Cabaret of Death is alive and well, proving that while life is a cabaret, for some so is death.
In fact the Cabaret of Death in Paris, France, also known as the Cabaret du Néant (Cabaret of Nothingness), makes a business of death. Patrons sit at coffin tables. Overhead them is a human bone chandelier.
Since the early 1890’s when the tavern opened its macabre doors, it has been a sought out place. It is located near the Moulin Rouge and other ‘infamous places’ in the Montmartre neighborhood.
According to an 1899 review in the Royal Magazine hosts dressed in long black robes greeted the guests who then ordered drinks named after diseases and poisons, like Pestilence or Arsenic.
In the dark, low ceilinged room are skeletal decorations. In some cases they are placed at the coffin-tables and, if desired, patrons can order a drink for them, too.
Royal Magazine Author Ellsworth Douglass wrote that the scenes, which appear to be of ordinary life, take on a deathlike quality when skeletal images emerge from them.
“They are all innocent enough to begin with, but the figures have a queer way of dying before your eyes.”
The wall paintings make use of optical illusion techniques, according to a 1896 Scientific American article that discussed the use of lighting upon transparencies placed over the pictures.
The Room of Disintegration
The Cabaret of Death also offered a show in The Room of Disintegration. There an audience member would be asked to come on stage and stand in a coffin. He or she would magically decompose into a skeleton and then evaporate into dust.
This was also another optical illusion; Pepper’s Ghost illusion involved glass and mirrors. Accompanied of course by a creaky organ that plays a creepy funeral march.
Photo credit: 1920’s Tavern Room Casas-Rodriguez Collection via Flickr