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In the early 1980s, a mysterious pilgrim from Siberia became the closest friend and adviser to Russia's last royal family. This was Grigory Rasputin and by 1910, every nobleman and peasant in Russia had heard of him. Some said he was gifted by God with healing and prophetic powers. Others swore he was the devil incarnate. 100 years later, the rumors about Rasputin are still as wild and conflicting as when he was alive. But as for his death, that might be the biggest mystery of all.
This is Supernatural APAs cast original, and I'm your host, Ashleigh Flowers, every Wednesday, I'll be taking a deep dive into a real unexplained occurrence to try and figure out the truth.
You can find all episodes of Supernatural in all other cast originals for free on Spotify. And if you like what you're hearing, reach out on Facebook and Instagram app podcast and Twitter app podcast network. This week we're talking about Grigory Rasputin. In the century since his death, his name still brings up more questions than answers. Even the facts that can be agreed on only seemed to unravel more and more riddles about his mystical powers. We'll have all that and more coming up.
Stay with us. In 1987, inside the Alexander Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, three year old Aleksi, the son of Tsar Nicholas, the second is sick. Since birth, he has suffered from hemophilia, which is a condition where someone's blood has difficulty clotting. And on this particular day, Aleksi had fallen and had a hemorrhage in his leg and he was in excruciating pain.
The Tsarina Alexandra is beside herself and what mother wouldn't be her little boy is literally bleeding to death before her eyes. And the doctors have done everything they can think of to save him. Finally, the Tsarina gets an idea she sends for the one person she can think of who might still be able to help Grigory Rasputin. It's unclear how long it takes for Rasputin to get there, but eventually he walks in and stands next to Alexi's bed and probably makes the sign of a cross like most Orthodox Russians would do.
Then he prays. I'm not sure what he prayed or whether it was even out loud, but by the time he's done, Alexi's totally calm and the swelling seems to have stopped. The next morning he is completely back to normal, which is pretty astounding because before Rasputin arrived, the situation seemed hopeless. And we should mention that there is no cure for hemophilia. I mean, even to this very day. So basically this guy just performed a miracle.
As far as we know, this is one of the first visits, if not the first visit, where Rasputin heals Aleksi. And over the next few years, he will do it again and again. This wasn't just some magic trick either. Supposedly, Rasputin always had mystical powers. They began when he was just a child growing up in a tiny village in western Siberia.
Siberia is basically Russia's no man's land. And most of the people there were peasant farmers. Rasputin himself was the son of a farmer. But unlike most families, he's an only child. As far as we know, Rasputin's mother gave birth to a total of eight children, and he was the only one who lived past early childhood. Now, child mortality was pretty common back then, but the fact that Rasputin was the only one out of eight to survive it made him seem kind of special, like he had some innate strength or ability to cheat death.
This becomes even more clear when Rasputin's eight years old, he and his cousin Dmitri go swimming and they get dragged into a current. Eventually they make it out OK, but both of them developed pneumonia, which is basically a death sentence. Back then, Dimitri, who is two years older, ends up dying, but Rasputin miraculously recovers. Then when Rasputin's well, something else happens that is even more bizarre. He's battling a high fever and things don't look so good as he's lying in bed.
Some local villagers come by the house for a visit. They start talking with Rasputin's father about a recent horse, that which was a really serious crime. Little Rasputin overhears their conversation, and in his feverish delirium, he points to one of the visitors and says it's him. He's the one who stole the horse. Everyone is weirded out, but at least two of the other men are suspicious enough to follow that guy home. And sure enough, they catch him trying to move the stolen horse.
Now, to be fair, this story is village hearsay that circulates once Rasputin gets famous. But in any case, it follows him well into adulthood. Meanwhile, Rasputin grows into a tall young man with a dark beard and penetrating green eyes. You've probably seen a picture of these eyes. They're huge and deep set. It looks like he's trying to peer into your soul. And the villagers claim Rasputin actually could. As a young man, he knew things about the villagers private things, things that only a psychic or mind reader would know.
They talked about Rasputin's ability to tame wild horses, and throughout his life, it said that Rasputin can heal animals simply by touching them.
Some villagers think he's been blessed by God with divine powers, others to the opposite extreme, saying he's made a deal with the devil. Which brings up another point. Rasputin has a definite dark side town. Records show that as a young man, he was charged with several offences of petty theft, drunkenness and being rude to town officials. There's even a rumor that he stole horses, but it's not in the town record, so we can't be sure. Either way, he's no saint.
But things take a sharp turn in 1897, the year Rasputin turns 28. At this point, he's married to another peasant. The story itself is a little unclear. But according to a book by Rasputin's daughter, Maria, her father was working in the fields. One day when the Virgin Mary appeared to him, Mary points toward the horizon, and Rasputin interpreted this as instructions to be a spiritual pilgrim. He spends the rest of the night alone next to an icon of Mary, and when he wakes up, tears are streaming from her face, according to a biography by Douglas Smith, raspy when he hears a voice say, I am weeping for the sins of mankind.
Gregory, go wander and cleanse the people of their sins. Of course, we have to take Rasputin's word that this even happened, but he immediately gives up drinking, smoking and eating meat and he becomes a Stronach, which is sort of a religious pilgram. This isn't uncommon in Russia. By 1900, there are about a million pilgrims wandering the countryside. Their spiritual quests are widely respected provided they seem sincere and Rasputin's seemed very sincere. He's taken in by many monasteries and a lot of these monks and priests are impressed by him.
Rasputin speaks with the sort of insight and gravitas that scene in Priest with way more life experience than him by the early 1980s.
He has a small group of followers, but some of the other villagers are getting a little suspicious. For one, he's constantly stroking and kissing the females around him. He claims that it's a sign of brotherly love, but there are rumors about him having sex with some of them, as well as women he's met along his pilgrimages. Rasputin even digs a cave under his father's stables for his little group to meet together, which I mean, it's kind of weird and secretive.
And neighbors say that they can overhear strange religious songs. And we're not talking about the usual orthodox ones. There are whispers that his followers are practicing bizarre rituals like whipping and orgies. And there's even a rumor that Rasputin has two female followers bathe him before each meeting. All of this together is enough to make the other villagers wonder if Rasputin isn't really who he says he is.
A holy man of orthodox faith. They start to wonder if he's actually part of a secret cult known as the Christie. Up next, we'll investigate the possibility that Rasputin was Acquisti. Hi, listeners, there's a new Spotify original from podcast you do not want to miss.
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Let's get back to the story. The name Christie literally means whips by the 1900, there were about 100000 members of these religious cults in Russia, despite the fact that they were illegal, they always met in out of the way places like basements and cellars where they reportedly engaged in unorthodox rituals like self flagellation and orgies. They were also known for practicing whirling dances where they would work themselves into a religious frenzy. The Kosti were even said to cut off the breast of a naked virgin and eat it together before watching her have sex.
They called the Virgin the mother of God and her partner Christ. Christie members also didn't drink or smoke two things Rasputin himself had given up. His daughter Maria even claimed that her father looked into the questi religion. But she says he never joined. Throughout Rasputin's life, there are investigations into whether he's Acquisti, but none of them turn up definitive evidence. Either way, these rumors are floating around the village, lending a much darker meaning to Rasputin's mystical powers.
Then, sometime around 19, Rasputin leaves his village to go in another one of his pilgrimages. This time, he visits a city called Kazan, and the people there love him. Before I go further, I should mention that this is a weird time for Russia. There have been peasant uprisings and whispers of a revolution. All in all, Russia's upper class is getting nervous. It's actually this uncertainty mixed with everyday boredom that makes a lot of aristocrats interested in spiritual alternatives like the occult or telepathy.
So whoever Rasputin is and whatever powers he has, he's basically arrived at the perfect moment. Aristocrat's don't care that he's a literal peasant from Siberia who smells bad and has terrible table manners. It's actually part of his charm. Rasputin stares at them for a long time before he speaks. And when he opens his mouth, he shocks them with such personal insight it feels like he's seen into their souls. One man claims Rasputin cured his wife of insanity simply by talking to her before long.
The entire city is talking about Rasputin, calling him a prophet and a healer.
But they're also gossiping about his sex life. One woman says Rasputin coerced her into sleeping in the same bed just to prove they could resist temptation together. And supposedly he'd been luring young women into bathhouses and then taking their virginity. These rumors get back to a local priest named Father Gavriel. He confronts Rasputin. And of course, Rasputin denies that he's done anything wrong, but he doesn't stop there. Supposedly, Rasputin warns Father Gabriel to watch out for a young monk at his monastery.
And a few days later, that same monk tries to attack Gavriel with a knife. After this, he is convinced that Rasputin has the gift of prophecy. Gabriel is even willing to recommend him to other church leaders, which means Rasputin's ready to move on to bigger and better places, namely St. Petersburg. Rasputin arrives in St. Petersburg sometime in late 1994 or early 1995. At this point, he's calling himself a star, which is basically a self-appointed elder in the Orthodox Church.
Right away, he makes friends with prominent clergymen, including a guy named Bishop Sergei, supposedly Sergei Invite's Rasputin, to hang out with himself and three other bishops as their talking Rasputin makes three prophecies. He says that one of the bishops is going to have a hernia soon. Another will lose his mother and the third is about to have a child out of wedlock. Now, these are pretty serious predictions to make, especially to a group of influential Orthodox priests.
But allegedly all three prophecies come true. In any case, the story gets around St. Petersburg before long. People are inviting Rasputin to their houses so they can hear him talk and experience his mystical powers firsthand. There's not a ton of eyewitness accounts, but one is from a married aristocrat named Olga. Like Tina before she met Rasputin, Latina's suffered from a chronic intestinal disease, but she claims he cured her simply by praying for her. Which brings up another important point.
Most of Rasputin's followers are aristocrat females. They gather in parlor rooms to hear him preach about sin and the power of love. He speaks to them using the personal form of the word you in Russian instead of the formal version. And then supposedly they're so infatuated by him that he will literally lick his fingers and then hold them out for the ladies to kiss.
Then in November of 1955, when Rasputin is 36 years old, so mutual friends introduced him to Tsar Nicholas the second and his wife, the Tsarina. Alexandra, nothing too remarkable happens at this first meeting except that the Romanoff's really like Rasputin. I should mention that these are pretty down to earth monarchs. Nicholas spends most of his time with his family and away from his duties as emperor, which most people interpret as his being out of touch with Russia's problems.
In any case, Nicholas and Alexandra think Rasputin is a refreshing change from court life. They perceive his flattery as a representation of Russia's peasants everywhere, which makes them feel better about their wavering popularity with the common people. There's even a letter from Rasputin to Nicholas, dated four days after their first meeting. In it, Rasputin alludes to some recent worker strikes, and he encourages the Tsar not to flee the country for safety, whereas Putin says God will protect the imperial family.
This was pretty bold advice, and we'll never know just how much Nicholas paid attention to it. But the Tsar does decide to stay in Russia and over the next two years, he and Alexandra meet with Rasputin several more times.
They never seem to mention Alexi's haemophilia, though, which makes sense considering that his condition at that time was honestly a huge secret. No one outside of the family in the palace is allowed to know about it. Rasputin probably doesn't find out until the fall of 1987, when three year old Alexey Falls and has a serious hemorrhage. Rasputin is brought in as a last resort, probably because the Tsarina had heard about his reputation as a healer. And sure enough, Rasputin's prayers seem to miraculously heal the Tsarevich.
This first healing is actually recorded in a letter by the Tsar Nicholas, the second sister, the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. She famously disliked Rasputin and said he asked too many personal questions. But despite this, Olga always agreed that Rasputin had special powers. One of the Sarina's ladies in waiting had a different theory. She believed Rasputin used folk medicine to heal Alexey. But there's no evidence that Rasputin ever actually administered anything. Yet another theory, though, is that Rasputin harnessed a special technique known as animal magnetism.
Now, animal magnetism is a weird idea that started floating around in the 18th century, and the science is iffy at best. But it does suggest that Rasputin could have been using a variation on hypnosis to help Aleksi. Regardless, Alexi's recovery Seale's Rasputin's fate with the Romanoff's, the Tsar and Czarina trust him completely, and they begin to rely on him as sort of a spiritual adviser. They even give Rasputin unlimited access to their palace through a side entrance, and he spends a lot of time playing with their children in the nursery.
The whole family refers to Rasputin as our friend. And if that's not weird enough, Rasputin calls Nicholas and Alexandra papa and mama. But the children's nurse, Sophia, thinks something is off. She says Rasputin sometimes visits Alexei and his four older sisters right as they're getting ready for bed. The two oldest girls are 12 and 14. So already this seems a little creepy. And supposedly Rasputin sits on the children's beds and caresses them. I'm not sure how sinister these caresses are, but it's written down in a letter from Tsar Nicholas sister Xenia, who seems pretty concerned.
But Nicholas and Alexandra both dismiss it. It's not like they think Rasputin is perfect. They just don't believe that he would ever do something bad to their family. Still, the nursery gossip leaks to the press and it becomes a national scandal. It doesn't help that Rasputin already has a reputation outside of the palace as a womanizer. There's rumors he's having orgies with his female acolytes. And the St. Petersburg police noticed a lot of sex workers going in and out of his apartment.
Politicians are concerned that associating with Rasputin is making the tsar more unpopular than he already is. And one of these is Russia's prime minister, a man named Pyotr Stolypin. Eventually, Stolypin decides to cut to the chase and meet with Rasputin himself. But when he goes to talk to him, supposedly Rasputin tried to hypnotize the prime minister. Stolypin claims the mystic looked him up and down and started mumbling inarticulately.
Part of it sounded like scripture, but the rest was indecipherable. Rasputin also made weird movements with his hands. But just what kind of movements these were, Stolypin didn't say. Like most stories about Rasputin, we have no way of knowing if this one's true. But it's more evidence that Rasputin's powers might have been some kind of hypnotism. In any case, it doesn't work. Stolypin keeps pressuring the Tsar to do something about Rasputin. And in February of 1911, Nicholas finally sends Rasputin out of the country on an indefinite pilgrimage to the holy lands.
Supposedly, the plan is to keep him there until the scandal blows over. Then they'll bring him back. A few months later, Stolypin assassinated by a revolutionary. Now that he's not around to oppose them, the Romanoff's bring Rasputin home, even though the scandal is still brewing.
Then, in 1912, another miracle happens, and this time there's no way that Rasputin could have used hypnosis. Apparently, the Tsar and Tsarina his family were on vacation in Poland when Alexey developed a hemorrhage in his upper leg and groin. By the seventh day, the doctors had given up all hope. A priest administered the last sacrament and the palace began arranging Alexi's funeral. Doctors, family. Everyone was convinced that he would die. Now, I'm not sure why Alexandra waited this long, but she finally sends a telegram to Rasputin, who is away visiting his family.
And Rasputin responds immediately, according to different accounts. His telegram basically says, God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Don't be sad.
The little boy will not die. Don't let the doctors torment him too much the next morning. There doesn't seem to be a change. But the following day, Alexis bleeding stops and he makes a full recovery. No hypnosis, no folk medicine, nothing but Rasputin's telegram. To be fair, the Tsarina herself may have been responsible. After she received Rasputin's telegram, she began acting like everything would be fine. So it's possible Alexis saw his mother's renewed confidence and that had the same sort of soothing effect on him as hypnosis.
It's also possible that Alexandra followed Rasputin's advice and didn't let the doctors bother Alexey. For all we know, they might have been administering an. Sprint, which is a known blood thinner, and by putting a stop to it, Alexi's blood might have finally been able to clot. Another flare up happens three years later on December 5th, 1915. It's recorded by the Sarina's lady in Waiting AIana. This time, Rasputin does visit in person, but he's only there for a matter of minutes or even seconds.
He simply makes the sign of the cross over. Aleksi tells the Tsar and Tsarina not to worry and leaves. Hours later, Aleksi stops bleeding again. The Tsarina could have been the one responsible, but this time there's a more glaring possibility Rasputin might not have actually healed Aleksi at all. The lady in waiting might have gotten the date wrong. You see, there's a diary entry by Nicholas written the next day, December 6th. He claims that Rasputin had just visited Aleksi that day, which is after he was healed, not on the 5th when he was still bleeding.
This is important because it gets back to the main issue with Rasputin. Almost everything we know about him is total hearsay. At any given time, someone could have written the wrong date or repeated some misinformation or even embellished what they saw. Nowhere is this exaggeration more obvious than in what the average Russian was saying about Rasputin.
His sexual behavior, his mystical powers and his weird closeness to the Romanoff's made him the scapegoat for basically everything going wrong in Russia. People accused him of being a political usurp or who was using his evil powers to manipulate the Tsar and ruin Russia. He was nicknamed the Mad Monk and the Holy Devil, and people truly believed that Rasputin and the Tsarina were sleeping together and that the Tsar was too stupid to figure it out. These rumors got even more crazy in 1916.
When Nicholas goes away to fight World War One in his absence, Alexander becomes the acting empress. I should mention that Alexander herself is German. It's literally her first cousin, Emperor Wilhelm, the second that her husband is fighting against. So immediately, Russians accuse her and Rasputin of colluding with Germany. There are rumors of a radio telegraph machine in the palace that they used to send messages to the enemy. And poems and cartoons depict Rasputin using his virility to manipulate Alexandra into following his advice.
In reality, the Empress was making some very unpopular political decisions, and Rasputin probably was dropping in his two cents wherever he felt like it. But there's never been any evidence of espionage. Either way, the mass hysteria over Putin reaches a fever pitch, and it's so over the top that every peasant politician and nobleman wants him dead. But Rasputin would be almost impossible to kill.
Coming up, the mystery of Rasputin's death. Let's get back to the story. Most of what you're about to hear comes from an autobiography by Prince Felix Yusupov, who's the ring leader of Rasputin's assassins and the husband of Tsar Nicholas. The second niece, Irina Yusupov, claims to have been acquainted with Rasputin as far back as 1989. And he says that at one of their first meetings, Rasputin offered to cure him from his chronic fatigue. Rasputin bragged, quote, I can cure anyone, for I work in God's own way with divine remedies and not with ordinary drugs, end quote.
So Yusupov lies down on a sofa and Rasputin runs his hands over his chest, neck and head. The whole time, Rasputin seems to be muttering a prayer. Gradually, Yusupov feels sort of this warm current seeping through his body. He realizes that he's gone completely numb and he's unable to talk. When he tries to move, he can't. It's almost like he's been drugged. Eventually, Rasputin's says that's enough. And just like that, Yusupov able to move and talk again.
Now, from the way Yusupov tells this story, it sounds like he hated it. But he also says he visits Rasputin's several more times for healing. It's not totally clear whether his chronic fatigue ever disappears completely, but Yusupov is convinced that Rasputin harnesses some sort of dark, supernatural power by 1916. Yusupov hates Rasputin as much as any other Russian. He thinks Rasputin is manipulating Alexandra, and he believes that by killing Rasputin, he can help save the empire.
So he and several other accomplices come up with a plan. On the night of December 29th, 1916, Yusupov invites Rasputin to his home in St. Petersburg. He claims he wants Rasputin to meet his wife, Irina, who is a renowned beauty.
Yusupov ushers Rasputin into his basement, and there's a table with crumpled up napkins, half full platters of food and open bottles of wine. And Yusupov basically says, like, Oh, my wife just had a party. She's upstairs with some guests. She's going to be here any minute. At this point in Rasputin's life, he's no longer abstaining from alcohol. So he downed several glasses of wine and a few cakes while they're waiting. Now, what he doesn't know is everything is laced with cyanide.
So Rasputin should be dead in a matter of minutes. But to use a part amazement, he seems totally fine. Minutes passed and eventually Rasputin gives him a look that says, according to use of POF quote, you're wasting your time. You can't do anything to me, end quote. This freaks Yusupov out, but Rasputin quickly changes the subject to something lighthearted. Finally, at about 2:00 3:00 a.m., Yusupov makes up an excuse to go upstairs where his accomplices are waiting.
He borrows one of their revolvers, and when he comes back down, Yusupov tells Rasputin to look over at a crucifix and say a prayer. Then he shoots him in the chest. Instantly, Rasputin crumples to the floor. The other assassins rush into the room, and one of them, a doctor, pronounces Rasputin dead. They leave his body in the basement for a while until eventually Yusupov decides to go back and check on it. Now, this story is already far fetched, but it gets even crazier.
Yusupov says he found Rasputin laying exactly where they left him in a fit of anger. He grabs Rasputin's limp shoulders and shakes him. But to his surprise, Rasputin's eyes open. He jumps to his feet and tackles. Yusupov Yusupov somehow manages to break free, and he runs upstairs to alert his friends. They all raced back down to the basement and out an open door into the courtyard. In the distance, they see Rasputin's stumbling through the snow. One of the assassins, a politician named Vladimir Percovich, pulls out his revolver and shoots a bullet, hits Rasputin in the back and another strikes his forehead, at which point Rasputin falls over.
Once again, the doctor confirms he's dead. The assassins buying Rasputin's arms and legs wrap him in his fur coat and put his body in the car. They then drive to the great Petrofsky Bridge and throw Rasputin's corpse into the Mullinix River. It doesn't take long for Rasputin's me to report that he never came home that night. And on January 1st, his body is discovered frozen along the riverbank. But here's where things get even more weird if you look at a picture of Rasputin.
Corpse, the cord that's binding his wrist together has been ripped, it's dangling from one arm as though he tore it off. Also, both of his arms are clearly reaching upward, looking like he died while trying to break through the ice. There's even a myth that there was water in Rasputin's lungs, meaning that he'd survived the poison and survived three gunshot wounds, the blistering cold, and actually died from drowning. But supposedly the autopsy reported finding no water in his lungs, although the report itself has been lost.
Naturally, there are a lot of conspiracies about Rasputin's death. The most likely is that Yusupov was exaggerating about how hard it was to kill Rasputin. He could have easily been trying to aggrandize himself. After all, he had killed the most unpopular man in Russia.
It's worth noting, though, that Yusupov and Vladimir wrote separate accounts of the assassination and for the most part, they both matched up. So if they did decide to embellish, they at least got their story straight. But to me, the craziest part of Rasputin's murder isn't so much how he died. It's that Rasputin actually predicted it and not just his death. He prophesied that the entire Romanoff family would die to Rasputin, wrote his last letter to the Romanoff's in early December 1916, just weeks before his death.
There's some dispute about this, but it's rumored that the letter said, quote, I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st. If it was your relations who have wrought my death, then no one of your family. That is to say, none of your children or relations will remain alive for more than two years. They will be killed by the Russian people. I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living, end quote.
Nearly everything Rasputin predicts happens, he dies on December 30th, two days before January 1st, he's killed by a relative of the Tsar. And less than two years later, the czar's immediate family is murdered by Russian revolutionaries, although many of his relations, including Prince Yusupov, survived.
Say what you will about Grigory Rasputin. But his prophecies were almost dead on. Nowadays, Rasputin seen as more of a pop culture icon, a crazy peasant who duped the Romanoff's for power and fame and who made some lucky guesses along the way. But what about his strange powers? Why did Rasputin predict Alexi's recovery time after time when everyone else was certain he would die? And why did he risk exposing himself as a fraud unless he wasn't one? After all, Rasputin's body was exhumed and burned not long after burial, so any chance of re-examining that evidence is gone.
In the end, all we're left with are letters and stories. And when you piece it all together, you wind up right back where you started looking at a 100 year old Russian mystery. Thanks for listening.
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It's the most powerful position in American politics and arguably the world, but behind the oath to preserve, protect and defend lie dark secrets posed to leave some legacies in disgrace.
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