Saturday, August 09, 2014

Fear Looks Very Different With Time and Tide

When I was a small child growing up in South Louisiana I was terrified that Madame Lalaurie was going to get me. I had nightmares for months and whenever I would misbehave my parents would tell me that they were taking me to Madame Lalaurie's home on Royal St. in New Orleans.

Who is Madame Lalaurie and how did I develop an insane fear of her and her home?

Someone, possibly one of my more inebriated relatives, decided to take me at a young impressionable early grade school age to take me to the New Orleans Wax Museum located in the Musee Conti. Wonderful parenting decision as usual. It scared the crap out of me.

Look at this stuff and tell me you wouldn't be having nightmares as a six or seven year old.

The Battle of New Orleans scene frightened me because one of the wounded soldier wax figures was rigged with a cloth shirt front and device to make it go up and down like he was gasping for breath with recorded sound of gasping. Many nightmares. And I was pretty sheltered as a child and was sensitive so this was pretty much one of the most 'Do Not Want' places I could have been taken in the city. 

But the worst of it was the tableaux of Madame Lalaurie torturing her slaves.

Let's look a little closer at this scene.

Yeah, the stuff of many nightmares. Of all the displays there this is the one that struck fear in my six year old heart. 

Madame Lalaurie was a wealthy society lady in New Orleans whose home on Royal St. in the French Quarter caught on fire in 1834 (I think) and once the fire department arrived they found a gruesome display of slaves being tortured and starved to death in a secret attic garret. Locals gathered and the crowd got ugly, tearing apart the house, smashing windows and wrecking the entire joint. Lalaurie escaped to Paris and lived in Gay Paree to a ripe old age before being brought back to New Orleans and buried. 

Local legend holds that the house is haunted with the screams of tormented slaves and the laughter of children and the tale of what happened has been heavily exagerrated through the years to say Lalaurie did things such as loop their own intestines around the necks and waists of the slaves and other more gruesome things. No proof at all to most of what's been said about Madame Lalaurie.

But as a kid all it took to make me behave was being told I would be taken to Madame Lalauries home and left with all the dead slaves and children. Fortunately no one ever followed through.

On our honeymoon Jim insisted we visit the wax museum and I was surprised to see that stuff of my childhood dreads and nightmares was merely cheesy, worn and pathetic, holding not one shred of horror any longer. I came out saying, "I was afraid of THAT?" shaking my head and laughing at how silly this all was, how I'd built it up in my mind.

Just like my revisiting Musee Conti and discovering that my worst fears were peeling paint and fading fabric, not flesh and blood, so this week I discovered that stepping away from bad situations and toxic people reduces your fears to something laughable. This week I've watched a toxic relation I've had to step away from get their comeuppance for their own behavior and I've had no part of it. Why did I ever allow them to manipulate me and drive me into a state of fear in the first place?

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