The Priest, the Witch & the Poltergeist

Barbara Wade Rose

Book Cover



    Core Theme



    19th Century


    HÄXAN (1922)








    In 1850 a priest in a rural French village blames a male witch for the poltergeist haunting his parsonage. Half-crazed by noise, the priest beats the witch terribly, but he survives and sues the priest for assault. The only known trial in history with a witch as plaintiff follows. A true story.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal


    Story and trial: Normandy, 1850 and 1851. Prologue and epilogue: Paris, 1870.

    Based on a True Story


    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: BooktrackPLC

    Year Published: 2013

    Starting Description

    Father Lariat has jailed his coven leader for naturopathy, so outsider Felix Thorel frightens the priest's two parsonage students with a 'hex' of strange words and electrostatic charges. The priest forces Thorel to apologize to the boys. Soon horrible noises erupt inside the parsonage walls.

    Ending Description

    Witnesses at trial (from true accounts) describe the poltergeist and how Thorel boasted of his power over the priest Jean Lariat. Lariat is found not guilty. Thorel escapes for Paris. Lariat's students are taken from the parsonage and that day, the poltergeist noises stop.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available




    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Meaningful Message,Twist

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain,Internal Journey/Rebirth,Rebellion Against 'The One',Other

    Main Character Details

    Name: Thorel Felix

    Age: 35

    Gender: Male

    Role: Antagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Clumsy,Complex,Badass,Uneducated,Sexy,Blunt,Masculine,Heroic,Secretive,Unapologetic,Lone Wolf,Underdog,Manipulative

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Father Jean Lariat

    Age: 55

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Confident,Crazy,Desperate,Power Hungry,Religious,Educated,Insecure,Leader,Manipulative

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Eve Therigny

    Age: 27

    Gender: Female

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits: Aspiring,Badass,Underdog,Uneducated,Sexy,Criminal,Selfless,Outspoken,Skillful,Romantic,Flexible,Unapologetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Robert de Saint Victor

    Age: 38

    Gender: Male

    Role: logical

    Key Traits: Confident,Decisive,Skillful,Visionary,Sophisticated,Honorable,Educated,Masculine

    Development Pitch

    The Return of Martin Guerre meets The Haunting of Hill House. The Priest, the Witch & the Poltergeist is unbelievable but true: an epic battle between opposites set against the backdrop of a poltergeist (historically the loudest on record) and the building of the French railway. For the audiobook the poltergeist roars the ever-growing, invasive noises of technology from then until modern times. A lonely mysterious male witch has the guts to take on the village's most revered leader after being beaten nearly to death. A young woman who works for the local scientist-seigneur discovers the dying witch near his cottage and, in nursing him back to health, falls in love with him and takes up his cause. A self-important priest regretting he was not chosen to work in Paris goes mad from noises that tear his household apart: one boy seems to become disturbed and the other joins the village gang. (This is not, by the way, a priest-abuse story.) The priest tries an exorcism. A Parisian marquis tries a seance. A dubious scientist-seigneur experiments and wonders about the paranormal. The priest becomes increasingly unhinged from the noise until beating the witch makes sense to him. There are great twists to the story: upon orders of the marquis the village men nail the walls of the parsonage to kill the poltergeist; the witch's legal revolt against the priest (the most modern of hexes), and finally, the disappearance of the poltergeist upon the boys' departure.




    A dispute between a Father and a witch in a small 1850's French town is complicated by the presence of a poltergeist. The sounds of the spirit drive the parishioners and its stewards crazy, and the Father is driven to extremes. After beating the witch and slandering his name, the two go to trial. Things end unceremoniously as the witch flees and the poltergeist is exposed as the two wards under the Father's care.

    Overall Rating


    Point of View


    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: EXCELLENT

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    The Book Profile is accurate

    Draw of Story

    The realistic nature of the story (as it is meant to be based on true events) makes the story of religion-meeting-folklore even more enticing. There is a mystery around the power of witches that is equally captivating to some as the power of religion is to others--so it is a somewhat polarizing case.

    Possible Drawbacks

    There are good efforts by the author to tie many things together, and the foreshadowing is for the most part well-executed, however the story sometimes falls prey to its own sense of expectation. Even the resolution of the trial has lost its stakes as Thorel Felix the witch has already taken to fleeing town. It seems there are a few instances: the seance, the exorcism, the trial verdict, the trial itself, where either the sound of the poltergeist machine or the chattering of non-essential characters takes away from the tension of the moment. This reader suggests allowing the tension of these moments to build up a bit more, especially with the poltergeist scenes. The constant use of onomatopoetic devices and ghost noises could easily be replaced by the internal tension of the characters that would help to foreshadow the actual culprits of the poltergeist’s unsettling noises.

    Use of Special Effects


    Primary Hook of Story

    The religious history vs folklore tension is a great thriller/drama hook. It is not something that is done outside of the horror genre very often, and it's based-on-a-true-story appeal will also make for good seat-filling power.

    Fanbase Potential

    This could have a fanbase of those that are into: witches, folklore, atheism, agnosticism, sadism, as well as those who like folktale dramas and thrillers. The demographics are a bit scattered, but it would certainly be a fresh property if it is executed well in the drama/thriller space.

    Awards Potential

    This could be relevant for awards regarding original screenplay as an adaptation from true events. It depends on the level of quality and production value.

    Envisioned Budget


    Similar Films/TV Series

    HÄXAN (1922)

    What’s New About the Story

    The story is a mix of religion, science and folklore. There is a great deal spiraling around all three, but the angle that is least explored and most interesting is that of the witches. There is little explained about which society, its coven leaders, and the actual motivations of the witches themselves that would make for an even more engaging story.

    Lead Characters

    Father Lariat is a complex mixture of caring, selfish, accepting and prudish. He tries to train his wards as best he can, but ultimately he puts himself first as that is both the way of the world and of his position in the church. He is fallible and goes through a change of heart and several moments of realization that make him engaging.

    Uniqueness of Story

    This is a better than average story, but it needs some more development to pad the spaces between key scenes. There is a lot of letter writing from minor characters that could be replaced under the guise of a more intrusive narrator. A story so dependent on the changing of emotion, the grating and frantic nature of the poltergeist that drives its subjects mad, has a surprising lack of emotional description. Instead it relies on conversations and accounts of actions that feel emotionally indirect.

    Possible Formats

    Film - Indie, Film - Streaming, Film - Studio

    Analyst Recommendation



    This story is worth pursuing for two distinct reasons. The writing of the story is serviceable and engaging enough for an audience to stay interested in the with v priest battle throughout a lengthy buildup and somewhat shallow payoff. It has a good host of characters, all of whom have clear desires, and many of whom act in ways that are explainable to their interests. The story matter itself is also a driver for its success. Unlike many others, this story refrains from using witches as a ploy or to scare the audience. Instead the witches are complicated members of this rural society and, like any other member of society, they have structure and purpose. The legal battle between Father Lariat and Thorel the witch is a unique story that pits both of these people against one another in a neutral territory. It is also supported by the notion that it is based on true accounts, which helps audiences bridge the gap toward this story and their own reality.


    It is 1850's rural France. A priest's parsonage is overtaken by the sounds of an unrelenting poltergeist. The Father blames a nearby witch whose coven leader he had jailed some time back. The sounds of poltergeist leader the priest to a rage and he attacks the witch. The witch does not defend himself, and instead takes the priest to court to let the courts decide.

    What We Liked

    - The story is decently well written; it has a host of characters with strong motivations and a good sense of foreshadowing. The story itself is interesting. There is quite a bit of internal strife that is played out well through the environment and the use of minor character cameos. The subject matter is ambitious. It straddles religion, science and folklore in a way that gives credence to all three.
    - Film: The film adaptation seems like the most likely path. The content of the book is already sufficient for a 2hr drama. There are an abundance of minor characters with interesting tie ins and a good layering of subplots to push through the lull points of the A plot.
    - TV: For TV this story feels like the first season of a show. There is a lot of character development that can be adapted or cut, and perhaps some of the more minor characters can be saved for later seasons. There is a lot of "montage potential" in which several episodes can be devoted to the different seances exorcisms and trials that take place. If the entire book is used in the first season, later seasons can focus on witch squad and Eve on the run with the help of Robert the seigneur. That can easily be spun out into content for several more seasons.
    - Key points: Witches, Religion, Redemption, Poltergeist, Revelation


    In the months of fall leading up to Christmas, Father Lariat of the Cideville parsonage in 1850s rural France, is preparing for an audit. His seigneur Robert has come to check the books and offer what money he can for the Christmas season. We meet Lariat's wards Bunel and Gustave, who are first scene at an auction buying pieces to fix up the church's organ.

    At the auction the boys meet Thorel Felix, a witch, who is working to secure the release of his coven leader Gosselin, who was jailed at the hands of Father Lariat's court case.

    Not long after this incident, a poltergeist appears in the church and begins breaking things and causing a commotion. Loud sounds continue for weeks, disrupting the parishioners and church stewards alike. Several of the stewards leave, including the chef, maid and laundress. The latter of whom is a girl named Eve who goes to work for Robert the seigneur.

    During her work about town she meets Thorel Felix who comes off to her as a misunderstood and caring man. She steals medicine from Robert to help him heal others, and they form a kindred friendship.

    The holidays come and go and the poltergeist is unbearable. Several experts are brought into to perform exorcisms and poltergeists, none of which subdue the spirit for long.

    The incessant noise causes Father Lariat to seek out Thorel, who is calm and non-threatening about the situation. Still, Lariat beats the witch and proceeds to slander him to other members of Cideville. Thorel retaliates by taking the priest to court. The case proceeds for about a week, until the final day when Thorel produces a stunt using smoke and fire that causes a disruption and leads to the evacuation of the court and the jail below.

    In the chaos, Gosselin escapes, and Eve gathers some of the coven to assist in Thorel's fleeing as well. The verdict comes in that Thorel must pay the court fees and damages, and Eve seeks out Robert for help. Though he previously fired her for stealing his medical supplies, he helps the woman and the witches flee Cideville.

    The church of Notre Dame comes down hard on Lariat for failing to disclose the nature of the poltergeist, and removes the boys from Lariat's care. Before they leave, Gustave shows Lariat the contraption that was made to produce the poltergeist sounds. He admits that at one point the boys made the noise, but after a while they stopped, and yet the sounds of the poltergeist continued without them.

    About The Author

    Barbara Wade Rose is an award-winning journalist and author in Toronto. The Priest, the Witch & the Poltergeist is based on the true story of the Cideville witch trial of 1851, which Barbara discovered in a book on the paranormal while waiting for a root canal at the dentist's office. It is the only known witch trial where the witch -- in this case a male shepherd -- was the plaintiff. The defendant was the local priest, and at issue between them was the loudest poltergeist on record. Barbara's investigative journalism on the Therac-25 radiation treatment machine's deadly software accidents won a Gold National Magazine Award and the Science in Society Journalism Award. Her favourite story of her writing career is the time poet Leonard Cohen got in touch with her after reading her work.