Friday, September 23, 2011

“Why Didn’t They Chop Off Wicked Moulay Hassen’s Head?” - 1938


Moulay Hassen’s  real name was Oum-el-Hassen. She also used the alias Léonie Vallon. The press called her “The Ogress of Fez.” The famous French writer Collette was assigned by the newspaper Paris-Soir to cover the trial.

Moulay Hassen’s case is particularly difficult to research due to the colorful myth surrounding her exploits. Two specific myths were perpetuated by the press: 1) that she received the French Legion of Honor medal, an award for which she seems to have been seriously considered for, but which she did not in fact receive, and 2), that she was executed (by guillotine) following her first conviction for murder in the case which identified her as a serial killer. She was condemned to death by guillotine but was never e executed – due to her political connections, nit would seem – and was freed allowing her to continue her career of kidnapping, torture and murder of mostly female victims before she was again arrested, prosecuted and convicted, receiving a sentence of 15 years in prison.

“Moulay Hassen” (Mulay Hassan) was also the name of Sultan Hassan I (1836-1894) of Morocco. Morocco’s Crown Prince in the mid-20th century was named Moulay Hassen, as well as the current crown prince, born in 2003.

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): WHEN the mass-murder trial of Moulay Hassen green-eyed ex-glamor girl and night club owner, opened in Fez last month, M. Julin, prosecuting, said: –

“Of the fourteen girls known to have been in mates of this club in the past year, three have disappeared, four are dead, and seven have been tortured so badly that they will be invalids for life.

“Once a girl entered this, haunt she was never seen again outside.”

Mohammed Ben Ali Taieb was accused as an accomplice in the killing of Cherifa, a beautiful dancer in Hassen’s secret club in Meknes.

M. Julin said the girls had been starved, tortured and beaten, Cherifa had fallen seriously ill.

Fearing an injury if the girl was taken from the house, Moulay Hassen had struck her on the head with a wooden mallet and forced Ben Ali at pistol point to finish the murder.

She had cut up the body. Children playing on waste ground discovered parts of it in the loose earth. The trail led to the night club.

Search at the club revealed a bricked-up cupboard and in it were found four girls and a boy of fifteen. They were still alive, but all bore marks of having been tortured before they were bound and gagged and dumped into their living tomb.

Moulay Hassen’s career was then described to the Court. Born forty-eight years ago in Algiers, she gained fame as the most beautiful cabaret girl in Northern Africa. When tribes from the Atlas Mountains rebelled in 1912 and crossed the desert, she saved the lives of twenty French officers by hiding them in her house. She was recommended for the Legion of Honor.

After years of stardom as a dancer in Algiers, she suddenly disappeared. She was believed to be linked with drug traffickers and white slavers, but no trace of her. was found until the police visited the club.

Moulay Hassen was sent to gaol for 15 years and Mohammed Ben Ali Taieb for 10 years.

[“Smith Tells Of  Glamor Girls’ Grim Fate in Morocco,” The Daily News (Perth, W.A., Australia), Dec. 21, 1938, p. 6]

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ILLUSTRATION CAPTIONS (for Article 2 of 4) - ABOVE: Developed sketch by a French police observer of the tragic moment when the wall in Mme. Moulay Hassen’s villa of iniquity at Fez was broken into and four of her slaves, three girls and a boy, were found starving and emaciated inside it. --- BELOW: Cheriffa, the Dancing Girl, for whose murder Mme. Hassen was put on trial at Fes, Africa, where the French colonial officials condemned her and afterwards reported her execution – but it now turns out that she did not die at all and is still very much alive and expecting freedom.

FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4):

~ Condemned and Officially Reported Executed for Her Unspeakably Cruel Crimes, It Now Leaks Out That She Is Still Alive and Soon May Be Free—But Who Her Powerful French Protectors Are and Whether They Are Inspired by Fear or by Gratitude Remains a Dark Mystery ~

Meknes, French Morocco. – Convicted, sentenced to death and reported to have been beheaded in 1937, Moulay Hassen, the murderess of Meknes, turned up the other day in a Moroccan jail, alive and kicking, with only a short sentence to serve.

By this unexplained dodging of the guillotine’s blade, the woman, already the most famous as well as infamous of modern Africa, adds another chapter to her career and joins that mysterious host of ghosts-in-the-flesh, officially dead but supposed somehow to have cheated the grave.

There was the Dauphin, supposed to have survived the French Revolution, and his counterpart, a daughter of the last Russian Czar, supposed to have been overlooked when the Reds murdered the rest of the Royal Family.

Evidence has been offered that John Wilkes Booth was not shot after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln but died many years later, of natural causes. Some believe that King Edward VI of England, far from dying in his youth, as the histories say, became Francis Bacon, and even wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare. However, there have always been grave doubts about these alleged grave-cheaters but seemingly none at all about Madame Moulay Hassen.

Few persons ever deserved the death penalty more thoroughly than did Moulay, who not only murdered but tortured her victims alive. Yet the blackness of her life was illuminated by brilliant deeds, some so courageous as to be heroic. For one of these which was officially recognized, she almost received the Legion of Honor, but it is believed that others which are only whispered about, were even more important in the eyes of the Government.

The woman can hardly be explained except as a Jekyll-Hyde character.


It looks as if the Government of French Morocco also suffered from double personality when it handled her case. First, as an upholder of law, order and the sanctity of human life, it tried, convicted and sentenced her to death for murder. Then the soft-hearted government personality seems to have taken charge and done nothing but put the murderess in a nice, safe cell until public opinion had cooled down. No doubt it was mindful of what the convict had done for the Government in the past and perhaps gave a thought to what might happen if she were put to death.

The evidence had been so overwhelmingly against her that conviction was inevitable, and the death sentence seemed equally so. But it was weeks before this was confirmed in an official dispatch, followed still later by another that sentence had been executed. When it was learned the other day that the murderess was alive, serving a 15-year sentence from which she may be paroled at any moment, the authorities casually explained that the reports of the death sentence and execution were errors.

The one of her execution certainly was but it is by no means sure that the death sentence was not actually pronounced and then secretly reprieved. In any event, why did the Moroccan authorities and the parent government at Paris make no effort to correct the errors?

It is much as if a famous murderess were to be found alive in Sing Sing Prison and the American authorities merely explained that reports of her sentence and execution were errors which they had not bothered to correct. Can it be that officialdom wanted the public to believe that justice had been satisfied and that the truth is only now being revealed to soften the shock of her expected release?

The Bible relates that the woman Rahab had a house in the wall of Jericho, in which she hid Joshua’s three spies, and for which she was duly rewarded. Moulay also had a house in the wall of Fez, in which she saved the lives of 16 young French officers from a mob of natives. Her house at Meknes, from which she was taken to jail, was also in its ancient wall. Houses in the wall had advantages which appealed to women of Moulay’s mysterious ways.

The French authorities had for some time heard blood-curdling stories of tortures and even murders in Moulay’s wall-house in Meknes but, as often as they traced them down to anyone who might really know, the man or woman trembled and would not say anything, so they never pressed their investigations of the woman who always replied to their questions:

“I saved the lives of 1,000 Frenchmen.”

But one day that stock answer was not quite enough. A wind had blown down a fig tree in Moulay’s garden and from where the roots had been children pulled out some of the bones of what, had been a young woman. Someone else might have placed the bones there but the police thought they would at least make some pretense of investigating the latest rumor that four people had been buried alive in one of the walls of Moulay’s house.


Most of the walls gave forth hollow sounds and the young officer in charge not knowing where to begin and remembering that he was dealing with a woman of great political influence, decided it would be better for his career not to begin at all. Just as they were about to leave, there came a scratching sound.

“What is making that sound?” asked the officer, and Moulay replied without hesitation:

“It is a cat that hid in there when we had some repairs made a few days ago.”

The officer had his doubts and pounding on the wall with a pistol butt, shouted:

“This is the police. Is anyone behind that wall? Answer in the name of the law!” After a brief silence there came an answer, a faint mewing, like a cat.

“Satisfied now, Monsieur Gendarme?” said Moulay, “or do you wish further to annoy the savior of General Poeymirau?”

The officer realized that he had probably already annoyed her far too much for his own good and with a red face bowed as a preliminary to retreat, but he straightened up from the bow, with a snap. Another sound was now coming from that wall, faint, hollow and ghostly, like a voice from the tomb. It said:

“No, I will not keep quiet. Help! There are four of us here and we are dying.”

After that the poisonous looks of the most powerful woman in Africa could not restrain the police from breaking down the plaster and taking out three girls and a boy, almost naked and almost skeletons.

“Water!” they moaned feebly, and it was Moulay who jumped to bring it to them, but the boy feebly pushed it away, whispering:

“No, poison—policeman get it.”

With an angry gesture, Moulay smashed the pitcher on the floor and the police filled another. When the four had recovered enough to talk they told a long, pitiful story of how Moulay had enticed them into captivity, had them trained to dance and then kept them prisoner, on pain of death.

“We have been in there four days without food or water,” one of the female skeletons said. “She told us she would take us out and flay us alive if we spoke.”

“But I didn’t care because we were going to die anyway, if we didn’t,” interrupted the boy. “And we can tell you whose those bones were you dug up in the garden. They were Cheriffa—we saw her murdered and that’s why she did this to us.”

Cheriffa was a pretty girl somewhat older, who had been white-slaved some time before and it was she who had told them that escape was hopeless.

Poor Cheriffa not only had to accept the attentions of guests but stand tortures for their amusement. One of these was to dance nude with a tray of goblets brimming full of boiling hot tea over her head. About once out of four times she was able to get away with the dance without scalding herself.

On the night of the murder, a fat old Pasha had the idea of sticking pins half way into the dancer’s flesh and then heating them red hot with his newest toy, a cigar lighter. He did it once too often. The tortured girl whirled, punched his fat stomach and then kicked him in the chin so hard she almost broke his neck. The four rescued prisoners told of how the short-lived rebellion was put down, of seeing Cheriffa beaten to death and her flesh fed in strips to cats.

The bones were then ordered to be boiled and buried in the garden, and after that Moulay had walled up the witnesses.

“How did the cat get in?” asked the police.

“I was the cat,” replied one of the girls.

“When she walled us up, the old devil promised to let us out sometime if we did not speak. But in ease anyone should ask if someone was within the wall we were to mew like a cat. We did not see the sense of her telling us that because we were bound and gagged. But she must have known that perhaps one of us would get her hands loose and untie the others because that is what happened.”


Once the natives saw Moulay, then about 47 years old, behind the bars, the spell of fear was broken and there was a rush of witnesses to testify against her. The woman’s defense was not very strong except that statement about saving 1,000 Frenchmen. This incident had happened in Meknes when a plot to slaughter General Pocyrhirau and his garrison of 1,000 men was so carefully laid for the annual Aissaua Blood Festival that it was not suspected and would doubtless have succeeded had not Moulay warned them just in time.

But it was long before that when she performed her most famous and spectacular service, at Fez. There a regiment of native soldiers mutinied, leaving their sixteen French officers at the mercy of the mob Not knowing where else to go they fled to Moulay’s house on the wall for sanctuary, and got it.

She and her girls went to work on the young officers, making them shave their moustaches, staining their skins, powdering their faces, rouging their cheeks, pencilling their eyebrows, blackening their lashes, painting their lips, fitting them into the robes and headgear of the house’s wardrobe and dousing them with perfume. By the time the mob broke in it found what looked like about 16 more girls than usual lying around on the divans but no sign of the men. Off went the mob to search elsewhere. For these and many other services, which have not been formally cited, she was proposed for the Legion of Honor but the respectable women of France rose in wrath against a woman of Moulay’s profession receiving that honor. There was a delay but pressure would probably have put the thing through had not Moulay made the tactless remark that if they did not hurry up, she would hang the decoration on the tail of her mule when it did come. That killed her chances forever.

Though nobody outside high government circles can say positively it is whispered that Moulay could tell things that must never come out. All the more reason, one might think, for cutting off her head. But perhaps the political dynamite is in the hands of her friends and agents, safely in some other country, ready to be touched off unless the dangerous woman is speedily released. At present it is just another dark mystery of the Dark Continent.

[“Why Didn’t They Chop Off Wicked Mme. Hassen’s Head?” The American Weekly – San Antonio Light (Tx.), Dec. 25, 1938, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Night club orgies, which allegedly occurred in the house 6$ a once beautiful dancer, who for years held sway over French Morocco, gave an amazing aspect to a murder trial at Fez. Proceedings ended in the dancer, who has been described as the ‘Female Landru of Morocco’, being sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor, and her husband to 10 years.

Couple thus dealt with are: Moulay Hassan, otherwise “Moulay the Nightingale” (48), owner of a night club, and Mohamed Ben Ali, her husband, who claims to be a direct descendant of the prophet Mahomet.

The woman has had an extraordinary career, chapters of which were listened to in court by wealthy men and women who knew her at the height of her power.

Born in Algiers, the “Nightingale” gain ad fame as the most beautiful cabaret girl in Northern Africa.

When tribes from the Atlas Mountains rebelled in 1912 and crossed the desert, she saved 30 French officers by hiding them in tier house at the risk of her life.

Then she went to Maknes, where for a second time she proved the saviour of French Army officers.

Learning that the Pasha was planning a massacre of Europeans, following the Biff revolt, she warned the French, and the plot was discovered.

On both occasions the “Nightingale” was recommended for the Legion of Honor, but she never got it. During subsequent years of stardom as a dancer in Algiers she acquired thousands of pounds worth of jewels as the reward for performing before great Moroccan chieftains.

Little by little, however, as her beauty faded, she lost her power and her money.

Finally she retired to a small house in Fez where she lived a mysterious life.

She was said to be a spy, and was believed: to be linked with drug traffickers and white slavers.

Two years ago the “Nightingale” and her husband were arrested following the discovery of the dismembered body of a pretty dancing girl named Cherifa.

Police investigations began when, children playing in the street accidentally knocked over a basket and picked up a human hand.

In the blanket were found the remains of Cherifa.

The inquiry led to Moulay Hassan’s house, and her husband confessed that be helped the “Nightingale” to strangle the girl.

In Mohammed’s room were found a knife, an axe, scent and bloodstains A thorough search of the place followed, daring which the police heard a faint tapping sound.

They found a tiny concealed room, with no light, in which were four girls and a boy, “living skeletons,” the heaviest weighing less than Set.

They said they had been lured to the house by the “Nightingale,” who met them in the streets of Meknes. They were imprisoned, beaten and starved.

They declared they had seen Moulay Hassan and Mohammed strangle the girl Cherifa as they watched through a crack in a door.

When news of the discoveries spread troops had to be called to prevent the angry populace from lynching the “Nightingale”.

Wizened and bent to a degree beyond her years, Moulay Hassan, who was accused of murdering Cherifa, appeared each day in the court wearing white robes.

She listened impassively to the case against her and her husband, who was charged as an accomplice, and to a host of witnesses called to support it.

•◊• Girls, Starved, Tortured And Beaten •◊•

M. Julin, who prosecuted, told the Court: “Of 14 girls known to have been inmates of this house in a year, three have disappeared, four are dead, and seven have been tortured so badly that they will be invalids for life. ‘Once a girl entered this haunt she was never seen again out side.”

M. Julin declared the girls, of whom Cherifa was one, had been starved, tortured, and beaten. When Cherifa fell ill, Moulay Hassan struck her on the head with a wooden mallet and forced Ben Ali at pistol point to finish the murder.

Moulay Hassan denied the charges, and I said the girls were her tenants, whom he saw only once a week when they paid the rent. Ben Ali, she alleged, killed Cherifa. Asked to explain the discovery of the boy and four girls in the secret room, she said: “I know nothing about it.”

Ben Ali denied his wife’s story, and said he was only an unwilling accomplice forced to murder Cherifa under a threat that the “Nightingale” would shoot him.

Asked if the girls or anyone else knew of the crime, he replied: “No one but Allah saw us.”

Addressing Ben Ali, the judge said “You are a descendant of the Prophet by the Smailia branch, but you were not presented from abandoning yourself at an early age to the basest debauchery.”

[“’Female Landru’ Of Morocco - Beautiful Dancer Denies Throttling Dancing Girl” The Mirror (Perth, W.A., Australia), Dec. 17, 1938, p. 8]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4):

“Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the town wall.” — Joshua II. 15.

MEKNES, French Morocco. – MOULAY HASSEN for many of her 47 years ran a more or less exclusive but hospitable harem on the wall of Meknes, exactly as did Rahab on the wall of Jericho, when she saved the three spies of Joshua, according to the Old Testament narrative. This modern Rahab prospered even more than the Biblical one, but the other day she was thrown into prison, charged with a series of crimes, including walling up alive three girls and one boy and chopping up the body of a rebellious bayadere [temple dancer], spicing the pieces with catnip and feeding them to her pampered pack of pet cats.

Yet, in 1912, all France hailed this woman “whose house was on the walls” as a heroine because she had saved not three men, as Rahab did, but sixteen French officers, in her den of vice by disguising them as some of her girls. In 1925 France rang with her praises again for betraying a great conspiracy against General Foeymirau’s troops at Meknes. For this she was proposed for the Legion of Honor and almost, but not quite, received it.

For many years this wall-girt city has been full of whispers about Moulay Hassen, once beautiful but now with a face as hard as the jewels which weigh her down. They were tales of murders and torture so fantastic, that when they reached the ears of the French ruling class, they caused only amused smiles. No modern woman could be such a devil, they thought.

The natives believed, but never complained to the authorities because they were mire she would not be punished and they feared her vengeance. They saw the highest army officers and government officials bow low, as if she were royalty. Lest there he any doubt of her influence, the woman used to boast:

“The French owe me a thousand lives and I have not yet collected all the debt.”

Like Kipling’s Lahm, in his famous story, “On the City Wall,” she could leave her great fortune in jewelry lying about unguarded and nobody dared rob her. Yet this idea that she was above the law was entirely a delusion which was shattered by the innocent hands of a couple of little children.

Moulay, besides her original house on the wall, had acquired a dance hall and a private home with a large garden in the native quarter. Into that garden one day two small boys managed to penetrate and amused themselves by digging a hole in the soft earth under a fig tree. After a while they wandered out into the street carrying with them some queer white things they had unearthed. A few minutes later a police inspector found them trying to fit together the bones of a human hand. Investigation brought to light the almost complete skeleton of a young woman scattered about the earth under that fig tree.


To the astonishment of the natives, the police confronted Moulay in her house on the wall for questioning. Haughtily the woman who had almost won the Legion of Honor denied knowledge of the bones and reminded them that they had better remember to whom they were talking. The questioning inspector finally paused and was remembering that very thing when he heard a faint scratching sound behind a recently-plastered wall.

“What is making that sound?” the inspector asked.

“A cat,” replied the woman. “I have many here, as you can see, and one must have gotten imprisoned last week when workmen repaired the wall.”

“Let it out,” the inspector ordered, rind the woman answered:

“I have already arranged for a plasterer to come tomorrow. He will know how to make a small hole and not do much damage.”

The inspector looked searchingly at Moulay’s hard face, which pave no indication that she was not telling the truth. But his eye wandered to Mohammed Ben Ali, one of her servants, who was trembling.

“Ali,” he snapped, “by Allah, tell the truth —what’s behind that wall?”

Ali wrung his hands, but he answered:

“Allah is my witness it is only a cat.”

“We will see,” said the inspector, drawing his pistol and with the butt striking three blows. The wall gave back three hollow sounds. He cried:

“This is the police. Is anyone behind that wall? Answer in the name of the law.”

There was a tense silence, and then, from behind the wall, came a faint mewing sound, like a cat. Monlay Hassen smiled.

“Satisfied now, Monsieur Gendarme?” she asked. The inspector’s face turned red as he realized that, perhaps he had gone too far with the “savior of Gen. Poeymiran.” Then came a muffled voice speaking through the wall. It said:

“No, I will not keep quiet. Help! There are four of us here and we are dying.”

The police went to work on the wall with he nearest tools they could find, and soon dragged forth three girls and a boy, almost naked, hardly better than skeletons and more dead than alive, from a space so narrow that they had no room to lie down.

They were given water, and then the police wanted to know why they had mewed like a cat instead of calling for help the first time. One of the girls spoke faintly, as she rolled sunken eyes at the Hassen woman:

“She ordered us to make a noise like a eat if anyone should knock on the wall. She promised, if we did, to let us out before we died, but if we spoke she would torture us to death.”

“But I did not believe her, so I cried out to you,” the boy skeleton interrupted. “We have been here four days without food or water, but we know whose bones those are you ring up in her garden. That was Cheriffa, the dancer.

“We saw her murdered.”

“What have you to say to this?” asked the inspector sternly. Scornfully Moulay is reported to have answered:

“France owes me 1,000 lives.”

Whispers fly fast in Meknes, and when the ambulance arrived for the four half-dead victims, a great crowd had massed beside the wall. With only a murmur, the natives watched the four taken away, but when the police appeared with Moulay Hassen a prisoner, a roar went up and the police had all they could do to save her from being torn to pieces.

As it was, the mob did pretty well in the way of souvenirs, because Moulay had insisted on going to jail as she went everywhere, loaded with jewels, moat of which disappeared in the scuffle. Already gems are being offered to tourists, guaranteed “by the beard of the Prophet” to have been snatched from the throat of “Moulay Hassen.”

After twenty-four hours in the hospital, the four prisoners in the wall gave such testimony that Ali broke down and corroborated it. Now that, the police say, the spell of terror this woman had yielded was broken, many other witnesses came forward, so that the authorities assert that they have a complete case against Moulay for the murder of Cheriffa, but they are trying to find out what became of ten other girls who disappeared in that house on the wall.

The four prisoners in the wall said that they had once been a little band who danced and sang to pick up pennies in the foreign quarter until one night a woman, covered with jewels, asked them how they would enjoy eating all the good food they could. Though they did not like the woman’s face, the four were children of the native poor who had never seen a square meal, except through a restaurant window, and the appeal was irresistible. She led them to her dance hall, where she fed them till they fell asleep in their chairs.

 
Next morning, bathed, perfumed and for the first time in fine clothes Moulay invited them to join her band of dancers. By this time they knew who she was but thought it would be safe enough in the dance hall, from which it was always easy to escape. For a few weeks they were trained in dancing and singing, but receiving no pay, which, they understood, would only come when they were skillful enough to earn it. One evening they were delighted to hear that this tribe had arrived and eagerly followed Ali through the streets, supposedly to the house of a wealthy merchant, only to find themselves prisoners in the house on the wall.

There Moulay, with the satisfaction of .a person who has played a practical joke, explained that they were slaves for life, and death would be the punishment for any attempt to escape. At first they could not believe it and turned to Cheriffa,” a beautiful young dancer, who looked at them with sad, sympathetic eyes. Cheriffa showed them the scars on her own back and told, them hopelessly that Moulay was above the law, all powerful, and that there was nothing to do but submit to their fate or die. This was their story.

The girls had to receive the attentions of Moulay’s paying guests and the boy was kicked about and beaten as if he were a pariah dog of the streets. Occasionally the four protested, always being answered with the lash on their naked backs. One of the brutalities which especially delighted the cruel guests of the house was Moulay’s own invention, “the hot tea dance.”

In this the dancer appeared nude but balancing on her head a copper tray, loaded with brimming tumblers of boiling hot mint tea. With this burden the dancer was forced to go through a series of acrobatic movements which, with great skill and luck, might be accomplished without spilling the tea. The expert Cheriffa was able to do it about once out of every four times, on the others she scalded herself to the vicious delight of Moulay’s especial customers.

Cheriffa, with the fatalism of the Moslem, endured her sufferings without a moan, but one night the worm turned. The guest of honor on this occasion, was a powerful old tribal chief, who with Moulay, had taken heavily of hasheesh, a drug that often inspires the most fiendish cruelty. After Cheriffa had been scalded twice with hot tea, the chief insisted on sticking pins into her back and then heating them red-hot with his newest toy, a cigar lighter.

But the chief heated up one pin too many. Suddenly the dancer whirled, punched him in his fat stomach, and then as he started to collapse, delivered such a powerful kick on the point of his bearded chin that it almost broke his neck. Hoping that she had killed him Cheriffa turned on Moulay with such a torrent of invective as made even that hardened creature wince. The three girls and the boy said they followed their leader in her brief and hopeless rebellion. With the aid of the guests, Ali and other servants, the mutinous five were quickly bound and gagged.

After the chief had been taken away still unconscious, Moulay attended to the matter of punishment. While waiting for masons to arrive, she gave each of the four an unmerciful beating and then had them walled up with those instructions about mewing like a cat in case anyone asked who was behind their wall. Since they were gagged as well as bound, this seemed needless advice, but Moulay had experience in such things and evidently foresaw the possibility that one might untie his hands and release the others, as indeed happened very shortly.

They dared not try to break out at first, but contented themselves with scratching with a stick enough of the still-soft mortar to make a peephole from their prison. It was through this chink the prisoners say they saw Cheriffa first beaten to death and then her flesh cut into thin strips to be fed to the cats. When, for some reason the animals at first refused to eat human flesh, they say that Moulay spiced it with various herbs, including catnip, after which the cats accepted it. When this was over, they state that they heard her giving orders to boil the bones and bury them in her garden.

Ali revealed the alleged fate of Aicha, a dancer before Cheriffa, who had lost her health and looks under the abuse until she was no longer of interest to the guests of the house on the wall. Accordingly Aicha was notified that Ali was to take her to another house, in Rabat. The broken-hearted girl agreed, because nothing could be worse than what she was enduring. Just before their departure Moulay handed Ali, he says, a little loaf of bread, full of strychnine, whispering:

“When you get to Kenisset, get off the train, take Aicha for a stroll in the outskirts of the town, make her eat this loaf and then leave her.”

The servant followed instructions, returning to Meknes alone, after leaving the dancer dying under a tree. After describing the girl’s convulsions, to his mistress, she expressed herself as satisfied, he said. Asked what he had been paid for murdering Aicha, Ali replied:

“Nothing at all except that she did not kill me as she would have done had I disobeyed.”

Ali, who is forty-six years old, was well chosen as a slave of terror. But once that terror’s grip was broken, he proved a bad investment for Moulay by the stories he told.

Born somewhere in Algeria, Moulay Hassen must have been the runaway black sheep of a decent family. This was evident at the height of her fame and power, because not so much as a distant cousin even claimed relationship, and she never told who she really was. Yet to have been a relative of this influential person would have meant much profit in the way of graft and easy money. Her present downfall proves the wisdom of this silence.

At the age of eleven, a pretty, overgrown child, precocious in every way, she first appears as a follower of the French armies in Africa, and already something of a dancer. At twenty-one she had become an accomplished dancer and was already a business woman in a rather a big way for the country and the times, hiring other girls to work for her and beginning to get rich.

Always alert for new opportunities, she and her corps of girls followed the Moynier column into Fez, in 1911, and by the following year was running the largest “institution” of its kind in the city.

Then she met a wealthy captain who fell in love with her. He offered to buy out her “establishment” in Fez if she would come to France with him to spend his leave. For a large sum of money she consented. She became a favorite in Paris and made many friends, especially in military circles. But she soon tired of the young captain and passed from one admirer to another, collecting costly presents, mostly jewels, on the way.

Following the Agadir incident, in 1911, which resulted in the over-throw of the Sultan of Morocco, a French protectorate was established in Morocco. Moulay saw in this an opportunity to make money and returned. In Paris she had met many of the officers who now staffed the army of occupation. She received special considerations from them and organized a troupe of dancing girls to provide for the soldier’s amusement.

She divided her “employes” into three divisions. The first was made up of native girls and was reserved for privates in the regiments. These girls followed the various divisions on their long marches and often went into the desert to dance at the lonely garrisons. The next class were white women, some of them of education and excellent family, most of them victims of the still flourishing while slave trade on the African coast. These women had a house of their own and entertained officers for the most part or officials stationed at permanent posts. The final class of women entertainers were the dancers who were coached and trained not only to dance seductively but to play love songs on the “gombri,” a kind of mandolin that is supposed to stir the blood of those who listen to it. These women lived in a luxurious house in Fez to which only the wealthiest officers of the garrison were invited.

Noted cooks were imported to concoct new dishes for the jaded palates of the soldiers. Moulay eagerly searched for new talent to entertain her guests, and although she often treated the girls who worked for her with savage cruelty, she went out of her way to be kind and generous to those who naked for help. She did this to build up a good reputation for herself with the townspeople of Fez and to keep her house in good standing with the military authorities and the police.

One day a fortune-teller who professed to read the future in the sands of the desert told her:

“Once in every woman’s life pity takes the place of duty. You have come to me more than once for help and I am going to give you a good piece of advice. The French are your friends here in Fez. Tonight the lives of several officers will be menaced by a mob. It will be in your hands to save them. Only under your roof will they find protection. Pity them, forget your duty to your fellow-countrymen, and you will never regret it.”

Moulay went away undecided about warning the commandant at the garrison. Finally, she did go to a Lieutenant Garnler and told him of her fears. The officer laughed at her but decided to have a little relaxation with his fellow officers at Moulay’s expense and accepted her invitation to spend the night under her roof.

At that time Fez was peaceful and an insurrection of Moors against French rule had supposedly been crushed. The officers at the garrison took advantage of the lull and set about to enjoy themselves. The rebel leaders were waiting for just such a chance to take the officers off their guard.

That night as Moulay Hassen gaily filled the cups for her friends an angry mob gathered in the city and stalked the streets looking for men in uniform. Someone whispered to the leaders of the mob that several French officers had been seen entering Moulay’s “house on the city wall.” The rebels rushed to the home and began storming it, for it was built like a citadel.


As to what happened thereafter, there are two versions. One, the less credible perhaps, is that Moulay told the officers to follow her, and she hid them in a room at the back of the house.

By this time the mob had forced the door and the leaders went in search of Moulay whom many of them knew well.

“Moulay Hassen,” one of the leaders said, “we know that you have hidden some French officers here. We have come for them.”

As he finished speaking Moulay drew a pistol from under her robe and shot him. The rest of the mob drew back and Moulay moved to the door which covered the hiding officers, spread her arms across it and said:

“You, Mohammed, whose son lives now because of the remedies I gave him as he was dying, and you, Tahar, whom I saved from the executioner’s axe, were you ever ill-met at my doors? Did I ever refuse you the welcome of my house and the bread from my cupboards? You, Selim, Mansour and said, have you ever knocked at my door in vain, when you were cold or hungry or thirsty? Tonight I would be a dog to let you interfere with my guests, whoever they may he. You would be dogs to violate the sacred laws of Mohammedan hospitality.

“If you are dogs then enter, pass over my dead body and murder my guests and may the anger of Allah and the Prophet be upon your heads and on the heads of all your descendants, forever.”

The mob listened, were ashamed, and went away.

The other version of the story which is more generally believed but which is not quite so flattering to the French officers is that Lieutenant Gamier and fifteen other French officers, fleeing for their lives from the angry mob, found themselves in front of Moulay’s door and begged her to hide them.

“Impossible!” the young woman told the breathless young men. “They will hatter down that flimsy door and search the place. No, wait. There is only one way. Do as I tell you, quick”

‘Herding the fugitives into one of her back rooms, she first had them shave off their spiffy little moustaches and beards and then made them take off all their clothes. With the other girls as assistants, she stained their white European skins the tawny color of the native women, put wigs on some, turbans on others, pencilled their eyebrows, painted, rouged and powdered their faces, drenched them with perfume, covered them with jewels, and dressed them in the most elaborate garments of the house’s wardrobe, forcing the real girls partly to undress.


Distributed gracefully on couches together with the genuine girls, the disguised officers were impossible to detect from the real thing, in the dim light of closed shutters and much cigarette smoke. From the entrance, the scene looked like a Sultan’s harem. There was a furious pounding at the door but Moulay took one last look and gave a last warning:

“For the Jove of Aliah! Get your big feet out of sight.”

Pistol in hand, she then opened the door. Half a dozen leaders of the mob pushed in but hesitated at her levelled pistol.

“We want to search your place for Frenchmen,” they announced, and were quickly told that there were no men in the house.

“We are told that they were seen going in. Anyway, we are going, to search,” they said.

“It is a lie,” cried Moulay, with flashing eyes. “If you are honest, you may search. But if it is only a pretext to molest my girls, I will shoot through the heart the first man that attempts it. Voila! There they are. You may look—hut must not touch.”

A wise precaution for the Frenchmen.

Tile leaders gazed upon what to them was a most alluring spectacle and hesitated again. The charming girls nearest to them were voluptuously feminine and scarcely clothed at all.

Those further back were more modestly clothed but so shy that many of them peeped coyly at them with only one eye over the top of a cushion.

This was a time of pillage and riot. Why should these expensive plums, ordinarily beyond their reach, escape their clutches?

Moulay read their thoughts and her voice was caressing ns she suggested:

“Come back tomorrow, after it is all over.”

That settled it.  The leaders made a search of the other rooms, found nobody, and on their way out paused once more to feast their eyes on that harem scene.

Just as the others were turning toward the door, one of the six evidently recognized one of the disguised sixteen. With a shout and outstretched arms, he started into the room.

The shout died on his lips as Moulay shot him through the heart.

The other five turned around, their hands going to their weapons, in sudden wrath. Moulay’s voice was deadly as she spoke:

“I warned him I would do this. Who wants to die next?”

Then her voice fell again to that caressing tone as she looked significantly at the leader.

“Can’t you wait till tomorrow?”

“Yes, if you will remember me,” the man agreed.

“And me – and me – and me,” jealously cried the others as they went out, hardly looking at the dead man they were carrying.

Next day the surviving five were not disappointed, because Moulay lived up to her reputation of “the little liar who keeps her word.” Though sixteen of her “houris” were absent from this party they were not missed.

For heroic, quick thinking Moulay’s achievement would be hard to beat, even if she was saving foreigners from her own people. The officers presented their rescuer with a bronze statue of herself which nobody recognized because the sculptor felt, it his duty to give her a Joan-of-Arc expression which was an even better disguise than she had given the young officers. They also handed Moulay a purse of 1,100 francs and politically she became the “Queen of Fez.” Her “salon,” as she liked to call it, was frequented by men in gold epaulettes, who explained when this was noted, that the Hassen woman had become a valuable “intelligence department.”

This proved literally true in 1925 when she performed another service to the French arms, not so dramatic but more important because it was estimated to have saved about 1,000 lives.

There she wheedled from a native the details of a plot by a local Pasha to massacre Gen. Poeymiran’s garrison during the annual Aissua Blond Festival. On this occasion 100,000 religious fanatics would he ill town and the Pasha’s followers planned to incite this horde to join them in attacking the French soldiers. Moulay informed the general in time for him to place the Pasha and his lieutenants under arrest and the Blood Festival went off without bloodshed.

This time France almost went into hysterics of adulation over the woman who someone said was worth more than an army corps. The climax came when someone proposed her for the Legion of Honor, and for a while it looked as if she would receive it.

This was a little too much for the respectable women of France to stomach. Protests poured in and wives of men who held that honor said their husbands would throw it away if it was bestowed on a woman of such dishonorable profession. Yet it might have gone through had not Moulay, herself, piqued at the delay, announced that if they did not hurry up she would, like the Chief of the Haehem Tribe when he received it, tie it to her mule’s tail.

That statement killed her chances, and, though she pretended to scorn the decoration, covering herself with a fortune in gems, it really, broke her heart because it permitted respectable women to snub her.

She turned to hasheesh, which the authorities say is enough to explain the rest of her behavior.

[“Wicked Madame Moulay Hasssen and her ‘House on the City Wall’ – Like Rahab Who Saved the Spies of Hoshua, She Saved the Lives of Sixteen French Officers by Disguising Them as Her Girls, but When She Was Charged With Making Her Beauties Into Food for Her Beauties Into Food for Her Pampered Cats and Walling Them Up Alive, Her Distinguished Protectors Forgot Their Gratitude,” American Weekly (San Antonio Light, Tx.), Sep. 12, 1937, p. 4]

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Mohammed Ali, Moulay Hassen’s henchman – “Cherifa,” he said referring to the girl whose decapitated head so staggered Yussef Bey, “refused to obey Madame, so after lacerating her, we put a cord around her neck, and ordering me to pull one end while she pulled the other, we slowly garroted her.”

[Stephen House, “Mass Murderess Once Won the Legion of Honor,” The Star (Wilmington, De.), Oct. 3, 1937, p. 10] (this article reports the erroneous story of Hassen’s execution and the false story of the Legion of Honor)

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For more cases, see: Women Who Like to Torture

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