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As part of my collection of paranormal artefacts, I have a healthy sample of paranormal themed ephemera – transitory written or printed items, including letters, advertisements and postcards, that were not made to be preserved for a long period of time. Part of this collection includes a series of postcards that depict the ruins of a supposedly haunted mill in the French region of Brittany.
The moulin hanté is ascribed to a valley system located on Brittany’s outstandingly beautiful Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast). The vallée des Traouïero, as the area is called today, comprises two valleys, the Petit and the Grand Traouïero. Together they join the natural habour and former fishing village of Ploumanac’h. Tourists, as opposed to fishermen and millers, are now the main admirers of the area’s fine sandy beaches, wind-sculpted stone and royal fern lined hiking trails.
Looking at the early twentieth century postcards, it was obvious that the haunted mill was locally significant. Local people clearly knew of the mill and its paranormal reputation. Women in traditional Breton dress were photographed lounging against and around its dilapidated stone carcass. Children fished and played in the water that ran up to its crumbling walls. Several people even thought the mill was interesting enough to photograph it and print a series of postcards about it. Why then, I asked myself, did there seem to be no trace of this once infamous mill in the present day?
Living around an hour’s drive from the vallée des Traouïero, I knew I had to go there and try to find the haunted mill for myself.
My exploration of le vallée des Traouïero and the search for le moulin hanté
It quickly became clear that finding the mill would be no easy task.
With the postcard series in hand, I had intended to compare the photographs with the local geography, assuming that this would enable me to quickly locate the allegedly haunted site. Yet, once on the ground, I realised that the valley had changed an awful lot since the postcards were printed around a century ago. The megalithic granite rocks shown in the postcards were still there, but, rather than being exposed to the sun and sky as they appear in the old photographs, they are now covered in and surrounded by vegetation. The entire valley system has been swallowed by greenery. With the mill, and others in the area, no longer in use, there was no need to keep the grasses, trees and ferns at bay, and so, over the decades, nature has reclaimed the area.
My search was further complicated by the inconsistent labelling of the mill in the postcards. Clearly, the subject of the photographs was the same structure, yet the name of the valley – and whether or not it was the Grand Traouïero as opposed to the Petit Traouïero – changed from one postcard to the next.
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Modern maps and guides of the vallée des Traouïero were equally confusing. My mill was not the only one in the area. Rather frustratingly, the area was home to at least four others. With the two tidal mills of Ploumanac’h being more popular, the mills situated further inland, in the mossy furrows of the Petit and the Grand valleys, had been forgotten. I spent the afternoon trailing the dips and ascents of the Grand Traouïero, hoping to catch site of the ruins. Yet, despite the valley being a popular hiking path, the dilapidated mill was neither signposted nor labelled.
How had somewhere once so integral to the local community been so entirely lost?
Can haunted places stop being haunted?
The fate of the haunted mill made me wonder about the significance of paranormal locations in culture, most especially the culture of local communities. If a location is once determined to be “haunted”, and is henceforth referred to as such, is it possible for the same location to lose this appellation as time goes by? In essence, what makes somewhere haunted? Is it due to the high level of paranormal phenomena and haunting spirits at the location, or is it merely a consequence of the stories that we tell about the location? If the latter, then there is an inherent consequence that if those stories stop being told, or are forgotten altogether, the place stops being haunted. This dilemma is, in a way, similar to the classic thought experiment of “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
My visit to the Grand Traouïero had clearly demonstrated the potential for the area to have local ghost stories. The valley was tremendously atmospheric.
Standing on the route de randreus, the road which runs alongside the Grand Traouïero, I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. Just a few minutes of walking later, down in the valley, the sun was but a distant memory: the tree canopy above utterly shrouded me, blocking both light and warmth. A chill down the spine could have easily been interpreted as a ghostly touch by those searching for a spooky thrill.
The best word I can find to describe the vallée des Traouïero is mythical. Asides from its warped trees, gloriously green ferns and fairytale grottos, the valley is filled with, quite frankly, ridiculous boulders. Capturing the scale of the place on camera is an impossible task. It is a place that one simply has to be. A place one has to feel, has to breathe, has to experience for oneself.
Whilst I did not find the ruin of the mill, old pieces of chiselled stone poking from the mud and the remnants of walls, now knee-high, were in abundance. The forested valley floor was a tapestry of human activity. As I crossed a small stream, I realised that the stone “bridge” I had stepped on was in fact an old tombstone. A community of millers, of fishermen, of workers, of families, of children had left a permanent mark, and had – even down to their gravemarkers – become part of the natural landscape.
This place had a history – and that meant stories. What had happened to these stories, and whether or not they still existed, was a mystery.
Modern rumours of a haunted mill in Ploumanac’h
Back at home, determined to find out as much as I could about the haunted mill, I discovered that I was not the only one who had been searching for its ruins.
A French article dating to 2016 discusses a “mystérieux moulin” in the vallée des Traouïero. According to the article’s author, the mill has a reputation for being haunted, referring to a 1955 text which is said to describe it as a being “a lair of ghosts”.1 The name of the mill, the article states, is the moulin de Randreux, and is located in the Petit Traouïero, the smaller of the two valleys of which the vallée des Traouïero is comprised.
Another website article, published less than a week after the first, also refers to Randreux mill. It is local resident Cédric Faure who claims that this mill is the haunted mill of largely forgotten local legend. In his interview with a local news outlet, Faure states that Randreux mill has many names: moulin du Petit Traouïero (Petit Traouïero mill), moulin du Diable (the Devil’s mill), and, of course, moulin hanté (the haunted mill).2
Had I simply been looking in the wrong place? The postcards described the haunted mill as being in the Grand Traouïero, and that is where I had been looking. Could their creators have recorded the location incorrectly, thus sending me in the wrong direction?
I had to return to the valley.
Discovering Randreux mill
According to a local councillor interviewed for the 2016 article, Randreux mill was purchased by the municipality more than ten years previous. No repairs, however, have been made to the structure, with it falling into further ruin in the years since.
I had to traverse muddy trails and even wade through a shallow stream to reach the ruined structure. So, was it worth it?
There is certainly something surreal about sharing space with a ruin such as the moulin de Randreux. It is part man, part nature. The stone of its walls having been sculpted from the very ground I stood on, the structure was, piece by piece, returning to the mud.
I marvelled at the old mill’s ability to withstand the ravages of nature. Young plants took root in every stony crevice. A tree had carelessly collapsed onto one of its walls. Was the mill being strangled by the vines, I wondered, or merely enmeshed in an embrace with its mother earth?
Yet, for all of the wonder it inspired, I could not avoid the obvious: this was not the haunted mill of my postcard collection.
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A simple comparison with the original photographs revealed that the position of the building in relation to the valley was not right. The visible chimney stack did not match the orientation of the structure in the postcards. The placement of the boulders in the valley were all wrong. This was not the haunted mill. Or rather, it may have been a haunted mill, but it was certainly not the one I was looking for. Somewhere along the line, it seems that the history of Randreux mill had been misrecorded, confused with the stories connected to its more ghostly counterpart on the other side of the vallée des Traouïero.
What happened to the vallée des Traouïero’s haunted mill?
The plot had thickened, and more research needed to be done to settle the mystery of haunted mill once and for all.
Returning home, I followed every lead I could find to establish precisely which of Ploumanac’h’s mills was haunted, and where that mill was located. I invariably found myself being guided down the same incorrect path, following my own footsteps back in the direction of Randreux mill. The history was muddled. Time had forgotten the mill and its ghost stories. All I could find were breadcrumbs.
It is my belief that the area’s haunted mill is, as the original postcards indicate, located in the Grand Traouïero valley.
A survey of old cadastral maps from the area indicates that a water mill, known as le moulin de Logoden (sometimes referred to as “Lost Logoden”), was built at the entrance of the Grand Traouïero valley.3 Being located thus, this matched the images of the haunted mill in the postcards, which place the ruined structure within visible reach of the sea.
I also found an old sketch of Logoden, which bore undeniable similarities to the mill featured in the postcards. So, why had I not encountered this mill during my visit to the valley?
According to descriptions of Logoden mill, it was the first of the mills in the area to cease its milling activity. By the turn of the 20th century, it was already in a much more ruinous state than Randreux mill is today. I would not be surprised if hardly anything at all is left of the mill today. Not only that, one website I found describes the mill as being on private property, and therefore not accessible from the public hiking trail in the Grand Traouïero valley.4
My adventure, it seems, had come to a rather depressing end. Not only had the mill and its haunted history been largely forgotten, but the building itself was most likely little more than five or six moss covered stones.
So, what makes a place haunted? Is the moulin de Logoden, the once infamous haunted mill of vallée des Traouïero, haunted, or is it and its stories merely a pen mark on the pages of history, an ephemeral delight lost to time?
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