Friday, August 24, 2007

Cabaret du Néant (Tavern of the Dead) c.1890






Came across a reference to the fascinating (and kind of unbelievable) Cabaret du Néant in the book Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, And Religion In America.The quote reads:
In the 1890s, the Cabaret du Néant (of Tavern of the Dead) first opened its production in Paris and later in New York City. After entering the Cabaret, spectators followed a "monk" down a blackened hall to a café with candles on coffin-shaped tables where they could order refreshments from waiters in funeral garb. A lectured called their attention to paintings of figures that dissolved into paintings of skeletons. While bells tolled and a funeral march played, the monk led the audience to a second chamber; here, a volunteer was asked to step up on a stage and enter a standing casket. After the volunteer was wrapped in a white shroud the spectators gasped at an apparent "X-ray" effect--actually a simpler optical effect--as the man dissolved into a skeleton and then once again returned to plain sight as the skeleton disappeared. In the last chamber, using a similar optical effect, a live spirit appeared to walk around an audience volunteer who mounted the stage to sit at a table.

Early goth amusement? Death themed bar? Were the 1890s the coolest time to be alive? More here and here, but little real information I could find in English. Does anyone have any more information on this? If so, please share!

4 comments:

M said...

Maybe a little Pepper's Ghost (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepper%27s_ghost) action? This is completely amazing. It actually sounds a lot like the Phantasmagoria shows I just wrote about, except probably a lot more serious...and with refreshments.

Such a cool find.

JE said...

I know! it almost seems too good to be true, doesn't it? Between that and the morgue as tourist attraction, I am beginning to thing 1890s Paris might be the coolest time ever.

Anonymous said...

HF what a great site to stubble on today. just opened an old book of my dads and found a unused postcard titled cabaret du neant.It is the picture of the skeleton chandalier in the room where everyone is getting drinks on coffins? pretty creapy postcard and its like new it gave me the creeps in a way....

JE said...

Hi Anonymous

Would love to see a scan of the postcard, if its not to much trouble!

Thanks for the comment!

Joanna