I was out for a lovely, autumnal dog walk , when I spotted this:
A beautifully carved pumpkin containing fairy lights – fantastic! Of course, Halloween will soon be upon us but since our sons have grown up, it’s not really had much impact for us.
Last year, we were in France on the 31st Oct and I have noticed that Halloween has become more popular there, over the years. The cynic in me says that this is probably for commercial reasons, as the supermarkets see it as a great marketing opportunity.
Seeing the pumpkin and thinking about France, led my mind to musing about haunted places in France. After all, a country with such a bloody history and so many castles must have many spooky sites!
Time for some research! I had some suggestions for the most haunted places in France, some of which I had visited, but I was interested to find out more.
In no particular order, let’s start with some of the ones that can be found in or near Paris.
- The Palace of Versailles I have visited the Palace and gardens in winter and it was freezing! Even the fountains were frozen midflow. I didn’t see any ghosts but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Palace and gardens were haunted by the ghost of Marie-Antoinette, as has been suggested. She lived here, in this opulent palace, with her husband King Louis XV1 and their children. When the Revolution took place, the last Queen of France was captured and sent to the guillotine on Oct 16 1793.
- Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris I guess a graveyard might be an obvious place to be haunted. This particular one has more than 300,000 tombs and graves. There are some really famous people buried here, including Édith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Molière and Marcel Proust and not forgetting Jim Morrison from The Doors.
- Paris Catacombs This is somewhere I have never visited but that has long been on my list. The Catacombs are a network of tunnels (300km) that are used as an ossuary for millions of people and were opened to the public in 1874. It is thought that the Catacombs hold the remains of over 6 million people. Before becoming Catacombs, these tunnels were part of a limestone quarry. In 1786, to fight the epidemics and illnesses that were devastating the city’s population, the Government decided to move the corpses and skeletons of various cemeteries to the tunnels. Only a small portion of the tunnels is open to tourists.
Mont St Michel is one of the most well known of France’s tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have been here on several occasions and it has always been crowded , so not much atmosphere – haunted or otherwise! Of course, it is the most beautiful place, especially viewed from a distance. I think that knowing that the islet is cut off at high tide, adds to the mystery.
According to legend, the Archangel Michael appeared to Saint Aubert, instructing him to build an abbey on the rocky islet. This he chose to ignore. and, as a result, the Archangel burnt a hole in his skull. Charming! This persuaded him to start building.
A famous battle of the Hundred Years’ War was fought here. Captain Louis d’Estouteville and his men killed more than 2,000 Englishmen. The story goes that the sand was stained red with their blood and that their spirits haunt the island, along with those of many monks and Captain d’Estouteville.
- Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud This last one has not appeared in any research that I have done but is a personal choice. As a young teacher, I spent one summer at the Abbey, on a restoration project. The Abbey is where you can see the tombstone effigies of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart who are buried here. I didn’t see any ghosts while I was there but we were living on site and there was definitely a very special atmosphere that is difficult to describe but I can remember quite clearly, particularly at night. Or perhaps it was just a case of an overactive imagination!