My old mum, coming from the land of the Brothers Grimm, liked to tell us the most gruesome stories of true horror when we were kids. Stories about things she saw, heard and experienced as a child during the war. Or parables that always ended with children waking up dead in the morning to show us what would happen if we engaged in certain behaviours.
Not even normal kid behaviours like not eating your vegetables or disobeying our parents, (Dr. Hoffmann had that covered), but weird stuff involving pointless superstitions like not drinking water in the same day as eating pitted fruit (you’ll wake up dead the next morning…it happened to little Fritz she knew from next door).
Or not singing before 9:00 a.m. or you’ll die before 9:00 pm. (It happened to her cousin Karl-Heinz).
Or not eating during a thunder storm or the food would choke you and kill you because God was trying to tell you something and by, jiminy, you’d better pay attention and not be stuffing your face, or else. (Yes, it happened to several people she knew in her childhood).
Then there were the stories about historical figures that she, or someone she knew had some close personal knowledge of. Most of them, I think had been passed down to her from her own gruesome parents.
One of my favourites, and one which was probably responsible for my sleep disorders for several decades, was the Terrible Tale of Rasputin. (She even had a song that led into the story itself. It’s all in German though, and doesn’t translate well, so I won’t recount it here).
Anyway, the story begins once upon a time, in a land far away, in the dead of winter, when a freaky kid was born. They named him Grigori Yefimovich and he was a most strange child from the very beginning.
He had an older brother and a younger sister. One day while he was playing alone with his little sister, Maria, she drowned in a nearby river.
Some years later, while Grigori was playing alone with his older brother, Dmitri, he ended up drowning in a pond.
Now Grigori was an only child and none of the neighbourhood kids would play with him.
Spending so much time by himself, Grigori managed to developed mystic and psychic powers. He also got all religious and hung out with monks. They were mostly crazy-assed monks were into self-flagellation and something called “rejoicing” which was a ritual they used to overcome their nasty sexual urges. The ritual involved engaging in group sex because by “consciously sinning together, the sin’s power over the human was nullified”.
Gotta love that holy roller logic!
Anyhoooo, Grigori eventually got married and had two kids with his wife and then another kid with another woman. Then he pretty much went on a debauched rampage of binge drinking, promiscuous sexual escapades and rather horrifying rapes, including a well-publicized rape of nun.
He claimed that yielding to the temptations of sex, alcohol and humiliation/violence were necessary to proceed to repentance and salvation. And damn if the man didn’t need a hell of a lot of repentance and salvation. No one was safe.
For his day job, Grigori became spiritual leader to Tsars and society ladies and other big shots. (Seems like religious fanaticism and debauchery have been travelling hand-in-hand for centuries).
Of course all the while Grigori was accumulating a shit load of enemies. Hob-nobbing with royalty and such in 19th century Russia, didn’t endear him to a lot of people, never mind the raping and pillaging stuff.
One group that really didn’t like him were all the women he’d abused over the years. They sort of got together in an Oprah-like support group and decided to kill him. One of them won the right to wield the knife. (I don’t know how they picked the winner – maybe it was the one who’d had to give birth to his evil demon-spawn bastard child).
Anyway, she jumped Grigori one dark and baleful night when he was good and drunk and unable to defend himself. She basically gutted him, stabbing and slashing until his entrails hung out of his belly and lay on the ground in front of him. (Here’s where the story starts getting really good).
The gang of women watching and cheering-on this murder were euphoric. They danced around his disemboweled body for a while, kicking him and spitting on him a few times and then left him bleeding in the streets to go home and get the first good night’s sleep they’d had in years.
Dude wasn’t quite dead though and managed to drag himself off to a surgeon. The surgeon fixed him all up. Everyone totally freaked out. His wife said he was never quite the same after that.
His enemies didn’t give up that easily though. They re-grouped and came up with an elaborate conspiracy to lure Grigori to a fancy dinner party (a la Agatha Christie) at the home of some guy Grigori thought was his friend.
Murder was on the menu.
They fed him a cake filled with cyanide. (Mwah-ha-ha). And waited. And waited. But Gregori kept on partying.
So they fed him another cyanide-filled cake and still he kept on truckin’. Feeding him a third poisoned confection also seemed to have no effect.
A hurried conference was called in the kitchen. They brought out a goblet of poisoned wine. Grigori drank it up and complained that he’d suddenly developed a sore throat. He asked for another glass of wine. They gladly gave it to him. (Also poisoned, of course. I’m thinking by now they must be running out of poison. How much poison does the average Russian household keep on hand anyway?)
So the evening had turned into night and was now turning into morning. Guests were getting restless, anxious to get home to bed, but Grigori showed no signs of getting sleepy, let alone dropping dead.
Someone got the bright idea to just shoot the bastard. They grabbed a gun and blasted Grigori full on, close range, smack in the heart.
Grigori fell down. The party suddenly got its second wind. Everyone had some more drinks and whiled away a few hours pointing and laughing at the dead guy on the floor.
Then suddenly Grigori got up, scaring the crap out of everyone. (Yes, it scared the crap out of us every time Mum told it, too).
Finally cluing in that this wasn’t his kind of party scene, Grigori decided to get the hell out of there.
He took off at a quick clip. But his party friends weren’t letting him get away. They all grabbed their guns and ran after him, shooting. They got him once in the shoulder and once in the neck. He fell down. Again.
Then he got up again and started running some more.
His buddies were well and truly fed up at this point and caught up with Grigori and beat him to a bloody pulp with any and all available sticks, logs, lead pipes, wrenches and candlesticks. Then when he was quite pulpy, they hacked off his penis, (which apparently was 13 inches long). They wrapped penis-free Gregori in a blanket and tossed him off a bridge, managing to crack his head open as he bounced off the railing on the way down.
Grigori went into the frozen river far below and sunk under the ice.
Of course, he rallied once again and tried to swim for it, attempting to find a way out of the ice. But he failed. And died. Finally.
When his body was recovered his friends and neighbours built a big, old fire in a local field and chucked him in to burn. Halfway through the cremation, Grigori suddenly sat up and grimaced!! (But that was just because of the shrinking of ligaments or something and not because he’d come back to life, though it makes for a good WAKE-UP point in the story, if anyone had the chutzpah to fall asleep). There was also some talk of him having shaken his charred and blackened fist at everyone, but that was never substantiated.
I was kind of pleased when that cute German Boney M band wrote a song about Grigori. Ra Ra Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine. It was a shame how he carried on….
It meant that I was probably not the only German kid who grew up with stories like this.
 Somehow, Rasputin’s penis was rescued by some women who kept it in a wooden box as a holy relic. Rasputin’s daughter won a law suit to have her Dad’s penis returned to her (who wouldn’t?) and she kept it until she died in California in 1977. It now supposedly resides in a jar of formaldehyde in the Russian Museum of Erotica. Click here if you really want to see a picture of it.