La Catastrophe de la Martinique: sixty-nine

Pastel drawing of Martiniquaise feeling fearful and resigned

Jean Hess

La Catastrophe de la Martinique



















The Catastrophe and the Seers



It was to be expected. The catastrophe must have been predicted by the seers, and above all, by one seer.

The creoles have not failed to do their research, and on the 20th of May, the Courier de Guadeloupe published this curious article:


One of our readers would have us accept, and prays that we will publish, a page of the prophecies of Mlle Couédon. Here is the page extracted from the Echo de Merveilleux on the 1st of August, 1899.


Charity Bazaar and a Second Similar Disaster Announced:


Third booklet, page 142.


A danger from the sky menaces the Champs-Elysées, which will burn, and be destroyed.

Echo, 1897, page 135.




Near the Champs-Elysées

I see a place not high

Which is not for piety

But is approached for use

In a goal of charity

Which is not the truth

I see fire rise

And the people shriek

Their flesh burnt

Their corpses charred

I see, as a shovel sweeps







The other is nothing next to this

For long veils of crepe

I am seeing thousands

There the fire will pass

And this not long delayed

A catastrophe for the rich

Of which they’ve no idea

Men will be charred

More than a thousand, I see

And then as the next

I see icy flesh

A fever of the past

I see, again revisiting

I see the flames rise

In a place of ease

Which is not far

From that which has been


Echo, 1897, page 234 (Tilly)


Louise Polinière has seen the details of the second catastrophe, the men who twist in the flames. A landslide that will accompany this disaster. The name of the street or place begins with, “Mar…”


Echo, 1897, page 257.


Marie Martel in an interview says: The fire at the Charity Bazaar was the first warning. If France will not make herself penitent, another more terrible warning will be given her; it will be a terrifying catastrophe produced again by fire, and will kill far more people than the Charity Bazaar fire. If, after this last warning, men do not return to God, then the great punishments will begin.


Echo, 1897, page 279.


Save the little children… It comes near… What catastrophe…that destroys the world! What will the other side be like, if this is only a trial? Before the end of the year…spare the little children! They will be the little martyrs…make them not suffer the fires of the earth.


Louise Polinière





It will be still worse… Again, for the little children… It will be nothing compared to the other… I beg you, spare them all… Again, for the little children… Spare them, it is not their fault…


Marie Martel

Echo, 1898, page 140.



This will come to you

Flames will arrive

A fire will rise

Children will be burnt

The other compares to none

I see weeping mothers

In a place of ease

Which sits not high


Echo, 1897, page 14.


The wind will assail

And the water fail

The flesh fall apart

Many books will be burnt

And rich parchments

It is disastrous

Children will have gone

In velvet dress

For it is a rich feast

Wealth being given

God, they accuse him

Jesus is angered

Jesus is blasphemed

They are made to remember

That His blood was for them






This was much talked about in the Antilles, where belief in miracles is widespread.

If the lovers of facts that could pass for predictions would like me to serve them one unpublished, here it is:


I had the intention of going only to Haiti and Saint-Domingue. When I took my passage with the Compagnie Transatlantique at Paris, I told them: To Port-au-Prince, from Port-au-Prince to Saint-Domingue, from Saint-Domingue to Port-au-Prince, and from Port-au-Prince to return.

Going out to Port-au-Prince, I sailed from Bordeaux; but coming back, one would sail from Port-au-Prince to Le Havre. To return by a transatlantic steamer from Port-au-Prince and disembark at Bordeaux, it is necessary to take at Fort-de-France the next scheduled mail-boat of the Colon-Bordeaux line.

Now on my return from Port-au-Prince to France, the ticket taken at Paris in February, the employee had recorded Port-au-Prince-Bordeaux… At that time I had the firm intention of returning from Haiti directly to Le Havre, without making a side-trip to Martinique.

Knowing this island, I believed I would never have anything new to study there.

I had reckoned without the volcano.

But by the distraction of an employee, my ticket was labeled a regular one, for me to take passage from the island of the volcano.

Think on that, if you will…

As much as I like this brave Méry, don’t believe I had the intention of working alongside Mlle Couédon for L’Echo de Merveilleux… No…





Gaston Méry was a sort of early-model fascist, a virulent anti-Semite, who expressed a preference for Northern European bloodlines, and disdain for France’s Mediterranean population. He published the Echo de Merveilleux, a vehicle of mystical propaganda. He was a frequent figure in news stories of 1902. 


The 1897 Charity Bazaar fire, in which 126 victims are known to have died, took place in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, in a barn-like structure, festooned (like Boston’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub in 1942) with flammable decorations, to create a festive environment. The decorations caught fire due to a malfunctioning cinematograph. Photos below.



Photo of 1897 Paris Charity Bazaar fire street outside


Photo of 1897 Paris Charity Bazaar fire workers combing rubble



An excerpt from a journal of spiritualist news, that offers a somewhat different translation than mine taken from Hess’s transcript, taken in its turn from the Courier de Guadeloupe. I have tried to stick with the literal sense of the verses, not to add any quality to their “prophetic” nature, but to give the reader a feel for the naive rhyming.


MODERN SYBILS IN FRANCE. ‘L’Echo du Merveilleux,’ for May, contains a few remarkable predictions made by different clairvoyants some years ago, and which the disaster in Martinique appears to verify. Two of these prophetic statements were made by a couple of seeresses who live and work under the protection of the Church in a small country town called Tilly-sur-Seulles (Calvados). They are known to be Marie Martel, religious ecstatic, and Louise Polinière, normal clairvoyante. In 1897 both of them made noteworthy predictions, probably influenced by the psychological effect induced through the terrible Charity Bazaar fire in Paris, and which gave rise to many cryptic utterances on the part of mediums and seers. Marie Martel at that time was known to have said: ‘The holocaust at the Charity Bazaar is but a first warning. If France does not grow penitent, another warning far more terrible will be given her. This will be an awful catastrophe in which fire again will play the chief rôle, and many more people will succumb than in the Bazaar calamity. If after this later sign man does not return to God, then further punishments will begin.”

Louise Polinière prophesied in still more precise terms. She said: ‘I see details concerning the second catastrophe. People in contortions engulfed in flames. An eruption appears to accompany this event. The name of the place or country where this happens begins with Mar—.’ The third voyante to predict disasters which seem to foreshadow the one in Martinique, was Mlle Couédon, who some years ago was the sensation of Paris. Her oracular utterances at that time ran to some length in a species of doggerel rhyme, the sense being something as follows:

I see long crape veils—hundreds of them. One has no idea how terrible will be the next disaster. Human beings are roasted alive. I see more than a thousand, and nearby I see bodies transfixed as though frozen to stone. ‘When the earth trembles a war between three nations is at hand. Volcanos will become active, and from one high mountain surrounded by the sea something will happen. It seems to burst. Sulphur falls. This will take place in a foreign country. A city will be engulfed. All to pieces and the sea sweeps away the débris.’

Concerning the sad fatality which happened to the latest flying machine inventor, M. Severo, Madame Lay-Fonvielle, the well-known medium, predicted this misfortune on December 15th of last year, as follows : ‘And then, dear me, I see a man who wishes to raise himself from the ground, and fly with a machine. You will understand—he will fall—he is killed. It will cause a great stir.’ This same lady, on being asked what foreign sovereign would visit France in 1902, replied that she saw the Shah of Persia would arrive. He is now, or soon will be, at Contrexéville.


J. S.


From Light, A Journal of Psychical, Occult, and Mystical Research, No. 1116. May 31, 1902.





Public domain photo of candles for Martinique deadSee more on Catastrophe page
Catastrophe: seventy














(1902, Jean Hess, La Catastrophe de la Martinique; 2019, translation, Stephanie Foster)



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