I recently read an article about an apartment in Paris which had been locked up and abandoned in 1942. The owner of the flat had fled Paris with the outbreak of World War Two, but as she had been paying rent on it for the best part of seventy years until she died, nobody had ever gone inside it and so it was left, untouched and intact all that time. The link about this treasure trove is at the bottom of this page if you’re interested.
Inside this apartment, they found a painting of the owner’s grandmother, Marthe de Florian, who was apparently a beautiful French actress and socialite of the Belle Époque. The portrait had been painted by her lover, the artist Boldoni, when Marthe was about 24 years old.
As a writer, this completely fired my imagination and I’d love to write something similar to this in the future. Sea Spell, the book I recently finished and submitted to my publishers Choc Lit, was influenced a little bit by this story, because in it, a painting of a Byron-esque young man is found in an abandoned house and the characters have to do a little detective work to find out his story and the story of the woman who painted him.
Truth, though, as they say, is stranger than fiction – and Marthe’s story is, I bet, amazing in itself.
Something I also love about this time-warp story is the fact that an old house is involved. I’ve worked in a few “old houses” which have been changed into office space and I tell you what, they are far more interesting than a drab old sixties building any day!
I did work experience as a teenager in an accountant’s office which was based in a terraced house which probably dated from the Regency/early Victorian era . The basement where the stationery and customer files were kept (in the days of paper records!) was quite creepy, but the upper offices were very light and spacious. The accountants worked out of the upper offices, and the office junior’s domain was the basement and ground floor. I remember that Michael, the office junior, and I had some excellent conversations about the pop group Wham during our forays into the basement and I was quite annoyed when my time with him ended and I had to sit with one of the accountants, although she was a lovely lady. You see, I had to make conversation about tax and VAT and try to understand all the figures in the ledgers and as a 15 year old, Wham was far more interesting!
I also worked in a bank for a few years after I left school and we seemed to have the most random buildings ever. One branch I worked in was actually the ground floor of a converted seaside boarding house and another branch had an abandoned residential flat above it. The flat was sadly not as interesting as the Paris apartment mentioned before, although I did love going up there and getting supplies. But maybe that’s also to do with the fact that I love stationery and the whole flat was crammed with the stuff. We, the staff, firmly believed both premises were haunted – people heard voices and saw things all the time in both these buildings.
But my most favourite converted house/office space is my most recent one -a terrace of huge, Georgian houses which had at one time been filled with well to do families and their servants. Now, it is filled with an eclectic collection of ghosts and an even more eclectic collection of businesses and creative hubs. And that place is definitely haunted as there are too many stories and personal experiences in the Terrace to discount. And a future blog might, in fact, go into that in a little more detail – mwah ha ha!