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From the Files of the RJ's Surrealist Research Bureau

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From the Files of the RJ's Surrealist Research Bureau

The Versailles Time Slip

I’m sure most of you are aware of the infamous “Versailles Time-Slip” but I’d like you to indulge me for a moment nonetheless. On vacation in Paris during the summer of 1901 two middle-age English academics, misses Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, decided it was a perfect day to stroll through the Palace of Versailles examining its famous collection of antiquities and curios. After touring it the women decided to visit as well the nearby Petit Trianon, a smaller residence originally built in 1762 for the mistress of Louis XV. As they entered the gardens and hedges surrounding it both women were overcome by what they later described as “a feeling of depression and loneliness,” later escalating into “an impression of something uncanny and fear inspiring.”

The women encountered several people along their walk about the Petit Trianon, including two men wearing old fashioned clothing with stockings and grey-green coats with smallish tri-cornered hats; an elegantly coiffed woman in a fancy dress sat sketching, and more, all oddly dressed and speaking an archaic form of old French. A sinister “man in black” in a cape and slouch hat glared at them from a small gazebo. Two ladies doing laundry in a bucket seemed frozen in place and wouldn’t respond to the women’s queries. Both women felt that something odd had happened to them that day but weren’t sure exactly what it was.

The next day they returned to the Petit Trianon and were surprised to find the cottage looked different; on the spot where the elegantly dressed woman had been sketching a well-rooted tree had appeared. The gazebo where the sinister “man in black” had been was no longer there, the tourists passing by now were dressed in newer clothing speaking a perfect modern French dialect and the small palace itself seemed a hundred or more years old, not new and freshly painted as it had been the day before.

The two women later published a short account of their strange experiences in a book entitled ‘An Adventure” in 1911 and surmised they had inadvertently wandered into a shadow realm from the time of Marie Antoinette. Reports of still more ghostly figures in the Versailles area by other visitors prompted an exhaustive investigation into the incident by researcher G.W. Lambert in 1946. Lambert found that many of the site’s details, unknown at the time by Moberly and Jourdain, were consistent not with the time of 1901 but similar to historical and landscaping records of the locale of the 1770s.

I bring this all up because of an excellent find recently at the Clark Fork Library. It’s a reissue of a PBS Mystery episode entitled “Miss Morison’s Ghosts,” a 104-minute DVD which, while I’m not too familiar with the actual case itself, in the DVD version, refusing to back down from their stories eventually cost them their jobs as teachers at a girls’ college. Anyway, it’s a good introduction to one of the classic “time-slip” cases.

Since I’ve got some space left this issue, I thought I’d bring up another strange tale from France, this one from 1907 Paris (reported in the Daily Mail). An elderly woman complained at the police station that every time she entered her new home she was “compelled” to walk across the threshold on all fours. The officer detained her, thinking her mad and sent another policeman to investigate. He brought the woman’s son back, who told the sanity hearing judge, “I do not pretend to explain it, I only know that when the entire family, my uncles and nephews, nieces as well, when we cross the doorway, we are immediately impelled to walk upon our hands.” The uncle was called for and he corroborated the tale. The Judge finally called the landlord, who said “All you’ve heard is true, I thought they’d all gone mad but as soon as I entered the room I found myself on all fours.” The magistrate ordered the rooms to be exorcised and disinfected, which apparently fixed the problem for its heard of no more.

‘til next time, All Homage to Xena!

“Our waking consciousness is but one special state of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted by the filmiest of veils, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different, entirely strange.”    William James

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Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

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