Sunday, February 9, 2014

Return Engagement: The Cursed Silk Shoes of an Unhappy Ghost, 1715

Sunday, February 9, 2014
Isabella reporting:

While examples of 18th c. ladies' silk shoes like the pair, left, aren't rare (like thesethese, 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.


Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

I love this story!

Sandra Brake said...

Love this post! It's got everything. A Spanish mistress, a dangerous hypnotic lord, a skeleton in the wall, a curse and 18th century shoes. Wow. Wish we knew where the body was reinterred. Like to lay some flowers for her.

Lil said...

What a great ghost story! Thank you.

Stephen Barker said...

I used to live in Market Harborough which is only a few miles from the site of Papillon Hall. The architect who worked on the house in 1903 was Edwin Lutyens, who transformed the old octagonal house dating from the Seventeenth Century into the then fashionable butterfly plan, no doubt the name of the house was an inspiration. When he carried out the work Lutyens was told that no local workmen would work on the house because of it's history.It is the only major commission by Lutyens that has been demolished. While his plan was interesting the exterior elevations are not considered his best work, a mixture of classical detail and half-timbering.

The owner of the house in the 1930s was a supporter ofGeneral Franco and took part in the Spanish Civil War on Franco's side. He narrowly escaped being shot after he landed on the wrong side of the lines, he was saved by British Government intervention. He painted the gateposts of Papillon Hall red and yellow as a mark of his support to Franco.
During the WW11 the house was used to billit troops including elements of the 82nd Airbourne before D-Day. it is send that one of the soldiers took the one of the shoes from the place it was kept behind a locked grill above the fireplace in the main living room. After he died in a training accident the shoe was restored to the hall.
When the house was demolished it was only taken down to floor level so it is still possible to see the bases of fireplaces and tiled floors, which have a thin covering of soil. The outbuildings form part of Papillon Hall Farm that now occupies the site.
For those interested in the history of the building and it's grounds can I suggest that you to the web site of the Leicestershire and Rutland Garden Trust, who carried out a survey and researched the history of the Hall. A copy of the report can be found on the website, it contains further photos, plans and maps.

Jessi said...

I don't believe in ghosts, but this is a great story! :)

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