This article was published in Le Matin on 26 November 1905. It is entitled « Une apparition ; Comment le professeur Richet a photographié un fantôme » (An apparition, how professor Richet photographed a phantom ?) and its picture is named « Le fantôme de la villa Carmen » (The phantom of the villa Carmen). Le Matin is a daily newspaper that was lanched in 1883 and has the style of British newspapers such as The Morning News.
On 26 November 1905, the readers of Le Matin discover on the frontpage, beside news from all over the world received via telegrams overnight, an unusual story: someone has photographed a phantom.
What can boggle the mind (i.e. to set on film a presence that is elusive by definition) seems however to be confirmed by the picture accompanying the article. In the middle of the witnesses from the scene, a white silhouette stands. For possibly sceptical reader, the reporter takes care to specify the position of the ghost which is partly hiding beside the soothsayer.All along its article, the journalist multiplies the evidence proving that, in his eyes, it is not a farce. The room is closed and the lighting is sufficient to see any accomplice. Similarly, the roles of the participants in the experiment of Professor Richet guarantee a serious operation: an engineer out of the Central School, a general with his kinfolk, and even the soothsayer who is actually the former fiancée of the general’s son. Yet amid all these well-educated people, a man appears to them. Dressed in white and wearing a turban, the ghost appears coming from India where he was a priest, detail that does not retain the journalist’s attention too much. On the contrary he was struck by the miracles performed by this apparition who politely greets each member of the audience, who breaths and also disappears and reappears through the floor at his will. For the journalist, the possibility of a usurper is then definitively ruled out.
Founded in 1883 on the model of the British press, Le Matin has indeed some requirements in facts-checking, which lead him such to shine during the Dreyfus case during which the charges against the Captain where put into question. Equally, the success of the title owes much to the catchy tone of its articles. Therefore, since no doubt seems allowed, the journalist can entitle his article: “An appearance. How Professor Richet photographed a ghost. »
If Le Matin is one of the most printed newspapers before the war, it is also thanks to the series it hosts in its columns. For example, Gaston Leroux is a recurring author. Ironically, in 1910, it was in a rival newspaper, Le Gaulois, that the same Gaston Leroux published another famous ghost story: the Phantom of the Opera.
The French version of this blog-article is available here.
With thanks to Jean-Baptiste Vaisman