Saturday, 11 October 2008

Another Slip In Time In France

A trip to Spain in the 1970s was still a rather exotic adventure for many, but two British couples travelling there in 1970s had a far more exciting experience on the journey down than any they had on the holiday itself....

Their trip began in Dover at the beginning of October 1979. Geoff and Pauline Simpson and their friends Len and Cynthia Gisby were to get a ferry to France and drive down to Spain, stopping off on the way for a break at any hotel they could find.

That is how, on October the 3rd, they found themselves exhausted and looking for somewhere to stay near the French town of Montelimar, France.

View Larger Map

The local Ibis was full, but a helpful man dressed in an old fashioned plum coloured suit in the lobby pointed them down the road to a hotel that might be able to put them up for the night.

The road they travelled down was cobbled and narrow and they couldn't help noticing very old fashioned posters for a circus lining their route, they stopped at an inn for further directions and eventually found themselves by two buildings, one a police station, the other an old fashioned two storey building marked "Hotel". Upon entering the Hotel they found themselves in the hotel bar and discovered that although the owner couldn't speak English he understood their requests for a room and after dinner they headed up to see them.

They found the rooms to be clean but very outdated. There was no glass in the window but wooden shutters instead, the door could be locked only by means of a wooden catch, there was no telephone, there were bolsters but no pillows and the plumbing was antique. But though basic it was perfectly acceptable for their purposes; a nice long sleep.

In the morning they awoke and headed down for breakfast. They were startled by the appearance of a few others in the hotel. One was a woman wearing a long dress and button-boots and carrying a little dog. Two gendarmes came into the hotel wearing clothes unlike any other gendarmes the couples had seen.

The couples finished up and prepared to leave. They asked one of the gendarmes for directions back to the autoroute and on to Avignon but he didn't seem to understand the word. The couples put this down to their poor pronunciation. He gave them some directions which they later found led them onto an old out of the way road.

When they settled up their bill they were in for another, not unwelcome, surprise. In total their bill came to 19 francs, which was about 1/13 of what they would have expected. They enquired with the gendarme again as they felt there may have been some mistake but he assured them all was well and they handed over the paltry sum and were off to sunny Spain.

On their return trip they were unable to locate this hotel, despite "finding the right road" and, when they enquired at the Ibis, they were told that they knew of no such nearby hotel and they denied the existence of anyone in a plum coloured suit working for them.

The couples were forced to stay in a hotel in Lyon and pay over 200 francs for a room. When they got home they found the pictures they had taken in the hotel were missing. Not blank, nor obscured but gone and the reel had been filled with other pictures. Later investigation found the reel showed markings half way along showing the camera had tried to take pictures but had failed.

They have been back to visit since but they have found no trace of the hotel, although somewhere similar was found they denied this was the hotel they stayed in. They later identified the uniforms worn by the gendarme as those used before 1905.

So what happened to them? Did they travel back through time? Was this an entire ghost building?

Alas, again, I feel there is little evidence to prove that they experienced anything truly weird. I stayed at a "hotel" in Paris in 2001 which was actually not too dissimilar. I entered the bar to find the furnishings would not have been out of place in the 18th Century and the clientele were... interestingly eccentric. I was desperate for a room as all the other hotels were full so despite my misgivings handed over 19 euros (about 10 quid, for a room for the night!!) and found my room to be.... basic... if there was ever a hotel out of time that was it! Although mine didn't even have the benefit of being clean...

Why didn't anyone remark on their odd mode of transport (a 1970s car in pre 1905 France? Would this have not brought crowds??)? Why did the hotel owner not refuse to take their strange, foreign money (as a coin collector I can tell you that francs had changed quite a bit between 1905 and 1979)? Could the fact that they had driven down the road at night lead to their inability to find it during daylight? Things can look a lot different in the light of day.

Alas I feel this time slip might again have been caused by confused foreign visitors allowing their imaginations to go wild in a country that might have seemed strange and unusual to them. France is still strange and unusual when compared to Britain with it's much quieter countryside and intelligent populace.

A camera malfunction? Well we are in the seventies here, I remember my old film cameras which proved to be unreliable... although mine were very cheap...

So yet again I find myself sceptical of their claims. One day I'll find a story I'm not sceptical about... I promise!!


cube said...

October brings out all the spooky stories.

Jae said...

Actually this entire blog is devoted to these stories. Sowhein is not the cause of my interest in the weird...

Gee said...

A Ghost Hotel? Or Ghostel if you prefer?

*Sigh* It took me half an hour to come up with that. My excuse is it's Sunday morning and I'm tired.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure you've nailed it on the head. A tremendously tired bunch of travellers in a foreign country do not reliable witnesses make. One could make a case either way I guess, but I'm definitely in the camp of "Mmmm, don't think so" on this one.

Interesting stuff as always Jae.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the author of this article, but this incredible story cannot be simply dismissed by saying that: "there is little evidence to prove that they experienced anything truly weird" (????)
What do you need more strange and unusual than this story?

First of all, the uniforms of the policemen were later identified as those used BEFORE 1905! How can you explain this?
Moreover: the 4 English friends were totally unable to find again the hotel, although the road from Ibis hotel to the "vanished hotel" was very easy to find, just a straight road. It makes no sense to say that it was because they drove in the evening the first time. Moreover, the strange man at Ibis hotel who suggested to look for the "vanished hotel" was a weird man wearing an outfashioned plum suit, but later nobody recognized a person like that among the employees of Ibis!
And - last but not least - how can you explain the fact that the CAMERA and its reel did not take ONLY the photos at the "vanishing hotel" (whereas other photos of other locations of that vacation where normal) and the reel showed in the center unusual marks of "dragging", as if someone tried to make photos, but for some strange reason the reel could not work regularly?
So, you cannot compare this story to the one of your "cheap" hotel in Paris!
Your cheap hotel asked for just 19 euros for a room , and just to sleep, and it was also dirty.
The 4 English friends paid JUST 19 francs, not only to sleep, but also to EAT and have a DINNER that evening, and a breakfast the day after!
So, if you want to be "adamantly" skeptical, and refuse to admit that this story is really misterious and inexplicable, although TRUSTWORTHY, you're perfectly free to think this. But it is not always wise to be always skeptical at outrance.

Marozi Agustyan said...

These accounts are hard to believe, however I watched an episode where both couples were interviewed about their experience. What's strange is that it wasn't just on one camera where the photos didn't appear - It was on both the couples individual cameras. This makes it more bizarre in my opinion as on both cameras only photos taken particularly at the hotel didn't appear.

Furthermore the unusual dress which the woman and police men they encountered that were as they put it 'Old Fashioned' harder to explain. At the end of the program the presenter states that the couple did journey back to France and found the 'correct road' (which suggests that they might have went on the wrong road initially) and where the hotel stood was now a crumbled building which the locals apparently didn't know the origins of, but they did state that next to that crumbled building stood the old police station. Whether this note added by the presenter at the end was true (neither the Gisbys or The Simpsons had stated this in their interviews) or it was a small fabrication to make the episode more mysterious for entertainment value, I don't know.

The car to me doesn't seem like an entirely large issue as there is the possibility that the hotel owner and the others they had encountered might not have seen the car, the currency issue is bizarre though and the cost of it all. Overall it is highly unusual that both the cameras jammed of photos only taken at the hotel, that the people they had encountered were dressed in an old outdated fashion, the extremely cheap cost and if the programs end account was true of finding an old building of where the hotel once stood when they returned to France this makes it even more bizarre.

Den Harrison said...

The TV programme you're referring to with the crumbling old police station was a "Strange but true" episode. It's on YouTube, search strange but true, time slips. I'm very sceptical personally, but it makes for a good story.

Anonymous said...

"First of all, the uniforms of the policemen were later identified as those used BEFORE 1905! How can you explain this?"
Because people lie or are delusional?
Why is it that some people believe every crappy ghost story, and never look at the details?
If they really were in the 1800's, why would they be able to check out and pay with these shiny new 1979 French Francs, which would look completely different from what was used in 18xx ?
Just try paying someone with some old French Francs these days, when everyone is using euro's. People will not accept that. However, in that story, suddenly people from 18xx will accept money from the year 1979.