interred in any of the Macarty family crypts or even in some anonymous tomb. Nothing exists to say either way.

In the end, we can only wonder what finally became of one of New Orleans’s most infamous women. Her final days remains a mystery – much like the one that still surrounds her once grand home on Royal Street.  

The haunted history of the LaLaurie mansion is perhaps one of the best-known stories of ghosts in the city. For generations, it has been considered the most haunted house in the French Quarter and in many early writings of the city, it was referred to simply as “THE haunted house.” The name of the mansion was seldom mentioned, and yet everyone seemed well aware as to what house the writer was referring to. Horrible things happened in this house -- horrible enough to earn the house a reputation that still lingers almost two centuries later.

The stories of a haunting at 1140 Royal Street began almost as soon as the LaLaurie carriage fled the house. According to legend, firemen, police officers and scavengers heard scratching and moaning sounds coming from the house for several days after the fire, but they were unable to find anyone – living or dead. No bodies were found in the ruined portions of the house.

Stories later circulated about “Madame LaLaurie’s graveyard” being found on the property, and of bodies being found beneath the floors of the house in the 1970s, but no record of remains being discovered exists today. One must wonder whatever became of the servants who vanished and were never seen again, or what became of the body of the little girl that a neighbor saw being buried in the courtyard. Were these disappearances merely part of the LaLaurie legend, or was there truth to the stories?

Ghastly tales circulated about the house. It remained vacant for a few years after its sacking by the mob, falling into a state of ruin and decay. Many people claimed to hear screams of agony coming from the empty house at night and saw the apparitions of slaves walking about on the balconies and in the yards. Some stories even claimed that vagrants who had gone into the house seeking shelter were never heard from again.

The house was still owned by the LaLaurie family, and managed by Delphine’s son-in-law, until 1837, when it was sold through the city. It was then renovated in its current, three-story configuration. The man who purchased and remodeled the mansion only kept it for three months. He told his family and friends that he was plagued by strange noises, cries, and groans in the night and he soon abandoned the place. He tried leasing the house to a barbershop and to a store that rented the basement for a short time, but none of the occupants stayed for long. He tried to rent rooms out, but the tenants only remained for a few days at most. Finally, he gave up and the house was abandoned.

Following the Civil War, Reconstruction turned the empty LaLaurie mansion into an integrated high school for "girls of the Lower District," but in 1874 the White League forced the black children to leave the school. Racist White League members actually lined the girls up and questioned them about their family backgrounds, trying to find out which ones were colored, and which were not. In a city as racially diverse as New Orleans, many had both white and black ancestors. To racists, even having a black ancestor several generations removed was enough to brand someone as “colored.” Those girls were forcibly removed from the school. 

Soon after the school was closed, the house was listed as a leaf tobacco business owned by Joseph Barnes. In addition, the 1938 New Orleans City Guide stated that the building was used as a gambling house in the 1870s. According to the guide, “Stories were told and retold of the strange lights and shadow objects that were seen flitting about in different apartments, their forms draped with sheets, skeleton heads protruding. Hoarse voices like unto those supposed to come only from the charnel house floated out on the fog laden air on dismal and rainy nights, with the ominous sound of clanking chains coming from the servant’s quarters, where foul crimes are said to have been committed.”

Needless to say, it’s rather hard to take this entry in the guide too seriously, but it does lend credence to the fact that stories were still circulating about Delphine and her victims many years after the events actually occurred.

In 1876, a newspaper published an article about the house being up for auction. It was described in the article as “admirably adapted for a large boarding school, asylum, first class boarding house or spacious summer residence. The building is leased for the summer, renting at a rate on $150 per month.”

In 1878, the New Orleans schools were officially segregated and the house, once a school where all the “colored” children were forced to leave, became a school for black children only. This lasted for only one year.

In 1882, the mansion once again became a center for New Orleans society when an English teacher turned it into a “conservatory of music and a fashionable dancing school.” All went well for some time. The teacher was well-known and attracted students from the finest of the local families, but things came to a terrible conclusion. A local newspaper apparently printed an accusation against the teacher, claiming some improprieties with female students just before a grand social event was to take place at the school. Students and guests shunned the place and the school closed the following day.

A few years later, more strange events plagued the house and it became the center for rumors regarding the death of Joseph Edward Vigne (VIN-YAY), the eccentric member of a wealthy New Orleans family. Vigne (VIN-YAY) lived secretly in the house from around 1889 until his death in 1892. He was found dead on a tattered cot in the mansion; apparently living in filth, while hidden away in the surrounding rooms was a collection of antiques and treasure. A bag containing several hundred dollars was discovered near his body and another search found several thousand dollars hidden in his mattress. For some time after, rumors of a lost treasure circulated about the mansion, but few dared to go in search of it.

In June 1893, an article ran in the Times Democrat that stated, “F. Greco purchased the haunted house at Hospital and Royal … yesterday he posted large flowing placards upon the walls of the building announcing in both Italian and English, ‘The Haunted House.’ There is an end to everything, so there is with ghosts. Come and be convinced. Admission ten cents.” This was apparently New Orleans very first ghost tour. How long this “attraction” ran is unknown, but by late in the decade, the house was empty once more.

Starting in the 1890s, the house changed hands five times in the next two decades. Author Henry C. Castellanos noted in 1895, “A year or two ago, it was the receptacle of the scum of Italian immigrants, and the fumes of the malodorous filth which emanated from its interior proclaimed what it really was.” While Castellanos was as biased toward Italians as many in New Orleans were at the time, this was a period of great immigration to America and many Italian immigrants flocked to New Orleans.

By 1890, there were more than 15,000 of them living in the city, mostly in the crumbling French Quarter, which by then had fallen out of favor with most Creole families. Outside of New York, New Orleans saw more Italian immigrants than anywhere in America and the majority of them came from Sicily. 

Landlords quickly bought up old and abandoned buildings to convert into cheap housing for this new wave of renters. The LaLaurie mansion, with its more than 40 rooms, became just such a house. For many of the tenants, though, even cheap rent was not enough to keep them there.

It was during this time that the first accounts surfaced of bodies being found under the floors of the house. As workmen came in to repair the old wooden floors, human skeletons were found lying beneath. According to author Jeanne deLavigne (DE-LA-VEEN)  -- who we have already discovered is not totally reliable -- “It all simmered down to one conclusion – they were bodies of LaLaurie slaves, buried thus in order that their manner of death should not become known.” Was there any truth to this story, or was it just one more of the author’s fanciful additions to the legend? There is no documentation of such a discovery, such as newspaper articles or police reports, but can we be absolutely sure that a slumlord and his cheaply paid workmen would have reported such a find? Isn’t it entirely possible that the owner of the ramshackle old house could have simply ordered the men to just cover up what they found so that he could quickly rent out the house?

We may never know, but what we do know is that during the time when the mansion was a tenement house, a number of strange events were reported. Among them was an encounter between an occupant and a naked black man in chains who attacked him. The black man abruptly vanished. Others claimed to have animals butchered in the house; children were attacked by a phantom with a whip; strange figures appeared wrapped in shrouds; and of course, the ever-present sounds of screams, groans and cries that would reverberate through the house at night. The sounds, they said, came from the locked and abandoned room where the slaves had been discovered during the fire.

One young mother claimed to be terrified one night when she looked over to where her baby was sleeping and saw a dark-haired woman in elegant evening clothes bending over her sleeping infant. The ghostly woman was said to have been Delphine LaLaurie herself. When the mother let out a bloodcurdling cry, the apparition vanished.

It was never easy to keep tenants in the house and finally, after word spread of the strange goings-on there, the mansion was deserted and remained vacant until 1923, when William Warrington established the Warrington House, a refuge for wayward boys.  For the next nine years, the house opened its doors to a succession of “madcap” young men, as Warrington called them, who were released from jails and prisons and put into Warrington’s care. 

In 1932, the mansion was sold to the Grand Consistory of Louisiana, an organization like the Freemasons, who kept the place for the next decade. They sold the house in 1942.

In 1943, in the midst of World War II, the mansion saw a new group of tenants. According to an Associated Press story from June 1943, “The sheet waving, bone rattling crew that has occupied New Orleans’ most widely known haunted house for the last 111 years has been dispossessed to make way for war workers. Despite the kindness which this city – and the entire South – has always shown to its ghosts and ‘ha’nts,’ no investigation by the rental division of the OPA is anticipated. With the city’s normal half million population augmented by 50,000 war workers and an additional 12,000 workers anticipated to man now-building aircraft plants, the ghosts will have to shift for themselves.”

As it was during the great immigration wave of the 1890s, New Orleans saw itself bombarded with new and temporary arrivals during the war years and all of them were looking for places to live. With so many homes and empty buildings in the French Quarter, government services took over the old LaLaurie mansion and converted it into apartments for the workers. Their tenancy lasted until the end of the war, when the house was put back on the market.

There is no record of any supernatural activity occurring in the house at this time, but the story stayed fresh in the minds of locals, which leads many to believe that tales were still being told. In 1945, the first floor of the house was turned into a tavern, which the proprietor called the “Haunted Saloon.” Taking advantage of the house’s eerie history, he kept a record of the strange things that were experienced there by the staff and patrons.

After the bar closed, space was opened again as a furniture store. It did not fare well in the former LaLaurie house. The owner first suspected vandals when all his merchandise was found ruined on several occasions, covered in some sort of dark, stinking liquid. He finally waited one night with a shotgun, hoping the vandals would return. When dawn came, the furniture was all ruined again even though he knew that no one had entered the building. Exasperated and frightened, he closed the place down.

The house was apparently empty for most of the early 1960s. An article that appeared in 1964 reported that a preservation group was trying to stop the deterioration and partial demolition of the former LaLaurie house. Evidently, people had been looting the abandoned house and stealing anything out of it that could be taken.

As it turned out, the house was saved, although in 1969, it became an apartment building again – this time with ghostly results. Zella Funck, an artist who lived in one of the apartments, stated that the poltergeists in her place were “…playful. They’re not around every day, but they do surprise visitors.” She stated that one of the ghosts that she had seen was that of a handsome man in old-fashioned clothing, which may have been Dr. LaLaurie.

Another tenant, a Mrs. Richards, reported numerous incidents in her apartment, such as opened water faucets, locked doors becoming unlocked, and showers that turned on by themselves.

In 2000, the mansion was purchased by a New Orleans doctor, who decided to restore the house to its original state. He never reported any paranormal experiences during his time in the house.

In 2007, actor Nicolas Cage bought the LaLaurie mansion through his Hancock Park Real Estate Company. Rumor had it that Cage was living in the front section of the house and renting out the back gallery, where the slaves quarters were once located. Cage was spending a lot of time in New Orleans in those days and even had a tomb built for himself at St. Louis Cemetery #1. If he was living in the mansion, however, his tenancy was short-lived. In 2008, the house was back on the market listed at $3.5 million. A year later, the bank foreclosed on the home (along with two other haunted houses in New Orleans that Cage had acquired) and it was purchased by the Regions Financial Corporation in November 2009.

Today, the house is again privately owned and whether or not it is still haunted is unknown. Despite its appearance in television shows like AMERICAN HORROR STORY and a possible future show on Netflix, it seems to have been pretty quiet since the late 1970s. It certainly earned its place in supernatural history with the accounts of all of the ghostly events that have taken place there, but today, it seems like a battery that has lost most of its charge.

I had the chance to go inside the mansion once several years ago, and I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t hoped to see or feel something in the place. I went away with no supernatural encounter, but I did not go away disappointed. It was a house alive with evil history. I heard no phantom whispers or spectral wails, but I did leave with a sense of the evil legacy that Delphine LaLaurie left behind in that place. She created a legend that has lived on for nearly two centuries. Can a spirit like her, so infused with anger and evil, ever really find peace? Can her victims?

Those ghosts may no longer walk in the house on Royal Street, but history has left a dark and indelible impression there. The ghosts may be gone, but how much more “haunted” can one house be?