Delphine LaLaurie: New Orleans's Famously Sadistic Slave Owner
By | February 7, 2020
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.
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.
She may have chased a girl off her roof
LaLaurie's punishment weren't just violent; they were psychotic. According to one story about her legendary fury, she chased a young girl across her yard with "cowhide in hand," pursuing her all the way up to (and off) the roof of her mansion. British social theorist Harriet Martineau claims that a neighbor saw the whole thing. Martineau wrote:
She heard the fall and saw the child taken up, her body bending and limbs hanging as if every bone were broken ... At night, she saw the body brought out, a shallow hole dug by torchlight, and the body covered over.
After the death was reported, the police investigated LaLaurie and took nine slaves from her home, but she leveraged her family connections to get them back.