Almost every rural area has a legend involving a Lady in White spirit. A Weeping Lady. A reason not to pick up hitchhikers. A vengeful spirit. These ladies haunt the area and surrounding areas where they died. Sometimes they can be terrifying but sometimes they are nothing more than an urban legend fueled by historic events or the fact that violence against a woman by men closest to her is so prevalent it is not unlikely that she might be murdered by them. In Canada, the most popular and well-known is La Dame Blanche at Montmorency Falls in Québec.
La Dame Blanche’s story starts in 1759 in the town of Côte-de-Beaupré. Tensions between the French and the English were very high. In Europe the two countries were engaged in what would be known after as The Seven-Years-War. This war spilled out of Europe and onto the North American continent, namely in Canada.
Two lovers refused to let the tension and war disturb their romance. The lovers were Mathilde Robin and Louis Tessier. The two of them fell deeply in love. They would always take walks along Montmorency Falls and had planned to have their wedding there. When they finally got engaged, Mathilde sewed herself the most beautiful, white wedding dress. There did not seem to be anything that would ruin their day. But, as most ghost stories begin, what was supposed to be the happiest day became a day of tragedy.
On 31 July 1759 the English attacked, under the command of General James Wolfe, Montmorency Falls. The women and children hid in the forest while the men helped the French soldiers, led by Commander Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. The Battle of Montmorency Falls lasted a few days and the French came out victorious. It was a happy day for everyone but Mathilde.
As the men returned Mathilde searched for Louis but she could not find him. She ran to his farm thinking maybe he had gone home first. He was not there. She asked all the men and the soldiers but no one had seen him. That was until Montcalm came to her and told her the news. Louis had not survived. He had died at the foot of Montmorency Falls.
Devastated, Mathilde ran to her home and put on her wedding dress. She went to the falls where she was supposed to get married, where Louis had died and where just days before they had taken their romantic walks. Crying and heartbroken, she jumped from the top, killing herself.
Her veil was caught by the wind and settled onto a new rock, just left of Montmorency Falls. There, it turned into a new waterfall called The Veil of the Bride, or more commonly known as Chute de la Dame Blanche, after Mathilde. Mathilde is seen wandering the area of Montmorency Falls, crying for her lost love. She is known as La Dame Blanche as she is seen dressed in her white wedding dress in the mist of the falls. She does not interact with the living and it is warned that the living should not interact or touch her or else they will die a gruesome death.
While the Battle of Montmorency Falls in 1759 was a real battle and happened just before the Battle of The Plains of Abraham, there is no evidence of Mathilde or Louis being real people during this time. This suggests that it is just a legend from a pivotal point in Canadian history. A legend of a heartbroken woman and the effects of war on loved ones. It is the creation of Québec’s, and possibly all of Canada’s, most popular White Lady story.
What is a White Lady, a Weeping Woman or a Woman in White exactly?
White Ladies are common legends in rural areas and are most often linked to a local tragedy. In the case of Mathilde, the tragedy was the French loss at the Plains of Abraham and the Seven-Years-War to the English and the effect of war on women.
White Ladies are called this because they dress all in white and are either semi-transparent or fully transparent. White is both symbolic of death and purity in Western culture. White is the colour of bones and ash. White is also what brides dress in when they get married. It is thought that White Ladies are only seen in white not just because they have died but also because they are innocent. The events surrounding them are what led them to die, but they are often pure being who was gone before their time.
There are two common types of White Ladies. The first are the most common, especially in the media. These ones are the ones who are betrayed by a lover or a male close to them. They are either killed by the male or commit suicide because they were betrayed. The second are ones who have died of broken hearts and are seen weeping at the scene of their death. While the first usually seeks revenge, the latter is often just trying to find her lost love. It is due to the first one that White Ladies can be seen as harbingers of death but usually only to the people who are similar to those who killed her. An example, if a man cheated on his wife and she killed herself, she would exact revenge only on unfaithful men. Only men who bear some resemblance to the person who had initially hurt her.
White Ladies are very active spirits and are often seen haunting their grave sites or trying to find their loves. Commonly they are found on the side of the road or in hotels. Generally, they do not like scaring or harming the living but of course there are vindictive ones who will scare and harm and like it. They can be exorcised from their place of haunting but sometimes they just pretend to be exorcised and will resurface when the coast is clear. They are very attached to their hauntings.
Mathilde Robin is considered to be one of these spirits. She died of a broken heart and is considered a local legend seen dressed solely in white. She is never harmful but is just seen weeping at Montmorency Falls. She may not have been a real person but her story has come from a time when tragedy was striking and crucially changing New France. Thus, she has become an important figure of what war can do, not just to soldiers but to those left alive.
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