From drug money to secret journals to arrhythmic murder victims -- when you need to hide something from prying eyes, putting it under the floorboards is the way to go. But when one 18th century tradesman wanted a secure place to keep his diary, he took that advice a bit too literally.
In 2018, the new owners of the 19th century Chateau de Picomtal, a quaint castle near the French-Swiss border, decided to do some renovating. When they pulled open the floor, they discovered the underside of the wooden boards were covered in writings. Typically, when you stumble upon a hidden text etched in the architecture of an old castle, you're one step away from accidentally summoning. In this case, it'd been a pretty dorky demon, as these writings were, in fact, secret journal entries.
This wooden diary turned out to have been written, quite logically, by the chateau's carpenter, a man named Joachim Martin from the nearby rural settlement of Les Crottes (a French term implying the place was at the bottom of a slope but can directly be translated into "The Shitholes"). While crafting the floor between 1880 to 1881, Martin apparently had plenty of free time to take up the art of journaling. He wrote 72 entries over several months, carefully penciling them onto the floorboards before flipping them over and nailing them down.
So what hidden gems did these secret writings contain? Hot goss, mostly. Several passages describe the affairs going on in the village and how the rakish town priest (whom Martin calls "a bit of a lad") is cuckolding half the village's husbands. The diary also contains a shocking testimonial where Martin confesses to having known of a string of secret infanticides. How an old friend of his had killed four love children borne by his mistress -- a Medieval solution to a complete lack of birth control. All four babies had been buried under the stables, a secret Martin felt he needed to take to his own grave out of inconvenient loyalties. "He's my old childhood friend," the conflicted carpenter wrote. "And his mother is my father's mistress."
But these maple musings weren't just about cheating and very late-term abortions. As Martin was writing his diary only a few years before the French Revolution took place, there's also plenty of commoner criticism about the corrupt ways of the local Church and State. He particularly hated the abbot, whom he accused of being a massive perv who abused the confession booth as his private sex line (which may explain why Martin preferred confessing to a chateau floor). Wives had to tell Abbot Lagier not just how often they had sex but also how, giving detailed accounts because the abbot wanted to make sure that couples were exclusively using Church-sanctioned positions.
Given how rare it is to find historical journals from non-noble narcissists, Martin's floorboard diary is one of the most detailed and brutally honest (he ends his tirade on the abbot with: "The pig should be hanged) records of 19th-century life from the perspective of a commoner. And to his credit, the clever carpenter seemed to have been aware of this achievement. In multiple entries, Martin directly addresses us, his future readers: "Happy Mortal. When you read this, I shall be no more," adding: "My story is short and sincere and frank, because none but you shall see my writing." Perhaps Martin, a lowborn carpenter highly aware of how the upper class liked to walk all over him and his achievements, knew that the only way he could safeguard his truth for posterity was to hide it in the one place he knew would be forever kept in pristine condition: some rich guy's chateau.
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