American Horror Story has had its fair share of terrifying characters over the years, but none have been quite as rooted in reality as Madame LaLaurie, Kathy Bates’ character from the series’ third incarnation — American Horror Story: Coven. But even if you found Kathy’s performance pretty bone-chilling, you might be even more unnerved to read some of the accounts of the horrors unleashed by the woman herself, according to Roadtrippers.
Born in 1775, the inspiration for the American Horror Story character had a reputation about town for mistreating her slaves. Though complaints sometimes resulted in the slaves being released, Madame LaLaurie had a full staff up until a house fire unleashed a shocking secret. Just like in American Horror Story, the real life madame had an attic full of torture devices and victims. It was later revealed that the fire had actually been started as the result of a suicide attempt of one slave — an elderly woman that the mistress of the house kept chained to the kitchen stove. Author Jeanne deLavigne describes the scene in her book Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans.
“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.”
Although experts surmise that there was a pent-up sexual element to Madame LaLaurie’s killings of male slaves, the condition in which she left women was no better according to Kalila Katherina Smith’s Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans.
“[A] victim [of the 1834 fire who] obviously had her arms amputated and her skin peeled off in a circular pattern, making her look like a human caterpillar,” and another who had had her limbs broken and reset “at odd angles so she resembled a human crab.”
But the bizarre world of the American Horror Story inspiration doesn’t stop with Madame LaLaurie’s story. Kathy Bates might have even talked to the current owner of the house of horrors, Nicolas Cage. He explained his strange property to Forbes.
“You know, other people have beachfront property; I have ghost front property – that’s what I always say. I have not experienced anything, but I like a bit of mystery, and the house has such a mystery to it. Some of the stories about it are pretty horrific.”
American Horror Story returns on January 7 with the last of the final three episodes of Freak Show, in which Kathy Bates plays a bearded woman.
[Image via FanShare]