"The Dream Weave Cube"

Box art produced by William C. Johnson

Written research by Max Lichtor

Photo by Derek Prospero

"The Key to Catherine's Glory"

Catherine II, Empress of Russia

In the year 1760, the Comte de Saint Germain was discovered as a international spy by French authorities.  He fled France for England, where he stayed for nearly two years in search of the LeMarchand box named Cage of Desire - "The Dream Weave Cube."  LeMarchand scholars believe that this particular configuration was considered by the Comte to be the key that would unlock not only his own future, but the future of Czarist (Caesar's) Russia.

Immediately after aquiring the Cage of Desire from a collecter, the Comte de Saint Germain traveled to St. Petersburg.   He played an important part in the revolution which placed Catherine the Great upon the throne of Russia.  Catherine deposed her incompetent husband, Peter III, just six months into her rule.  He was murdered less than two weeks later by the brother of her then current lover, Grigory Orlov.

Catherine was known to have taken many lovers, but none were as close to her as Gregory Potemkin.  He had contrived to make Catherine's acquaintance during the coup that brought her to power. 
Potemkin's name was a byword for gluttony, and he rarely woke before noon.  This was in sharp contrast to Catherine who rose at three in the morning to hunt and horseback ride, all the while "for 24 hours, eating nothing and drinking only cold water."

Potemkin wooed the empress with what he called "The Key to Catherine's Glory."  He claimed to have won the box from the Comte de Saint Germain during a night of gambling.  Potemkin and Catherine became lovers in 1774.  The couple's romantic relationship lasted less than three years, but they remained close the rest of their lives.

He did not allow Catherine to touch the bronze inlaid box during these early years of their relationship.  He only teased her with the sight of it, following their intimate moments together, all the while speaking dreamingly of their future destinies.

In 1783 Catherine annexed the Crimea after a war with Turkey, well aware that her new province was little more than "a desert waste."  The Crimea must be transformed, she decided, and carefully considered those of her courtiers who might be able to carry out her wishes without much delay.  Automatically she thought of Gregory Potemkin, who she had appointed to Assistant War Minister, and soon afterward Potemkin rose in rank to become War Minister.  The promotion changed him from a gambling drunkard to Governor of the new Russian province.  He was apparently inspired by Catherine's plans and so embarked on a whirlwind transformation of the Crimea.  He noted all her plans, added many of his own, and started work without delay.

Catherine's Glory

He began building the harbor at Sevastopol and ordered large fleets of battleships and merchantmen.  From China, he obtained silkworms and started a new industry.  Forests and vineyards sprang up in what had been virgin land.  Most impressive of all, he produced plans for a grand new city on the River Dnieper which he named Ekaterinoslav - "Catherine's Glory".

In fact, those wonders existed only in Potemkin's fertile imagination.  But whenever he returned to St. Petersburg, he reported plans that had not yet been started - nor ever would be - as if they had been completed.  Catherine, completely besotted in her love for Potemkin and his mysterious box, believed every word.

So, in 1787, Catherine announced that she would visit the Crimea to inspect the transformation.  Most men would have been horror-struck on realizing that their deception was soon to be exposed.  But not Gregory Potemkin.

He went ahead to make sure that bands of happy peasants, prosperous villages and thriving factories were there for the empress to see as she progressed down the River Dnieper.

The fact that virtually none of the wonders he had described so vividly existed, and that Catherine was already on her way to the Crimea, did not worry Potemkin (the dreamer) in the least.

Over part of the route, Catherine traveled with a retinue of 40,000 friends, officials and servants.  Her sleigh was like a miniature house on runners and was drawn by eight horses.  At each stopping place Potemkin had 500 horses stationed.  Bonfires blazed at scores of points and every village through which Catherine passed had been painted.  To the empress everything was perfection - neat houses, happy villagers and a general air of contentment.

In fact, the houses had only had their fronts painted.  Trees had been hurriedly planted to hide unsightly spots.  Roofs had been re-tiled with pieces of cardboard.  Everyone was compelled to wear their best clothes, and all the aged and infirm were kept out of sight until the royal procession had passed.

Only a few years before, Catherine had traveled along the same road and shed tears over the obvious poverty and misery she had seen.  Now, it seemed to her, Potemkin had achieved miracles.

At Kiev, everyone in her retinue was provided with a beautifully furnished house.  After every meal, the table linen was given to the poor.  All the time, Catherine chattered most enthusiastically about the prosperity of the region.

As soon as the ice on the river had melted, Catherine and her company embarked in boats.  Seven of them were floating palaces and the 80 vessels that followed, carrying 3000 people, were scarcely less magnificent.

Catherine's personal barge was lined with costly brocade.  Servants wore splendid uniforms and served meals on golden plates.  Every day the empress reclined under a silken awning admiring the triumphal arches, the fields filled with grazing cattle and smartly dressed soldiers drilling.  Each night from the river she saw peasants dancing happily.  Everything represented peace and prosperity, yet a vastly different scene was being enacted a few miles away at places she had already seen.

Fantastic Charade

There, the villages had in some cases vanished.  They had been mere facades.  At others the camouflage had been stripped away.  Fields were empty of sheep and cattle and the splendid arches were already being speeded south, past the royal party, to be quickly re-erected further downstream.

Wherever Catherine stayed overnight, her barge rocked gently in a small harbor giving views of a distant palace, waterfalls and trees.  Tangled forests had been transformed into beautiful, formal gardens with tropical trees.  These had been planted only a few hours before and would wither away a few days later when the empress had gone.  The backdrop scenery would decay in wind and rain, but they had served their purpose.  Catherine believed that they were real.

"Catherine traveled through apparently thriving villages of well-dressed peasants and pretty houses, unaware that what she saw belied the people's poverty."

In what was to be Ekaterinoslav the empress laid the foundation stone of a cathedral grand enough to make St. Peter's in Rome look like a village chapel.  It was never built, but Catherine was certain that it would soon dominate her new city and on she went.  Everywhere she saw new factories, people building houses and roads.  What she remembered as tiny hamlets were now bustling towns, and she had no idea that serfs from dozens of towns had been dragooned into the masquerade.

There was no limit to the wonders that Potemkin provided for her.  A whole army paraded befoe her at Poltava, re-enacting a battle won by Peter the Great on that very spot.

At Kherson a new fortress towered over a harbor crammed with men-o'-war, their guns powerful and menacing.  Then Catherine turned for home, completely satisfied with what she had seen with her own eyes.

A day later rain fell in Kherson and the fortress, built of sand, just melted away.  The guns she had seen had no ammunition.  The magnificent warships were made of the flimsiest materials.

Over a route of many hundreds of miles Potemkin had perpetrated the most expensive and grandiose hoax in history.  It had cost seven million roubles and countless man hours.  Poor people had been driven from their homes to play their part in the magnificent masquerade.  Not a vestige of the grand buildings, towns or villages that Catherine had seen stood for more than a few weeks.

The only result of it all was that the empress had enjoyed the spectacle, and Potemkin was held in yet higher esteem by the woman he had so brazenly decieved.

The real secret, however, was that Catherine had seen what she wanted to see and believed what she wanted to believe.  As much as anything, the empress had deceived herself.  Potemkin had given her a beautifully wrapped package before her tour of the Crimea. 

The gift proved to be quite a distraction.

Photo by Derek Prospero


Comte de Saint Germain left Russia in the uniform of a Russian General, with full credentials to which the Imperial seal of Russia was affixed.  Shortly afterward he appeared in Tunis and Leghorn while the Russian fleet was there, again in uniform, and known under the name Graf Saltikoff.  Catherine allegedly placed the Masonic lodges in Russia under her personal protection in gratitude for the Comte's help in her rise to power.

In 1794, Catherine learned of an Illuminist plot to overthrow the Hapsburgs.  She had been horrified by the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.  When she was told of the execution of the French King, she became physically ill and was ordered to bed by her physicans.

In November 1796 the empress Catherine died of a heart attack.


Out Of This World: The Illustrated Library of the Bizarre and Extraordinary

The Occult Conspiracy: Secret Societies - Their Influence and Power in World History

Back to Gallery