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Strange


Strange quirks of history

The Train that Didn’t Exist

I met Mademoiselle Saint Léger during one of my visits to the ravishing and charming Doneraile Court in Ireland. She was a descendant of the former owners and belonged to one of the oldest Norman families who had come to England with William the Conqueror. One of her most famous ancestors, an extremely handsome man, was a close…

The Antique Dealer from Munich

For many years, during my annual visit to the Festival of Music in Salzburg, I noticed an older woman in attendance. Unmistakably rich and disagreeable, everyone seemed to avoid her. I didn’t pay much attention until one summer when she was absent. I inquired about her. She had died. It was then that I learned…

The Fiery Reflection

My friend John Nicholas, one of the leading ghost experts in Ireland, told me the following story. One day, in the 1930’s, a family was walking through the grounds around their chateau, one of the most beautiful in Ireland. A great lawn stretched out in front of the home, in the middle of which was a…

The Prophetic Chaplain of King Louis XI

The reign of Louis XI was dominated by his struggles against the Duke of Burgundy, his cousin. King Louis’ thoughts and preoccupations revolved entirely around France; how can he unite the disparate provinces under his scepter and create a state of order in the country that would meet the needs of his people? His cousin,…

Peter the Cruel

My half-Spanish grandmother always scolded me for referring to our ancestor, the King of Castile, as Peter the Cruel. “His name is Peter the Just,” she would correct me, preferring the qualifier attributed to him by the Jews and Muslims he had always protected. Whether Peter was Cruel or Just, he loved the city of…

The Court of Rudolph II and Rabbi Loew

When speaking of magic and magicians, we must look to 16th century Prague. Emperor Rudolph II, the nephew of Charles V, had chosen Prague from amongst all the capitals of his kingdoms to be his residence. At the time, Prague was still a medieval city. The famous Charles IV Bridge that spans the Moldau, covered…

The Cathars

Two centuries after the death of Christ, Mani, an exceptional magus and prophet, rose to prominence in Persia. He mixed the religion on his country, Zoroastrianism, with a fiery interpretation of Christianity. Mani himself would not end well, as the shah eventually had him executed, yet his followers would multiply. These faithful soon emigrated, reappearing in Asia Minor in…

Mithra

When the Orient arrived at the gates of Rome, it brought with it a rather discrete deity. This god was born to a virgin on the 25th of December. He was frequently represented as an infant, seated upon the knee of his mother before a group of kneeling wise kings who offered gifts. He was…

Razoumovska

The patron of the epoch who built the grandest palaces was without a doubt Catherine II of Russia. With unlimited resources at her disposal, she could build colossal homes, grander than all the palaces of Europe. In fact, Catherine was only imitating her predecessor, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great. The latter was…

The Venieri Nun

Kythira, it was my friend Fivos who helped me discover it. As well as Kiria Eleni Harou, who recounted its many stories. Some of them were well known, others were buried deep in the collective memory of the island, but the most enchanting were the histories of Hora, the capital of the island, where she had been a schoolteacher….