The Moberly-Jourdain Incident, also called The Versailles Time-Slip, involves two English women who claimed in a book that they accidentally traveled to the time of the French Revolution on a trip to Versailles in August 1901. They claimed they saw the gardens as if they had been in the late 18th century and saw ghosts of famous historical figures including Marie Antoinette, the Comte de Vaudreuil, and others.
Some believe this was one of the first “time-slips” recorded. Critics believe the women misinterpreted the events they experienced.
Charlotte Anne Moberly was the first female principal of St. Hugh’s College in Oxford, England, a residence house for young women. Eleanor Jourdain was a textbook author and ran a school of her own, later becoming the vice principal at St. Hugh’s.
They published the 162-page book, An Adventure, under the pen names “Elizabeth Morison” and “Frances Lamont” in 1911 telling of their visit to the Petit Trianon, a chateau on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles.
The Trip Edit
They traveled to the Palace of Versailles as part of a series of trips from Paris where they shared an apartment. They walked through the gardens to the Petit Trianon passing the Grand Trianon, that was closed to the public. They used a Baedeker guidebook to navigate the area, but became lost. They saw a woman shaking a white cloth at a window and discovered an old farmhouse with an old plow in the field.
At this point, they experienced a “feeling of oppression and dreariness.” Men who appeared to be palace gardeners told them to continue straight ahead. The men were described by Moberly as “very dignified officials, dressed in long grayish-green coats with small three-cornered hats.” Moberly also reported feeling the atmosphere change, describing it as this:
“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.”They traveled further to the edge of a wooded area near the Temple de l'Amour and found a man seated by a garden kiosk. We wore a cloak and a large hat. Moberly described him as, “most repulsive... its expression odious. His complexion was dark and rough.” Jourdain added that the man’s face was marked with smallpox and also said his complexion was dark. They both said he looked “evil,” but appeared to look through them. They later came to believe this mas was the Comte de Vaudreuil, a friend of Marie Antoinette.
A man later described as having dark eyes and curling black hair under a hat similar to a Sombrero came up to them and showed them the way to the Petit Trianon. After crossing a bridge, they reached the gardens in front of the palace where Moberly saw a woman sitting in the grass sketching. Moberly described her as having an old-fashioned light summer dress, a shady (wide-brimmed) white hat, and had lots of fair hair. Moberly later became to believe this was Marie Antoinette, but Jourdain did not see this woman.
Before returning to their apartment, they joined a group of visitors. They also toured the house and had tea (evening meal) at the Hotel des Reservoirs.
After the Trip Edit
They didn’t talk about the incident until a week later and believed they saw ghosts. They researched the location and discovered exactly 109 years earlier, on 10 August 1792, the Tuileries palace in Paris was besieged, the king’s guards were massacred, and the monarchy itself was abolished six weeks later.
During future visits, the landmarks they passed (bridge and kiosk) were not able to be located and the grounds were full of people. No event was booked at the time of the incident.
An Adventure Edit
They published An Adventure under the pen names Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont in 1911. Critics of the story did not take it seriously. A review of the book in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research suggested that the women had misinterpreted normal events. In 1903, an old map of the Trianon gardens was found showing the bridge that they said to have crossed. The bridge had not been on any other map at the time. The identity of the authors were not made public until 1931 after Jourdain’s death in 1924 and 6 years before Moberly’s death in 1937.
Charlotte Anne Moberly Edit
Charlotte Anne Moberly a.k.a. Elizabeth Morison (1846-1937) had been the principal of St. Hugh's College, a residence hall for young women, in Oxford, England, for 45 years at the time of the incident. She was the first principal of the college. She was the 10th child (of 15) of George Moberly, the headmaster of Winchester College and the Bishop of Salisbury.
Eleanor Jourdain Edit
Eleanor Jourdain a.k.a. Frances Lamont (1863-1924) was the author of several textbooks and a principal. She became the vice principal of St. Hugh's College after the incident. She was the daughter of Rev. Francis Jourdain, the vicar of Ashbourne in Derbyshire and was the oldest of 10 children. She was the sister of Margaret Jourdain, an art historian and of Philip Jourdain, a mathematician. Jourdain attended school in Manchester during a time most young girls were home schooled.
Other Notes Edit
- The women claimed to have had many paranormal experiences before and after the 1901 incident. Moberly claimed to have seen the ghost of Roman emperor Constantine at the Louvre in 1914; he was observed by no one else.
- The couple’s accounts were turned into a 1981 TV movie called, “Miss Morison’s Ghosts,” as well as two 90-minute BBC broadcasts in 2004 and 2015.
External Links Edit
Full Text of An Adventure: