If on that 10th of April 1834 there was no fire accident at thr 1140 of Royal Street in the French district of New Orleans, maybe the sadistic and criminal Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie would have never been caught red handed. Before then, the woman was a respectable member of the best society of New Orleans, cousin of the ex first mayor of the city. Afterwards, she became symbol of absolute evil: in her huge house, inside her attic, many slaves were found locked and with clear signs of tortures on their bodies.
From that distant day in 1834, when Madame LaLaurie refused to give away the keys of the slaves rooms, many details were added up later on but it is not clear how many of them are actually true.
However, some facts are certain: the eyewitnesses revealed to have found “seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated […] suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other”.
Other unofficial stories talk about slaves which had their mouths full of feces, with stitched lips, peeled skin in grotesque embroidery patterns, eyes out of their eyeball. Furthermore they said that a woman had her bones broken and then fixed in order to make her look like a crab, while another one had her guts supposedly wrapped around her waist.
Above: painting of Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie shared via Wikimedia Commons
After the fire many rumours started spreading, speaking of hundreds of corpses with awful mutilations. Even by removing these fake accusations, Madame LaLaurie remains one of the most brutal criminals of the 1800. What triggered her sadistic penchant is not known as she had never portrayed any type of cruelty beforehands.
Marie Delphine McCarty was born in 1780 in New Orleans from an Irish family well engaged in the social life of the city. She got married with a Spanish officer Don Ramón de Lopez y Angulo, who died a few years later during a trip to Spain with his wife, where she gave birth to a baby girl.
Once the woman and the daughter came back to New Orleans Marie Delphine waited for four years before getting married once again. In 1808 the new union occurred, this time with Jean Blanque, merchant, banker and lawyer from whom she had four children (three girls and one boy). Some years after her husband’s death, the woman got married with a way younger man than her, doctor Leonard Louis LaLaurie.
Madame LaLaurie’s Palace in 1831
In 1831, Madame LaLaurie bought a three floors Palace at number 1140 of Royal Street, where, according to the customs back then, there were many slaves to whom it was reserved the higher floor. In public the woman would demonstrate a gentle and caring attention to her dark slaves to the point that she freed two of them. However in the area people starter rumouring about her real behaviour when she was safe inside her dwelling. The local administration, in order to confirm or deny the suspects carried out a check.
The attempt itself did not lead anywhere however a neighbour of Madame LaLaurie witnessed the death of a 12 years old slave of hers. Guilty of having pulled Madame’s hair while combing her, the young girl decided to throw herself from the roof instead of being whipped by her mistress. Same thing had happened to another servant who jumped from a window on the 3rd floor instead of being locked to the attic.
After these two episodes the rumour of the woman’s brutality was widely spread within the area but no one was ready to witness the show that occurred in front of everyone’s eyes when the flames raged against the palace.
When people started to arrive in the house, the firefighters found a 70 years old slave chained to the stove. it was her who had caused the fire, in an attempt of suicide for avoiding to be taken to the torture room in the attic, because from there no one had ever come back alive. The judge Jean-Francois Canonge, entered in the horror mansion, said that he had found “a negress wearing an iron collar and an old negro woman who had received a very deep wound on her head, too weak to be able to walk”. Once the flames were put out, a group of enraged citizens destroyed the building while the slaves were taken into a public space where everyone could see their devastating conditions.
Below: Madame LaLaurie’s Palace today. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
From that day track of Madame LaLaurie was lost. When the chaos about the fire was over the woman disappeared as well as her coachman. One of the possible theories is that the woman moved to France in Paris, like one of the daughters said: apparently the mother had sent some letters, never shown to anybody else though.
In 1930, an old copper plate was found in one of the cemeteries in New Orleans. It says “Madame LaLaurie – born as Delphine McCarty”. The inscription suggests the date of death as 1842 in Paris while the French registers of the capital says 1849.
Many believe that Marie Delphine had come back home with a false name. Her body has never been found.
Below: from the story of this sadistic serial killer, an episode of the series “American Horror Story” was made