The Great Lafayette’s Sword

14 January 2022

One of the darkest exhibits in our collection, this sword is purported to have been found beside the charred body of the famous magician after a terrible fire swept through Edinburgh’s Empire Palace (now Edinburgh Festival) Theatre. Lafayette (1871-1911) holds the unusual distinction of creating his last deception after death.

One of the highest paid entertainers in the land, American Sigmund Neuberger, (aka the Great Lafayette), died along with 10 of his company in 1911 when disaster struck during a performance of his signature illusion, The Lion’s Bride. A lantern fell igniting scenery and fire spread rapidly. Doors had been locked to protect the magician’s secrets so escape was almost impossible.

Lafayette’s remains were sent for cremation but a few days later another body was found under the burned out stage that was positively identified as the magician. The original discovery had been his body double and bandleader. His beloved dog Beauty, who Lafayette always considered brought him luck (a gift from his close friend Houdini) had died a few days earlier. Lafayette’s ashes were placed between the paws of the embalmed canine. The eccentric magician had loved his dog more than anything – in fact, by the door of his home in Tavistock Square, London, was a plaque which stated ‘The more I see of man, the more I like my dog.’ Over 200,000 witnessed his funeral procession to Piershill Cemetery, Edinburgh where the strange memorial to one wizard and his dog stands to this day.

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