Francaphone Fantoms

Authored by:
Jade N.

Jade N.


High upon a hill in Dinant, Belgium, the sun shone down brightly on a grand white and red brick palace. The palace stood four stories tall with a welcoming porch surrounded with white columns. The view seen from overlooking the front entrance was enchanting; the river reflected the city skyline on the water. It was a perfect view from a seemingly perfect palace.
Before the entrance on the porch, there were modern and classy sofas and chairs surrounding various tables. It was the perfect place for the perfect morning abroad: sitting outside watching the sun's light spill over the town while drinking a warm cup of fresh coffee in a big cushioned chair after a refreshing night's sleep in a hotel rather than a hostel.
This perfect morning never happened.
The two front doors push open to reveal an entrance hall with the dinning hall the left, an empty office on the right, and the staircase straight across with a cart of linens and sheets to be picked up. The floor was paneled with wood, and it was clear that it was old. The stair path way led up to a landing with what appeared to be a therapist's office from decades ago, frozen in time. Continuing up the stairs, the footsteps echoed all the way up to the second floor.
The door to the second floor was pushed open and revealed a long single hallway running from the left to the right, nothing else. On the left end of the hallway were two bathrooms and a room for the five communal showers. The wall across from the stairwell had various ancient doors to the rooms several feet apart. They did not have locks.
The rooms each had several beds: bunkbeds and twins. The beds came bare; there was nothing covering them, save a pillow placed at the head and a teal blanket folded at the foot. The mattresses moved as a whole and squeaked when they were sat on. The rooms also had a sink and mirror. The wallpaper pasted on the rooms were pasty and faded. The lights in the ceiling shared the same aura: stained and faded yellow.
It was worse than the hostel in Brussels. It felt nothing like a hotel; it felt like a hospital.
It was.
Years before, the Splendid Palace did not serve its guests like hotel customers, nor did it serve them like injured patients. It served its guests with ignorance and violence, for its guests were not injured; its guests were insane.
The Splendid Palace used to be the Grand Institute of Hydrotherapy; in other words, it was an insane asylum for mentally ill where they were treated with shock therapy and locked in rooms secluded from humanity (or at least that's what we have read/assumed). Of course, insane asylums get very poor reputations because of their history of inhumane treatment to the "insane"-which were people with any mental illness: bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, etc. Although the building did participate in this inhumane and ignorant past, it has moved on and has been reclaimed as a hotel. CIEE decided to stay in this hotel.
In the beginning, it did not seem to be as terrible as it sounded after hearing the building's history. It felt like a tall (and better) version of a motel 8: kind of crappy, run down, neglected, but definitely manageable. It wasn't until we had already unpacked and were about to go out to dinner that we had some concerns. When we were leaving the room, we were trying to figure out how to lock the doors. We could not figure out how because they did not lock. This did not strike fear, but unease. Suspicions of fantoms did not begin to rise until later in the evening when some participants began exploring the floor above ours: the third floor. The first thing they saw when walking onto the third floor was a painting of a clown bathed in the red overhead emergency light. An uproar of screams and stomps filled the air as the teenagers came sprinting down to the main floor and trampled each other to get out. With the help from Google, it was verified that Splendid Palace was indeed an insane asylum years ago, and because it used to house "insane" people, it must be haunted.
In the beginning, it did not seem to be as terrible as it sounded after hearing the building's history. It felt like a tall (and better) version of a motel 8: kind of crappy, run down, neglected, but definitely manageable. It wasn't until we had already unpacked and were about to go out to dinner that we had some concerns. When we were leaving the room, we were trying to figure out how to lock the doors. We could not figure out how because they did not lock. This did not strike fear, but unease. Suspicions of fantoms did not begin to rise later in the evening when some participants began exploring the floor above ours: the third floor. The first thing they saw when walking onto the third floor was a painting of a clown bathed in the red overhead emergency light. An uproar of screams and stomps filled the air as the teenagers came sprinting down to the main floor and trampled each other to get out. With the help from Google, it was verified that Splendid Palace was indeed an insane asylum years ago, and because it used to house "insane" people, it must be haunted.
But was it really? Some would claim yes...
During the night while a participant was falling asleep, she, and a few other participants, heard violin music being played very loudly outside. However, when she recorded the music on her phone, it was inaudible. There was no music. A fantom or a hallucination?
I, personally, did not have this experience. Albeit, I was still unnerved at the sight of my room. When I first entered the room, the yellow stained light shown down on the faded yellow wallpaper on the walls. The first thing that came to my mind was "The Yellow Wallpaper." Fittingly, it is a short story about a woman who had anxiety/depression and was put into a manor house with her husband where she was unable to leave her bedroom, which was covered in a terrible yellow wallpaper. By the end of the story, she had spent so much time locked in the room, staring at the paper, she had gone insane.
This story hung in the back of my mind while I spent several hours talking with my roommates until they were too exhausted to fight their fear and had to go to sleep. These hours covered various topics, most of which were for spilling tea. However, after three hours, they could not deny themselves of rest any longer. I, on the other hand, stayed up a half hour later, but not because I was scared. I spent that extra half hour of time to be productive and work on my blogs.
In the morning, many of us were very eager to leave the Splendid Palace, but we did not leave without breakfast. Despite our unease with Splendid Palace, we are unable to deny the fact that the employment went out of their way to make a complete breakfast for their 26 guests (when they don't usually serve breakfast): eggs, coffee with creme and milk, crepes/pancakes, toast, bread, jams, and more. This breakfast was better than what the hostel in Brussels served.
Although any participant from that night would tell you that it was terrifying, it cannot be denied that the stay in Splendid Palace was all terrible: nothing was broken, rotting, or falling apart; we slept and survived the night, even though we were spooked; we were served a very thorough breakfast buffet; and the fear from the night made us closer friends from 1 am conversations.


The Splendid Palace deserves anything but terrible reviews: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
 

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