21 September 2012

The seventh did him in

There are plenty of graves scattered about the grounds of the Haunted Mansion. Some are funny, while others hold grotesque secrets. Take, for example, the tomb of Bluebeard, which tells us that Bluebeard had six wives that died in six consecutive years, but that the seventh killed him. There is a lot to uncover here, who is Bluebeard, how did his wives die, and did he deserve to be done in?

Bluebeard is the French folktale that was finally written down and published in 1697 by Charles Perrault. In the story Bluebeard marries one of his neighbor’s daughters. Eventually he has to leave the country, and leaves the keys to every room in the chateau to his wife. She is told to enjoy herself while he is away, but not to venture into a locked basement chamber. Eventually curiosity gets the best of her, and to her horror she finds the room filled with the blood and bodies of Bluebeard’s previous wives, with the bodies left hanging on hooks around the chamber. Bluebeard returns, finds the key stained with blood, and sets about to behead her. In the end, Bluebeard is killed by his wife’s brothers before he can murder her, and everyone lives happily ever after.

While Bluebeard is not a real person, a Marshal of France, Gilles de Rais, is believed to be the primary inspiration for the character. He assisted in pushing the British out of France and served under Joan of Arc before retiring to Brittany. Here he would kidnap local boys, sodomize, decapitate, and bury them. While de Rais’ power and influence kept many from looking too closely, eventually the Duke of Brittany investigated de Rais and found the bodies of 50 boys buried on his estate. Gilles de Rais admitted to the murder of 140 boys, but that number could have been as high as 300. He was burned and hung at the same time in 1440, which matches the date on Bluebeard’s tomb at the Haunted Mansion.

Personally I think we should set Bluebeard up with Constance in the attic, they seem tailor-made for each other. Whether or not Gilles de Rais is the inspiration for the baron with a ghastly blue beard who murders the innocent, Bluebeard certainly deserved all that befell him and the Haunted Mansion collected another chilling spirit to roam the halls of Gracey Manor. I certainly hope his six brides, also buried here, have more fun in the afterlife than Bluebeard!

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