Madame LaLaurie: The “Torture Queen” of the American South

New Orleans infamous serial killer Madame LaLaurie in wax effigy.
New Orleans infamous serial killer Madame LaLaurie in wax effigy.

Marie Delphine Macarty, more commonly known as “Madame LaLaurie,” was a Creole socialite and one of the most infamous serial killers in the world. The “cruel mistress” of Louisiana was born on March 19, 1787, in New Orleans to an Irish gentleman and a French lady of upper society.

On June 25, 1825, the already twice-widowed Marie Delphine Macarty married a well-respected physician named Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie, a man nearly twenty years younger than her. Six years later, in 1831, the couple bought a property in New Orleans, Louisiana, where they built an impressive mansion with attached slave quarters on the corner of Royal Street and Governor Nicholls Street in the historic French Quarter. Although Madame Lalaurie’s public treatment of her slaves was decent, visitors to the family’s estate had noticed that the servants seemed extremely “haggard and wretched.”

The "LaLaurie Mansion" at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The “LaLaurie Mansion” at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

One gruesome story describes a 12-year-old slave girl who, while combing her mistress, accidentally pulled out one of her hairs. LaLaurie chased her around with a whip, and the young girl chose to leap off the Royal Street mansion roof rather than face whatever torture was waiting for her. The disturbed woman had the young slave’s body dumped in a well.

Madame LaLaurie was also famous for collecting horrific torture devices and beating her daughters when trying to feed her starved slaves. According to numerous shocking reports, she committed several horrendous crimes, such as stuffing animal feces into her slaves’ mouths and then sewing them shut, as well as wrapping their intestines around their bodies. She also had the arms of a woman “amputated and her skin peeled off in a circular pattern, making her look like a human caterpillar,” and the limbs of an another “broken and reset at odd angles, so she resembled a human crab.”

LaLaurie was also known to have her 70-year-old female slave cook chained to a stove. On April 10, 1834, the emaciated woman set the luxurious estate on fire to call attention to the madame’s brutal treatment of her slaves. Marie LaLaurie fled New Orleans with her family and went to Paris, France, leaving her chained slaves to burn in the mansion’s attic. LaLaurie’s atrocious crimes were dramatized by Kathy Bates in Netflix’s “American Horror Story” series.

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