As almost all of the powerful family’s houses, this as well has something inexplicable and mysterious. It seems like it was haunted with spirits!
The first documented vision was in 1907, and it was probably the scariest. A lightning with fire flooded the palace and a knight appeared, riding a flying horse: he had a terrible grin in his eyes and with a flaming sword attacked a man who was staying in the palace with the wife – Amend yourself, evil man! – He shout - or your death will be immature and cruel!
The man and his wife begged him that much to move him, so he modified the sentence: - I will give you three days to show me your goodness and only at that point, you will be sure of keeping your life!
Then, with the tip of his sword, he touched the chest of the man, branding him with a cross-shaped burn, and he disappeared among strong sound of thunders and horses’ hoof. He was known as “the Sad Figure Knight” but he was not the only spirit looking like a knight in the palace.
Another one, who appeared many times, was called “the Feathered knight”, or “the Four Feathers’ Knight”: the ghost used to come surrounded by weird noises, so loud to shock and make owners, servants and guests of the palace run away more times. He was dressed with royal pomp, wearing a big white collar and a heavy cape. He was wearing boots and a big hat with feathers. His body was giant and he had a fierce grin in his face. He appeared to different witnesses between 1917 and 1929, and some of them, remembering his swagger and precious clothes, believed he was a Gonzaga of the 1600s.
In 1914, Antoniette Jeraud, who was a governess of the Ducal Palace, left her job because she was exhausted of being scared of the appearances of two spirits. One was a hunchback: he was always coming down the stairs of the Garibaldino. The other spirit was a woman: she was called the “Veiled Duchess”. She appeared standing, dressed in a candid and sumptuous cape; on her head she was wearing a black veil that moved slightly on her pale face, following her breathe.
One night, it was organized a magnificent dinner in the palace, with famous guests. It was 1917 and when the party was almost over, suddenly, a massive bat entered the hall and scared the people terribly: the fear increased more when the animal talked with human voice, asking for water to calm the fire burning his heart. Then he disappeared, in the sound of a celestial music.
A funny valet, called Leonzio, one night in 1920 was going back to his room after a night out spent drinking at the Osteria del Garibaldi. He found himself in front of a weird figure with a Pomeranian that was yelping threateningly. He made sure his owner was sleeping, and he went back observing the spirit: he saw him badly dressed, but with a fierce and proud look. He was wearing a white starched collar and chaps: Leonzio recognized Saint Ambrogio and wanted to kneel down with reverence. But, because of the alcohol he slipped and fell down, waking up, with the thud, the owner, who run in the room: he found the servant raving and blathering words, understanding only “Pomeranian” and “Saint Ambrogio”.
There was another weird occurrence the following year: a married couple, coming back walking from the theatre to their hotel, passed by the Ducal Palace. They stopped admiring the square, and then moved by unstoppable curiosity, decided to enter the yard of the palace. Suddenly from a hatch came a ghostly figure holding a torch with a grim light. They were shocked and some people helped them reaching their hotel. The morning after they escaped, without being seen!
The most weird thing about these ghosts is that their appearances had been more and a more sporadic after 1929, until they ended for good. It may be because of the séances organized to call them, or maybe because of the many medium who tried to explain scientifically those visions. Or perhaps, who knows, the spirits burnt in a big fire that happened in the cutting garage.
However, it looks like today we can visit the palace without worrying, even though we never know: they may wake up again!
Based on the article “Il mistero avvolge il palazzo” of Carlo Dallasta on the magazine Quaderni Guastallesi.