Paganini – the violinist who sold his soul to the devil.

By Steffanie Holmes

Paganini playing for an audience of the dead.

I'm so excited to tell you the Manderley Academy audiobooks are out now! You can grab book one, Ghosted, on AudibleAppleKoboNOOK audioGoogle Play, and Scribd. This is my first dual narrator audiobook and I can't wait for you to hear it - it's sexy AF. 


Today's wee snippet from history is about Faye's favourite musician, Niccolò Paginini. Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1782, a rumor circulated that his mother made a pact with the Devil upon his birth - if the Devil made Paginini a great violinist, she would offer up his soul. 

1830s bulletin advertising a Paganini performance.

The Devil's violinist

Paganini trained in the mandolin and violin under his father, and at age 13 was sent off to study under a famed virtuoso, who then sent him back, claiming the boy was so skilled he could teach him nothing. By the age of 15, Paganini was playing solo tours around Europe, where he was basically the rockstar of his day. Like most rockstars, he got a bit into the lifestyle, and developed an alcohol problem. And a gambling problem. And a 'sexing anything that moves' problem.


But he could play. His style was flamboyant and showy and fast AF. He could apparently play 12 notes per second. He would mis-tune his strings deliberately to create disonant sounds. He'd sabotage his strings so they'd break in turn throughout the performance so by the end he'd be playing at lightning speed on a single string. 


He was hot, too – Dorien in Manderley Academy is inspired by him. Long fingers, tall and thin with hollow cheeks, pale skin, and 'flaming eyes' and 'thin lips that held a sardonic smile.' Paganini wore all black for his performances, and he was one of the first musicians to ever play without sheet music. He used to flail around the stage and surprise audience by moving through the crowd.


No wonder he acquired a crazed following of fans who were said to be driven mad by lust from his performances. Audience members claimed to see the Devil on stage with him, helping him play. Others saw doppelgangers of Paganini sitting in the audience. Once, the devil was said to strike his bow with lightning during a performance. 


A rumor circulated that he murdered a woman and made her intestines into violin strings, imprisoning her soul within his instrument. Apparently, female screams could be heard from stage when he played.


I mean, c'mon. How goth is that? :)


You can see why Faye's always been attracted to his difficult caprices and his story. And why she fell so hard for Dorien, Titus, and Ivan. 


The Manderley Academy series is filled with details like this. You're able to read about some of them on my Spooky Stuff page, but if you want a weekly story of the strange things that inspire my books, you should join the newsletter.

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