Since I’ve been old enough to illegally drink trashcan punch, woeful tales of Absinthe have been drilled into my head. Blindness, murder, and residency in a padded cell were promised results from drinking sinful Absinthe – or so I was told. Like another midnight campfire story, I was completely freaked out enough to avoid the “Green Fairy” like a leisurely wade through Louisiana swamp water. In case you’re wondering what folklore could keep a 20-something (ok, maybe I was 17) away from free bootlegged booze, let me help you out. How true or fabricated you believe these fables to be, they are steeped in reputable and historical accountings. Don’t cry later tonight under your bed covers and say I didn’t warn you!
15 minutes of fame accompany each horror story below. In fact, these famous Absinthe drinkers were likely sorrowful they ever ran into the stuff, and would have been elated to abandon infamy at the door. After considerable ingestion of the Green Fairy, as it was later named in New Orleans in 1905, each partaker was met with remarkable devastating woes.
Vincent Van Gogh Vinny lived a strange life without reputable evidence to the contrary. His paintings posthumously became known for their legendary masterful mastery of hallucination. Starry Night is a piece that portrays a midnight landscape in eerie disproportion. It is said that he drank Absinthe to the point of brain degeneration, and his artwork began to imitate his lifestyle – sinister. The man cut off his ear and curried it to a prostitute to profess his unrequited love. One spooky dude!
Jean Lanfray When I think of Switzerland and the beauty of her Alps, I do not usually conjure up mental images of murder and mayhem. But that is exactly what happened on August 28th, 1905. After partying at the local Absinthe house late into the night, Jean returned home to a worried pregnant wife. After one hum-dinger of a fight, Jean slayed her and their two children. As a direct result of “The Absinthe Murders,” Switzerland outlawed the sale, purchase, or possession of the evil alcohol in 1910. The United States and France followed suit quickly thereafter.
Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Mr. Wilde, is the story of a man in love with everything life had to offer: art, women, men, but nothing as much as his own beautiful image. After a painting of his elegant profile was gifted to him by a close artist friend, Dorian was stricken with sadness that he would age every year of his life, while the painting was destined to remain flawless. He made a deal with the devil and became more beautiful by the year. But the painting of his likeness, now covered and hidden in his attic, reflected a man aging with a decrepit and morally bankrupt soul. It is said that Mr. Wilde wrote this story while spiraling into his own Absinthe whirlpool, and could be considered somewhat of a pseudo-autobiography. After a stay in prison and fall from societal graces, Wilde sunk into dire straits and lived out his remaining few years in destitute, impoverished conditions. Eventually, Oscar Wilde died at the age of 46 from meningitis as a result of tertiary syphilis, which was no doubt linked to his carefree lifestyle.
Absinthe is now legal in the United States, France, and Switzerland, but is required to meet regulatory ingredient requirements. If you chose to live a life of greed and excess, then Absinthe may be your drink. Or it could be that you are simply a fan of Gothic lore. Whatever our choice of escape may be, my hope is that we don’t end up alone walking in crazy circles of alcohol induced hallucination. If I ran into any one of the above three men in a dark alley, I would likely die a frightened death worse than any that Absinthe could dream up.
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