"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Strange Fate of Pauline Picard

Goas Al Ludu, via Wikipedia

The bizarre, gruesome story of Brittany’s Pauline Picard is one that suffers from a frustrating lack of documentation; we only know of her tragic end through a handful of relatively uninformative contemporary newspaper articles.

Of course, if we knew more about her, it is no guarantee that her mystery would be solved.

In April 1922, two-year-old Pauline disappeared without a trace from her parents’ farm in the village of Goas Al Ludu. The local residents conducted an intensive search of the area, but no one could find the slightest clue what might have happened to her.  Then, a few weeks later, it was reported that a small girl matching Pauline’s description was found wandering alone in the streets of Cherbourg. Pauline’s parents recognized the child as their missing daughter—although they were disquieted by the fact that the girl did not appear to know them. She had also evidently lost her ability to speak and understand Breton. Indeed, she seemed altogether mute and unresponsive.

Still, Pauline’s parents took the little wanderer home with them, and while the mystery of how she disappeared remained unsolved, it seemed the story would at least have a happy ending. These hopes were dashed a month later when a horrifying discovery was made in an open field less than a mile from the Picard farm. It was the naked corpse of a little girl, badly mutilated, presumably by foxes or rats, and decapitated. Clothes that were presumed to belong to the child were found nearby, neatly folded. The Picards identified these garments as the ones worn by Pauline when she vanished, although the corpse's face was too disfigured for any positive identification.

Was this child the real Pauline Picard? Whether she was or not, who killed her? Assuming the body was Pauline's, how could it have possibly escaped discovery for all that time? If this corpse was the Picard girl, who was her Cherbourg doppelgänger?

The disquieting puzzle only deepened when, close to the body, the skull of an adult was found. This second victim was never identified.

A French newspaper article published shortly after the body was discovered indicated that the Picards believed this little corpse was that of their daughter. So, the reporter asked them, where did this leave the living child they had previously accepted as Pauline?

“I do not know,” the father said sadly.

And there the matter evidently rested. If there was ever any real resolution to this story, I have been unable to find the slightest record of it.


  1. I think that the parents were desperate to find Pauline, and subconsciously believed that the Cherbourg Pauline was their real daughter.


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