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NOLA LORE: The Turk and The Massacre

Each week, J.A. Lloyd will take readers through the secret and sometimes unexamined legends, myths, and folklore of New Orleans past. This week, learn about the haunted horrors of the Sultan Palace in the French Quarter. 


During the early 1800s sat a rather prominent home known as the Gardette-LePrete Mansion perched at 716 Dauphine Street in the French Quarter. Hundreds of years later, the mansion still stands strong in spirit though its former glory and name live in the distant memory of the past. While the home is still a very historical part of the city, it has gained its present eminence due to the mansion’s other given and more popular name: The Sultan Massacre House.


The house originally belonged to Joseph Coulton Gardette. Gardette was a wealthy dentist and a transplant from Pennsylvania with a fairly well known practice in the New Orleans area. The mansion’s construction finished in 1836 and held a small claim to status within the community. However, after just three short years of residency, Joseph Coulton Gardette sold the property and moved on. The buyer who became the home’s second owner was a Creole man by the name of Jean Baptiste LePrete. Like Coulton, Jean held a fair bit of esteem within the area. LePrete was a man of wealth who had come into his riches by way of plantation ownership. The LePrete family occupied the house until the arrival of the Civil War when things, unfortunately, took a bleak turn for the LePretes. Due to the war, the family found themselves in financial distress and eventually Jean Baptiste LePrete made the decision to rent out the family’s home in an attempt to recover some of LePrete family losses.


According to the legend, a young Turk with a puzzling background arrived to take over the property as Jean Baptiste LePrete’s tenant. It is believed that the Turk was a Sultan, unseated from his position of power in a far off land of heat and sand. Other theories claim the Turk was a man of significant position in his home country who had come to New Orleans to escape the escalating tensions of a deadly family feud. While the exact status and origin of the Turk is unknown, all accounts of the story say he brought with him riches beyond comprehension. The Turk was so wealthy, in fact, that he was able to establish credit with all of the well-known banks in the area on the account of all the gold he traveled with.


Upon the Turk’s move to the LePrete property, he used his massive amounts of wealth to transform the mansion into something akin to a pleasure house from his homelands. He covered the walls and windows with rich tapestry. Rooms were filled with colorful pillows and vibrant throws. Golden statues and trinkets adorned hallways and shelves. The sweet yet pungent smell of incense emulated from the mansion constantly. And with him, the Turk brought his harem which allegedly consisted of women of all ages. Soon the house was known for its regular and rowdy rendezvous.


In addition to the property becoming the Turk’s own pleasure house, he also took great measures to insure the mansion was an impregnable stronghold. The gates were sealed shut, locks and chains abound. Countless guards patrolled the grounds, elaborate swords slung about their waists. This left the neighbors to question whether the Turk was more concerned about those who intended to leave or those who intended to enter. As the mysterious parties continued at the Turk's rented palace, passersby continued to wonder about the strange ways and rather recluse inhabitants of the property.


One morning, during a usual morning stroll past the house, a nearby neighbor noticed something even more strange about the mansion. There appeared to be blood running from behind the gates of the property and out into the streets. Alarmed, the neighbor contacted the city police department right away fearing that one of the parties had finally gone too far. Upon their arrival, the authorities tried, to no avail, to summon the occupants inside the mansion. After continuous failed attempts, the police made the decision to force their way in. Breaking down the doors to the palace revealed the horrid truth of what had taken place the night before. Every individual had been slain during a vicious and bloody massacre.


Inside the house, the bodies of the victims had been torn apart via sword, leaving a gruesome mess of limbs throughout the house. Blood washed the floors and stained the silk draperies. No one in the house was left alive. Additionally, upon further investigation, the authorities determined that many of the individuals were the victims of brutal sexual assault. As for the renter of the property, the Turk’s hardly recognizable body was discovered in the gardens where investigators determined that he had been buried alive.


A lengthy investigation into the massacre that supposedly took place at 716 Dauphine turned into multiple dead ends with zero suspects being changed with the crime. Some theories suggest that the blame lay upon the Turk’s own family. It is believed that after relatives discovered the formerly exalted Turk they sought revenge, killing the Turk as a result of the masses of riches he stole from them before fleeing his country. Others hold to the belief that the massacre was the work of pirates that were formerly involved with the Turk.


Though little evidence exists in regards to the massacre that took place within the walls of the mansion, the possibility of the gruesome happenings is enough to give pause when passing by 716 Dauphine. Regardless of evidence or lack thereof, the most recent residents of the property claim that a dark energy lives within its walls.  


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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


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