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at the corner of the boulevard, and in that way the former number 30
became number 1.”

The sombre old mansion has had a peculiar history. Cagliostro locked
the doors of the laboratories and séance-chambre some time in June,
1786, on the occasion of his exile from France. All during the great
Revolution the house remained closed and intact. Twenty-four years
of undisturbed repose passed away. The {82} dust settled thick upon
everything; spiders built their webs upon the gilded ceilings of the
salons. Finally, in the Napoleonic year 1810, the doors of the temple
of magic and mystery were unfastened, and the furniture and rare
curios, the retorts and crucibles, belonging to the dead conjurer,
were auctioned off. An idle crowd of curious _quid nuncs_ gathered to
witness the sale and pry about. Says Ricaudy:

“The household furniture, belongings, etc., of the illustrious
adventure were not sold until five years after his death. The sale
took place in the apartment which he had occupied, and was by
order of the municipal government. An examination revealed many
curious acoustical and optical arrangements constructed in the
building by Cagliostro. By the aid of these contrivances and that of
well-trained confederates, he perpetrated many supposedly magical
effects, summoned the shades of the dead,” etc. (_See Dictionnaire
de la France_. By A. G. de St. Fargeau, Vol. III., page 245. Paris,

Says Lenôtre:

“Since the auctioning of Cagliostro’s effects the gloomy house of
the Rue St. Claude has had no history. Ah, but I am mistaken. In
1855 some repairs were made. The old carriage door was removed, and
the one that took its place was taken from the ruins of the Temple.
There it stands today with its great bolts and immense locks. The
door of the prison of Louis XVI. closes the house of Cagliostro.”

M. de Ricaudy verifies this statement about the door of the mansion.
The student of Parisian archæology will do well to consult M. de
Ricaudy, as well as M. Labreton, 93 Boulevard Beaumarchais, who
possesses forty volumes relating to the history of the Marais
Quarter. Last but not least is the indefatigable student of ancient
landmarks of Paris, M. G. Lenôtre, author of _Paris révolutionnaire,
vieilles maisons, vieux papiers, 1re série_.

My friend, M. Félicien Trewey, who visited the place in the summer
of 1901, at my request, reported to me that it had been converted
into a commercial establishment. The salons were cut up into small
apartments. The laboratories and the _chambre égyptienne_ where the
great sorcerer held his séances were no more. A grocer, a feather
curler, and a manufacturer of cardboard boxes occupied the building,
oblivious of the fact that the world-renowned Cagliostro once lived
there, plying his trade of sorcerer, mesmerist, physician, and mason,
like a true _chevalier d’industrie_. Alas! the history of these
old mansions! They {83} have their days of splendid prosperity,
followed by shabby gentility and finally by sordid decay,—battered,
blear-eyed, and repulsive looking.

According to Henri d’Almeras (_Cagliostro, et la franc-maconnerie et
l’occultisme au XVIIIe siècle_), Cagliostro’s apartment on the second
floor of the house was occupied in the year 1904 by a watchmaker.
Two famous watchmakers became conjurers, one after having read an
old book on natural magic, the other after having seen a performance
of the Davenport Brothers. I allude to Robert-Houdin and Jno. Nevil
Maskelyne. Watchmaking leads naturally to the construction of
automata and magical illusions. The young horologist of the Rue Saint
Claude has every excuse to become a prestidigitateur. He works in an
atmosphere of necromancy in that old house haunted by its memories of
the past. If this does not influence him to enter the magic circle,
nothing else will.

People pass and repass this ghost-house of the Rue Saint Claude every
day, but not one in a hundred knows that the great enchanter once
resided there and held high court. If those dumb walls could but
speak, what fascinating stories of superstition and folly they might
unfold to our wondering ears! Yes, in this ancient house, dating back
to pre-Revolutionary Paris, to the old régime, the great necromancer
known as Cagliostro lived in the zenith of his fame. In these golden
years of his life, was he never haunted by disturbing visions of the
dungeons of the Holy Inquisition, yawning to receive him? Ah, who can
tell? Thanks to the gossipy memoir writers of the period, I am able
to give a pen portrait, composite, if you will, of some of the scenes
that were enacted in the antiquated mansion.

It is night. The lanterns swung in the streets of old Paris glimmer
fitfully. Silence broods over the city with shadowy wings. No
sound is heard save the clank of the patrol on its rounds. The
Rue Saint Claude, however, is all bustle and confusion. A grand
“soirée magique” is being held at the house of Monsieur le Comte de
Cagliostro. Heavy old-fashioned carriages stand in front of the door,
with coachmen lolling sleepily on the boxes, and linkboys playing
rude games with each other in the kennel. A rumble in the street—ha,
there, lackeys! out of {84} the way! Here comes the coach of my
Lord Cardinal, Prince Louis de Rohan. There is a flash of torches.
Servants in gorgeous liveries of red and gold, with powdered wigs,
open the door of the vehicle, and let down the steps with a crash.
Monseigneur le Cardinal, celebrant of the mass in the royal palace at
Versailles, man of pleasure and alchemist, descends. He is enveloped
in a dark cloak, as if to court disguise, but it is only a polite
pretense. He enters the mansion of his bosom friend, Cagliostro the
magician. Within, all is a blaze of light. A life-size bust of the
divine Cagliostro ornaments the foyer. Visitors are received in a
handsomely furnished apartment on the second floor. Beyond that is
the séance-room, a mysterious chamber hung with somber drapery. Wax
candles in tall silver sconces, arranged about the place in mystic
pentagons and triangles, illuminate the scene.

In the center of the room is a table with a black cloth, on which
are embroidered in red the symbols of the highest degree of the
Rosicrucians. Upon this strange shekinah is placed the cabalistic
apparatus of the necromancer—odd little Egyptian figures of Isis,
Osiris, vials of lustral waters, and a large globe full of clarified
water. It is all very uncanny. Presently the guests are seated in
a circle about the altar, and form a magnetic chain. As the old
chroniclers phrase it, to them enters Cagliostro, the Grand Kophta,
the man who has lived thousands of years, habited in gorgeous
robes like the arch-hierophant of an ancient Egyptian temple. The
clairvoyant is now brought in, a child of angelic purity, who was
born under a certain constellation, of delicate nerves, great
sensitiveness, and, withal, blue eyes. She is bidden to kneel before
the globe, and relate what she sees therein. Cagliostro makes passes
over her, and commands the genii to enter the water. The very soul of
the seeress is penetrated with the magnetic aura emanating from the
magician. She becomes convulsed, and declares that she sees events
taking place that very moment at the court of Versailles, at Vienna,
at Rome.

Every one present is transported with joy. Monseigneur le Cardinal
de Rohan is charmed, delighted, and lauds the necromancer to the
skies. How weird and wonderful! Albertus {85} Magnus, Nostradamus
and Appolonius of Tyana are not to be compared with the all-powerful
Cagliostro. Truly he is the descendant of the Egyptian thaumaturgists.

The séance is followed by a banquet. Rose-leaves are showered over
the guests from the gilded ceiling, perfumed water plashes in the
fountains, and a hidden orchestra of violins, flutes and harps
plays soft melodies. The scene reminds one of the splendid feasts
of the Roman voluptuaries in the decadent days of the empire.
The lovely Lorenza Feliciani, wife of the enchanter, discourses
learnedly of sylphs, salamanders and gnomes, in the jargon of
the Rosicrucians. The Cardinal, his veins on fire with love and
champagne, gazes amorously at her. But he is thinking all the while
of the aristocratic Marie Antoinette, who treats him with such cruel
disdain. But Cagliostro has promised to win the Queen for him, to
melt her icy heart with love-philters and magical talismans. Let him
but possess his soul in patience a little while. All will be well.
Aye, indeed, well enough to land the haughty prelate in the Bastille,
and start the magician on that downward path to the Inquisition at

The night wanes. The lights of the banqueting-hall burn lower and
lower. Finally the _grandes dames_ and the _seigneurs_ take their
departure. When the last carriage has rolled away into the darkness,
Cagliostro and his wife yawn wearily, and retire to their respective
sleeping-apartments. The augurs of Rome, says a Latin poet, could
not look at each other without laughing. Cagliostro and Lorenza in
bidding each other goodnight exchange smiles of incalculable cunning.
The sphinx masks have dropped from their faces, and they know each
other to be—charlatans and impostors, preying upon a superstitious
society. The magician is alone. He places his wax light upon an
escritoire, and throws himself into an arm-chair before the great
fireplace, carved and gilded with many a grotesque image. The flames
of the blazing logs weave all sorts of fantastic forms on floor and
ceiling. The wind without howls in the chimney like a lost spirit.
The figures embroidered on the tapestry assume monstrous shapes of
evil portent—alguazils, cowled inquisitors, and jailers with rusty
keys and chains. {86}

But the magician sees nothing of it all, hears not the warning cry
of the wind: he is thinking of his newly hatched lodges of Egyptian
occultism, and the golden louis d’or to be conjured out of the
strong-boxes of his Parisian dupes.



“Stay illusion!
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me.”—SHAKESPEARE: _Hamlet_.


The French Revolution drew crowds of adventurers to Paris, their
brains buzzing with the wildest schemes—political, social, and
scientific—which they endeavored to exploit. Among the inventors was
a Belgian optician, Etienne-Gaspard Robertson, born at Liège, in
1763, where for many years he had been a professor of physics. He
addressed a memorial in the year 1794 to the Government proposing to
construct gigantic burning glasses _à la_ Archimedes, to set fire to
the English fleets, at that period blockading the French seaports. A
commission composed of Monge, Lefevre, Gineau and Guyton de Morveau
was appointed to investigate the matter, but nothing came of it.

Failing to accomplish his scheme, Robertson turned his attention
to other methods of money-making. Four years passed away. Having
a decided _penchant_ for magic illusions, etc., he set about
constructing a ghost-making apparatus. The “Red Terror” was a thing
of the past, and people had begun to pluck up courage and seek
amusements. Rid to a great extent, of his rival, La Guillotine—the
most famous of “ghost-making machines”—Robertson set up his
phantasmagoria at the Pavilion de l’Echiquier, and flooded the city
with circulars describing his exhibition. Poultier, a journalist and
one of the Representatives of the People, wrote an amusing account of
the entertainment in the _L’Ami des Lois_, 1798.[17] He says: {88}


“A decemvir of the Republic has said that the dead return no more,
but go to Robertson’s exhibition and you will soon be convinced of
the contrary, for you will see the dead returning to life in crowds.
Robertson calls forth phantoms, and commands legions of spectres. In
a well-lighted apartment in the Pavilion l’Echiquier I found myself
seated a few evenings since, with sixty or seventy people. At seven
o’clock a pale, thin man entered the room where we were sitting, and
having extinguished the candles he said: ‘Citizens, I am not one of
those adventurers and impudent swindlers who promise more than they
can perform. I have assured the public in the _Journal de Paris_ that
I can bring the dead to life, and I shall do so. Those of the company
who desire to see the apparitions of those who were dear to them, but
who have passed away from this life by sickness or otherwise, have
only to speak; and I shall obey their commands.’ There was a moment’s
silence, and a haggard-looking man, with dishevelled hair and
sorrowful eyes, rose in the midst of the assemblage and exclaimed,
‘As I have been unable in an official journal to re-establish the
worship of Marat, I should at least be glad to see his shadow.’
Robertson immediately threw upon {89} a brazier containing lighted
coals, two glasses of blood, a bottle of vitriol, a few drops of
aquafortis, and two numbers of the _Journal des Hommes Libres_, and
there instantly appeared in the midst of the smoke caused by the
burning of these substances, a hideous livid phantom armed with a
dagger and wearing a red cap of liberty. The man at whose wish the
phantom had been evoked seemed to recognize Marat, and rushed forward
to embrace the vision, but the ghost made a frightful grimace and
disappeared. A young man next asked to see the phantom of a young
lady whom he had tenderly loved, and whose portrait he {90} showed
to the worker of all these marvels. Robertson threw upon the brazier
a few sparrow’s feathers, a grain or two of phosphorus, and a dozen
butterflies. A beautiful woman with her bosom uncovered and her hair
floating about her, soon appeared, and smiled on the young man with
most tender regard and sorrow. A grave looking individual sitting
close by me suddenly exclaimed, ‘Heavens! it’s my wife come to life
again,’ and he rushed from the room, apparently fearing that what he
saw was not a phantom.”


(From a French Print.)]

[17] Du 8 germinal au VI—28 Mars, 1798.

One evening one of the audience, avowing himself to be a Royalist,
called for the shade of the martyred king, Louis XVI. Here was a
dilemma for citizen Robertson. Had he complied with the request and
evoked the royal ghost, prison and possibly the guillotine would have
been his fate.

But the magician was foxy. He suspected a trap on the part of a
police agent in disguise, who had a spite against him. He replied
as follows: “Citizens, I once had a recipe for bringing dead kings
to life, but that was before the 18th Fructidor, when the Republic
declared royalty abolished forever. On that glorious day I lost my
magic formula, and fear that I shall never recover it again.”

In spite of Robertson’s clever retort, the affair created such a
sensation that on the following day, the police prohibited the
exhibitions, and placed seals on the optician’s boxes and papers.
However, the ban was soon lifted, and the performances allowed to
continue. Lucky Robertson! The advertisement filled his coffers to
overflowing. People struggled to gain admission to the wonderful

Finding the Pavilion too small to accommodate the crowds, the
magician moved his show to an abandoned chapel of the Capuchin
Convent, near the Place Vendôme. This ancient place of worship was
located in the middle of a vast cloister crowded with tombs and
funeral tablets.

A more gruesome spot could not have been selected. The Chapel was
draped in black. From the ceiling was suspended a sepulchral lamp,
in which alcohol and salt were burned, giving forth a ghastly
light which made the faces of the spectators {91} resemble those
of corpses. Robertson, habited in black, made his appearance, and
harangued his audience on ghosts, witches, sorcery, and magic.
Finally the lamp was extinguished and the apartment plunged in
Plutonian darkness. A storm of wind and rain, thunder and lightning,
interspersed with the tolling of a church bell, followed, and
after this the solemn strains of a far-off organ were heard. At
the evocation of the conjurer, phantoms of Voltaire, Mirabeau,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robespierre, Danton, and Marat appeared and
faded away again “into thin air.” The ghost of Robespierre was shown
rising from a tomb. A flash of lightning, vivid and terrible, would
strike the phantom, whereupon it would sink down into the ground and

People were often carried away fainting from the exhibition. It was
truly awe inspiring and perfect in _mise en scène_.

At the conclusion of the séance, Robertson used to remark: “I have
shown you, citizens, every species of phantom, and there is but
one more truly terrible spectre—the fate which is reserved for us
all. Behold!” In an instant there stood in the center of the room
a skeleton armed with a scythe. It grew to a colossal height and
gradually faded away.[18]

[18] For a romance embracing the subject of phantasmagoria
see the poet Schiller’s _Ghost-Seer_. (Bohn Library.)

Sir David Brewster, in his work on natural magic, has the following
to say about concave mirrors and the art of phantasmagoria: “Concave
mirrors are distinguished by their property of forming in front of
them, and in the air, inverted images of erect objects, or erect
images of inverted objects, placed at some distance beyond their
principal focus. If a fine transparent cloud of blue smoke is raised,
by means of a chafing dish, around the focus of a large concave
mirror, the image of any highly illuminated object will be depicted
in the middle of it, with great beauty. A skull concealed from the
observer is sometimes used to surprise the ignorant; and when a
dish of fruit has been depicted in a similar manner, a spectator,
stretching out his hand to seize it, is met with the image of a drawn
dagger which has been quickly substituted for the fruit at the other
conjugate focus of the mirror.” {92}

Thoroughly conversant with the science of optics, it is more than
probable that Robertson made use of large concave mirrors to project
inverted phantoms of living persons in the air, with convex lenses
to restore the ghosts to an upright position. If he merely used
painted images, which is the more likely, then he had resort to the
phantasmagoric magic lantern, rolling upon a small track. Pushing
this contrivance backwards and forwards caused the images to lessen
or increase, to recede or advance.

Robertson realized quite a snug fortune out of his ghost exhibition
and other inventions. His automaton speaking figure, called _le
phonorganon_, uttered two hundred words of the French language.
Another interesting piece of mechanism was his Trumpeter. These two
machines formed part of a beautiful _Cabinet de Physique_ in his
house, the Hotel d’ Yorck, Boulevard Montmartre, No. 12 Paris. He
has left some entertaining memoirs, entitled _Mémoires récréatifs et
anecdotifs_ (1830–1834), copies of which are exceedingly rare. He was
a great aeronaut and invented the parachute which has been wrongly
attributed to Garnerin.

Robertson, as _Commandant des Aerostiers_, served in the French army,
and rendered valuable service with his balloons in observing the
movements of the enemy in the campaigns in Belgium and Holland, under
General Jourdain. In the year 1804 he wrote a treatise on ballooning,
entitled, _La Minerve, vaisseau Aérien destiné aux découvertes, et
proposé, à toutes les Académies de l’Europe_, published at Vienna. He
died at Batignolles (Paris) in 1837.

In his memoirs, Robertson describes a species of optical toy called
the Phantascope, for producing illusions on a small scale. This may
give a clue to his spectres of the Capuchin Convent. He also offers
an explanation of Nostradamus’ famous feat of conjuring up the
likeness of Francis I. in a magic mirror, for the edification of the
beautiful Marie de Médici.


We now come to the greatest of all ghost-shows, that of the
Polytechnic Institute, London. In the year 1863 letters patent {93}
were granted to Professor John Henry Pepper, professor of chemistry
in the London Polytechnic Institute, and Henry Dircks, civil
engineer, for a device “for projecting images of living persons in
the air.” Here were no concave mirrors, no magic lanterns, simply
a large sheet of unsilvered glass. The effect is founded on a
well-known optical illusion. “In the evening carry a lighted candle
to the window and you will see reflected in the pane, not only the
image of the candle, but that of your hand and face as well. A sheet
of glass, inclined at a certain angle, is placed on a stage between
the actors and spectators. Beneath the stage and just in front of the
glass, is a person robed in a white shroud, and illuminated by the
brilliant rays of the electric or the oxy-hydrogen light. The image
of the actor who plays the part of spectre, being reflected by the
glass, becomes visible to the spectators, and stands, apparently,
just as far behind the glass as its prototype is placed in front of
it. This image is only visible to the audience. The actor who is on
the stage sees nothing of it, and in order that he may not strike
at random in his attacks on the spectre, it is necessary to mark
beforehand on the boards the particular spot at which, to the eyes of
the audience, the phantom will appear. Care must be taken to have the
theatre darkened and the stage very dimly lighted.”

At the Polytechnic Institute the ghost was admirably produced. The
stage represented the room of a mediaeval student who was engaged in
burning the midnight oil. Looking up from his black-letter tome he
beheld the apparition of a skeleton. Resenting the intrusion he arose
from his chair, seized a sword which was ready to his hand, and aimed
a blow at the figure, which vanished, only to return again and again.

The assistant who manipulated the spectre wore a cover of black
velvet. He held the real skeleton in his arms, and made the fleshless
bones assume the most grotesque attitudes. He had evidently studied
Holbein’s “Dance of Death.” The lower part of the skeleton, from the
pelvis downward, was dressed in white linen, presumably a shroud. To
the audience the figure seemed to vanish and reappear through the
floor. {94}

This ghost-making apparatus has been used with splendid success in
the dramatizations of Dickens’ _Christmas Carol_ and _Haunted Man_;
Bulwer’s _Strange Story_; and Alexander Dumas’ _Corsican Brothers_.

“In the course of the same year (1863),” says Robert-Houdin in his
_Les Secrets de la prestidigitation et de la magie_, “M. Hostein,
manager of the Imperial Châtelet Theatre, purchased[19] from M.
Pepper the secret of the ‘Ghost,’ in order to introduce it into a
drama entitled _Le Secret de Miss Aurore_ [a French adaptation of
“Aurora Floyd”]. M. Hostein spared no expense in order to ensure the
success of the illusion. Three enormous sheets of unsilvered glass,
each five yards square, were placed side by side, and presented
an ample surface for the reflection of the ghost-actor and his
movements. Two Drummond lights (oxy-hydrogen) were used for the
purpose of the trick.

[19] He paid 20,000 francs for the invention.

“But before the trick was in working order at its new destination,
several of the Parisian theatres, in the face of letters patent duly
granted to M. Pepper, had already advertised performances wherein it
was included.

“M. Hostein had no means of preventing the piracy; unluckily for
himself, and still more so for the inventor, the plagiarists had
discovered among the French official records a patent taken out,
ten years before, by a person named Séguin for a toy called the
_Polyoscope_, which was founded on the same principle as the ghost

Professor Pepper claims to have been totally unaware of the existence
of M. Séguin’s Polyoscope. In his _True History of the Ghost_, Pepper
describes the toy as follows:

“It consisted of a box with a small sheet of glass placed at an angle
of forty-five degrees, and it reflected a concealed table, with
plastic figures, the spectres of which appeared behind the glass, and
which young people who possessed the toy invited their companions
to take out of the box, when they melted away, as it were, in their
hands and disappeared.”

In France, at that time, all improvements on a patent fell to the
original patentee, and Pepper found himself out-of-court. {95}

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