As horrific as the news can be from time to time, I’m not sure I can think of any contemporary story that quite compares with the story of Delphine Lalaurie, of 19th century New Orleans.
On April 10, 1834, during another party, a fire broke out in the kitchen of the mansion. The kitchen, as was the norm in Spanish mansions, was separate from the home and located over the carriageway building across the courtyard. The firemen entered the building through the courtyard. To their surprise, there were two slaves chained to the stove in the kitchen. It appeared as though the slaves had set the fire themselves in order to attract attention.
However, the biggest surprise was to be found in the attic, where the fire brigade was directed by the other slaves. The door was bolted, and the fire brigade had to use a battering ram to open the door. What they found would make their stomachs wrench; inside the crawlspace attic was the stench of death. According to contemporary accounts, over a dozen disfigured and maimed slaves were manacled to the walls or floor. Several had been the subject of gruesome medical experiments.
The exact details are unclear; owing to the horrific nature of the crime, many details were either swept under the rug or embellished. One man looked as though he had been victim of some bizarre makeshift sex change. Another one, a woman, was trapped inside a small cage, where her arms and legs had been badly broken and then reset at odd angles, making her appear as some sort of “human crab.” Another woman had her arms and legs removed and patches of her flesh had been sliced off in a circular motion to make her appear as a giant caterpillar. Some had their mouths sewn shut and had then starved to death. Others had their hands sewn to different parts of their bodies. One woman had her entrails pulled out of her stomach and was secured to the floor by her own intestines. A small boy of about twelve had the flesh on half of his face peeled back, revealing muscle, veins, and so forth. The wound had since been infested with disease and insects. Most of the victims were found dead. Those who were still alive, begged to be put out of their misery and died shortly after.