Allan Kardec

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Mademoiselle Clairon and the Phantom

This story caused uproar in its time, by the position of the hero lady and by the large number of persons who witnessed it. Despite its singularity, it would have been probably forgotten had Mademoiselle Clairon not published it in her memoirs. This is where we extracted the report below. The analogy it has, with some of the current facts, gives it a natural place in this collection.

Mademoiselle Clairon was not only known for her beauty but also for her talent as a singer and actress in tragic roles. She had inspired a young Breton, Mr. S..., in one of these passions, understanding that he did not possess the necessary talents to fully succeed in his passion. Mademoiselle Clairon only corresponded with her friendship. Nevertheless Mr. S... presence had become such an annoyance that she decided to break up their relationship for good. Heartbroken he experienced a long lasting illness, which killed him in 1743. Here is how Mademoiselle Clairon described it.

“It was two and a half years since the day we met and the day he died. He sent for me, asking for my kind acceptance of seeing him over his last moments. My relationships did not allow me to do that. He did die having only servants around him and an old lady who was his only companion for a long time. He lived in Rempart, near Chaussée d’Antin, where they had started to build. I lived at Rue de Bussy, near the Rue du Seine and Saint-German Abbey. I was with my mother and several friends having just finished dinner. I had just sung beautiful pastoral songs which delighted my friends when, at eleven o’clock sharp, we heard a piercing scream. Its somber modulation and duration shocked everyone. I felt like passing out and indeed I was unconscious for about fifteen minutes.”

“My whole family, friends, neighbors, and the police would hear the same scream, always at the same time, coming from the bottom of my window as if it vaguely came through the air. I rarely had dinner in the city but during those days nothing would be heard and, many times, when asking my servants and my mother for any news, on returning to my room, the scream would blast right in the middle of the group.”

“On one occasion I had dinner with the president of B..., who wanted to kindly follow me home to ensure that I would be safe. When we got to the house, by the door, he was saying goodbye to me when the scream blew between the two of us. Just as the whole of Paris was aware, he knew about the screams but he still had to be helped to his carriage, looking more dead than alive.”

“Still on another occasion I asked my good friend Rosely to join me on a shopping tour to Rue Saint-Honore, looking for fabrics. The only subject of our conversation was my “phantom” as he was called. This very talented young man would not believe in any of those things but was impressed by my adventure. He requested that I should evoke the phantom, saying that he would then believe if the phantom responded. Be it by weakness or audacity I did what he asked me. The scream was heard three times, and it was horrifying for its loudness and speed. On returning home we needed the support of several people to remove us from the carriage, as both of us were unconscious. After this event I heard nothing for some months. I thought the situation was definitely over. What a mistake.”

“Every spectacle had been transferred to Versalhes for the wedding of Delfim. A room was organized for me at Saint-Cloud Avenue, which I shared with Mrs. Grandval. At 3 am I said to her: it is the end of the world; it would be really difficult that the scream would find us here. It then blasted! Mrs. Grandval thought that our room was in hell. Dressed in evening gown, she ran away from top to bottom of the stairs; nobody could sleep that night. At least it was the last time we heard it.”

“Seven or eight days later, on talking to people to whom I was acquainted, the eleven o’clock tick tock was followed by a musket gunshot, from one of my windows. We all heard the noise and saw the fire but the window was intact. We concluded that I was the missed target and that we should then take better precautions in the future. Mr. Marvillen, then a police commissioner, requested that all houses near the street from my own house should be searched. The street was full of all types of spies but, regardless of how much care was taken, for three consecutive months those shots were seen and heard, always at the same hour of the day, at the same spot of the window, without anybody being able to identify its real origin. The fact was duly registered by the police.”

“Once, already accustomed to my phantom, who I considered a poor devil limited to his own wickedness, I did not take notice of the time. As it was a hot day, I opened the deplorable window, talking to the officer at the balcony. At eleven o’clock sharp a gunshot was heard and both of us were thrown on the floor, in the middle of the room, where we fell like the dead. On recovering our senses we noticed that both of us had had the faces unbelievably slapped, him on the left face and me on the right one – we laughed like crazy.”

“Two days later I was invited by Mademoiselle Dumesnil to attend an evening party at her house; I took a carriage at eleven o’clock with my chambermaid. The moonlight was beautiful and we were taken through boulevards lined by houses. The maid said:

“Wasn’t it here that Mr. S... died?”

“According to the information I was given, yes it must have been here”, I answered, pointing towards one of the two houses across from where we were.”

“A gunshot was fired from one of the houses. It went through our carriage; the scared coachman drove fast ahead, thinking that some thieves were assaulting us.”

“We arrived at our destination just recovered from the incident as, I must confess, for a long time I had that look of horror in my face; however, that event was the last with a firearm.”

“Those explosions were followed by the clapping of hands, with certain rhythm and repetition. This noise, to which the kindness of my audiences had me accustomed to, went undetected for some time but my friends noticed them. They said: we have been watching. It is at eleven o’clock, near your door that it happens. We hear but do not see anybody. It can only be the continuation of those events. As the noise was not so bad, I did not keep track of its duration. I did not give attention either to the harmonious sounds that were heard later. It sounded like a celestial voice giving the accords of an aria, about to be sung. That voice would start at the Bussy quarters and stop at my door. As it happened before with all the other noises, it was heard but nothing could be seen. Just over two and a half years later everything stopped, at last.”

Sometime later Mademoiselle Clairon had, through the old lady who was the only companion of Mr. S... the following report about his last moments.

“He was counting the minutes, she said, when at about ten thirty the servant came to tell him that you would not come. After a moment of silence he took my hand, on a desperate impulse that scared me, and said: What a cruelty! She will not gain anything from that. I will hound her as much in death as in life! I tried to calm him down but he was already dead.”

In the edition we have in hand, the following note, without signature, precedes this story:

“This is a very singular anecdote which has provoked and will provoke the most diverse opinions. We love the marvelous even when we do not believe in it. Mademoiselle Clairon seems convinced of the facts that she describes. We shall satisfy ourselves with the observation that at the time she was or thought she was tormented by her phantom she was twenty two and a half to twenty five years old, which is the age of inspiration whose faculty she constantly exercised and exalted through her life style, in and out of the theatre. It is also necessary to remember that in the beginning of her memoirs she said that in her infancy she was entertained by adventures of apparitions and witches that, as she was told, were all real stories.”

We only know the facts from the descriptions of Mademoiselle Clairon. Thus we can only judge by induction. Well, this is our thought: Described by Mademoiselle Clairon herself the fact has more authenticity than if it were reported by others. Besides, when she wrote the letter where these facts are described she was sixty years old hence she was beyond the age of credulity mentioned by the author of the note. That author does not question the good faith of Mademoiselle Clairon with respect to her adventure: only admits that she might have been victim of an illusion. Had it had happened once there is nothing of extraordinary in it but as it happened for two and a half years then it seems more difficult to us. Even more difficult is to suppose that such an illusion might have been shared by so many people, audible and visual witnesses of the facts, including the police itself.

Knowing what can happen in spiritist manifestations, as we do, the adventure has nothing of surprising and we accept it as likely. With that hypothesis we do not hesitate to admit that the author of all those malevolent acts is nobody else but Mr. S..., particularly if we notice the coincidence of her words with the duration of the phenomena. He had said: “I will hound her as much in death as in life!” Well, his relationship with Mademoiselle Clairon had lasted two and a half years, which was the same time period of the produced manifestations.

Continuing with the nature of this spirit, he is not bad and it is with reason that Mademoiselle Clairon classifies him as a poor devil but one cannot classify him as the personified benevolence. The violent passion that he experienced as a man proves that the earthly ideas prevail on him. The profound traces of that passion, which survived the destruction of his body, prove that as spirit he was still under the influence of matter. His vengeance, as harmless at it appeared, denotes non- elevated feelings. If we then refer to our table of classification of the spirits, it will not be difficult to determine his class: the absence of real meanness separate him from the last class of the impure spirits but he evidently had much of the other classes of the same order as nothing in him could justify a superior position.

Noticeable is also the succession of modes through which he manifested his presence. On the very day and exact moment of his death he made himself heard for the first time, in the middle of a pleasent dinner. When alive, he used to see Mademoiselle Clairon with an imaginary aura involving the object of his keen passion. However, since the separation of his soul from the material covering, the illusion gave rise to reality. There he is, by her side, seeing her surrounded by friends, everything firing up his jealousy. Her singing and happiness sound like an insult to his desperation which is translated as a scream of hatred repeated every day at the same time, as if to blame her for having refused to bring him some consolation in his last moments. The screams are succeeded by the gunshots, certainly harmless, but not less capable of showing his powerless hate and desire to disturb her rest. Later his desperation takes a more tranquil format evolving, no doubt, to healthier ideas, seemingly having taken sides: what remains are his memories of the applause directed to her thus he repeats it. Even later he seems to say farewell when those harmonious sounds were like an echo of the melodious voice that had him so much enchanted.

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