An oubliette is a secret dungeon with only an opening in the ceiling.  It was for the prisoners that the state wanted to put away permanently where they could be “forgotten.”  That is were the name comes from; oubliette is French for “forgotten place.”

One of my favorite Flickr photographers remembered this word to me with her photo that could be found here.  Thank you Sarah Schloo for the reference.

Her photograph, made from a photo from Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary (not an oubliette), made me think of the word as a figurative expression.  In all of us, there is a forgotten place.  It is where we  put away the thinks we have done that cannot be reconciled, the people we have hurt and the mistakes we have made.  It is the Struwwelpeter, who lies under the floorboards.  There is, it seems, an oubliette to the soul.


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