In the years that follow these events, those who go up to the village in carriages, and later in cars, in the hope of seeing a straggling possessed, are disappointed. On the other hand, they discover new countrysides, welcoming inhabitants and the marvellous site of one of France’s most agreeable high altitude resorts.
One of the reasons for Morzine’s state of collective folly could be Historical: in the 1850 years, there are still little groups of Convulsives. Their Movement was born in the XVIIIth Century, in Paris, around the tomb of Deacon Paris, in the Saint-Medard Cemetery. They were animated with a sort of mystical and revolutionary hysteria, consequence of the conflict between Jansenism and the Church. In the XIXth Century, there were therefore still missionaries of the Convulsive Movement who travelled the countryside.
As well as that, it is certain that there is permanent witchcraft in the country. In Morzine, all this business is attributed to spells. At first, the little girls say that they have been touched on the shoulder by an old woman, who must be a witch. Then, a search is made for another guilty person, the defrocked priest Corbin, who is living in Switzerland at the time. Which leads to the extraordinary seance of unbewitchment, with the sacrifice of a dog.
And then there is the sociological explanation which is the creation in Morzine of a collective myth. This phenomenon has been studied since then, because of more recent affairs, such as the Orleans rumour in 1972.
And there is the deep fascination of the inhabitants of Morzine for exorcisms, which they see as a sort of counter-magic. The Morzinois revolt against the Curate, then the Bishop, when the Church refuses to play the magic game by practising exorcisms. They don’t want to be treated as if they are mentally ill, but as if they are bewitched.
The contagion stems from the small nervous attack of one adolescent. It then reaches other neighbouring adolescents, then women, and then hundreds of people. Are they simulators? It’s not as simple as that, for simulation is already an act which deeply moves the psychism.
In fact, the following explanation could be ventured: the whole village, isolated by distance and snowed in, wants to pass into a magical universe capable of defeating doctors, gendarmes, police, the army and even the Church.
The Morzinois play at being possessed to try to expulse society’s rational order. The astonishing thing is that this collective resistance will last almost twenty years.
It is true that this phenomenon also takes on the sense of the revenge of the poor, the Earth’s damned, as the Savoyards were then. In his book on witchcraft, Jean Vartier explains that this epidemic is certainly imputable to the poverty and lack of hygiene of the mountain populations of the time. The insalubrity of the chalets where animals and men are crammed in the worst conditions, malnutrition and consanguinity, contribute a lot to the physical deterioration of the possessed. Vartier writes:
“To feed their families, four hundred men left for Switzerland as seasonal workers, rock breakers, and brought back home books on magic, such as Le Grand and Le Petit Albert, which gave more fuel to indigenous credulity, so inclined to primitive interpretation of the slightest events. And so naturally leaning toward diabolical marvels, based on sorcerers, ghosts and werewolves…”
In the case of Morzine, the construction of a road seems to be a determining factor in the disappearance of the manifestations. We have seen in what lamentable conditions the Morzinois lived because of their isolation. But the cleaning of the river bed, the bringing of medicines and merchandise, the sending of doctors and gendarmes, all this was only one of the determining factors in the healing of the inhabitants.
The Morzinois weren’t possessed by the demon, they were simply possessed by the idea that they were. And of that, only one therapeutic could cure them: the circulation of ideas. This was able to take place thanks to 16 km of extra road…