Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Grave for The Great Lafayette

photo by Lucy Clement, used with permission
In Piershill Cemetery in Edinburgh Scotland, there is an unusual grave. Buried here is a man and his dog. It's safe to say that it's the only animal buried in this particular cemetery. Sigmund Neuberger, who was known professionally as The Great Lafayette purchased the plot to bury his dog, Beauty. The dog had been a gift from escape artist Harry Houdini. I'm sure even Houdini had no idea just how attached Lafayette would become to his dog. Beauty became Lafayette's best friend and traveling companion. In his home in London, the dog had her own bedroom and bathroom, right next to Lafayette's.

photo by Lucy Clement, used with permission
On May 5th, 1911, Beauty died from apoplexy. Some reports say from over eating. It may have also been due to the rich food that the dog was fed. She ate better than most people from that time period. Lafayette was devastated and purchased the plot at the Piershill Cemetery for his dog. When the cemetery officials found out the plot was for a dog they were going to back out of the deal. Lafayette agreed that along with the dog, he too would be buried there. He apparently paid $1500 for the plot, though honestly that seems terribly high for the times.

If his heart was not broken enough, on May 9th, 1911, only a few days after Beauty died, Lafayette would loose his life in a fire during a performance at the Empire Theatre in Edinburgh. Eye witness accounts say that Lafayette got out safely but then returned to try and save his horse. He died in the fire.

His body was found next to the Lion's Cage. The body though badly burned was identified by the costume and the sword he always wore. His body was taken to the mortuary to be cremated. They theatre company was trying to find out how many people had died and if anyone else was missing. A roll call was taken and indeed the trumpeter from Lafayette's orchestra was missing. A search began through the rubble to find him. A badly burned body was found. The stage had collapsed and the body fell into the basement. It was not initially discovered because that area had been covered by the iron theatre curtain.

But the body was not the trumpeter. It turned out to be Lafayette! The identification this time was made through the jeweled rings on the fingers of the dead body. Indeed, Lafayette had fooled them again. His body was sent to be cremated just in time for the funeral. Three thousand people turned out for the funeral of the Great Lafayette. The tombstone has the name 'The Great Lafayette' on it because Sigmund Neuberger had his name legally changed. The ashes of Lafayette were buried between the paws of his best friend, Beauty.

To read more about Lafayette and Beauty, please visit my other blog
 Special thank you to Lucy Clement for allowing me to use these photos for my blog.

photo by Lucy Clement, used with permission

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