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The Story Behind The Most Haunted House In America Will Give You Nightmares

Whether or not you believe in spooks, the story behind the most haunted house in America will absolutely chill you to the bone.

Located in New Orleans, on an otherwise pleasant corner of Royal Street and Governor Nicholls Street in the French Quarter, the first remarkable thing about the Lalaurie House is its size. It’s one of the largest single buildings in the French Quarter, and its three stories sent it soaring above all other homes in the neighborhood at the time of its construction in 1831.

In 1831, Madame Delphine Lalaurie took up residence in New Orleans with her third husband, a doctor and wealthy man. She managed the household without much interference from her husband, and the family possessed a number of slaves.

Rumors began to circulate among high society circles that the Lalauries were mistreating their slaves. Though the madame was known to have very sweet manners with her friends, and was seen to be kind and polite to her slaves in public, these rumors persisted until a local lawyer was dispatched to the Lalaurie household in order to remind the mistress of the house about laws forbidding cruelty to slaves. However, the lawyer found nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a shame he didn’t ask for a full tour of the home.

On April 10, 1834, flames engulfed the Lalaurie mansion. When officials responded to the scene, they were met with an unimaginable situation. Chained by the ankle to the kitchen stove, firemen found a seventy-year-old slave woman who admitted to setting the fire in order to commit suicide and avoid being “taken upstairs.” She said that no slave who was sent to the third floor ever returned.

When the madame was confronted with this information, she refused to surrender the keys to the third floor, even though the flames were quickly spreading and would soon consume the entire house. Against the Lalauries protests that “some people had better stay at home rather than come to others” houses to dictate laws and meddle with other people’s business, neighbors and locals soon broke down the mansion’s doors in order to make sure the slave quarters had been evacuated.

What they found was unthinkable. Slaves were strung up on the walls of the third floor like meat at a butcher shop. Some wore iron collars with spikes around the inside, preventing them from bending their necks. Others were bound and “more or less horribly mutilated … suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other.” Seven slaves reported having been kept there for months.

Madame Delphine Lalaurie fled to Paris after the fire and history quickly lost track of her. Locals stormed her mansion, gutting the estate in outrage over the horrors she had perpetrated. Mysteriously, her husband vanished after the events on Royal Street and was never seen again.

Those are all the credible facts that we have. If you’re willing to entertain a bit of rumor, however, the Lalaurie story takes on an even grislier face. There are unverified accounts that some imprisoned slaves had their skin peeled off in a circular pattern, and that one individual had their limbs broken and reset at unnatural angles so that they looked like a human crab. And if the creative retelling of the Lalaurie tale via American Horror Story is to be believed, the madame had an unquenchable thirst for human blood.

Today, the Lalaurie mansion is privately owned. The true number of Lalaurie’s victims is unknown, but judging by the frequency with which the household acquired new slaves, the body count may total over 100. The spirits of these tortured individuals are said to haunt the old mansion, and visitors have reported a feeling of deep gloom and uneasiness upon walking by the home. Some people claim to have seen dark figures moving across the third-floor windows, and hands pressed against the glass.

Sophia
Massachusetts native. Freelance writer and strawberry eater. Get in touch: smitrokostas@onlyinyourstate.com.