Halloween may not be that big a deal in France but that doesn’t mean the French don’t enjoy a ghostly encounter or two. To get us in the mood for Spookmas, here are some tales of French phantoms and how they came to be haunting l’Hexagone.
1. The ghost with the wooden leg
The château de Combourg is said to be haunted by a certain Comte de Combourg. Back in his day, he wore a wooden leg and this leg that can be heard marching on the castle’s stairway. Which made me wonder: is the leg still wooden or is it made of some ghostly material which allows the spirit to pass through walls? In which case, how could it make knocking noises against the stairway? His ghost is sometimes accompanied by a black cat, possibly the ghost of the cat found buried alive in the walls of the castle. Apparently this was done to ward off evil spirits but also because human stupidity is limitless.
2. Woman murdered by husband part 1
The next ghost is our first encounter with a sadly all-to-common theme of spousal abuse. Jean de Laval, Lord of Château de Châteaubriant in the 16th century, believed that his wife, Françoise de Foix, was having an affair with King François I. Being a first-class bellend, Jean is said to have imprisoned her in her bedroom and either poisoned or stabbed her to death. This poor woman’s ghost is said to make an appearance every 16 October, the anniversary of her murder, and honestly who can blame her?
3. Noisy ghosts
According to reports, the tower of Château de Blandy-les-Tours is haunted. At midnight during All Saints, phantoms circle around the castle ramparts, screaming in a “sinister” manner and doing some terrifying chain clanking in the style of Marley’s Ghost in A Christmas Carole’s.
But that’s not all. There is another ghost, thought to be the master of the castle in the 11th century who also happened to be a murdered. He appears in various rooms in the castle wearing a bloody shroud and brandishing a dagger, something we can all agree is pretty cool.
4. Haunted horse
This is my favourite. The château de Sallenôves has an AMAZING ghost. Get this: inside the castle there’s a room called The Devil’s Room (asking for trouble IMHO) in which a horse wearing armour and foaming at the mouth appears at midnight! Isn’t that adorable? I love horses so much that frankly I would welcome any kind in my house, even a ghost one.
5. Woman buried alive
Eighteenth century now. A thief lurking in the night by château de Trécesson spots a carriage drawing up. Out of it get two “gentlemen” who begin digging a human-shaped hole. Once this is completed, they drag a young woman, dressed in a bridal gown, complete with floral headdress and bouquet, and throw her into the pit. They bury her alive, claiming she has dishonoured her family. (UTTER SCUM.) The thief goes home, tells his wife, who sends him back to save the poor woman. He does; she’s already dead. Fast forward to present day and the ghost of the domestic abuse victim is said to frequent the castle dressed in white.
6. More domestic abuse!
Another castle, another ‘woman in white’ ghost. In this case it’s Thérèse de Saint-Clar, mistress of château de Paymartin in the 16th century. Legend has it that her husband found with her lover and decided that forcing her to spend the next 16 years of her life in a tiny room in the castle tower was a reasonable response. So, yes, now she haunts the castle, dressed in white. Good news is that she gets out and about a bit, being a ghost that can pass through walls, and is no longer confined to that one room.
7. Death by employer
A beautiful 18 year old servant, Lucie, was being “courted” by the master of château de Veauce, much to the displeasure of his wife, Jacqueline de La Fayette. When this lord went off to war, the Baroness took her revenge by having Lucie thrown into prison in the tour where she died of starvation and cold. You know, rather than sacking her or anything. Lucie haunts the castle at midnight and you will never guess what colour she wears… YELLOW. Kidding, it’s white. She wears white for her haunting.