It’s really easy if you’re alive right now (and chances are if you’re reading this that you are) to think that people who lived in Olden Days were just quiet and weird and almost imaginary. They stare back at us from daguerreutypes like dorks with no sense of stage presence after all, and they seem never to have known what to do with their hair. They look like they must have had the most boring lives just dragging plows back and forth, beating rugs with a stick and building the occasional railroad.
But scratch the surface a little bit and you find out that people back in The Day were outrageous freaks.
Take this guy for instance:
This is Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, better known just by his last name, Rasputin
Raz was a psychic and a mystic. Apparently his father, Efim was as well but the only report I can find anywhere about Efim was that he once “mysteriously” identified the man who had stolen one of his horses (could it be because the man was standing in front of the horse? We’ll never know).
Supposedly a photo of Rasputin’s family when he was growing up. They look like a fun bunch, don’t they?
But what Raz could do was a little more impressive. He was a mystic and a psychic and quite a wild party guy. He was busy exploring mysticism and having orgies with his friends building quite the reputation for himself. He became known as a healer and when Tsarista Aleksandra Romanova needed some assistance with her son Alexei’s hemophilia (one of the perks of years of inbreeding), she rang Rasputin immediately. Or however people contacted each other pre-phone.
Tsarista.....Not to be confused with "Barista"
Apparently Rasputin worked magical wonders on little Alexei and Rasputin soon became a Romanov favorite.
Alexei - Cured by a man with mystic abilities and aspirin.
Unfortunately, some people didn’t like Rasputin because they thought he was giving the Romanovs a bad name, other people didn’t like the Romanovs at all and everyone freaked out for various reasons and things got messy and Rasputin was murdered.
Apparently these people used to get together with Rasputin and have orgies.
The story goes that he was poisoned, then beaten then drowned in a river (apparently it takes a lot of work to kill a Russian Mystic) and somewhere during all this someone cut off his penis and chucked it across the room, which is understandable I guess given all the commotion.
So here’s where it gets weird: Rasputin’s housemaid (who was also apparently his lover) happened upon the aftermath of the murder, found The Penis, took it away and hid it. As you do.
A few years later some Russian ex-pats living in Paris acquired The Penis and started a cult around it. This is the sort of activity people got up to in the days before television.
Then in the 1920's somehow Rasputin’s daughter Maria Rasputin found out about the cult and demanded they give her father’s penis to her as it was rightfully hers.
Maria Rasputin: Guardian of her father’s penis until she died.
Up until that point, the penis had been kept in a wooden casket, but now it was deposited into a pickle jar and presumably kept in Maria’s house.
Rasputin’s penis, kept by his daughter until her death in 1977. Hello? Dr. Freud?
Meanwhile Maria moved to America where she had all sorts of jobs, including a stint as a circus acrobat, and during all this time apparently no one thought to ask what That Thing on the bookshelf was. In her later years Maria became a writer and made it her life's mission to prove to the world that her father wasn't weird.......As it sat there.......
Maria, must we all look at that THING?
Iz all I have to remember father by!
But should it really be on the table? While we're eating dinner?
Shut up. Iz conversation piece.
Maria was in possession of her father’s penis until her death in 1977. Some time after that a man called Michael Augustine bought it at a flea market in Santa Cruz (imagine his wife’s surprise when he returns from the flea market not with picture frames or old books, but an old Russian guy’s pickled penis). It’s at his point that the story gets convoluted and people start claiming that the thing in the jar isn’t a penis at all but actually a sea cucumber (??!).
Not a sea cucumber, but a land cucumber. Frankly real sea cucumbers look too much like Rasputin’s penis to be politely pictured here.
Then in 2004 a guy called Igor Knyazkin got ahold of The Penis (figuratively) and put it on display in his newly opened museum of erotica in St. Petersburg, Russia. Igor claims that men who look at it are cured of impotency. But there are thousands of detractors who still claim it's just a sea cucumber.
Which begs the question: Why would Maria have kept an old sea cucumber all those years? And better yet: What was a sea cucumber doing at the scene of Rasputin’s murder?