The year is 1984. A French radio journalist and his crew have descended upon the Château de Veauce, in the village of the same name, the tiniest village in the Allier department. They are hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous Lucie, the White Lady who materialises in the medieval tower at midnight, making the château one of the most haunted houses in France.
Who was Lucie?
According to local legend, around the year 1560, the Baron of Veauce, Guy de Daillon, was conducting a dalliance with a young and beautiful servant girl, Lucie. Lucie was a penniless noble woman who had immediately caught the eye of the Baron when she’d been bought into the household. When the Baron went off to war, leaving his wife Jacqueline de la Fayette as the mistress of the household, she had the unfortunate young woman thrown into the prison tower of the château. Cold, starved and in despair due to the constant taunting from Jacqueline; on a frosty autumn night in the light of a full moon, Lucie died. Her lifeless body was the next day flung into the deep, damp dungeon.
Sightings of a ghostly Lucie appearing outside the clock tower at the stroke of midnight date back to the 17th century, with terrifying tales of a sobbing, luminous female form. Villagers of old recounted the story of a glowing apparition moving restlessly on the battlements of the former prison tower in which she died .
A visit to the haunted house
Step into the grounds of the haunted Château de Veauce today and you are walking on an ancient landscape. Perched defensively on a rocky outcrop, its steep walls cascading down to the river Veauce, over one thousand years ago its soldiers climbed high onto its ramparts to cast a watchful eye over the borders between three wealthy provinces – Auvergne, Berry and Bourbonnais. Today, the view from its heights reaches the dormant volcanoes of the Puy-de-Dôme and the mountains of the Auvergne.
The castle buildings arrange themselves neatly around a central court. Turn yourself 360 degrees slowly and you are in an historic diorama; 11th century towers, a 12th century castle keep, a 13th century clock tower and stables, and a myriad of architectural styles.
Now only 39 kilometres from the town of Vichy with its restorative thermal baths and Victorian architecture, visitors to the château can imagine the last days in the short life of our etheral spirit, Lucie. Imprisoned in the medieval tower known as the Mal-Coiffée (literally meaning bad hair or badly styled) given its partially destroyed roof, she is also believed to haunt the guard room of the clock tower or to wander aimlessly along the covered walkway which joins the towers.
In 2002 the Château de Veauce was purchased by an Englishwoman, Elisabeth Mincer, who aimed to restore the castle and return it to its glorious past. Due to ongoing restoration much of the interior is currently inaccessible to the public, but the château grounds are open.
An extensive woodland park has been recently re-opened to tourists – and locals. This gorgeously verdant space has been restored to the beautiful English style so favoured by the French nobility in the 18th and 19th centuries, with ponds, statues and greenhouses, and a wild and seemingly unstructured nature.
The White Lady
Back to 1984. It’s midnight on 4 August. There are microphones along the walkway path the phantom has shown herself, and cameras waiting for the proof they need. A well-known medium has been invited, and he and his grand daughter wait patiently. The clock strikes twelve. The wait is not long. To the amazement of everyone present, a pale, wispy form appears at the window, ‘the size of an owl’. The figure flashes, recedes, moves with no apparent pattern, for 25 minutes. A microphone records a screeching sound, then ceases to work. Is this the famous Lucie?
Video footage of the luminescence show nothing. Some photos possibly show a small shadow, but it’s inconclusive. The paranormal experiment has not proved that the house is haunted, but there is no scientific explanation for the light and the loud noise from the microphones. Was the glowing form just radon gas? Did the medium, who claimed to have seen the ghost first and described it, fabricate a story of a moving light and create an autosuggestion for those caught up in the supernatural atmosphere?
It is likely we will never know.
Owner Elisabeth Mincer claims not to have seen Lucie. In 2019, a team of paranormal investigators believed they felt a ‘presence’, and hope to return with more sophisticated equipment in the future.
If you love ghost stories, you must make a visit to the most haunted house in France, the Château de Veauce. Lucie will be waiting for you.
Using high-tech virtual wizardry, you can take a guided tour along the castle ramparts, through the towers and even explore the room in which Lucie was held prisoner. It’s amazing! Check it out on the website of the Château de Veauce.
This video (in French) from the 1980s has re-enactments of the 1984 paranormal experiment. It’s actually really interesting to watch.
Featured image by Gilles Péris y Saborit