Mad Madame Lalaurie

The Ghosts

"Believe it or leave it, there are ghosts in the French Quarter's famous haunted house at 1140 Royal St.”
 - The States Item, March 7th, 1966

In the Rue Royale stands this quaint, old-fashioned house about which so much has been written, and around which cluster so many wild and weird stories, that even in its philosophic day, few in the old faubourg care to pass the place after nightfall, or, doing so, shudder and hurry on with bated breath, as though midnight ghouls and ghosts hovered near, ready to exercise a mystic spell over all who dare invade its uncanny precincts."
-Marie Puents, The Daily Picayune, March 13, 1892

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Roof ghost

Illustration of a roof ghost from Jeanne DeLavigne's book Ghosts of Old New Orleans


Any New Orleans tour guide will tell you that the Lalaurie mansion is the most haunted house in America. According to local legend, the hauntings began just days after the horrible fire in 1834.

In the many years that followed, sighting after sighting has been reported. Owners and tenants have moved out in terror. Stores have closed down due to seemingly supernatural vandalism.

Doors and windows open and shut by themselves. Chains rattle. Anguished voices cry out in the night. A murdered child reinacts her violent death over and over again.

Or so the legends say.

...Do you believe in ghosts?

Here are some of the best-known ghost and horror stories surrounding the
Lalaurie house.

"The man who smashed the garret door saw powerful male slaves, stark naked, chained to the wall, their eyes gouged out, their fingernails pulled off by the roots; others had their joints skinned and festering, great holes in their buttocks where the 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 bellies, legs pulled joint from 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 poor creatures were dead, some were unconscious; and a few were still breathing, suffering agonies beyond any power to describe." - From the firemen entering the house
--Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans by Jeanne deLavigne, published 1946;
"The Haunted House of the Rue Royale" pp. 248-258

"During the years of the Civil War the house was used as Union headquarters, and in the 1870's the building became a gambling-house. 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 to 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."
-- From New Orleans City Guide, 1938.

"Workmen employed to repair the old cypress floors began digging up human skeletons from under the house. The owner of the property, in an attempt to down the mansion's gruesome reputation, announced that the house had been built over an ancient Spanish burying-ground, and that over an Indian graveyard. Which was quite true, only-the bones were too recent to have been deposited there before 1803, and they were too near the surface to have been at any time buried in graves. They were found in all sorts of positions, helter-skelter, some barely covered with soil, shreds of fabric still adhering to some of the bones; and whenever hair was found near a skull, it was Negro hair. Some of the skulls had great holes in them. The authorities said that at least some scraps of wood or metal would have been found with or amonng the bones, had they been interred in coffins. As they were not in a trench, their burial could not have been in consequence of an epidemic. So 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."
-- Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans by Jeanne deLavigne, pub 1946:
"The Haunted House of the Rue Royale" pp.248-258

"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."
-- Times Democrat, June 4, 1893 p.9

"The furniture store did not do as well in the former Lalaurie house... the owner first suspected vandals when all of his merchandise was found ruined on several occasions, covered in some sort of liquid, stinking filth. He finally waited one night with a shotgun, hoping the vandals would return. When dawn came, the furniture was all ruined again and owner closed the place down."
-- Troy Taylor, The Lalaurie House, 1998

"In 1941 a one-time sexton of St. Louis cemeteries said he had discovered a copper plate relating in French that Delphine MacCarthy Lalauire had died in Paris in 1842 and that her remains were in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Descendents at that time said they had long known of this and had visited her tomb."
-- The Times Picayune, August 9, 1964

    "Believe it or leave it, there are ghosts in the French Quarter's famous haunted house at 1140 Royal St.
     "Louise (Mrs. Harper) Richards, who shared an apartment with artist Zella Funck in the building while her home at 919 Gov. Nicholls was being restored, tells me 'many strange unaccountable things happened' during her residence there.
    'Like what?'
     'Well,' she replied, 'such things as the kitchen faucet suddenly started to run full force for no reason when no one was in the room. Sometimes the shower in the bathroom would do the same thing. And several times the front door we had bolted with two bolts would be found open.'"
     "…During her residence with Mrs. Funck, Mrs. Richards said, 'Zella's ghosts were the prankish sort. I heard no moans or groans or dragging chains during the night. They just seemed to play all sorts of pranks on us.
    'One day Mrs. E. S. Perkin's grandchild, Collier Perkins, and her little friend, Barbara Sproull, visited us to check on the ghosts and, sure enough, while we were across the room the door of the cupboard popped open. It had never done that before and it never happened again while I was there.'"
-- The States Item, March 7th, 1966.

    "Zella Funck lives in the famous "Haunted House" at 1140 Royal St.
     'My poltergeists are just playful,' she declares blithely. 'They're not around every day, but they do surprise visitors…'
    "…The ghost, whom she says she has seen twice, is a romantic figure of a man.
     'I've watched him for several minutes in a full-length mirror before he faded away. He's about 5'9", about 170 lbs, has a reddish clipped beard, and wears a creamy beige felt hat turned up slightly, with a cord around it.'"

-- The States Item, June 16, 1969

"As recently as 14 years ago, a long-time resident of one of the small apartments within the building declared emphatically that he had heard strange sounds near his room for as long as he had lived there-footsteps running along dim passages, mournful sighs and, at least once, a smothered scream. He didn't bother to investigate, he said, and so the spirits-or whatever they were-hadn't bothered him."
-- The Times Picayune, sec.3 / p.6. Sunday, Aug. 11, 1974

Read about the these and other tales of haunting and horror in Mad Madame Lalaurie.

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