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It was Max Maurey (1866-1947) who, from 1899 to 1914, established the Grand Guignol as a world-renowned house of horror. His publicity gimmicks included hiring an in-house doctor in case of fainting spectators - a trick which would be duplicated many years later by the master showman of cinematic horror, William Castle. It was also Maurey who unleashed the writer who would go on to become the literary figurehead of Grand Guignol horror - André de Lorde (1871-1942). Although de Lorde's first piece for the theatre, Post Scriptum (1900) was relatively innocuous, two years later he produced the work which would set him on a path of notoriety. It was during a violent night-time thunderstorm that de Lorde, unable to sleep, seized upon a volume of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, his literary idol. Taking one of Poe's original tales - The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether - he reshaped it into a short theatre-piece of extraordinary horror, set in a lunatic asylum. Returning to Paris, he showed it to André Antoine, by then director of his own, newly-formed Theatre Antoine. Antoine was horrified, declaring that de Lorde's work was "sick” and "dangerous”. And so, Le Système de Dr. Goudron et Pr. Plume was eventually staged at the Grand Guignol, on April 3rd, 1903 [see appendix].
In the years that followed, in addition to its problematic relationship with censorship, the Grand Guignol Theatre engendered something of a controversial reputation among the general public, mostly related to its staging of excessive horrors (an increase in scenes of torture, rape, crime, mutilation, murder and deranged characters), which far from being perceived as negative, ensured that the horrific atmosphere attracted an audience which was a mixture of decadent aesthetes, artists (painters, writers), police inspectors, the mad, the crazy, doctors, butchers and middle-class citizens who wished to enjoy the pleasures of terror. The theatre became a freakshow, a waxworks, an execution site all in one; an unequalled spectacle of morbid and blood-splattered attractions.
The great and dangerous minds of the early 20th century admitted, to some, their more or less continuous frequentation of the place, for there one could meet anarchists, surrealists, or people such as Anaïs Nin or Ernst Jünger, drawn there for dangerous collaborations......