The Baron – The Final Years? (1752 – 1755)

Fig 20. The Baron demonstrates that a hamster fired out of a mortar will not survive. These experiments had an unfortunate effect on the sensitive, especially the squeak-splat as the unfortunate rodent hit the ceiling at speed.

The final end of the Baron is a matter of great dispute amongst scholars, who can be roughly divided into two schools of thought – the “he died in the explosion” school, and the “Jeez, you guys are so naive, there’s no way he checked out that way” school.

The known facts (that everyone agrees on) are that during those years he retired to his homeland and devoted himself to the study of his beloved physics. He regularly invited his neighbours over to watch his experiments, still being a man who loved to dazzle a crowd with science.

During these evenings, he hinted that he was experimenting with some of the primal forces of nature. An unusual amount of equipment was delivered to his house during the final months, the purpose of which can only be guessed at.

The house became a landmark at night – weird lights and sounds emanated from it, and it got the reputation of being possessed by evil spirits. Local farmers began to complain that their cows were now giving yoghurt, thus causing widespread cases of RSI amongst milkmaids.

Strange stories began to circulate that the Baron had been seen in more than one place at once, and that he had knowledge of events before they happened. This may be local superstition, but then again it might not be.

Fig 21. The end of the Baron? An artist out for a walk with his wife managed to capture this extraordinary moment in oils for posterity.

The cost of the equipment that the Baron had amassed was phenomenal, and the suppliers began to get itchy feet in terms of the unpaid invoices that remained outstanding. Increasing hostile letters began arriving on the doormat, but whether or not the Baron even read them is a matter for speculation.  He had dismissed his servants and now spent all of his time in a converted cowshed that served him as a laboratory.

His suppliers finally issued a summons for repossession. The bailiffs were to show up on the morning of the 18th April 1755.

But at around 5 minutes to eleven on the evening on April 17th, an explosion of unprecedented magnitude consumed the house and almost a square mile of countryside.

The next morning a vast crater was all that remained to show that the Baron had ever existed.

There are three suggestions to account for what happened. The first is that the primal forces with which the Baron was playing eventually led to his undoing, as with Francis Bacon and the chicken. Another is that the Baron faked his own destruction to evade his creditors – and had many other adventures under another name. The third is that he finally achieved what he was aiming at: he developed a way of travelling into the future where he could promote his creative outpourings to the world at large via technologies that would link the people of this planet at the speed of light.

The first two are equally possible.

As to the third suggestion? Well, dear reader, who am I to comment?

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