Wednesday, August 28, 2013



 Is this a true story?  That’s the question I’m asked most often when people begin to read L’immortalit√©: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen.

 My account is fictionalized, in order to bring readers the very best of the history and the legend of Delphine Lalaurie and her “haunted” mansion in New Orleans.  Philippe Bertand, my protagonist in the story, is a fictional character.  Most of the rest of the “cast” are carefully researched presentations of real people who actually knew Madame Delphine.

 When, on April 10, 1834, an old slave named Arnante set fire to the Lalaurie Mansion (and to herself), the horrors of 1140 Royal Street were revealed to the public for the very first time.  Here is a contemporary newspaper account from the New Orleans Bee published the day after the fire.

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 existence to 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.

 I decided to use the last line of this account in my book (page 106).  Whether the exposure of Delphine Lalaurie’s treatment of her slaves was divine intervention, or not, the event quickly became a key moment in the history of American horror.

 The story of Delphine Lalaurie has been popular since George Washington Cable published it in the 19th Century.  Lalaurie appears on Barbara Hambly’s excellent novel Fever Season, and most recently, Carolyn Morrow Long produced Madame Lalaurie:  Mistress of the Haunted House, an outstanding non-fiction text that carefully details the history.  Another short history was published in 2011 by Victoria Cosner Lave and Lorelei Shannon.  You will find a brief synopsis of the story in the (low budget) film, The St. Francisville Experiment.  On television, the Lalaurie Mansion has been featured on Haunted History and beginning in October, Kathy Bates will portray Delphine Lalaurie on the FX series, American Horror Story.

 So, yes, Virginia, there really was a Delphine Lalaurie and she still haunts the old mansion in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  Read her legend in L’immortalit√© on Kindle or in trade paperback.


  1. I can't seem to get here from you shorter posts you send out. This is one of my favorite posts.You did an awesome job of mixing fiction with fact in your book, which made it all the better and believable.

  2. I've heard of her before and all the awful things she did. It was just horrible that 1 human can do such terrible thing to another regardless of their race!