October 29, 2009


Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a small, rocky island a little over half a mile off the coast of France around Normandy. It's a tidal island, only accessible when the tide goes out. And when the tide is in, it's 50 inhabitants are entirely cut off from the mainland. It has been a cultural stronghold, a prison, an abbey and, now, a historical monument.

A few years ago, Beth and I traveled to France. We traveled throughout the country for a few weeks and managed to stay a couple nights in a small village overlooking the bay in which Mont-Saint-Michel sits. The place we stayed was literally gothic, an old gothic estate situated on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the water. When the tide was in - the same tide that blocked all access to the Mont - the waves crashed against the cliff and winds buffeted the old mansion. But when the tide was out, the winds disappeared completely and mud flats paved the way to the Mont, lying eerily out there in the fog.

We did all the touristy things - we walked through the villages, visited the Mont, ate in the ocean-front restaurants that lined the main avenue of the odd yet charming town. But on the first night we were there, something truly odd happened.

We were in bed asleep when, about two in the morning, buzzers and bells began to ring out all over the house, echoing through the stone walls and marble halls. Beth and I looked at each other, wiping the sleep from our eyes. I put on some clothes, opened the door, heard someone mention a fire alarm. So we put on the warmest things we had handy and went outside. There, on the lawn, directly at the top of the cliff, the waves were battering the cliff walls, the cold winds were howling and a frigid rain started to spit from the sky. I can't explain the feeling - it was truly eerie, like being in some gothic horror movie from the 1950s.

"Are you the Americans?" a voice asked from over my shoulder. I turned and there was an elegant older woman, probably in her early sixties, dressed for bed having been awakened like us, long flowing silver hair. A distinctly British accent.

"Yes. Cold, wet Americans," I replied.

"I'm sure it's nothing. Just a false alarm from an old house like this. Esther Landsdale," she said, offering a hand.

"Pleasure meeting you," I replied. And we talked about who-knows-what for the next five minutes until the alarms stopped, the house was checked out and the proprietor gave us the all-clear.

We returned to our room, exhausted, shed our cold, wet clothes and awoke the next morning to a cool, sunny morning, no trace of the weather that had soaked us earlier. We lounged around in bed for a while, what with the interrupted sleep, then made our way down the house's grand stairway to breakfast. Lining the stairway were a series of photographs I'd not noticed the day before. They were each labeled not with names but two ranges of dates. One of the photos sent chills up my spine. I rushed down the rest of the steps and found the proprietor at the front desk.

"Excuse me. I just noticed the photographs on the stairway. Who are those people?" I asked.

"They are the former proprietors and owners, sir."

"And the dates - those are the years they managed the house?"

"Yes, and the years they died."

"One of the sets of dates seems to be wrong. One of them was Esther Landsdale, correct? I met her last night when we were evacuated."

"I'm afraid that's impossible, sir. That is a picture of Ms. Lansdale however Ms. Lansdale died in 1943 in a fire that consumed most of the east wing of the house. We have a book on the history of the town and the house over in the parlor if you'd like to read about the incident."

And so I did, stunned. I made my way to the parlor, opened the book and found what appeared to be the right place chronologically. There, again, was the picture of Esther Landsdale with a brief mention of the accident.

On July 22, 1943, while the conflict raged throughout most of the European continent, a fire raged through the east wing of Chateau Bâtiment, killing Esther Landsdale, proprietor, and three guests. Mme Landsdale succumbed to the flames after leading several visitors to the property to safety, returning to look for survivors. Her last known words were reported to be Veille de la toussaint heureuse or, in English...

Happy Halloween!

Posted by Chris at October 29, 2009 6:36 AM

Hehe. Great story! :)

Posted by: Alison at October 29, 2009 7:36 AM

you do it every time!! even when i know its coming... you and your halloween tales!!! you get me every time!!! and i love it! you are however just a tad bit twisted.

Posted by: theunicorn at October 29, 2009 7:49 AM

But I WANT that story to be true :(

Posted by: MidLifeMama at October 29, 2009 8:40 AM


I'm with MidLifeMama in that I want the story to be true too! I'd love to believe in ghosts and fairies and magic.

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 29, 2009 8:43 AM

Gah! So gullible! :) Right back at you!

Posted by: Hannah at October 29, 2009 8:59 AM

Totally fabulous story!

Posted by: Maribeth at October 29, 2009 9:07 AM

Well played, Cactus, well played.

And I, too, was hoping for a true story dagnabit! lol

Posted by: Kris at October 29, 2009 9:08 AM

Well done; had me to the very end.

As long as we're swapping ghost stories, when I was a younger, my mother rented a house in Youngstown. She worked nights, and my girlfriend and I crashed there from time to time, so it was not unusual for us to be there and for her to come home in the morning.

One particular morning in the winter, we had stayed while she was out, and in the morning awoke to hear dishes washing and radio playing. Thinking nothing of it, we stayed in bed a while and then headed downstairs. Coming into the kitchen, we found a sink with dirty dishes. And looking outside, there were no tire tracks or footprints in the snow. Clearly, she had not come home, and yet the sounds we heard were as clear as day. True story.

Happy Halloween Chris!


Posted by: metawizard at October 29, 2009 9:18 AM

Fun! I love the story and the ending!

Posted by: Trisha at October 29, 2009 9:55 AM

I knew it was coming and I still go chills! Awesome story Chris!

Posted by: Tess at October 29, 2009 10:04 AM

Me too.

Posted by: k8 at October 29, 2009 10:08 AM

You tell a great story. I got sucked in again.

Posted by: Michelle at October 29, 2009 10:22 AM

OH-MY-G_D...I can't believe I fell for that!! I got chills reading it!

Posted by: Angelica at October 29, 2009 10:41 AM

you write a mean good story, but i don't fall for them like i used to :)

Posted by: kati at October 29, 2009 10:47 AM

WoW! I totally bought it. I also like others wanted it to be real.

Today, we are full of 800 kids 5-11 hopped up on sugar in little funny outfits reigning chaos throughout the school. Days like this, I long to work with people. Although I am sure I would run into way more a--hats out there. :)

Have a great day!

Posted by: debb at October 29, 2009 10:50 AM

you get me everytime ugggg good story:)

Posted by: becky at October 29, 2009 11:07 AM

Any story you tell with Beth where Beth doesn't say anything always raises my bullshit meter. Very prettily written, though!

Posted by: alektra at October 29, 2009 11:14 AM

That was awesome. :O)

Posted by: Jen at October 29, 2009 11:16 AM

You tell the best stories! This was a great one and so believable!

Posted by: kali at October 29, 2009 11:44 AM

great story! you got me again! happy halloween!

Posted by: jenn at October 29, 2009 12:02 PM

Good story but I have actually heard of stories similar to this that many people believe are true.

As I was born and raised in Scotland I have seen several "strange/weird" things that lead me to believe ghosts are real.

Posted by: Steven at October 29, 2009 1:29 PM

Count me in as one of the suckers! If you ever want to change careers, You'd probably make a great con artist, lol!
Happy Halloweenie!

Posted by: LaineyDid at October 29, 2009 1:30 PM

Yet again, you prove that you need to be writing short stories or something. You certainly have a gift for writing (more than a damn good blog?)... which we've known for a looong time.

Great story, Chris! Happy Halloweenie to you, too!

Posted by: ironic1 at October 29, 2009 6:55 PM

I love it!

Happy Halloween!
I can't wait to see pictures of the kids and hear about your weekend :)

Posted by: Rose Winters at October 29, 2009 11:45 PM

HAHAHAHA...I knew the second I started reading that this was your halloween goodie! LOVE it!

Have a spook-tacular day tomorrow!

Posted by: zanie at October 30, 2009 5:31 PM