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L is for...

... LaLaurie (Delphine LaLaurie)



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe



The Canon

This is another one of those torture posts, sorry...

And this one is all the more horrible because it isn't some religious executioner trying to exact confessions in an effort to get their victim to recant and thereby "save" their soul (which seemed to justify the destruction of their physical body in the eyes of said executioner--at least their soul was saved, he might muse), no this one is strictly torture for torture's sake.

Madame Delphine LaLaurie
Not to say that some of those religious executioners weren't also enjoying some torture for torture's sake, they just had the backing of their church, their government, and--in their deluded minds--their God.

No, this story is almost too sick and twisted to be included in my trail through the morbid and macabre. Madame Delphine LaLaurie actually deserves her very own special room in that very special place where special people like her go after they die.

Slavery was a dark part of our history--the atrocities, the horrors, the inhumane treatment these poor souls suffered and endured isn't something many people like to think about today. It's easier to pretend it didn't happen. But, it did. And, trying to forget our past doesn't mean we can escape it. Slavery will always be a part of our American history...

Madame Delphine LaLaurie (c.1775-c.1842) was a New Orleans socialite. She was known throughout New Orleans for her demure presence and grand parties. But, around 1831-34, her impeccable public image and gracious public handling of her servant/slaves was called into question after a single incident of mistreatment was witnessed.
LaLaurie Mansion 1140 Royal St. New Orleans

And, what rescuers discovered, some time later, after storming the doors to her mansion in an effort to save all inside from a roaring fire, was enough to shake the social elite of New Orleans to the ground.

After the Haitian Revolution in 1804, which gave rise to the idea of revolution to the slaves in New Orleans--resulting in an 1811 revolt on the east bank of the Mississippi River, certain "laws" were put into place to ensure fairer treatment of slaves, if for no other reason than to prevent further uprising and plantation damage. And, during a time when New Orleans' population consisted notably of 1/3 white, 1/3 free black, 1/3 slaves, the regulated treatment of the bottom third of the socioeconomic ladder seemed prudent to the governing officials.

There are quite a few unsourced and conflicting tales that have blossomed through the years after Mme. LaLaurie's travesties first came to light. I, myself, have stood before the dark door of her mansion in one of those Haunted History tour groups, listening, in rapt and disgusted attention, as the tour guide enumerated the laundry list of abominations associated with her.

Door to LaLaurie Mansion
The stories that seem to remain mostly unchanged involve a young slave girl who fell to her death from the roof of the 3-story LaLaurie mansion while trying to flee her whip-wielding mistress and the cook who set fire to the kitchen, even though she was chained to the stove.

The scene with the 12-year old slave girl's tragic death was witnessed by a neighbor who brought Mme. LaLaurie forward. This caused the LaLaurie's to be investigated and ultimately charged with cruelty in the handling of their slaves. They were forced to relinquish 7 slaves as a result of the ruling (who were unfortunately bought back through varying LaLaurie family members) thereby setting Delphine up as a social pariah.

Then there was the story of the cook setting fire to the kitchen she was chained in--the cook was recounted as saying she feared the wrath of her mistress and that she feared being sent "upstairs" because the folks that went upstairs never came back. Seemed the cook decided the best and easiest way to leave the LaLaurie mansion was by her own hand.

As the fire raged through the LaLaurie mansion, neighbors seeking to help put out the flames were troubled by the absence of the slaves/servants owned by the LaLaurie's. They called out in dismay that they were nowhere to be found. Mme. LaLaurie's response was to insist the neighbors not worry about the slaves, but to help her save her treasures.

Wax Figurines depicting Mme. LaLaurie's "attic"
Whispers that became words that became shouts about where the slaves were, started a stampede of rescuers tearing through the house until they made it to the attic space. Here Madame Delphine LaLaurie's horrific nature finally came to light.

A room full of slaves, chained, emaciated, tortured, and mutilated, some living, some already past hope, struggled to exist---and those still living would surely have perished in the fire while everyone was concerned with saving expensive baubles.

Delphine LaLaurie was a madwoman who enjoyed torturing the life from innocent human beings, slowly and methodically, for no other reason than she just wanted to do so.

There was evidence that many of the mutilations and disfigurements had taken place over time, so this madness wasn't just a passing fancy for Mme. LaLaurie.

Unfortunately, for those seeking to bring Mme. LaLaurie to justice-- in the chaos of the fire and the grisly discovery in her attic, Mme. LaLaurie fled the city and then the country where she reportedly spent her last few years in Paris---

Slavery was a cruel, horrible atrocity.

Madame Delphine LaLaurie was an unspeakable abomination.


Comments

  1. You're the second blogger with this tale of horror. Lexa Cain posted about this lovely lady also. And look at that portrait! How could someone that benign in appearance do the horrible things she did? I sense nightmares coming on tonight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know... I thought the same thing about her portrait---funny how you can't see any of the crazy from the outside. And, nightmares for sure... I didn't sleep so easy last night after writing this one :-(

      Delete
  2. Although I've read the horrific tales about Mdm. LaLaurie, I didn't really "get" it until I watched American Horror Story: Coven, where the brilliant Kathy Bates played her. According to the screenwriters (and it makes sense to me) the woman was a psychotic sadist, and like many psychotic serial killers, she could be charming and pretend to be normal. Very powerful stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I LOOOOVE Kathy Bates....but, I've never seen a single episode of American Horror Story---sounds like I ought to give it a try :-)
      And, yeah, LaLaurie was as psychotically charming as they come...

      Delete
  3. Wow! I just read a little of this at Lexa's and came over to read more. What a horrendous woman! Who knew what was inside that devious brain of hers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knooooow, she was definitely horrendous, though, I'm not sure I'd really WANT to know what was going on in her brain...

      Delete
  4. Horrific tale! I too can see Kathy Bates in this role. The quote by Poe really sets the stage, as does your ghostly blog cover. Well written post! I spent some time listening to the videos at your 'on writing' page, and enjoyed. Thanks! Visiting from the A-Z.
    Shells–Tales–Sails

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, much!
      And welcome---glad you enjoyed the videos, I sometimes go back and watch them for Inspiration/Motivation..

      Delete
  5. I had heard about her years ago but forgot how bad she was until American Horor Story Coven was on.

    Great write-up!

    --
    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, she was definitely a bad 'un...
      Thanks!

      Delete

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