Notre-Dame Cathedral has several ghost stories associated with it which is no surprise since no doubt skulduggery has been afoot within this ancient building for over 800 years.
Notre-Dame de Paris which translates to Our Lady of Paris is a French Gothic Catholic cathedral which was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. Construction started in 1160 and was completed 100 years later in 1260. Its iconic towers and terrifying gargoyles that decorate its heights are recognized the world over.
Its ancient walls have witnessed human drama of an unknown number of anonymous persons and the coronation of kings, queens and emperors. It was desecrated during the French Revolution when imagery and statues were destroyed. In 1844, a twenty year restoration project was started after Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was published in 1831. On April 15, 2019 amidst an existing renovation project, a fire engulfed the cathedral and horrified Parisians witnessed as the church spires caved in and plumes of smoke filled the sky.
The first stories of otherworldly events date back to the 12th and 13th century, when first a locksmith engaged to work on the cathedral while it was under construction made a pact with the devil, and then in the 13th century a blacksmith named Biscornet made the same mistake. Like all cautionary tales, it ends badly for humans who strike a deal with Satan. The locksmith met an untimely death shortly after finishing his work and Biscornet's creation which were doors refused to open until they were sprinkled with holy water. They became known as the Devil's Door. The ghosts of both these craftsmen are said to haunt Notre Dame.
Different phantoms are said to haunt Notre-Dame, many of them connected to the suicides that were committed by humans who decided to end their lives inside this holy place.
On August 31, 1845, Baron Achille de Maynard a 25-year old aristocrat and poet threw himself from the top of one of the towers. He was rich and a newly-wed having just married the daughter of the Count d'Espagnac only two weeks before. The reason for his self destruction remained a mystery.
A ghost seen wandering in the tower and around the gargoyles is tied to the suicide of a young, unknown woman with the initials MJ. After plunging 60 meters she fell on the railings below and her body was severed in two. The event which transpired on October 5, 1882 was reported thus:
The suicide reported yesterday of a young lady who threw herself off the upper exterior gallery of Notre Dame caused, it is stated, immense sensation in the quarter of Paris, "The young lady, who is described as elegantly dressed and about 20 years of age, showed great determination and sang froid in the accomplishment of her design. At nine o'clock in the morning she requested to be allowed to visit the tower, but was refused, as no lady is permitted to make the ascent alone. Though disappointed she did not give up her fatal project, but wandering about the Cathedral succeeded in scraping acquaintance with an elderly woman, who she invited to the tower. It was at two o'clock that they presented themselves at the foot of the stairs, and were permitted to ascent. When they had reached the upper galley it was raining in torrents. The old woman ran to take shelter in the bellringers' room, which, however, she had scarcely reached before her young companion had, with a piercing cry, precipitated herself from a high of 60 meters into the street below. She fell on the railings, and was literally cut in two. Her identity has not yet been established. She was not suffering from want as 5 francs 50 c. was found in her purse. Her linen is marked with the initials "M.J." The old woman who had consented to accompany her is said to have disappeared.
In February 1931, another woman chose Notre-Dame as the place to end her life. Her name was Antoinette Blair a Mexican socialite who previous to her marriage to an Englishman was known as Antonieta Rivas Mercado.
Even though the newspapers reported that it was a pending divorce from her husband which drove her to suicide it appears that it was a failed romance with the Mexican politician Jose Vasconcelos, who was already married and had a string of mistresses. She had been involved with him since 1929, and prior to that had fallen in love with the painter Manuel Rodriguez Lozano, a friend which did not feel the same about her.
The assumption of the reason for her suicide was based on divorce papers being found in her purse, even though she had been trying to secure a divorce since 1927 to a man she had married when she was 19 years of age. He had refused to grant her a divorce until then, and she left behind a young son. Antoinette was not a lucky woman, especially in romance. Perhaps this is why she is believed to be one of the ghosts seen in the cathedral.
Several of the newspapers of the times, described her death in the following manner:
Wealth, social prestige and leadership in her nation's civic activities meant nothing to Mrs. Antoinette Blair if she had to live apart from her English husband, Albert Blair, Mexico City real estate dealer.
Lest you believe that the desire to exit this mortal coil in the most dramatic of fashion was done only in years past. this turns out this is not the case. On May 22, 2013, 1,500 visitors who were enjoying the beautiful cathedral were cleared out when a man put a letter on the altar, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.
If he decided to haunt Notre-Dame he is kept company by other shades such as monks, bishops and those who were unlucky in life and love. The only hope is that eventually these souls found peace walking through the shadowed corridors of this hallowed place.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer