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Richard Chanfray (Lyon, 1940 - Saint Tropez, July 14, 1983) was a French public figure in the 1970s. He claimed to be the Comte de Saint-Germain and appeared in numerous European television shows claiming to transmute lead into gold.
Richard Chanfray's magic career started in 1973 in a Parisian theater, where he was announced as "the man who transmutes lead into gold". This alchemical act was supposedly performed without tricks.
He was born on 4 April 1940 in the French city of Lyon. His childhood was spent on the streets and he became a thief. Arrested for assaulting a woman during a robbery and sentenced to six years, he read some antique books in prison, and learned about the Comte de Saint-Germain, a mysterious alchemist, who claimed to be capable of transmutating lead into gold, brewing potions, and acquiring immortality. Chanfray adopted that personality, using French high society's fondness for magic, esoterism and hermeticism. He quickly became rich and well-known through his exploits, for example giving divinations and psychic readings to various famous people as well as through his outlandish claims.
In 1972 he met the singer Dalida, at the height of her fame. Her husband, Lucien Morisse, and her lover, Luigi Tenco, had both previously committed suicide. When Dalida met Chanfray, she quickly became infatuated. She recognized his paranoia, however: he slept with a shotgun under his bed. He also spent another year in prison, as well as being forced to pay FF 500,000 restitution, when he shot a man whom he found naked in his kitchen late one night. The man was only superficially wounded, and turned out to be the servant's lover.
The incident marked the start of his decline. The couple ran out of money and Chanfray attempted music, painting, and sculpture, all without success. Dalida and Chanfray separated, but despite his problems, he continued to be a part of the celebrity society of Paris and Saint Tropez. He became the lover of the Trintignan "baroness", Paula de Loos, whose title was as false as his own. De Loos was, however, allegedly a millionaire and when Chanfray began to suspect the activities of de Loos's financial administrator, he threatened him with a rifle. He was again imprisoned and fined—to which he looked to de Loos for help. She, however, was also heavily in debt.
He last appeared in public at a party in Saint Tropez, in June 1983. He was reportedly very thin, with white hair and an exhausted appearance.
On the 14th of July 1983, in a town near Saint Tropez, Chanfray and de Loos committed suicide, ingesting barbiturates while inhaling the exhaust of his car. Nearby was a suicide note that read: "I leave and I bring her with me, because she is so like me..."
Richard Chanfray claimed to have many powers, most of them related to alchemy. He also claimed on numerous occasions that his knowledge came from a "mysterious man" whom he had met in his past. He swore to never reveal said person's identity.
Some of the powers Chanfray's claimed to possess:
- Transmutation of lead into gold. Chanfray performed this trick several times in public, and some European television stations recorded him allegedly transmutating the metals. Stage magicians, scientists and jewellers were invited to some of his soirées, and none apparently discovered the trick.
- The power of immortality. Traditional alchemy considered those two powers (transmutation and immortality) to go hand-in-hand. A Spanish reporter, José María Íñigo, was once invited to Chanfray's house. According to Íñigo "he threw a bit of this powder over a dog's corpse. After a few spasmodic movements, the dog arose and walked a few steps before falling again and remaining dead". It is unclear whether the dog was actually dead before, or even after, the trick.
- The capability of remembering past lives. When invited to old palaces or castles, he claimed to have been there before, in a past life. He would demonstrate this by identifying private areas of the building, secret passages, and so on. It has been suggested that Chanfray studied the blueprints of the buildings, open to the public, before going to these places.
- Fanthorpe, Lionel and Fanthorpe, Patricia (1998). The World's Most Mysterious People, p. 39. Hounslow Press. ISBN 0-88882-202-2.
- Simmonds, Jeremy (May 1, 2008). "May 1987". The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Chicago Review press. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-55652-754-8. Retrieved 19 May 2009.