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A Celebration

As a pronounced "Phantom Phreak" I have been accused of many things. The list is long and continues to grow. It includes ruining the story for others, diarrhea of the mouth on the subject, and the biggest, over-obsession to the point of dressing up as the Phantom for Halloween three years, attending the show 5 times (I know it's not many, but to my friends and family, it's too much!), purchasing and reading every book, movie, and magazine with a slight mention of it, and snatching up every little item that may even slightly resemble something from the Phantom. My best friend cannot watch many of her favorite movies without thinking of the Phantom. In Disney's Cinderella, there is a part where the King and the Duke are stuck in the chandelier, the King swings his sword and the chandelier goes crashing down accompanied to Goofy's characteristic laugh. My friend groaned as I said, "Goofy pulls a Phantom." I mentioned that Beauty and the Beast is Phantom of the Opera with a happy ending. She told me to shut up. The movie Slipper and the Rose shows a scene with Cinderella leaving the castle in a hansom. I said, "It reminds me of Christine and Erik taking a midnight ride through the Bois." A lot of glares and groans can be heard amoung my friends when I talk Phantom. Since I was introduced to Internet by my mother, I've been accused of spending too much time pouring over e-mail from the POTO list, chatting with my friends on #phantom, and reviewing all of my friends' Phantom homepages. Internet is certainly a boon to those wishing to enjoy the Phantom to its fullest. I also get accused of celebrating when a friend of mine attends a Phantom production, when Phantom comes around here, or when I am about to see Phantom. I also hear a lot of stories about a great celebration for Michael Crawford's birthday, or other Phantomy events. Celebrating Phantom is, indeed, a grand thing to do. All of these wonderful accusations for celebrations and obsession, to which I am sure all Phantom Phreaks would gladly admit, but not mention of one in particular. The one thing that started all of these obsessive behaviors, the one thing that Michael Crawford, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lon Chaney, and countless others owe a part of their fame to: Erik's birth.

Somewhere there may be a large or small group of phans, perhaps even a single person, who celebrates Erik's birth. I myself have kept the tradition for two years and plan yet again to celebrate this year. The question, however, remains as to when is his birthday. Two aspects will be explored here, the birth of the novel (for those who believe Erik to be fiction) and the birth of Erik himself (for those who believe Erik to be the reality). I, personally, celebrate Erik's birth, as I am not certain that he existed, but secretly I hope he did...

The former aspect is a fairly simple one as there are enough historic records to point out Leroux's layout method of the book. At first, the exact dates eluded me, but after careful searching, the answer is to be found nearly everywhere. In a foreword by Peter Haining to one of the prints of Leroux's novel, it mentions that Leroux spent three months writing a book about "a 'ghost' who was supposed to haunt the lower reaches of the [Paris Opera House]." So, three months before its first published date can be allotted to the birth of the novel. Finding the publish date was a little more difficult than I anticipated. After some searching, and a couple of hints from friends, I found the answer on Carrie Hernandez's "La Rue Leroux." There it says that the first published date for Leroux's novel is February 1910. Three months before that would place it either in November or the beginning of December. A safe time to place the birth of the novel would be the first week of December, say the 5th, for good measure.

Erik's birth is a little more delicate subject to delve into. There are not as many obvious details in Leroux's proverbial "bible" of Phantom lore as there are documented in the historical facts of Leroux's life. However, after searching several sources and finally reverting to reading the entire book in an afternoon armed with a pink highlighter determined to find the slightest reference to Erik's age and/or the date. I asked friends online if they knew the reference, and received useful information. A thorough reading of the novel helped to pinpoint the approximate date of the events listed there in. Leroux said in the prologue that the events took place no more than 30 years ago. Being published first in 1910, that places it not before 1880. A further reference in the book mentions a letter Mme. Giry received from the Ghost with the words, "1885. Meg Giry, Empress!" And dear, credulous Mme. Giry sincerely believed him as she said herself, "I believe in him altogether." If she believed in him so well in the ghost, it must not have been 1885 or near to it, so that safely places the occurrence between 1880 and 1884. The approximate year of the book is set, but not many details are in the book to point to his age. There is a brief mention of Erik himself saying that he started Don Juan Triumphant "20 years ago," so, considering that he must have been at a higher maturity level than a teenager because of its "danger," it gives him at least 45 to 50 years of age at the time. However, the biggest clue to his age came from Christine Daaé as she mentioned a footnote in Leonard Wolf's annotated Phantom. In the Epilogue where it tells of Erik's past life, it briefly mentions Erik siding with Persia against Afghanistan. Wolf mentions an Afghani-Persian war occurring in 1837 and comments that, "even if he was in his teens at the time of the war, Erik would be a man close to sixty or more in 1881." Erik must then be middle-aged, between 50 and 60. As interesting as the details are about the time of action and Erik's age are, it still remains to pinpoint his birth date.

Leroux's book does not afford enough evidence for those wishing to celebrate Erik's date of birth. There is another book, however, that is very specific and is considered by many to be a close second to Leroux's own. Going by what little info is found in Leroux's, Susan Kay's book is the closest to the most accurate information that one can find. She mentions Erik's age to be about 50 in 1881. Surely then, her book is one that can be trusted for information, especially in the light that the information sought for might not be found elsewhere. At the beginning of the book it mentions Madeleine, Erik's beautiful and cruel mother, and her new husband enjoying a honeymoon in "November, the most dismal of all English months." Also, the start of the book is dated 1821. Erik is obviously implied born in 1831, so we can safely assume that the honeymoon was in 1830. A look at an 1830 calendar tells that November started on a Monday. The numerous fiction and non-fiction books I have read of the Victorian Era in England and Europe seem to point that weddings most fashionably occurred on a Friday or Saturday. From this it can be assumed that the honeymoon started right at the beginning of the month and lasted three weeks, as stated in the book, to about the 20th. Particular attention is drawn to the last day of the honeymoon when, "his smile mirrored [her] thought." The implied thought here is certainly Erik's conception. From there, most of the details can be filled in by an encyclopedia set. The development stage for the fetus is usually nine months, give or take a week depending on the mother's cycle. Assuming that Madeleine had the "normal" 30 day cycle, it places her due date to about the 20th of August. This coincides with her condition in May, described as a "beached whale." According to World Book, at 5 months the mother's womb has increased enough to make movement rather awkward. In the manner of the fall season of France, to the best of my knowledge, the rain storm described during Erik's birth is perfect for that time. But there are complications during Erik's birth. He was born breech. I wondered if that could possibly vary the date of birth. The World Book Encyclopedia could not help in this instance, and I turned to my uncle for answers. Dr. Richard Lohner, an OB-GYN (who incidentally delivered me and my four siblings), told me that a breech birth does not usually vary the child's arrival date, but if it were to alter it, it would most likely be early by only a couple of days or so. This places his birth date to be the 17th to the 20th of August. It is my personal belief, however, that it was not on the 19th or the 20th, as I will explain.

After Erik was born, Simonette (Madeleine's maid) ran to fetch the priest, Father Erik Mansart. On his arrival, the priest said that, "it would be wise if [he] baptized the child at once." I turned to my friends online for help in this as well. Asking for a "Catholic consultant," I queried as to when a "normal" child might be baptized and received the reply (17 Catholics answered!) that it was usually within a month of birth. This did not quite fit my theory. Recently, however, while talking with a fairly good friend of mine about this essay, I mentioned my problem. She told me that she was Catholic (news to me) and could take me to her priest, if I so desired, to ask him. I accepted her offer and we went to inquire. I asked if he knew when children were baptized back in the 1800's and he replied that, especially in small towns, children were baptized usually by the following Sunday. (Side note: he also confirmed that today children are usually baptized within a month.) Elated that I had found evidence to support my theory, I went back to Susan Kay's book to read the reference once more. As I have neglected to inform the reader of this theory, I shall do so now. A calendar of 1831 (the year Kay has placed Erik's birth) shows that the 17th through 20th of August fall on Wednesday through Saturday. If it had been Saturday night, August 20th, or even Friday night, the 19th, I believe the priest may have waited until Sunday, only a short period of time away. However, it was "at once" that Erik was baptized, thus placing it most likely during a week day, and the two most likely have already been named: Wednesday the 17th and Thursday the 18th. But who is to say it might not have been Sunday night, August 21st? When this thought first entered my mind, it caused great concern, for it was certainly plausible. I had spent time to pinpoint his birth down to two days, and this new development might add a third. Nearly defeated, I turned to read Susan Kay's book once more for comfort. Imagine my elation when I found the part about Madeleine and Marie Perrault celebrating Erik's fifth birthday. Erik is seen playing the piano when Madeleine tells him to put on his Sunday best. Erik looks at her and says, "It isn't Sunday. . ." I cried aloud, startling my mother, and ran with the book to look up August 1836. To my great surprise, the days there were the same as in 1831. If they were the same, that took out Sunday night as a possibility for his birth day, for as Erik had said, his birthday was not on Sunday. Again I had it down to two possible days. For absolutely no reason, other than I didn't intend to spend two days celebrating, I leaned toward the 18th of August as his date of birth.

For two years now, on the 18th of August, I have celebrated Erik's birth. It may not be the actual date, but it is at least something to go by. The information I have recently gleaned (as you must know, I did not know Catholic baptizing habits until this year) has ensured the date I celebrate, at least according to Kay's "second hand" account. I invite all Phans everywhere to join me on the 18th of August as well as the 5th of December in the celebration of the truly most wonderful thing to happen for us: Erik's birth.

(P.S. I apologize for the lateness of notification. I had intended to post this Friday night or Saturday morning, but my ISP was down until Sunday afternoon. This is an essay, and those wishing to have it in its complete form with endnotes and bibliography have only to e-mail me and request it to receive it. Also, as I am the only phan I know of in Salt Lake City, Utah, I wonder if there are any phans on this list who are in Utah and wouldn't mind getting together with me to celebrate, as I am tired of celebrating alone. E-mail me privately.)

Thanx for your time, everyone!

Heidi-Marie Mason
operadescendant@hotmail.com


Note from Webmistress: I've tried emailing the above address asking the author permission to use this essay on the site, but the email is no longer active. If the author of the above essay ever comes across this, I would love to hear from you.