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Mysteries


Strange quirks of history

VARANASI, THE HAUNTED TEMPLE

  Dagmar, our friends’ delightful and brilliant daughter, who had stayed at Varanasi, told me about this temple on the Ghats that is greatly haunted and feared by everyone in its vicinity. And suddenly I remembered an Indian man I met in Paris many years ago, who told me about the most harmful of sorcerers…

THE VULTURES OF THE TOWERS OF SILENCE

Thousands of years ago, the Persians were of Zoroastrian confession. Founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in the 6th century B.C., this religion ‘of fire’ was in fact one of the first, if not the first, monotheist schools of thought in History. Later, the Muslim invasion and fanaticism forced an entire colony of Zoroastrians into exile….

MANDU THE SULTAN AND THE DANCER

Not far from Maheshwar, Mandu was the capital of a vast and extremely wealthy Islamic sultanate. In the 14th century, it was the biggest city in India with a million inhabitants. One of the sultans had returned from a trip to Africa with 150,000 baobab saplings. With their strange, unique forms, they still stand proudly…

THE LAST RITES OF QUEEN CATHERINE

Like every good Italian, Queen Catherine de’ Medici was superstitious. She frequently sought to have her fortune told by her personal seer, Nostradamus, and her astrologist, Ruggieri. “When will I die?” “I do not know when you will die, but what I do know is that you will die near Saint Germain.”  It was a…

The Marchioness of Serristori didn’t want to leave her Palace

Benedetta is a grand lady and a dear friend of mine who lives in Florence. Her grandmother, the Marchioness of Serristori, was one of the most important figures in Florentine society. The Marchioness owned a splendid palace which was filled with works of art. She loved her home and devoted all her time and energy…

The Fontanelle cemetery and the skulls that grant wishes

Ciro Palladino is a taxi-driver in Naples. He also happens to be an extraordinarily erudite man. He is familiar with every historic monument in the city, every legend, every story, and every noble family. He is the most unusual guide I have ever met, and it was he who introduced me to the skulls of…

San Gennaro

One of France’s most fervent opponents during the Revolution was Maria Carolina of Austria. The wife of Ferdinand, King of Naples, known as « Il Re Nasone »  or « king big-nose », she was a sophisticated and cultivated woman with strong political convictions. She hated the revolutionaries who had killed her sister, Marie-Antoinette. When General Championnet’s revolutionary army…

The Ruby Ring

One evening in May 1945, a launch from the Italian fleet set off from the shore through the waves and sped towards a cruiser named the Duke of the Abruzzi which was anchored out to sea. On board, a tall lady was sitting next to her tiny husband on a bench at the rear. She…

Blickling Hall, The Beheaded Queen

Blickling Hall, that sumptuous estate in Norfolk, is supposedly haunted by Anne Boleyn, the queen beheaded by her ghastly husband, Henry VIII. In reality, she never lived at Blickling Hall, but the home did belong to her family. Queen Anne is said to appear each year on the anniversary of her tragic death. The conservators…

The Green Boy in the Cave

King Murat had a brother who was made count, Count Murat. His descendants still live in Lot, the ancestral home of the lineage. In the 19th century, one of the most impressive, rich, and vast caves in all of Europe was discovered on their land, the cave of Pech Merle. A distance niece of King…