Tag Archive: XIXth Century


The Master of the Hunt

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

It is the 8 September 1598.  A group of hunters are riding in the Fontainebleau Forest.  At their head is a cavalier who speaks loudly with a rough accent.  His dress is neglected, his big nose reddened, his beard and moustache badly maintained, his fingernails black with dirt, a fairly strong smell emanates from him.  This is King Henri IV of France.

Since morning, the royal hunt has been travelling through the underbrush in pursuit of a stag.  Soon, they will stop in a clearing to eat some little meat patties and empty numerous flasks of Jurancon wine which the King has transported with him in all of his outings.  However, for the moment, they haven’t had anything to drink – and it is important to stress this fact.

Suddenly, the King stops his horse and tells everyone to listen.  All the cavaliers obey.  They then hear, coming from a distant place, which they estimate to be about half a league away, that is to say around two kilometres, the voices of a pack of hounds, cries and sounding of horns…

The King asks his companions if they too can hear hunting horns and hounds.  The Count of Soissons, who has cupped his big hand around his ear, nods and declares that it is astounding.  The King would like to know who it is who dares to hunt at the same time as himself.  Someone suggests that it could be an echo of their own horns.  The King dismisses this explanation:

“Our horns have never sounded any of the airs that we are hearing now…  Listen…”

It is true, the music coming to their ears – of course very muffled by the distance and the forest’s density – does not correspond to any of the airs which have accompanied the group’s hunt since morning.  The King decides to investigate.

He is about to spur his horse when, suddenly, the same sounding of horns, the same cries, the same hound voices explode at twenty paces from him, as if, by some spell, the mysterious hunt had made a prodigious leap through the forest.

Astonished, the King and his friends turn toward the track near them whence the noise of the horns and hounds seems to be coming.  The track is empty.  The King asks if anyone can see anything.  They see only the sun playing on the ferns, through the trees.

And yet, the hunters, the horns, the noisy pack are there, close by.  Calling voices, neighing horses, metallic sounds, like weapons clashing, can be heard.

Suddenly, these sounds, these noises, these fanfares move.  They were coming from the right, now they are coming from the front, then the left, then from behind, then, again, from the right.  Invisible, the phantom hunt slowly circles the King and his companions.  Henri IV is worried.  He orders Soissons to go to see what is happening.

Anxiously, the Count heads his horse towards the place whence the noise is coming and soon returns to say that he sees nothing but, like everyone else, he can hear the hounds and the horns.

At this moment, a big, dark, bearded man with long hair and flaming eyes surges from the underbrush and cries out in a terrible voice:

“You wanted to see me!  Here I am!”

Then he turns toward Henri IV and says:

“Turn over a new leaf!”

And he disappears.

Immediately, there is silence in the forest.  Not one cry, no sound of hounds, no horns, not a hoof beat.  The phantom hunt seems to have evaporated.  The King orders his companions to find the man.

They search the thickets, the bushes, the ferns, they look at trees, clumps of rocks, nothing!  The strange person has also disappeared.  The King decides to question the peasants.

And without a word, almost without a sound, everyone starts off and heads towards Fontainebleau.  All of them seem to feel superstitious fear to the point that no-one dares to break the silence.  Not even the King, who is usually so talkative, so joyful, so prompt to jest.

After half-an-hour of travelling along tracks of moss and Spring ferns, the little troop arrives in a clearing where there are tree fellers and charcoal smokers.  Henri IV calls to them and explains that he has seen a mysterious person surge in front of him like a devil, his eyes full of sparks.  The woodsmen nod their heads and tell him that it is the Master of the Hunt who often hunts around there.  The King wants to know who this Master of the Hunt is.

“It’s a ghost who roams in the forest…  Oh!  He’s apparently not nasty.  We see him from time to time.  But to tell the truth, we don’t like it much…  Once I saw the Master of the Hunt near Franchard.  He came out of the ground, right there, in front of me…  He was two strides away.  He looked at me for a good moment without saying anything.  I didn’t dare move.  Then he laughed out loud and disappeared little by little like smoke…”

The Count of Soissons asks:

“And you say that this Master of the Hunt is a ghost?”

“For sure he’s not a human like us.  It’s the Master of the Hunt!  Or the Black Hunter as he’s sometimes called.  Sometimes, he’s accompanied by a whole invisible hunt.  A hunt that makes the devil of a noise, with dogs, cries, horns…”

The King tells him that that was what they had heard.

“Well then, it’s the Saint Hubert Hunt.”

And the woodsman explains that it is a mysterious hunt composed of ghosts of men and ghosts of dogs who have been haunting the Fontainebleau Forest for a long time.

Most impressed, Henri IV and his companions return to the castle where they recount their adventure.

And the whole French kingdom soon learns and marvels, that the King of France had met a ghost…

***

Many questions have been raised about this story and the craziest suppositions have been made.  First of all, it was thought that an attempt on the King’s life had been made, then that it was a diabolical apparition…  Finally, people with no imagination concluded that the sovereign had been tricked by facetious poachers who had had fun imitating the sound of horns and the voices of hounds.  Henri IV had therefore been the victim of a joke.

***

If it were poachers, why did they tell him to “turn over a new leaf”?

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to "turn over a new leaf" was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d'Estrees.

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to “turn over a new leaf” was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d’Estrees.

In April 1599, that is to say eight months after the incident in the Fontainebleau Forest, Gabrielle d’Estrees, whom the King was about to marry, died of poison, and Henri IV took for wife the overweight Marie de Medicis.  Rumours then began.  It was murmured that at Fontainebleau, the King had not been the victim of a bad joke, but of a plot cooked up by a high-placed person.  Which one?  The Papal Legate.

The Papal Legate – who was in Paris at this time – was Alexandre de Medicis, who wanted the King of France to marry his fat cousin.  And it is explained that, to strike the King’s mind and bring him to repudiate Gabrielle, the Legate contacted the famous poachers and gave them the task of setting up the whole thing.  Which is supposedly why the Master of the Hunt was accompanied by a phantom hunt and why he told the King to turn over a new leaf…

***

Although this explanation was accepted by all of the contemporary chroniclers, the story does not end there.  In 1625, in 1647 and in 1672, the Master of the Hunt appears again to stag hunters, still accompanied by his invisible whippers-in and his phantom pack of hounds.  And in 1698, it is Louis XIV himself who sees him.  He would say:

“A person of supernatural appearance surged before me, making my horse rear, and addressed a few words to me.”

Words that the King never repeated.

And that is not all.  In 1897, an English tourist who was riding a bicycle in Fontainebleau Forest, recounted that she had met, near the Croix du Grand-Maitre, a dark man who had surged from a bush and who ran with the lightness of a deer, calling out:

“Yak, Yak, Yak…”

***

These periodical apparitions of frightening men could be simply scruffy, threatening-looking people roaming the forest, whom imagination and the memory of legends transform into supernatural beings.  They could also be hallucinations, “concrete ghosts”, according to one psychoanalyst.  In this case, Freud explains that the hunter is, of course, a sexual symbol because he is hairy!…  Apart from this interpretation, the hypothesis of an hallucination – individual or collective – should perhaps not be rejected for the Master of the Hunt is a character who is found in most Western folklore.  In the North of Europe, for example, he is called the Black Hunter.

***

The invisible hunt is an extremely widespread myth.  In the Blesois, it is the flying hunt of Thibault le Tricheur, in Touraine the Briquette Hunt, the Arquin Hunt or the Menee d’Helquin.  In Berry, it is Rigaud’s Hunt or Baudet’s Hunt;  in Bourbonnais, the Maligne Hunt or the Gayere Hunt;  in Bretagne, the Gallery Hunt;  In the Maine, the Artus Hunt led by the famous King Artus who governed the Bretons in the IVth Century;  in the Orleanais, King Hugon’s Hunt;  in Sweden, Odin’s Hunt;  in Germany, the Wooden Heer.

***

George Sand studied these strange phenomena and collected a few.  Madeleine Bosquet, the author of a work on Normandie romanesque et merveilleuse, published a certain number of witness statements which are rather troubling.

One night when Ronsard was returning home, near Vendome, the poet, who was a bit deaf, heard the sound of a hunt and saw a cavalier appear who wanted to take him up behind him.  Anyone else would have made the sign of the cross to make this vision go away.  Ronsard, who had been a soldier, preferred to draw his sword, and everything disappeared.

But this meeting troubled him to the point that he noted his impressions in a poem, which I shall not try to translate here.

***

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The holy phial – part 2

Legend has it that, during Clovis’ baptism, a dove from Heaven brought a phial containing holy oil.

Such a surprising story has obviously met with some scepticism from Historians, and even from people of the Church…  Some Benedictins, like Dom Mabillon, some Jesuits, like Father Jacques Longueval, some Bollandist Fathers, etc., have, over the centuries, delivered severe criticism of Hincmar’s text and have quite simply declared that it is only a legend…

All of these good ecclesiastics refuse to believe in the miraculous apparition of the holy phial.  And their objections have been taken up by the Historian Leber who lived in the XIXth Century.  He very curiously begins by refuting this story, not for “cartesian” reasons, but for material ones.

He doesn’t say:  “I don’t believe it because a dove can’t come from the sky with a phial in its beak.”  He says:  “I don’t believe it because there must certainly have been enough oil to proceed with the baptism…”  Here is his text:

“It is said that at the moment of baptizing Clovis, the holy oil not being there, Heaven deigned to supply it by sending a phial filled with a divine liqueur whose perfume filled the whole church.

“This fact does not have a believable character.  It is difficult to believe that the oil which was supposed to serve for the baptism of a monarch had not been prepared or brought ahead of time into the sanctuary, or that there was not enough of it to accomplish the ceremony.  As no-one was counting on a prodigy, the necessary precautions must have been taken.  The oil must have been prepared, not only for the King, but for six thousand subjects who were baptized with him;  or, according to Gregoire, three thousand soldiers and more, not counting the women and children.  The negligence that is supposed here cannot be conceived.  The fact is not likely in itself.”

***

During the coronation of French Kings (here, Louis XVI), the holy phial was brought in great ceremony to Reims by members of the Order entrusted with its safekeeping.

There is another fact that troubles the Historians quite a lot:  none of the chroniclers who were contemporary to the prodigy mention it:  neither Gregoire de Tours, who recounts the baptism of Clovis however, nor Fredegaire, his continuator, nor Bishop Avitus, nor even Saint Remi in his testament…

Saint Remi only writes:

“Deus…  plurima signa ad salutem praefatae gentis Francorum operari facit!”

That is to say that some prodigies were done by God for the conversion of the Francs…  Some authors have concluded rather hastily that by “prodigy”, we must understand “holy phial”…  Which is known as “soliciting a text”…  In fact, the more rigorous Historians consider that this sentence of Saint Remi is extremely vague and that we do not have the right to see in it any allusion to the holy phial.  On top of which, if this prodigious event happened during Clovis’ baptism, a dazzled Saint Remi would not have just made a vague allusion to “prodigies”;  he would have related the fact in all its details…

***

In fact, the first chronicler to really speak of the holy phial is Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims, who wrote in the IXth Century, that is to say four hundred years after the event…  He claims to have taken his information from ancient chronicles.  Which ones?  He doesn’t say.  Therefore, Hincmar has been accused of completely inventing the story of the dove.  However, a few researchers have discovered that the story of the holy phial was known before Hincmar spoke of it, and that it belonged, in the form of a legend, to Reims folklore.

***

The reconstituted holy phial was used for the last time on 29 May 1825 during the coronation of Charles X. Since then, it is part of the treasure of the Reims Cathedral.

The genesis of it has been reconstituted.  Clovis’ baptism having been the most important event in the History of the christianization of Frankish Gaul, it could be thought that fairly early – around the VIth or VIIth Century – the Reims priests must have shown to pilgrims the phial used by Saint Remi.  This phial, authentic or false, it doesn’t matter, was considered a relic.  And we know that sacred objects were frequently conserved in recipients in the form of a dove which were suspended inside the churches, above the altar…  As well as that, on the drawings, the fresques, the mosaics which represent a ceremony of baptism, there is often a dove – the Holy Ghost – which descends onto the head of the new Christian…  It was enough for the good people to see this reliquary in the form of a dove holding a phial in its beak, and a mosaic showing Clovis’ baptism, for the mixture to give birth to a legend…  A legend which the good Hincmar, in good faith, reported to us…

***

And for over one thousand years, he was believed.  He made a mistake, but we must however recognize that it was a great idea.  An idea which was used for the first time in 869, during the Coronation of Charles the Bald, and which consisted in using Clovis’ balm for the unction of the Kings of France…  By this find, not only did he serve the interests of the city of which he was the Pastor (the Archbishops of Reims became in this way the consecrators of their sovereigns), but he made the Kings of France the only monarchs made sacred by the use of an oil from Heaven, which placed them above all of the Kings of Christendom.

This is how a marvellous story, born of a legend, was able to give, for around one thousand years, to forty Kings, the power and the prestige which was necessary for them to make France…

***

The Devil’s Footprints

The strange beings who people our folklore could perhaps be inspired by real events, like the one that occurred in Devonshire in 1855.

It is 7 February 1855.  The whole of England’s South-West has been swept since morning by an appalling tempest.  Wind of unheard-of violence is uprooting trees, taking off roofs, blowing down belfries and ripping out gravestones in the cemeteries, leaving tombs open and coffins scattered.

Barricaded inside their houses, the inhabitants of Devonshire are terrified.  Some would later say:

“It was an infernal night, the wind was screaming like a thousand witches…”

Suddenly, around five o’clock in the morning, the wind calms, the noise stops and snow begins to fall heavily.

This silence, after the torment, worries all who have not slept a wink that night.  One of them would say,

“We had the impression that there was some sort of threat hovering…  With my wife who was trembling with fear huddled against me, we were afraid of something supernatural.  Everything was really strange that night.”

It is in Blayford that it all unfolds.

Around six o’clock, a high-pitched, terrifying howl suddenly erupts near the village.  A dog’s howl which is heard for about a kilometre all around.  The good people huddle under their eiderdowns.  Then, once again, there is silence.

Around eight o’clock, Dawn breaks and the inhabitants of Blayford fearfully open their shutters.  Snow is no longer falling, but the countryside is all white.  Many times, the villagers of the little English town have seen this spectacle upon rising and they have always found something marvellous about it.  Today, inexplicably, they feel anguish.  A woman, unable to clearly explain her unease, would say:

“Bad luck seemed to be floating over us…”

Despite this, that same morning, a farm hand goes to have a look around to see the damage caused by the tempest.  He then notices some strange footprints.  Footprints of a kind that he has never seen and which correspond to no known animal in the region.  They look like a little horse-hoof and pierce the snow with mathematical regularity.  The farm hand, very intrigued, follows them across the fields and soon arrives beside the tattered remains of the dog who had howled so atrociously in the early hours of the morning.

He bends over it and notices, stunned,

“that the poor animal had died from wounds which could not have been made by either a man or a beast”…

He runs back to alert the village, saying:

“Come and see!  There are some strange footprints.”

The inhabitants of Blayford rush out and see that the farm hand has not lied.

Further, at that same moment, throughout the whole of Devonshire, peasants are discovering the same footprints in the fresh snow.

They extend over more than 160 kilometres.

The journalists of the County of course write about the phenomenon, remarking that the footprints, which are like dots on rigorously straight lines, each measures ten centimetres in length by seven centimetres in width, and that they are very regularly twenty-five centimetres apart…  One journalist writes:

“These footprints don’t stop anywhere.  Whatever it was, the unknown creature walked on hooves in short, leaping steps, in an inexplicable fashion without stopping nor resting, and it covered here more than thirty kilometres during the tragic night of 7 February, crossing rivers, climbing the walls of several houses and walking on the roofs before finally arriving at the little village cemetery without daring to enter it…”

Zoologists soon come from London to examine these strange prints which remain visible in the frozen snow.  None of them manages to identify the animal who had travelled all over South-East England – always in a straight line.

The mysterious “Devil’s Footprints”, drawn by a witness and published in “The Illustrated London News” on 24 February 1855.

One of them writes a few days later in the Illustrated London News:

“This mysterious visitor generally only passed once down or across each garden or courtyard, and did so in nearly all the houses in many parts of the several towns above mentioned, as also in the farms scattered about;  this regular track passing in some instances over the roofs of houses, and hayricks, and very high walls (one fourteen feet [4.50 metres]), without displacing the snow on either side or altering the distance between the feet, and passing on as if the wall had not been any impediment.  The gardens with high fences or walls, and gates locked, were equally visited as those open and unprotected.”

Another notes that

“two inhabitants of one community followed a line of prints for three and a half hours, passing under rows of redcurrant bushes and fruit trees in espaliers;  losing the prints and finding them again on the roof of houses to which their search had led them”.

Farther on, he adds that these prints

“passed through a circular opening of about thirty centimetres in diameter and inside a drain of 15 cm;  finally, they crossed an estuary around 3,500 kilometres wide”…

A third writes:

“These footprints are strange, for the snow is completely removed, as if it has been cut by a diamond or marked by a red-hot iron…”

Naturally, many hypotheses are emitted by both journalists and scholars who study the case.  Some are extravagant.  Someone suggests that these strange marks could have been made

“by a balloon dragging its tethering ring at the end of a rope”.

But this explanation appears absurd.  How could a metal ring tear apart the Blayford dog;  and by what miracle could this ring, attached to a balloon blown by the wind, leave perfect prints, disposed in a straight line and regularly distanced at 25 centimetres?…

A journalist suggests that it could be marks left by a kangaroo who had escaped from a menagerie.  The zoologists reply that it is extremely rare that kangaroos leap on only one leg, and that they haven’t any hooves, anyway…

Other investigators try to explain the presence of these marks by an atmospheric phenomenon.  It is pertinently replied that no-one had ever yet seen an atmospheric phenomenon leave hoof-prints…

Finally, none of the hypotheses emitted having been retained, the newspapers publish the embarrassed words of zoologists, physicists and meteorologists.  One of them, Doctor Williamson, goes as far as writing this:

“These millions of prints constitute an absolute enigma.  Neither a man, nor an animal, nor a machine is capable of leaving such marks.  This phenomenon is inexplicable.  Consequently, the best thing, in my opinion, is to forget it.”

A surprising declaration, coming from a scholar.

But the Devonshire peasants do not forget, and they give a name to these mysterious marks:  they call them The Devil’s Footprints…  A name that is not very scientific of course, but which still remains.  And it is by this name that Historians continue to designate them today…

***

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, consulted the English Press of the epoch and was able to note that, for two months, February and March 1855, all of the English newspapers published articles, investigations, interviews and sketches on what was called at the time the “mysterious Devonshire holes”.  He adds that a number of authors have studied this case.  Charles Fort, who called himself an “amateur of the unusual and scribe of miracles”, consecrated a chapter of his Book of the Damned to them, as did Jacques Bergier and the Info group in Le Livre de l’Inexplicable

***

They give no explanation and only emit hypotheses.  Some speak of sea birds, hailstones, field-mice.  But there is no bird, nor field-mouse whose feet end in hooves.  As for hailstones, has anyone ever seen any fall in a straight line, twenty-five centimetres apart?…  A modern author had another idea:  he suggested that these marks could have been left by an extra-terrestrial who landed from a space-ship…  Guy Breton says that he is not hostile a priori to this kind of explanation, but that this person would have had a strange way of walking.  On top of which, he must have been very small to have been able to pass through openings of a diameter of thirty centimetres…

***

So, we come back to Charles Fort’s explanation.  He said with humour:

“These prints could only have been made by a thousand one-legged kangaroos wearing a very small horseshoe…”

In other words, we don’t know.

***

There have been some absolutely identical marks left in Scotland in 1839, in the Kerguelen Islands in 1840, in the United States in 1908, in Belgium in 1945 and in Brazil in 1954…  So, you see, the Devil walks around his estates.  After all, he is called the Prince of this World…

***

A man from the past – part 2

This story was found by Jacques Bergier who read about it in an American parapsychology magazine and contacted Captain Rihm.  By this time, the Captain had retired, but he perfectly remembered the essential details of the case, which allowed Jacques Bergier to resume it in his work Le Livre du Mystere.  Later, Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, took up the investigation and was able to obtain, thanks to journalists who gained access to the Police files, some precisions which Bergier did not have.

***

The problem can be resumed in two points:

1.  A man mysteriously disappears without a trace in New York on the evening of 14 June 1876.

2.  An individual, having the features and clothes of the missing man appears, no less mysteriously, in a crowd on Broadway on the evening of 14 June 1950.

Did the man from 1876 leap into the future?

We know that the first fact relates indubitably to Rudolf Fentz Senior.  The second, however, does not necessarily imply a “reappearance” of the 1876 person.  There could be other explanations.

A collective hallucination has to be excluded because the body of the man run-over in Times Square was autopsied and buried.

***

Broadway around 1860 was a calm neighbourhood with provincial charm.

There is the possibility that a friend of the Fentz family, knowing of Rudolf Fentz’ disappearance, decided to play a practical joke.

This hypothetical person would have dressed up in similar clothes to the missing man, in 1950, would have mingled with the crowd on Broadway, would have drawn attention to himself by his strange comportment and would have committed suicide exclusively so that the Police, when they find the dollars and papers dating from 1876 in his pockets, would be placed before an insoluble enigma.  That seems a bit far-fetched.

***

For the moment, we have to be content with Jacques Bergier’s explanation:

“We find ourselves before a flagrant, irrefutable example of instantaneous “chronotransfer” or time travelling.”

According to him, this man would have penetrated, without knowing it, “some crack in the spatial-temporal continuum”.  This co-author of the Matin des Magiciens adds:

“Perhaps he is not the only one…”

He is doubtless alluding to the sudden and inexplicable disappearances of some people…

***

Broadway’s aspect in 1950 would have stunned a man from the XIXth Century who was used to the slow rhythm of a big village and hadn’t seen cars, skyscrapers, cinemas, television, or even electricity before.

There are people who run away, mountaineers who fall into crevasses, solo sailors who sink in the middle of the ocean, hikers who perish in forest fires and perfect crimes…

However, there are also the people who literally “disappear” before the eyes of witnesses.  Here is an example.  It is something which took place in the United States in 1880.  On the 23 September to be precise.  On this day, the weather is fine and David Lang, a farmer in the neighbourhood of Gallatin, Tennessee, is walking in a field with his wife and children.  Around six o’clock, as the sun is starting to set, the Langs come back towards the farm.  When they are less than fifty metres from the road, the children see a car belonging to Judge August Peck, a friend of the family, arriving.  They call out:

“Look!.  There’s Mr Peck!”

David Lang immediately raises his hand and calls out:

“Hello, August!”

Mrs Lang waves to him.  Then she turns toward her husband and remains stunned:  he has disappeared.  She searches all around her.  No-one.  Then she calls:

“David, where are you?”

Judge Peck leaps from his car and runs over.  He is white-faced.

“What happened to David?”

“I don’t know.  He was here a minute ago…”

“I know.  I saw him wave to me…  And I was going to respond when, before he had even lowered his arm, he had disappeared.”

Everyone then inspects the ground without finding the slightest hole, the slightest crack where the unfortunate farmer could have fallen.

For days, the terrain is tested without any trace of an excavation being found.   And no-one ever found out what happened to David Lang who had disappeared in a field, in the midst of his family, before the eyes of his friend Judge Peck…

***

It is possible that David Lang also found himself in another time.  Some scientists no longer dismiss this possibility.

***

Guy Breton concludes that eyes are opening, that Science is advancing with giant steps and that one day, it will be announced in the media as a perhaps rare, but perfectly explicable thing, that Mr Rudolf Fentz Senior did not return home one evening in June 1876, because he had been run over by a car, in 1950…

***

In 1876, the only cars that Rudolf Fentz would have seen looked like this. Nothing in these primitive engines announced the sumptuous Cadillacs which were to be seen 74 years later on Broadway.

A man from the past

On Wednesday 14 June 1950, around a quarter past eleven at night, the Broadway theatres and cinemas are slowly emptying, sending waves of spectators onto the sidewalks, when cries are heard.  A man around thirty years old, who had unthinkingly stepped onto the road, has just been hit by a car.  He is now lying in the middle of a pool of blood which is reflecting the lights of Times Square.

The people who crowd around the body then notice that the unknown man is dressed in a very old-fashioned way.  He is wearing a grey jacket with a row of buttons at the back, tight black and white checked pants, with no crease nor turned-up cuffs, and high-mounting shoes with buckles.  Not far from him, his top hat has rolled onto the asphalt…

At the morgue, a police officer empties this strange person’s pockets.  What he finds there rather surprises him.  There are:

– an obsolete bronze coin,

– a bill from a stable in Lexington Avenue with the mention:

“For the feed and stabling of one horse and for the storing of one carriage:  3 dollars”,

– seventy dollars in old money,

– a few visiting cards engraved with the name of Rudolf Fentz, and an address:  372 Fifth Avenue,

– a letter addressed to Mr R. Fentz bearing the postal stamp of June 1876.

The public servant transmits these objects to his superior who remains perplexed.

“And you say that he was wearing a jacket, checked pants, ankle boots and a top hat.  He was therefore in fancy dress.  But, when you put on fancy dress, you don’t go as far as having money corresponding to the period on you…  There is something funny here.”

“You don’t bother making fake papers either,”

says the other policeman, pointing to the bill and the letter, both perfectly new-looking with barely marked creases, which prove that they are of recent date.

“Do you think that it’s one of those crazy people who refuse our modern civilization and imagine that they are living in another age?”

“Unless he’s just an actor in a play where the action takes place in 1876 and has on him the money and the different documents of this time for use in the play…”

“He would have gone out into the street in costume?”

“With actors, anything’s possible!…”

This last hypothesis, by far the most plausible, is finally retained and the police officer sends two inspectors into the Broadway theatres with a photo of the victim, while a third goes to the address indicated on the visiting cards, the telephone directories are consulted, and the fingerprints of the mysterious person are sent to the records kept in New York and Washington.

All the witnesses thought that the mysterious person who was hit by a car on 14 June 1950 was terrified by the luminous signs on Broadway, and that was why he rushed onto the road.

That evening, the policemen come back with nothing.  No actor recognized the man in Times Square, the name of Rudolf Fentz is totally unknown at 372 Fifth Avenue, the telephone directories list no Fentz and the records do not contain the dead man’s fingerprints…

The affair is then handed over to Captain Hubert V. Rihm who is in charge of Missing Persons.  This officer immediately declares:

“We have to know where this person was coming from when he so stupidly got himself run over.  Was he leaving a shop, a show, a restaurant?  Publish a drawing of him in his extravagant outfit in the Press.  Perhaps the public will give us a clue.”

The portrait appears the following day in the New York Press and a few people who were in the crowd at Times Square on 14 June, at a quarter past eleven at night, present themselves at Captain Rihm’s office.  Alas, their testimonies, far from shedding any light on the case, cloud it even more.

A certain Mrs Kinners declares:

“I was coming out of the cinema with some friends.  There were a lot of people on the sidewalk.  Suddenly, this man appeared amongst us  I remember saying to myself:  ‘Where did he come from?’  Then, I thought that it might be someone doing some publicity for a show.  I thought that he was going to distribute some flyers.  But he was looking at all the signs in lights with a frightened air which struck me.  He asked me:  ‘What’s happening?  Is there a fire?”  And without waiting for my reply, he pushed into the crowd towards the road…”

Another witness, Mr Barnett, a friend of Mrs Kinners, came to say:

“We were coming out of the cinema and I was going to take a step towards the friend in front of me when, suddenly, this person was in between us.  How did he get there?  I don’t know.  All that I can say, is that he wasn’t there the second before.  I would have seen him because of his outfit and his big cigar.  The funniest thing was his expression.  He seemed astonished when he looked at me, as if I was a phenomenon.  Then he turned his head in all directions and seemed panicked to find himself in this crowd.  Finally, he looked up at the skyscrapers and murmured:  ‘My God!’  After which, he said something about a fire and, suddenly, went towards the road, as if he wanted to flee…”

Other witnesses came to testify to Captain Rihm.  Most of them repeated almost word for word what Mr Barnett and Mrs Kinners had said about the person’s sudden apparition.  But one of them, who was at the edge of the sidewalk at the moment of the accident, brought a supplementary detail:

“When the individual arrived near the road, I noticed that he was looking at the traffic lights with a frightened air, as if he had never seen any before.  Then he seemed to discover the traffic, turned to me and said, pointing to the cars that were passing by:  ‘But what’s that?’  …He looked terrified.  Suddenly, he rushed towards the street.  I called out to him:  ‘Watch out!’  But he mustn’t have heard me.  The car had already hit him…”

So who is this strange person dressed like an 1870s dandy, who appears not to know of the existence of skyscrapers, luminous signs, traffic lights and cars?

The astonishment of 1950 New Yorkers can easily be imagined when they see a man dressed in clothes from the XIXth Century suddenly appear amongst them.

Captain Rihm pursues his investigations and finally discovers, in a telephone directory of 1939, a Rudolf Fentz Junior living at 112 East 21st Street.  He goes there and learns that this Fentz, at the time that he was living in the building, was a man around sixty who worked in a bank nearby.  One of the lodgers gives the precision:

“In 1940, he retired and left the neighbourhood.  Since then, we’ve never had any news of him.”

The policeman enquires at the bank where he is told that Rudolf Fentz died in 1945, but that his widow was still alive and living in California.

Rihm takes an aeroplane and goes to question her.  Mrs Fentz’ answers can be resumed like this:

“No, she didn’t have a son, or a nephew, or even a cousin bearing the name of Rudolf Fentz.  No, her husband had not been married before marrying her.  No, no-one in her family had a taste for fancy dress.  No, she had never lived in Fifth Avenue, but her husband, yes, when he was a child.  He had even often shown her the building in which his parents had lived.  No, she didn’t recognize the visiting cards that the Captain was showing her, but the address could well be that of her father-in-law.  1876?  Yes, that year reminds her of something:  it was the year of her husband’s birth.  Yes, she has a family photo album…”

And she shows it to him.

The Captain wants to know if there is, among Rudolf Fentz Junior’s relatives, someone who resembles his mysterious person.

After having turned several pages, he stops suddenly, as if petrified, before a photograph representing a man dressed in a jacket and black and white checked pants, with buckled ankle boots, wearing a top hat…

Underneath this old-fashioned hat, a face is smiling, and although the document has yellowed, Captain Rihm immediately recognizes it:  it is the unknown man from Times Square.

“Who is this?”

“My father-in-law;  and the baby he is holding in his arms is my husband…  I mean, my future husband…”

“Have you any other portraits of your father-in-law?”

“No, that’s the only one that I have.  The unfortunate man mysteriously disappeared shortly after the photo was taken.”

“Disappeared?”

“Yes.  His wife couldn’t stand the smell of tobacco.  So he had the habit of going for a little walk after dinner to smoke a cigar.  And one evening, he didn’t come home.  His family had a search made for him by the Police, but it was never known what happened to him…”

“Do you know the date of this disappearance?”

“My mother-in-law often told me about it:  my husband was three months old.  He was born in March.  My father-in-law therefore disappeared in June 1876…”

Very impressed, Captain Rihm returns to New York where he finds in the Police archives the list of Missing Persons in 1876.  On 14 June, the name of Rudolf Fentz, aged twenty-nine, is listed “wearing a gray jacket, black and white checked trousers, high shoes with buckles and a top hat”

***

To be continued.

Gaspard Hauser

Stephanie de Beauharnais passes her time trying to avoid her enemies’ traps, and giving five children to Grand-Duke Karl-Louis of Bade, who adores her – three daughters of marvellous health and three sons…  who die in infancy…

At the Palace, it is the wife of Grand-Duke Karl-Frederik who gives the orders.  When Stephanie enters this family, the Grand-Duke is seventy-eight years old.  Louise Geyer, his morganic wife, to whom he has given the title of Countess of Hochberg, has given him three sons who cannot succeed him.

But “the Hochberg”, as she is called, is madly cupid and ambitious.  Napoleon is not yet at Saint Helena when she obtains the legitimization of her sons.  Karl-Louis, who is weak, lets her…

The people of Bade, who don’t like the arrogant commoner, are asking questions.  Why did this little Prince, born in 1812, a real force of Nature, to whom Stephanie had given birth in great suffering, die so suddenly?  As well as her second son, four years later, who was just as vigorous?…

***

Gaspard Hauser

For Gaspard Hauser, the attempted murder of 1830 puts an end to his tranquillity.  It is bad enough that the Municipality of Nuremberg pays for him to do nothing, but if, now, he becomes the man by whom scandal arrives…!

Strange Lord Stanhope, who is in fact notoriously introverted, refuses to receive him.  He is entrusted to a certain Meyer, a brutal, suspicious teacher who holds him to be an imposter, to perfect his education.

His most constant protector, Feuerbach, dies, leaving him desperate.

***

On 14 December 1833, snow is falling heavily on the city.  As he does every day, Gaspard has gone for an outing, accompanied, this particular afternoon, by Pastor Fuhrmann whom he leaves, saying that he has a rendez-vous with a lady.

Half an hour later, he presents himself before Meyer, pale, ruffled, speaking with difficulty.  A stain of blood is spreading over his shirt.

He tells his host that a man had given him an appointment in the park at nightfall, to give him some decisive papers on his origin.

The stranger was dressed in a long cloak and a top-hat.  He held out a blue purse which he dropped.  While Gaspard was bending down to pick it up, the man knifed him and fled.

A few rare people file around Gaspard’s bed.  He is ordered to tell the truth.  He whispers:

“If only I knew who hurt me, I would willingly tell you!  Do you think that I gave myself the knife wound?  Ah!  Soon you will think differently!”

Two days after that, in the evening, he raises himself up on his bed and cries out in a pitiful voice:

“Mother!  Mother!…  Come!”

A few moments later, he calms down and murmurs:

“I am tired, very tired.  But I have such a big road to travel…”

He closes his eyes.  They think that he is asleep.  He is dead…

At the place where he was assassinated, there is still today a monument on which is engraved the following formula:

“Here an unknown man was killed by an unknown man.”

***

There have been hundreds of studies of Gaspard Hauser’s story.

Among the most serious of them can be cited those of Jean Mistler, Jacob Wassermann, Fritz Klee, or the articles of Alain Decaux and the admirable film of Werner Hertzog.

They opt for often contradictory theses, the first saying that Gaspard was an imposter.  Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, is of the opinion that an imposter of sixteen who manages to fool everyone for five years, while he is submitted to thorough medical and Police examinations, is not believable.

***

In the opinion of the Medecine of the time, as well as our psychoanalysts today, Gaspard was not at all mad, clinicly speaking.  His life is marked by no disturbing act, he is basically a peaceful being, preoccupied only with learning and finding the explanation of his origin…

***

 

Stephanie de Beauharnais, first cousin once removed of Empress Josephine, adopted daughter of Napoleon, and wife of the Grand Duke Karl-Louis of Bade.

The mystery of his origin has never been solved to everyone’s satisfaction.  Far from it.

It is certain, and has been proven, that he was not, as was said for a time, Napoleon’s son…

It would seem more plausible that he was that of Stephanie.  There are strong presumptions in favour of the hypothesis that her two male children had been poisoned, by order of the Hochberg.  Or rather that there had been a substitution in his cradle , in 1812, of the son of Karl and Stephanie by the cadaver of a child of low birth, who had even been believed to have been identified.

The little Prince would have been taken to Beuggen in the South of the Grand-Duchy where he was well treated at first.  In 1819, when one of the sons of the Grand-Duke mounted the throne, the child’s condition would have changed completely.  The Hochberg had obtained from the new sovereign, whose mistress she was, the promise that he would never marry and that the way to the throne would remain open for her own sons.

From then on, Gaspard became an object of blackmail, directed against the Grand-Duke, if he forgot his promise.  The surveillance around the child then tightened, and he was finally placed under the surveillance of a certain Richter, a guard in a castle where Gaspard occupied an attic.  Out of fear of seeing him run away, Richter locked him up in a prison cell, but only for a few weeks.  Terrified by his responsibility, Richter would have finally ridden himself of him in the way that we have seen.

The problem is that this thesis reposes on a series of hypotheses…  some of which are more than hazardous.

***

All the explanations given do not, in Louis Pauwels’ opinion, take enough into account Gaspard’s attitude, when he is discovered in Nuremberg.  All the testimonies agree that he is a completely disorientated being, totally untouched in intelligence, in sensitivity, even in behaviour…

He didn’t master language at all, had no experience of the most common objects, but it only took him a few months to learn to read, to speak, to play music.  The latest Science proves that a being maintained until his sixteenth year in this state of ignorance is condemned to definitive idiocy.  He hadn’t remained in either an attic or a prison cell either, for he would have rapidly died.

Louis Pauwels thinks that Gaspard’s brain was already “formed”, “programmed” as we say today.  That it was enough to give it an initial jolt for this intelligence, catapulted amongst men, to start functioning and to achieve adult performances of an above-average intelligence…

Gaspard was not a simulator and he didn’t commit suicide.  He was more likely the product of a mad scholar, a golem, one of those robots to whom life is temporarily given by attaching a verse from the Bible onto their foreheads.  A being who came from somewhere else, in any case, which was also confirmed by the first medical examinations.

The doctors were astounded to note that his skin was that of a very young girl and that the skin on the soles of his feet was so soft and so smooth that Gaspard must have really taken his first “human” steps in Nuremberg.

***

What killed him, was the incomprehension of men, the unsurmountable laziness of their hearts.  It is certain that Gaspard disturbed people, that he was different, totally unintelligible to his fellow men.

It takes less than that to throw the first stone…

Paul Verlaine, moved by what had happened to the mysterious adolescent, wrote “Pauvre Gaspard Hauser”.

Louis Pauwels thinks that the poet Verlaine had the best intuition of who Gaspard Hauser was.  In a ballad which was dedicated to him, he puts these words in his mouth [my apologies to those who love Verlaine – I am about to try to translate him into English]:

“I came, calm orphan

Rich only by my tranquil eyes

Towards the men of the big cities…

Was I born too early or too late?

What am I doing in this world?

Oh!  All of you, my suffering is deep

Pray for the poor Gaspard!”

***

Poetry is more and more indispensable to objective knowledge, as is shown by what is happening in the greatest American technological institutes which employ poets to contribute to the explanation and the representation of certain phenomena which are still inexplicable.

Louis Pauwels says that if you want a last argument, this one totally rational, know that the forensic doctors who practised Gaspard’s autopsy discovered that he didn’t have a human heart.  Or rather that he had a totally inverted heart, as far as it’s position and its circulatory flow are concerned…

***

Gaspard Hauser

On the following days, as Gaspard Hauser becomes accustomed to the little room that has been prepared for him in the West Tower, memories start coming back to him.

And these memories are quite astounding.

As far back as they go, they remind him only of the cold of an underground gaol lit by an inaccessible ventilation opening.  He still thinks to be wearing the short pants of humid leather that are never changed, to smell the straw of his plank bed, the roughness of which, through a simple unbleached shirt, has doubtless definitively curved his spine.  A basin, at the foot of his bed, mysteriously emptied at night, a jug of water and a piece of bread, are the only things that are familiar to this troglodyte.  And then there is the “Black Man” as he calls him, the Argus of his den, half torturer, half teacher, of whom he speaks in fear and who, in the last weeks of his reclusion, taught him to write his name and to mumble:  “I want to be a cavalier.”.  A few days before his liberation, he also taught him to walk, by pushing him and carrying him in his cavern.

Finally, on the Monday of Pentecost 1828, after having made him traverse a vast forest near Nuremberg, supporting him when he is too tired, the “Black Man” points to the faraway towers of the city, and says to him, before disappearing into the bushes:

“Go towards this great village.”

A few hours later, Gaspard comes across the two cobblers.

What do the good people of Nuremberg make of this extraordinary, romanesque story?

Most of them are convinced of its veracity, because of the impression of total frankness that its hero communicates.

Very few people who visit his room during the first months, to look at him as if he were a side-show in a fair, in an attempt to recognize him, have any doubts before his limpid eyes and that totally candid air.

The young man is given a sort of preceptor, the excellent Professor Daumer, in whose home he is soon placed, and the bourgmeister of the city, Herr Binder, goes to work with great generosity to facilitate anything that could contribute to the return of Gaspard to the society of men.  He has his theory on the child, assuring that he had been the victim of a kidnapping, and he sends out, urbi et orbi, notices to obtain information from all who have any knowledge of the kidnapping of a baby between 1810 and 1814.

He receives a pile of letters,  messages, testimonies, which suscitate a lot of others.  The progress of Gaspard, who now speaks fluently, and even prettily plays the clavecin, exacerbates the interest of the scholarly and grand worlds, which are sorting through the Gotha, hunting for an imitator of Louis XVII who could perhaps be “Europe’s orphan”.  Which is what the journalists and shopkeepers of the old continent are now calling him.

For, with the favourable conclusions of Feuerbach, President of the Royal Court of Justice and the most eminent criminologist of his time, along with the request from a great English aristocrat, Lord Stanhope, who wants to take Gaspard to England to give him a princely education, there are now, throughout Europe, innumerable subscribers to gazettes whom the story of Gaspard Hauser deeply moves.

Two years go by in this way, which the civilized world of the time uses to embroider on the myth of the good savage, incarnated by Gaspard.

Gaspard Hauser

The inhabitants of Nuremberg have become gradually used to the young man’s presence.  He is a model young man, discrete, affable and rather solitary.  His days are spent in outings to the city’s Orangerie, in philosophical conversations with Pastor Fuhrmann, in diverse reading, thanks to which he avidly reconstitutes this world which was missing to him for such a long time.

And then, one evening, he who is so punctual, is late for dinner.

Anguish takes hold of his tutor who starts to search for him in the garden and the surrounding streets.  Finally, he is discovered, lying on the last steps of the cellar.  He has a big wound on his forehead.

While he is being transported onto a bed, he regains consciousness and murmurs:

“The Black Man…  The Black Man…  the chimneysweep…”

Gaspard has been aggressed by a mysterious man, dressed in a black cape.  He saw his face in black too and that is why he thought he recognized a chimneysweep.

The “Black Man” had told him that he had to die, before hitting him.

News of the attempted murder spreads throughout Nuremberg and, from there, throughout the whole kingdom.

President Feuerbach exults and, before the ampleur of the controversy, Louis I of Bavaria, himself, orders an investigation with 500 florins reward “to whomever would provide information, a simple clue”.

Gaspard’s wound is not very serious.  Some therefore conclude that he is only a simulator…

Why this interest from the King, himself, in an affair which is, after all, a simple Police matter?

Of course, there is talk about an exceptional incident which has overflowed Bavaria’s borders.

There are also stories, and even a solidly argued thesis now, about Gaspard’s princely origin…  The great Feuerbach is the most zealous defender of this thesis, which the aggression by the “Black Man” permits to establish, according to him, more solidly than ever…

***

Stephanie de Beauharnais, first cousin once removed of Empress Josephine, adopted daughter of Napoleon, and wife of the Grand Duke Karl-Louis of Bade.

Stephanie de Beauharnais came into the world as, in Paris, the walls of the Bastille are collapsing.  The daughter of a first cousin to General de Beauharnais, Empress Josephine’s first husband, her early childhood is filled with flights and privations.

When Napoleon, on the eve of mounting the throne, learns of the existence of this cousin who is living obscurely, he becomes indignant and decides to adopt her as his daughter.

Soon she is a Highness, ranked above all the other Princesses, and even above Napoleon’s sisters.  The Emperor, putting in place a matrimonial politic which had so well succeeded with other sovereigns, intends to see her marry the Crown Prince of Bade.

He so wants her to sit on this throne that, when his nieces bully the young girl about etiquette, he sits her on his knee, telling her in front of the entourage:

“Come!  No-one will make you get up from here!…”

What a disappointment when the fiance appears at Court!

Karl-Louis of Bade has a rather ungracious face and, as well, he is not at all fashionably dressed.

With his powders and his long wig a marteaux, he looks as if he has escaped from the Old Regime.  And sad-faced as well.

He agrees to have his hair cut like Napoleon’s hussards.  Stephanie finds him even uglier.

The mariage takes place with a pomp which has to surpass, the Emperor says, that of the kings, and soon, pretty Stephanie enters the Grand-Ducal Palace of Karlsruhe – four hundred bedrooms lined up under the lugubrious Lead Tower, a poor man’s Versailles, with even less comfort – and what plotting goes on there!

***

To be continued.

Gaspard Hauser, as he appeared to the two cobblers.

On this Monday of Pentecost 1828, all is calm is Nuremberg, where two cobblers are returning home, drunk from all the beer that they have consumed.  At the precise moment when the bell of the old cathedral finishes ringing its five chimes, the two companions suddenly stop.  In front of them, leaning against a house which is already in the shadow of the two cathedral towers, they can see a very strange creature…  One of them, Weichmann, firstly asks himself if it is not an old mannequin that a junk collector has placed there to signal his business.  The other, Beck, follows the person who is now dragging himself ahead of them, looking more and more tired.  He catches up to him and sees a young man around fifteen, covered in mud, with bushy hair under his old flat hat, and wearing scarecrow clothes.  When he sees the two men, he jumps and turns a bewildered face towards them.  Moved, as much by the beer as by this spectacle, Beck asks the child if he is ill and where he comes from.  His only answer is a painful sigh.  Beck shakes him by the arm before thinking to search his pockets.  He takes out a crushed letter which he holds out to Weichmann.  It is addressed to Captain von Wessnich, Commander of the 4th Light Horse Squadron, at Nuremberg.

Beck asks whether the Captain is related to the boy and receives a grunt in reply.  Weichmann is beginning to find this meeting a nuisance.  Beck decides that they can’t leave the child there and proposes to take him to the officer’s home.

Only the Captain’s wife is at home.  A good woman, who comforts the child, sits him down on a chair and asks him all sorts of questions…  He endlessly replies in such strange German that the woman takes a long time to understand what he means:

“I want to be a cavalier.”

She renounces questioning him because he appears so tired, and gives him a piece of roast meat, with a glass of beer.  The adolescent turns his head away in disgust.  On the other hand, he accepts some dry bread and swallows several glasses of water.

Nuremberg, where on 26 May 1828, two cobblers saw an unknown adolescent staggering down the street.

It is clear to see that it is mostly sleep that he needs and Frau von Wessnich decides to take him to the stable.  The child lets himself fall into the straw and immediately goes into a deep sleep.

The Captain soon returns home and reads the letter, which says this:

“Honoured Captain, I send you a boy who wants to serve the King in the Army.  He was left at my home on 7 October 1812.  I am only a working-man, employed by the day.  I have ten children of my own;  I have enough to do to raise them.  The mother abandoned this child to me.  But I don’t know who she was and I didn’t contact the Police;  I raised him as a Christian.  Since 1812, he has not been outside the house.  No-one knows where he has been raised and he, himself, does not know the name of the town, nor where my house is;  you can question him about it as much as you want, he will not be able to answer you.  I taught him to read and write a bit, and when he is asked what he wants to do, he says that he wants to be a soldier like his father.  I have taken him as far as Neumarkt;  he has to make the rest of the way alone.

Good Captain, don’t beat him to make him say where he has come from, since he doesn’t know.  I took him away at night, and he will not be able to find his way back,  If you don’t want to keep him, you can kill him or hang him in your fireplace.”

A note written on the same type of paper, coming from the child’s mother, it says, indicates:

“The little one has been baptised under the name of Gaspard.  Give him a Surname and deign to take care of him, whoever finds him.  When he is seventeen, send him to Nuremberg, to the 6th Cavalry Regiment, his father was a soldier there.  He was born on 30 April 1812.  I am an unfortunate girl and cannot keep him.  His father is dead.”

These letters, written in the same hand by someone who has made an awkward attempt at disguising his writing, seem to be fakes.  The Captain, who doesn’t want to be taken advantage of, goes to shake the sleeper.  Here is our vagabond at the Post of Police where he is again assailed with questions.  Once more, he says his litany, then pulls his head into his oversized jacket, with an infinitely distressed air.  He looks so pitiful that the public servants renounce tormenting him any more.  One of them however slips a pencil into his hand.  He is mocked by his colleagues who say that this miserable child can’t know how to write since he doesn’t even know how to speak!…  We’ll see tomorrow!  Just put the poor dog in one of the city’s towers and let him sleep!

But as soon as he sees the pencil, the child appears to be delighted.  He takes it and slowly writes with great application these two words:  Gaspard Hauser.  It’s probably his name, decide the policemen, who notice that, although the letters are not well drawn, like those traced by children in kindergarten, the name is perfectly spelt.  Unfortunately, Gaspard’s science stops there and, when he is asked to write also where he comes from, he mumbles lamentably.

What is Gaspard Hauser’s physical aspect?  He is fairly tall, he has fine skin, a fair complexion, very blue eyes and his hair is so blond that it appears silvery.  Above all, there is something in his allure that appears to be perplexity, hesitancy, constraint, as if he has just, at that moment, fallen from another planet…

To be continued.

Jeanne d’Arc, as represented by Saint-Sulpician inspired artists. But who were these beings from elsewhere who haunted the Bois-Chenu?

The Rouen judges lengthily interrogated Jeanne d’Arc on the fairytale phenomena in Domremy.  Here is what she answered on this subject, on Saturday 24 February 1431, during the third audience, to Maitre Jean Beaupere, Assessor at the Tribunal:

“Fairly close to Domremy, there is a certain tree which is called the Arbre des Dames, and others call it the Arbre des Fees.  Nearby, there is a fountain.  And I have heard that people sick with fever drink from this fountain and go to fetch its water to recover their health.  And this, I have seen myself;  but I don’t know whether they are cured or not.  I have heard that the sick, when they can get up, go to the tree to roll around.  It is a great tree, called fau, from whence comes the beautiful may.  It belonged, it is said, to My Lord Pierre de Bourlemont, Knight.  Sometimes, I went to roll there with the other girls, and made flower hats for this tree for the image of Notre-Dame-de-Domremy.  Several times, I heard said by the old people, not of my lineage, that the Lady Fairies lived there.  And I heard it said to a woman, named Jeanne, the wife of Mayor Aubery, from my part of the country, who was my godmother, that she had seen the Lady Fairies.  But I myself do not know whether that is true or not.  I have never seen a fairy at the tree, as far as I know.”

The judge asks:

“And have you seen any elsewhere?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve seen flower hats being put on the branches of the tree by young unmarried girls, and myself have sometime put some on with the other girls.  And sometimes we took them away, and sometimes we left them.  Since knowing that I had to come to France, I played a few games or rolled around, and the least that I could.  And I don’t know whether, since I have understood, I have danced near the tree.  Sometimes I could well have danced with the children;  but I didn’t sing there any more than I danced.”

So, Jeanne, known as Jeannette at Domremy, went to sing and dance under the Fairy Tree with her little friends.

***

During the same sitting of the Tribunal, she gave the following precision:

“My brother recounted that it was being said at Domremy:  ‘The Jeanne took her facts from the Fairy Tree.’  It’s false.  I told him the opposite.”

***

To tell the story of Jeanne d’Arc, it is always best to cite her own words.  Here is what she said about the voices:

“When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me to govern myself.  And the first time, I was very much afraid…”

And she adds this sentence where in a few simple words she paints the decor of this marvellous instant:

“And the voice came, around noon, in Summer, in my father’s garden.

“I heard the voice on my right, on the church side.  I rarely heard it without seeing a light.  This light is from the side where the voice makes itself heard…”

During the trial, a judge having asked her whether she had the help of her voices in the Tribunal room, she answered:

“If I were in a wood, I would well hear the voice coming to me…”

However, it would be wrong to conclude that she heard her voices only under trees.  They appear to have manifested themselves in vastly diverse places.  She never said that the presence of trees was a condition, if not indispensable, at least favourable, to her hearing the voices.

***

A fairy godmother. What could have given birth to these timeless stories?

In 1455, the trial of Jeanne d’Arc’s rehabilitation opened.  On this occasion, the Tribunal asked the Civil Provost of Vaucouleurs, Jean Dalie, to go to Domremy to question the people who had known the Pucelle [unmarried girl, usually considered a virgin].  A Rogatory Commission which was accompanied by a list of questions in which the Ninth Article concerned the Fairy Tree.  Here are a few answers:

From Jean Moreau, farmer, seventy years old (he was forty-three in 1429 when Jeanne left her village):

“The Fairy Tree?  I have heard it said by the women that marvellous beings that we call “fairies” used to go to dance under this tree.  But it is said that since we go there to read the Gospel according to Saint John, they don’t come back there any more.”

From Beatrice, widow of Estelleni, eighty years old (sixty-three in 1429):

“The Fairy Tree, I have been there myself with the Ladies and Lords of Domremy to roll beneath it, because it is a very beautiful tree.  It is beside a big track by which we go to Neufchateau.  It was said that, in the ancient times, the Lady-Fairies came under there;  but now they no longer come, because of their sins.”

From Jeannette, widow of Tiercelin, sixty years old (thirty-three in 1429):

“The tree in question is called the Fairy Tree because, in the ancient times, it is said, a lord called Sir Pierre Granier, Knight of Bourlemont, went to meet under the tree a lady called Fee [Fay or Fairy] and talk with her;  I heard it read in a book.  Girls and boys of Domremy go there each year on the Sunday of loetare or Sunday of the Fountains, to roll, eat and dance…”

From Hauviette, wife of Gerard, farmer, forty-five years old (eighteen in 1429):

“Since forever, that tree, we call it the Fairy Tree.  It was said in the ancient times, that ladies called fairies came there…  Myself, I’ve been there with Jeanne the Pucelle [Joan of Arc], my friend, and the others, on the Sunday of the Fountains;  we ate, we had fun…”

Finally, from Gerardin d’Epinal, farmer, sixty years old (thirty-three in 1429), this exquisite comparison:

“It is beautiful like a lily, that tree!  Its leaves and its branches fall all around right down to the ground.  Jeannette went there with the other girls…”

***

People believed in fairies, in a general way, throughout the whole of Europe practically up until the XVIIIth Century, and in certain places up until the end of the XIXth Century…

Historians of mentalities doctly explain that fairies come, for their name, from the antique fata, and from the three Parques (in all the tales, they are present at the birth of children to whom they dispense faults and qualities), and content themselves with adding that they constitute the most persistent vestiges left by paganism…

Certain modern mythologists are not far from thinking that the explanation of this myth will come to us, not from Historians of mentalities, but from scholars.

Now, American and Russian Physicists, among others, estime that interferences between our universe and an invisible world, which is however just as real as ours, are possible.  They add that at certain epochs, “beings” coming from this “elsewhere” were able to intervene in the destiny of men…

Which could have given birth to tales of fairies.

***

Should we then believe that Jeanne d’Arc, who thought that she was in communication with Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret and Saint [the Archangel] Michael, was in fact in contact with “mysterious unknown beings” visiting this world, and in whom today’s Physicists believe?

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, says that we are all free to think what we like.  All that he knows, is that the most marvellous and most extraordinary being in the History of France, that person who has her equivalent in no other country, at no other epoch, was born precisely in a little village where, for a century, young men and young girls go to roll around under a Fairy Tree…

***

Guy de Maupassant and the UFO

Guy de Maupassant

The story that follows is situated in the XIXth Century.  Guy de Maupassant, who is its author, is one of the greatest French writers.  His testimony comports striking analogies with those of former epochs.  Maupassant was devoted to “the humble truth” as he said himself.  His testimony merits being added to the UFO dossier.  This account was not published in his lifetime.  It appeared for the first time in the second half of the XXth Century.

***

I was working at home, in Etretat, when my domestic announced:

“There’s a monsieur, who wants to speak to Monsieur!”

“Have him enter!…”

I noticed a little man who was bowing.  He had the air of a skinny school teacher with glasses.  He gabbled:

“I beg pardon, Monsieur!  Much pardon for disturbing you, Monsieur…  I am very troubled by the step that I am taking, but I absolutely had to see someone.  There was only you!  I took courage, but truly, I no longer dare…  As soon as I begin, you are going to take me for a madman!…”

“Mon Dieu!  That depends on what you are going to tell me…”

“What I am going to tell you is going to appear bizarre to you…”

“Eh bien, monsieur…  get on with it!”

“Monsieur, I perhaps look a bit mad, but that’s how men look when they have reflected a bit more than others, when they have crossed a little, so little, the boundaries of average thought…  For, do you see, Monsieur, no-one thinks about anything!  Each is busy with his business or his fortune, his pleasures, his life or little stupidities like politics.  But who now thinks?…  Hein!…  Who now?…  No-one!  But I’m getting worked up, Monsieur, I return to the subject…  You don’t know me, Monsieur, because at Etretat I don’t mix with people…  Me, I mostly go onto the cliffs…  I look at the sky, the sea…  Ah!  I adore the cliffs!…  Monsieur…  Would you allow me to ask a question?”

“Dare it, Monsieur!”

“Do you believe that other planets are inhabited?”

I answered without hesitation, without appearing surprised:

“But, certainly, I believe it!”

Then he was moved by vehement joy.

“Ah!  What luck, Monsieur.  Ah!  I breathe…  Ah!  You know, I doubted you!…  Ah! a man would not be truly intelligent, if he didn’t believe in inhabited worlds…  We know nothing about what’s outside, nothing of these thousands of worlds, these flames of stars, hein!…  Ah!  If we knew…

“It wasn’t a shooting star.  I saw it very close.  It was a transparent luminous globe, with something like wings, palpitating vapours around it…  It was darting around, it was turning on itself, instead of a trajectory, yes!…  It was darting around, with a big mysterious sound!…  It passed in front of me…  One would have said a monstrous crystal balloon…  Like a ship in distress, with a panicked crew…  And this strange globe, Monsieur, suddenly made an immense curve and it must have crashed very far into the sea, for I heard something like a cannon firing… !  In any case, everyone, Monsieur, in the surrounding countryside heard this formidable shock…  One would have said that it was thunder, just one thunderclap.  But me, I was there, I was watching, I saw…  I alone, I saw…  If it had fallen on the coast, one would have known at last…  Ah! yes, Monsieur, I saw…  I saw the first airship!…  I saw the first sideral ship sent into the infinity by thinking beings!…”

He had risen, he was exalted,  He opened his arms to figure the progression of the stars.  He says to me:

“Adieu, Monsieur!  You answer nothing?…  But think about it!…  think about it!…  and recount this one day, if you want!…”

***

The same phenomenon described by Maupassant was observed by some Canadian sailors in 1967.

This story surges, itself like an unidentified object, in the Maupassant works.  It has no known sources and is not a scenario, in the manner of his master, Gustave Flaubert, for a work of imagination that he intended to write.  It is also the only text in great literature which evokes an apparition of a flying saucer.  Finally, it is an unknown text by a master of French literature who wrote hundreds of famous short stories and diverse other writings which have all been published.  All, except this text, of which we do not know whether it is the account by an eyewitness who reported it to the author or whether it is Maupassant himself who is recounting something that happened to him.

***

He could have seen it himself and wrote it this way to hide that fact.  We are in 1889.  Four years later, Maupassant sank into total madness.  Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that not only did he not invent this story, but that he effectively lived it.  However, he was already wary of himself, of his hallucinatory crises and he was unable to bring himself to make the choice between reality and what could have been suggested to him by his illness.

On top of that, even if he was convinced of the reality of his vision, he didn’t dare to publish it because it appeared to him to be too unrealistic for the epoch.  The end of the XIXth Century is the triumph throughout the whole world of positive ideas and, in France, of naturalism, which is above all intransigeant fidelity to reality.  He was himself one of the representatives of this school of thought, and he certainly found that his visions of flying objects were very little in conformity with the mentality and the curiosity of the epoch, in love with scientism and rationality…

***

Maupassant was a man of great culture who had contributed to the making of the culture of his time, and not only in France.  Therefore, he cannot be reproached with not having, at the same time, gone against this culture.  Our technological culture, the first trips into Space, the infinite proliferation of flying objects, have habituated us to fictions which prefigure the scientific realities of tomorrow.  An observation like the one reported here, would appear today in all the papers and the witness would be interviewed on television.

1889 is the year when Clement Ader starts building the first aeroplane.   We don’t even know if it ever flew.  The word “aviation” has only existed for about fifty years.  Therefore, Maupassant’s scrupules and discretion are perfectly comprehensible.

But he had already intruded into modern fantasy two years earlier.  He wrote Le Horla in 1887, and this abominable apparition would inspire the authors of fantastic and horrific realism to this day…

***

Etretat where Guy de Maupassant was living in 1885.

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