Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blame It On the Voodoo

Magnet # 361:  New Orleans Voodoo Doll, Skull

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Me

Considering that I live in Savannah, Georgia, a city that has been dubbed "America's Most Haunted," I wasn't expecting to encounter enough spooky places on my trip to New Orleans earlier this year to give us a run for our money.  But the Crescent City definitely has a serious amount of its own haunts - you could almost say there's a ghost on every corner.  Also, the variety of ghosts and hauntings also seems to differ from those we have here.  While many of Savannah's ghost stories tend to revolve around accidents and mishaps, that often doesn't seem to be the case in New Orleans.  There, many of its citizens engaged in dark, even depraved behavior, and their actions seem to still stain the city nowadays.  Why the difference?  Well, I'm no expert, but they do have a much stronger presence of Voodoo, a religious practice that combines African and Roman Catholic beliefs and can, on occasion, dabble in the dark arts.  There are those who might use it to hex an enemy or call upon a dangerous spirit, behavior which is mostly discouraged.  I have to wonder if that doesn't account for some of New Orleans' twisted history.  Whatever the cause, there are definitely some creepy tales of cursed spots and dark occurrences coming from the Crescent City.  But there is one story that stands out even among the darkest they have to offer.

I wasn't sure about joining a ghost tour on my trip, and at the end of one evening I was pretty worn out from walking all over town.  By my Dad's sister told me about how her son had visited New Orleans and done a ghost tour and I was pretty intrigued by one of the stories he'd told her.  So I gathered my strength and headed over to a walking ghost tour of the French Quarter.  I ended up having a fun time, and was pretty impressed with just how many dark stories and reportedly haunted locations were included.  Close to the end of the tour, we arrived at an attractive three-story house on Royal Street.  We had run across one or two other tour groups before then, but as more and more converged on at spot, I knew the place's story had to be pretty interesting.  It was once the home of Madame Delphine LaLaurie and her third husband, a doctor.  She was one of the most highly regarded socialites in New Orleans and though her house was somewhat unimpressive from the outside, she had decorated it with all sorts of lavish furnishings.  An invitation to one of her parties was sought after by many and those who attended were usually overwhelmed by her hospitality, intelligence, and beauty.  But eventually, there were some rumbling of how quickly her slaves seemed to come and go, save a handsome mulatto butler who was almost always at Dephine's side.  And when a neighbor happened to catch her chasing a young slave girl on the roof with a whip, Delphine's good fortune began to turn sour.  The child fell off that roof , died, and was buried in a shallow grave in the yard.  This was simply unacceptable behavior - there were laws at that time that prevented slaves from being brutalized and the authorities were called in.  They seized Delphine's slaves and sold them at auction - unfortunately, she was able to manipulate her relatives into buying them and returning them to her clutches.  At least her social status began to decline, as many of refined society began to avoid her. 

In April of 1834, the awful truth of Delphine and her home came out when she and her husband were away at the theater.  A fire broke out in the kitchen and those who responded found a cook chained there, who claimed to have started the blaze to end things, one way or the other.  When they reached the attic, they found it to be locked and Dr. LaLaurie refused to open it.  When the door was broken down and the volunteer firemen entered the room, they were aghast by what they saw.  Slaves had been chained to the wall and strapped to tables, none of them clothed, and experimented on.  Parts of their bodies had been removed, some of them even crudely sewn back on, or some just sewn up.  There were even body parts all over the room.  Really, the atrocities are just so awful that I don't want to go into detail here - if you're morbidly curious, try a Google search.  It's generally believed that the mistress of the home alone was responsible for these ghastly acts, although her husband must have been aware.  Some believe that she had gotten her start down this demented path with some help from famed Voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau.  Shockingly, Delphine was able to retrieve her jewels and flee with her family, evading justice.  No one knows what became of them, but they may have ended up in France or another part of Louisiana.  There is even evidence to suggest that her body was secretly buried in New Orleans' St. Louis Cemetery No.1.  None of those she had tortured in the attic survived.  Furious that they could not punish the evil Delphine, the people of New Orleans stormed the house and tore it apart.  I have to wonder why they didn't burn it to the ground.

The home where Delphine practiced her demonic work still stands in the French Quarter and is its most notorious building.  It has taken on many incarnations over the years, but none of them have lasted.  People now claim to hear weeping and screams of agony in the house.  They also are said to catch glimpses of the slaves walking on the balconies and other parts of the grounds.  Some have even reportedly seen men in chains and phantoms wielding whips.  Perhaps the most intriguing story is that of a furniture store owner who found all of his merchandise covered in a mysterious black liquid.  He cleaned it up and reopened, only to have his furniture destroyed again by the substance.  But he had been watching the store all night, and had seen nobody enter.  Another owner was in the process of remodeling and discovered a pit filled with skeletal remains beneath the floor boards in a back room.  This seems to be the spot where the lady of the house hid away some of the  evidence of her crimes.  There are even claims that the wicked spirit of Delphine has been seen at the house, still wearing her elegant evening gowns.  Actor Nicholas Cage actually bought the house in 2007, but he didn't keep it for very long.  Who knows what occurred there to drive him out.  This much seems almost certain - that the house at 1140 Royal Street isn't simply haunted, it's cursed.  And as long as it stands, it will serve as a reminder of some of New Orleans' most shameful moments.


  1. What a gruesome tale. The Madame was certainly demented.

  2. Absolutely - it's a shame she wasn't punished for her crimes.

  3. Really love this magnet, and the story too!

  4. Thanks - they make quite the pair, eh?