Mad Madame Lalaurie

About the Research

Hundreds of hours of original research by historian Victoria Cosner Love went into the creation of Mad Madame Lalaurie: Uncovering the Secrets of New Orleans' Most Famous Murderess. Let her tell you a little bit about it...

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Delphine Lalaurie's grocery list. Okay, not really.

     In January of 2008, my husband and I went to New Orleans for a small vacation and ended up taking one of the "must see" ghost tours. We met our tour guide, Randy, at a pub at 10PM. He began the tour with aplomb. When we reached the Lalaurie Mansion, he expertly told the story, whispering the gruesome parts, painting a picture of death and maiming on a truly shocking scale. All the while, he cited historical references. I was captivated.

     "Where did you get all this?" I asked him.

     "It all exists in the libraries and archives,” he replied.

     "All the primary documents?"

     "Yes," he said, and his eyes gleamed with the passion that only another historian who finds a juicy story gets. We parted ways.

     The next day I went to the Louisiana State Museum and asked for a book on Madame Lalaurie.  There are none, I was told. 

     "What do you mean?” I asked. “You don't carry them?” 

     "No,” the clerk told me. “There are no books on the Lalauries, just some chapters in a book like this one." She handed me a copy of Ghosts of New Orleans, which I owned already.

     Not to be thwarted, I went to online booksellers big and small. Nothing. Many chapters in many ghost story collections. Louisiana historian George Washington Cable gave me a brief moment of hope, but no, just a chapter on the night of the fire, and the reported ghost sightings.

     And thus the obsessive hunt began. Some pieces of the puzzle fell into my lap; others I had to dig for. A collection at the Missouri History Museum, a second trip to New Orleans, maps and drawings from the Williams Research Center, a diary with enchanting descriptions of Delphine Lalaurie’s parents and their siblings, interviews with New Orleans painters and locals, it just kept coming.

     Some of this research was undiscovered, and some had never connected to the Lalaurie story before. Much of what I uncovered had been ignored by the people who tell the ghost stories. No one wanted the real story of what happened that day in 1834. No one cared who Madame Lalaurie really was. But I did. I wanted more than just the legends. I wanted the truth.

     Everyone who has ignored the real Delphine Lalaurie until now has missed a great story. And what a story it is: pirates, torture, slave revolts, Creole society belles, ousted Irish nobility, the Queen of Spain, zombie drugs, a devil baby, politicians, barons, governors, voodoo, French and Spanish knights, wild boars, mobs, duels, medical experiments, and, of course, some of the most incredible ghost stories ever attached to one property.

     Fast forward to 2010. After bringing my horror-writer friend, Lorelei Shannon, into the project, we decided that instead of writing an academic treatise on Delphine Lalaurie, we would write a true-crime book—historically accurate, but fun and exciting to read. Because after all, we did discover some pretty amazing documents, including original, handwritten papers that no one to our knowledge has written about before. Our conclusions will rock the longstanding legend of Madame Lalaurie.

     Did we bust the haunted house stories? Nah, we’re not ghost hunters, just history buffs. Did we change the way history should perceive Marie Delphine Macarty Lalaurie? Yes, I believe we did…

-Victoria Cosner Love, January 2011

Weeping angel is sad.

A weeping angel, or "pleurant," in a crypt at Metairie Cemetery. Photo by Victoria Cosner Love.

Veve of Baron Samedi

        I'm innocent. I swear it.

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