19 Facts About Madame LaLaurie, Socialite, Slave Torturer, & Serial Killer

Madame LaLaurie holds a special place in the mythology of the South, and New Orleans in particular. If there ever was a house that was haunted, it would be her mansion, a collection of rooms used for grotesquely harming and ending the lives of slaves in the most violent ways possible. Born Marie Delphine Macarty, Madame LaLaurie was a wealthy socialite and slave owner who had a body count that rumored to be somewhere near 100. Other accounts believe she owned closer to 50 slaves.

Many people believe that it was after she married her third husband that LaLaurie's virulent instincts kicked in. Whatever the reason, she was known to openly flog her slaves for even the most trivial of perceived slights. Even given the abhorrent standards of behavior towards slaves in her time and place, this was considered extreme, and her behavior got her investigated for cruelty in 1828, 1829, and 1832.

Some historians believe her worst actions may have been exaggerated over time as her tale became a legend, but even contemporary news reports of the area paint a terrifying picture. With this collection of gruesome facts, you'll come to meet one of the most disturbing people who ever walked the face of the earth, and one who never faced any recrimination for the brutality she doled out.

Actress Kathy Bates depicted a fictionalized version of LaLaurie in the third season of American Horror Story. And in October 2019, The Conjuring writers Chad and Carey Hayes announced their plans to begin a new horror film franchise based on LaLaurie's home. They describe their intention saying, "The stories will unfold in multiple installments covering the history of the house from recent horrific events of modern day all the way back to the terrifying origins of the house's history and its owner, Madame Delphine LaLaurie."

Madame LaLaurie has become a part of New Orleans legend, and her house, as it stands now, is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the slaves who met their demise at her hands. Even if you don't believe in ghosts, the story is so disturbing that a haunting feels likely.

  • She Attempted To Turn A Woman Into A Human Caterpillar

    After Madame LaLaurie's mansion caught fire and the people of New Orleans rushed to save the slaves who were trapped inside, they found some truly disturbing human "experiments" locked in the attic of the house. According to Kalila Katherina Smith's book Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans:

    [A] victim [of the 1834 fire who] obviously had her arms amputated and her skin peeled off in a circular pattern, making her look like a human caterpillar.

    The book also describes another woman who had had her limbs broken and reset in a way that made her look like a crab.

  • She Wrapped Her Slaves' Intestines Around Their Bodies Like Belts

    She Wrapped Her Slaves' Intestines Around Their Bodies Like Belts
    Photo: Travis S. / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    It's hard to know whether LaLaurie escalated her gross treatment during the time she held slaves, but one of the sickest forms LaLaurie committed was allegedly chaining women up, cutting their stomachs open, and then wrapping their intestines around their waists.

    Stories say she would then let their bodies hang and rot. 

  • She Stuffed Animal Waste Into One Woman's Mouth, Then Sewed It Shut

    She Stuffed Animal Waste Into One Woman's Mouth, Then Sewed It Shut
    Photo: Thérèse de Dillmont / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    One of the most brutal forms of torment that LaLaurie exacted on her slaves indicates that it's possible she didn't act alone. After breaking into the Madame's attic to save slaves, rescuers found one woman with animal waste confined in her mouth, as someone had sewn her lips shut.

    Aside from being one of the most gruesome torments imaginable, it's also something that would be hard to do on one's own. In order to do this, presumably someone has to hold the person down, and you need at least one more person to handle the animal waste, and maybe a third to sew. LaLaurie gets the credit for being the boogey-woman of New Orleans, but some theorists speculate that she had accomplices

  • She Broke A Woman's Bones To Make Her Fit Into A Tiny Cage

    Many of LaLaurie's slaves were horrifically mangled, with bones that had been many times broken and reset. When the attic was finally opened up, one woman was discovered missing her arms and legs. Another woman had had her bones twisted and broken in order to fit her inside a tiny metal cage meant for dogs.

    At the time of the discovery, both women were still alive.

  • She Used A Stick To 'Stir' One Man's Brains

    Many skulls were found with holes drilled into them - and in one case, a slave was still living with a maggot-filled hole in his head. Even more horrifying, it was said one man was found with a hole drilled into his head and a stick protruding out that had been used to "stir" his brains.

  • She Chained Her Personal Chef to the Stove

    She Chained Her Personal Chef to the Stove
    Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Nothing dehumanizes a person quite like chaining them to the physical representation of their station in life, and that's exactly what LaLaurie did to the 70-year-old woman who cooked all of her meals. Either because she couldn't trust the woman to not escape or because she derived a sick satisfaction from exacting control, LaLaurie literally chained this woman to her work station.

    Ironically, this would be LaLaurie's undoing. Rather than live out the rest of her life chained to an oven, the emaciated cook set fire to LaLaurie's mansion, calling attention to the Madame's brutal treatment of her slaves before the entire city of New Orleans.