In the battle for the soul of man, the devil is a formidable opponent. That’s at least what many of us heard growing up in religious households. The devil tempts, and it’s up to man to resist. There are quite a few men that were not strong enough to resist the promises of the prince of the underworld. What would Lucifer have to offer to trade your soul? Our list chronicles those who allegedly made pacts with the devil…
8. Niccolò Paganini
Born in Genoa, Italy in 1782, Paganini is still to this day remembered as one of the most talented violinists to ever play. During Paganini’s time, the violin was believed to be the “devil’s instrument” because of the excitement it caused with his listeners. The violin emerged in the 16th century and came to be accompanied by dancing, particularly of peasants; to deter such vibrancy, it soon became known as the “devil’s instrument.”
Paganini started playing the violin at age 7 and was recognized as a prodigy from an early age. What set him apart from his peers was his technical proficiency. He was known for being able to play without the aid of sheet music. Paganini would often perform pieces in town squares or theaters completely from memory.
Soon, whispers turned to rumors and Paganini was suspected of having made a pact with the devil. One concert in particular seemed to lend credence to these rumors. Apparently, as Paganini was performing, each of his strings broke… all except one, that is. Instead of stopping, he continued playing successfully, captivating the audience and making it seem as if nothing was wrong. Paganini’s appearance also unsettled some as he supposedly had a dark aura.
In 1840, when Paganini died, the idea was so widespread that priests refused to bury his body near a Catholic Church. It took them more than 30 years and countless debates to finally agree to allow him to have a proper Catholic burial.
7. Robert Johnson
In Clarksdale, Mississippi is the legendary crossroads where Robert Johnson was said to have made his pact with the devil. What did he get in return? His legacy as the grandfather of the blues. Robert Johnson was born in 1911, and had 10 brothers and sisters. His father was pushed out of town by a lynch mob and his mother was forced to remarry. From an early age Johnson took a liking to music, which annoyed his stepfather, who wanted him in the fields. Like most prodigies, Johnson started at an early age watching his brother play.
The legend has it that Johnson was so obsessed with becoming a legendary blues musician that he made a deal with the devil. The devil appeared in the form of the man, heard Johnson’s wishes and desires, and then proceeded to tune his guitar for him. With that, Robert Johnson would change blues forever, but the devil would have his soul. Stoking the conspiracy theories was Johnson’s reference to the crossroads in one of his songs.
The devil would have his soul at an early age, as Johnson died at 27-years-old. His death remains a mystery but there are several theories that include his poisoning by the angry husband of one of his lovers. Johnson was known, in his performances, to lock eyes with a female attendee and never break his stare. Apparently, after his performance, a woman sent over an opened bottle of liquor. A friend tried warning Johnson but he didn’t heed his message.
As a result of Johnson’s poverty, his gravesite is also not certain. But what is certain is his place in blues history. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and has influenced the likes of Eric Clapton and many others.
6. Jimmy Page
Like the violin before it, the guitar worried conservative members of society. With Led Zeppelin’s place as one of the greatest bands in music history, the media naturally circled around its lead guitarist: Jimmy Page. One of the most revered guitarists in history, Page has been connected time and time again with the devil. Many reports circulated that Page was an admirer of black magic and attempted to summon the demons of hell when not strumming the guitar. When asked about black magic, Page refused to confirm or deny the reports, stating people should find their own truths through personal discovery. However, he did purchase the former home of Aleister Crowley, an occultist branded “the most wicked man in the world.”
Page seemed to enjoy the rumors that circulated around him. When he was asked about purchasing Crowley’s former home, he stated that all the bad vibes were there. He also claimed the residence used to also be used as a church site before it burned to the ground. Not a bad home for a man who partnered with the devil.
5. Saint Theophilus of Adana
The first man to allegedly negotiate with the devil was Saint Theophilus of Adana back in the sixth century AD. Another reason he’s noteworthy is the fact that the Faust legend was inspired by his tale. A former angel himself, it makes sense that Lucifer would try to tempt a man of God. According to legend, Theophilus was voted unanimously by his peers to become a bishop. However, as a humble servant of the lord, Theophilus declined. After a peer took his position, the man subsequently made Theophilus’s life a living hell. Naturally, Theophilus regretted his decision to pass on becoming a bishop and enlisted the help of a sorcerer to undo the damage.
After some discussion, they decided that only Lucifer could help resolve the matter. The Devil appeared and was ready and willing to remedy the situation if Theophilus renounced Christ and the Virgin Mary in a contract written in his own blood. The cleric agreed to the Devil’s demands and was rewarded with his position as bishop.
As years passed, Theophilus became uneasy about his actions, and he begged forgiveness from the Virgin Mary. He fasted for forty day, hoping for Virgin Mary to appear. She finally appeared and rebuked him, but Theophilus begged for her mercy and she promised to ask God on his behalf. After fasting for another thirty days, the Virgin Mary returned and told him that God had pardoned him. Lucifer had other ideas.
When the cleric woke up one day, he found that the contract had been pinned to his chest. The Devil had refused to relinquish Theophilus’s soul. Panicked, he reached out to another clergyman who burned the contract. Theophilus died on the spot.
4. Giuseppe Tartini
Niccolò Paganini wasn’t the only violinist to trade his soul. Giuseppe Tartini was said to have been visited by the Devil in his sleep. Lucifer spoke to Tartini, offering him his services in exchange for the musician’s soul. Tartini agreed, then watched as the Devil took his violin and played the most enchanting song. When he woke up the next morning, Tartini grabbed his violin and attempted to recreate the song. The result? An aptly named piece: “The Devil’s Trill Sonata.”
To this day, it remains one of the most difficult pieces of violin music ever written. Those who witnessed him play it live were convinced that Tartini must have had otherworldly assistance to create and master such a piece. For some reason, Tartini never seemed to enjoy the song as much as others. Maybe it was because he could never play it was well as the man who visited him in his dreams…
3. Urbain Grandier
The only person on our list to be convicted and killed for his dealing with the devil, Urbain Grandier is in select company. Born in 1590, Grandier would become a French Catholic priest. Despite his oath to God, Grandier was known for being promiscuous, sleeping with more than a few nuns. In addition, he was outspoken in his criticisms of the church’s stance on celibacy. After some interrogation, several nuns claimed that Grandier had used dark magic to convince them to share his bed. With little evidence, besides their word, the trial resulted in his acquittal. However, Grandier’s outspokenness led to him forming an enemy with France’s chief minister: Cardinal Richelieu. The Cardinal ordered a second trial, where Grandier was arrested and tortured.
Grandier was convicted after a contract was found amongst his belongings. It was written in Latin and covered in strange symbols. It also had Grandier’s signature as well as the signatures of several demons including Lucifer himself. The contract stated that Grandier would be given “the love of women, the flower of virgins, the respect of monarchs, honors, lusts and powers” in exchange for the priest’s allegiance. In typical Medieval fashion, Grandier was burned at the stake.
2. Antoine Rose
The only woman on our list, Antoine Rose confessed with the help of torture to regularly meet with the Devil. Known as the Witch of Savoy, France, the story goes that Rose was destitute and in need of money. Friends convinced her to ask the Devil for his help. Always willing to help, Lucifer appeared and agreed to help the impoverished woman if she rejected God and worshipped him instead. According to Rose, the Devil also gave her a stick and a small pot of ointment.
It seems that Rose was responsible for the iconic image of a witch with a broomstick, as she claimed she was instructed “to smear a bit of the ointment on the stick and place the stick between her legs” while saying, “Go, in the name of the Devil, go!” Rose also confessed to other tributes including “dancing, feasting, and kissing the Devil’s hindquarters when he appeared in the physical form of a large black dog.” Some lucky mutt.
1. Johann Christoph Haizmann
Born in 1651, Johann Christoph Haizmann was a painter who allegedly sold his soul after the death of a parent. Facing poverty and depression, Haizmann agreed to the Devil’s demands. Lucifer must have seen something unique in the painter as he demanded Haizmann be his earthly son for nine years. Afterwards, much like Jesus, Haizmann’s body would pass into the hands of his father. According to Haizmann, he signed two documents confirming the pact – one signed in ink and the other in his own blood. Unsure of whether he could go through with such a pact, he sought help from a Catholic priest who agreed to perform an exorcism. Haizmann stated that he felt better afterwards, and soon had a vision where he retrieved the blood pact from the Devil’s grip. Anxious to completely free himself from his pact, he underwent another exorcism.
He believed himself to be free from his contract, yet Haizmann routinely painted pieces that depicted encounters with the Devil. His journal entries also described infernal visions. It was his belief that despite his newfound piety, the Devil continued to tempt him back to the dark side.