The disturbing truth of Grigori Rasputin's death

If tales by his contemporaries are to be believed, Grigori Rasputin was a nigh-unkillable villain with lust in his loins, lunacy in his brain, and evil where his heart should have been. The infamous mystic with the hipster beard and hypnotic eyes was accused of secretly governing Russia, sleeping with the queen, and "seducing the innocent," according to Time. Said to possess supernatural abilities, he allegedly healed the hemophilia of Alexei Romanov, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. Rasputin was supposedly so powerful that he even overcame his own death. And oh what a death it was. Or was it?

The method to the Mad Monk

Born in Siberia in 1869, Rasputin didn't start off as the horror movie monster his contemporaries later painted him as. Smithsonian says, "He seemed destined for an ordinary life." He was a peasant with a wife and three kids. But after several months at a monastery in 1892, Rasputin found himself adhering to either a higher or lower power depending on your perspective. But his eventual nickname, "The Mad Monk," doesn't speak very highly of him.

Rasputin wasn't even a monk. According to ThoughtCo, he called himself a "Mystic." He believed that to become closer to God he had to purge himself of worldly wants through "sexual exhaustion." He drank voraciously and cavorted with prostitutes, which seem like pretty convenient ways to rid oneself of sin. Even more conveniently, the Russian royal family believed in Rasputin and his reputed ability to cure their son's hemophilia. The Mad Monk amassed mad power, serving as an advisor to the Tsarina and even wielding the power to fire cabinet members. However, rumors of his influence were greatly exaggerated, per Time, as were the rumors of Rasputin's death.

Disputin' Rasputin's death

However overblown his influence, Rasputin gave Russian nobles the heebie-jeebies. They detested him so deeply that instead of killing Rasputin, they over-killed him. At least allegedly. As Biography details, in 1916, a group of disapproving nobles tried to poison Rasputin with cyanide-laced cakes and wine. He got drunk but seemed otherwise unaffected. So the plotters shot him. Evidently blessed with kevlar innards, Rasputin rose again, according to History. So the nobles filled him with more bullets, beat him, wrapped his not-yet-corpse in a carpet, and chucked him in a freezing river.

But did this really happen? Time contributor Albinko Hasic flat-out dismisses this account as a figment of myth, alleging instead that Rasputin was shot in the head once and never poisoned. Writing for The Guardian, chemist and author Dr. Kathryn Harkup offers an alternative take. Perhaps Rasputin's attackers were simply incompetent killers or the Mad Monk had a crazy gastric condition that reduced the poison's potency.