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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

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Michel Ney’s Great Escape
A 150-year old mystery lies buried in a graveyard … in rural Rowan County, North Carolina. Legend is that Peter Stuart Ney, the schoolmaster who was buried there in 1846, was really the great French general Marshal Michel Ney, who led the bloody winter retreat from Moscow to Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. On his deathbed, the 77-year-old Ney was asked by his physician if he indeed was the French general referred to by his men as “the red lion” and by Napoleon as “the bravest of the brave.” He raised himself and responded “By all that is holy, I am Marshal Ney of France!”
In 1815, after Napoleon’s [dethronement], Ney had sworn allegiance to Louis XVIII [and] When Napoleon left the island of Elba with a small army he had been allowed to maintain … Ney vowed to bring him back to Paris in an “iron cage.” [However,] Ney joined forces with Napoleon and [after] they were defeated at Waterloo by Wellington, Ney was condemned to die for treason [Source]. 
In December 1815 he was supposedly executed by firing squad, though he refused to wear a blindfold and was given the right to give the order to fire himself. However, legend has it that Ney’s Masonic ties, crucially those he had to Wellington himself, helped him fake his death by placing blood packets over his heart and firing blanks at him. He was then smuggled to the USA and lived the rest of his life as a schoolmaster. 
In January 1816, a man calling himself Peter Stuart Ney arrived in the US and disappears from record. In 1821, he resurfaces as a school master in South Carolina. Between 1822 and 1828, he held semi-permanent teaching positions in several Carolina communities. He died in 1846 and on his grave one will find the words: "A native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte". The grave was exhumed in 1887 and a plaster cast made of the skull by a local doctor, though it was then lost. In 1936, a letter sent to TIME magazine  claimed that the skull had been found inan attic “show[ed] evidence of having been scarred by bullets and swords” [Source].
[Thanks to southcarolinadove for bringing this to my attention]

Michel Ney’s Great Escape

A 150-year old mystery lies buried in a graveyard … in rural Rowan County, North Carolina. Legend is that Peter Stuart Ney, the schoolmaster who was buried there in 1846, was really the great French general Marshal Michel Ney, who led the bloody winter retreat from Moscow to Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. On his deathbed, the 77-year-old Ney was asked by his physician if he indeed was the French general referred to by his men as “the red lion” and by Napoleon as “the bravest of the brave.” He raised himself and responded “By all that is holy, I am Marshal Ney of France!”

In 1815, after Napoleon’s [dethronement], Ney had sworn allegiance to Louis XVIII [and] When Napoleon left the island of Elba with a small army he had been allowed to maintain … Ney vowed to bring him back to Paris in an “iron cage.” [However,] Ney joined forces with Napoleon and [after] they were defeated at Waterloo by Wellington, Ney was condemned to die for treason [Source]. 

In December 1815 he was supposedly executed by firing squad, though he refused to wear a blindfold and was given the right to give the order to fire himself. However, legend has it that Ney’s Masonic ties, crucially those he had to Wellington himself, helped him fake his death by placing blood packets over his heart and firing blanks at him. He was then smuggled to the USA and lived the rest of his life as a schoolmaster. 

In January 1816, a man calling himself Peter Stuart Ney arrived in the US and disappears from record. In 1821, he resurfaces as a school master in South Carolina. Between 1822 and 1828, he held semi-permanent teaching positions in several Carolina communities. He died in 1846 and on his grave one will find the words: "A native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte". The grave was exhumed in 1887 and a plaster cast made of the skull by a local doctor, though it was then lost. In 1936, a letter sent to TIME magazine  claimed that the skull had been found inan attic “show[ed] evidence of having been scarred by bullets and swords” [Source].

[Thanks to southcarolinadove for bringing this to my attention]

Louis Coulon’s Cat Bed Beard

Louis Coulon’s Cat Bed Beard

The Man in the Iron Mask
The Man in the Iron Mask is a name given to a prisoner arrested as Eustache Dauger in 1669. He was held in the custody of the same jailer for 34 years. His identity has been thoroughly discussed because no one ever saw his face, which was hidden by a mask of either black velvet cloth or iron. What facts are known about this prisoner are based mainly on correspondence between his jailer and his superiors in Paris.
The first surviving records of the masked prisoner are from July 1669, when Louis XIV’s minister sent a letter to the governor of the prison of Pignerol informing him that a prisoner named Eustache Dauger was due to arrive in the next month or so. Historians have noted that the name Eustache Dauger was written in a different handwriting than the rest of the text, suggesting that while a clerk wrote the letter under dictation, a third party, very likely the minister himself, added the name afterwards.
The governor was instructed to prepare a cell with multiple doors, one closing upon the other, to prevent anyone from the outside listening in. The governor himself was to see Dauger only once a day in order to provide food and whatever else he needed. Dauger was also to be told that if he spoke of anything other than his immediate needs he would be killed. According to many versions of this legend, the prisoner wore the mask at all times. 
The prison at Pignerol was used for men who were considered an embarrassment to the state and usually held only a handful of prisoners at a time, some of which were important and wealthy and granted servants. One prisoner, Nicolas Fouquet’s valet was often ill and so permission was given for Dauger to serve Fouquet on the condition that he never met with anyone else. The fact that Dauger served as a valet is an important one for whilst Fouquet was never expected to be released, other prisoners were, and might have spread word of Dauger’s existence. 
In time the governor was offered positions at other prisons and each time he moved Dauger went with him until he died in 1703 and was buried under the name of Marchioly. Though she may merely have been repeating rumours In 1711, King Louis’s sister-in-law stated in a letter that the prisoner had “two musketeers at his side to kill him if he removed his mask”. 
In 1771, Voltaire claimed that the prisoner was the older, illegitimate brother of Louis XIV but other theories include that he was a Marshal of France; Richard Cromwell; or François, Duke of Beaufort; an illegitimate son of Charles II, amongst others.

The Man in the Iron Mask

The Man in the Iron Mask is a name given to a prisoner arrested as Eustache Dauger in 1669. He was held in the custody of the same jailer for 34 years. His identity has been thoroughly discussed because no one ever saw his face, which was hidden by a mask of either black velvet cloth or iron. What facts are known about this prisoner are based mainly on correspondence between his jailer and his superiors in Paris.

The first surviving records of the masked prisoner are from July 1669, when Louis XIV’s minister sent a letter to the governor of the prison of Pignerol informing him that a prisoner named Eustache Dauger was due to arrive in the next month or so. Historians have noted that the name Eustache Dauger was written in a different handwriting than the rest of the text, suggesting that while a clerk wrote the letter under dictation, a third party, very likely the minister himself, added the name afterwards.

The governor was instructed to prepare a cell with multiple doors, one closing upon the other, to prevent anyone from the outside listening in. The governor himself was to see Dauger only once a day in order to provide food and whatever else he needed. Dauger was also to be told that if he spoke of anything other than his immediate needs he would be killed. According to many versions of this legend, the prisoner wore the mask at all times. 

The prison at Pignerol was used for men who were considered an embarrassment to the state and usually held only a handful of prisoners at a time, some of which were important and wealthy and granted servants. One prisoner, Nicolas Fouquet’s valet was often ill and so permission was given for Dauger to serve Fouquet on the condition that he never met with anyone else. The fact that Dauger served as a valet is an important one for whilst Fouquet was never expected to be released, other prisoners were, and might have spread word of Dauger’s existence. 

In time the governor was offered positions at other prisons and each time he moved Dauger went with him until he died in 1703 and was buried under the name of Marchioly. Though she may merely have been repeating rumours In 1711, King Louis’s sister-in-law stated in a letter that the prisoner had “two musketeers at his side to kill him if he removed his mask”. 

In 1771, Voltaire claimed that the prisoner was the older, illegitimate brother of Louis XIV but other theories include that he was a Marshal of France; Richard Cromwell; or François, Duke of Beaufort; an illegitimate son of Charles II, amongst others.

The Dark Counts

The Dark Counts, or Dunkelgrafen in German, was a nickname given to the wealthy couple who resided in the castle of Eishausen from 1807 until their deaths. The man presented himself as Count Vavel de Versay but kept the woman’s identity secret, making it clear that they were neither married nor lovers. They led secretive lives, particularly the Countess who ventured out only in a carriage or with a veil covering her face.

When she died in 1837 she was buried quickly, possibly without a religious service. The Count - later identified as Leonardus Cornelius van der Valck - gave her name as Sophie Botta of Westphalia and according to the physician who constated her death, she looked about 60 years of age. The Count stayed in the castle and died there in 1845.

Speculations about the identity of the Countess started early on. The most notable theory, although it enjoys little support from historians, is that the Countess was actually Marie Thérèse, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. According to the hypothesis, Marie Thérèse, traumatised by her trials or pregnant by rape, refused to go back in the world and Ernestine Lambriquet, supposedly the illegitimate daughter of Louis XVI by a chamber maid, and therefore Marie Thérèse’s half-sister, took her place.

The theory of exchanging the person sprang immediately after the wedding of Marie Thérèse with the Duke of Angoulême in 1799. Pictures of the Duchess of Angoulême look remarkably different from pictures of Marie Thérèse before 1795 and her social style is said to be very unlike that of the original Madame Royal. 

The graves of the Dark Counts are still untouched on the Eishausen cemetery. In June 2012 the Stadrat of Hildburghausen gave permission for the exhumation of the body to allow for a scientific determination of identity. The name given by the count, Sophie Botta, was not found in any civil registry in Westphalia.

[Image Source: 1: Marie Thérèse before 1799 : 2: Marie Thérèse after 1799]

Physiognomy with Charles Le Brun

Charles Le Brun was a French painter and art theorist. Declared by Louis XIV ”the greatest French artist of all time”, he was a dominant figure in 17th-century French art. He also established a correlation between the human face and that of the animal whose spirit characterises a particular emotion.

The goal of physiognomy is to judge character according to features of the face. Le Brun studied the lines linking different points of the head in a complex geometry which revealed the faculties of the spirit or character. Thus, the angle formed by the axis of the eyes and the eyesbrows could lead to various conclusions, depending upon whether or not this angle rose toward the forehead to join the soul or descented toward the nose and mouth, which were considered to be animal  features. Here are some of the many drawings by Charles Le Brun which concern the correlation between the human face and that of the animal.

Image one, for instance, shows the relationship between human features and that of a camel.

[Images Source]

(Source: charleslebrun.com)

Colourful Dancers of the Casino de Paris

The Casino de Paris is one of the most well known music halls of Paris, with a history dating back to the 18th century. Contrary to what the name might suggest, it is a performance venue, not a gambling house. [Source]

These beauties, from the lavish topless revue shows at the Casino grace hand-coloured postcards which depict the accurate costumes and color of the famous theater. Patrons from around the world visit this establishment, and the influence of is extravagant costumes and topless dancers extends around the world. [Source (more images available here too)]

Napoleonic War Veterans

These remarkable photographs provide probably the only surviving images of veterans of the Grande Armée and the Guard actually wearing their original uniforms and insignia, although some of the uniforms have obviously been recut by tailors of the 1850’s. Every year the veterans would gather in Paris on May 5th - the anniversary of Napoleon’s death.

(Source: armchairgeneral.com)

Gilles Garnier: The Werewolf of Dole
Gilles Garnier was a French hermit and cannibalistic, serial murderer convicted of being a werewolf. 


He was a recluse living outside the town of Dole in France. He had recently been married and moved his new wife out to his isolated home. Being unaccustomed to feeding more than just himself he found it difficult to provide for her. During this period several children went missing or were found dead and the authorities issued an edict encouraging and allowing the people to apprehend and kill the werewolf [they supposed] responsible. One evening a group of workers traveling from a neighboring town came upon what they thought in the dim light to be a wolf, but what some recognized as the hermit, with the body of a dead child. Soon after Garnier was arrested.
According to his testimony at trial, while Garnier was in the forest hunting one night trying to find food for himself and his wife, a spectre appeared to him offering to ease his troubles and gave him a magic ointment that would allow him to change into the form of a wolf, making it easier to hunt. Garnier confessed to have stalked and murdered at least four children between the ages of 9 and 12. In October 1572, his first victim was a 10-year-old girl whom he dragged into a vineyard outside of Dole. He strangled her, removed her clothes, and ate the flesh from her thighs and arms. When he had finished he removed some flesh and took it home to his wife. Weeks later Garnier savagely attacked another girl, biting and clawing her, but was interrupted by passersby and fled. The girl succumbed to her injuries a few days later. In November, Garnier killed a 10-year-old boy, again cannibalizing him by eating from his thighs and belly and tearing off a leg to save for later. Finally, he strangled another boy but was interrupted for the second time by a group of passersby. He had to abandon his prey before he could eat from it.

Garnier was found guilty of “crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft” and burned at the stake.

[Image: is pretty much unrelated. It apparently shows a medieval werewolf hunt, so t’old Gilles is about a century out, but it looks nice if nothing else]

Gilles Garnier: The Werewolf of Dole

Gilles Garnier was a French hermit and cannibalistic, serial murderer convicted of being a werewolf. 

He was a recluse living outside the town of Dole in France. He had recently been married and moved his new wife out to his isolated home. Being unaccustomed to feeding more than just himself he found it difficult to provide for her. During this period several children went missing or were found dead and the authorities issued an edict encouraging and allowing the people to apprehend and kill the werewolf [they supposed] responsible. One evening a group of workers traveling from a neighboring town came upon what they thought in the dim light to be a wolf, but what some recognized as the hermit, with the body of a dead child. Soon after Garnier was arrested.

According to his testimony at trial, while Garnier was in the forest hunting one night trying to find food for himself and his wife, a spectre appeared to him offering to ease his troubles and gave him a magic ointment that would allow him to change into the form of a wolf, making it easier to hunt. Garnier confessed to have stalked and murdered at least four children between the ages of 9 and 12. In October 1572, his first victim was a 10-year-old girl whom he dragged into a vineyard outside of Dole. He strangled her, removed her clothes, and ate the flesh from her thighs and arms. When he had finished he removed some flesh and took it home to his wife. Weeks later Garnier savagely attacked another girl, biting and clawing her, but was interrupted by passersby and fled. The girl succumbed to her injuries a few days later. In November, Garnier killed a 10-year-old boy, again cannibalizing him by eating from his thighs and belly and tearing off a leg to save for later. Finally, he strangled another boy but was interrupted for the second time by a group of passersby. He had to abandon his prey before he could eat from it.

Garnier was found guilty of “crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft” and burned at the stake.

[Image: is pretty much unrelated. It apparently shows a medieval werewolf hunt, so t’old Gilles is about a century out, but it looks nice if nothing else]

18th century Mantua

18th century Mantua

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Monkey Aristocracy

These monkeys were once a scathing critique on French aristocracy. There is a monkey on a early sort of bicycle called a velocipede, a monkey harpist, a monkey violinist, two small monkey musicians, and an incredible monkey dandy under a large glass dome. All are dressed in fine silks with hair done up in the style of French Royalty. These automata were a post-French-revolution joke on the former rulers and current dandies of France. So popular was the theme of foolish aristocratic monkeys that it was common in French homes, and whole rooms were decorated around the theme.

One such room is the Chateau de Chantilly’s Monkey Room in Paris, France. In the mid-1730s the artist Christophe Huet was commissioned by Louis-Henri, the duke of Bourbon, to paint scenes with monkey vignettes on the walls of an elegant white Rococo salon with gilded stucco ornaments. By 1737, Huet had decorated nearly every surface  with a complex allegorical design in which monkeys, fashionably dressed, are depicted in aristocratic pursuits: boar hunting, drinking chocolate, doing their hair, dancing and singing. While the monkeys are charming, they also gently mocked the nobles they represented.

The use of monkeys to poke fun at the rich wasn’t always restricted to art, and often the rich joined in on the fun. “In the early 1700s it was fashionable for aristocrats to keep monkeys as pets. They dressed the monkeys in fancy outfits for comic effect and taught them human tricks, like pickpocketing, that they would display on leisurely walks around Versailles.” Little dressed up versions of humans, stealing treats from the lavish banquet spreads.

(Source: curiousexpeditions.org)

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