Powerful Witches, the French Quarter of New Orleans and legendary Voodoo Queen Marie LaVeau, what’s not to love about the latest edition of the TV series American Horror Story: Coven?
While I love a juicy fictional tale as much as the next girl, as a writer, when fiction misrepresents historical facts about a place and people I love, I get a bit uneasy…
I enjoy the TV series, American Horror Story, and in fact, I suggest in my book, published in 2011, that the LaLaurie home in New Orleans would be a perfect setting for the American Horror Story series.
Excerpt of my book, Spirits of New Orleans, Clerisy Press, 2011:
…”If you’ve seen the TV show American Horror Story, Madame LaLaurie’s home could give that house a run for its money. More horrific activities have occurred at this home over the years and no one is ever able to rest easy in the home. The house appears to have a “presence”, an entity that has developed from all the torture and misery experienced in the home. The entity seems to have an effect on all who stay in the home, leading many of them to do dark deeds of their own.”
I write often about my love affair with New Orleans and the reasons why I wrote the book – Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire Legends and Cities of the Dead. I’m also no stranger to the paranormal, rather my three passions are history, travel and the supernatural, hence the creation of the Spirits of New Orleans book, which covers all three of these topics in order to entice travelers to the city.
In the Spirits book, I dedicate an entire chapter to Madame LaLaurie and her infamous house of horrors. For those of you watching the American Horror Story show, this is the character played by Kathy Bates, who is one of my favorite actresses of all time. The entire cast of the show is brilliantly set, with Angela Bassett as Marie LaVeau, Kathy Bates as Madame LaLaurie and Jessica Lange as Fiona Goode, the Supreme Witch.
In the first episode, Kathy as madwoman Madame LaLaurie bathes her face in blood and keeps her servants in various stages of macabre torture up in her attic. This story line is one that you will hear shared often in New Orleans and the house where Madame lived is still standing in the French Quarter.
The story line for the show with Madame LaLaurie definitely creates a very scary tale and American Horror Story is a fictional TV series, so the story will certainly take some wild turns. My only concern is that some people who are not as familiar with the history of New Orleans and who are only learning of these stories through the show, will assume that the story lines are factual and will believe that Madame LaLaurie was indeed a madwoman and as she is called by some, the first female serial killer. In our age of information, where many people believe what they see portrayed on TV, it is possible that many people will come to think of Madame LaLaurie as this character, when in fact, it is not true!
While researching my Spirits book, it became clear that Madame LaLaurie did not commit the atrocities of which she was accused. Marie Delphine LaLaurie or Madame LaLaurie as she was called, was a prominent figurehead in New Orleans society, coming from a family that had done well both financially and politically. Wealthy, beautiful, and established, she lived in one of the most beautiful homes in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Now on her third marriage, she had married Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie, a doctor who was a great deal younger. Marie, along with her two daughters from a previous marriage, settled into their new home with Dr. LaLaurie at 1140 Royal Street and looked forward to her new social status as a doctor’s wife.
Instead, Madame spent the rest of her life labeled as a monster. Some say after she was accused of these crimes, that she escaped to Paris, only to spend the rest of her life longing to return to live in New Orleans, missing her family and her life there in the only city she called home. Other reports say that she never left the area and lived nearby in the city once the event settled down. Years later it appears that the neighbor who started all of the malicious gossip and rumors about her was actually a former business partner of her deceased brother, who was trying to discredit Madame and gain control of her assets. His rumors were fueled by yellow journalism and the love of shocking stories and gossip in the city.
It also appears that some people were jealous of her socio-economic status and so intent upon incriminating Madame that they pinned all sorts of sinister activities against her. Yet when looking at the official public records in the city, what they show is that Madame freed two servants of her own and helped them financially as well. Additional legal records show that she petitioned for a legal separation from Dr. LaLaurie and reported that the reason for her request of separation was due to spousal abuse. She swore on oath that he was beating and wounding her in terribly unmentionable manners and in the document, she pleaded to be released from her marriage to him.
Here in public records, we have Madame reporting being abused by her husband the doctor, and asking to be legally separated from him. When the fire broke out in the home and the slaves were found, they reportedly had experienced the most bizarre surgeries of all kinds. Why was the attention and investigation not turned to Dr. LaLaurie, a surgeon, who would certainly be capable of these types of atrocities? The records state that Dr. LaLaurie was a surgeon who specialized in physical deformities and had been known for operating on hunchbacks in France in order to correct their skeletal structure.
While I was in New Orleans investigating this story for the book, a local magazine ran a story by Emily Hingle, which provided extremely helpful details regarding the research of Madame LaLaurie. She states that in 1934 the Times Picayune reported that Madame was not to blame for what occurred. The reporter in 1934, Meigs Frost revealed that the neighbor who had told the firemen that slaves were chained in the attic was a Monsieur Montreuil. It turns out that Montreuil was a beneficiary of the estate of L.B. Macarty, who was Madame’s brother and Madame was the administrator of her brother’s estate. The reporter found numerous legal challenges and notices posted in the newspapers during 1840 through 1850, all of which Madame won against Montreuil. It is now suspected that Montreuil started all of these rumors in order to cast suspicion on her and to ruin her reputation. Hingle reports that Frost also uncovered that Madame continued to have court documents regarding property disputes listed after leaving the house on Royal Street and there appears to be growing evidence that she never went to Paris and instead moved to the Treme area of New Orleans.
In my Spirits of New Orleans book, I outline the entire case history and story and invite you to read for yourself to determine what actually happened in this story.
However, I must also say, this does not mean that the house is not haunted! In fact, it is reportedly one of the most haunted homes in the French Quarter!
One of the most interesting reports of supernatural activity reported at the home comes from the 1950’s, when the home operated as a furniture store. The owner of the store began to complain that someone was breaking into the store each night and putting a gooey and foul smelling liquid substance all over the furniture. He was so upset by the destruction of his furniture that he decided to stay overnight in the store with a shotgun, ready to shoot the vandals who were entering the store and pouring this liquid on top of the furniture.
He stayed up all night for as long as he could and drifted off to sleep for only a few minutes before waking to find the sticky substance on the furniture with no signs of entry into the building. From the descriptions he provided, paranormal researchers today would refer to this substance as ectoplasm. The paranormal activity continued nightly in the store and the owner was forced to close down the business and move elsewhere in order to preserve his inventory.
Each person who has owned the home throughout history has a horrific story to share. Reportedly previous owner Nicholas Cage experienced some financial difficulties and the home went up for sale via auction, lending more credibility to the curse that befalls anyone who owns the home.
As to Madame LaLaurie, she is buried in New Orleans, where she reportedly is still at rest, unlike her resurrection in the first episode of American Horror Story: Coven. 🙂 Want to visit the gravesite of Madame LaLaurie and check things out for yourself? I list these details of which cemetery she is buried in, along with many other famous gravesites in the Spirits book.
In Spirits of New Orleans, I also dedicate two chapters to legendary Voodoo Queen Marie LaVeau and share the story of her connection to Madame LaLaurie, including the time she brought the infamous Devil Baby to Madame’s door and asked for her assistance in caring for him.
Interested in knowing the rest of the story behind all of the characters being portrayed in American Horror Story: Coven? Then join me as we explore the history and mystery of New Orleans together in my book, Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire Legends and Cities of the Dead.
About the author, Kala Ambrose:
“Seeing a ghost in New Orleans is as common as having a bowl of gumbo. The question is not when, but where best to savor them both. Each person who lives or visits the city of New Orleans quickly finds their favorite haunts, which they return to time and time again.” – Kala Ambrose
Award winning author, national columnist, inspirational speaker, and host of the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show, Kala Ambrose’s teachings are described as discerning, empowering and inspiring. Whether she’s speaking with world-renowned experts on the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show, writing about empowering lifestyle choices or teaching to groups around the country, fans around the world tune in daily for her inspirational musings and lively thought-provoking conversations.
A highly interactive teacher on a mission to educate, entertain and inspire, Kala teaches and writes about ancient wisdom teachings and how their techniques can be used in modern day living. Her books, The Awakened Aura: Experiencing the Evolution of Your Energy Body and 9 Life Altering Lessons: Secrets of the Mystery Schools Unveiled both cover these topics. In addition, Kala shares her love of history, travel and the spirit world in her books Spirits of New Orleans and Ghosthunting North Carolina. Her books are designed to explore the history of cities in an entertaining manner while sharing haunted stories and offering travel tips on how to best see the cities to shop, dine, stay, and visit the haunted sites.
Kala writes for the Huffington Post, the Examiner, AOL, Yahoo and Fate Magazine and presents workshops nationally on the Mind/Body/Spirit connection including Auras and Energy Fields, Developing Entrepreneur Intuition, Haunted History, and Wisdom Teachings at the Omega Institute, John Edward Presents Infinite Quest, Edgar Cayce’s ARE, the Learning Annex, LilyDale Assembly, Daily Om and her school, the Academy of Mystical Arts & Spiritual Sciences. More about Kala at http://www.ExploreYourSpirit.com