|via Normandy Then and Now|
Considering Normandy's very long and colorful history, you figure it would take a lot for a residence to get the reputation as its "most haunted chateau," but judging by what one family said it experienced for two straight years, the title may be justified.
Château des Noyers was located in the Calvados village of Le Tourneur. It was built in 1835, largely from the stones of an earlier medieval castle. The site had long had a reputation for anomalous activity--a spectral woman in white here, a werewolf there--but no solid evidence of High Strangeness was recorded until a couple by the name of de Manville inherited the chateau in 1867. The de Manvilles brought with them their son Maurice, the boy's tutor, a gardener, a cook, and a maid.
Soon after they moved in, they noticed a few odd disturbances--strange noises in the night, doors slamming for no reason, objects inexplicably being moved--but those soon ceased. Life at the chateau was quiet until October of 1875, when the family found themselves plunged into an eerie and terrifying experience, one which, luckily for ghost researchers, was minutely chronicled by M. de Manville in his diary.
On October 13, Maurice's tutor (identified only as "Abbe Y.,") informed de Manville that his armchair had been mysteriously moved. They attached gummed paper to the foot of the chair, fixing it to the floor. That night, the Abbe heard a series of light raps in his room. He also noticed a noise that was "of the winding of a big clock." A candlestick on his mantelpiece began moving on its own. He then heard the armchair being dragged across the floor. It was moved over three feet from where it had been placed.
Over the next few nights, the household continued to hear violent blows throughout the castle, as well as the sound of furniture being moved. The Abbe and the maid, Amelina, swore they heard M. and Mme. de Manville's footsteps, and recognized the sounds of their voices...when the couple was in reality asleep in their bed. When the parish priest spent the night, he heard a heavy tread slowly descending the stairs, followed by a single heavy blow. "He has no doubt this is supernatural."
The unnerving sounds then took a break until the night of October 30, when the household was awakened by a series of loud blows. The next night--Halloween, appropriately enough--the spectral commotion intensified. There was a sound "as if someone went up the stairs with superhuman speed from the ground floor, stamping his feet. Arriving on the landing, he gave five heavy blows, so strong that objects suspended on the wall rattled in their places. Then it seemed as if a heavy anvil or a big log had been thrown on to the wall, so as to shake the house." Everyone present made a minute inspection of the castle, but found nothing. The strange noises continued, keeping everyone awake until three in the morning.
On the night of November 3, the household heard more of the heavy spectral steps ascending the stairs, accompanied by the usual series of crashing blows, heavy enough to shake the walls. They were followed by "the noise of a heavy elastic body" rolling down the stairs and bouncing from step to step. Then came two loud thumps, and a noise like a hammer blow on the door of the "green room." And then scuffling sounds like the steps of animals.
Virtually every night, the household was treated to a cacophony of blows, raps, and invisible footsteps. On November 10, there was "something like a cry, or a long-drawn trumpet call." This was followed by long shrieks, as of a woman screaming for help. These ghostly sobs and cries continued over the next few nights.
On November 13, for the first time the now-familiar sound of blows was heard during the day, and furniture was mysteriously moved in several rooms. Windows opened and closed before their very eyes. That night, there were new cries. Instead of the sounds of a weeping woman, they heard "shrill, furious, despairing cries, the cries 'of demons or the damned.'"
It was noted that the bulk of the eerie phenomena centered around the room of the Abbe. Although he always carefully locked his room whenever he left it, he would invariably return to find his furniture and personal possessions in a state of disarray. On and on it went. De Manville's diary is an unvarying chronicle of loud blows, angry knocks, stamping footsteps, animal-like noises, disappearing objects, and rooms ransacked by invisible hands. Members of the household began noticing that the raps seemed to "follow" them as they walked through the house.
On January 15, 1876, a Canon, described only as "The Rev. Fr. H.L.," performed a religious ceremony in an effort to drive away the dark forces bedeviling the family. Immediately following his departure, there was "a new set of phenomena as intense and serious as those which preceded his coming." That night, there was the sound of a body falling in the first-floor passage, followed by that of a rolling ball giving violent blows on the doors, accompanied by the now-familiar knocks and earth-shaking blows. The oddest occurrence to date took place on January 25, as the Abbe sat in his room reading his breviary. Although it had been a beautiful cloudless day, a stream of water suddenly fell through the chimney on to the fire, putting it out and scattering ashes throughout the room.
Out of sheer desperation, at the end of January the de Manvilles brought in a priest to perform an exorcism, and placed holy medals on all the doors. At first, this seemed to quiet these unusually rowdy spirits, and the family allowed themselves to believe the ordeal was over. Unfortunately, by August 1876 the raps, knocks, cries, etc., started up again, as noisily and eerily as ever. The medals mysteriously vanished. Several days later, as Madame de Manville was writing at her desk, the missing medals came out of nowhere and fell onto her papers. One day, de Manville played his harmonium. When he had finished, he heard the tunes he had been playing repeated in the opposite corner of the room. The spirits evidently enjoyed their musical interlude, as for several days afterward, the family heard the sound of organ music. The Abbe reported seeing a heavy cupboard in his room rise some 20 inches from the ground, where it stayed suspended for some time.
The de Manvilles finally conceded defeat, and sold the chateau for a rock-bottom price. The new owners did not report anything unusual. The now-infamous castle stood quietly until it was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1984.