The Great Lafayette: The world famous magician who wanted to be buried in Edinburgh so he could stay with his dog

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The Great Lafayette was a world famous magician who died in a fire during a show in the Capital.

Sigmund Neuberger was a world famous magician, better known as The Great Lafayette, and he is buried in our fair Capital after doing a deal with the council.

Who was he?

Sigmund Neuberger was born in Munich in 1871, heading to America in 1884 and by the age of 19, he was already performing on the stage.

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The Great Lafayette: The world famous magician who wanted to be buried in Edinburgh so he could stay with his dogThe Great Lafayette: The world famous magician who wanted to be buried in Edinburgh so he could stay with his dog
The Great Lafayette: The world famous magician who wanted to be buried in Edinburgh so he could stay with his dog

He soon became a popular illusionist, touring the USA and becoming friends with the legendary Harry Houdini. It was now that he named himself his stage name, The Great Lafayette.

He famously toured with a troupe of performers, over 40 of them in total, along with a real lion, that he would use in his act. He came to tour the UK in 1911.

His dog, Beauty

Beauty was a small terrier, and a gift to the Great Lafayette from Harry Houdini. And it was a pampered pup to say the least.

The Great Lafayette (1871-1911) the Theatre entertainer pictured in his "Oldsmobile" with his dog "Beauty" riding at the front  (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)The Great Lafayette (1871-1911) the Theatre entertainer pictured in his "Oldsmobile" with his dog "Beauty" riding at the front  (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
The Great Lafayette (1871-1911) the Theatre entertainer pictured in his "Oldsmobile" with his dog "Beauty" riding at the front (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Beauty would have her own suite at every hotel they stopped at, was given five course meals and wore real diamonds on her collar.

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Neuberger absolutely adored her, so when she died on tour after arriving in Edinburgh, he was devastated.

He negotiated with the council, who eventually allowed the dog to be buried in Piershill Cemetery, on the condition that the magician himself would also be buried there when the time came.

His death

The Great Lafayette: The world famous magician who wanted to be buried in Edinburgh so he could stay with his dogThe Great Lafayette: The world famous magician who wanted to be buried in Edinburgh so he could stay with his dog
The Great Lafayette: The world famous magician who wanted to be buried in Edinburgh so he could stay with his dog

A mere four days after the burial of his beloved dog, and his slightly unorthodox deal with the council, the Great Lafayette was performing at Edinburgh’s Empire Palace Theatre, when there was a freak accident.

A lamp, used as part of his lion trick, tumbled, and set fire to the stage. Thinking it was part of the show, the audience remained in their seats for much longer than they should have done.

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The theatre curtain came down but jammed, and failed to stop the fire growing out of control. With the stage doors locked by the magician himself to stop anyone sneaking back stage to see how his 'show was done’, many became trapped.

The fire killed ten members of his travelling show.

The man himself initially made it out, but raced back inside to try to save his horse. He became trapped, and also died.

His burial – and the confusion

As if this series of tragic events are not extraordinary enough, things got more confusing after he died.

His body was taken to Glasgow to be cremated, after his remains were taken from the ruins of the building.

However, two days later – his remains were found...again.

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It turns out that the remains that had already been sent to Glasgow, weren’t his, but were that of his body double, who had been wearing an identical outfit.

Over a quarter of a million people lined the streets of Edinburgh on May 14, 1911, as The Great Lafayette’s urn was taken to Piershill Cemetery to be laid with his much loved Beauty.

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