Ghost Stories

HALLOWEEN 2016: BY MARIANNA KAPLUN

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Curious thing, but we don’t often hear about happy, friendly ghosts. More often they seem to be unfriendly spirits who cannot rest. In August 1901 one English woman Miss Charlotte Anne Moberley visited France. When she walked through the Petit Trianon, a small château in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, she saw a woman at the window of a building, which was not there in 1901.

Miss Moberley also saw two men wearing eighteenth-century hats, and a woman drawing pictures, who looked very like Queen Marie Antoinette herself. Then she saw a woman and a girl wearing eighteenth-century dresses at the door of a small house. In 1911, Charlotte Anne Moberly published a book entitled An Adventure, devoted to her impressions from Versailles.

The fact is that how did Miss Moberley see the buildings which had disappeared many years before and which she had not seen pictures of? Or it was just her artistic imagination?

In addition to the explanation by the woman that she had been caught up in what is now called a time slip and had observed ghosts from the past, a non-supernatural explanation of the events was proposed by Philippe Jullian in his 1965 biography of the aristocratic decadent French poet Robert de Montesquiou.

At the time of Moberly’s excursion to Versailles, Montesquiou lived nearby and reportedly gave parties in the grounds where his friends dressed in period costume and performed tableaux vivants as part of the party entertainments. So Miss Moberley’s fantasy was just coincidence.

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But how we explain the other mystic stories? We all know that the most great ghost’s space is The Tower of London which is said to have 30 ghosts. For instance, visitors have seen the ghost of the Queen Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, served as queen of England in the 1530s. She was arrested and taken to Tower Green and was beheaded on the 19th of May 1536. It’s said she appears in the sixteenth-century dress and always walk to the site where she was executed. Also visitors saw the ghost of Catherine Howard, the fifth wife Henry VIII, who runs through the rooms of Hampton Court.

Great Theatres also are often known for their ghosts. Actually the appearance of almost any one of the handful of ghosts that are said to frequent the theatre signals good luck for an actor or production. Like the Man in Grey at the Theatre Royal in London’s Drury Lane. He appears dressed as a nobleman of the late 18th century: powdered hair beneath a tricorne hat, a dress jacket and cloak or cape, riding boots and a sword. Legend says that Man in Grey is the spirit of very talented actor, who during his life didn’t have enough time to play his best roles. So his spirit’s appearance in its own way blesses the good play and the actors playing in it.

And in July, 2012 Otago Daily Times reported that ghost-hunters find signs of spirits at Globe Theatre Dunedin. Spirits occupy theatre after “light anomalies” were recorded there at the weekend, paranormal investigator Kelly Cavanagh says. As indicated in the paper, ‘The spirits were apparently those of Robert Blackadder, who lived in the building in the 19th century before it became a theatre, a girl called Mary Elizabeth Richmond (now thought to have moved on from the theatre), who lived in the building when it was a cottage in the 1860s, and former theatre caretaker Frank Grayson, who died in the 1980s.’

We all like ghosts stories. Because it’s interesting, mystical and exciting. We can’t understand or explain this phenomenon. As Charles Dickens once wrote: ‘An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.’ May it be so.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is a philologist specializing in Ancient Russian drama and theatre. She’s also a film and television critic by calling and librarian by profession. You can find her essays on her Facebook page and on Lumiere. She also blogs in English and Russian.

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