Born in New Orleans in 1775, Delphine Marie Macarty hailed from a distinguished family. The daughter of Barthelmy Louis Macarty and Vevue Lecomte, she was raised amid privilege. Her cousin, Auguste Macarty, made his mark as the mayor of New Orleans from 1815 to 1820.
Madame Delphine LaLaurie — The New Orleans Butcher
Tragedy shadowed her childhood; her mother perished during a slave uprising on the family plantation. In 1800, Delphine married Ramón de López y Angulo, whose life ended abruptly in Havana, Cuba, on March 26, 1804. She later wed Jean Blanque, a slave trader, in 1808, who passed away in 1816. Her third marriage was to physician Louis LaLaurie, on June 25, 1825.
In 1831, the couple acquired a three-story mansion at 1140 Royal Street. Delphine became a central figure in New Orleans high society, renowned for hosting lavish social events.
Rumors Surrounding Delphine
However, Delphine’s fame was not solely for her economic status; dark rumors swirled around her, chiefly concerning her mistreatment of slaves. In 1833, an act of unprecedented cruelty was allegedly committed by her.
An incident involved an eight-year-old slave girl. While brushing Delphine’s hair, an accidental tug sparked her mistress’s wrath. Terrified after receiving a slap, the girl fled to the rooftop, where Delphine chased her and, in a fit of anger, threw her to the courtyard, resulting in her death. The victim was secretly buried in the garden. A neighbor, witnessing the atrocity, reported the incident.
Yet, given the victim’s status as a slave, the police ignored the case. Justice did not trouble Delphine or her husband. However, a judge, an adversary of Louis LaLaurie, upon hearing about it, fined the doctor $500.00 and ordered the seizure and auction of his slaves.
Following the scandal, Louis LaLaurie left the home and was never heard from again. Delphine’s relatives, in an attempt to mitigate the damage, repurchased the slaves and returned them to her. Delphine, frustrated by her husband’s abandonment and public humiliation, vented her fury on them. A slave, assigned to the kitchen, was chained and forced to work in inhumane conditions, perpetuating the cycle of abuse and oppression.
The story of Delphine LaLaurie reveals an escalation of horror beyond the imaginable. Beyond her already-known cruelty, her actions in the attic of her New Orleans mansion reached extreme levels of sadism.
The Attic of Terror
LaLaurie led several of her slaves to the attic, stripping them completely, and commenced a series of unimaginable tortures. Initially, she kept them chained for days without food. Subsequently, with the aid of other slaves and overseers, she began a series of systematic torture practices.
This socialite transformed her attic into a chamber of horrors. The slaves were brutally beaten; some to death. The lifeless bodies were discreetly buried in the mansion’s garden.
LaLaurie’s methods became more refined over time. She would hang her victims from the ceiling, beating them until satisfied. She locked them in small cages, causing cramps and extreme pain. She tore out the nails of the women and, in a macabre twist, began to skin them to create clothing.
LaLaurie’s cruelty knew no bounds. She introduced live insects into her victims’ mouths or filled them with excrement before sewing them shut.
Delphine LaLaurie Torturing Her Slaves
Her tortures became even more extreme. She gouged out her slaves’ eyes, sewed their eyelids and lips shut, and began amputating their limbs. The attic filled with the screams of pain from those mutilated alive.
LaLaurie made incisions in her victims’ stomachs, exposing their intestines, and committed other atrocities that seemed like they were from a nightmare. The surviving slaves, chained and tied up, witnessed the dismemberment and decapitation of their fellows.
The Revealing Fire
On April 10, 1834, a fire in the mansion’s kitchen exposed these atrocities. Firefighters, responding to the scene, discovered not only the fire but also slaves chained to the stove. This discovery led to a more thorough inspection of the house, culminating in the discovery of the attic and the horrors it contained.
The fire, which seemed to have been started by the slaves in a desperate act to attract attention, revealed the hidden truth behind Delphine LaLaurie’s high society facade.
The scene in the LaLaurie mansion’s attic surpassed the limits of human horror. The putrefied and dismembered remains of countless slaves, alongside others still alive but mutilated, elicited extreme reactions from those who discovered them. Many vomited, others fainted or recoiled in horror. The slaves, in a state of agony, begged for death. This time, the police could not ignore the situation.
Macabre Discovery in the Garden
In the garden of the mansion, over seventy-five bodies were unearthed. Delphine LaLaurie, faced with the possibility of capture, fled in a carriage towards the Bayou. It is believed she paid the captain of a schooner to take her to Mandeville or Covington, though some rumors suggest she escaped to Paris or hid near New Orleans.
The Schooner Where Delphine LaLaurie Fled
The fate of Delphine LaLaurie remains shrouded in mystery. According to a March 1843 article in The Daily Picayune, she died in Paris on December 7, 1842, surrounded by friends and family. A copper plaque discovered in the Père-Lachaise cemetery by Eugene Backes, sacristan until 1924, confirms her death in Paris.
After her death, the LaLaurie mansion underwent various transformations: a bar, furniture store, hotel, apartment building, and eventually, a museum. Urban legend claims that the screams of the slaves still echo within its walls. In 2007, actor Nicolas Cage acquired the property, which was auctioned in 2009 by Regions Financial Corporation for $5.5 million.
The Mansion Today
Controversy surrounding Delphine LaLaurie persists. Researcher Kalila Katherina Smith spent years reexamining the case, drawing on archives from The New Orleans Bee newspaper. Smith suggests that while LaLaurie mistreated her slaves, the most extreme atrocities might be exaggerations. However, many historians disagree, maintaining the account that she turned her attic into a place of torture and slaughter.
The infamous story of Delphine LaLaurie inspired characters in video games like Clive Barker’s «Undying» and «Deadtime Stories», perpetuating her legacy in popular culture.