Tag Archive: Emile Zola

Night Visit

The following is a text that I wrote in French while I was living in France and have just translated into English.  This is the first time that it has been published in either language.  I wrote it the day after the incident.


30 July 2001, Anjou, France, 11:10 p.m.

The neighbours have sent their children to bed.  I can hear windows and shutters banging.

It is strange.  Their windows remain open all day, letting in the stifling air from outside, and they close them in the evening when it is a lot cooler.  I do the opposite.  Each to his own taste.

The window of my bathroom, an en suite to my bedroom, stays open all night.  It has solid bars, conceived to discourage any thief who might have had the laughable idea of trying to find something worth stealing in my apartment.

The bars, around ten centimetres apart, do let in quite a lot of visitors however.  Every morning, I remove the leftovers from the nocturnal meals of the two spiders who are comfortably installed in ambush in my bathroom.  They sort through the Unidentified Flying Objects which have had the audacity to penetrate my home while I am asleep.  I leave them there on purpose, as a first line of defence.

From time to time, I receive the visit of a big moth who has temporarily lost sight of the moon and, led astray by my bedside lamp, braves the bars and the spiders.

This evening, I am reading.  I am not yet in bed, but am sitting on it, with my back to the room.  Theoretically, I am immersed in Emile Zola’s La Debacle, but I am having trouble concentrating.  I can still hear the windows and shutters banging.

I am starting to have some auditory hallucinations.  I hear something fall in the bathroom.  I raise my head.  I listen.  Nothing.  Anyway, there is nothing susceptible of falling in the bathroom.  I go back to Zola.

I hear some sort of movement behind my head.  A big moth.  I see it out of the corner of my eye when it changes direction.

First thought:  its colour is very dark.

It passes behind my head again.  I bid it “Good evening!”  Yes, I talk to moths.  I know, I am crazy, but this is not the right moment to discuss that subject.  I raise my head to look at this nearly black moth.  I am wearing my reading glasses and am surrounded by an artistically out-of-focus decor.  The Flying Object has gone into the bathroom and makes a left-hand turn before plunging towards the bathtub.

Second thought:  it’s not a moth;  it’s a bird!  How did it manage to get through the bars?  I’m going to have fun trying to catch it to set it free!

Third thought:  it looked odd.  Why?  Its flight.  It’s not a bird!  It’s a bat!

Fourth thought:  what do I do now?  Help!

Interior Dialogue

“First of all, we must remain calm.  It’s a tiny, little bat from Anjou.  It’s nothing like the enormous vampires in South America.”

“Maybe.  But it’s in my bathroom!”

“That’s true.  It’s in your bathroom.  But it’s there by accident and it’s more than likely that it wants to be somewhere else.”

“Then why doesn’t it just go away?”

“It would already have done so if there weren’t any bars.  You’re going to have to help it.”

“I  don’t mind doing that, but firstly, it needs to know that I’m trying to help it and don’t want to hurt it.”

“Well, tell it that.”

“Yes, yes, of course!  I take an accelerated course in Ultra-Sounds, specializing in Bat!”

“Like all living things, it feels your thoughts.”

“In that case, it mustn’t be very confident at the moment.”

“So, you already have that in common.  In your opinion, who has the biggest problem?  You, or it?”

“All right.  But what is it going to do when I go into the bathroom?”

“If you were in its place, what would you do?”

“Huddle in a corner and pray.”

“So, that’s probably what it will do, too.”

“Bats pray?”

“Let’s stay on the subject.  In your bathroom, there is a living creature who is afraid and wants to leave.  You need to make it understand that you are going to help it and that it must trust you.”

“And all that through my thoughts.   A piece of cake!”

I put Zola and my glasses down on the bed and walk the metre and a half separating me from the bathroom, which is vaguely lit by the bedside lamp.

If we start with the premise that the very, very, very tiny-little-animal-hiding-somewhere-in-the-dark doesn’t like light very much, switching on the bathroom light would be a mistake.  Therefore, we won’t.

When last seen, this really-minuscule-little-thing was plunging towards the bathtub, fortunately white, and has not made the slightest sound since.

Different things decorate the top of my bathtub:  among them, my toothbrush and the toothpaste;  the latter in the form of a little plastic bottle.  Between the two, there is something dark-coloured.  It is not moving.

Right.  Let us say that it is the bat.  How am I going to take hold of it?  This is my first bat rescue.  Let us do the same thing as for wasps and bees:  a clean cloth.

I explain, out loud, that I am going to fetch something to help it out of there.  It listens to me attentively and does not move.

I find a tea-towel in smooth cotton, in which the bat would not risk getting stuck.  I return to the bathroom.

I explain to it that I am going to take away the tooth-brush that is just in front of it.  Which I do.  The bat does not move.

It has magnificent ears – all rounded.  What a pity that I can’t turn on the light to see it better.  Naturally, I can’t take a photo of it, either.

I can’t see it very clearly and am very surprised when, after having told it what I was going to do, I pick up the bottle of toothpaste.  It is clinging to it.

I start to put it down again, then decide to try to pass it like that between the bars.

Despite its immobility, its nerves must be very taut.  They snap, and it lets go of the toothpaste.

I put down the bottle and tell it that I am going to try to take it with the tea-towel, but that I would have preferred that it were turned the other way.  It seems to understand and begins to turn around.  I am astounded.

It slips on the enamel and spreads its wings to land in the bathtub.  I can see it a lot better.  It is very beautiful.

Now, it is turned the right way around, but its wings must be folded.  It does not agree with this.

It tries to fly onto the edge of the bathtub, but does not have enough room for take-off.  It slips.  It can’t hold on.  It tries again.  This time, I understand.

I hold out the tea-towel and it grips the side of it.  I lift them both slowly.  The bat folds its wings and I pass the tea-towel between the bars.  The bat is outside.  We look at each other.  It does not fly away, but I am absolutely certain that it knows that it is free.  These few seconds during which it remains clinging to my tea-towel, looking at me, are a gift that it is giving me.

“Go!”, I tell it.  The bat unfolds its wings, holds on for another instant, then takes off into the dark.  I bring in the empty tea-towel.

I feel a bit uneasy.  This bat has greatly troubled me.  I have the impression that I have been dealing with a being of an intelligence that is equal, if not superior, to mine.  Different, of course, but not inferior.  I feel very humble.  I am not sure that I like this feeling.

In my bedroom, I look at the time:  11:20 p.m.  The last three hours have taken only ten minutes.  Apparently, that is what is known as Relativity.

I go to bed.  I am exhausted.  I wonder what the bathroom spiders think of it all.  I shall have to ask them tomorrow.



Emile Zola writes:

“When will they stop feeding us this rubbish!  These so-called clairvoyancy phenomena are only traps for the gullible, just good enough to impress illiterate bigots.”

Henriette Couedon

Mademoiselle Couedon’s star begins to dim.  Parisians are fickle and are always ready to burn their idols.

And then, one evening in May 1896, the Countess de Maille receives the cream of French aristocracy in her Paris salon.  There are more than one hundred guests bearing prestigious names.  Mme de Maille tells them:

“I have a surprise for you.  The famous clairvoyant, Mlle Couedon, is here…”

A bit shy, the young lady enters to applause and goes to sit in the centre of the salon.  Everyone considers her with amused curiosity.  As she is slow to start prophetising, they stamp their feet, chanting:

“Ecstasy!  Ecstacy!  Ecstasy!”

Then, the young clairvoyant suddenly falls back in her armchair and half-closes her eyes.  Her cheeks flush and she chants:

Near the Champs-Elysees

I see a place not raised

Which is not for piety,

But which approaches it

In a sound of charity

Which is not the truth.

She stops for an instant.  Her face contracts:

I see the fire rise

And the people scream,

Burnt flesh,

Calcinated bodies;

I see like heaps of them.

The clairvoyant sways.  She has to be supported.  When her weakness passes, Henriette says that all of the people who are listening to her will be spared.  Then she turns toward Count de Maille and announces to him that he will be touched, but “distantly”.   Before retiring, the young clairvoyant adds that after this fire, she sees the death of a great lord…

Ten minutes afterwards, all of Mme de Maille’s guests have gone back to their worldly chatting.

And one year later, almost to the day, on 4 May 1897, the Bazar de la Charite, installed Rue Jean-Goujon, near the Champs-Elysees, takes fire.  The crowd, panicked, runs screaming towards the too-narrow exits.  Some are crushed, others fight, and everything burns, everything is consumed, everything is calcinated.  There are more than one hundred dead, including the Duchess d’Alencon.

And, as Henriette predicted, none of Mme de Maille’s guests were among the victims.  As for the Count, he is in mourning for a distant cousin.

Then, on 7 May, three days after the catastrophe, the Duke d’Aumale dies in Sicily upon learning of the death of his niece, the Duchess d’Alencon…


Gaston Mery, a journalist, had been present at Mme de Maille’s reception, and had noted Mlle Couedon’s words immediately.  Count de Maille, himself, confirmed their exactitude in an article published by the newspaper Le Temps.


Mlle Couedon correctly predicted cyclones, railway catastrophes, duels between famous people, the disappearance of Felix Faure, the Russian Revolution…


She also made mistakes, for example, in announcing the return of a King in France.


In everyday life, Henriette Couedon was a happy, joyful, laughing, pious young girl, but in no way mystical.  She read a lot and her favourite author was not Saint John of the Cross or Nostradamus, but Jules Verne…  She had never been interested in occultism.  She was in very good health and had never suffered from any nervous troubles.  In other words, she was a wholesome, well-balanced young lady.  Then, one day, her parents went with her to visit a friend, the famous Mme O., whom we have mentioned.  This lady said that she was inspired by the Archangel Gabriel and had clairvoyancy gifts.  However, for some time, her gift seemed to be diminishing.  It is true that she made her clients pay her…

It is well-known that, very often, clairvoyants lose their gifts when they charge people money for using them…

On this particular day, Henriette was at Mme O.’s when, suddenly, she fell into an ecstasy which lasted several hours.  Afterwards, she recounted that the Archangel Gabriel, disgusted by seeing Mme O. commercialising her clairvoyance, had come to announce to her that she had been chosen as the Angel’s spokesperson.


Guy Breton does not believe in the intervention of the Archangel Gabriel in this story;  but he says that it is uncontestable that one day, for reasons which remain mysterious, Mlle Couedon’s comportment was completely transformed and she seemed to have acquired a certain clairvoyancy gift.

Mr Breton also thinks that anyone can predict that, in the weeks to come, there will be an earthquake somewhere, or a rail accident, the death of a famous man or social unrest…  Which is why he attaches no importance to anything that she may have predicted before and after the evening of May 1896.  But there is the extraordinary vision of the Bazar de la Charite fire.  If this had been the only thing that she had “seen”, her case would still have been intriguing.  For, at the time when she speaks about it, no project concerning a charity sale near the Champs-Elysees yet existed…


In the present state of our knowledge, it is impossible to explain how we are able to see a vision of a future event.  However, there is one explanation given by parapsychologists:  imagine a train turning around a mountain on its way to meet another train which is on the same line.  Neither of these two trains knows of the other’s existence.  They receive no alarm signal and their collision is certain.  However, their destiny is unknown to them.  While the catastrophe which is about to occur is absolutely obvious to an observer placed, for example, in an aeroplane, a few hundred metres above them.  The clairvoyant is perhaps a person who is situated on a superior level.


Some scholars have seriously studied these problems.  Among them, there is one of the greatest biologists of our time, Dr Alexis Carrel, Nobel prize-winner and author of L’Homme, cet inconnu.  Here are his conclusions:

“Certain individuals appear susceptible to travelling in time.  Clairvoyants perceive not only events which happen far away, but also past and future events.  It could be said that their conscience projects its tentacles just as easily into time as into space.  Or that, escaping physical continuum, they contemplate the past and the future, like a fly could contemplate a painting if, instead of walking on its surface, it flew a slight distance from it.  The facts of prediction of the future lead us to the brink of an unknown world.  They seem to indicate the existence of a principle capable of evolving outside our body’s limits.”


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