Look, some weird stuff goes down in our world. It’s often difficult to separate the fact from the fiction, but the stories are wildly entertaining nonetheless, so buckle in and get ready for a trip through crazy town.
In the first of our cases of “unknown identities,” we have Fulcanelli, a French alchemist and author. “Fulcanelli” itself appears to be a play on words—“Vulcan” for the Roman God of Fire and “El,” the Canaanite name for “God.”
Dang. Anyway, his apparent pupil Eugene Canseliet claims he transformed 100 grams of lead into gold using “Projection Powder” given to him by his exalted teacher. Maybe Canseliet was snorting that powder, too, because that sounds absolutely insane… but hey, what do we know?
After being hunted in WWII by the Germans for his supposed knowledge of nuclear technology, Fulcanelli disappeared In August 1944. For his part, Caseliet claims he met his teacher at a Spanish mountain castle in 1953, at which point Fulcanelli was no longer in his 80s but rather an androgynous being in his 50s. Okaaaay then.
Here’s a dude a little more down to earth. Starting in 1949, a mysterious cat known only as “The Poe Toaster” began appearing at the grave of legendary writer Edgar Allen Poe. The Toaster would show up in the wee hours of the morning on January 19th every year—the author’s birthday—donning only black, wielding a silver-tipped cane, and keeping his face covered. After toasting the grave, The Poe Toaster would retreat into the night, leaving a half-bottle of cognac and three red roses behind.
This tradition continued uninterrupted until 2009. As of 2016, a new Poe Toaster has taken up the mantle—identity unknown.
The Count of St. German (a.k.a. “The Wonderman” as sarcastically dubbed by Voltaire), considered by Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel to be among the greatest philosophers ever, was a marvelously mysterious dude known as an adventurer, courtier, inventor, violinist, and for displaying at least rudimentary skills in alchemy and musical composition.
The Wonderman used many aliases and would deflect inquiries into his past with insane stories—including claiming he was 500 years old—and would eventually pass away in 1784 sans any of the riches he had once been thought to own. Near his end, he claimed he was the son of Prince Francis II Rákóczi of Transylvania. Here’s what Horace Walpole wrote of him:
“…the other day they seized an odd man, who goes by the name of Count St. Germain. He has been here these two years, and will not tell who he is, or whence, but professes that he does not go by his right name. He sings, plays on the violin wonderfully, composes, is mad, and not very sensible. He is called an Italian, a Spaniard, a Pole; a somebody that married a great fortune in Mexico, and ran away with her jewels to Constantinople; a priest, a fiddler, a vast nobleman. The Prince of Wales has had unsatiated curiosity about him, but in vain. However, nothing has been made out against him; he is released; and, what convinces me that he is not a gentleman, stays here, and talks of his being taken up for a spy.”
Image Credit: CloakedTruth.com
Time to go from the weird straight into the fantastical.
In 12th-century England, two children popped up in the village of Woolpit, Suffolk, England, apparently incapable of speaking English. The brother and sister had an odd, unsettling green color to their skin, spoke in an unintelligible language, and ate nothing but raw broad beans.
Although they learned to eat other food and slowly lost their odd, alien-esque skin tone, the young boy died. Afterward, the girl learned English and claimed the two of them hailed from Saint Martin’s Land, a dark subterranean otherworld full of other green folks.
Alrighty then. For the record, this is all attributed to the writers William of Newburg and Ralph of Coggeshall.
Known to dress as a vagabond, the man known only as “Monsieur Chouchani” is steeped in mystery despite leaving behind famous, reputable pupils.
Appearing in Paris following WWII, Chouchani taught Elie Wiesel and Emmanual Levinas between the years of 1947 to 1952. Reportedly a master of science, philosophy, mathematics, and the Talmud, his life history is unknown, and even his pupils debate his actual identity.
Later retreating to South America to die, Wiesel commissioned his gravestone and wrote the following inscription:
“The wise Rabbi Chouchani of blessed memory. His birth and his life are sealed in enigma.”
Monsieur Chouchani left behind no body of work of his own.