Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Cursed Silk Shoes of an Unhappy Ghost, c. 1715

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Susan reporting:

While examples of 18th c. ladies' silk shoes like the pair, left, aren't rare (like these, these, and these), shoes with a lurid ghost story attached certainly are. Know as the Papillon Shoes, this pair has a fascinating provenance that's more ghost story and legend than historical fact.

David Papillon (1681-1762) was a wealthy courtier and the master of Papillon Hall, Leicestershire, lower right. "Old Pamp"'s reputation for drunken debauchery was enhanced with whispers that he was friends with the Devil, and that he possessed demonic powers sufficient to paralyze his enemies with a single glance. Other rumors claimed he kept a beautiful Spanish mistress at the Hall. There she was a virtual prisoner, locked away in the attic, and only permitted to walk along the roof for exercise. She disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1717; one story had her die in the attic, cursing the house and promising death and disaster to any owner who dared remove the shoes in which she'd walked the lonely roof.

Soon afterwards, Papillon left the Hall permanently to marry and live with his new wife in Kent. Some judged his haste suspicious, especially considering that he left strict instructions that certain items should never be taken from Papillon Hall. Among them were these shoes.

Over the years, the Hall changed hands many times. In the mid-19th c., however, the contents (including the shoes) were left to the old owner's daughter, and removed from the house. The new owners were at once plagued with unexplained loud thumps, crashes, and voices coming from the attic rooms, violent enough to terrify the family and servants. A local clergyman recalled Old Pamp's stipulation. The shoes were found and restored to the house, and peace restored with them. On several other occasions in the next century the shoes were removed from the house. Each time poltergeist activity began and continued until the shoes were returned.

The Hall was renovated in 1903, and a long-dead body was found hidden in the walls near the attic.  While there was no way to know for sure if this was Old Pamp's mistress, the discovery fueled the legend, and more reports of paranormal activity with it. Even after the Hall fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1950, the mistress's curse seemed to shift to the remaining outbuildings, terrifying their inhabitants. The site was studied by paranormal investigators, who definitely came to believe in the curse.

After the Hall was knocked down, the shoes were left first to a Papillon descendant, and then to the local museum. Yet even that mundane transfer had its mysteries. The driver of the truck carrying the shoes became inexplicably lost. The short trip took him hours instead of minutes to complete, and when he finally did arrive, he was confused and disoriented, without any knowledge of where he'd been or what had happened. Ahh, the power of the shoes....

Above: Papillon Shoes (with single patten), silk with red leather heels, c. 1715-30. Collections Resources Centre, Heritage Services, Glenfield, Leicestershire
Below: View of Papillon Hall, built c. 1622, now demolished. Photograph courtesy of Lost Heritage.

22 comments:

Rebecca said...

so where are the shoes now? wonder what would happen if someone tried them on?

Lauren R said...

what a fascinating story! I totally believe it. I mean, the body in the walls, paired with a story as old as the shoes? Yes, I think it was her!! but then again I would totally haunt anybody who tried to take away such beautiful footwear :-)

Le Loup said...

Good story, a very enjoyable read.
http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com/

An Historical Lady said...

Hello ladies!
This is a fascinating story! Who doesn't love a good ghost story---especially one with an 18thc. twist---AND great shoes!
Mary
http://anhistoricallady.blogspot.com

Chris Woodyard said...

Lovely post, Susan! Red leather heels--how modern. Christian Louboutin (who is suing Yves Saint Laurent for trademark infringement) insists red soles are his creation. He should take note....

The story has a lot in common with some other British ghost stories where an object causes trouble when it is removed from its preferred spot. There's a whole class of "ghosts" called "Screaming Skulls". [see http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/hauntings/screaming-skulls-an-introduction.html for an overview.] As in the story of the shoes, disaster ensues when a screaming skull is taken from its home.
There is also a folklore notion about the "luck" of a house, which usually revolves around an object like these shoes, a mummified cat, a fairy flag, or fairy cup. The story of these shoes suggests other stories you've posted about concealed shoes and their role in warding off trouble or maintaining the luck of the house.

Joanna Waugh said...

The shoes are in the possession of Leiscestershire Museum.

Jenny Girl said...

Too many coincidences for me NOT to beleive there is a kernel of truth. Thanks for the fascinating story ladies :)

Susan Holloway Scott said...

As Joanna said, the shoes are now safely in the possession of the Leiscestershire Museum.

However, there is a story by a paranormal investigator regarding her visit to the museum. The shoes are not on display, but are shown to visitors with advance notice. The investigator had done this, yet the curator was late coming to their meeting. Seems that as she was on her way with the shoes, she had been followed, attacked, and bitten by a strange dog....

There seem to be lots of stories like this, tales of orkmen at the hall mysteriously killed by falling stones, servicemen stationed at the hall during WWII who died in battle soon after handling the shoes, and so forth. Hard to substantiate, but great stories nonetheless!

Mimic of Modes said...

You know, I was already shivering over the main post, but Susan's addendum has just made me officially creeped out! Note to self: watch out for strange dogs if ever transporting museum objects, just in case they're cursed.

Time Traveling in Costume said...

Loved this story, especially relating to costuming. I wonder why no one thought of burying the body with the shoes, to possibly put her at rest?
I have a haunted parasol I bought from a friend in the UK. It scared her so much, she hid it for a few years in the back of her closet, then decided to sell it. But she has no history on the parasol.
Val

Rosi said...

Absolutely delicious post. Thanks for this!

Jonquil said...

What a splendid story. Thanks so much for it!

Note to Chris -- Red-heeled shoes were a big deal in the 17th and 18th centuries; starting with the Sun King, you could tell who was in favor with the French king by who got to wear them. I don't know what the rules were in England, or if there were rules at all.

http://lefleurdelystoo.blogspot.com/2008/05/talon-rouge.html

Meg said...

What a great story!

Funnily enough, we have been doing renovations in our own attic this month. The other day my husband came down holding a small clay doll that he said he'd found under a floorboard in a hard-to-reach part of the attic and asked me what we ought to do with it. He thought about getting rid of it, but we decided not to, and it's been on his dresser all week -- you can bet now that that little thing is going right back where he found it!

Isobel Carr said...

You two come up with the coolest tidbits!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thanks to all for your kind comments!

I'm always amazed that, when it feels about time for a "shoe post", one always seems to present itself. The ghost was a bonus. *g*

nightsmusic said...

In every legend there is a grain of truth and I have to believe it's the same with ghost stories. Fabulous story. I'd love to see those shoes in person. Don't wanna touch them, thank you very much, but see them? Oh yeah...

Belgravia Wife - sort of said...

This is brilliant - thanks there is a novel in this wonderful tale no doubt ! Thanks as always for great posts and lovely images. I'm writing this at 3am - now what was that noise.......x

Alison Stuart said...

Thank you for such a deliciously creepy tale (plus addendums), Susan. I love a good ghost story.

Alison

Janjans said...

I believe in the power of shoes! They are sooo magnetically irresistible. My closet bears the evidence of their effect. :-)

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

What a cool ghost story!!! I hope one of ou will write it.

Annette said...

Susan, I hope you do write this as a book because I so want to read it. With your talents I know it would be amazing!

Adrian said...

Hi, I live half a mile away from the site of that old house and it fascinates me every time I drive past. I walked up there and around the old grounds and it's quite haunting. Some of it still remains including the ornate pond to the front of the house.

 
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