Deadlands Noir Extinct in the Big Easy
History of the Lalaurie House
1831 – Madame Delphine Lalaurie and husband Dr. Louis Lalaurie buy the house at 1140 Royal St. from Edmond Soniat du Fossat. Delphine Lalaurie rises to a position of social prominence.
1833- Rumors grow about Madame Lalaurie’s cruelty to her slaves. She is seen cowhiding the child of a slave when the young girl breaks away and runs onto the balcony. Madame Lalaurie chases the child – who falls and is killed instantly. Madame Lalaurie has her secretly buried at night in an old well in the rear courtyard of the house.
1833 — After the death of the young slave girl, Madame Lalaurie was fined and all of her slaves were taken from her and sold at auction. She convinced relatives to buy the slaves at auction and return them to her.
April 1834 – A fire breaks out at the house. Rescuers discover tortured, tormented slaves locked and chained in rooms in the attic. More than a dozen slaves are found – some chained to a wall and in a horrible state. Some were strapped to crudely fashioned operating tables while others were confined in cages made for dogs. Human body parts were scattered around the attic. Some firefighters are said to have fainted at the sight.
The entire neighborhood gathers and storms the house. Madame Lalaurie escapes by carriage just ahead of the mob and takes a schooner from St. John’s Bayou to St. Tammany Parish. She is said to have gone to Paris but her whereabouts remain unknown. Rumors persist that she lived on the Northshore until her death.
1837 – 1865 -The house is rebuilt and strange stories begin about ghostly sightings, unusual noises, and flickering lights in the upstairs windows. The next owner only lives in it for 3 months. The house is rented out; a furniture store occupies the basement for a short time. The house is a barbershop for a few months. No tenant or business stays too long. It is rumored that there is a curse on the location and that nothing will last long there.
1842 – Delphine Lalaurie dies and her body is said to have been buried in New Orleans at an undisclosed location.
1860 to 1865 the Civil War rages through the country.
1865 – During Reconstruction, house becomes a girl’s public high school, open to both white and black children.
1878 – New Orleans school system is segregated. School becomes high school for black girls only. Lasts for one year.
1882 – House becomes conservatory of music and dancing school. Dismal failure when rumor spreads about owner of school and no one attends planned soiree and concert. Owner closes school next day. That night, it is rumored that the spirits of the Lalaurie house held a wild carnival to celebrate their triumph.
1889 – An apartment in the house occupied by Joseph Edouard Vigne for a little more than 3 years. He was thought to be a pauper.
1892 – Vigne found dead upstairs – after black crepe seen on the doors. An inspection of his apartment reveals over $10,000 in cash and family heirlooms stashed in various places around the dwelling. Contents of house auctioned off.
1920 – House is tenement by this time – many reports of ghosts. “There were no other families living here and one night, on the third floor, I saw a man walking carrying his head on his arm,” reports one resident.
1923 – House sold to William Warrington who established the Warrington House, a refuge for young delinquents.
April 1932: Ortega, Casio and other transients working their way cross country take up residents at the Warrington House. Many vanish while working at the Lake Pontchartrain Amusement Park. Most assume they just moved on.