By John Macklin
Was Yvette Bouchard brought back to life by the legendary Henri Deniau?
Throughout the cafes and clubs of Montmartre to the soirees of the rich and famous, Henri Deniau was an almost legendary figure in Paris in the summer of 1931.
He dominated groups at cafe tables where his pronouncements were heard in respectful silence. He was invited to the best parties, he holidayed on the yachts and in the mansions of some of France’s most influential figures.
And all because the middle-aged ex-priest from Bordeaux was claimed to be able to bring the dead back to life… He was supposed to achieve this during secret ceremonies which were said to involve occult rituals bordering on black mass and witchcraft.
Nearing 60, the portly white-haired priest, a long beard flowing over his white robes, was an impressive figure. And his past was apparently as lurid as the stories which currently surrounded his activities.
His fall from grace had all the ingredients of a gothic tragedy. A protégé of a bishop of Bordeaux, he had a brilliant academic career and had been expected to rise to high office in the Catholic Church. Instead, he had been dramatically sacked, expelled from the church, and finally excommunicated.
It was claimed to have first happened in a country house near Clermont-Ferrand in 1930 when a 70-year-old man collapsed after a heart attack and was pronounced dead. Deniau who was a guest at a weekend house-party, ordered the room to be cleared and spent less than half an hour alone with what had been medically certified as a lifeless body.
Several guests would later testify that after about ten minutes Deniau emerged from the room -followed by the “corpse” who had miraculously come back to life–and apparently seemed none the worse for his experience…
Not surprisingly the case was a sensation and appeared in newspapers throughout Europe greeted with a mixture of scepticism and awe. An investigation in a Paris magazine by a respected journalist, Marcel Saunier, originally intended to expose Deniau as a fraud, concluded “there was too much factual evidence to dismiss the incident as nonsense.”