Saturday, July 26, 2014

Little Demon In The City of Light: Guest Blogger Michael

Little Demon in the City of Light--Steven Levingston
On this day, 125 years ago in 1889, a well-heeled, silk-hatted boulevardier named Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé was murdered by Michel Eyraud and his accomplice, Gabriellle Bompard in Paris.  Gouffé was lured to his death by the beguiling young Gabrielle to the scene of the crime set like a theater piece, fully in keeping with the spirit of the Belle Epoque city. (I would add the month of his death, Gouffé had already slept with 20 different women. Il a obtenu environ.) 
This small murder mystery was to become a sensation in the City of Light.  It started with a lost, gamine girl of 21 who was a remarkable hypnotic subject and became an international man and woman hunt, ending at the Bois de Justice and Monsieur Guillotine.  This case evolved into an early tabloid fueled celebrity murder (concurrent with Jack the Ripper activity in London) and had bouche et des oreilles buzzing.  It was an early example of a "hypnotic" defense as well as the emerging sciences of forensics and neurology. 
Cube is currently reading Cesare Lombroso's The Female Offender from the late 1800's.  A text given serious use for it's time, and a huge piece of misogynist clap trap. According to Lombroso, men steal from basic need, women from the desire to gain material wealth.
As the Little Demon crime carousel revolves, it passes The International Exposition with it's gallery of machines to usher in The Industrial, erection of The Eiffel Tower.  Sigmund Freud, The Moulin Rouge, electric lights, telegraphs, while café society and Toulouse-Lautrec sipping absinthe...the green fairy.

Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé and a real lady killer until a lady killed him.
All of this and more in a new book called Little Demon in the City of Light by Washington Post journalist Steven Levingston, the story of murder and mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris. This story would make a great movie or HBO series.  I've already fantasy casted Gerard Depardieu as Marie-Francois Goron, the mustachioed head of the Paris Sûreté.  A man who stubbornly refused to give up the chase until the suspects were in custody. 
Michel Eyraud

 The Little Demon
Gabrielle Bompard
The traveling coffin and infamous trunk

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