Venice has often seemed strangely empty of phantoms to me; there used to be ghost tours but these I believe faded with time. I
certainly haven’t seen their posters in a long while.
Yet talk to those who work in old buildings …
There is one shop in Venice, filled with beautiful fabrics and silk lanterns; its large windows offer glowing, vibrant colours of the velvet and silk items displayed within – with prices to match. It commands a restrained presence on a busy tourist thorough-fare, more suggestive of pragmatic commerce than spooks and spirits. And yet …
A quiet day, off-season, very few people about and ‘Clara’ was on her own.
So she thought.
It started with the sensation of somebody standing behind her. Turn and turn again as she might, there was never anyone visible. But the presence was very strong, and, she said, definitely male. What made her think that? The smell of tobacco, for one thing. Not from a cigarette, either. That sweetish smell of a pipe being smoked.
Again she turned to see who else was in the shop, and again, there was nobody to be seen.
She shrugged it off as imagination and set to work sorting out one of the cupboards.
‘There wasn’t a breath of air,’ she said, ‘a warm day, too, and I had a pile of cushions to store away. I was sorting the things, still trying to ignore the sensation of somebody standing behind me when puff! There was a breath on my cheek – quite distinct. Made me turn round pretty sharpish – but not a soul to be seen. That shook me. I couldn’t wait to finish that day, I can tell you.’
Later on, (there always is a ‘later on’) she discovered others working in the shop have had similar experiences. Guesswork suggests the original owner from when the company started up in the 1900s. Then there is a female presence on the fourth floor – nobody cares to venture up there alone after dark, and one of them always makes sure to ‘greet’ the presence on entering the room ‘otherwise she plays tricks’ – such as moving or hiding objects.
Can all this be put down to imagination, an overly sensitive reaction to the suggestive force of an old building? These might perhaps be termed urban or contemporary myths; I am only puzzled not to have encountered many more. There is for example a house in Cannaregio whose inhabitant claims two presences are often to be seen: one human height, the other small (she thinks it might be a cat); her dog often refuses to go indoors, apparently sensing something not quite right within. Awkward if it’s raining, I should think.Walkies takes on a whole other aspect then …
More ‘classical’ ghost tales and legends dating from the time of the Republic, can be found collected together in a smart little volume by Alberto Toso Fei : Venetian Legends and ghost stories
( TosoFei Mysterious Venice on Youtube)