Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Macabre Nightmare at a French Chateau

Vacation Villa of Horrors

Chateau with gates open
Chateau with gates open

Hall's intention was to convert the Chateau de Fretay estate into an 18-hole golf course, with a large clubhouse and lodging. However, French development laws and local covenants meant that realizing that dream could entail years of bureaucratic wrangling. As a source of revenue in the interim, the Halls sought to rent out a few of the still-intact stone buildings that they touted as luxury villas, even though much of the estate remained in ruins and the chateau resembled a construction site more than anything else.

A Web site continued to list Chateau de Fretay under its "Luxury Vacation Villas and Chateau Rentals" category. "Luxury accommodations among three houses to rent, one of which dates back to the 16th century, await guests," the description says. Each house "has been tastefully renovated and has modern amenities."

Among the purported amenities, guests could practice golf on a nine-hole course, race go-karts, or engage in target-shooting. "This is the ideal spot for family and friends to holiday together, giving children plenty of safe space to run around together while still allowing each family their own privacy," the description reads.

Renovated chapel
Renovated chapel

The price to rent the "luxury-vacation villas": up to £5,745 or the equivalent of $9,114.50 for a seven-day stay. Comparative, luxury-class villa rentals in the Brittany area of France can be had for less than half of this amount.

But for several guests who paid more than the equivalent of $9,000 to stay at one of the villas, the accommodations were not only sup-par without any working go-karts nor a nine-hole golf course, they were in such a state of disrepair that some guests feared for their safety.

"The place was lethal," a former guest, who wished to remain anonymous, told truTV. "There were electrical wires and uncovered wells. We had to make sure that our children stayed away [from the hazards]."

Exposed wiring on the chateau's grounds
Exposed wiring on the chateau's grounds

The guest also related that both Mr. and Mrs. Hall had been visibly "sloshed" during their stay and that Mr. Hall had a bad temper. "He obviously was in over his head," the guest said. "He acted as if he could not be bothered by anything, yet it was obvious that he was so wrong. The place was atrocious."

The guest said it was "appalling" how the horses were noticeably neglected and were seen eating out of the dumpster. A carcass of a dead goat was found rotting in visible site, while maggots were found inside the kitchen area of the house in which one of the guests stayed. The upkeep of the pool was obliviously neglected and the water was too filthy to be suitable for swimming, the guest said.

"The whole estate was a death-trap for even the fittest and hardiest of travelers. Maggots crawling out of the sink, toilets that don't flush, mould everywhere, bed linen that clearly has not been washed (a sheet wrapped around a quilt instead of a duvet and duvet cover-the owner told us that you can't get duvet covers in France...is he mad??!)," one former guest wrote on TripAdvisor. "That is only the start of the list."

Jury rigged drainage cover
Jury rigged drainage cover

A former guest told truTV that her father was lured into renting one of the houses on the estate because it supposedly offered activities for children and was marketed as something upscale.

"It was expensive, but he wanted to pay for the best," the guest said.

When truTV contacted the luxury travel agency Adams & Butler and enquired whether it was possible to rent a villa at the Chateau de Fretay, a representative said it was temporarily unavailable. "Unfortunately, there has been a murder there," he said. "But it will become available again soon."

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