In a wrong body. The secret of the life of Nicolai de Raylan.
Moscow: IDRIS publisher. 2021; 416 p. 16+
DEATH OF A LITTLE HUSSAR
On November 4, 1906, two respectable gentlemen arrived in Phoenix, the capital of Arizona: one heavyset and gray-haired, the other a diminutive, middle-aged man with a thin, haggard face. Were it not for his high-heeled boots and elegantly androgynous Victorian-style frock coat, from behind, one might have confused him for a teenage boy—the son of the gray-haired gentleman.
Porters loaded the pair’s ample luggage into a steam car available for hire in the station square, and it quickly took them to the small and cozy Union Hotel. With the help of his companion, the little man struggled up the hotel’s front steps. Now and then, he had to raise a handkerchief to his lips to contain muffled fits of coughing. His slender arms and thin body made him look like a fragile ballerina. His coat appeared a couple sizes larger than needed, the delicate man seeming to weigh no more than ninety pounds. With a practiced eye, the hotel owner determined that the cause of this discrepancy was most likely the rapid weight loss typical of consumption patients. By all appearances, yet another person suffering from this widespread disease had arrived at the hotel.
At the beginning of the 20th century people with consumption came to Arizona from all over America. Almost 25 years have passed since Koch discovered the causative agent of consumption, which has caused the highest number of deaths among all diseases over the last two centuries. But as well as century ago, a climate that stimulates the body’s defenses was considered as the best way of treatment. The dry desert wind, a lot of sunshine, the warm winter and the hot summer made Phoenix the best natural health resort for tuberculosis patients, the home of their last hope. Tent type resorts for poor people and landscaped hotels for the rich were opened in the city and the surrounding area. Reception of tuberculosis patients turned into a profitable business of the state Arizona and hotel Union.
A miniature man registered under the name of Nicolai de Raylan, and his companion as Dr. William Rowe. They rented two adjacent comfortable rooms, connected by a large balcony. While the porter was moving the luggage of the guests to the room, the owner of the hotel Mr. Christofferson managed to talk with the doctor and became convinced of the rightness of his guess. Rowe told him he met de Raylan a few months ago in small town Canon of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where he worked as a practicing physician.
Along with the Phoenix, Canon was considered as one of the best climatic resorts for consumptive patients. Nicolai de Raylan arrived there from Chicago, hoping that the mountain air would stop the disease. For a while it seemed that a serious illness was receding. Nicolai got stronger, began to walk around the picturesque surroundings, hope appeared in his eyes. But with the onset of cold weather, Raylan's health deteriorated and the doctor advised him to move to warm Arizona for the winter. Just at that time, Raylan’s wife Anna and son Harry arrived in Canon. Spouse asked Dr. Rowe to accompany her husband as a personal physician. The doctor was not busy with family concerns, by that time he had become a widower. The promised fee of 20 dollars a day exceeded his income from medical practice, and the patient was genuinely sympathetic, therefore Rowe accepted the proposal without long hesitation. So Raylan traveled south to Arizona with his personal physician, while his wife and son returned to Chicago.
It turned out that Nicolai was an open, talkative person and a few days later the owner and employees of the hotel learned a lot about the circumstances of life of the new guest. He said that he was born and raised in Russia, the surname de Raylan inherited from his father, a Russian admiral. After arriving in America he settled in Chicago, where he soon became the secretary of the Russian consulate and founded his own law office. He was proud to say that he had served in the American forces through the war with Spain in 1898, showed numerous medals received for courage and a special letter of commendation to hussar Raylan from President McKinley, whose assassination in 1901 shook the country.
Nicolai had a photo album in an expensive leather cover, which he often showed to the doctor and the owner of the hotel. In one of the pictures he was captured on a rearing horse, in the uniform of famous Chicago’s «black hussars», a showy cavalry company, which indispensably participated in all crowded celebrations and parades. Raylan said that in addition to serving at the Russian consulate, his main pastime was training in the hussars’ detachment and in the athletic club.
The album was filled with photos of friends, relatives and his own pictures. Among them was a photograph of a young girl with a bouquet of white flowers, a long, falling bang on her forehead and a slightly noticeable smile reminiscent of the smile of Leonardo’s Gioconda. Raylan said it was Eugene, the beloved of his youth in Russia. With great warmth he talked about his beautiful wife Anna and his teenage son Harry, and regularly exchanged letters with them. Their photos adorned several pages of the album and the bedside table of the fragile hussar.
De Raylan at the age 17 and his sweetheart Eugene (Zaney).
During the daytime, Raylan spent long periods sitting in a chair on the hotel balcony, breathing in the healing air of the desert, admiring the distant outlines of odd mountains. They looked as if they’d been made some baby-giant playing in the “Arizona sandbox”: heavy lumps of wet sand and sand-spires hardened by the scorching wind. Near the hotel, which stood on the outskirts of the city, grew large, solitary cacti—thick, green, prickly pillars with “arms”—as well as smaller types—fat, light-green, thorned leaves that grew directly out of the ground. Occasionally a little trolley that looked like a wind-up toy drove down the street; once, in celebration of some holiday, a parade of mounted cowboys and Indians rode past. Watching them, Raylan recalled noisy, fume-filled Chicago: the overcrowded trolleys, the human hive of intersecting roads, and the thousands of colorful processions that had been organized in honor of the World’s Columbian Exposition. There, amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, were his friends and lady-friends, the “Black Hussars,” his colleagues in the consulate and law office, and Anna and Harry. Whether he would return to them alive or be brought home as a body in a sealed casket, God only knew.
Often, Nikolai made short walks together with the doctor, where he told him about numerous affairs with women, and about the news of literary and political life of Russia. His service at the Russian Consulate gave him the opportunity receiving new books from the homeland, read Russian newspapers coming with diplomatic mail. The doctor learned from de Raylan about the Russian revolution and the adoption of the constitution. It was felt that the events taking place in the distant homeland still worried Nicolai. Rowe found his patient to be an educated, noble, and well-mannered man, although, sometimes Nicolai used dirty words, telling about the adventures in the «black hussars» squad and other incidents of his stormy life.
In the evenings, he usually spent time playing cards at a nearest casino or reading Russian books brought with him. His favorite was an old Morocco binding book with illustrations on the Napoleonic Wars. When the doctor inquired about the contents of the book, Nicolai replied that these were the memories of Nadezhda Durova, a famous Russian cavalry girl who had fought in the Russian army during the war with Napoleon, posing as a man. Several times the doctor accompanied Raylan to the National Bank. Subsequently, the bank teller revealed that de Raylan had opened an account shortly after arriving in Phoenix and presented several checks for a small amount. He also reported that Raylan had accounts with three Chicago banks under different names. Almost every day, when his strength was sufficient, Nicolai reached the post office, asking for letters in his name. He did not tell anyone about the contents of his correspondence with his wife and others, but he quoted to the doctor son’s letters with parental pride and compassion. The doctor remembered that one of them said: “Dear Papa: I hope you enjoy Arizona and get well. Today I had my haircut and the bunny had a haircut, but not by a barber, her hair is falling out. Your loving son. Harry".
As the days passed, Raylan’s condition achieved a delicate equilibrium. It looked to him as if things were improving and the worst was already over. But then, in early December, his health began to decline rapidly. Raylan’s temperature began to rise in the night, the handkerchief he used to contain coughing fits was rife with spots of blood, and his face became more gaunt, taking on a waxy tinge. It became clear to the doctor that the patient’s days were numbered; he had no more than a few months left to live. Nicolai de Raylan apparently understood this as well. His outward behavior remained the same as before: calm and self-contained. Only his gaze became detached; he seemed to look through whoever he was speaking with, absorbed in recollections of his short life.
The doctor felt deeply sorry for the patient, for Nicolai was only thirty-two years old and had to spend his final days far away from his relatives and friends. Seeing that nothing more could be done to save the patient, the doctor asked: should I send your wife a telegram requesting that she come to Phoenix? Raylan replied that he hoped God would answer his prayers and that he’d improve soon, but that his wife’s presence could do nothing to help him. When asked about his will, he said he would write an updated one soon and have it notarized, then added:
“Anything could happen, doctor. I know death may come for me at any moment; all rests on God’s will. So I have a somewhat unusual request for you...I don’t particularly care whether my spouse will be present for the moment when I leave this world, but after my death, she must come without delay. You see, my wife and I agreed that if I die first, she must come wash and prepare my body and have me buried in Chicago in an Orthodox ceremony wearing a hussar’s uniform. If she dies first, then I have to prepare her body for the funeral.
The Doctor promised to grant strange will of the dying man, but he was not too surprised, as it turned out, he already knew something about an unusual arrangement. A few days ago, when his patient fell into oblivion after a severe attack, the doctor came to correct the pillows and accidentally looked on a piece of paper lying on the bedside table. Perhaps, it was a short message from Raylan’s wife. The doctor’s upbringing did not allow him to read other people’s letters, but he could not do it with all the desire, because it was written in Russian. As he ran through the letter, his eyes fixed on a phrase written in English: «No one should touch my body, as long as my wife is not coming». Dr. Rowe thought that probably Anna sends instructions to her beloved spouse what he should inform others, feeling the death is coming. As it turned out later, the doctor was not far from the truth.
Though even in Colorado, Dr. Rowe could see that the warm relations of the de Raylan spouses were far from harmonious. It is not likely that personal life of Nicolai de Raylan was happy. Doctor also overheard Raylan telling the innkeeper about his relationship difficulties with his wife, who constantly demanded money from him. And when Rylan sent for the bank teller, asked him to withdraw all the money from the Chicago account and transfer it to Phoenix, he admitted to the cashier that he had taken these precautions to keep his wife from finding out about the deposit. It was felt that between Nikolai and Anna was some kind of real secret hidden from prying eyes. But asking the patient about the circumstances of his personal life was not in doctor’s rules.
The agony began on the morning of December 18, Raylan started to move into a coma. Around two o'clock in the afternoon he wake up and nearby Dr. Rowe asked: «Should Anna be telegraphed»? Nicolai replied, I think it’s time, although I still hope to get better». But fifteen minutes later his breathing went away.
Having recorded the death of the patient, Rowe sent a telegram to Nicolai’s wife, which recently became a widow. He reported the death, asked when she would arrive and what would be the orders regarding the body. After that, he went to the best in the city funeral home “Mohn and Driscoll”, named after its owners, and arranged to transport the body to the morgue. The doctor remembered unusual will of de Rylan, do not touch his body until his wife arrived. But it is not known how long we should wait her. Then, apparently, Anna will take the remains to Chicago. So he ordered to embalm the body to save it from smoldering. Perhaps this seemed more important to him.
Raylan’s remains were taken to the morgue and Mr. Driscoll began embalming. He prepared a formalin-based solution, the tools with which he was going to inject it into the blood system and laid the body on a special table. Driscoll was a professional in his business and was not sentimental, but even at the hotel he noticed to the doctor that he was surprised how feminine the face of the deceased looked: with smooth delicate skin, without any signs of a mustache and beard. His astonishment increased many times when he began to free the body from clothes. Under a shirt, Driscoll found an elegant cross on a silver chain with words engraved in Slavic letters. Raylan's chest was tied with a wide bandage, under which was hidden a small but clearly female breast. Further verification revealed that Nicolai de Raylan was a WOMAN. There was no doubt about it...
Shocked by an unexpected discovery, Mr. Driscoll covered the body and sought Dr. Rowe to question him about his late patient. He found him in the hotel's office, and after short conversation convinced himself that the doctor had been no party either by consent or known edge to this strange deception. Whereas if it were to be kept up the doctor could himself have put the body into a coffin and could have complied with all required regulations for the burial of the body. When Mr. Driscoll finally asked Dr. Rowe if he knew that De Raylan was a woman, the doctor stunned and discouraged. Soon he recovered and said that he had never had the slightest suspicion that his patient was not what he seemed. He had been with him a great deal in their rooms, in traveling and on the street. They had visited barber shops together for De Raylan shaved regularly and frequently. There had never been a move by him that could have raised a doubt as to his sex, not even could Santa do better than to make the boy or girl a present of a good wheel. In addition, he had a real wife and son, and purely male habits. However, the doctor noticed after a short hesitation, that Raylan had a couple of suspicious oddities, he allowed listening to the lungs only from the back and through the underwear, and on his face there were no signs of a beard.
After short discussion the Dr. Rowe agreed with Mr. Driscoll that no further steps should be taken toward the sending of the body away until there could be an investigation of the strange affair and that the authorities should be notified. They also decided that the strange case should not be leaked to the press, the body should be definitely embalmed, and the doctor will immediately send a telegram to Raylan’s wife.
However, it was almost impossible to keep the secret of an unusual incident in a city, where the most exciting thing to happen all year were a few rodeos and unsuccessful bank robbery The next day an article with the screaming headline: «DEAD MAN WAS A WOMAN» appeared in the local newspaper Arizona Journal-Miner. The shocking news was immediately reprinted by many provincial and metropolitan newspapers, and the name of Nicolai de Raylan became known throughout the country.
Dozens of reporters in Chicago and Phoenix rushed in the footsteps of a mysterious woman looking for scoops. In Phoenix they interviewed a personal doctor and those with whom "he" communicated there. In Chicago, they found the "widow" and her son, and soon the first "wife" of de Rylan, it turned out that "he" was married twice. It was found out that Nicolai de Raylan for ten years served as a clerk and a secretary of the General Consul of Russia in Chicago Baron Albert Schlippenbach, that he was the founder and owner of a very profitable «Russian Law Office» which worked in close contact with the consulate. Also reporters discovered that Raylan’s bank accounts held about $6,000, a significant amount at that time, equivalent to $170,000 in the current calculation. One account was opened in the name of Nicolai de Rylan, the other in the name of Nicolai Konstantinovich, the third in the name of «son» Harry. It was reported that Rylan was living a large life spending several thousand dollars a year, an amount far exceeding the modest salary of a clerk or secretary.
Nicolai’s friends, employees of the legal office and the consulate, the current and previous wives all claimed that there was some mistake, Rylan was undoubtedly a man. “A woman? That is absurd! De Rylan was a man, slight, delicate and lean, but certainly a man. I lived with him for 5 years, he drank, smoked, dragged after women, this was the reason for our divorce, I knew several of his passions” - said the first “wife” Eugenie. Her current husband, Francis Bradchulis, added that he was involved with de Raylan in business, they visited the beaches together and he has no reason to doubt Nikolai’s male identity.
Reporters visiting the home of last wife found her in a mourning dress, holding his picture in her breast, sobbing convulsively:
– The dead woman in Phoenix is my husband? All nonsense, all nonsense! He was probably robbed, hidden somewhere and hopefully still alive. If he did die in Phoenix, his body was subsequently replaced. It is possible that Rylan was killed by powerful Russian enemies because of his revolutionary activities. I looked upon him less as a husband than as a baby; he was so slight and delicate. I loved him so much; he was always kind to me. My husband was well-educated, fluent in five languages, well versed in Russian history and the political situation in the country. He told me he was born in a suburb of Saint Petersburg, and his father was an admiral in the Russian Navy.
Reporters were unable to get clear answers to questions about Nikolai’s past, the reasons that forced him to change sex and leave Russia. It turned out that he told almost nothing about his past life to either his "wives", or friends, or colleagues.
The Russian Consul in Chicago, Baron Schlippenbach, told newsmen:
“De Raylan once admitted to me that he had been brought up in Russia as a girl. He wore corsets which had given his form the appearance of a woman’s. By the will of the parents, he attended a fashionable girl’s boarding school, and had manifested no ambition to be a man, and was a girl in outward guise and every other aspect. Then near the close of her 18th year came the mysterious crisis in her life which drove her from Russia and caused her to disguise her sex in the garments of men and to retain the disguise to the end of her life. One day De Raylan told me he was born in Odessa. Another day he told me he was born in Kiev, and once he gave Japan as his birthplace. Whatever he was, he was a prince of liars”.
In another interview, the baron stated that he had hired Rylan as an interpreter for French and Polish, later he became a consular clerk and personal secretary to the consul. Six months ago he fired Rylan because he stole a letter containing valuable government information. (As it will become clear later, not only the consular clerk, but also the consul himself was not distinguished by truthfulness).
The wives of Nicolai de Raylan could add little to what was said about his origin. According to the first wife, Eugenia Bradchulis, Nicolai came from the middle class of the southern part of Russia. Some revolutionary secrets forced him to leave his parents' house in Yelysavethgrad (since 2016 - Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine). Mrs. Bradchulis said that once, secretly from her husband, she discovered diary entries in de Raylan’s wooden chest. She was only able to read about Raylan's affair with a girl who lived in the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi (now Ukraine).
The next day, the husband found that the wife was going through his things, and became furious. He threatened to shoot her without hesitation if he caught her doing it again. Eugenia also said that in Russia, Raylan had an affair with a girl from Saint Petersburg named Zhenya. He called her «my angel», regularly corresponded with her and even sent money through the former Russian consul in Chicago, von Tal.
From De Rylan’s current widow Mrs. Anna de Raylan, the reporters learned that her husband was born near St. Petersburg, sailed to the US from Odessa when 18 years of age, he received constant communications from Russia, all of which he destroyed upon reading. He kept close watch upon all Russians arriving in this country and especially upon those coming from Odessa. Mrs. De Raylan also said that Raylan’s son Harry was actually her son from her first husband Joseph Armstrong and that of all his acquaintances de Rylan invited to the house only the Russian consul Baron Schlippenbach and vice-consul Prince Engalitcheff.
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Edward Knox, the janitor of the house where Raylans lived in Chicago, claimed to have known Nicolai intimately and often made horseback riding trips with him. He told a heartbreaking story about de Raylan to reporters:
“De Rayland was an ardent horseman and every time he rode out wore a tight-fitting costume of the Chicago hussars and on many occasions also carried a saber at his side. I met him several years ago, when he wanted me to pick out a horse for him just after he has joined the Chicago Hussars. There was a vicious horse at the stockyard known as a ‘man killer’, which had the reputation of injuring a number of riders. De Raylan insisted on having this horse because it was vicious. I warned him against it, but he insisted that he wanted a horse with life in it.
“One day while out for a ride, he told me his life story. He said that his parents belonged to the nobility of Russia and lived in a palace near St. Petersburg. When he was youth parents sent him to Paris to complete his education, and while there, he met a beautiful French girl and married her. The marriage threw his parents into a rage and they disowned him. Three years later his parents sought reconciliation and invited him and his wife to and their two children to the palace.
“He went there but soon after his arrival he was prevailed upon to make a trip to Germany along, leaving his family in his father’s palace. While away, he declared both his wife and two children were starved or poisoned to death, and when he returned they had disappeared. He then put a curse upon his parents and fled to America, with a vow never to return to his native land.
“When he told me this about his wife and family being poisoned, he broke into tears and recovered his composure with difficulty. He asked me never to mention it to any one or mention to him again as the subject was painful to him.”
In conclusion Knox said that de Raylan could not raise a mustache and offered him $75 if he could procure a remedy which would grow hair on his upper lip. He said that Nicolai sent sums of money to France in his efforts to secure a preparation that would make a mustache grow.
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The information published within three days of Rylan’s death caused much excitement in Phoenix as well. Hundreds of eyewitnesses went to the morgue to look at the remains of a mysterious woman. An unhealthy interest, as in an outlandish mummy, clearly offended the memory of the deceased, but there was no one to stand up for her honor. At first, the body was dressed in his habitual clothes - a black frock coat a la Prince Albert and dark trousers to take a photograph and send it to Chicago for identification. Then the body was arrayed in the white silk robe of a woman, finding it more appropriate. According to local newspapers, in these clothes Raylan began to resemble a woman: the lines of the face appeared to have softened and become more regular, presenting even traces of beauty.
One of the first visitors to the morgue was a man named Charles Tanner, who told the funeral home staff and then newsmen that he had met Rylan thirteen years earlier during the Chicago World’s Fair. At that time, said Tanner, young Nicolai worked in the publishing house and secretary of the Russian commissioner at the exposition. From 1895 to 1897 Tanner, de Raylan and another young man Martin Kastle had bachelor quarters in Chicago, and became close friends. The chums were unsuspicious, though sometimes they kidded de Raylan on his feminine looks, but never doubted his sex, since their friend had all the habits of a man: he smoked cigars, drank whiskey, and frequented society of women. Tanner said there was an impression that de Raylan was of noble birth and his real name was Nicolai Constantinovich (the son of Constantine).
In further conversation Tanner shed light on the mystery of Raylan’s involvement in the Spanish-American War and the circumstances of receiving a letter of thanks from President McKinley. He said that at the outbreak of the war they went together to the recruiting station to enlist and to visit with the Army the distant countries where the American-Spanish battle was unfolding. Charles was accepted and took part in the battle in the Philippines, but the slight appearance of de Raylan was against him and he was rejected without medical examination.
McKinley’s story, according to Tanner, was also very prosaic. De Raylan had joined a marching organization in Chicago and that organization was the escort of the president on his last visit to the city. Although Nicolai was an experienced rider, a horse frightened by someone or something knocked him out of the saddle in front of McKinley, and the rider was severely injured. The president ordered his carriage stopped and inquired solicitously as to the extent of the rider's injuries. On his return to his hotel the President wrote de Raylan a letter of regret and sympathy, and not of commendation and thanks for military services. As to the Spanish war medals it the possession of De Raylan, Mr. Tanner said he knows nothing, perhaps he bought them from the combatants.
The day after Rylan’s death, an official investigation was opened in Phoenix on behalf of the District Attorney. Doctors Bizell and Palmer performed autopsies on the body, which showed that the death was due to pulmonary tuberculosis, and the deceased was a full-fledged woman, moreover, a virgin.
The attesting witnesses who examined Raylan's remains and a coroner Byurnet issued the following official verdict as follows:
“We, the jury, find that the person residing here since November 4, under the name of Nicolai De Raylan, as a male, was, as a matter of fact, a female, and the body expected at morgue was the same person. Death resulted, we find, from tuberculosis.”
Mention should be made here of an intriguing discovery that Driscoll made when he was about to embalm the body. The American press was shamefully silent about it, only one of the articles in the Arizona newspaper said that under the clothes of a man, Raylan successfully hid the body of a woman, and “The masquerade had been carried to the last possible and unnecessary detail”. This "detail" was an artificial penis and testicles made of chamois skin and stuffed with down were suspended in the right place by means of a band around the waist.
Perhaps undertaker Driscoll did not specifically told the press about this discovery to avoid an unhealthy stir, but he told the doctors who performed the autopsy about it. Doctors did not make a secret of this from their colleagues, and most of the medical articles on gender problems that mention the "de Rylan case" (beginning from 1907) refer to an elaborate artificial penis.
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There was an intense telegram exchange between Phoenix and Chicago after the death of the fragile Hussar. Reports of de Rylan’s death and his true gender were sent to his “wife”, to the Chicago Bank, the Chicago Probate Court and to the Russian Consulate. In a reply the Russian consul asked Dr. Rowe to report the events in Phoenix more detailed. The Doctor was about to leave Arizona, so he immediately sent a report to the Consul, Baron Schlippenbach, along with an accompanying letter, which was published in the Chicago’s newspaper:
Phoenix. Arizona. Dec. 22, 1906.
Baron Schlippenbach, Chicago, Illinois.
<…> I considered De Raylan a very honest, upright, noble, gentleman, and shall forever cherish the memory of him, I can hardly bring myself around to say "her" for I only knew her as .the man, a noble hearted man. And there is a noble thing revealed in the autopsy we physicians were all satisfied that she was a perfectly virtuous woman, a virgin.
"Why she hid under the disguise of a man, is more than I can tell, but that she wanted to keep up the disguise even in death is evident.
There will be photographs or her corpse and probably one will be sent you.
I am going to Los Angeles from here, but will be in Canon City, Colorado, soon.
Wishing you everything good, as he was in the habit of saying when writing you. Very respectfully yours.
W. C. ROWE
The public administrator's office of the Cook County in Chicago, where de Rylan resided, seized his Chicago bank accounts when received a report of Rylan’s death and «his» feminine affiliation. The money Rylan ordered from Chicago’s banks was never transferred to Phoenix. It appeared that Rylan bequeathed to the last «wife» and «son» all his property, which included considerable money, jewelry and personal belongings. But could a woman have a wife, can a «wife» claim to «his» inheritance and is «his» will be held valid by a court? Is it possible that De Rylan’s «wife» did not know that «he» was a woman, and was not an accomplice of deception? All these issues required judicial review.
When Anne de Rylan learned about the seizure of the account she quickly realized that she might not inherit husband’s inheritance and hired a lawyer to defend her interests. In a telegram to the funeral home of Mon and Driscoll, she said that she would not be able to come to Phoenix and requested that the circumstances of her husband’s death no longer be made public. In response, she was told that she herself had become guilty for the commotion, claiming to have her husband’s body replaced by a woman’s. But the main question, when Rylan’s body should be sent to Chicago and who would be paying for the transport, was not answered.
Only on December 23 Anna Raylan sent a telegram in which she asked to bury husband in Phoenix at the least possible cost, and required that all his personal belongings must be sent to her. Chicago’s reporters also learned that the husband of Raylan’s first wife, Francis Bradchulis, who was in a joint business with Nicolai, offered to pay for the transfer of his friend’s body to Chicago, but Anna refused.
The funeral of de Raylan took place from the undertaking rooms of Mohn & Driscoll on December 24th. As the preceding days, the undertaking rooms were thronged all forenoon with visitors desirous of seeing the body of this remarkable woman, and find out the latest rumors about her. At the beginning of the service the chapel doors were closed against a further accession to the people, who came to look at the last act of the drama played out before their eyes for free. The service was allowed only for a few officials, hotel employees, «shaving» the late hairdresser and a few reporters. The only person who knew Rylan before was Charles Tanner, because. Dr. Row had already left Phoenix. Reverend McLean officiated the service. His address was brief and did not touch the life of the dead. He only said about the temporality of earthly life, the kingdom of God, absolution of sins, and eternal rest. No one else wished to make a farewell statement. Since the deceased was a virgin woman, the form in relation to the funeral and burial of virgins was observed. Dressed in a long white cloak, the body of the dead was enclosed in a white casket, and conveyed to the grave in a white hearse – symbols of purity and virginity. The procession slowly moved towards the newly opened Greenwood cemetery. The horse-drawn hearse was followed by a carriage conveying the pall bearers, followed in a taxi car by the late Charles Tanner, a priest and manager of the local public school. At the end of the procession there were wagons with curiosities and sympathizers.
We can assume that Nicolai died with the thought that his wife and son would get the fortune he had acquired, and with his friends and colleagues they would accompany him on his last journey. Dressed in a hussar uniform, he will be buried according to the Orthodox rite, and in the people’s memories he will remain as an ardent horseback rider and reveler, a successful businessman, a caring father and a conqueror of women's hearts. Ironically, none of Nicolai’s wishes came true, and her/his life became the property of the tabloid press. The only small consolation in his afterlife could be the fact that he was buried with a dear to his heart Orthodox cross with the name Nicolai engraved on it.
It would seem that the mystery of de Rylan’s life was forever buried along with the body, and no one would ever know his/her real name, who were her parents, why she turned into a man, what forced her to leave Russia, how she managed to mislead two «wives» and all the people around. However, the subsequent course of events showed that it was too early to close this mysterious affair. For several years after the death of the little hussar, the interest in his/her life did not diminish. Interviews with Rylan’s «wives» and the Russian consul in Chicago; information about the struggle for his inheritance, about the Russian legal office, and a summary of Nicolai’s diary entries were published in American press. Also two major articles based on Raylan relative’s evidences were released in a Russian historical journal in 1915 and 1917.
The following parts of the book present a historical investigation, which tells about the life of de Raylan in Russia and America: about childhood and adolescence spent in Odessa, Kiev and Saint Petersburg, about the journey to the United States; his participation in the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Russian law office, relations with wives, the court battle for inheritance, literary and linguistic talents, as well as about motives of his behavior from the point of view of modern medicine. A separate chapter is devoted to the fate of close friends and patrons of Rylan: Russian consul Baron Albert Schlippenbach and Vice-consul Prince Nicolai Engalitcheff.
To conclude this prologue, it should be noted that the journalists who have reported on Raylan’s case and the author of this book refer to Raylan as “he” in some cases and “she” in others, causing confusion for both themselves and their readers. Without a doubt, Raylan was biologically female and grew up being raised as a girl. But at a certain age, she started not only dressing in men’s clothing, but also seeing herself as a man, exhibiting the virtues and shortcomings of the male sex. Therefore, when discussing the period when our protagonist wore women’s clothing, the pronoun “she” will be used, and from the moment of transition into Nicolai de Raylan, the pronoun “he.”