She had finished her song and bowed to the enthusiastic applause, and as the handclaps
died away the clock on the mantle struck the hour of eleven. On the final stroke a loud and
terrible cry echoed throughout the whole house. The cry seemed to come from the room itself
and was one of such appalling, heart-broken anguish that it chilled the blood of all who heard it.
La Clairon herself fainted, having no doubt at all in her mind that her old lover had died
and that the cry had in some way come from him and was intended for her to hear. Terrified and
not wishing to be alone that night, she persuaded several of her friends to stay with her until
Her friends were perhaps more puzzled at that dreadful cry than she, and when it was
heard the following night at the same hour, and the night after, it became the talk of Paris. At first
it was thought someone was playing a practical joke, because the cry could be heard not only in
the house, but in the street where, night after night, it now was heard not only by her friends and
her neighbors, but also the police, who sought in vain for the person who uttered it. So great was
the interest aroused by the strange cries that crowds gathered every night to hear them.
La Clairon had no doubt at all that she was being haunted, and she bitterly regretted that
she had not responded to M. de S-'s dying appeal to pay him that last visit. One night she had
been out to supper after the theater, and as her escort was bidding her good-night at her doorway,
she said that the terrible cry suddenly exploded between them. Her companion was as terrified as
she, though he knew the story, as did all of Paris, and he had to be assisted to his carriage in a
state of collapse.
On another occasion she was driving to a friend's house near the Porte Sainte-Denis with
one of her admirers, a young aristocrat who mocked at the supernatural and who was wittily
skeptical about her ghost voice, challenging her to produce it for his benefit, before he would
Half seriously, she accepted his challenge and the next instant the carriage was filled with
the most appalling and pitiful screams. The coachman had difficulty in preventing the horses
from bolting, and when they arrived at their destination Mlle Clairon said that she and her
companion were found lying senseless in the carriage.
For some time after that the ghost voice left her in peace, and she heard it next, and for the
last time, some months later at Versailles where she and the company of the Comdie Francaise
had been commanded by Louis XV to give a performance on the occasion of the marriage of the
Dauphin. They had to stay three nights at Versailles, and the town was overcrowded for the
festivities. La Clairon had to share her room with one of the other actresses and her bed with the
maid. She was joking about their cramped, uncomfortable quarters, and the weather being so
foul. 'I doubt if my ghost would ever find me here at the end of the world,' she laughed.
Immediately, she says, the fearful cry once more burst upon their ears, and the whole
house was in uproar, for everyone heard it, and none of them, she says, slept a wink that night.
When she returned to Paris, her ghost began the second phase of its vengeful campaign
against her. Upon the first stroke of eleven one evening a week later when she was sitting in her
house entertaining some friends, there was the sound of a musket being discharged outside her
window. Everyone in the room not only heard the shot but saw the flash, and the men rushed
gallantly to the protection of the idol of the Paris stage, thinking an attempt was being made upon
her life. But there was no bullet-hole in the window and outside was no sign of an assailant.
The police were immediately summoned by her alarmed companions, and though they
made a rigorous investigation and questioned all the residents of the road, they could discover no
explanation for the shot. Every night now at eleven o'clock the shot rang out and the flash was
seen outside the window; and although the police were constantly on duty, they were unable to
solve the mystery. They had no means of stopping the noise or of detecting its origin. Mlle
Clairon declared in her memoirs that this continued every night for three months, and the proof of
it is to be found in the records of the Paris Police of 1744.
She became so used to the phantom shot that eventually she looked upon it as something
of a joke, and she recalls an incident which happened when she and a man friend were on the
balcony of the haunted window at the appointed time making jokes about it. The shot rang out as
the clock struck the hour, but the explosion this time was so great that they were both thrown back
into the room and each felt a sharp blow on the side of the head which seemed to have been dealt
them by a human hand. This brusque reprimand for their unseemly levity did not have the desired
effect, for they both burst out laughing.
La Clairon was troubled by the phantom shot for the last time two nights later when
passing in her carriage the very house where her former lover had died a couple of years
previously. As she pointed out the house to her companion, the shot rang out once again, and the
coachman, believing they were being ambushed by armed robbers, whipped the horses into a
The haunting continued for several months, but she heard no more shooting, only
mysterious hand-clapping and the singing of a strange and curious song which was truly haunting,
for it was an air which was both tantalizing and fascinating, and which she could never fully
recall afterwards. This ghostly song ended the haunting which had begun two and a half years
previously and to which its victim had now become throughly accustomed.
During this time La Clairon's success on the stage had brought her both wealth and fame,
and she moved to a more luxurious house in a fashionable part of Paris. She decided to let her old
home. A number of people came to look at the famous residence of La Clairon where the strange
haunting had taken place, and it was not surprising that among the viewers were some who had no
intention of renting the place.
With most of these her servants had no difficulty in dealing, but there was one lady of
advancing years who was unusually persistent and seemed to be in a state of some agitation,
demanding to see Mlle Clairon, saying she had been a friend of M. de S-. The young actress
immediately saw her.
The lady told La Clairon that she had nursed and looked after her former lover during the
last few weeks of his life and was with him when he died. She knew all about his love affair with
La Clairon and his hopeless love for her, and she had done her best to make him accept the
inevitable and forget her, but in vain. On the contrary, he said he would never forget her in this
life or in the next, and that he would return from the grave to haunt her.
But why? asked La Clairon, puzzled as well as distressed at what her visitor had told her.