|Monte Carlo Casino craps tables|
Perched along the French Riviera in Monaco, Monte Carlo has been the playground of the world's most adventurous gamblers since the mid-nineteenth century. Monte Carlo may be synonymous with gambling (although gambling is illegal to citizens of Monaco, strangely enough), but it is also synonymous with mystery and intrigue, as the unusual story of the "suicide table" at the Monte Carlo Casino reveals.
From Las Vegas to Atlantic City, every gambling mecca has a higher rate of suicide than other locales; after all, these are places where fortunes are won and lost in the blink of an eye. Yet no other gaming table in any other casino in the world can be said to be responsible for as many suicides as the "cursed" table, which claimed 113 lives in a ten year span between 1890 and 1900.
Here is the complete and unabridged strange story of Monte Carlo's suicide table, as it appeared in the Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper in March of 1900.
|Monte Carlo Casino, circa 1898|
Monte Carlo's Terrors: A Suicide Table Where Scores Have Despaired
To the right of the Moorish salon, the second room from the entrance in the great gambling rooms of Monte Carlo, stands the suicide table. This accursed piece of furniture has a record of causing 113 suicides in ten years, according to the count kept by C. Benvenisti, formerly chief of the detectives in this room.
Even the chairs of this table differ in the intensity of their hoodooed state. The chair to the left of the croupier facing the entrance door has claimed seventeen victims. The twenty-third chair accommodated eleven suicides, six women and five men. The others have records of eight, five, four, three and one death.
One day five years ago, writes M. Benvenisti in the Chicago Inter-Ocean, my neighbor at the table was a young Parisian. He sat in one of the one-death chairs and won. When the doors closed he carried off 200,000 francs. Imagine my anticipations when next morning I found him installed to the left of the croupier. I felt like tearing him away or slipping a card into his hand, to warn him against the seat he had chosen, but my official character forbade me to interfere, and, besides, my advice would have been scorned, for the fellow gambled like one mad. He lost his winnings of the day before and 200,000 francs of his own money. When his last 1,000 franc note was gone he rose, and swaying to and fro like a drunkard, stumbled out of the hall, laughing immoderately.
Two of my men led a merry chase for this unfortunate, and when they caught up with him he jumped off the railway bridge, knocking out his brains.
Another case that haunts my dreams! One day and elderly gentleman, Signor Antonio Cesare, who knew my connection with the Casino, compelled me to give him the seat I was occupying. I did so with a bleeding heart, for this old man was the very picture of health, and I was an intimate friend of his cousin, the Mayor of Bentimigli.
Well, this gentleman lost nearly a hundred thousand francs in the day and evening. When he got up, hos own mother wouldn't have known him. He looked ten years older; his flesh had fallen away, madness stared out of his eyes. Next day they fished his body from the lake at Mentone.
Then there were the Parlingtons, refined English people. They were on their wedding trip. I never forgot the look of delight with which young Mrs. Parlington pocketed her first small gain. The pretty bride fairly coaxed her husband to stake 10 francs. When night came they had a couple of thousand francs in their pockets. Next morning they took chairs Nos. 23 and 24. Number 23 brought them the usual luck. They gained 30,000 francs. But on the following day came the inevitable change. The 30,000 francs went back to us, and the couple's little fortune followed. They walked from the room deathly pale, hand in hand. My detectives informed me that they took the train for Nice without troubling about their baggage. They shot and killed themselves in the Windsor Hotel there.
Everybody can see that the cloth on the suicide table is of more recent make than the rest. Yet the Casino company is only 318 francs the poorer on that account. Here are the figures: Cloth for double table, 250 francs; nailing down, 18 francs; total, 318 francs. Against these figures there is an offset of 600 francs, which the Casino company would have been obliged to pay the young Russian for traveling expenses. This Muscovite Prince refused to become a pensioner of M. Blanc's heirs, and blew out his brains over the table where he had dropped his all-- 400,000 francs.
It happened two years ago and it nearly cost me my job. The circumstances that one of the directors of the company drew me into a corner to talk about the same Russian's persistent ill luck just a minute before the shot rang out- that along saved me from disgrace. The incident itself was soon forgotten and had no bearing on the game. It has nothing to do with the superstitions attaching to the suicide table. The ill reputation of that piece of furniture was of many years standing when the Russian committed that flagrant breach of Casino etiquette. He was No. 85 on my list of unfortunates.
When I saw a man or woman approach the suicide state, my first care was to prevent him or her from spoiling more cloth. I signaled my men to press around the party and prevent him or her from putting a hand in the pocket or from striking the croupier. Many desperate cases I approached as a fellow gambler, offering to assist them and pay their homeward journey. I dare say my intervention- which cost me nothing, as the company recouped me- has saved many a poor devil's life.
Whether suicide candidates have a foreboding of evil when they come to our table, I don't know, but a few try to escape their goal. They come flanked by prayers or holding a piece of hangman's rope. Others try to insure their fortune by paying the croupier 100 francs before the day's work begins. Of course, he accepts the bribe. He isn't tampering with his employer's profits.
|Francisco Grimaldi, aka "The Malicious One"|
Victims of the Grimaldi Curse?
Since 1297, the House of Grimaldi has ruled over Monaco, beginning with Francisco Grimaldi- famously known as "The Malicious One". For it was Princess Caroline of Monaco who brought gambling to Monte Carlo in the 19th century, in an attempt to save the hedonistic House of Grimaldi from bankruptcy. The Grimaldi's troubles go back much further than that, however, leading many people to believe that the House of Grimaldi- if not all of Monaco- is cursed.
It all started back in the 13th century when Prince Rainier I allegedly kidnapped and raped a beautiful maiden, who later became a witch-- cursing the prince's family for all eternity. Perhaps the best-known cruel twist of fate for the ruling family took place in 1982, when Princess Grace died of injuries sustained in a car accident. In 1983, Princess Caroline, after ending a tumultuous 2-year marriage to a French playboy, married Stefano Casiraghi, who was killed in a boating accident not long after. In 2005, a day before Prince Ranier died at the age of 81, his son-in-law, Prince Ernst, was admitted to the hospital with a sudden and mysterious illness which nearly claimed his life.
Maybe it's just a coincidence that the Monte Carlo Casino is cursed, but some would say that it's more than just a coincidence that the same casino founded by a princess of Monaco-- founded for the sole purpose of restoring the Grimaldi fortune that had been squandered through centuries of scandal and lavish living-- has such a checkered and bloody past, much like the principality of Monaco itself.