In some ways, Delphine Lalaurie could stand as 19th-Century America's own Elizabeth Bathory. Like Bathory, Lalaurie carried out immensely cruel and sadistic acts against those forced to play subservient roles--in her case, African American slaves. A socialite in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Lalaurie's cruelty came to light when a fire broke out in her home, leading to the discovery that she and her physician husband had used their slaves in several macabre "experiments," including a primitive sex change operation and the creation of a "human crab." Take any decent ghost tour in New Orleans and you'll find guides who can recount the rumors of her fate--either she escaped to France or she took refuge somewhere outside New Orleans--as well as the discovery of about 75 human remains later found beneath the floor of her home, apparently slaves that she had buried alive. In an odd footnote to her story, actor Nicholas Cage reportedly bought the New Orleans home recently.
While filmmakers and writers have found different ways of exploiting Bathory's story (my favorite being 1971's Daughters of Darkness), very few have put Lalaurie's grisly story through the works. In an installment of NIGHTMARES AND FAIRY TALES, however, Serena Valentino did a masterful job of giving the story artistic expression. 1140 RUE ROYALE, named for the address of Lalaurie's home, recounts the story of the mysterious Victoria, who buys the house to live in with her niece, Rebecca. It does not take long for the spirits of Lalaurie's victims to make themselves felt.
In her foreword to the book, Valentino writes that she wrote the story not "to exploit or trivialize this manner of human suffering and atrocities--rather, I am rewriting history in an attempt at giving the victims a voice, a means for revenge and serenity." Not only is this intent noble, but it's difficult task. After all, the passage of time generally dulls our sense of the real human pain behind the stories that entertain us. Valentino manages to capture this macabre story in a terrifying yet elegant manner. Her writing is crisp, effective, and chilling, while the artwork by Crab Scrambly is simply stunning.
According to Wikipedia, Valentino is working on a play called BRIDE OF THE MUMMY, which will be staged in New Orleans. If anyone has any info about this, I'd love to hear it.
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