Let's Talk About The History Behind ‘American Horror Story: Coven'Gina Vaynshteyn

American Horror Story: Coven premieres tonight and I seriously cannot wait! AHS has been one of my favorite fall television shows because of its ingenuity, amazing casting, and most importantly, its social commentary on past and present events. The first season of AHS focused on a haunted house in LA and the city’s way of destroying people, both psychologically and physically. The touchy and horrifying subject of school shootings was embodied by Evan Peters, a sullen dead teenager who helped procreate the Antichrist.  Last season’s terrifying mental institution criticized both the outdated methods of dealing with the mentally ill as well as the fact that our current day society has no way of dealing with the mentally ill. The Holocaust and corruption within religion was also layered in to make a terrifying season.

The third season of American Horror Story is set both 300 years post Salem witch trials (around 1830) and modern day New Orleans. Some of the themes this season include witchcraft (obviously), incest, slavery, mother and daughter relationships, and voodoo.

Besides its’ badassery, AHS is such a great show because it incorporates historical events that actually happened and people who actually existed. This season, two monstrous characters are introduced to the show: Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau who are played by Kathy Bates and Angela Basset.

Kathy-Bates-is-also-joining-Coven

angela-bassett-ahs-coven Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie was born in 1775. She was one of five children born to Marie Jeanne Lovable (can I have her last name, please?) and Barthelmy Louis Macarty. Her family was fairly prominent and had ties to the local government.

Madame LaLaurie went through three husbands in her wicked lifetime.  Her first husband was a Spanish officer who died of unknown causes on a trip to Spain. Before his death, the two had daughter named Marie Borgia Delphine-Lopez y Angulla de la Candelaria. Madame LaLaurie moved on and married Jean Blanque, a well-to-do banker, merchant, lawyer, and legislator.  Apparently back then, you could have four careers. Maybe this productivity is a result of Facebook and Candy Crush not being invented yet. Anyway, Jean and Madame LaLaurie had four children before Jean died just 8 years after the two had married. In 1825, Madame LaLaurie married Leaonard Louis Nicholas LaLaurie, a young doctor and total catch.

delphine-lalaurie-5

In 1831, she bought an empty plot of land on which she used to build her three-story mansion. This iconic building may or may not be converted into the modern day school for witches in AHS.  In her grandiose home, Madame LaLaurie committed evil and monstrous acts.

Due to her social status, nobody realized just how sadistic Madame LaLaurie truly was until a fire broke loose, revealing a seventy year-old chained slave who started the fire as a suicide attempt. After this incident, it was revealed that Madam LaLaurie tortured her slaves, mutating their bodies by starving and flaying them. All wore spiked iron collars that forced their heads into static positions.  To this day, Louisiana natives still talk about Madam LaLaurie and how she allegedly gouged out her slaves’ eyes, burned holes in their skin, ripped out fingernails, and sewed their lips shut.

After the fire, Madam LaLaurie fled for Alabama. She eventually moved to Paris, where she died, causes unknown. “Madame LaLaurie neé Marie Delphine Maccarthy, décédée à Paris, le 7 Décembre, 1842, à l’âge de 6—” was engraved on a copper plate in the cemetery she was buried in, signifying that it was a complete mystery as to when exactly she died.

The other female character based on a real person is Marie Laveau, a woman known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

marie-laveau

Marie Laveau allegedly lived pretty close to Madame LaLaurie, and although there isn’t any documentation of any relationship that these two might have had, I’m guessing these women probably bounced ideas off each other once in awhile.

Marie Laveau, daughter of a white planter and free Creole Black woman, married a Haitian man named Jacques Paris in 1819.

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  1. ““Madame LaLaurie neé Marie Delphine Maccarthy, décédée à Paris, le 7 Décembre, 1842, à l’âge de 6—” That doesn’t leave a mystery as to when she died. It says exactly when she died: December 7, 1842. The blank part is “at the age of 6–”, meaning she was estimated at 60-something years of age at time of death. So the mystery part was her date of birth.

    “Besides its’ badassery…” What is that little speck after “its”?

    “She bought an empty plot of land on which she used to build…” I think that needs to be “which she used to build,” or “on which she built.” There is no “on which she used to build.”

  2. You didn’t go over anything about the modern day part, but from what the trailer showed it looked really discriminatory to modern day witches i.e. Wicca and Pagans. You also linked Witchcraft to an article on the Craft, which is most definitely discriminatory and complete non-sense. It’s media like that that makes practicing our religion in today’s society. These movies and TV shows are all most people look at when making judgements about us, and they lead to negative misconceptions and prejudice.
    If you are going to be writing articles like this, could you please keep in mind to mention the present day things, asking viewers and readers to take it with a grain of salt? Especially since you were raving about the authenticity of the history, the implication is that the modern day portrayals were also amazing. If they’re anything like the Craft which you linked to, then they’re actually quite harmful to people living the real thing day by day. Not only do I have years and years of first hand experience with this, but I’ve done sociological studies on paganism and witches in the media, and learned that these experiences of discrimination are not limited to me and my family.

    • Hi Kristen, I wasn’t trying to reduce witchcraft/paganism down to anything, this article was just merely a historical recap of this season’s AHS, not really a sociological article on modern day witchcraft. I’m sorry if that offended you.

      Gina Vaynshteyn | 10/11/2013 06:10 am
  3. Nicolas Cage owned the Lalaurie Mansion a few years back. Its only a few houses down from Brad and Angie’s House too.

  4. Nice story; but I don’t understand why you assume people can’t hold down 4 careers these days, Many people have multiple careers.

    • So true! I have like, 5 part-time jobs. I was thinking more along the lines of 4 full-time, 40/week jobs. That would be pretty tough.

      Gina Vaynshteyn | 10/11/2013 06:10 am
  5. Gina I’m farily sure the actual location of the tortures is the white 3 story corner house the witches pass by just before reaching the tour location. The tortures took place on the third floor. I could be wrong but I’m 90% sure this is correct.

  6. I’m confused on how you can say that our current society has no way of dealing with the mentally ill.

    • Unless you have a ton of money for round-the-clock care, there really is no system for the mentally ill. The government does not fund programs for in-home care, nor do they provide asylums (if you will). In the 1980s Ronald Reagan had the asylums shut down (cut funding) and subsequently homeless numbers increased more than substantially. Sadly, many places drug their patients to the point of being incoherent because not many people have the patience to deal with the mentally ill.

      This is all what I have learned on the way. I used to be a caregiver. I made minimum wage and was allowed to give medications and medical care to people even though I have no nursing degree or medical education. I thought that was odd.

  7. Eww. I remember watching something about Madame LaLaurie on tv and turning it because it freaked me out that someone could be that disgusting and cruel! :/

  8. Evan Peters!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. <3 CANNOT WAIT! thank you for the back story! :)

  10. Thanks for posting this. It’s nice to know some background information before watching it :)

  11. I’m very anxious to see the season opener tonight, too. New Orleans has such a fascinating history. I’m curious, though, as to what sorts of thoughts you think Mme. LaLaurie and Marie Laveau might have bounced off one another.