The haunted shawl of Carmen

 carmen opera

Those who follow this page will know that I have a particular fondness for tales that tell of ancient family curses and supernaturally-possessed objects. There is a certain charm in these stories whether they chronicle the tragic demise of star-cross’d lovers or the dreadful fate of a bride-to-be. “The Haunted Shawl of Carmen” is another of these tales…

The shoulders that bore it —the “haunted shawl of Carmen”—were dust over five hundred years ago. The aging secret of its greens and golds and shimmering blues is now lost in the traditions of Spain. It is haunted by the ghosts of dark-eyed maids, some of them dancing girls, one a princess, and one a little cigarette maker whose tragic story inspired Mérimée’s tale and Bizet’s opera.

It is said that the red winding through its glorious blue is redder with the shadow of blood. For every one of the girls, princess and peasant alike, paid the price of wearing the beautiful silken thing with her life. And the ghosts of its former owners confer evil upon whoever dares to flaunt it.

In 1925, the shawl fell into the possession of Mrs. Richard A. Mestres, an American woman. She loved beauty, and expressed no dread of ghosts. The widow of a Spanish grandee, she had lived for many years in Mexico, where she saw the “haunted shawl of Carmen” and wanted it. She bought it and brought it to the States.

“And I am going to wear it, too!” she declared to the ruffled brows and gasps of her friends in Mexico City. “It will be quite the most amazing Spanish shawl to be seen in a day when Spanish shawls are all the rage.”

“And—no!—I don’t expect to be murdered whilst I wear it. I don’t think it will bring me any calamity. You see, I don’t believe in ghosts. I’m not a bit afraid of Carmen’s wraith!” Continue reading