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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Bluebeard (Gilles de Rais, or de Retz, also de Laval, circa 1404-1440) A French baron, a marshal of France, and a wealthy landowner, de Rais married into an even wealthier family at age sixteen. He fought alongside Joan of Arc at the Battle of Orléans, then at age twenty-eight he suddenly retired from public life and began the study of alchemy with the intent of finding the philosopher's stone.
      He soon gained the reputation of a sorcerer, taking into his service a number of rogues who promised him success in his search for untold wealth. He maintained an outward innocence and gentle attitude at the same time he was slaughtering children as sacrifices to the demons who he was told could satisfy his needs.
      As more and more children went missing in the area, the evidence against him mounted, and he was finally arrested. At his trial in 1440 he confessed to the most heinous crimes imaginable, his confession being considerably facilitated by torture, of course. He was put to death by the Holy Inquisition for his crimes, one of the relatively few justified executions performed by this Holy Office. Because of his high position, de Rais was given the privilege of being strangled before he was burned. A nice touch.
      He earned the name Bluebeard (Barbe Bleue) from his glossy black beard, and by that name he has come down through history as a character in children's stories.



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