Have you ever heard the story of a man who was the passer through walls? His name was Dutilleul, and he was a resident of the beautiful neighbourhood of Montmartre in Paris. He’s also fictional, as you’ve probably already guessed. In 1941, famed French author Marcel Aymé published a short story named The Passer Through Walls. This story has remained incredibly popular in the decades since then, and it has certainly gone on to make its mark on Paris.
The story goes like this. One morning, a man named Dutilleul wakes up to discover that he has inherited the ability to pass through solid walls. At first, he doesn’t make much use of this newfound power, but when a new boss at work makes his job unbearable, he starts to use his powers to drive the man crazy. Emboldened by his success in this endeavour, Dutilleul then turns his attention to robbing banks. As he is able to pass through walls, he is unsurprisingly quite good at it. He even allows himself to be caught in the act on purpose, just so he can escape through the walls of his cells and mystify the police. Because of this, he eventually earns himself the nickname The Lone Wolf.
Dutilleul later falls in love with a married woman, and he uses his powers to sneak in and out of her house for their illicit meetings. Their trysts come to an end one morning when during his escape he discovers that his ability is waning. As he tries to pass through the outer wall of his lover’s property, he loses his ability to pass through walls altogether and becomes trapped. Legend has it he remains trapped in the wall to this day.
In Dutilleul’s home neighbourhood of Montmartre, a statue was installed in 1980 to commemorate this famed story. Urban legend says that if you manage to pull Dutilleul out of the wall you will inherit his power from him. Have you given it a go yet?
FIND ME HINT – The Passer Through Walls
This statue, known in French as Le Passe-Muraille, can be found in the neighbourhood of Montmartre, just around the corner from the famed restaurant Le Moulin de la Galette. There’s a park nearby with a statue of St. Denis, the third century Bishop of Paris who gives the neighbourhood its name. But that’s a story for another day…
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Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.