THE GHOST OF THE WINTER PALACE.
It may not be well known that the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg is haunted by the grandmother of the present Emperor, the wife of Alexander II, who gave liberty to the serfs, and who met with his death by a bomb thrown at him in the streets of St. Petersburg.
The late Emperor, his son, never lived in the Palace after the assassination of his father, but preferred to reside in Anitchkoff Palace, where he had lived as Tsarevitch, and it was when the present Emperor married Princess Alix of Hesse that the Winter Palace was made habitable for the young couple. The suite of rooms prepared for the Grand Duchess Olga Nicolaivna was the same which had been inhabited by the wife of Alexander II.
When I first went to the Winter Palace, the Imperial family had only been in St. Petersburg a couple of days, having arrived from Tsarskoye Selo, and both of my little charges were ill. The eldest was at the time three, the youngest one and a half years of age, and they had not been in the palace for ten months, nor out of their suite since their arrival. All these particulars, though tedious, are necessary, as people who have heard the story have said, “The child knew the history of her great-grandmother.”
I had nursed the children through their little attack of influenza, when the doctor said to me, “You have been five days in the house, and must have some air. Go out and walk up and down the quays for half an hour.” So I went, and when I returned the Grand Duchess Olga looked at me and said,
“The old lady was here when you were out.” I asked what old lady, and was told, “The old lady who comes in often.”
“Princess Galitzin?” asked I.
“Oh! no,” came the answer. “This old lady wears a blue dress.”
Now at the moment the court was in half mourning for the Queen of Denmark, mother of the Dowager-Empress of Russia, so I said, “Mauve, not blue.” “No,” said the child, “blue; it’s a funny dress, not like what mamma wears.” “What is it like?” asked I. She rapidly showed me with her hands that the bodice was pointed, and said, “The sleeves are funnier, for they are open and falling off, and underneath they are white.” She attempted to show me by gestures what she meant.
I turned to the nurse who had been with the children while I was out, and asked if anyone had been there in my absence. To my surprise she said, ” No one.” I still pressed the question, but she denied having seen anyone. I asked if she had left them alone, and she still said, No.
Olga Nicolaivna began to explain in Russian what the visitor was like, andwhat she had done, but Marya still persisted in saying that no one had entered the room on any business while I was out. I thought the nurse was telling untruths, and that the mysterious visitor was a friend of hers, who had no business there, but of course I could not prove it, so let the matter drop.
A couple of days after this I was playing with the children when the Grand Duchess Olga suddenly said, “There is the old lady.”
I looked up, but there was no one in the room. “Where? Where?” cried I.
The child pointed with her finger, and described a semicircle such as a person going from one door to the other would have made. “Now she’s gone into the next room,” said the little one; but the door between the two rooms was still shut.
I hastily ran through the suite in the direction the Grand Duchess had indicated, and came out on the lobby, but there was no one there. I went so quickly, that had there been anyone there I must have come up with her preparing to go on the street, for it was mid-winter in St. Petersburg and to leave the warmed house for the street would have meant certain death, without plenty of wrappings.
I returned to the children and Marya, and sent the latter out to question the sentry as to whether anyone had passed through or not. But the reply was still in the negative, I said to Olga Nicolaivna, “You see there was no one in the room”; and she replied emphatically, “You and Marya are both very stupid, because I saw the old lady, and now you say she was not here.”
I still thought the child was romancing, and changed the subject.
A couple of days afterwards the Empress told me to take the children into the state rooms for a change and to get their rooms thoroughly aired, so we went. In one of the rooms were hanging life-size portraits of Alexander II and his wife, the Empress Marie Feodorvna. Olga ran towards the latter, exclaiming, “That’s a picture of the old lady who came into our rooms. You see,” she went on,”she has on her blue dress, and it is not like what mamma wears.”
The dress in question had a pointed bodice, angel sleeves falling away from the elbow, and white lace under-sleeves. Just as the child had described.
“But,” said I,” that is your papa’s grandmamma. A long time ago she went to heaven. People don’t come back from there.”
She looked a little disconcerted, but never again did she speak on this subject.
Some time after, it probably was the next year, we were again in the Winter Palace, and one night in my bed I was suddenly disturbed by hearing sobs, and I found myself listening to a woman’s complaints of her husband’s infidelity. The matter talked of was so private that I sat up in my bed, feeling sure I should not listen, yet not quite knowing what to do, for there were
the children sleeping in the same room. I ceased to hear the sounds as soon as I sat up. I thought, “Some poor soul in the room under me is in sore trouble”; and lay down again. Directly I heard the same story. I sat up, and began to wonder if I should go and leave the children in charge of the nurse, find out what was wrong, or wait till the Empress came to kiss the children the last thing at night, as was her custom; and decided to wait.
It was after 1 a.m. when she came, and she expressed surprise at seeing me sitting up in bed. Irish fashion I answered her by a question. She told me that underneath the room were store rooms, etc., but no one lived there; and I told her some one was in that room and was in trouble.
“If you think so,” said she, “get out of bed and put your ear to the ground and you will see.”
I did so, but could hear nothing, so I said, “Thank Heaven, it has ceased.”
“I shall be thinking of you all night,” said she, “if I don’t see you settled before I leave.”
I got into my bed again, and lay down, and immediately the same disturbing noise began again, so I said to the Empress, “If your Majesty will put your ear here you will hear it for yourself.”
She did so, but could hear nothing.
She then told me to lie down again, which I did. Immediately I heard the same words and the same sobbing and crying.
She asked me to repeat what was said, which I did, only translating from French into English.
“Is it in English?” she next asked.
On my answering in the negative, she told me to repeat them as they were spoken. I did so. She asked me if what I was saying reminded me of any story I had ever heard. I answered, “No.”
She then said: “I shall ask you the same question in another form. Do you know who inhabited these rooms before Olga?”
Of course I knew that, and she asked me to tell her as much of the sorrowful story as I could. I ended with: “She never spoke of her grief, but when she heard the patter of the other woman’s children’s footsteps above her head she used to turn her face into the pillow, and those around her could see her poor body shake with suppressed sobs.”
“Your story breaks down just here,” replied the Empress; “for she spoke once to her daughter of her sorrow, and she used the words you have just repeated. She habitually spoke French,” went on the Empress; “that is why I made you repeat just what you heard.”
There is something in us all that revolts against being used as a medium for the spiritual world, so I cried: “No, but that is where your story breaks down, your Majesty, for the world knows her children were Alexander, Vladimir, Alexis, Serge, Paul and Mary—six in all—and she said, ‘I gave him eight children, were they not enough, that he must have these others? ‘”
“You forget,” came the answer, “that Nicholas died after his mother and before his father, and little Alexandra died in childhood.”
I had forgotten them both. Sleep was impossible with this crying under my head, but I got out of bed and changed the pillow.
Strange to relate, in the other pillow I heard no sound. Subsequent inquiries proved that I was sleeping in the bed in which the hapless lady had suffered so much. In some way the pillow had acted like a phonograph record and gave back sounds to those who had ears to hear; I often heard the same sounds again, but curiously enough was always able to sleep, by putting that particular pillow out of the bed and taking the other.
This story is perfectly true in every particular.
The Occult Review Vol. 20 N. 3 September 1914
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have previously heard from “M.E.,”—Miss Margaretta Eagar, the Irish nurse to the Imperial Russian children, in a post on an apparition seen at the time of Princess Elisabeth of Hesse’s untimely death. She also appears in this post on an Imperial Christening. The Grand Duchess Olga, was, of course, the daughter of the ill-fated Tsar Nicholas II and it was Empress Alexandra who questioned Miss Eagar.
The unhappy ghost was believed to be that of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Emperor Alexander II, who caused such pain with his repeated affairs. The Emperor was besotted with his mistress, Princess Catherine Dolgorukova, and, fearing that she might be assassinated, moved her and their children into the Winter Palace. It was said that the Empress could hear her rival’s children running about and playing in the rooms above her, although historians tell us that her Imperial Majesty’s rooms were in a different part of the Palace. The Empress died of tuberculosis on 3 June 1880, at the age of fifty-five. Alexander married Catherine a short time later, causing much adverse comment.
There were also reports that the assassinated Tsar haunted the Winter Palace, as we see in this post.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.