Let's Talk About The History Behind 'American Horror Story: Coven'
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 Last season’s terrifying mental institution criticized both the outdated methods of dealing with the mentally ill as well as the fact that our current day society has no way of dealing with the mentally ill.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.
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.
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 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.
Jacques died a year later due to unknown reasons. Marie became a hairdresser who worked for rich white women. She began dating a man named Christophe and lived with him until his death in 1835. and the couple allegedly had 15 children, including Marie Laveau II who was born in 1827.
Although there is not too much recorded information about Marie Laveau’s clairvoyant and mystical capabilities, it’s believed that her magic stemmed from Roman Catholicism and African spiritual beliefs. Marie was both feared and respected. Supposedly dipping into the dark arts, Marie Laveau was rumored to heal people and create herbal potions.
Eerily, after Marie’s death on June 16, 1881, she was spotted in town. It was speculated that perhaps her daughter, Marie Laveau II, took over her mother’s position as Voodoo Queen. Marie Laveau was buried in the St. Louis Cemetary #1 along with Madame LaLaurie. May the two rest in chaos.
I’m totally anxious to find out how these roles will be portrayed and how Madam LaLaurie and Marie Laveau are going to interact with Jessica Lange’s character (Fiona, a long-absent leader of the school/coven) and her daughter Cordelia (played by Sarah Paulson) who is a teacher. It’s going to be a wicked season.