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The Moberly–Jourdain incident: In 1901, two female academics claimed to have experienced a timeslip into pre-revolutionary France

Something weird happened to two British ladies while they were visiting Versailles, France on 10 August 1901. Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain claim that they traveled through time and met some historical personalities.

This paranormal event happened around Petit Trianon, a small manor house on the ground of the Palace of Versailles. The chateau was built between 1762 and 1768 during the reign of Louis XV. Later, Louis the XVI gave it to his 19-year-old wife, Queen Marie Antoinette.

Petit Trianon /     CC BY-SA 3.0

After taking a short tour around the place of Versailles,  Moberly and Jourdain thought it was boring and decided to take a stroll in the gardens around the castle and visit the Petit Trianon. The chateau is located in the park called Grand Trianon. When they reached the entrance of the park, it was closed.


Then they decided to try and find their way to Petit Trianon using their guide book and soon they got lost. Instead of going on the main street called Allée des Deux Trianons, they entered a small alley and missed the manor house. Apparently, this was not their biggest problem. Here’s what happened next.

Charlotte Anne Moberly

Things changed in the alley. Moberly saw a woman on a nearby window that was shaking a white cloth, Jourdain observed an old and abandoned farmhouse with an old plow standing in front of it.

Besides the visual changes, Moberly and Jourdain both reported that they suddenly felt a great oppression and dreariness. They approached two men that looked like palace gardeners and asked them for directions. The men told them to go straight. In another report, Moberly changed her statement and described them as “very dignified officials, dressed in long grayish green coats with small three-cornered hats.”

Further down the alley, Joourdain saw an old cottage and a woman with a girl standing in front of the door, but there was something unnatural about them. They looked like they were somehow artificial, like wax sculptures. Moberly said that she didn’t saw the cottage, but she felt a difference in the air:

“Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees seemed to become flat and lifeless, like wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees.”

Eleanor Jourdain

Another strange character appeared sitting near a garden kiosk. He was wearing a cloak and large shady hat.

He was seen by both Moberly and Jourdain. Moberly described him as “most repulsive… its expression odious. His complexion was dark and rough.” Jourdain also thought that the man looked dreadful:

“The man slowly turned his face, which was marked by smallpox; his complexion was very dark. The expression was evil and yet unseeing, and though I did not feel that he was looking particularly at us, I felt a repugnance to going past him.”


Finally, they reached Petit Trianon where the last strange figure appeared; a lady was sitting on the grass in front of the chateau and sketching. Moberly gave a detailed description of the woman: wearing a light summer dress, white hat, and long hair. When Moberly first saw her, she thought that she’s a tourist, but her appearance was somehow out of time.

She later claimed that the old-fashioned lady was Marie Antoinette, while Jourdain denied seeing her.

At the end of this bizarre experience, Moberly and Jourdain entered the manor and joined the other, “real” guests.

According to Moberly and Jourdain, Comte de Vaudreuil (1740 – 1817) was one of the people they saw

Both of them kept this quiet for a week, but Moberly was intrigued and asked Jourdain if she had a feeling that the Petit Trianon was haunted. Both of them agreed that their experience was of paranormal nature. Later they wrote two separate accounts of the event that took place that day and researched the history of the Petit Trianon. They discovered that something happened on 10 August 1792 in Paris.

The Tuileries Palace was surrounded, and the king’s guard killed. Six weeks later, the monarchy cеased to exist. The also thought that they found out who was the man sitting by the kiosk – Comte de Vaudreuil, a close friend of Marie Antoinette

Could Marie Antoinette be the lady sitting on the grass?

Moberly and Jourdain tried to find the same path again but without any success; some of the landmarks they saw in their “dream-like” walk were missing.

After examining all the elements of the situation, the concluded that the grounds of Petit Trianon were truly haunted and decided to publish their experience in a book,  An Adventure (1911). They wrote the book under the pseudonyms of Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont. The book became a hit, but critics were skeptic about the authenticity of their story because of the lack of a unified story.

If we set aside the wild and paranormal theory that they somehow managed to travel back in time, many historians and biographers, such as Philippe Jullian, offer a more rational explanation.

In his 1965 biography of the subversive French poet Robert de Montesquiou, Julian mentions the event mentioned above. In the period when Moberly and Jourdain visited Versailles, Montesquiou had an apartment nearby.

Robert de Montesquiou

Here is another fun  read from us:The Queen’s Hamlet: Marie-Antoinette’s fairy tale Rustic Village at Versailles, where she loved to act like a “simple peasant”

He constantly organized parties there, some of which were thematic and his friends were dressed like characters from different eras. Could this be what Moberly and Jourdain saw? A costume party that was misunderstood by two middle-class Edwardian ladies that weren’t used to seeing something as unordinary as that?

Scott Antony

Scott Antony is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News