Time-warp mansion opens its doors after century in the dark

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One of the most eccentric dying requests has finally been fulfilled as a mansion closed for most of the 20th century reopens to the public.

Maison Mantin was left to the town of Moulins in central France by Louis Mantin, in a will written months before his death in 1905. The landowner, who had inherited several properties, died unmarried and childless aged 54, only eight years after his house was completed.

Despite rumors that Mantin had demanded the house be closed for 100 years, there was only one condition for the gift: that was that it should be opened as a museum a century after his death. If it was closed any longer, ownership could revert to any surviving relatives.

The mansion was briefly a museum following Mantin's death, but there was little interest and it soon closed. For most of the rest of the century, even as two destructive wars raged nearby, it remained shuttered, an unchanging, mysterious presence in the shadow of Moulins' cathedral.

Rumors circulated that a collection of skeletons was stored inside, but most locals simply gave a Gallic shrug to the imposing property. Even the German occupiers of France during the 1940s left it unscathed.

As the deadline for the house to reopen approached -- and with Mantin's great-niece, who could theoretically reclaim it, alive -- attention turned to the restoration....

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