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A TALE OF TWO TALES:

THE TRUTH ABOUT MADAME LALAURIE?

 

Madame Delphine LaLaurie

Story: A. Pustanio / Photos: Hershel Meyers Art by Ricardo Pustanio

 

Was it really a crucible of horror that Madame Lalaurie fled that

April day in 1834, or was she the

“first victim of yellow journalism” in America?

Marie Delphine Maccarty Lalaurie

 


She was born Marie Delphine, daughter of Louis Barthelemy Chevalier de Maccarthy. She was first married on June 11, 1800 to Don Ramon de Lopez y Angulo. When he died on March 26, 1804 in Havana, Cuba, she married Jean Blanque in 1808, who died in 1816. From there she married Dr. Lalaurie on June 12, 1825

It may be that the facts present a much different story than what has been handed down in legend.
You be the judge!

 

THE FACTS ABOUT THE LALAURIE LEGACY

The following is excerpted in its entirety from Old New Orleans: Walking Tours of the French Quarter, by Stanley Clisby Arthur, © 1990 by Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, Louisiana, @ pages 96-99:
" 'THE HAUNTED HOUSE’ 1140 Royal Street

 

The three-storey building at the southeast corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls street, to some the most famous private residence in old New Orleans, gained its eerie title, ‘The Haunted House,’ from an oft-repeated tale in which spirits of tortured slaves clank their chains during the midnight hours in remembrance of awful punishment meted out to them by their mistress – a high-bred lady of old New Orleans who had been charged with finding an uncanny delight in dealing inhumanly with her slaves.

The legend goes that on April 11, 1834, a slave goaded by the cruelties heaped upon her, set fire to Mme. Lalaurie's kitchen. Some say the old woman had a dream the night before that she was fleeing the house in flames.


As the flames grew larger and hotter, word of the fire spread through the streets and soon the house was thronged with people over to assist Mme. Lalaurie in saving her valuables. There were among the crowd citizens of high standing, many of whom bore eyewitness to the scenes that followed. The fire was gaining rapidly, the kitchen was in flames and the upper stories were filled with smoke. Mme. Lalaurie seemed only interested in retrieving her plates, jewels and robes before they were burnt to a crisp.

 

Like all such tales, the story has grown in ferocity through its countless retellings and the probabilities are that even the original story of over a century ago was a gross exaggeration. It now appears that the mistress of this home was the first victim of yellow journalism in this country and that she was far from being the ‘fiend’ tradition has labeled, or should we say, libeled her. The facts of this ‘strange true story’ are as follows:

The traditional tales of the Vieux Carre have it that this house was built in 1780 by two brothers, Jean and Henri de Remarie, and that such guests as Marshal Michel Ney, Napoleon’s famous commander; the duc d’Orleans, later, Louis Philippe, king of France; and the Marquis de Lafayette have slept in this mansion. But we are compelled to make the pertinent observations that Marshal Ney never came to Louisiana, that Louis Philippe was here in 1798, and that Lafayette visited New Orleans in 1825 – yet the ‘Haunted House’ was not built until 1832!

The house was eventually bought and renovated by a gentleman who turned it into luxury apartments. Although most of the tenants refuse to talk about the goings-on in the house, there are still worried glances and tight lips. Most recently the owner of the house was in the midst of renovating the kitchen when he found a pit full of human bones beneath the wooden floor. The investigating officials stated that the bones were relatively recent in origin, just old enough that everyone knew who put them there. The owner had stumbled across Madame LaLaurie's private graveyard. Although it is known that Delphine murdered quite a few people, an accurate count has never been made as records of how many slaves were owned at the time are sparse. The discovery of the hidden burial pit does raise the question of how many suffered under her diseased eye.



As for the home on Royal Street, it was restored and renovated many times over the intervening years, passing through the hands of many a land-loaded New Orleanian.

There are those who denounce historical accuracy when it destroys fallacious tradition … those who claim that a good story must never be sacrificed and crucified on the cross of truth. Much as one admires the colorful tradition of old New Orleans, our mission is to give a factual history of the landmarks of the Vieux Carre. So, to stick to fact, we must point out that the lots upon which the ‘Haunted House’ stands were purchased by Mme Louis Lalaurie, September 12, 1831, from Edmond Soniat du Fossat, and the house then built was not ready for occupancy until the spring of 1832. As it was part of the tract given the Ursuline nuns, this was the first, and only, house built on this particular site.

Mme Lalaurie was one of five children born to Louis Barthelemy Chevalier de Macarty and Marie Jeanne Lovable, two who stood high in the social life of old New Orleans. One of their daughters was christened Marie Delphine Macarty. She first married, on June 11, 1800, Don Ramon de Lopez y Angula, the ceremony being performed at the St. Louis Cathedral by Luis de Penalver y Cardenas, the first bishop of the diocese of Louisiana, and the marriage certificate was signed by the celebrated Fray Antonio de Sedella. The husband was described in this document as Caballero de la Royal de Carlos, Intendent of the Provinces, a native of the community of Regno,Galicia, Spain, and the legitimate son of his Lordship Don Jose Antonio de Lopez y Angula and Dona Ana Fernande de Angule, daughter of Dona Francisca Borja Endecis.

 


Laularie house is known as the No.# 1 Most haunted house in the New Orleans French Quarter

 

Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, on March 26, 1804, Delphine Macarty’s husband was recalled to the court of Spain, the letter carrying this royal command stating that the young Spanish officer was ‘to take his place at court as befitting his new position.’ At this time Don Ramon was consul general for Spain in this new American territory. While in Havana, en route to Madrid, Don Ramon suddenly died and a few days later his daughter was born in the Cuban city. This infant was baptized Marie Delphine Borja Lopez y Angula de Candelaria, but she became best known in later years as ‘Borquita,’ meaning ‘little Borja,’ from the fact that she was named after her father’s grandmother.

Left a widow, Delphine Macarty and her baby daughter returned to New Orleans. Four years later, in 1808, she again married, choosing for her husband a prominent banker, merchant, lawyer, and legislator named Jean Blanque, a native of Bearn who had come to Louisiana with Prefect Laussat in 1803. At the time of his marriage, June 16, 1808, Blanque purchased the residence at 409 Royal Street and in this home Delphine became the mother of four other children: Marie Louise Pauline, Louise Marie Laure, Marie Louise Jeanne, and Jean Pierre Paulin Blanque. In that stylish Royal Street home or in the ‘Villa Blanque,’ a charming country place fronting the Mississippi River just below the city limits, Delphine Macarty Blanque divided her time, both places frequented by the socially elect.

The carriage reached Bayou St. John and a schooner that was moored near the bank. She paid the captain a handful of gold and the vessel set sail for Mandeville. Mme. Lalaurie, it is said, took refuge for 10 days near the Claiborne Cottages in Covington. Some say she then made her way to Mobile or New York and then to Paris. However, there have been persistent stories that she never left the Northshore. Alas, what really happened remains a mystery as here, the trail goes cold ...


It is said Madame LaLaurie stopped and took refuge at the Pilot House (still standing) located on the shores of Bayou St. John, and that later she boarded a merchant schooner and escaped under cover of darkness.

 

Jean Blanque died in 1816, and Delphine Macarty remained a widow until June 12, 1825, when she again married. Her third husband was Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas Lalaurie, a native of Villeneuse-sur-Lot, France, who came to New Orleans to establish a practice. Borquita, the daughter by her mother’s first marriage, became the wife of Placide Forstall, member of a distinguished Louisiana family, and Jeanne Blanque married Charles Auguste de Lassus, only child of Don Carle de Lassus, former governor of Upper Louisiana, and later governor of the Baton Rouge post of West Florida when they were under Spanish rule.

 

The Lalaurie mansion was erected in 1832 and for the next two years was the scene of many fashionable affairs, for the Lalauries entertained on an elaborate plan. On the afternoon of April 10, 1834, an aged cook set fire to the house during the absence of her mistress. When neighbors rushed into the mansion to fight the fire and try to save the furniture and other valuables, slaves were found chained in their quarters. Although the fire was extinguished, the indignation of those who found the helpless slaves blazed high and a newspaper editor, Jerome Bayon of the Bee, published a heated account of the happening and quoted those who had investigated the Lalaurie slave quarters. This newspaper account roused public indignation to such a pitch that on April 15 a mob, led by irresponsibles, charged the house and began to wreck it. The rowdies were finally dispersed by a company of United States regulars who had been called out by a helpless sheriff.

 

During the excitement Madame Lalaurie and her husband took to their carriage and, with their faithful Creole black coachman Bastien on the box, swept through the howling, cursing rabble and, with the horses lashed to a the full gallop, made her way out of the city. It is supposed the carriage reached Bayou St. John where a lake craft was secured, for on April 21, 1834, the Lalauries were in Mandeville, across Lake Pontchartrain, at the home of Louis Coquillon. There Madame Lalaurie signed a power-of-attorney placing her son-in-law Placide Forstall in charge of her affairs, while her husband signed a similar document in favor of his wife’s other son-in-law, Auguste de Lassus. From Mandeville the Lalauries made their way to Mobile, where a ship took them to France.

 

Neither Delphine nor her husband ever returned to New Orleans. She remained in Paris, living there honored and respected in spite of the lurid tales that lived after her in New Orleans. Following her death on December 7, 1842, her body was secretly returned to New Orleans and buried in St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery.

 

The Lalaurie mansion was sold to various owners but the tale that it was ‘haunted’ and the midnight rendezvous for ghosts grew in the telling as only such stories can grow. The principal ‘ghost’ is, according to the most frequently quoted tale, that of a little girl slave who, to escape the whip of her mistress, climbed to the roof and jumped to her death into the courtyard below. Another tale, equally untrue, was that the mistress of the mansion buried all her victims in the courtyard well. The general impression that the place was haunted was sufficient to keep superstitious blacks from passing the house after nightfall.

 

In the days of Reconstruction following the Civil War, the old Lalaurie mansion became the Lower Girls’ School. During the government of the carpetbaggers, whites and blacks were taught in the same rooms until the formation of ‘The White League’ in 1874, when the white element marched on the house and expelled the black pupils. In the 1880’s the mansion became a conservatory of music. No matter who has lived in it since, or the manner of business that was carried on in the ground-floor stores, the name ‘haunted’ has clung to it in spite of the testimony of those inhabiting the place that ghosts have never disturbed their slumbers.

 

Tradition has it that the handsome entrance door ‘was hammered out of iron by the slaves Madame Lalaurie kept shackled to the anvil.’ This must be taken with several generous pinches of salt, for the doors is not of iron but wood and the decorations on it were not cared but put on by appliqué, a sort of plastic wood applied and formed as a sculptor would lay on modeling clay. These ornamentations show, in the lower oblong panel, Phoebus in his chariot, lashing his griffins. Scattered over the door are urns, flowers, trumpet-blowing angels, a beribboned lyre, an American eagle bearing on its breast the shield of the Union, leaves, scrolls, and whatnots – a marvelous example of some unknown craftsman’s art. To save the door from the knives of souvenir-hunters, one owner painted it a dingy brown-black.

accounts of the Lalaurie episode. My account, differing in many respects from those of these earlier writers, is based on recently found documents, notarial acts, and family documents.”

OTHER LALAUARIE SOURCES

This story originally appeared in The Times-Picayune on Jan. 28, 1941. It is reprinted in its entirety.

 

Epitaph-Plate of 'Haunted' House Owner Found Here


Marble Cutter's Discovery Starts New Talk of Madame Lalaurie

Legends of New Orleans' famed "haunted house" at 1140 Royal Street, which since 1873 has served as a refuge for homeless men and boys, were revived Monday with the announcement of the "discovery" of an epitaph-plate of one of the former owners of the residence.


Corroded and cracked by time, the copper plate bore the inscription: "Madame Lalaurie, nee Marie Delphine Macarty, decedee a Paris, le' 7 decembre, 1842, a l'age de 6 --. "

The plate was discovered by Eugene Backes, 53-year-old marble cutter, four or five years ago in the No. 4 alley of St. Louis cemetery No. 1, where he served as sexton from March, 1923 to January, 1924.

Eugene Backes

The plate was discovered by Eugene Backes, 53-year-old marble cutter, four or five years ago in the No. 4 alley of St. Louis cemetery No. 1, where he served as sexton from March, 1923 to January, 1924.


Backes, who is engaged in polishing, grinding and cutting stones at his little shop at 807 St. Peter Street, decided to delve into the conflicting history of the "haunted house," which is now known as the Warrington House, and of Madame Lalaurie, its early mistress.

Historians are in conflict over the story of Madame Lalaurie and her once-imposing residence at 1140 Royal Street, but, they are agreed that she fled the mansion on April 10, 1834, after a fire swept the building and led neighbors to discoveries in the slave quarters.

Jealous Gossip

Newspapers of the day pictured, rightly or not, the Lalaurie slaves, chained in the cubby-holes as tortured and half-starved creatures... Newspapers reported that she and her husband went by carriage to Lake Pontchartrain, boarded a sloop at Bayou St. John, deposited gold with the captain, and sailed for ....

There is disagreement whether Madame Lalaurie sailed for France from Mobile or New York; and another school of thought maintains that Madame Lalaurie never left New Orleans, that she died and was buried here.

They are agreed, however, that she was born Marie Delphine, daughter of Louis Barthelemy Chevalier de Maccarthy, whose name was later simplified to Macarty, and then on June 11, 1800, she was married to Don Ramon de Lopez y Angulo. Her first husband died on March 26, 1804, at Havana, Cuba, and she married in 1808 to Jean Blanque, who died in 1816. Madame Lopez-Blanque on June 12, 1825, became the wife of Dr. Leonard Louis Lalaurie.

Stanley Arthur, president of the board of curators of the Louisiana State Museum, is staunch in his support of Madame Lalaurie.

"I have always thought," he said, "that Madame Lalaurie was the first victim of yellow journalism. There is nothing in the record to indicate that she was the type of a woman pictured by them. One must remember that there was much social jealousy in those days, and that Madame Lalaurie occupied an enviable position socially."

He revealed that he had found a record of Madame Lalaurie granting permission for the emancipation of a slave in the early 1830s, which contradicts the tales of her cruelty.

 

MACARTY PLANTATION


Adjacent to and below the Duralde tract of land, between modem Independence and Alvar streets, stood the property of Louis Chevalier Macarty, acquired in 1794. Inherited by Louis Barthelemy Macarty and his sister Marie Delphine Macarty, the residence and its formal gardens are depicted on the Zimpel Map of 1833.

 

Marie Delphine Macarty became the subject of perhaps more folklore and legend than any woman of her day. The townhouse of her husband, Dr. Leonard Lalaurie, at 1140 Royal St., became the site of her alleged brutal mistreatment of slaves which led to her flight from the city. She ranks with Marie Laveau as one of the most notorious figures in nineteenth century New Orleans.

 

For her brother, between 1838 and 1841, the alignment of Good Children (now St. Claude) Avenue, and similarly, Greatmen (now Dauphine) Street had apparently been opened across the Macarty tract. Macarty retained three large unsubdivided tracts, bounded above by a line bisecting the squares between modem Independence and Pauline streets, and bounded below by a line bisecting the squares between modem Alvar and Bartholomew streets, as shown on the Pinistri map (1841).

 

Following Macarty's death in 1846, the plantation was acquired by wealthy philanthropist John McDonogh. Shortly thereafter, McDonogh died leaving his property in equal shares to the cities of New Orleans and Baltimore to be used expressly for the purposes of public education. His will was contested and finally resolved in 1858-59 when the city took possession of the plantation, dividing it into 795 lots sold at public auction. However, by resolution of the City Council, the mansion was reserved for public education and the gardens surrounding it became Macarty Square.



MACARTY SQUARE


For nearly ninety years after, Macarty Square was the neighborhood gathering spot. A much reduced open green space is now what remains of what was once the largest and shadiest public square in the city is a story of progress, of compromise and politics that lead to the eventual demise of the city's most splendid neighborhood park.

 

In the early 1900s, Macarty Square was the hub of leisure activities for the 100-square block neighborhood in the Ninth Ward now known as Bywater. Two blocks long from Burgundy Street to St. Claude Avenue, and one block wide between Alvar and Pauline Streets, the square was dotted with young oak trees, benches and urns. It represented the ideal of a new community only twenty blocks from the French Quarter. Sixteen sidewalks radiated from two central spots in the square. On sunny afternoons the grounds were festive; the setting was lush and beautiful, much like the beginnings from whence it came.

 

Several fine homes were built around the square. Among them are the Frey Mansion, once owned by the L.A. Frey Meatpacking family, and a former Schwegmann family residence. The square nurtured the sense of neighborhood shared by the citizens of the Ninth Ward. In 1947, the New Orleans city government was looking for land on which to build a new City Hall. In a bizarre twist of McDonogh's philanthropy, the city quietly swapped Macarty Square for property owned by the School Board on Perdido St. where City Hall now stands. Upon Macarty Square, the Francis T. Nicholls School gymnasium and athletic field were built.

http://bywater.org/2004Tour/04tour.htm

View of the Macarty plantation home, 1861. (From Benson J. Lossing, Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1868))

Macarty Square behind the Frederick Douglass High School was once a part of a large plantation owned by Louis Barthelemy Macarty. His prominent Irish-French ancestors had moved to Louisiana around 1830, and one of them had been mayor of the city. Another Macarty owned the plantation home Gen. Andrew Jackson used as field headquarters during the Battle of New Orleans.

Louis was an aristocrat, friendly and well educated, and held several prominent positions, such as Commissioner of the Bank of Orleans and Secretary of State under Gov. W.C.C. Claiborne's administration. He invested in real estate and got even richer. But, like John McDonogh, he became anti-social later in life, an eccentric recluse. He died in 1846. During his lifetime he had many legal battles over property with John McDonogh, who died 1850. But before his death, McDonogh bought the Macarty property and bequeathed it to the city.

In 1859, The Daily Picayune reported that the portion of the McDonogh estate known as the Macarty plantation had been sold at auction. It stated, "After reserving two blocks for a public square, and the surrounding grounds for a school house, and cutting twenty streets on the depth for public use, the city sold the balance, divided into lots for the full sum of $80,000 ... ."

The Daily Crescent carried a long article entitled "The Dismemberment of the Macarty Plantation." It added, "It is some comfort to know, however, that a large part of the plantation is to be reserved for a public square ... ."

MACARTY & DELASSIZE ROUVANT, MICHEL 4361
MACARTY, B. PLANTERS BANK 6697
MACARTY, BARTHOLOMEW RIANO, PEDRO 1510
Macarty, Celeste Minturn, John 12,486
MaCarty, Celeste Quertier & Boutin 12,487
MACARTY, CELESTE (WIDOW PAUL LANUSSE) LANNA, JEAN 7282
MACARTY, CELESTE (WIDOW PAUL LANUSSE) FAUCHON, AGATHE (FWC) 7284
MACARTY, CELESTE (WIDOW PAUL LANUSSE) PHILIPPON 7558
MACARTY, DELPEHNIE LALAURIE, LOUIS 10,237
MACARTY, DELPHINE GUILLAUME, LUCIEN 9751
MACARTY, DRAUSIN (FMC) DAQUIN, SYLVAIN (FMC) 7444
MACARTY, EWGENE DEARMAS, VICTORINE ; MOREL, P. L. 9545
MACARTY, L. B. EMANCIPATION PETITION 9637
MACARTY, L. B. MORTGAGE PETITION 9641
MACARTY, LECHEVALIER DURAND, ANDRE ; BOUVAN, MICHEL 3742
MACARTY, LOUIS B. RICHARDSON, HENRY ; HAYES, EZEKIEL 8828
MACARTY, M. C. MACARTY, LOUIS 9588
MACARTY, M. C. ANDRY, MICHEL 9589
Macarty, Marie Delphine Lee, Sarah f.m.c. 12,349
MACARTY, S. B. DENYS, BENJAMIN 7269
MACARTY, S. B. DESCHAPELLS, L. C. LEBRETON 7270
MACARTY, THEOPHILE LANUSSE, P. (J. CHABAUD & F. PERCY - SYNDICS

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Madame Lalaurie depiction in wax. Delphine Lalaurie visits her torture chamber attic of the Most Haunted New Orleans Lalaurie House.

Musée Conti Historical Wax Museum

The Museum is located in the Historic French Quarter at 917 Rue Conti between Burgundy & Dauphine. Locates just 1½ blocks from world famous Bourbon Street.

Musée Conti Historical Wax Museum www.neworleanswaxmuseum.com

Founded in 1963, "The WAX" tells the fascinating story of New Orleans from her founding to the present day. Experience more than 300 years of History, Legend and Scandal with the 154 life-size figures displayed in historically accurate settings. Plus a Haunted Dungeon!! The Wax offers tours to school groups, individuals and is perfect for private parties.

If you are looking for a unique site to host your next special event, we can accommodate. From the corporate event, to the private wedding reception, every event at the WAX is one thoroughly enjoyed and well remembered!

More On Delphine Lalaurie

Paranormal Anomalies: New Orleans ghost pictures of the Haunted Lalaurie House ghost photo Pages

A TALE OF TWO TALES: THE TRUTH ABOUT MADAME LALAURIE?

NEW TALES OF THE REAL GHOSTS THAT HAUNT THE LALAURIE HOUSE

Madame Delphine LaLaurie and the Crucible of Horror

French Empire house of Madame Lalaurie. French Architect Pierre Edouard Trastour. Madame Lalaurie use the house to torture, murder and ghastly scientific experimentation on her many slaves. In 1834 her elderly cook set the house on fire to end the horrific ordeals. When firefighters and towns people discovered tortured manacled slaves in the attic, a angry mob ransacked the house forcing the Lalaurie's to flee the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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