From drug money to secret magazines to victims of arrhythmic murders – if you need to hide something from prying eyes, putting it under the floorboards is the way to go. But when an 18th-century trader wanted a safe place for his diary, he took this advice a little too literally.
In 2018, the new owners of the 19th-century Chateau de Picomtal, a picturesque castle near the French-Swiss border, decided to do some renovation work. When they opened the floor, they found that the underside of the wooden boards was covered with writing. If you come across hidden text engraved in the architecture of an old castle, you are usually only a step away from accidental summoning. In this case, it had been a pretty stupid demon, since those writings were actually secret diary entries.
Joachim Martin on BBC
It turned out that this wooden diary was logically written by the castle’s carpenter, a man named Joachim Martin from the nearby rural settlement of Les Crottes (a French term that means the place was at the bottom of a slope, but can be translated directly into “The Shitholes”). During the production of the floor between 1880 and 1881, Martin apparently had enough free time to deal with the art of journaling. He wrote 72 entries over several months, carefully drawing them on the floorboards before turning them over and nailing them down.
What hidden treasures did these secret writings contain? Mostly hot gutter. Several passages describe the events in the village and how the Raku city priest (whom Martin calls “a bit like a boy”) cheated half of the village’s husbands. The diary also contains a shocking testimony in which Martin confesses to having known about a series of secret child murders. How an old friend of his had killed four love children who were carried by his lover – a medieval solution to a complete lack of birth control. All four babies had been buried under the stables, a secret Martin had to bring to his own grave out of uncomfortable loyalties. “He is my old childhood friend,” wrote the conflicting carpenter. “And his mother is my father’s lover.”