Category Archives: Society

Sympathy For The Devil

Sheet music cover for "Four Conceits" by Eugène Goossens
Four Conceits‘ by Eugène Goossens, published by J. & W. Chester (London, 1918) and illustrated by M. Tempo.

In 1893 the English composer Eugène Goossens was born into a musically gifted family. His parents and his siblings were all renown musicians. His grandfather, from Bruges in Belgium, was a famous conductor and had moved to England in 1873.

The first movement of Eugène Goossens’ Four Conceits is The Gargoyle. Eugène’s younger sister the harpist Sidonie remembers that “When he was 11 years old … he always loved to draw pictures with gargoyles. He had a sort of mania about gargoyles.” He did not draw this nice cover though, it is by M. Tempo, an illustrator we know nothing about.

His brother Leon Goossens was considered among the premier oboists in the world and although not known as a composer he wrote a march dedicated to Brussels boaters.

Sheet Music Cover for 'Marche des Canotiers' by Léon Goosens
Marche des Canotiers‘ by Léon Goossens. Published by Jeanne Moens (Bruxelles, s.d.), unknown illustrator.

After conducting US orchestras for nearly a quarter of a century, Eugène Goossens became the conductor of the Sydney Symphony in 1947. In Australia he established himself as a distinguished celebrity, earning even more than the prime minister. He also initiated the founding of the famous Sydney Opera House.

In his private live he had a lifelong interest in pantheism and the occult. Sadly this would become his downfall when in the early fifties he met the Australian artist Rosaleen Norton who had achieved scandalous notoriety as ‘the Witch of Kings Cross’. Kings Cross was Sydney’s seedy night entertainment and red-light district. There Rosaleen led a bohemian lifestyle together with her younger boyfriend, the poet Gavin Greenlees. Their small flat, in a derelict house, was decorated with occult drawings and a clumsy altar embellished with a painting of Pan and a set of stag’s antlers.

Rosaleen Norton 1943, by Ivan, for PIX Magazine, from photographic negative, State Library of New South Wales. Source: Wikipedia.

In 1952 The Art of Rosaleen Norton was published combining her (erotic) drawings of pagan gods and demons with the poetry of her lover Greenlees. The book was banned in New South Wales on the grounds of obscenity, import in the US was forbidden, and an Australian court ordered that two of the drawings had to be removed from all existing copies. This brought the book extensive media coverage. After reading it Eugène Goossens thought he had found kindred spirits and he wrote to Rosaleen. They met for tea at her sleazy flat and soon began to see each other regularly.

At that time, Eugène Goossens lived in a stylish house in Sidney with his third and much younger wife. She was a concert pianist and often away on tour, leaving Eugène —now nearing sixty— alone at home. Perhaps on the lookout for some excitement in his life, he started to take part in Rosaleen’s occult rituals. For these she was naked apart from a skimpy apron, a shawl and a mask, or she wore a robe. She and her coven members shared a ritual meal of cakes and drunk wine from a horn, which was passed round the circle.

In some private rituals Goossens, Rosaleen and Greenlees went further: they were practitioners of Aleister Crowley’s “sex magick” in the hope of reaching higher states of consciousness by performing sex rituals. Crowley —or ‘Great Beast 666‘ as he called himself— was an English occultist and ceremonial magician, and had the reputation of being the wickedest man on earth.

Sheet music 'Elle avait un p'tit cad'nas'
Elle avait un p’tit cad’nas‘ by Valentin Pannetier & M. Désautés. Published by V. Pannetier (Paris, s.d.), cover illustrated by Leon Pousthomis.

Eugène Goossens and the occult couple corresponded excitedly about their magical erotic experiences. The threesome was into bondage, flagellation, cunnilingus, same-gender sex and taking erotic photographs.

The osculum infame illustrated in Francesco Maria Guazzo’s Compendium maleficarum, 1608. Source: Wikipedia.

In one of his letters Goossens talked about the osculum infame that he administered to Asmodeus, the demon of lust. The osculum infame or the kiss of shame is a ritual kiss given by a witch to a devil’s behind.

Sheet music cover for 'Asmodeus'
Asmodeus‘ by Julius Einödshofer. Published by Carl Gehrmans Musikförlag (Stockholm, s.d.), unknown illustrator.

Being aware that these letters were dangerous Goossens had instructed Rosaleen to destroy them. But she didn’t and hid them under a cushion of her settee. Together with bondage photographs showing Rosaleen and her lovers, the letters were stolen by a member of her coven. He tried to sell them to the tabloids whereupon a reporter of The Sun reported the theft to the police.

The police placed the unsuspecting Goossens under surveillance, even while he was abroad in England. When Goossens returned to Australia in March 1956, he was detained at the airport. Customs officials already knew they would find a large amount of ‘pornographic’ material which included 800 erotic photographs, books and rubber masks. Humiliated and in shock, Goossens instantly and naively pleaded guilty thus jeopardising his legal defence. A major scandal broke loose in puritanical and narrow-minded Australia of the fifties. The story was fodder for the tabloids. In disgrace, Eugène Goossens returned to Britain — his international career was ruined.

Please allow me to introduce myself…

Hugo d’Alesi: Spiritist and Language Creator

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‘Au Revoir’ by R. Noghi, published by Cranz (Bruxelles, 1884) and illustrated by Hugo d’Alesi.

We focused previously on Hugo d’Alési as a painter, illustrator and inventor of the Maréorama. Besides, as a young man Hugo d’Alési was drawn to spiritualism or the belief that the dead can communicate with the living. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was not so exceptional for people to attend seances where a medium claimed to contact the dead. Victor Hugo, to name but one, was also known to dabble in this macabre divertissement.

The origins of modern spiritualism have been traced to the Fox family in Hydesville, New York. In 1848 the two youngest Fox daughters reported hearing a series of raps on their furniture and bedroom walls. They claimed that these rappings were communications from spirits. Although many years later they confessed to the hoax, their public demonstrations of rappings and the seances of hundreds of imitators gave rise to a widespread interest in spiritualism.

‘Spirit rappings’ by Rossington & Garrett, published by Oliver Ditson (Boston, 1853). Courtesy The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.

Marie, the first wife of Hugo d’Alési, passed away when he was only 32. In her lifetime she had posed as a medium who automatically wrote down poems dictated to her by spirits. And Hugo d’Alési himself was able, without looking at his paper, to make drawings of spirits, who he insisted were present during seances. The couple had been guided into spiritism (the French branch of spiritualism) by Rufina Noeggerath who was born in Brussels in 1821 but later lived in Paris. There she held a salon for artistic and philosophic followers of spiritism.

La Survie. Sa réalité. Sa manifestation. Sa philosophie. Echos de l’Au-delà.‘ by Rufina Noeggerath (Paris, 1929). Cover illustrated by Hugo d’Alési. (source:

The song Au Revoir illustrated by d’Alési is dedicated to Karl, Jacques and Marie Noeggerath. The woman in the medallion is Rufina Noeggerath and she seems to be in mourning. The gothic image depicts three children in a flowered sailboat. It looks to me that Hugo d’Alési perfectly demonstrated the transition of three persons close to Rufina from this world to the next, with guardian angel, flower wreaths, black sail e tutti quanti. We have two more songs created by R. Noghi in our sheet music collection. All three covers share a gothic illustration of grieving about children lost. Though we still have to find proof, we can safely assume that R. Noghi is the pseudonym for Rufina Noeggerath.

Deux Mélodies‘ by R. Noghi published by Schott Frères (Bruxelles, s.d.) and illustrated by Hugo d’Alési.

Rufina Noeggerath not only held literary and spiritistic salons in Paris, she was a medium herself. Once she sat at a small round table together with Jacques Offenbach‘s nephew when all of a sudden Offenbach’s spirit started to talk to them. Well, kind of talking, the table leg tapped out the messages: one tap meant a, 26 taps meant z. After some chitchat Offenbach started to compose a melody called Air from beyond the grave.

Offenbach’s post-mortem composition, as published in L’Humanité Intégrale, Dir. J.-Camille Chaigneau, 1 january 1897.

Rufina then asked Offenbach what words should accompany the melody. “Choose the most suitable one in your bundle of mediumistic poems written by Marie d’Alési.” the table answered. Rufina did what was asked and the table approved. Rufina claimed that she was not allowed to disclose the identity of Offenbach’s nephew, so conveniently, the story could not be confirmed and maybe she wrote this little melody herself.

‘Le Dernier Sommeil’ by R. Noghi published by Schott Frères (Bruxelles, s.d.) and possibly illustrated by Hugo d’Alesi.

This 1906 British short film features a medium exposed as a fake during a seance. The mechanisms of the special effects are revealed when the light is switched on (at around 3:25).

Hugo d’Alési was not only an engineer, a gifted illustrator and a spiritist, in 1901 he also wrote a method for international correspondence by numerical language. His universal language used nothing but the ten numerical digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 and the letter x for indicating the plural. The language should enable everybody to exchange letters with the whole world without knowing any foreign language. All you needed was a french-numerical, english-numerical or japanese-numerical dictionary. The conjugation of verbs was also indicated by digits. Needless to say that his method never became successful nor popular, and I don’t think any numerical dictionary was ever printed. Surely his promotion of a numerical Esperanto made less waves than his Maréorama in the real world. But perhaps it became more accepted in the afterlife…

Méthode de correspondence internationale: la langue numérique par Hugo d’Alési. source:

Pharaoh Fever: Tut-mania

‘Tutankhamen-Shimmy’ by Jára Beneš, published by Wiener Boheme Verlag (Wien, 1923).

Tutankhamen, aka Tutankhamun, was a pharaoh of minor historical importance. He reigned more than 3.000 years ago for fewer than ten years and died at a young age. Yet he is somewhat the celebrity of Ancient Egypt. That is largely because, when his tomb was found in 1922, it was almost intact: it still contained the magnificent treasures intended to accompany the boy-king into the afterlife. The antechambers were packed to the ceiling with more than 5.000 objects. And Tutankhamen’s portrait mask, made of solid gold laid with precious stones, is one of the most beautiful archaeological objects of Ancient Egypt.

‘Tutankhamon – Fox’ by William Rowers, published by Elkan & Schildknecht, Emil Carelius (Stockholm, sd) and Illustrated by Eric Rohman.

It was the British archaeologist Howard Carter, backed by his patron Lord Carnarvon, who discovered the tomb. He had searched the Valley of the Kings for Tutankhamen’s resting place for many years. To examine and clear the tomb it would take him and his team eight more years. The phenomenal discovery of the tomb and all these wonderful things, in Howard Carter’s own words, kicked off a worldwide ‘King Tut’ craze or Tut-mania in the 1920s that would  continue well into the Thirties.

Every stage of the excavations was chronicled by the press. To finance the dig, Lord Carnarvon had sold the exclusive rights to the Times for the then huge sum of £5.000. It gave the Times unique access to the tomb and the opportunity to publicise its fabulous contents. To compete with the Times’ success, other media created wilder stories, some of which were based on exaggerated claims and even falsehoods, rather than on actual events. So did Lord Carnarvon’s sudden death, within weeks of the tomb’s opening, lead to speculations of a curse.

‘Toet-Ankh-Amen’ by Jan von Lindern & Carlo Rombouts, published by Editions Liro (‘s Gravenhage, 1923) and Illustrated by Jan Hoek

Expert photographer Harry Burton, documented the eight-year-long uncovering of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. For that purpose Burton learned to operate a movie camera. With it he recorded the opening of Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus. His creative and technically advanced images and films contributed largely to the Tut-mania phenomenon.

Left: ‘On Nile Land’ by Vicente Pastelle, published by Ildefonso Alier (Madrid, sd). Right: ‘Egyptian Dream’ by Font Palmarola, published by the composer (Barcelona, sd).

Apart from being celebrated by the media, Tutankhamen also notably influenced the arts and culture in the 1920s. Egyptian motifs became an integral part of Art Deco. They decorated fabrics, jewellery, furniture, ceramics, and were ornamental in architecture. Even in society Egyptian hairstyles and costumes became fashionable.

As a result of this Tut-mania, Egypt blossomed as a tourist destination for rich people. Travels to it though, were time-consuming. Tourists could —as did the Belgian queen Elisabeth— travel first by train to Italy, and then board a passenger steamship in Genoa. After a stopover in Naples they would arrive in Alexandria or Port Said four days later.

Each Egyptian adventure started in Cairo where one could swarm the bazaars and curio shops.

Cairo‘ by Sherman Myers, published by Francis-Day (Paris, 1927) and Illustrated by Fabien Loris.

From there one visited the obligatory sphinx and took a sightseeing camel ride around the pyramids.

‘Le Destin’ by Byron Gay, published by :Francis-Day (Paris, 1922) and illustrated by Dorothy Dulin.

Then one took a wagon-lit to Luxor, or visited the famous ruins along the Nile by steamer.

‘La Légende du Nil’ by A. Roux, published by La Parisienne (Paris, 1924) and illustrated by Clérice frères.

In Luxor one checked in at the Winter Palace Hotel or one of the other luxury hotels. With a bumpy ride on a mule under the scorching sun one went to see the Karnak temple complex…

‘Sur la Route de Karnak’ by Harry Sing, published by Gallet & Fils (Paris, sd) and illustrated by Clérice frères.

… to finally arrive at the high point: the Valley of the Kings and the grave of Tutankhamen.

‘La Valle dei Re’ by L. Baracchi, published by the author (Parma, sd) and illustrated by V. Bianchi.

And of course Tut-mania made its mark on the music world also. Soon after King Tut’s discovery, his effigy started to appear on sheet music covers.

Left: ‘Old King Tut was a Wise Old Nut’ by Lucien Denni & Roger Lewis, published by J. W. Jenkins Sons Music Co. (1923). Right: ‘Old King Tut’ by Harry von Tilzer and William Jerome, published by Harry von Tilzer (1923).

One of the most popular songs was Old King Tut by Harry von Tilzer and William Jerome (1923). Another one (Old King Tut was a Wise Old Nut) was published around the same time. Both depict Tutankhamen as an old man. No one knew at the time that when ‘Old King Tut’ died he was in fact a very young man.

Recently, the song by Harry von Tilzer has featured in the television show ‘Boardwalk Empire’:

The Tut-mania craze gave rise to a number of novelty dances, with poses one can see in the Ancient Egyptian reliefs. Not easy to twist your limbs this way. Known for his quirky illustrations, Peter Curt shows us the popular Swedish composer Gunnar Boberg trying out the ‘Egyptian walk’.

‘Aiba’ by Gunnar Boberg, published by A.B. Skandinaviska Musikförlaget (Stockholm, 1922) and Illustrated by Peter Curt.

The British vaudeville artists Jack Wilson and Joe Keppel show you how it is done. Easy enough, get Alexandre Luigini’s Ballet Egyptien on Spotify, throw some sand on the floor and start shuffling!