France is one of the world’s oldest countries. And so, despite being full of French people it does have some good qualities. One of which is an especially rich collection of myths and legends. French legends tell of demonic beings, sadistic cannibals, and terrible ghosts. For centuries they have spread fear, not only in France but everywhere French is spoken – from North Africa to the Caribbean. Many French legends exist in different forms or have been lost to time. But the greatest legends could never be forgotten.
Countless generations ago the daughter of a low ranking lord was made to marry a man she was terrified of. Much older than her, his appearance was hideous. Widespread rumor told that he was a cruel and bloodthirsty man. Strangest of all, he had a thick beard that was bright blue. But being incredibly wealthy, the lady’s father insisted she marry him. Yet when it came to it she found him a very kind man. Before long she was living with him in a castle full of great treasure. He allowed her to roam the castle freely and enter any room, apart from one. He forbade her from ever entering an underground chamber that was under lock and key. She accepted this one boundary. But after months of wondering what secrets lay within the chamber an opportunity to find out presented itself.
Her husband needed to go away on business, and entrusted her with all the castle keys, including those to the chamber. It was two weeks before she and her sister finally succame to curiosity and unlocked the chamber. The moment it’s door swung open they realized all the rumors about her husband were true. It’s floors and walls stained with blood, metal hooks hung from the ceiling displaying multiple mutilated corpses. Each corpse was more fresh than the last. Those at the back were barely more than skeletons. All showed signs of a slow and sadistic death. This was all that remained of his previous wives, who each mysteriously disappeared.
Fearing she would be next, they decided to lock the door and pretend not to have seen the inside. But when they tried to lock the chamber door, the key got stuck and broke in half without locking. With no way to hide what they had done, his wrath was all they had to look forward to. They considered running away but to their horror he returned early. Finding that the chamber had been opened, he fell into a blind rage. Drawing his sword, he threatened to cut them to pieces. He chased them to the top of the castle’s tallest tower and it was here they feared they would meet a terrible death. If only to save themselves from that, they jumped from the tower window.
9: Voir Loup
The wooded hills that cover much of the Paris basin is avoided by wise Frenchmen on dark nights. It is a cursed patch of land, occupied by night by a mysterious creature known as Voir Loup. They were once human. But by committing each of the seven deadly sins, their soul turned black and Satan entered their heart. Now they are something else. By night their bones break and reform. Their teeth fall out and re-grow sharper. Every single night they undergo a painful transformation into a large animal – a wolf or bear or giant wild boar.
They run from their villages, preferring to roam forested areas and woodlands. Although beast in body, they remain human in mind. But they are unable to control their actions. This means they cannot stop themselves from harming any human they encounter in the woods, biting into their flesh and drinking their blood. Then by morning the bone breaking transformation leaves them human again, haunted by memory of the night before. If this cursed existence wasn’t bad enough, they are unable to die, being immortal and invulnerable.
8: Midnight Washerwoman
Centuries ago there lived a peasant woman who worked on a local farm. Her days were long, ending each night by washing clothes in a nearby river. It was midnight by the time she got to doing this: late enough for her to be the only person in sight. It was so quiet every sound she made would echo around the surrounding area. But one night, in the middle of doing her washing, she noticed someone else. It was an elderly woman further down stream. Her feet and hands were webbed and she moved incredibly slowly. On realizing she had been noticed, the old woman approached and offered to help wash clothes.
The young woman politely refused, seeing as her own pile of clothes were smaller. She thought this was the right thing to do. But it was a fatal mistake. The old woman grabbed her, and with great strength broke her arms and snapped her ankles, so that she could not swim. The hag then threw her into the river where she quickly drowned. She was not the first to fall victim to the old woman, who it turned out was not human but something else. She was a supernatural creature known only as “the midnight washerwoman”. Every midnight the washerwoman emerges from the spirit world in the search for new spirits to judge. On finding them, she offers the same question – breaking the bones and taking the lives of those who answer wrong.
7: Beast of Angles
In the small town of Angles can be found the statue of a monstrous black bear atop a church. Passers by often see it as little more than a work of architecture. But to locals it is what remains of a terrible beast from long ago. A giant bear and strong enough to push down the strongest of buildings. No one knew where the beast came from, only that it spent most of it’s time at a nearby river. Anyone foolish enough to go near the river would be torn limb from limb or eaten alive by the beast. And when not there it would be hunting for fresh meat. Only the flesh of young women satisfied it’s hunger. But the beast happily devoured any creature to get in it’s way – be that a fully grown man or an entire flock of sheep.
It seemed like this community would never be free of the beast. But then one day, a mysterious hermit came to town, and he knew exactly what to do. For 7 long days he prayed upon a local hilltop. By doing so he seemed to achieve some kind of magical power. Not only could he now walk past the beast unharmed, he cursed it – shrinking it in size and transforming it to stone. And so the beast was defeated and it’s remains mounted upon a church. However it soon became clear the beast, even set in stone, retained some of it’s power… and it’s hunger for women. But, unable to feed on their physical flesh, it devours their beauty. Even today young women fear going near it.
6: Beast of Gevaudan
In 18th century France the province of Gevaudan was shaken by a series of animal attacks. Animal attacks were commonplace at the time but this was different. The creature in question was like a wolf, but more. It was much larger, stronger, and more aggressive. Unlike wolves it always seemed to target the necks of it’s victims. As dozens of villagers began to fall victim to the beast, authorities stepped in. Hunters were sent to deal with it. They killed every single wolf they could find. But still the beast eluded them and still it killed innocent peasants.
Then, one day, they spotted a wolf so big they at first believed it to be a horse. They shot the beast, not killing and only provoking it to attack them. Another 5 shots were needed to finally put down the beast. It’s massive corpse was taken to the king of France’s court. Local nobles were shocked by the size of it’s head teeth and paws. No one could explain it’s monstrous size and by now over a hundred has been killed. For the people of Gevaudan the nightmare was just beginning. Somewhere out there the beast’s offspring were growing bigger by the day.
5: The Lost Children
It’s not just France that has variations of this story, Germany has the most well known in the form of Hansel and Gretel. But French legends tend to be so much darker, as you’ll see here. There were once a young brother and sister called Jean and Jeanette. Born to a poor family, their parents could no longer afford to raise them and the whole family was starving. After years of suffering, the parents decided to abandon their children deep in the forest to die. And so they found themselves lost in a forest they were not familiar with.
Already weak physically from a lifetime of poverty, they wandered the forest aimlessly for an entire day. Then, when they had just lost hope, an old woman stumbled upon them. She was kind and fed them but wouldn’t give directions on how to leave the forest. Still desperate, they begged her to take them in. She was reluctant but eventually agreed and welcomed them into her cottage. However, she warned them that her husband was the devil, and that if he caught sight of them they would surely die. The old woman hid them… but there is no hiding from the devil. He beat the old woman and demanded she murder the children slowly while he went out to chop wood.
She intended to strap them to a saw horse and torture them to death. But being elderly and recently beaten by Satan himself, they easily overpowered and cut her throat. With her dead and Satan out doing Satan things, they decided to run out of the forest as fast as they could. But he caught wind of the escape and chased after them, all the while screaming different ways he would kill them. And he would have killed them, if they had not jumped over a stream on the outskirts of the forest. This small jump saved them – as not even the devil can cross over running water.
4: Dames Blanches
Everywhere in the world French is natively spoken people have long been warned of a being known to appear late on dark nights. They are Dames Blanches: White ladies. These creatures are not quite ghosts, they are something else. They are known to lurk in overshadowed places like ravines or under bridges. Here these beautiful creatures wait for someone to stumble upon them.
When this happens they emerge from the shadows and request the passer by to dance with them. Accept this offer and she will soon fade back into the darkness. But if you do not dance with her, her appearance will change before your eyes. Her face will become disfigured where it was before beautiful. That disfigured face will be the last thing you see. It’s unknown quite how she takes her victim’s lives. No one survives to give an insight.
3: Lou Carcolh
Wandering somewhere in the countryside of Southern France is a hideous creature known as Lou Carcolh. This gigantic beast appears to be some kind of snake-snail hybrid. But unlike either creature, it’s mouth is lined with rows of teeth, strong enough to bite through steel. It also has large venomous fangs and slimy tentacles that can extend over a mile long.
Any creature unfortunate enough to be latched onto by these tentacles will be pulled towards the beast and eaten. Because of this it seldom needs to leave the cave or cavern in which it lives, being able to pull prey in from over a mile away. Yet when the beast inevitably drains the area surrounding it of all life, it is forced to wander the open country searching for a new home, leaving behind it a trail of slime acidic enough to dissolve most shoes.
2: Street of the fishing cat
In the heart of Paris can be found an incredibly narrow alleyway known as The street of the fishing cat. Centuries ago, when it led right to the local river, the alley was home to a man called Dom Perlet. Perlet was an alchemist who kept to himself but still locals feared him. They would see his cat emerge from the alley and catch fish from the river. With a swipe of it’s paw the cat always caught at least one fish.
Young Parisians grew to hate both the alchemist and his cat. So one night an angry mob cut the animal to pieces and threw it into the river. After that night the alchemist was never seen again. Locals declared this proof that he was a devil worshiping shape shifter, and they had in fact killed him that night. Years later, people began claiming to see him and the cat walking beside the river before disappearing before their eyes. Some alive today claim to have seen them. Street of the fishing cat is one of the more distinctly French legends, you won’t hear anything like it in another country, unlike some of the more fairy tale themes legends.
1: Curse of Tuileries
From the late 16th century the main Parisian residence for French monarchs was the Palace of Tuileries. A grand work of renaissance architecture, the palace was a favorite of Catherine de Medici – queen of France. One day she ordered the execution of a servant at the palace as she believed he knew too many secrets. As the executioner readied his ax, the man warned that he would rise from the dead and come for revenge. The executioner duly buried the corpse.
But then that night, found the grave had been disturbed and the corpse missing. In that moment of shock he felt the presence of someone behind him. On turning around, saw the man he had earlier executed, pale as death and drenched in blood. Before fully understanding the situation he heard the ghost promise that it would haunt the palace for as long as it stood. Following centuries would see many encounters with him, always covered in blood just as he was that night. The haunting only stopped in 1871 when Tuileries palace was burnt down by revolutionary socialists.