Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Buried Alive Hoax, 1929

A man who called himself Marcel Clement, the Marquis of Champaubert (real name: Clement Passal) had been trying to sell his memoirs of his life of crime, but had met with little success so he struck upon a plan to make his biography more appealing. He invented a story in which he’d been kidnapped and tortured by a secret society, sending out letters from this society to newspapers in the hope they’d pick up the story.

The culmination of the plan was to have himself buried alive and for journalists to find him and disinter him, still alive. He and a fellow criminal, Henri Boulogne, successfully completed a dress rehearsal in which Clement had remained in the coffin (fitted with an air tube) for nine hours.

Despite the newspapers ignoring the letters they sent out, they decided to see the plan to its completion. At a rented villa near Versailles, Henri was given the letters to post and buried Clement in his coffin. However, exhausted by all the work, Henri then fell into a deep sleep and when he awoke he sent off the letters in a rush. Later on he went to check on Clement, but when there was no reply through the air tube, he feared the worst and ran away.

Meanwhile, the newspapers received the letters, informed the police and the body was exhumed. It was found that Clement had suffocated, and that the air tube fitted was not adequate.Henri was captured, tried and sentenced to three months in jail. The report from the Times, 7 October 1929, ends with:

“The grim irony of Passal’s fate is given greater prominence in the Press than has been accorded to any criminal event in recent years so that the vain desires of the psuedo-Marquis de Champaubert have been fulfilled. Unfortunately for him, even this measure of gratification has come too late.”

Source, The Times, 07/10/1929 and 05/12/1929

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