"Little Demon In The City Of Light" By Steven Levingston

Apr 28, 2014

    In France at the end of the nineteenth century a great debate raged over the question of whether someone could be hypnotically compelled to commit a crime in violation of his or her moral convictions. When Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé entered 3, rue Tronson du Coudray, he expected nothing but a delightful assignation with the comely young Gabrielle Bompard. Instead, he was murdered—hanged!—by her and her companion Michel Eyraud. The body was then stuffed in a trunk and dumped on a riverbank near Lyon.

As the inquiry into the guilt or innocence of the woman the French tabloids dubbed the "Little Demon" escalated, the most respected minds in France debated whether Gabrielle Bompard was the pawn of her mesmerizing lover or simply a coldly calculating murderess.

Steven Levingston, the nonfiction editor of The Washington Post, writes about Gabrielle Bompard and hypnosis in his book, Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Époque Paris.