The Jeweled Skeletons were originally found in catacombs beneath Rome in 1578, and distributed as replacements under the belief they were Christian martyrs to churches that had lost their saint relics in the Reformation. However, for most, their identities were not known. The receiving churches then spent years covering the revered skeletal strangers with jewels and golden clothing, even filling their eye sockets and sometimes adorning their teeth with finery. Yet when the Enlightenment came around they became a little embarrassing for the sheer amount of money and excess they represented, and many were hidden away or disappeared. Koudounaris tracked down the dead survivors. [ x ] [ x ] [ x ]
Illustrator and writer Nathan Gelgud interprets a pivotal scene from Andrew McConnell Stott’s ‘The Poet and the Vampyre.’
Let’s learn together about Edgar Allan Poe and his work. 4
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar is a short story by American author Edgar Allan Poe about a mesmerist who puts a man in a suspended hypnotic state at the moment of death. An example of a tale of suspense and horror, it is also, to a certain degree, a hoax as it was published without claiming to be fictional, and many at the time of publication (1845) took it to be a factual account. Poe toyed with this for a while before admitting it was a work of pure fiction in his marginalia.
The narrator presents the facts of the extraordinary case of Valdemar which have incited public discussion. He is interested in Mesmerism, a pseudoscience involving bringing a patient into a hypnagogic state by the influence of magnetism, a process which later developed into hypnotism. He points out that, as far as he knows, no one has ever been mesmerized at the point of death, and he is curious to see what effects mesmerism would have on a dying person. He considers experimenting on his friend Ernest Valdemar, an author whom he had previously mesmerized, and who has recently been diagnosed with phthisis (tuberculosis).