While living in Paris, I spent quite a few weekends with friends at their country house north of Paris, which had been in the family since the 1950’s. The house was originally the carriage house to the neighboring chateau, and it was a beautiful XVIIIC building with a classic broad façade, beautiful windows, shutters, garden and the like. Filled with a collection of tapestried chairs and mismatched French furniture. The whole nine yards for a classic French country home. It was here that I first came to understand traditional French cooking….so many good memories, so many great meals. It was here that I also came to understand some of the “old” French ideas of country living by the bourgeoisie. Each weekend each guest had their “place'” at the diner table. You sat in the same seat for each meal, and you used the same cloth napkin for the entire weekend, folded for reuse after each meal. At the end of the evening, everyone shared a digestif from a small cabinet, and at the end of the night, all the doors were locked with a series of large keys which were then placed under certain silver candlesticks or other locations that few of the guests knew. Basically, each night, you got locked in.
The house had three floors, the main floor was principally a very large kitchen and large sitting room, second floor a central hallway with bedrooms, and on the third floor, the grenier, what we would call the attic. A series of tables and a collection of map and books were there, it was the domain of the patriarch of the family, who had passed six months earlier. We rarely went up to that floor.
One evening after dinner, I sat on the stairs just below the grenier, chatting with our hostess for the weekend, whose husband’s family owned this house. In the middle of our conversation, we heard footsteps coming across the narrow floor of the grenier, towards us. Not just footsteps, they were boots. On hardwood. Like slow, deliberate marching boots hitting the hardwood floors…..Gulp…. the steps were coming across the room and seemed to be just around the corner from us. The photos in this post are all of my own home, but they are suggestive of that house north of Paris. I am not kidding you, it was just around the corner from us. K and I looked at each other, then she instinctively raised her fist in the air and yelled “I’M NOT AFRAID OF YOU!!!”
I soon learned that the Nazi’s had occupied the house during WWII. I don’t know if it was a German ghost or the patriarch. All I can tell you is Don’t Feed The Animals and Don’t Taunt the Ghosts. Those boots were so close and so real it made me freeze; I expected to see them on the landing in a moment, but when K yelled at them, they stopped.
That was it for the activity for the weekend, I think we left for Paris the next morning. But a few weeks later, we returned. This time, the housekeeper from Paris came with us, a young woman from the Philippines, and a devout Catholic. As with many French homes, there was something religious in each bedroom, usually a crucifix. At the time I thought this was devotional, but in retrospect I think it was to protect the guests.
We were awoken by a scream about 4am. The housekeeper claimed that someone has punched her in the stomach while she slept in her bed in her room. Not once, but twice. She saw a face over her while the assault happened, then it disappeared. We managed to calm her down and she spent the rest of the night in another room. But in the morning she woke and recognized the face as someone in a photo on the wall~
It was barely 8am when she had her bag packed and we dropped her off for the train back to Paris. No, she never came back to the house. Upon our next visit, the entire group of us went out for a walk. It is so good to leave the bustle of the city and be in the calm country. Very similar to NYC, for many wealthy Parisians, it’s a welcome respite to get out of the close quarters of Paris and into the spacious country home….. anyway, that day the caretaker/cook was out running errands or doing shopping, and so there was no one at home. We approached the house from the garden, coming up the walk, when suddenly a glass oil lamp came flying out of the little window of the grenier, and smashed on the walk in front of us.
This was a totally bizarre event, and we went as a group into the house and up to the grenier. There was no one, though the little window there was open.
A month or so later, we returned, with a group of young girls, friends of the daughter of our hosts, to celebrate a birthday. The girls were young, maybe eight years old. There were six of them, and we had a lovely dinner and small party, then card games and such. Into the evening, the girls went to bed, all in the same room.
At around 6am, at the first light, our hostess, mother of one of the girls, came to wake me. She had “smelled gas” and so had risen early (normally a 10am sleeper). On descending the staircase, she saw one of the girls – one of her guests – asleep on a bench outside on the terrace. And then she came and woke me and her husband.
Every door in the house was locked….ferme a cle as the French say. And all the keys were hidden. The only opening was in the grenier, a window open on a very steeply pitched roof that no person could have walked on~
This young girl was asleep on a wooden bench outside the door when we woke her. She was still wearing her linen nightgown, with lacey detail, and she was cold.
She had long brown hair, which was full of bits of fresh green fern and leaves and bark. It was as if she was whisked out of the house and whirled through the garden. This was not at all consistent with how they retired to their room, the girls having had their bath and playing games in the room….
The girl had no idea how she got outside, and why she was sleeping on the bench. Of course, she was cold, but she was asleep none the less….If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I would not have believed it…..this was bad energy….using a child. And yes. That was enough for me. That was my last visit.
Do not taunt the ghosts…..Enjoy the gentle spirits and remember those who have passed,, but please do not provoke the bad ones…..
Enough for now….there are my French ghost stories…..