Saturday, October 20, 2012

La Clairon's Ghost

Eighteenth-century French actress La Clairon (born Claire Leris) came from humble beginnings, which made her rise to fame all the more remarkable. The daughter of unmarried parents, she made her stage debut at the age of thirteen in the year 1736. She worked (and, quite possibly, slept) her way up the career ladder, and at the age of twenty, she landed the title role in Racine's play Phรจdre.

That same year, she attracted the admirer she remembered longer, and for a very different reason, than any other. In her memoirs, La Clairon referred to this young man as "M. de S--". Like her, he came from a humble background. Unlike her, he did everything he could to hide it. La Clairon was put off when he confided in her that he was pretending to be a member of the upper class; she also resisted his need to have her all to himself. Furthermore, he was less than stellar company, being depressed much of the time.

As time went on, his obsession with her became the focus of his life. La Clairon then took measures to end the relationship. She stopped meeting him, refused his letters, and spent most of her time working. M. de S-- went into a deep depression, worsened by the fact that his financial situation was precarious; La Clairon sent him money, but continued to refuse his letters.

One night, he sent word begging her to see him. La Clairon would have done so, but she was entertaining friends, who talked her out of it. She had no idea that her former lover was dying. 

He died that night, at eleven o'clock. At that time La Clairon's friends had been entertained by her singing, and as the applause faded, a horrible cry sounded through the room. La Clairon realized immediately that M. de S-- had died, and persuaded some of her guests to stay with her that night.

The cry rang out at fairly regular intervals for some months, and finally faded - only to be replaced by a sound as if a gunshot had been fired. This noise was heard every night at eleven o'clock

This sound, after some time, also disappeared, and La Clairon began to hear sounds of hands clapping, and finally, a mysterious melody she could never remember later.

During this time, her career had skyrocketed, and her income far exceeded anything she had every known before. She moved to a better and more fashionable house, deciding to rent the old one. Most of Paris now knew of the hauntings, and quite a few people came to view the old house simply out of curiosity. One visitor was an elderly woman who insisted upon seeing La Clairon, stating that she had been a friend of M. de S--. The actress met with her immediately.

The old woman told La Clairon that she had taken care of M. de S-- during his final illness, and that when the young woman failed to visit her former lover, he swore that he would haunt her for as long as he had been obsessed by her.

Indeed, he did. The affair and its aftermath had lasted for two and a half years, as did the haunting.

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