In terms of serial killers, most of us will think of the stereotypical older Caucasian male with creepy glasses and a smile that sends a shiver up the spine. That is a fairly accurate representation, but there are some women who are also known for their high body counts, like Rose West, Katie Bender, and of course Aileen Wuornos. Yet, few will know the crimes of Madame LaLaurie, an exceptionally cruel woman with an alter ego as a wealthy New Orleans socialite.
Born Marie Delphine Macarty in 1780, to a prominent, affluent family that thrived in the Creole community of New Orleans after emigrating from Ireland, Madam LaLaurie had a privileged childhood with close family members holding positions of power, politically and in the military, throughout the city.
Madame LaLaurie was married three times, and widowed twice, bearing a total of four children over the course of her life. At twenty-years of age, she married her first husband, Don Ramon Lopez y Angulo, a consul general who represented Spain in the then-Spanish held Territory of Orleans. Don Roman died tragically four years later on a voyage back to Spain. Madam LaLaurie, meanwhile, remarried four years later to Jean Blanque, a wealthy lawyer, banker, and businessman.
Much like Madame Lalaurie’s first husband, her second spouse would die unexpectedly six years later, but nevertheless she remarried to Leonard Louis Nicolas Lalaurie in 1825. Now, at the ripe old age of forty-five, she was a fairly independent woman. She bought another Royal Street property, at 1140 Royal Street, in her own name that she ran without the supervision of her husband – a rarity of the time.
Just a year after the purchase, Madame LaLaurie turned the estate into a three story mansion with the necessary slave quarters attached and resided there with her husband and two of her daughters. 1140 Royal Street was her figurative base of operations, as the mansion was a great asset in maintaining her status in high society.
Horrified at the scene the slaves, who were still alive, explained that they had been there for several months – a claim that was supported by their emaciated, scarred bodies and necks (they wore spiked collars that kept them fixed in one position). Other injured slaves were found throughout the property; one woman with a heavy iron collar and another who had sustained an intense head injury that was so debilitating she couldn’t even stand.
But, the slaves told police of two more lives that had been lost and were buried on the property, and thankfully those bodies were later recovered in a subsequent investigation. One, rather gruesome example was that of a twelve year old child named Lia, who had jumped to her death from the roof of the Mansion while trying to escape a brutal whipping from Madam LaLaurie after she had accidently snagged a knot while brushing her mistresses hair.
Following the fire, and the subsequent revelations, the enraged citizens of New Orleans gathered in an angry mob, out for Madame Lalaurie’s blood. She somehow escaped and managed to live the rest of her life in France, dying in 1849 under unknown, but not terribly mysterious, circumstances.
Her legend lives on through folklore and modern pop culture, with retellings of her crimes claiming that she had over a hundred victims and pulled out the intestines of her slaves, although these facts are unverifiable. Her mansion has been used over the years for several purposes including; a high school, a bar, and an apartment complex. In 2007, actor Nicolas Cage bought the property for $3.5 million. He sold it just two years later to Regions Financial Corporation, but rumor has it that he only slept in the house a handful of times because of how supposedly haunted it was.
Madame Lalaruie was portrayed by the amazingly talented Kathy Bates (Misery) in American Horror Story: Coven and her character seemed to be mostly true to the real-life version, i.e. a cold hearted, racist bitch who isn’t afraid to get blood on her hands. However, I am not sold on the portrayal of her as a family woman, since the real Madam LaLaurie beat her own children for any perceived kind act they bestowed upon the slaves, so she was hardly one to show any kind of warmth, even to those closest to her.
Although you cannot tour inside the LaLaurie mansion now, there are numerous ghost tours that make a special stop outside the site of some of the most horrific crimes committed before the turn of the century. And, let us not forget, by a woman no less.