Halloween: The ghost stories from France’s most haunted chateaux

Halloween might not be France's most celebrated holiday but that doesn't mean to say the French don't enjoy a good ghost story, writes France based British writer Jackie McGeown.

Halloween: The ghost stories from France's most haunted chateaux
Château de Châteaubriant. Photo: Klovovi/Flickr
To get us in the mood for ‘Spookmas’, Jackie McGeown, who runs the blog Best France Forever, tells us some tales of French phantoms and the chateaux they are doomed to haunt for an eternity.  
1. The ghost with the wooden leg at Château de Combourg
The Château de Combourgis is said to be haunted by a certain Comte de Combourg. Back in his day, he wore a wooden leg and this is the leg that can be heard marching up and down the castle’s stairway.
This story makes me wonder if the leg is still wooden in the afterlife or if it’s made of some ghostly material which allows the spirit to pass through walls? In which case, how could it make knocking noises against the stairway?
Château de Combourg. Photo: Objectif Nantes/Flickr
His ghost is sometimes accompanied by a black cat, possibly the ghost of the cat found buried alive in the walls of the castle.
Apparently this was done to ward off evil spirits but also because human stupidity is limitless.
2. The murdered lady of Château de Châteaubriant
The next ghost is our first encounter with the sadly all-too-common theme of spousal abuse.
Believing his wife Françoise de Foix to be having an affair with King François I, Jean de Laval Lord of Château de Châteaubriant in the 16th century is said to have imprisoned her in her bedroom and either poisoned or stabbed her to death.  
This poor woman’s ghost is said to make an appearance every October 16th, the anniversary of her murder, and honestly who can blame her?
Does the ghost of Françoise de Foix appear in her former home every year? Photo: the lost gallery/Flickr
3. Noisy ghosts at Château de Blandy-les-Tours
According to reports, the tower of Château de Blandy-les-Tours is haunted. At midnight on All Saints Day (November 1st), phantoms circle the castle ramparts, screaming in a “sinister” manner and doing some terrifying chain clanking in the style of Marley’s Ghost in A Christmas Carol.
But that’s not all. There is another ghost, thought to be the master of the castle in the 11th century who also happened to be a murdered. He appears in various rooms in the castle wearing a bloody shroud and brandishing a dagger, something we can all agree is pretty cool.
4. Haunted horse of Château de Sallenôves
This is my favourite. The Château de Sallenôves has an AMAZING ghost.
Inside the castle there’s a room called The Devil’s Room (isn’t that asking for trouble?) and at midnight a horse appears there wearing armour and foaming at the mouth. 
5. The Bride of Château de Trécesson
A thief lurking by the Château de Trécesson one night spotted a carriage drawing up. Two “gentlemen” get out and begin digging a human-shaped hole.
Once this is done, they drag out a young woman, dressed in a bridal gown complete with floral headdress and bouquet, and throw her into the pit.
Photo: daniel.baker/Flickr
They bury her alive, claiming she has dishonoured her family. The thief then goes home and tells his wife, who sends him back to save the poor woman. He does but she’s already dead. Fast forward to present day and the ghost of the victim is said to frequent the castle dressed in all in white.
6. The star-crossed lover of Château de Paymartin
Another castle, another ‘woman in white’ ghost. In this case it’s Thérèse de Saint-Clar, mistress of Château de Paymartin in the 16th century.
Legend has it that her husband found with her lover and forced her to spend the next 16 years of her life trapped in a tiny room in the castle tower.
Now she is said to haunt the castle dressed in white. 
7. The starving servant of Château de Veauce
A beautiful 18-year-old servant, Lucie, was being “courted” by the master of Château de Veauce, much to the displeasure of his wife, Jacqueline de La Fayette.
When the lord went off to war, the Baroness took her revenge by having Lucie thrown in prison in the tower where she died of cold and starvation.
Lucie haunts the castle at midnight and you will never guess what colour she wears…white.
Jackie McGeown runs the site Best France Forever. Follow her on Facebook here for regular updates and you can read the original blog post on The Most Haunted Places in France here.

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French family defend naming their son Canard (duck)

A family from Perigord, the duck-farming region of south west France, have defended giving their baby boy the middle name of Canard after a wave of online mockery.

French family defend naming their son Canard (duck)
A family from the duck-farming region of south west France have defended giving their child the middle name of "Canard" Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Baby Dyklan Bret was born in August in south west France, but his middle name only became public when civil servants in the area published a list of the ‘most unusual’ names registered in 2021.

Many people assumed that the name referred to Périgord’s reputation as the duck-farming capital of France, and the family were mocked on social media as “cas sociaux, alcooliques” (alcoholic social-work cases).

But in fact, the name has a very different origin, which the baby’s grandfather has shared with French TV channel BFM.

“It’s a tribute to my mother, a war orphan,” he told BFM.

“In 1943, she was abandoned in front of the church in Châtellerault (Vienne) because she came from the traveller community. She was then taken in by social services, and then adopted seven months later by a man called Georges Canard, a French soldier who later worked on the railways and was involved in the resistance.

“For my son, it was a mark of respect towards his grandmother. We wanted this surname to live on through the new generations even though it is no longer our family name, as women often lose their surname when they marry.”

French courts have the power to block certain baby names if they are deemed harmful to the child – among those refused are Nutella, Deamon and Fraise (strawberry).

READ ALSO The French baby names the law won’t allow

Until 1993, French parents had to choose from a list of acceptable names. This has now been scrapped and parents can make their own choices, within certain limits.

Local authorities in Périgord have raised no issues with Canard, which has parents say will not be used on a daily basis, as it is only a middle name.

EXPLAINED is your name ‘French enough’ for France?