Marc Hoover: Murder in the LaLaurie mansion

Marc Hoover

Murder in the LaLaurie mansion

In 1832, Dr. Louis LaLaurie, his wife Delphine, and two of her daughters from previous marriages lived in a three-story mansion built at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter. The mansion once had enormous chandeliers and European dishes. Locals knew the LaLaurie’s for their wealth, fashionable clothing, and fabulous parties. Madame LaLaurie became known as the most influential and stunning woman in New Orleans. However, her splendor and wealth masked a cruel and immoral woman.

Marc Hoover

Today, she could easily hold court with serial killers Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Aileen Wuornos, and Richard Ramirez. Madame LaLaurie, a deranged woman, experienced sheer pleasure in torturing and murdering her victims. During the early 1830s, Louisiana law recognized slavery as legal; but the law restricted slave owners from abusing their slaves.

Although she showered her houseguests and friends with love, and attention, she despised her slaves. She treated them worse than animals. Ultimately, neighbors began noticing how the LaLaurie slaves mysteriously vanished. Neighbors whispered that something strange was happening inside the mansion. But what?

One day, a neighbor witnessed Madame LaLaurie chasing a slave girl with a whip. The frightened child escaped LaLaurie’s wrath by leaping to her death. The young girl was buried underneath a tree on the property. A neighbor reported the act, which violated laws forbidding cruel treatment of slaves. Authorities confiscated the slaves and sold them off to other slave owners. Madame LaLaurie then convinced friends and relatives to buy the slaves.

She then bought them back and returned them to her mansion of horrors. The abuse incident left her a pariah. Friends soon distanced themselves from the LaLaurie family. In 1834, a fire exposed the whispered secrets kept hidden within the LaLaurie mansion walls. A 70-year-old cook, chained to a stove by her ankle, had set the mansion on fire in a suicide attempt.

Firefighters soon made a horrific discovery. Behind a hidden door in the attic, firefighters found slaves chained to a wall while others were strapped to tables. They also witnessed a slave locked inside an animal cage. It seemed that someone had created a torture chamber. The New Orleans Bee reported the victims were stripped naked and abused. Authorities also found a man with a hole in his head and a stick inside the hole. Authorities and locals believed that Dr. LaLaurie knew about his wife’s evil deeds but had ignored them.

After the horrific discovery, an angry mob stormed the mansion with hanging ropes. The LaLaurie family escaped mob justice with their necks still intact. After the family fled, no one ever saw them again. Speculation is that family members hid them.

Since then, people have reported ghostly sightings of former slaves and still hear agonizing cries of distress coming from tortured souls who once suffered at 1140 Royal Street. Other reports include someone who claimed to have been attacked by a ghostly black man in chains. Future entrepreneurs transformed the abandoned building into a rental property, a saloon, and then a furniture store.

Regardless, no one has ever stayed in the old mansion for long. The former furniture store owner claimed someone had vandalized his property. The angry owner stayed overnight to catch the vandals. By dawn, someone or something had vandalized the furniture and covered it in a strange slime. The owner closed his business after realizing nothing human could be involved.

The secrets of torture and murder will remain inside the old mansion forever. As of this writing, the former LaLaurie mansion still exists. Whether you believe in haunted houses or not, it wouldn’t surprise me if the ghosts of Madame LaLaurie’s victims still remain in the French Quarter.

Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on