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October 31, 2001 - The Ghost of Chateau Chevre

The Ghost of Chateau Chevre

I don't normally believe ghost stories but the story of Chateau Chevre leaves me cold. The large structure next to our little cave has always fascinated me. All the caves on the Rotte aux Biques are interesting and unique but Chateau Chevre is next door so I always wonder what tunnels and deep chambers are abutting the walls of our home. We do hear distant noises from time to time but we usually know who and where they are coming from.

We have known our neighbors for two years but our social intercourse has been brief albeit friendly. Monsieur Baroth is an artist from Paris. We usually see him on the weekends or hear him talking to the cats that populate the goat path leading to our cave. He says that he is like a mockingbird because he lives in other people's nests but we see him more often that the real owner.

Monsieur Baroth has invited us to dinner because the real owner, his wife, Pier Girard, is coming to spend a couple of weeks in her maison troglodytes. I have often wondered why she doesn't come more often but I know that Monsieur Baroth comes for the seclusion that is necessary for all artists to think and create. We soon learn that Pier is a writer as well as a psychiatrist. Aprille is delighted that she can talk with someone about Freudian versus Jungian psychiatry, art, literature and whatever. But I am interested in the caves.

As it turns out Chateau Chevre is more cave than chateau. Some homes are built up against the cliff face with a small cave in the rear but Chateau Chevre is a series of caves that go deep into the mountain. The facade and the one building constructed in front make it is look like a normal house. There is a fireplace and old dark portraits of serious men whose eyes follow you everywhere you go in the room. Baroth, as Pier calls him, offers us a tour of the house. The house part is on the facade. The rest is a series of caves, galleries and chambers that connect to other caves on the goat path. One of the chambers is bricked up. Baroth explained that it is a tunnel that goes for miles into the mountain and exits somewhere down by Chateau Lavardin. When I asked why it is bricked up, Baroth laughs and says it is for security.

There is a set of wooden stairs in front of the bricked up gallery that lead to the only building that is not a cave. Upstairs is a bedroom and downstairs is the library with more of the dark foreboding portraits. Baroth explains that the portraits where done by students of an artist who lived here in the 1940's.

One cave has a bunch of old plaster sculptures, moldy paintings and unfinished canvases. Baroth explains that the former owner was an artist who died here after a long-suffering illness that left him paralyzed. His wife left immediately after he died without taking anything with her. The property was left abandoned for a long time and even the vandals and thieves left it alone after one break-in.

When we return to the dining room, Baroth points to a corner of the room and says that was where the artist, Jean Bailleul, spent the last days of his life. I remember that I had seen this man's grave in the village cemetery. I remember it because it was broken open. When I volunteer this information, Pier and Baroth look at each other but don't say anything.

I ask Pier why the tunnel was bricked up but it is Baroth who answers. He often sleeps in the library that can now only be entered from the courtyard. The door to the library from the caves was sealed because he kept hearing noises like someone walking up the stairs and trying the door latch. Pier interrupts and says that she lent the house to a friend who stayed in the bedroom upstairs and was terrified by the same type noises. She was so afraid that she moved to a house down the hill near the château. But the next night she heard the same noises. It turns out that the tunnel is connected to the caves near that house. So they bricked up the tunnel.

Baroth tells us that the tunnel goes for miles back into the mountain and nobody knows where all the different galleries exit. He suggests that a thief could get in the house if he could find one of those entrances. I jokingly ask if any of the tunnels go in the direction of the cemetery. After an awkward silence, he tells me they go everywhere.

Aprille senses the tension and tries to change the subject to art. She asks why all those old canvases are left in that moldy cave. She likes some of the work and is interested in the restoration of old paintings. Baroth says that it all has to stay where it is. Our importuning silence demands an answer. Finally Pier explains that she consulted a colleague about the possibility of the ghost of Jean Bailleul being in her caves. Her colleague suggested that she treat it like a patient and counsel it to cross over to the other world. Piers went into the caves and told whatever or whoever was there to not be afraid of crossing over to the other world and that it was time to go.

They bricked up the tunnel and they have not heard the noises for years. They decided to leave the paintings and canvases where they are and the tunnel will remain bricked up.

As Aprille and I are walking home, I ask what she thinks of this ghost stuff. She says, "I don't believe a word of it," and I think, "Yeah, me too. But I am glad there are no tunnels leading to our cave."


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 October 25 - Battle of Poitiers
 August 22, 2001 - Confrerie
 August 15, 2001 - Liberation
 August 8, 2001 - Le Cyclop
 August 1, 2001 - The Finger
July 25, 2001 - La Resistance
July 18, 2001 - System D
July 11, 2001 - The Accident
July 4, 2001 - Ange Pitou
June 27, 2001 - Feu de Saint Jean
June 20, 2001 - Geoffroy Martel
June 13, 2001 - Saint of the Day
June 6, 2001 - Escapade dans le Berry
May 30, 2001 - Learning French
May 23, 2001 - Pete and Manny
May 16, 2001 - Les Journees des Aubepines
May 8, 2001 - Armistice Day
May 2, 2001 - May Day
April 25, 2001 - Les Manouches
April 18, 2001 - Trôo
April 11, 2001 - Le P'tit Jules
April 4, 2001 - Men and Their Caves 
Archive of Weekly Columns Jan-Apr 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000
 

       

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