The history of witchcraft and Satanism know no name greater or more fearful than that of Gilles de Rais, Marshal of France, confidant of Joan of Arc, hero of the Hundred Years War, black magician, and killer of infants. Gilles was considered a valiant hero for much of his life; indeed, it was his honor to be bestowed with the title “Marshal of France” under the lordship of King Charles VII. Gilles was known to be a valiant, impeccable soldier, a ruthless strategist, a loyal confidant, and a sadist on the battlefield. He was a sadist off of it, as well.
Gilles was a great lover and appreciated the arts, as well as many of the finer things in life. He was also a notorious gambler, and incurred debts too vast to be paid in full from the increasingly strained wealth of his estate. (He was known, for instance, for the lavish spectacles of his privately-produced “Mystery Plays” [popular plays which trained in religious instruction], which featured elaborate and highly-expensive sets, ornate costumes, and monstrous spectacle. These productions alone conspired to bankrupt him, and by the time the King put an official hold on his ability to squander any more of his wealth, he was already heavily in debt.
Although Baron De Rais was a devout, self-professed Christian, he was also a man given to dark extremes of desire and forbidden lust. For years this murderous passion, which had perhaps been fostered on the battlefield, was sated by sweeping cruelty toward prisoners of war. However, soon the hidden, darkest aspect of his psychological dementia became manifest in deeds and doings too horrible for the mind to conceive.
For years, children had been disappearing from Nantes without a trace: some would vanish upon doing their daily chores or errands, and still others would go missing from their homes whilst their parents were out in the fields. It had happened with increasing frequency, and always left the same unanswered, lingering question upon the lips of the peasant folk.
Reportedly, Rais was wont to recruit young boys into the ranks of his “musical college”, purportedly for their singing and dramatic talents. Mindful people began to realize that certain boys, once they had accepted the offer of the bestial Baron, were often seen missing after the talented troupe made its next public recital. But of course, tongues wagged, but no one did anything at all.
Rais cruelly murdered his young charges, and with the help of his underlings secured scores, perhaps hundreds of young boys for the brutal purposes of torture and dismemberment. One of his favorite practices, reportedly, was to hang a young lad by his arms, blindfolded, from the ceiling, and watch him squirm in terror. Then, after a short time, the boy would be loosed, whereupon Rais would act in his role as comforter, and console the terrified child. The practice was repeated until the victim finally succumbed from exhaustion. Then Rais would masturbate furiously over the dismembered corpse. Once, or so he confessed, he lined the severed heads of his young subjects in a row, and implored his trusted confederates to vote on which was the loveliest. Then, he flagrantly kissed the bloodied mouth, reaching a peak of exultation which, apparently, had never been quite afforded him by the butchery of the battlefield.
It must have added a diabolic fillip of perverse pleasure to his debauched atrocities when he hit upon an active interest in the occult; his first thought in this bizarre, new arena, was that with the help of an astute, and legitimate alchemist, he might indeed turn base metals into gold. Thus, he could combine both his lust for money and his passion for the satanic in one fell swoop. He secured the help of an Italian, called Prelati, who was reputed to be most skilled in his ability to summon the Crown Princes of Hell to do his bidding. Soon, bizarre rituals and strange incantations were being performed in the ghastly Chateaux De Rais.
The sacrificial offerings, at the outset, included mainly an endless succession of butchered birds; mostly chickens and doves. When these bloody hecatombs proved fruitless in summoning the forces of demonic power, Prelati suggested that the reason was, most likely, the minimal appeal the bodies of butchered fowl held for the unsavory spirits. Ever eager to oblige Prelati in this new turn of events, De Rais began his child-killing again in earnest, having only taken a short respite from the activity for the sake of his personal safety.
Even though he began to, once again, heap the bodies of murdered infants across the dripping floor of his ritual chamber, still his hope for demonic power and showers of gold bullions proved an elusive reality. It is reported, however, that the Baron did manage to summon ONE demon, a being calling itself (ironically) “Barron”, but that the fleeting phantasm was frightened off when, in a burst of panic, De Rais crossed himself in the manner of any good Catholic. Prelati informed him that, henceforth this was not a mistake to be repeated in the presence of a fire-breathing angel from Hell.
Ironically, it was the “Hand of God”, or perhaps, the subterfuge of His servants, that saved De Rais (and countless more children, no doubt) from sliding any further down the pathway toward Hell’s hot flames. De Rais, who considered himself the embodiment of Christian piety when he wasn’t torturing and murdering children to call up demons, committed a noxious affront when he reneged on the sale of a particular estate, deciding instead that, as he was so very close to finally securing his pact with Mephistopheles, selling off any more of his properties was, perhaps, bad form. He sent a contingent of soldiers to forcibly retake his lands, and they managed to accomplish this while brutalizing a priest. This particular act so offended the duke of Brittany (who, truth be told, was secretly enamored of Marshal De Rais’ vast holdings) , that he sought for any pretence that might be used to blackmail or ruin the Baron of Nantes. He secured permission to search the Baron’s chateaux.
It was only a short time before the ritual chamber, and the bodies of fifty murdered youths were discovered.
Baron De Rais confessed to his monstrous crime readily, seeking absolution from the Church, who, through dint of his station, did allow him a final communion. Ironically, Prelati the Wizard managed to escape punishment, and died sixteen years later, after being hung for other crimes. Condemned to death, De Rais walked toward the scaffold boldly, imploring that onlookers (including the families of his victims) to pray for him. He was hung just out of reach of the blazing bonfire that was to consume his body. Because of the special privileges of his royal blood, he was granted the mercy of hanging, rather than being burned alive.
His cohorts received no such consideration, and were roasted upon the pyre completely conscious and fully aware. Noble ladies retrieved the relatively uncharred body of the fallen hero, and prepared a proper burial for him. Ironically, the place of his execution later became a shrine where pregnant women went to pray for the health of their unborn offspring.
It was remarked that De Rais bore a singularly strange, though handsome visage, in that he sported a deep black beard that shined nearly blue in a certain light; yet the hair on his head was of a Nordic blond. Hence, he was subsequently referred to as “Bluebeard” in local legend. After many decades, the names of his victims (estimated between one hundred and three hundred), as well as their gender and class, and the other particulars of his deeds, became obscured, and the legend morphed until it told a tale of “Bluebeard” Baron De Rais, who married and murdered six wives, keeping all of the bodies in a locked room. Thus, as the story goes, it remains a secret, until the curiosity of the seventh wife gets the better of her. During the Revolution of 1789, De Rais’ tomb was ransacked by riotous Jacobins. One wonders if karma was not, somehow, at play in this turn of events.