The show gathered inspiration from a 1901 tale of ghosts at the historic Palace of Versailles
You’ll probably have heard all about Netflix’s best new horror phenomenon, The Haunting of Hill House, and the fact that everyone is fainting and being sick and having their heads completely explode at how scary it is - it’s all anyone is talking about. But did you know that it’s based on a true story?
Yep, the TV show about ghosts is based on a true story.
The inspiration for The Haunting of Hill House is the tale of two English women, Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain. The pair travelled to the Palace of Versailles in 1901, while trying to find the Petit Trianon, a small castle close by - which had been used by Marie Antoinette. As you can imagine, because you’ve watched a lot of films, this didn’t pan out particularly well.
The Moberly–Jourdain incident
Yep, you guessed it. They got themselves lost. Yup, they got lost looking for a spooky castle, absolute classic.
And this is where things get real spooooky - taking a wrong turn, they came face-to-face with a load of GHOSTS! “Wuh woh,” they thought (we assume), “real ghosts, right in front of us!”
According to their later testimonies the first ghoul they saw was a woman shaking a white cloth from a window (admittedly, sounds like quite a ghostly thing to do), and after that they bumped into a group of men dressed as palace gardeners in long coats and ‘small, three-cornered hats’ who supposedly told them to head straight on (sounds like quite a ‘palace gardener’ thing to do).
Startled, they did the sensible thing and took the ghostly advice and continued on their journey where before long, they encountered a cottage with a woman and child in the doorway. It is at this point that they saw the scariest spook of all - a tall man with smallpox, wearing a hat and cloak, who slowly turned to face them. Afterwards Moberly described him as having an ‘evil, yet unseeing expression’.
Finally, one more ghosty allegedly creeped up to them, a man with large eyes and black hair under a massive sombrero (we’re not making this up - they were), who eventually guided them to the Petit Trianon, where they saw Marie Antoinette, obviously. That was quite obviously where this was headed.
This gaggle of absolute nonsense/definite proof that ghosts and/or time travel exist was later written up by the two women under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont and released in 1911 under the title: An Adventure, causing quite the sensation, as well as a healthy dollop of ridicule.
Both Moberly and Jourdain would later revisit the grounds, unable to retrace their steps and would go on to have various other paranormal experiences after the Petit Trianon incident. Moberly in particular claimed several years later to have seen the ghostly presence of the Roman emperor Constantine in Paris’ Louvre, in 1914. She described him as a man of unusual height wearing a gold crown and a toga. As as is often the case in these scenarios, he was not observed by anybody else.
During the First World War, Jourdain, the more dominant of the women became convinced that a German spy was hiding in the college that she was principle at.
It is easy to see how they may have been labelled as liars with hyperactive imaginations but either way, their original tale caused enough of a stir that it become an inspiration to Shirley Jackson, who wrote the novel on which Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House is based - she wrote in her notes for the book of the same name, that An Adventure was “one of the greatest ghost stories of all time.”
So yeah, the scary new supernatural show about a haunted house full of floating spectres is all true. Crazy, isn’t it? Ghosts are real. Because of what those women said, about the ghosts, and that bloke with the sombrero, the ghost in the hat.
Anyway, you can watch The Haunting of Hill House, on Netflix now, if you like. Everybody else is.