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The Moberly–Jourdain Incident
bizarrevictoria
This would be one of those "Ooooh, spooooky" posts, like the ones I did on the Mary Celeste or Hidden Mothers, except this is straight-up bull crap. As I think we can all agree. Except the conspiracy theorists. Y'all can go to town on this.

August 10, 1901. Two English, female academics, Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, decide to visit the Palace of Versailles, specifically Petit Trianon, which is the small chateau on the grounds of the Palace, which Louis XV built for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. This was also the place later used by Marie Antoinette when she was in her nature-child shepherdess phase.

So, Moberly and Jourdain were both well-respected and well into middle-age. Both came from very serious, non-frivolous backgrounds. Both of their fathers were men of the cloth, as well as being scholars. These are not your silly, hysterical schoolgirls, is what I'm saying.

Walking around the vast gardens, they quickly became lost (having been to Versailles myself, I can at least verify this part of their story). Jourdain saw an old deserted farm house and a rustic cottage nearby (though Moberly did not notice it), and they were both suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of oppression and despair. (My first thought was "Dementors?") They both noticed different tableau vivants of people dressed in 18th-century attire, frozen in poses, flat and lifeless, as though they were viewing paintings that had almost come to life. The people did not see them. When they got back to the main gardens around the palace, Moberly noticed a woman in old-fashioned clothes sketching. Jourdain did not see her. They rejoined the other visitors, finished the tour, had tea, and went home.

Neither of them talked about what they had seen for a while, and later they began to wonder if Versailles was haunted. (Okay, HOW do you not talk about something like that? Unless, of course, you conceive of the whole idea later). They both decided to write up their separate accounts of what happened, do a bit of research on the place (Uh huh. To make your accounts more accurate, maybe?), and then compare notes. They discovered that the date on which they visited, August 10, was the 109th anniversary of sacking of the Tuileries Palace (where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were relocated and kept under surveillance when they had to leave Versailles. Might have made more sense for the Tuileries Palace to be "haunted", since that's where the sacking took place, but whatever).

They returned to Petit Trianon and tried to find the place where they had gotten lost, but discovered that there were too many people around (a key phrase) and the landmarks had changed. They wondered if maybe it hadn't been ghosts--if it, instead, had been a private costume party they had walked in on. However, after much deliberation, what they concluded must have happened was a time slip. They had gone back in time, and the woman sketching in the gardens must have been Marie Antoinette.

In 1911 they published their story under pseudonyms in a book called An Adventure. It caused a sensation, but was largely ridiculed. Gee. But it sounds so legit.

Some believe that they made it up. Others believe it was a legitimate time slip. Literature scholar Terry Castle believes they shared a lesbian folie a deux (a shared psychosis between two closely bonded people). Others believe they were simply mistaken--that they misinterpreted real-life events, or perhaps got so caught up in a bit of make-believe that they no longer realized that the story was untrue and that the story was growing more embellished as time went on.

I don't know exactly which theory I subscribe to, suffice it to say I do not believe they experienced a haunting or a time slip. What I DO believe, however, is that these were smart women and if they did consciously make it up, the little anomalies and contradictions are a nice, realistic touch. If it had been too polished and perfect a story, it would be even less believable.

Contradict me if you think I'm wrong. I'm happy to hear (polite) disagreement and debate.