Delphine LaLaurie - Myth, Fact, Lies and Fiction on Wikipedia
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Wikipedia lists the victims as 87 in number, including 75 later found under the floorboards (yeah right).
The details of the story as described in Wikipedia, most of which is pure fiction:
On April 10, 1834, during another party, a fire broke out in the kitchen of the mansion. The kitchen-- as was the norm in Spanish mansions--was separate from the home and located over the carriageway building across the courtyard. The firemen entered the building through the courtyard. To their surprise, there were two slaves chained to the stove in the kitchen. It appeared as though the slaves had set the fire themselves in order to attract attention. The fire itself was soon subdued.
The slaves directed the fire brigade to the attic. The door was bolted, forcing the fire brigade to use a battering ram to open the door. Inside the crawlspace attic was the stench of death. According to contemporary accounts, over a dozen disfigured and maimed slaves were manacled to the walls or floor. Several had allegedly been the subject of gruesome medical experiments.
The exact details are unclear; owing to the horrific nature of the crime, many details were either swept under the rug or embellished. Perhaps the most gruesome of Mme. LaLaurie's killings, was discovered by a young pickpocket by the name of Christopher Knowles. Knowles had broken into the LaLaurie residence with intention of stealing jewelry and other valuables. He broke in through the window and on the floor he discovered a bucket filled with mutilated human genetalia. Next to the bucket was a body. The body appeared to have been force fed the contents of the bucket until he eventually died from choking. LaLaurie was even reported to have tortured and killed local activist Adam Wescount, reportedly gouging out his eyes and letting crows devour his remains. One man looked as though he had been victim of some bizarre makeshift sex change. Another one had a hole in his head where a stick had been inserted to "stir his brains". A woman was trapped inside a small cage where her arms and legs had been badly broken and then reset at odd angles, making her appear as some sort of "human crab." Another woman had her arms and legs removed and patches of her flesh had been sliced off in a circular motion to make her appear as a giant caterpillar. Some had their mouths stuffed with animal excrements, sewn shut, and had then starved to death. Others had their hands sewn to different parts of their bodies. One woman had her entrails pulled out of her stomach and was secured to the floor by her own intestines. A small boy of about twelve had the flesh on half of his face peeled back, revealing muscle, veins, and so forth. The wound had since been infested with disease and insects. Two men were found to have had their tongues sewed together. One girl wore a suit made from the skin of several skinned slaves, the limbs of which were hacked and use to decorate the grand gore chamber. Most disturbing of all was an elderly man whose penis was cut into 5 equal strands, each of which was attached to a hook and the body hoist to the ceiling, with two candles placed in his eye sockets to form a macabre chandalier. Most of the victims were found dead. Those who were still alive begged to be put out of their misery and died shortly after.
Also discovered in the attic were teacups and saucers, encrusted with a "red substance." There were several bottles lying about with what was assumed to be the same red substance, later identified as blood.
The discoveries were reported and described in the papers the next day, and a mob gathered outside of the LaLaurie Mansion, demanding justice. Mme. LaLaurie escaped by horse and carriage to Bayou St. John, where she allegedly paid the captain of a schooner to carry her across to Mandeville or Covington. Many claimed they escaped to Paris. Others say they remained on the outskirts of New Orleans.
Rumor had it that when the mob rushed after the carriage, they heard screams from the house. They thought the screams came from ghosts, which led to the rumors of the haunted house. A hundred years later, the skeletons of 75 people were found during a renovation.
The only original news story available on the web paints a much more conservative picture of the scene:
"...the doors were pried open for the purpose of liberating them. Predisposed to taking this liberty, (If liberty it can be detailed) several gentlemen impelled by their feelings demanded the keys which were refused them in a gross and insulting manner. Upon entering one of the apartments the most apalling spectacle met their eyes. Several slaves more or less horribly mutilated, were seen suspended from the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other. Language is powerless and inadequate to give a proper recollection of the horror which a scene like this must have inspired. We shall not attempt it, but leave it rather to the reader's imagination to picture what it was!
The slaves were the property of the demon in the shape of a woman whom we mentioned in the beginning of this article. They had been confined by her for several months in the situation from which they had thus been rescued and had merely been kept in existenceto prolong their sufferings and to make them taste all that the most refined cruelty could inflict. But why dwell upon the particulars! We feel confident that the community share with us our indignation, and that vengeance will fall, heavily full upon the guilty culprit. Without being superstitious, we cannot but regard the manner in which these atrocities have been brought to light as an especial interposition of heaven.
Since the above was in type, the populace have retired to the house of this woman and have demolished and destroyed everything upon which they could lay their hand. At the time of editing this story, the mob remained unbridled and threatens the total demolition of the entire edifice."
While still disturbing, it's a far cry from the incredible claims made on Wikipedia. Another account of the events published in 1889 in a book called Strange True Stories of Louisiana describes the events as follows:
Judge Canonge confronts Doctor Lalaurie again. "Are there slaves still in your garret Monsieur?"
And the doctor replies with insulting tone that, "There are persons who would do much better by remaining at home than visiting others to dictate to them laws in the quality of officious friends."
The search went on The victims were led or carried out The sight that met the public eye made the crowd literally groan with horror and shout with indignation We saw wrote the editor of the Advertiser next day one of these miserable beings The sight was so horrible that we could scarce look upon it The most savage heart could not have witnessed the spectacle unmoved He had a large hole in his head his body from head to foot was covered with scars and filled with worms The sight inspired us with so much horror that even at the moment of writing this article we shudder from its effects Those who have seen the others represent them to be in a similar condition One after another seven dark human forms were brought forth gaunt and wild eyed with famine and loaded with irons having been found chained and tied in attitudes in which they had been kept so long that they were crippled for life.
It must have been in the first rush of the inside throng to follow these sufferers into the open air and sunlight that the quick witted Madame Lalaurie clapped to the doors of her house with only herself and her daughters possibly the coachman also inside and nothing but locks and bars to defend her from the rage of the populace The streets under her windows Royal street here Hospital yonder and the yard were thronged Something by and by put some one in mind to look for buried bodies There had been nine slaves besides the coachman where were the other two A little digging brought their skeletons to light an adult's out of the soil and the little child's out of the condemned well there they lay But the living seven the indiscreet crowd brought them food and drink in fatal abundance and before the day was done two more were dead The others were tenderly carried shall we say it to prison to the calaboose Thither at least two thousand people flocked that day to see if they might these wretched sufferers.
That's right, she had 9 slaves. Seven were found alive, though "tortured"--probably just seriously maltreated, and two were dead and had been buried earlier. Were the LaLauries wicked? Definitely? Do they quality as serial killers? No. There were probably many other slave owners down there who treated their slaves just as bad.
Should this really be the most haunted house in America? If you actually had 75 bodies buried under the floorboards, it might qualify for being most "haunted," but in this case, only two people were known to have died (or at least been buried) in that house while the LaLauries were there.
So why all the fiction? A lot of people enjoy ghost stories, embellishing them and telling them to people who equally enjoy hearing them. There are also people who benefit from selling tours to haunted houses and so on. The Delphine LaLaurie story is not true. There are houses where far worse things have happened (think of John Wayne Gacy's house, for example, or Jeffrey Dahmer's). As for Wikipedia, this is just another reason not to trust it. The Wikinazis sho love crazy stories!
The interesting thing is that there was a discussion on Wikipedia about it, but it seems to have gone nowhere:
Examining this story, for that is what it is, using sound logic pokes it full of holes through which its brains might be stirred, as the artcle says.
First of all: All of the victims died before they could be interviewed by anyone. This seems remarkably convenient that they were able to start a fire but were too weak to survive for long afterwards.
Second of all: The victims start a fire, in the place where they are in, to gain attention, even though they are restrained and are likely to be killed by this fire.
Third: The slaves were taken away once before, and yet said nothing of the basement torture chamber or murders etc.
Fourth: Slaves were goddamn expensive! And buying 12, much less 80 some, just to kill them, would be a monumentally large misallocation of funds. Also, if they were all kept chained, how did the mansion function without its servants? Ms LaLaurie must have found time to do the dishes, cook the meals, serve the food and take care of her children inbetween being a murderess.
Fifth: Slaves are not cattle. It is impercievable that 80 people could disappear slowly, and that no one would have a clue as to what was occuring, especially considering:
Sixth: The murder chamber was on the third floor, and was run supposedly by a lady. We must therefore understand that she disposed of the bodies by carrying them down three flights of stairs on her own. She would then have to wash off her bloody garments, all without being noticed. This is impossible, and yet its never indicated that she had an accomplice.
Seventh: Anyone imprisoned in the attic of a house in New Orleans for long would have likely died of heat exhaustion long before any tortures could be performed.
Eighth: Mme. LaLaurie was clearly not present to defend herself in any way, and it is absurd that the tale can continue without further input from her, or without word of her.
Ninth: After ten or so people are found brutally tortured in her home, she is allowed to wander off freely by the constablary.
Tenth: The article claims 75 corpses were found buried on the third floor. WHAT?
For these ten reasons I believe this article must be looked at as highly suspect, as must the legend in general. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.8.131.52 (talk) 01:02, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
Somebody on another forum raised similiar questions about the LaLaurie myth and ghost story:
I was utterly horrified, but then you start to think about it and realise that most of it must be a folk tale. It has all the classic embellishments such as the vague suggestion that Delphine's parents were killed in a slave revolt.
And 75 skeletons, that's tonnes of decaying people inside a house. You simply wouldn't be able to live in a house with perhaps 20-30 corpses in varying states of decomposition at any one time stuffed under the floorboards. Just one corpse even with much more work put into disposal will make an unbearable stench that gets noticed, as the cases of murderers like Dennis Nielsen have shown.
Even in a large house, 75 dead people would take up an enormous amount of room and Delphine would have needed a team of servants just to help with the servants she was killing, unless someone wants to include weightlifting and DIY as her favorite hobbies to further embellish the story. Then there is the economic reality of somebody doing the equivalent of buying two cars a month and just driving them into a river since we can assume that the 75 stowed under the floor is just the tip of the iceberg it's a surprise that Delphine wasn't bankrupt.
In the end what we have here is a horror story, and an illustration of how even relatively recent history can be totally obscured and lost in myth.
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