Napoleon’s Ghost

Napoleon’s ghost pops up from time to time

Napoleon’s ghost pops up from time to time

Given the huge influence that Napoleon Bonaparte had during his lifetime, it’s not surprising that his ghost has popped up from time to time since his death. The Museum of The Black Watch has transcribed a letter describing a British soldier’s encounter with Napoleon’s ghost during the removal of Napoleon’s remains from St. Helena to France in 1840. Albert Dieudonné, who played Napoleon in Abel Gance’s 1927 film of that name, talked about spooking a night watchman at the Château de Fontainebleau who claimed to be visited by Napoleon’s ghost. The following story about Napoleon’s ghost first appeared in British newspapers in January 1832.

The Ghost of Napoleon

At the Mansion House on Saturday, M. Pierre de Blois, a French gentleman who resides in chambers in Leadenhall Street, was summoned before the Lord Mayor for beating Rafael Spaglietti, an image seller, and breaking a very fine bust of Napoleon Buonaparte.

It appeared that the Italian went upstairs to the defendant’s room door, at the top of which there was a glass; he raised up the head of the image, which was made of pale clay, to the glass and said softly, ‘buy my ghost of Napoleon.’ M. de Blois, who had known the Emperor, thought he saw his ghost, and exclaiming ‘Oh, Christ, save us!’ fell on the floor in a fit. The Italian, seeing no chance of a sale that day, went away and returned the next. M. de Blois, in the meantime, had recovered from his fit, and hearing how his terror had been excited, felt so indignant that the moment he saw Spaglietti at his door the next day, he flew at him and tumbled him and the Emperor downstairs together.

It happened that a confectioner’s man was that moment coming upstairs with a giblet pie to a Mr. Wilson, who resided in the chambers, and the Emperor and the Italian, in their descent, alighted on his tray, which broke their fall and saved the Italian’s head, but could not save Napoleon’s, which was totally destroyed – the giblet pie also suffered so much from the collision that Mr. Wilson refused to have anything to do with it. After a good deal of explanation by the parties, and a good deal of laugher amongst the auditors, M. de Blois agreed to pay for the pie, and Mr. Wilson generously paid for the loss of the Emperor. (1)

Did Napoleon believe in ghosts?

For the answer, see my post about whether Napoleon was superstitious. Charlotte Brontë seemed to think so. She wrote a short story called “Napoleon and the Spectre” (published in The Green Dwarf, 1833), which you can read for free on Project Gutenberg.

You might also enjoy:

What happened to Napoleon’s body?

10 Myths about Napoleon Bonaparte

10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

Boney the Bogeyman: How Napoleon scared children

Fake News about Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon at the Pyramids: Myth versus Fact

What were Napoleon’s last words?

How was Napoleon’s death reported?

  1. Providence Patriot (Providence, Rhode Island), March 28, 1832. British papers carried a longer account.

10 commments on “Napoleon’s Ghost”

  • Hels says:

    It is important that de Blois was said to have known the Emperor. Whether it was true or not, this comment lends credibility to de Blois’ extraordinary response.

    • Shannon Selin says:

      Indeed! I haven’t been able to ascertain what Pierre de Blois’s connection with Napoleon was. Maybe another reader will know.

  • Jeff says:

    Hello

    Your website is wonderful and I love reading your articles. But I have one question you may have not looked into on your site. if so I did not see it.

    Why did Napoleon put his hand in his pocket? His right hand?

    Please take a look at the following men from history and compare

    Stalin, Lenin, Wagner, General Sherman, McClellan, George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, Marx, and hundreds of others.

    All these men did the exact same thing.

    So I just wondered your opinion.

    Thanks!

  • Christoph Fischer says:

    Excellent post. So much more to this historic figure than I thought I’d ever know

  • Rosanne Stinchcombe says:

    He’s far too busy haunting France to be bothered with the likes of us Brits !

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M. de Blois, who had known the Emperor, thought he saw his ghost, and exclaiming ‘Oh, Christ, save us!’ fell on the floor in a fit.

Providence Patriot