Throughout the history, there have been people who have become so powerful, so successful, or so talented that rumors arise of Faustian bargains. Some of these legends of famous people who sold their souls to the devil are spread by their enemies, while others were encouraged by the very individuals themselves.
Some historical people who sold their souls to Satan escaped unscathed, and maybe even boasted about their deals, while others came to regret their satanic bargains.
While their skills and stories are all different, these extraordinary individuals all have one thing in common: reportedly, they all agreed to make a deal with the devil.
Listed on the Rolling Stones magazine list of the greatest guitarists of all time, Robert Johnson was such an astounding guitar player, some people thought he gained his incredible skills by supernatural means. Johnson's is perhaps the most legendary story of a famous person who made a deal with the devil.
As the story goes, Johnson was directed to head to a crossroads where he met the devil, who tuned his guitar and taught him how to master the blues. Johnson did very little to deny the rumors, even alluding to the fact that he did, in fact, make a deal with the devil.
Johnson was prolific as a musician, producing six records before his death at the age of 27. His cause of death is unknown, but common belief is that a man who had caught Johnson flirting with his wife poisoned him. Johnson was buried in an unmarked grave, the location of which is still unknown.
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Another masterful musician, Niccolò Paganini was an Italian violinist born in the 18th century. He learned to play the mandolin by age five, and was composing music two years later. His teen years were filled with strife, as he struggled with alcoholism, but by 22, he was known across Europe and became a musical star. At 23, he composed 24 Caprices and it took years for any other violinists to even have the skill to play his music.
One of his most famous pieces is titled “Le Streghe,” which translates to “Witches’ Dance.” Because of this title, many believed that Paganini had made a deal with the devil to become the greatest musician in the world. The claim was supported by his ability to do what seemed impossible, including the ability to play three octaves across four strings in one hand – a feat that is still considered nearly impossible. He once won a rare, very valuable Stradivarius violin by playing a piece so technical it was said to be nigh impossible to perform with extensive preparation. Paganini played it on sight.
Of course, there are more down-to-earth explanations for his apparently otherworldly skills. "His flexibility and exceptionally long fingers have resulted in speculation that he may have had Marfan syndrome, a genetic mutation not identified until 1899 that results in elongated fingers and other unique traits. Others have conjectured that he had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, commonly know as Rubber Man Syndrome."
Thanks to the eerie stories, and Paganini’s skill, people both adored and feared him. Fans claimed he was the son of the devil, or the devil himself. Others claimed they saw a demonic figure just off stage, guiding Paganini’s bow. Eventually, Paganini had to publish letters from his mother to prove that he was born to human parents. The rumors even impacted him in death, as no church would give him a Catholic burial. It took an appeal to the pope to get his body buried.
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The French Catholic priest was burned at the stake in 1634 after he was accused of witchcraft. Unlike many of the victims of witch hunts, there may have been evidence of Grandier’s collusion with the Prince of Darkness. While he had taken the oath of a Catholic priest, Grandier was known to have sexual relationships with a number of women, and was even accused of bewitching a group of nuns, sending the demon Asmodai upon them, to commit evil acts with them.
At his trial - and torture - the judges revealed documents that supposedly proved his demonic pact. The pact was written backwards in Latin, and is thought to even include the signature of Satan himself. The pact reads:
We, the influential Lucifer, the young Satan, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Elimi, and Astaroth, together with others, have today accepted the covenant pact
of Urbain Grandier, who is ours. And him do we promise
the love of women, the flower of virgins, the respect of monarchs, honors, lusts and powers. He will go whoring three days long; the carousal will be dear to him. He offers us once in the year a seal of blood, under the feet he will trample the holy things of the church and
he will ask us many questions; with this pact he will live twenty years happy on the earth of men, and will later join us to sin against God.
Bound in hell, in the council of demons. Lucifer Beelzebub Satan Astaroth Leviathan Elimi. The seals placed the Devil, the master, and the demons, princes of the lord. Baalberith, writer.
Another explanation is that Grandier confessed under torture, while his downfall had been orchestrated by a jealous nun whose advances he had rejected.see more on Urbain Grandier
Rock & roll and Satan go together like peanut butter and jelly, so it’s no shock that one of the greatest rock bands in history has been rumored to make deals with the devil. It started with guitarist Jimmy Page, known as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, who said, “My interest in the occult started when I was 15. I do not worship the Devil, but Magick does intrigue me. Magick of all kinds. I read ‘Magick in Theory and Practice’ when I was about 11 years old, but it wasn't for some years that I understood what it was all about."
Page even had occultist and "wickedest man in the world" Aleister Crowley’s words, “Do what thou wilt,” inscribed into the grooves of the original III vinyl, and later went on to purchase Crowely’s old house.
Page also seems to believe that Zeppelin front man Robert Plant was visited by a possibly Satanic power when he created their beloved track "Stairway to Heaven." In an interview, Page said,
Robert was sitting in the corner, or rather leaning against the wall, and as I was routining the rest of the band with this idea and this piece, he was just writing. And all of a sudden he got up and started singing, along with another run-through, and he must have had 80% of the words there.
Plant corroborated the incident, “My hand was writing out the words, 'There's a lady is sure [sic], all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven'. I just sat there and looked at them and almost leapt out of my seat."
Perhaps the fact that Plant didn’t actually write the words to "Stairway" explain why fans have discovered Satanic messages when playing the IV album backwards. For example, “Oh, here's to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path made me sad, whose power is Satan. He'll give those with him 666. And all those fools who made us suffer, Sad Satan."
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