In 1916, As World War I was swallowing the souls of hundreds of thousands of men, a fascinating and insane story reached an even more fascinating and insane end. But to properly tell it, I’ll need to start eleven years prior…
In 1905, the Tsar of Russia (Nicholas II) met a man who claimed to be a healer. He had been raised as a peasant, and lacked many of the social norms that early 20th-century Russia expected from citizens. He was a wild man with a tenacious appetite for alcohol and sex, sporting an unkempt beard, piercing eyes, and long hair. He was illiterate well into his adulthood. The Tsar was understandably skeptical at first (though his wife Alexandra was enamored of the wildling quite early on). Eventually, however, Tsar Nicholas was convinced of the man’s powers; the healer repeatedly (and still–over a hundred years later–inexplicably) cured the couple’s son Alexei of illnesses (later believed to be hemophilia) that threatened to claim the young boy’s life.
The man’s name was Rasputin.
Over the course of the next decade, this mystic held the royal family’s son’s health in something of a hostage situation, implying that Alexei’s very life relied on his continued presence. With what amounted to carte blanche, Rasputin dove headfirst into a lascivious existence, including arrests for public intoxication and numerous sexual scandals. Oddly enough, Rasputin’s marriage somehow survived from before his rise to prominence until his death. Despite flouting every standard of common decency, Rasputin continued to hold sway over the leaders of a major world power, thanks to his continued ability to bring Alexei back from the brink of the afterlife.
As his influence and legend grew, eventually he convinced the Tsar to join his troops on the Eastern Front of WWI. With Nicholas gone, Alexandra (and Rasputin) held unprecedented power. Needless to say, the manipulative auspex had a multitude of detractors. Many in politics and in the church believed him to be nothing more than a charlatan–a tornado of destruction and harm–and looked for a way to remove him from his position of influence. Rasputin even survived an assassination attempt. And with each healing of Alexei, so grew Alexandra’s fondness for the wild-eyed shaman.
So grew the long daggers.
The details of Rasputin’s death have become the stuff of fairy tales, and while the actual events are likely impossible to ascertain with any certainty, here is the legend of his demise:
A group of political nobles invited Rasputin to dinner, perhaps luring him by telling him that one of the noble’s wives was in town and quite looking forward to meeting him. Once he arrived, the nobles led him into the basement, giving him dinner and drinks, both of which were laced with cyanide - allegedly enough to kill five men. Yet, quite some time after having consumed them, Rasputin was still very much alive.
One of the nobles, concerned that they would not have time to hide the body before daylight, determined that the time for waiting on poison was over. He grabbed a revolver, and descended into the basement to finish the job. As the story goes, he shot Rasputin in the head, and the group left him to die. But some time later, the man who shot him (Prince Felix Yusupov was his name) returned to check on the body. As he knelt down, Rasputin’s eyes are said to have opened wide, and he set to strangling Yusupov.
The other three nobles heard the scuffle and rushed to the basement. Upon seeing the seemingly resurrected mystic, they fired on Rasputin with pistols, hitting him in the back three times. Rasputin fell again, ostensibly dead. Right?
No. He was still alive. So the foursome proceeded to club Rasputin until they were certain that he had finally passed. They wrapped him in a carpet, dragged him to the (surely freezing) Neva river, and tossed him in. The deed was done.
Rasputin’s body was found three days later, and according to reports, the official cause of death was listed not as poisoning, nor the bullet wound to the head, nor the three to the back, nor the blunt force trauma of the beating. No, Rasputin died of drowning.
To make matters even more legendary, when Rasputin was cremated, his body appeared to sit up in the fire. Can you imagine? After the healings, and all the things that didn’t kill him? He sat up in the fire?! Scientists later attributed this to poor cremation practices, explaining that (pardon the gruesome details) it is likely that his tendons were not cut (standard practice), thus causing them to tense up in the heat of the fire.
If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering what this has to do with tonight’s set-to between the Rangers and the Dodgers. I applaud you for asking the question, but the answer is: not one whit. It just seemed to me to be a far more interesting story than what actually happened:
Cole Hamels gave up two 2-run home runs and lasted just ⅓-inning (don’t fret too much, he’s never great in Spring Training). Nick Martinez (who should be better; he’s competing for the fifth starter job) was… not better, allowing Yasiel Puig’s second 2-run home run of the night before the second inning had even expired. The Rangers managed just 2 runs on 5 hits, and the matchup was an unmitigated disaster. The only good thing that happened: Joey Gallo hit a mammoth home run off Josh Ravin to make it 12-2.
So, I thought you might like to learn about Rasputin instead.