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The Truth About The Phantom of the Opera

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Whether you prefer the 1925 movie featuring Lon Chaney, the original Broadway production, or the 2004 Gerard Butler remake, there’s no question that the chandelier crash scene is one of the most iconic moments in The Phantom of the Opera. In fact, if you want to see all of the chandeliers crashing in every Phantom movie from 1925-2004, there's a YouTube compilation right over here

Though such a scene may seem improbable, author Gaston Leroux took inspiration from the Paris Opera House, the Palais Garnier, for his 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera. That includes some of the more fantastical moments, from the chandelier to the underground lake.

Though there’s no island in the middle for an opera house ghoul to inhabit, there is a fairly large body of water underneath the Palais Garnier. After ground was broken for the opera house in 1861, workers and engineers were stumped by the water that continuously bubbled up from the ground they were trying to clear. In the end, they simply worked around it. According to Pierre Vidal, curator of the opera house’s museum and library, workers eventually gave up trying to pump the site dry. Instead, they built a huge stone water tank to house the displaced water.

The tank is a far cry from the eerily romantic, candle-lit haven in Phantom. Due to modern day health and safety codes, the area is now brightly lit. And its use is actually quite practical—it’s where local firefighters train for underwater rescue missions.

Now, about that chandelier. As far as we know, no one has ever deliberately sabotaged the seven-ton bronze and crystal fixture. But in 1896, a counterweight from the massive chandelier did fall, killing one person.

There may be more non-fiction mixed in with Leroux's story. Legend has it that Leroux gave a deathbed confession in 1927, claiming that what he had written 17 years earlier was absolutely true. While there is enough crossover between fact and fiction to make you wonder, Vidal says no worker or patron has ever encountered a ghost at the Paris Opera: “Although we do blame the Phantom as a joke if something inexplicable happens.”

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A Limited Edition, Handwritten Manuscript of The Great Gatsby Can Be Yours for $249
SP Books
SP Books

Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby need to put this on their holiday wish list: The French manuscript publisher SP Books is releasing a deluxe, limited-edition version of Fitzgerald’s handwritten Gatsby manuscript.

A handwritten manuscript of 'The Great Gatsby' open to a page
SP Books

The 328-page, large-format edition is cloth-bound and features an ornamental, iron-gilded cover. The facsimile of Fitzgerald’s original manuscript shows how the author reworked, rewrote, and otherwise altered the book throughout his writing process, changing character’s names (Nick was named “Dud” at one point), cutting down scenes, and moving around where certain information was introduced to the plot, like where the reader finds out how Gatsby became wealthy, which in the original manuscript wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. For Fitzgerald superfans, it's also signed.

A page of the handwritten manuscript with a pen on it
SP Books

The publisher is only selling 1800 copies of the manuscript, so if you’re a lover of literary history, you’d better act fast.

It’s available from SP Books for $249.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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