Madame Delphine Lalaurie
Madame Delphine Lalaurie
© 2009-2011 Miami Paranormal Research Society
“Orleans , Gentilly,
These are the words that come to me
(The haunting turn of an old refrain)
From the Siren City beside the sea,
Child of the valour of France and Spain,
She sits there weaving her olden spells.
The years through her lissom fingers run
To form but a chaplet whereon she tells,
The names of her lovers, one by one!
Gayoso, Galves, Bougligny,
Don Almonaster’s bells intone:
For Bienville and for Serigny,
For D’Iberville, for Assigny,
They make incessant moan.
Orleans , Gentilly,
- William McLennan
Most paranormal enthusiasts have heard of the notorious Madame Delphine Lalaurie who lived in New Orleans. It is considered the Holy Grail of the Paranormal world. This is one of those truly rare cases where the history is haunting to the researcher. I have heard many shocking things in my line of work but I have to say that the LaLaurie case is just one that is just so far beyond imagination. The details and accusations can only be compared to driving past a train wreck or a plane crash. You tell yourself that you really don’t want to look; yet you can’t look away.
As a human being, you do not want to believe that another human is capable of the horrors that Madame Delphine has been accused of inflicting. All the more horrific is the realization that you could be a descendant of such an infamous and controversial figure. That is the basis of a book that I am working on which are based upon some old family documents and legends.
Marie Delphine Macarty was born in 1775 into an upper class, Creole family and although her first name was Marie, she preferred to be called Delphine as she felt it sounded more distinguished. Her parents were Barthelemy Louis Chevalier de Maccarthy and Marie Jean Lecomte Maccarthy. Their last name was later shortened to McCarty. Barthelemy’s parents were Chevalier Macarty and Françoise Helene Pellerin, prominent land owners in Louisiana and established the family plantation in New Orleans. Barthelemy was their second son. He married the widow Marie Jean Lecomte.
Barthelemy had an older brother named Augustin Guilllaume de Mccarty who was born on May 5th, 1745 in New Orleans. He also had an older sister named Mademoiselle Jeanne de Macarty. Mademoiselle Jean owned so much property that her entire estate later became the suburb Carollton.
Delphine was also one of five siblings.
One of the legends that has been told and retold is a story that Delphine’s parents were brutally murdered by their slaves during a revolt on their Louisiana property. Delphine would a very young girl at the time and she allegedly witnessed the crimes. Most people associate this story with her cruel nature in an attempt to explain it. However, Delphine Lalurie’s mother, Marie Jeanne Lerable, actually died of natural causes on February 26, 1807.
If cruelty was involved, and there is evidence supporting the fact that there was, it was a sign of the time. Slaves were seen as less than human, lower than animals and there you have it. I am not trying to explain away her actions but perhaps I can shed a bit of light on why she did these things. Back then, there was no real treatment for mental illness. They would just lock you away in an attic or a sanitarium, where the “treatment” was far worse than the affliction. If you weren’t completely insane when you arrived, you would soon be. However, I have absolutely no clue as to why Dr. LaLaurie went right along with her behavior and did in fact take part in these acts. That surely is one of the blanks that I cannot fill in. In her writings, Delphine comes across as an intelligent, sophisticated and kind woman. The same has been said about her by those who were guests at her house.
Barthelemy Macarty’s nephew was Augustin Francois de Maccarty. He was born to Augustin Gullaume de Maccarty and Jeanne Chauvin de Lery on January 10, 1774. Augustin had a younger brother Jean Baptiste who was born in 1776. Augustin served as the 6th mayor of New Orleans from 1815 to 1820. He won his first term in office in 1815 because he was the only candidate. After 1820, Augustin retired and did not seek re-election. There are conflicting stories about Augustin’s private life. Some sources say that he had married, others say that he never married Either way Augustin had close ties to a free woman of color named Celeste Perrault for over half a century. There is evidence that they did have a child together.
Augustin Macarty owned a large tract of land in New Orleans and in fact, his plantation neighbored the plantation owned by Andrew Jackson. Jackson’s plantation served as the headquarters during the battle of New Orleans. Augustin did so many wonderful things for the people of this city, such as establishing public services including the Board of Health. The establishment of the Board of Health, arose from a Yellow Fever epidemic that killed about over a thousand people in Louisiana within a five month time period in the year 1817. Mayor Augustin de Macarty had the city’s first shipment of ice dumped into the river because he feared that consuming the frozen commodity would cause consumption (an early term for Tuberculosis). Augustin died in 1844 at the age of 70.
Delphine’s first husband was Don Ramon de Lopez y Angulo whom she married on March 26,1800. Their ceremony took place at the St. Louis Cathedral by the first bishop of the Diocese in Louisiana, Luis de Penalver y Cardenas. Don Ramon de Lopez y Angulo was a high-ranking officer in the Spanish Army. He was the son of Lord Don Jose Antonio de Lopez y Angula and Dona Ana Fernande de Angule. Delphine Lalaurie was his second wife. There is a very interesting story about their marriage. As it turns out, they married without consent from the King of Spain. This had very serious repercussions on his military career and his social standing in New Orleans when this fact was uncovered. For this deed, Don Ramon was forced to appear before the Spanish Court and was exiled to San Sebastian.
In March of 1804, Spain gave Louisiana to the United States and Ramon de Lopez y Angulo received a pardon. He died of heart failure on the USS Ulysses on his way back to Louisiana. He was buried in his homeland Havana. Grandmother traveled there to bury her husband. While she was there, she gave birth to her first child, Marie Françoise Borja Lopez y Angula de Candelaria. She was named after Don Ramon’s grandmother, Dona Francisca Borja Enecis. Marie was known as Borquita to the family.
Delphine remarried on June 16, 1808 to a man named Jean Pierre Palin Blanque who was an attorney, a banker, a lawmaker and a slave trader. Jean Blanque had come to New Orleans in 1803. Considering his prominent role in commerce, there is substantial historical documentation about him. They had four children together whom were born at their residence known as at 409 Royal Street. The eldest was daughter Marie Louise Jeanne who was born in 1815. Their other three children’s names were, Jean Louis Leonard LaLaurie, Louise Marie Laure Blanque, and Marie Louise Pauline Blanque. Jean Blanque died in February 1816.
There are some people who have written articles on the Internet, professing to know the family’s history whom have written erroneously that Don Ramon de Lopez and Borquita had also been murdered by slaves. Her children, managed to live long and prosperous lives. Delphine had a total of six children, fathered by her three husbands. She had one child with her first husband Don Ramon. Four children with her second husband Jean Blanque and one with her third husband Dr. LaLaurie.
Borquita grew up and married Placide Forstall. The Forstall’s were a notable family in Louisina.
Jeanne Blanque married Charles Auguste de Lassus who was the son of Don Carle de Lassus, governor twice elected.
Her daughter, “Borquita” died in New Orleans in 1884. Jeanne Pierre Paulin Blanque also died in New Orleans in the year 1868. Jean Louis Leonard LaLaurie died in New Orleans in 1883. Her other three daughters, Louise Marie Laure Blanque, Marie Louise Pauline Blanque and Marie Louise Jeanne Blanque died in Paris.
Delphine remarried a third and final time to a prominent physician named Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas Lalaurie on June 12, 1824. Dr. LaLaurie was originally from Villeneuse-sur-Lot France who immigrated here to start a successful medical practice.
In 1828, Delphine sold the family plantation to Martin Duralde. Delphine LaLaurie, purchased lots for the construction of a new house on September 12, 1831. Upon this land, Edmond Soniet de Fossat constructed a magnificent mansion in the French Quarter at 1140 Royal Street. This address was quite appropriate for the LaLaurie’s as they reigned as social elite. No other building stood here before its construction. The house that sits there today is not the original structure. The building as we see today is a much larger version of the original and that brings us to the dark side of Madame Lalaurie. I was hesitant about writing the true account of what happened as I thought many in the paranormal community may be “disappointed.” After all, the Lalaurie mansion is the Holy Grail of the paranormal world. However, I am not one to embellish a story or a history just for the sake of making it “scarier.” The reason people buy my books is because of all the research I do and sometimes that research dispels the myths surrounding these locations.
It is true that Madame Lalaurie was abusive to her slaves. There is considerable documentation to back that up. She was abusive to those slaves who displeased her. However, around 1832, she had emancipated several slaves.
On April 10, 1834, a was fire set in the kitchen by a slave. Now the modern stories circulating on the internet tell us that the house itself was ablaze. However, local newspaper articles dated between April 10 to 15 1834 indicated that the fire was not in the residence itself but instead in the back service wing. The kitchen was on the ground floor and the slave quarters were on the floor above.
A legal deposition given by a Judge who was on the scene described seven starved and abused slaves who were removed to safety and none of them died. There is documentation that a slave was in fact chained up in the kitchen, but the articles do not specify where ie: the stove.
Upon the discovery of the condition of the slaves, a riot did break out. The angry mob literally tore down the original Lalaurie house. In the aftermath, only two walls were left intact. Okay, so the story about the attic and the chamber of horrors has been embellished to say the least. There were no medical experiments, jars of body parts and all the ghoulish stomach turning details.
Madame Lalaurie was no Saint but she was not the Devil either. The angry mob had nonetheless come for the Doctor and Mrs. Lalaurie. They managed to escape and fled to Paris. They left New Orleans on April 10, 1834. Before they left, Delphine gave her some in law Placide Forstall power of attorney. Dr. Lalaurie signed over power of attorney to another of Delphine’s sons in law, Auguste de Lassus. They were able to escape with the help of one of their slaves who drove the stage coach. The driver who saved her life from the lynch mob was never emancipated.
There are articles online that point to Madame Lalaurie possibly being one of the first victims of yellow journalism due to the conflicting news articles. I wondered about this myself. However, the notion that these accusations were the result of jealousy, on the part of Monsier Montreuil who was a neighbor, was started in the 1920’s by Delphine’s decendents. These relatives were able to convince several local journalists and authors to write articles in her defense.
Just how did the gruesome tales of the little girl jumping off the roof to her death and the medical experiments and body parts get started?
I have been corresponding with historian and upcoming author Carolyn Long about the specifics of the Lalaurie case. Ms. Long by the way, has written an academic historical account of Madame Lalaurie. Her book is due out in the spring of 2011. I will keep you posted about it. Carolyn Long is an expert on the history of Madame Lalaurie. She did shed light on many of the points of this case that just did not add up.
As for the story about the little girl jumping off the roof and into the courtyard to her death, A visitor to New Orleans in 1836 was told the Lalaurie story about the little girl falling off of the roof by some of the locals. This person told people, who told others and the story is still going strong on the internet. The newspaper articles of 1834 newspapers do say that a child’s skeleton was found at the bottom of an old well in the courtyard. It is a fact that Delphine Lalaurie did own a female slave who died in 1831. There was a formal funeral for this child however, with service performed by a priest. Considering this, I have to agree with Carolyn Long that it is highly doubtful that her body was discarded in a well after the funeral. This solves one mystery but opens the door to another; just who was the little girl found at the bottom of the well?
As for the story about the medical experiments, those tales were started The stories about the grotesque medical experiments started in a book written by Jeanne Delavigne, “Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans” published in 1946. The Lalaurie story was embellished in the chapter “The haunted House of Rue Royale.”
Since then, the tales have been reprinted and many paranormal websites continue to embellish (and relish) these disgusting tales. The most recent development, is the claim that while undergoing a recent renovation, seventy five bodies were discovered underneath a wooden floor in the kitchen and that these remains date back to Delphine’s era. Furthermore, the victims are said to have been buried alive. That story as it turns out, is 100% fiction and does not even match historical fact. Both the fire and the riot destroyed that house. A new foundation was laid. If there were any bodies to be found, they would have been found then. In fact, that was the very reason why the original Lalaurie house was destroyed by the mob.
I just wish that more paranormal writers and groups would do their historical research instead of propelling fiction but then, that’s why people like to read my writings. I am quite sure that the paranormal and historical communities anxiously awaits the release of Ms. Long’s book. She is a very nice lady and it was a pleasure to speak with her. I will be one of the first in line to purchase a copy of her book and we will definitely discuss it here at the Miami Paranormal Research Society.
Ms. Long’s book will be published by University Press of Florida in January 2012. The title will be Madame Delphine Lalaurie, Mistress of the Haunted House.