Delphine LaLaurie: New Orleans's Famously Sadistic Slave Owner

By Jacob Shelton

Madame LaLaurie, the Savage Mistress

New Orleans is full of ghost stories, but the most haunting tale is that of Delphine LaLaurie, a mad slave owner who tortured the men and women in her employ. Stories of LaLaurie's depravity have inspired fear throughout Louisiana, and even long after she passed away, it’s believed that her spirit lingers around the mansion where she committed so many atrocities. According to legend, the mansion played host to disembowlings, human experimentation, and plain ol' murder.

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Marie Delphine LaLaurie wasn't always a horrible monster. Born in 1787 in New Orleans, then under Spanish rule, her early life was fairly normal for a wealthy person. She was brought up in high society, and those who knew her thought her to be a kind young woman. It's believed that the horrendous acts for which she's known were inspired by her third husband, Louis LaLaurie. They married in 1825 after an intense fling that resulted in the birth of a son, the sixth child for Delphine. Supposedly, once the two were wed, she started to act out against her slaves and even her own children when they tried to feed them. Initially, it all happened behind closed doors, but it wasn't long before her devious behavior made itself known to the public.