Louisiana Myths and Folklore, Volume 3
Read by Alleine Dragonfyre
Louisiana Myths and Folklore
Volume 3 – “ The Haunted Mansion”
So I was making a delivery to a regular customer of mine up north in Harvest. As usual, the place was busy with many people going about their business, even though it was late evening and the sun had already set.
I heard a commotion down in the square, and saw a man in a familiar looking, fashionable yet out of style, overcoat being led by the hand by a group of young children who are chattering and gesturing wildly.
Of course, it was Jaque, who seemed to be turning up everywhere these days. Or at least everywhere that I was. That thought nagged me a bit, but I let it lie for the time being, and went to see what all the fuss was about.
Jaque smiled as I approached and said “These children have been telling me that the house up on the hill here is haunted. What do you know of this?”
I briefly explained that yes, strange things had been known to occur in that house after midnight, but that many adventurers had come through and investigated the matter. It wasn’t something I was particularly worried about, just local legends.
Jaque seemed to be considering something, and then finally he crouched down on one knee right there on the street and said “Children, do you want to hear of a haunted house from my homeland?”
I expect that some of the children probably did want to hear this tale, but the fresh lemon buns that Jaque was handing out to his would-be audience were likely the more deciding factor.
I loitered nearby, out of curiosity more than anything to hear the storyteller spin his tale.
Jaque sat down on a bench, and the children clustered around eagerly. He glanced up at the house on the hill, and then back at his audience, and began.
There was a house very similar to that one where I am from. Yes, a beautiful mansion and the home of Doctor LaLaurie and his wife Delphine….
Jaque went on a several minutes long tangent about the fabulous parties thrown at the LaLaurie house of which he had of course attended many though the nuances of wine and dancing, and the general behaviour of New Orleans socialites was probably lost on his current audience, who nibbled on their lemon buns and started to look bored.
“So their mansion was haunted?” I asked, trying to steer him back on track.
He grinned his famous grin at me, and carried on. “This house was, you understand, just a few houses down from my own home on Royal Street, and I can personally bear witness to some of the …activities… that went on under that roof.
By this point, some of the other residents of Harvest had gathered round to hear the tale. As Jaque began to describe the events that took place, it became evident both to myself and the surrounding parents, that such a tale was certainly not fit for children’s ears.
Suffice it to say that the mistress of the house, Madame Delphine La Laurie, was exceedingly cruel to the people in her employ, treating them as property and punishing them horribly for the smallest slight.
I could see that Jaque was trying to explain the origin of the haunting without going into what I later learned was gruesome detail. “She did bad things, very bad.” was about the best he could come up with. Parents were trying to usher their children away from the crazy man in the antique clothes – It was far past their bedtime.
Jacque did not seem perturbed by the loss of his audience. He continued talking, half to himself, half to me, while brushing the lemon bun crumbs off of his jacket.
“Anyway!” he said after a while, snapping back to the present. “The people, they found out what was going on. They gathered around in the streets demanding justice. And there was a terrible fire……”
So the story went, one of the cooks, tired of the cruelty of the mistress, set fire to the kitchen, which spread to much of the house. Madam Delphine was never seen again after that day, having vanished from the city.
For years later, he went on to say, later owners of the house reported hearing screams of agony, or the sounds of sobbing, coming from seemingly within the walls. For many years the house stood empty and fell into a state of decay. For the next hundred years, he said, everyone who owned the house ended up in shame. Scandals, even murders, and rumors of lost riches surrounded the house, though very few dared to go and search for them.
He said 150 years after Madame’s disappearance people discovered the skeletal remains of her servants, buried beneath the floorboards.
He finished his monologue and looked up at the House on the Hill, then looked at me.
Then a thought occurred to me.
´Jacque,” I asked, meeting his gaze. “How is it that you say you knew Dr LaLaurie and his wife, and attended their parties, and know of events that happened a hundred years after their deaths?”
To his credit, he didn’t even look surprised by the question.
“Ah, cherie, pretty AND smart” he said. “You’ll figure it out.” He did a flourishing bow and strolled off toward the house on the hill.
I heard the clock tower in town chime midnight as I turned and headed on the road leading out of the city.
When I reached the mountain pass, I turned and looked back. It may have just been a trick of the light, but I could have sworn that the mansion was ablaze.
I wrapped my cloak around my shoulders more tightly and travelled the rest of the way home.