American Horror Story: True Story Behind Delphine LaLaurie in Coven

It seems crazy but justifiable to investigate the “true stories” behind FX’s American Horror Story. Viewers would agree that adding a true-to-life concept for a movie or series adds up to the spice already there is especially for the horror genre. The thought it might have happened or could happen in real life makes it scarier, and that’s what American Horror Story is about.

In Season 3 of American Horror Story entitled Coven, Kathy Bates plays Madame LaLaurie, a Louisiana-born socialite and killer from the 18th century.  She became known for torturing and killing her slaves in the most gruesome way, that which resembles Vlad the Inpaler and five times worse than Annie Wilkes from Misery admits Kathy herself.

 Her Reputation Precedes Her

In an American facts and trivia magazine, the real-life American Horror Story murderess gained a reputation for her cruel and sadistic behavior. From the beginning, the attitudes and practices of the family were deeply rooted with racism and slavery. Marie Delphine LaLaurie was married thrice and like many wealthy southerners of that time, they had household slaves. There was a secret chamber in the attic where she keeps and tortures them. The chamber was only discovered when a fire burned in the LaLaurie home. The slaves said they had only some porridge to eat, and had been wearing iron collars with sharpened points. Though it had been long rumored that they were treated cruelly, the final straw came in 1833, where a young slave girl named Lia (or Leah) accidentally hit a tangle while brushing LaLaurie’s hair. The outraged mademoiselle chased the girl on the edge of the rooftop with a whip. Lia chose to leap instead; she fell, smashed into the stone courtyard and died instantly. Lia almost hit a man who was entering the house then and he reported LaLaurie to the police. The girl’s body was searched and found in a well on the property and the family was fined $300 and had to sell their slaves.

What happened after the Fire

 The Lalauries fled during the confusion that accompanied the slaves’ rescue. The next day, according to the papers, a frustrated and presumably white  mob descended on the house and destroyed it, including the costly furniture inside. Delphine Lalaurie was believed to have fled to Europe.

LaLaurie in Folklore

In the writing of Jeanne deLavigne, LaLaurie’s sadistic appetite did not stop with merely chaining and starving the slaves. La Laurie was never content until she inflict more hideous form of torment to her black servitors. She claimed that those responded to the 1834 fire had found “male slaves, stark naked, chained to the wall, their eyes gouged out, their fingernails pulled off by the roots; others had their joints skinned and festering, great holes in their buttocks where the flesh had been sliced away, their ears hanging by shreds, their lips sewn together, intestines were pulled out and knotted around naked waists. There were holes in skulls, where a rough stick had been inserted to stir the brains.”

LaLaurie in the American Horror Story

If anyone can take such a grisly tale and turn it into a television series, it’s creator/producer Ryan Murphy. On the show, the LaLaurie story is pretty simple. She was white; it was 1834 in Louisiana with family-owned slaves. Delphine, out of brutality, kept a torture chamber in her attic. And then, a band of righteous voodoo intruders came along, cursed her with eternal life and buried her in a coffin in the backyard. The rest of the world presumed she’d disappeared.

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