Every month we post fun facts about all things taphophile!
A British transplant, Francis Rattenbury led a life which rivals many a fantastic tale. Rattenbury was born in England but spent much of his life in British Columbia. He designed many buildings in Victoria, the most recognizable being the Legislative Buildings and Empress Hotel. Rattenbury’s luck took an unfortunate turn for the worse when he entered into some bad financial speculations. Soon after, he left his wife of many years, Florence, to marry twenty-seven year old Alma. The scandal caused so much negative publicity the disgraced Rattenbury was eventually forced to leave Victoria to go back to England in 1929.
Financial problems continued and young Alma had a scandalous affair with their 18-year old chauffeur, George Percy Stoner. Rattenbury’s untimely end came by way of murder at the hands of Mr. Stoner on March 23rd, 1935. His physical existence ended with him being buried in an unmarked grave in his native Bournemouth. Several decades later a descendant eventually had a new grave marker erected.
Apparently Ratttenbury’s spirit made its way back to Canada. Staff working alone after hours in the Parliament buildings report hearing prominent footsteps, whistling, voices and papers rustling in empty offices. A dark, shadowy figure is often seen in the hallways. People who have seen it can’t quite make out the face but believe it to be Rattenbury’s ghost.
Reported by guests and staff, an apparition resembling Rattenbury, wearing an overcoat and top hat, is occasionally seen wandering about the halls of the Empress Hotel. Considering poor Francis Rattenbury’s tragic end, it’s not a wonder he prefers to roam the halls of the buildings he created during his most prolific hey-day. In addition, he has the company of several other century-old spooky guests to keep him company.
Photo of British architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury,
There are variations to the story; however one version goes like this …
Use of grave robber's oil or thieves' oil dates back to 1413 during the time of the Bubonic Plague (The Black Death)…the plague ran rampant through Europe and Asia. However 4 thieves, who were notoriously robbing graves miraculously never contracted the highly infectious plague. They were eventually caught and imprisoned. The crime these 4 men committed was punishable by being burnt alive. The judge was so intrigued by how these men had stayed immune to this terrible disease, that he told them if they shared their secret he would spare them this punishment. Taking the deal, they told stories of their herbal knowledge and their powerful medicinal properties when combined in certain ways. The oil contained such ingredients like sage, rosemary, cloves, bellflower, meadowsweet, and common mugwort . They were unemployed perfume and spice merchants …they couldn’t find work due to the closure of the sea ports and the devastation of the plague. Well the Judge stayed true to his promise, the men were not burned alive but instead they were hanged for their crimes.
In this age, physicians were often dressed in long black robes, wide brimmed hats and masks that resembled a bird’s beak. The reason being the masks were said to have contained a variety of herbs, spices and essential oils that the doctors would breathe in order to keep them safe from the plague. Even their long robes were saturated in the similar concoction. From then on, physicians who treated people with the Black Death would use this special blend. And the beak is how the doctors got the nickname “quack”.