Halloween is fast approaching and I thought I would tell you a spooky story or two. At this time of year at Halloweens past I have blogged about Vampires in Bordeaux, (and no, I wasn’t referring to Negotiants but the Count Dracula sort), Werewolves, Witches and Sorceresses, Goblins and Fairies and lots of Halloween inspired wines. This year I thought Phantoms of the Chateaux would be appropriate!
The medieval Chateau de Tiffauges in the Pays de la Loire is said to be haunted by Baron de Rais whose evil deeds inspired the 1697 fairy tale Bluebeard by Charles Perrault. The château is said to echo with the cries of his countless victims on moonless nights. The Baron de Rais (1404–1440) was a Breton knight, a leader in the French army and a companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc. However he is best known as a prolific serial killer. There is controversy over his guilt as some claim he was framed for political reasons.
The Baron withdrew from public life in 1434 and began work on a theatrical production that nearly bankrupted him. By March 1433, he had sold all his estates bar two in order to finance his extravagant lifestyle. His theatre production was first performed in 1435. Six hundred costumes were made, worn once, then thrown away as new ones were made for each performance. Unlimited supplies of food and drink were made available to spectators at his expense. The Baron was such a spendthrift that his family appealed to the King who issued a royal edict forbidding him to sell off any more of his properties. In frustration it seems the Baron turned to the occult and started to dabble in summoning demons in the lower halls of his château. Then the murders began. The Baron was arrested in 1440, confessed and was executed later that year.
Chateau de Chaumont sur Loire is patrolled by the phantom of Fulk III, the Count of Anjou, whose heart was so evil he was nicknamed Fulk Nera (the Black). The Count died in 1040 and it is said that his four successive pilgrimages to the Holy Land were not enough to purify his dark soul.
Fulk III was the founder of Angevin power and was only fifteen when he succeeded his father. He had a violent temper but was also pious and he was capable of acts of extreme cruelty as well as penitence. In his most notorious act, he had his first wife (and cousin) Elisabeth of Vendôme burned at the stake in her wedding dress, after he discovered her in adultery with a goatherd in December 999.
Chateau Trécesson is home to the phantoms of two gentlemen who play an endless card game that ends tragically. One player pierces his opponent with his sword. Legend has it that a guest was woken by the phantoms and having spent the night shaking under his sheets he woke to find spilt gold coins on the floor dropped by the duelling phantoms. Trécesson has another phantom – in the beech woods nearby, people have seen the spectre of a young woman dressed in a bridal gown stained with earth. She is known as the “Bride of Trécesson”. In the 18th century a bride was dragged into the woods on the morning of her wedding by none other than her own two brothers. She was marrying against their will and they were so furious at the union that they buried her alive. A poacher was witness to the scene but hid from sight and lived to tell the tale.
Oddly enough Trécesson was nearly lost in a card game. In the salons of Versailles, the young Marquis de Trécesson lost the château playing cards. Fearing that there was nothing left but to shoot himself he was saved when his valet, Firmin, reminded him: “My lord forgets you still have the manor Pied d’Anon.” The manor, named after a standing stone close by, was little more than a wooden hut but he bet it and won. What’s more he continued to play and regained his lost château.