Le Puits d'Enfer (The Well of Hell) – Le Château-d'Olonne, France - Atlas Obscura

Le Puits d'Enfer (The Well of Hell)

Le Château-d'Olonne, France

This crack in France's seaside cliffs once hid a sinister secret. 


Waves knock together within this great crack in the cliffs along the edge of a French seaside town, spurred by the tide and wind. The fault, which stretches roughly 30 feet deep and 100 feet long, was made by erosion. Though it’s a peaceful place, it’s also steeped in sinister legends and once hid a dark, murderous secret.

According to one legend, Le Puits d’Enfer (The Well of Hell) was created by a young man trapped in a pact with the Devil. Another legend claims that on stormy days, the cries of drowned and damned sailors echoes from its depths. It’s also said that if something falls into the crack, it’ll disappear forever.

But not all things that find their way into the Well of Hell remain lost. Such was the case with the body of Robert Thélier, a rich Parisian. In 1949, a group of children discovered his corpse floating within the crack, along with a waterlogged trunk.

The police were able to use the trunk to identify Thélier’s battered remains. Their investigation also revealed that Andrée Farré, his housekeeper, was the murderer. She had killed her boss in an attempt to seize his fortune. Thélier’s friend Robert Planet was also involved in the plot. Farré was condemned to death, but was later pardoned by President Vincent Auriol. 

The story of the murder is said to have inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo.

Know Before You Go

The Well of Hell is signposted from Château-d'Olonne. Parking is available. 

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