The Punjab lasso is a type of weapon referred to in Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera. It is described as a noose but employed like a garotte to strangle victims. The name was derived from the Punjab region of India and present day Pakistan where the title character learned to use it.
In the novel
In Gaston Leroux's novel, the Phantom (named Erik) traveled throughout the world after running away from home at a young age. During his travels, he visited India, where he learned to kill people using the Punjab lasso. According to Erik's old friend, the daroga (the Persian- "daroga" was Erik's nickname for him), the Punjab lasso that Erik wields is "curiously made from catgut" (from the Leonard Wolf translation); the only way to escape it is to keep one's hand raised to eye level, thus preventing the loop from closing. This is attributed to Erik's skill at strangling.
When the Persian brought Erik to Persia, he used his skills at using the lasso in his new job as the Shah's personal assassin, a job he excelled at due to his lack of scruples. He also used it to entertain the Sultana. Later, when Erik moves to France, he kept a Punjab lasso in the torture chamber he built. Thus, the victims of the chamber would have the option of ending their lives rather than endure its tortures.
When the sceneshifter, Joseph Buquet, found the entrance to Erik's 'house' in the third cellar of the opera house, he fell into the chamber and used the lasso to kill himself.
Later, when the Persian and the Viscount de Chagny went in search of Christine Daae—whom Erik had kidnapped—they found a used Punjab lasso lying on the ground leading into the Phantom's chamber. Later in their journey to rescue Christine they fell into the torture chamber, where the Persian contemplated using the lasso to end his life as the tortures got worse.
In the musical
In Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical not much is known about the lasso, except that it is the Phantom's signature weapon. It appears to be infused with some sort of magical properties as it appears to be a version of the Indian rope trick. The Phantom uses it to hang stage manager Joseph Buquet during the performance of Il Muto, possibly as a warning for the managers who disobeyed his orders, or perhaps because Buquet had spoken of the Phantom's disfigured face. Later in the musical, the Phantom uses it to kill the overweight opera singer Ubaldo Piangi, allowing him to take his place during the performance Don Juan Triumphant (written by the Phantom himself) in his attempt to lure Christine back to him. It is revealed that Madame Giry knows of the lasso, as she informs Raoul that he must keep his hand at the level of his eyes to protect himself from its magic. As the play reaches its end, the Phantom threatens to kill Raoul using the lasso in the hope that Christine will marry him to save Raoul's life.
In the movies
The lasso has appeared in the movie versions of the story, although it is rarely identified.
- In the 1925 version, Buquet is found hanged in the cellars of the opera house (as in the novel). Once Joseph is found, his brother Simon exclaims, "The Punjab Lasso! The Stranglers Cord!"
- The lasso is absent in the 1943 version, but the Phantom still strangles someone with a rope.
- In the 1987 animated version, Monsieur Robert, one of the managers, is killed for trying to sell the Phantom's private Box - Box 5 - and he is found hanging in the box, although it is not stated that is it due to the Punjab lasso.
- In the 1989 version with Robert Englund, the chief scene shifter, Joseph Buquet, is found skinned alive and hanging in La Carlotta's closet. As with the previous film versions, it is not mentioned whether or not it is from the Punjab lasso. In one scene the Phantom uses a whip to protect himself from robbers.
- In the 2004 version by Joel Schumacher, which is based on the musical, the lasso is used in a manner more closely related to the original novel - as a piece of rope with no magical properties. As in the stage musical, the Phantom uses it to kill Buquet for attempting to follow him; to kill Piangi in order to take his place in Don Juan Triumphant; and in his threatening Christine with Raoul's death (in this scene, the Phantom threw the lasso around Raoul's neck—in the book the lasso was always thrown).