Monday, January 21, 2008

The Iron Mask: Day 1

The Iron Mask: Day 1. To recap... the year was 1908. On a foggy New Year's morning. At 10.30 precisely, a man wearing an iron mask left from London's Trafalgar Square pushing a perambulator full of photos and accompanied by an 'American' minder. These were just a few of the conditions set down by 'the Wager '. But what happened after this event? Did Iron Mask get arrested for flogging his goods? Did he make it around the world in 6 years? TheBigRetort brings you some of the detail.... and the devil in it.

Having left the centre of London, the fog had lifted. The Man in the Iron Mask headed south across the River, his companion acting as Tonto to the Lone Ranger.

The streets were paved with postcards

Every street on the way was said to have been 'thronged' with excited crowds.

Several newspapers had been alerted to 'the Wager' and there was much clapping and cheering and waving.

To the man inside the helmet it was hard going - and bewildering. But the people clamoured for the postcards.

A blur of faces and monotonous sound came in and out of vision through the visor.

"We did not taste a mouthful of food, or even a drop of water, from the time we had our breakfast - 7.30- till 9.30 in the evening." The Masked Man, on his first day of 'the Wager' .

It had worked...

By the time the cavalcade of two reached Woolwich many postcards had been sold. And Harry Bensley, or rather the Man in the Iron Mask, had entered legend.


In order to get his hands on the cash he had to remain 'entirely unknown throughout the journey' and 'be allowed to sell photographs and pamphlets' and 'call at the capital and three other towns in each county in England'. (The Bexleyheath Observer, Jan 3, 1908, p5, col g.)

But fulfilling one of the three of a much larger list was about to become more difficult than imagined...

Having passed through Woolwich, the same paper informs, 'The Iron Mask' arrived at Bexleyheath with his companion. They stayed for the night at the Upton Hotel. It was Thursday, 2nd January, one day after their epic journey had commenced.

The same paper opined with remarkable prescience, "He was optimistic of being able to accomplish his self imposed (sic) task, but whether he will find it congenial in a few years time especially in traversing hot countries, remains to be known."

'Self imposed task'...?

Coming soon in TheBigRetort.... "THE TRIAL OF IRON MASK".

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