Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mysterious



The nights are drawing in and it’s time to gather around the fire and tell spooky tales of ghosts and sprites and other fearsome apparitions. Did you know, for example, that during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, France was overrun with werewolves? In the space of a hundred years, there were thirty thousand trials concerning loups-garous and many of these cases are well-documented. In 1573, in the village of Dole in the Jura region, a certain Gilles Garnier confessed to having murdered and eaten scores of young children and a few years later, a father and son admitted killing and eating several adolescents. In 1603, a thirteen-year old boy called Jean Grenier from Aquitaine was found crouching in the bushes chewing on what turned out to be human flesh. Another werewolf caught red-handed - or pawed in this case - was a creature called Jacques Rollet, who not only admitted to eating human beings but commented on the fact that lawyers had particularly thick skins. Well, we all knew that, didn’t we?




These wolf men all had something in common: they were excessively hairy, their nails were long, sharp and black, their teeth pointed and they scampered around on all fours – at least when there was a full moon. As recently as 1930, a werewolf was thought to prowl the streets of Paris and even today, desperate parents use the threat of a loup-garou under the bed to chasten naughty children.


As far as I know, there have been no cases of loups-garous in this region – although there are plenty of excessively hairy men. There is, however, a history of fairies. Near the thermal resort of Allevard are two caves said to be occupied by fairies and at the height of the resort’s popularity at the end of the nineteenth century, they were a major tourist attraction. However, unmarried women were not allowed to enter as legend had it that a young girl was warned by one of the malevolent fairies that if she did not marry her lover – who had gone to war – in exactly a year’s time to the day...he would die. On the allotted day, the lover preferred to go hunting rather than get hitched and met his death as predicted. The fairy got the blame, of course, rather than the disgruntled bride-to-be…



Closer to Grenoble, the village of Sassenage claims to have been home to the fairy Mélusine. Legend relates how a certain King Elinas met a beautiful young woman, Présine, while out hunting. She agreed to marry him on condition that he never see her give birth. He broke his promise, however, and his wife promptly disappeared with her three daughters. Years later, on learning of their father’s broken promise, the girls took their revenge and imprisoned him. Présine therefore punished her eldest daughter, Mélusine, condemning her to turn into a snake every Saturday and if she married, her husband must never see her as a snake otherwise she would disappear forever. One day, Mélusine met the handsome Raymondin in the forest and agreed to marry him as long as he didn’t try to see her on a Saturday. Strangely enough, he accepted – I suppose he thought she was the sort of woman who like a girls’ night out. Unfortunately, one Saturday, suddenly suspicious and mad with jealousy, Raymondin burst into the bathroom where poor Mélusine was trying to deal as best she could with her scaly skin problem - and discovered her secret. She fled to the caves in Sassenage and was never seen again. The small, spherical stones still found in the mountains around Sassenage were believed to be the fairy Mélusine’s petrified tears.



Other strange stones include those observed by two young girls in 1842 in the village of Clavaux. Stones started falling around them in slow motion so they ran to tell their parents who returned to the place with them. Suddenly, a sort of whirlwind began to suck the two children skywards and their parents had to grab hold of their feet to prevent them from disappearing into the stratosphere like helium balloons.



On a more ghostly note, this region has its White Lady too. On the outskirts of the village of Château-Bernard, some say a hitch-hiker can be seen thumbing a lift at night. All in white, she tends to dissolve like mist into the darkness as you approach her but thirty years ago, a man actually stopped and gave her a lift. Taking a fancy to her, he put his hand on her knee and then groped her breasts at which point he realised that she was – literally – frigid. She suddenly disappeared and feeling guilty, no doubt, the dirty old man stopped at the next police station to report what had happened and discovered that he’d just tried to make out with a ghost. I hope he had nightmares for the rest of his life.


There are countless other mysteries but to be honest, I’m still grappling with the everyday ones, never mind the supernatural. My house does seem to be haunted though…by three young girls who only appear at mealtimes and then mysteriously disappear…mmmm

6 comments:

Sarah said...

I put up my Halloween deccies this weekend. Spoooooky!

Tiago said...

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Tinsie said...

Spooky people, the French. Ughhhhhh!

Mountain Dweller said...

A fun read! Maybe you should try ghostbusters for your own haunted house!

bluevicar said...

It's confirmed...creepiness crosses continents with all the ease of fairies and goblins. I must say, though, that thirty thousand werewolf trials give me pause...NOT paws, thank goodness. And the well-documented part, well, when my French improves, I'd like to take a look!

Stories of all sorts...gotta love them!

Meilleurs voeux!!

Gigi said...

I've noticed that there is much less Halloween merchandise in the shops this year. With any luck, there won't be any trick and treaters either!

Roll on Christmas...