The best books about pirates (fact and fiction)

The best books about pirates (fact and fiction)
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Friday, July 28, 2023

Pirate ghosts in Delaware

 This is an eat article that discusses some of the history of Blackbeard around the area of Blackbird Creek. 

A Brief History of Pirates and Plundering in Delaware

Monday, April 10, 2023

 There is a new tee shirt available in my Etsy shop. It features an original design by S Raphael Vinci. 

You can see it by using the link to my Etsy shop below. 

Pirate Storyteller

Available in a variety of colors and sizes. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Possible christening of Olivier Levasseur


Pas-de-Calais archives, Notre Dame de Calais church (5 MIR 193/30, p.817) from the year 1695 : "Le 5 à 10 heures du matin est né et le 6 a été baptisé un fils du mariage légitime d'Olivier Vasseur et de Marie Anne Jensse qui a été nommé Olivier par Jacques Godon, la marainne a été Marie Jensse/ Jacques Godon / Marque de + Marie Jensse".

It is not certain that it is La Buse's, but name, place, and time frame match.



On the 5th at 10 a.m. was born and on the 6th was baptized a son the legitimate marriage of Olivier Vasseur and Marie Anne Jensse who was named Olivier by Jacques Godon, the marainne (Godmother) was Marie Jensse/ Jacques Godon / Brand of + Marie Jensse"



Translation from the French by Baylus Brooks and Jennifer Gubrud-Diez.

Saturday, November 28, 2020


 Almost everyone is familiar with the story of Bluebeard. How he gives his new wife a key to every room but orders to not enter a certain one. Of course she does, and he kills her for it. The original story by Charles Perrault was written in 1697. I doubt that most people have ever read the complete story. 

I thought it would be interesting to present the original full story here in English and French. 


Bluebeard (Translated by Maria Tatar)

Charles Perrault


There once lived a man who had fine houses, both in the city and in the country, dinner services of gold and silver, chairs covered with tapestries, and coaches covered with gold. But this man had the misfortune of having a blue beard, which made him look so ugly and frightful that women and girls alike fled at the sight of him.

One of his neighbors, a respectable lady, had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He asked for the hand of one but left it up to the mother to choose which one. Neither of the two girls wanted to marry him, and the offer went back and forth between them, since they could not bring themselves to marry a man with a blue beard. What added even more to their sense of disgust was that he had already married several women, and no one knew what had become of them.

In order to cultivate their acquaintance, Bluebeard threw a party for the two girls with their mother, three or four of their closest friends, and a few young men from the neighborhood in one of his country houses. It lasted an entire week. Everyday there were parties of pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, and dining. The guests never even slept, but cavorted and caroused all night long. Everything went so well that the younger of the two sisters began to think that the beard of the master of the house was not so blue after all and that he was in fact a fine fellow. As soon as they returned to town, the marriage was celebrated.

After a month had passed, Bluebeard told his wife that he had to travel to take care of some urgent business in the provinces and that he would be away for at least six weeks. He urged her to enjoy herself while he was away, to invite her close friends and to take them out to the country if she wished. Above all, she was to stay in good spirits.

"Here," he said, "are the keys to my two large storerooms. Here are the ones for the gold and silver china that is too good for everyday use. Here are the ones for my strongboxes, where my gold and silver are kept. Here are the ones for the caskets where my jewels are stored. And finally, this is the passkey to all the rooms in my mansion. As for this particular key, it is the key to the small room at the end of the long passage on the lower floor. Open anything you want. Go anywhere you wish. But I absolutely forbid you to enter that little room, and if you so much as open it a crack, there will be no limit to my anger."

She promised to follow the orders he had just given exactly. After kissing his wife, Bluebeard got into the carriage and embarked on his journey.

Friends and neighbors of the young bride did not wait for an invitation before coming to call, so great was their impatience to see the splendors of the house. They had not dared to call while the husband was there, because of his blue beard, which frightened them. In no time they were darting through the rooms, the closets, and the wardrobes, each of which was more splendid and sumptuous than the next. Then they went upstairs to the storerooms, where they could not find words to describe the number and beauty of the tapestries, beds, sofas,
cabinets, stands, and tables. There were looking glasses, in which you could see yourself from head to toe, some of which had frames of glass, others of silver or gilded lacquer, but all of which were more splendid and magnificent than anyone there had ever seen. They kept on expressing praise even as they felt envy for the good fortune of their friend who, however, was unable to take any pleasure at all from the sight of these riches because she was so anxious to get into that room on the lower floor. So tormented was she by her curiosity that, without stopping to think about how rude it was to leave her friends, she raced down a little staircase so fast that more than once she thought she was going to break her neck. When she reached the door to the room, she stopped to think for a moment about how her husband had forbidden her to enter, and she reflected on the harm that might come her way for being disobedient. But the temptation was so great that she was unable to resist it. She took the little key and, trembling, opened the door.

At first, she saw nothing, for the windows were closed. After a few moments, she began to realize that the floor was covered with clotted blood and that the blood reflected the bodies of several dead women hung up on the walls (these were all the women Bluebeard had married and then murdered one after another).

She thought she would die of fright, and the key to the room, which she was about to pull out of the lock, dropped from her hand. When she regained her senses, she picked up the key, closed the door, and went back to her room to compose herself. But she didn't succeed, for her nerves were too frayed. Having noticed that the key to the room was stained with blood, she wiped it two or three times, but the blood would not come off at all. She tried to wash it off and even to scrub it with sand and grit. The blood stain would not come off because the key was enchanted, and nothing could clean it completely. When you cleaned the stain from one side, it just returned on the other.

That very night, Bluebeard returned unexpectedly from his journey and reported that, on the road, he had received letters informing him that the business upon which he had set forth had just been settled to his satisfaction. His wife did everything that she could to make it appear that she was thrilled with his speedy return. The next day, he asked to have the keys back, and she returned them, but with a hand trembling so much that he knew at once what had happened.

"How is it," he asked, "that the key to the little room isn't with the others?"

"I must have left it upstairs on my dressing table," she replied.

"Don't forget to bring it to me soon," Bluebeard told her.

After making one excuse after another, she had to bring him the key. Bluebeard examined it and said to his wife: "Why is there blood on this key?"

"I have no idea," answered the poor woman, paler than death.

"You have no idea," Bluebeard replied. "But I have an idea. You tried to enter that little room. Well, madam, now that you have opened it, you can go right in and take your place beside the ladies whom you saw there."

She threw herself at her husband's feet, weeping and begging his pardon, with all the signs of genuine regret for disobeying him. She looked so beautiful and was so distressed that she would have melted a heart of stone, but Bluebeard had a heart harder than any rock.

"You must die, madam," he declared, "and it will be right away."

"Since I must die," she replied, gazing at him with eyes full of tears, "give me a little time to say my prayers."

"I will give you a quarter of an hour," Bluebeard said, "but not a moment more."

When she was alone, she called her sister and said to her: "Sister Anne"—for that was her name—"I implore you to go up to the top of the tower to see if my brothers are on the way here. They told me that they were coming to visit today. If you catch sight of them, signal them to hurry."

Sister Anne went up to the top of the tower, and the poor distressed girl cried out to her from time to time: "Anne, Sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

Sister Anne replied: "I see nothing but the sun shining and the green grass growing."

In the meantime, Bluebeard took an enormous cutlass in hand and cried out at the top of his voice to his wife: "Come down at once or I'll go up there!"

"Just a moment more, I beg you," his wife replied and at the same time she called out softly: "Anne, Sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

And Sister Anne replied: "I see nothing but the sun shining and the green grass growing."

"Come down at once," Bluebeard called, "or I'll go up there!"

"I'm coming," his wife replied, and then she called: "Anne, Sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

"I can see a great cloud of dust coming this way," replied Sister Anne.

"Is it my brothers?"

"No, oh no, sister, it's just a flock of sheep."

"Are you coming down?" Bluebeard roared.

"Just one moment more," his wife replied, and then she called: "Anne, Sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

"I see two horsemen coming this way, but they're still far away," she replied. "Thank God," she shouted a moment later, "it must be our brothers. I'll signal to them to hurry up."

Bluebeard began shouting so loudly that the entire house shook. His poor wife came downstairs, in tears and with disheveled hair. She threw herself at his feet.

"That won't do you any good," said Bluebeard. "Prepare to die." Then, taking her by the hair with one hand and raising his cutlass with the other, he was about to chop off her head. The poor woman turned to him and implored him with a gaze that had death written on it. She begged for one last moment to prepare herself for death. "No, no," he said, "prepare to meet your maker." And lifting his arm . . .

Just at that moment there was such a loud pounding at the gate that Bluebeard stopped short. The gate was opened, and two horsemen, swords in hand, dashed in and made straight for Bluebeard. He realized that they were the brothers of his wife: the one a dragoon and the other a musketeer. He fled instantly in an effort to escape. But the two brothers were so hot in pursuit that they trapped him before he could get to the stairs. They plunged their swords through his body and left him for dead. Bluebeard's wife was as close to death as her husband and barely had the strength to rise and embrace her brothers.

It turned out that Bluebeard had left no heirs, and so his wife took possession of the entire estate. She devoted a portion of it to arranging a marriage between her sister Anne and a young gentleman with whom she had been in love for a long time. Another portion of it was used to buy commissions for her two brothers. She used the rest to marry herself to a very worthy man, who banished the memory of the miserable
days she had spent with Bluebeard.

Curiosity, in spite of its many charms,
Can bring with it serious regrets;
You can see a thousand examples of it every day.
Women succumb, but it's a fleeting pleasure;
As soon as you satisfy it, it ceases to be.
And it always proves very, very costly.

Another Moral
If you just take a sensible point of view,
And study this grim little story,
You will understand that this tale
Is one that took place many years ago.
No longer are husbands so terrible,
Demanding the impossible,
Acting unhappy and jealous.
With their wives they toe the line;
And whatever color their beards might be,
It's not hard to tell which of the pair is master.


From the website:


Original French version:


Il était une fois un homme qui avait de belles maisons à la ville et à la campagne, de la vaisselle d’or et d’argent, des meubles en broderies et des carrosses tout dorés. Mais, par malheur, cet homme avait la barbe bleue : cela le rendait si laid et si terrible, qu’il n’était ni femme ni fille qui ne s’enfuît de devant lui.

Une de ses voisines, dame de qualité, avait deux filles parfaitement belles. Il lui en demanda une en mariage, et lui laissa le choix de celle qu’elle voudrait lui donner. Elles n’en voulaient point toutes deux, et se le renvoyaient l’une à l’autre, ne pouvant se résoudre à prendre un homme qui eût la barbe bleue. Ce qui les dégoûtait encore, c’est qu’il avait déjà épousé plusieurs femmes, et qu’on ne savait ce que ces femmes étaient devenues.

La Barbe bleue, pour faire connaissance, les mena, avec leur mère et trois ou quatre de leurs meilleures amies et quelques jeunes gens du voisinage, à une de ses maisons de campagne, où on demeura huit jours entiers. Ce n’étaient que promenades, que parties de chasse et de pêche, que danses et festins, que collations : on ne dormait point et on passait toute la nuit à se faire des malices les uns aux autres ; enfin tout alla si bien que la cadette commença à trouver que le maître du logis n’avait plus la barbe si bleue, et que c’était un fort honnête homme.

Dès qu’on fut de retour à la ville, le mariage se conclut. Au bout d’un mois, la Barbe bleue dit à sa femme qu’il était obligé de faire un voyage en province, de six semaines au moins, pour une affaire de conséquence ; qu’il la priait de se bien divertir pendant son absence ; qu’elle fît venir ses bonnes amies ; qu’elle les menât à la campagne, si elle voulait ; que partout elle fît bonne chère.

« Voilà, dit-il, les clefs des deux grands garde-meubles ; voilà celles de la vaisselle d’or et d’argent, qui ne sert pas tous les jours ; voilà celles de mes coffres-forts où est mon or et mon argent ; celles des cassettes où sont mes pierreries, et voilà le passe-partout de tous les appartements. Pour cette petite clef-ci, c’est la clef du cabinet au bout de la grande galerie de l’appartement bas : ouvrez tout, allez partout ; mais, pour ce petit cabinet, je vous défends d’y entrer, et je vous le défends de telle sorte que s’il vous arrive de l’ouvrir, il n’y a rien que vous ne deviez attendre de ma colère. »

Elle promit d’observer exactement tout ce qui lui venait d’être ordonné, et lui, après l’avoir embrassée, il monte dans son carrosse, et part pour son voyage. Les voisines et les bonnes amies n’attendirent pas qu’on les envoyât quérir pour aller chez la jeune mariée, tant elles avaient d’impatience de voir toutes les richesses de sa maison, n’ayant osé y venir pendant que le mari y était, à cause de sa barbe bleue, qui leur faisait peur.

Les voilà aussitôt à parcourir les chambres, les cabinets, les garde-robes, toutes plus belles et plus riches les unes que les autres. Elles montèrent ensuite aux garde-meubles, où elles ne pouvaient assez admirer le nombre et la beauté des tapisseries, des lits, des sofas, des cabinets, des guéridons, des tables et des miroirs où l’on se voyait depuis les pieds jusqu’à la tête, et dont les bordures, les unes de glace, les autres d’argent et de vermeil doré, étaient les plus belles et les plus magnifiques qu’on eût jamais vues. Elles ne cessaient d’exagérer et d’envier le bonheur de leur amie, qui cependant, ne se divertissait point à voir toutes ces richesses, à cause de l’impatience qu’elle avait d’aller ouvrir le cabinet de l’appartement bas.

Elle fut si pressée de sa curiosité, que sans considérer qu’il était malhonnête de quitter sa compagnie, elle y descendit par un petit escalier dérobé, et avec tant de précipitation qu’elle pensa se rompre le cou deux ou trois fois.

Etant arrivée à la porte du cabinet, elle s’y arrêta quelque temps, songeant à la défense que son mari lui avait faite, et considérant qu’il pourrait lui arriver malheur d’avoir été désobéissante ; mais la tentation était si forte qu’elle ne put la surmonter : elle prit donc la petite clef, et ouvrit en tremblant la porte du cabinet.

D’abord elle ne vit rien, parce que les fenêtres étaient fermées. Après quelques moments, elle commença à voir que le plancher était tout couvert de sang caillé, et que dans ce sang, se miraient les corps de plusieurs femmes mortes et attachées le long des murs : c’était toutes les femmes que la Barbe bleue avait épousées, et qu’il avait égorgées l’une après l’autre.

Elle pensa mourir de peur, et la clef du cabinet, qu’elle venait de retirer de la serrure, lui tomba de la main. Après avoir un peu repris ses sens, elle ramassa la clef, referma la porte, et monta à sa chambre pour se remettre un peu ; mais elle n’en pouvait venir à bout, tant elle était émue. Ayant remarqué que la clef du cabinet était tachée de sang, elle l’essuya deux ou trois fois ; mais le sang ne s’en allait point : elle eut beau la laver, et même la frotter avec du sablon et avec du grès, il demeura toujours du sang, car la clef était fée, et il n’y avait pas moyen de la nettoyer tout à fait : quand on ôtait le sang d’un côté, il revenait de l’autre.

La Barbe bleue revint de son voyage dès le soir-même, et dit qu’il avait reçu des lettres, dans le chemin, qui lui avaient appris que l’affaire pour laquelle il était parti venait d’être terminée à son avantage. Sa femme fit tout ce qu’elle put pour lui témoigner qu’elle était ravie de son prompt retour.

Le lendemain, il lui redemanda les clefs ; et elle les lui donna, mais d’une main si tremblante, qu’il devina sans peine tout ce qui s’était passé.

« D’où vient, lui dit-il, que la clef du cabinet n’est point avec les autres ?

— Il faut, dit-elle, que je l’aie laissée là-haut sur ma table.

— Ne manquez pas, dit la Barbe bleue, de me la donner tantôt. »

Après plusieurs remises, il fallut apporter la clef. La Barbe bleue, l’ayant considérée, dit à sa femme :

« Pourquoi y a-t-il du sang sur cette clef ?

— Je n’en sais rien, répondit la pauvre femme, plus pâle que la mort.

— Vous n’en savez rien ! reprit la Barbe bleue ; je le sais bien, moi. Vous avez voulu entrer dans le cabinet ! Eh bien, madame, vous y entrerez et irez prendre votre place auprès des dames que vous y avez vues. »

Elle se jeta aux pieds de son mari en pleurant, et en lui demandant pardon, avec toutes les marques d’un vrai repentir, de n’avoir pas été obéissante. Elle aurait attendri un rocher, belle et affligée comme elle était mais la Barbe bleue avait le cœur plus dur qu’un rocher.

« Il faut mourir, madame, lui dit-il, et tout à l’heure.

— Puisqu’il faut mourir, répondit-elle en le regardant les yeux baignés de larmes, donnez-moi un peu de temps pour prier Dieu.

— Je vous donne un demi-quart d’heure, reprit la Barbe bleue ; mais pas un moment davantage. »

Lorsqu’elle fut seule, elle appela sa sœur, et lui dit

« Ma sœur Anne, car elle s’appelait ainsi, monte, je te prie, sur le haut de la tour pour voir si mes frères ne viennent point : ils m’ont promis qu’ils me viendraient voir aujourd’hui ; et si tu les vois, fais-leur signe de se hâter. »

La sœur Anne monta sur le haut de la tour ; et la pauvre affligée lui criait de temps en temps :

« Anne, ma sœur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir ? »

Et la sœur Anne, lui répondait :

« Je ne vois rien que le soleil qui poudroie, et l’herbe qui verdoie. »

Cependant, la Barbe bleue, tenant un grand coutelas à sa main, criait de toute sa force à sa femme :

« Descends vite ou je monterai là-haut.

— Encore un moment, s’il vous plaît », lui répondait sa femme.

Et aussitôt elle criait tout bas :

« Anne, ma sœur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir ? »

Et la sœur Anne répondait : « Je ne vois rien que le soleil qui poudroie, et l’herbe qui verdoie.

— Descends donc vite, criait la Barbe bleue, ou je monterai là-haut.

— Je m’en vais », répondait la femme et puis elle criait :

« Anne, ma sœur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir ?

— Je vois, répondit la sœur Anne, une grosse poussière qui vient de ce côté-ci…

— Sont-ce mes frères ?

— Hélas ! non, ma sœur : c’est un troupeau de moutons…

— Ne veux-tu pas descendre ? criait la Barbe bleue.

— Encore un moment », répondait sa femme, et puis elle criait :

« Anne, ma sœur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir ?

— Je vois, répondit-elle, deux cavaliers qui viennent de ce côté, mais ils sont bien loin encore.

— Dieu soit loué ! s’écria-t-elle un moment après, ce sont mes frères ; je leur fais signe tant que je puis de se hâter. »

La Barbe bleue se mit à crier si fort que toute la maison en trembla. La pauvre femme descendit, et alla se jeter à ses pieds tout épleurée et tout échevelée.

« Cela ne sert à rien, dit la Barbe bleue ; il faut mourir. »

Puis, la prenant d’une main par les cheveux, et de l’autre, levant le coutelas en l’air, il allait lui abattre la tête. La pauvre femme, se tournant vers lui, et le regardant avec des yeux mourants, le pria de lui donner un petit moment pour se recueillir.

« Non, non, dit-il, recommande-toi bien à Dieu » ; et, levant son bras…

Dans ce moment, on heurta si fort à la porte que la Barbe bleue s’arrêta tout court. On l’ouvrit, et aussitôt on vit entrer deux cavaliers, qui mettant l’épée à la main, coururent droit à la Barbe bleue.

Il reconnut que c’étaient les frères de sa femme, l’un dragon et l’autre mousquetaire, de sorte qu’il s’enfuit aussitôt pour se sauver ; mais les deux frères le poursuivirent de si près qu’ils l’attrapèrent avant qu’il pût gagner le perron. Ils lui passèrent leur épée au travers du corps, et le laissèrent mort. La pauvre femme était presque aussi morte que son mari, et n’avait pas la force de se lever pour embrasser ses frères.

Il se trouva que la Barbe bleue n’avait point d’héritiers, et qu’ainsi sa femme demeura maîtresse de tous ses biens. Elle en employa une partie à marier sa sœur Anne avec un jeune gentilhomme dont elle était aimée depuis longtemps ; une autre partie à acheter des charges de capitaines à ses deux frères, et le reste à se marier elle-même à un fort honnête homme, qui lui fit oublier le mauvais temps qu’elle avait passé avec la Barbe bleue.


La curiosité, malgré tous ses attraits,

Coûte souvent bien des regrets ;

On en voit, tous les jours, mille exemples paraître.

C’est, n’en déplaise au sexe, un plaisir bien léger ;

Dès qu’on le prend, il cesse d’être.

Et toujours il coûte trop cher.


Pour peu qu’on ait l’esprit sensé

Et que du monde on sache le grimoire,

On voit bientôt que cette histoire

Est un conte du temps passé.

Il n’est plus d’époux si terrible,

Ni qui demande l’impossible :

Fût-il malcontent et jaloux.

Près de sa femme on le voit filer doux ;

Et de quelque couleur que sa barbe puisse être,

On a peine à juger qui des deux est le maître.


From the website:


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Life in 1700: That woman opera singer you're watching was probably male!

 The deliberate castration of boys was not outlawed until the early 1900s. Here is an article I found with some really creepy facts about the singers known as Castrati. 

The voice of Alessandro Moreschi




How The Catholic Church Castrated Young Boys And Made Them Sing

Jen Jeffers

Updated December 20, 2018 197.1k views11 items

The castrati of 16th-century Rome – singers known for their angelic, falsetto voices equivalent to those of sopranos – were often the most celebrated in the chorus. While their voices were beautiful, the male singers designated as castrati earned their title through a disturbing ritual; these chosen young men were castrated before puberty so they would never reach sexual maturity.

When the Pope banned women from public singing in the mid-16th century, opera itself was seemingly threatened. Young boys filled in for a time, but boys' voices naturally dropped when they reached puberty. To remedy this alleged issue, the Romans resorted to body modification. These Italian singers left a dark legacy in their wake: adults trapped in prepubescent bodies. While castrati singers no longer exist, the disturbing tale of their origin – as well as the late date at which the practice was still enforced – remains. 

  • Castrated Boys Replaced Female Singers

Opera and opera singers have been celebrated throughout history, particularly by the medieval Romans. A pivotal feature of the opera was female singers capable of hitting notes at high registers. At this point in history, however, the Catholic Church forbade women from singing in any religious setting.

In 1588, Pope Sixtus V furthered the female-singer ban by restricting them from singing on any kind of stage whatsoever. This posed a major problem for the opera world, as sopranos were particularly essential to the art. Young male singers were capable of hitting the same notes as adult female sopranos, but their immature voices would break and lower as they approached manhood. In response to this perceived problem, man manipulated nature through a deviant process of castrating young boys at just the proper time to stunt their vocal cords and capture their high, youthful voices.

  • Thousands Of Boys Were Castrated, But Only Some Survived

Creating young eunuchs was the ideal – and only –method with which to harness the pitch and power of an adult voice without compromising the light, ethereal timbre of a youth.

Italian boys with gifted voices were taken to back-alley surgeons who would heavily sedate their subjects with opium before placing them in a hot bath. The surgeon would then snip the ducts leading to the testicles, leaving them to wither over time, and leaving the subjected children in a state of perpetual boyhood.

By the early 1700s, an estimated 4,000 young men received the operation each year, but only 80 percent of them survived. The average age of a castration subject was eight, and while the practice was extremely common, it was technically illegal. 

  • Castrati Were Extremely Sexualized And Desired By Both Men And Women

As Casanova once claimed, "Rome forces every man to become a pederast." This was never more true than in the case of the castrati. In his memoirs, he recounted an orgy during which women and castrati stood in a line and attendants were made to determine the males from the females. 

Castrati were biological men who appeared female and often acted like as such. They lived outside the scope of normal gender, much to the sexual confusion of those around them; castrati, seen as neither female nor male, were a sexual temptation for both men and women who fantasized about unconventional ways to find pleasure. 

In fact, castrato singers' reputations were perpetually salacious, and their sexual exploits could be compared to those of modern-day celebrities. 

  • A Castrato's Body Developed Abnormally

As a castrato's body grew, a lack of testosterone restricted his bone joints from hardening in the typical way. The limbs of a castrato often grew unusually long, making them seraphic in appearance. This anomaly, combined with intensive vocal training, gave them unrivaled lung power, breath capacity, and large chests. Singing through small, child-sized vocal cords, their voices were also extraordinarily flexible and quite different from the equivalent voice of an adult female.

But while the form of the castrato was seen as elegant, the repercussions of the surgery were often suffered later in life when their large bones developed osteoporosis and their organs began to struggle beneath the weight of their extremely tall bodies. Depression was also common among castrati as they aged – many felt extreme mental anguish and sensitivity in tandem with an erratic mental state.

Mysteriously, research of castrati bones show that many of the singers developed hypertosis frontalis interna. This rare disease occurs when the front bone of the skull thickens, causing seizures and headaches and affecting the sex glands. 

  • Women Had Affairs With Female-Passing Castrati

English women were unusually fond of the easily female-passing Italian castrati. Women involved with castrati would invite them to parties – appearing as a woman – and would engage in sexual affairs in spite of their watching husbands nearby.

Although the young men were normally forbidden to marry by the Church, they would occasionally receive special legal dispensation. Some even resorted to sex work to make some extra money, servicing both male and female clients. 

  • They Were Known To Be "Divas"

Castrati were not only infamous for their eroticism, but also tempers, tantrums, and insufferable vanity. Regarded as highly emotional and excessive, they often engaged in catty in-fighting with other performers and friends. They were groomed for the stage, including all its drama and mercurial temperament.

Despite the massive numbers of young boys who were subjected to this type of castration, only a handful actually succeeded in their assigned careers. These chosen few lived in luxury, touring the great opera houses of Europe from Madrid to Moscow, commanding fabulous fees, and bringing both male and female admirers to their knees.

  • Castration Was Dangerous, Painful, And Performed With No Anesthesia

Modern science proves castration restricts the formation of testosterone in the male body and allows the male voice to grow about 63 percent longer than before the procedure. This natural process also caused the thyroid to thicken over time, creating the quintessential manly trait known as the "Adam's apple." Autopsies performed on castrati after death proved the dimensions of their vocal cords were equivalent to those a female soprano.

When the use of Italian castrati was popular, there was no anesthesia, meaning boys were either numbed with ice or forced into a comatose state by a surgeon's assistant pressing on their carotid artery. The penis and testicles were not actually amputated, but rather the vas deferens in the scrotum were cut, and the testicles would essentially shrivel and disappear. Not only was the procedure itself extremely painful, castration of this kind left lifelong physical and emotional scars.

  • 'Voluntary' Castration Dates Back To The Ninth Century

Although the Italian castrati are the most prominent example of voluntary castration, the procedure dates back to ancient Sumeria where it was used to enslave and punish men. Eunuch singers similar to those in Medieval Rome are believed to have existed in the early days of the Byzantine Empire around 400 AD to sing in choirs and entertain the public. They became increasingly popular in the 9th century until they all but disappeared in the early 1200s amid the sack of Constantinople during the Crusades. The practice of castrating young boys to heighten their vocal ranges essentially vanished until the practice was adopted in Italy some 300 years later. 

Soldiers in imperial China also engaged in voluntary castration, but not for vocal purposes. Before signing up for service, soldiers in 17th century China were castrated and employed to serve the emperor. 

  • The Most Famous Castrato Sang Until 1922

Known as the very last of his breed, Alessandro Moreschi – nicknamed the Angel of Rome – performed as a castrato until his death in 1922. Despite being banned from entertaining several years prior, he was castrated in 1865 and went on to have an illustrious career. He retired in 1913, but not before making the first (and only) recording of a castrato singer. Because of Moreschi's unique vocal style, however, that he sang like the classic castrato singers of the past is unlikely.

  • They Had Little Independence And Often Died Alone

To be eternalized as a castrati was never a child's choice, and their assigned vocal skill sets limited what castrati could do with the remainder of their lives. These men were forbidden from partaking in the Church, the government, or the military, and could have no real families of their own. They were entertainers for the masses and nothing else. Some, however, found no success in opera and resorted to sex work or singing in the streets for change in order to support themselves.

Even though many adored the castrati, there were plenty who found them repugnant, and their admiration was greatly mixed with public scorn. Often referred to as geldings, nature's rejects, or capons, a great many castrati suffered from depression or even committed suicide. 

  • Forced Castration Was Finally Banned In The Early 19th Century

The invasive procedure of castration in the name of art was banned in the early 19th century; however, Italian doctors continued to create castrati until 1870 for revered performances at the Sistine Chapel. Italy and the Catholic Church had been mesmerized by castrato singers for the past 300 years, making the so-called habit difficult to break. 

While the castrati were extremely popular with audiences, parents of young boy singers were becoming less comfortable with castrating their sons. In the late 1700s, Italian families were emerging from poverty and felt no need to subject their children to money-making schemes. Intellectuals also began protesting forced castration, and many believed the practice was unnatural. An increased effort to bring women back into the theater also aided this shift – young boys were disinterested in becoming castrati, and, due to the deficit of subjects and growing moral outrage, the pope was forced to outlaw the practice in 1903.

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