My latest contribution to the magazine I wished had existed when I was a boy is a strange and spooky story set in Versailles (this April edition having a French Revolution theme). I first came across this story many years ago in a fascinating book: The Ghosts of the Trianon by
Michael H Coleman. It features two English women, Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, who were strolling in the gardens of the Petit Trianon château, within the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, in 1901 when something strange happened. They both experienced a sudden feeling of depression and lethargy, and a sensation that the woodland views around them seemed flat, like stage scenery. They also encountered various figures in what appeared to be historical costume, and one saw a woman sitting on a lawn apparently sketching. At the time, both kept their bizarre feelings to themselves but afterwards they tentatively raised the issue and the story of their shared experience emerged.
They eventually speculated that they had somehow witnessed the area as it was in the eighteenth century, and had even seen Marie Antoinette herself. They discovered that their visit was on the anniversary of the anniversary of the sacking of the Tuileries in 1792, when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had witnessed the massacre of their Swiss Guards and had been imprisoned in the Hall of the Assembly.
Of course, none of this could ever be proved and lots of explanations have been put forward to try to rationalise what really did happen. But the women don’t seem to have been seekers of attention or publicity, and it is interesting that, unless they were lying, two people should independently experience the same strange phenomena.
One further interesting little fact is that they they claimed to have crossed a bridge which in reality didn’t exist and wasn’t shown on old maps. Around two years later, an obscure map depicting the bridge was discovered.