0 Replies Latest reply: Oct 30, 2010 5:46 PM by profchiara RSS

Haunted Places

profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
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Since SteppingStones has told his wonderful story, I'll now tell mine.  As a historian, I am not normally given to supernatural interpretations of events, even though my first professor of history at grad school in Providence RI related numerous stories of ghosts in the city.  They included Edgar Allan Poe, who (according to him) supposedly haunted the Atheneum looking for his love Sarah.


But I have a real ghost story that took place in Dijon, France, where my college rents what they euphemistically call an apartment.  It consists of  the upper two floors of the west wing of a seventeenth-century mansion. I have been able to stay there several times when the French department is not using it as part of the abroad program.


In December about eight years ago, I spent two weeks at the apartment, having it all to myself.  In fact, most of the rest of the mansion was empty as the residents had gone to visit their families.  Dijon is magnificent in every season, but I must say I have a particular fondness for it at Christmas.


I did my research at the Bibliothèque Municipale by day, then went to the wonderful markets to buy French bread, escargots (if you haven't tried Burgundian escargots don't knock 'em -- my favorite food), beef for boeuf bourguignon (Julia Child's recipe), oysters, and wine.  You might attribute what happened to the wine, but I know better.


I am a stickler for security even in places where it's not necessary.  I lock all doors, windows and cars.  Plus the director of the program made sure to tell me never to open the door to the 'bridge' that crossed between the two sides of the mansion, because I'd never be able to close it again.  The bedrooms were on the second floor, above the spiral staircase, and the foyer, office, sitting room (with Louis XVI furniture, chandeliers, and mirrors) and dining room on the first [which is actually the second floor in France]).


It was very windy one of the first nights I was staying there, so I closed and latched the doors on the first floor between the rooms so that nothing would crash into anything valuable.  Then I went to bed.  The next morning, I came down and the (interior, not exterior) doors were all open.  That's when I came up with the possibility of too much wine the night before, even though I knew otherwise.


The following night I again closed and latched all the first floor doors, but only had had a half glass of wine before retiring upstairs.  There was a bit of a wind and snowstorm during the night, but that should not have affected the interior of the apartment.  I came down and once again all those doors were open.


At this point, I wasn't quite so much alarmed as curious.  Had the housekeeper who was supposed to come in once a week come in during the middle of the night? It didn't seem likely. (And she hadn't.)


After a third time, I emailed the director of the program and jokingly asked if there was a ghost.  He said, "Oh, you mean Charles?"


Indeed, a legendary 18th-C. aristocrat named Charles purportedly haunts the mansion.  He is quite benign, apparently just walking through the apartments at night, opening doors and enjoying the night time atmospherics of the place.


I do still wonder,  however, why the director had been so adamant about never opening the window that crossed to the other side of the house.


I got used to Charles' comings and goings and even left the doors open for him on occasion.


(All of this is true (at least my part), but Happy Halloween, anyway!)

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