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Erik~ Phact or Phantom

Knight Phantom

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Hello Ladies!

After the discussion of Joseph Bouquet, I got to thinking... I know, a dangerous proposition! Have we ever discussed the possibilities that Erik was at one time a real man?

So, let us open that can of worms and see what comes of it!

From the Prologue of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Laroux:



The Opera ghost really existed. He was not, as was long believed, a

creature of the imagination of the artists, the superstition of the

managers, or a product of the absurd and impressionable brains of the

young ladies of the ballet, their mothers, the box-keepers, the

cloak-room attendants or the concierge. Yes, he existed in flesh and

blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom;

that is to say, of a spectral shade.

When I began to ransack the archives of the National Academy of Music I

was at once struck by the surprising coincidences between the phenomena

ascribed to the "ghost" and the most extraordinary and fantastic

tragedy that ever excited the Paris upper classes; and I soon conceived

the idea that this tragedy might reasonably be explained by the

phenomena in question. The events do not date more than thirty years

back; and it would not be difficult to find at the present day, in the

foyer of the ballet, old men of the highest respectability, men upon

whose word one could absolutely rely, who would remember as though they

happened yesterday the mysterious and dramatic conditions that attended

the kidnapping of Christine Daae, the disappearance of the Vicomte de

Chagny and the death of his elder brother, Count Philippe, whose body

was found on the bank of the lake that exists in the lower cellars of

the Opera on the Rue-Scribe side. But none of those witnesses had

until that day thought that there was any reason for connecting the

more or less legendary figure of the Opera ghost with that terrible


The truth was slow to enter my mind, puzzled by an inquiry that at

every moment was complicated by events which, at first sight, might be

looked upon as superhuman; and more than once I was within an ace of

abandoning a task in which I was exhausting myself in the hopeless

pursuit of a vain image. At last, I received the proof that my

presentiments had not deceived me, and I was rewarded for all my

efforts on the day when I acquired the certainty that the Opera ghost

was more than a mere shade.


This from Ladyghost's site; an interview with Gaston Laroux' Greatgrand daughter:



From France Today; Phantoms of the Opera by Michael Walsh April 2008

In fact the long-forgotten urns had actually been discovered much earlier. I found them myself, some 20 years ago—or, at least, I found the room in which they were buried, in one of the Opera's sub-sub-basements. I was looking for them, because Gaston Leroux had told me just where to look.

I have prayed over his mortal remains, that God might show him mercy notwithstanding his crimes. Yes, I am sure, quite sure, that I prayed beside his body the other day, when they took it from the spot where they were burying the phonographic records. It was his skeleton. I did not recognize it by the ugliness of the head, for all men are ugly when they have been dead as long as that, but by the plain gold ring which he wore and which Christine Daäe had certainly slipped on his finger, when she came to bury him in accordance with her promise.

In whatever guise, we feel sympathy for Erik, and when his skeleton is found at the end of the book, wearing the ring that Christine gave him, we weep for him.

And there are several layers of cellars, including the big underground lake-like reservoir that plays such an important role in The Phantom. And so it was that, on a top-to-bottom tour of the Palais Garnier in October 1987, while working on a biography of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, I stumbled across a metal door with the dust-covered inscription that, once cleaned off, read: "Gift of M. Alfred Clark, 28 June, 1907. The room in which are contained the gramophone records."

Surely, it couldn't be a coincidence. There are two references to a room with phonographic records in The Phantom of the Opera, in the Prologue and Epilogue, including this one: It will be remembered that, later, when digging in the substructure of the Opera, before burying the phonographic records ... the workmen laid bare a corpse. But for decades, probably since the end of World War I, the room had been forgotten.

"No one is exactly sure what is in this room," I wrote in my 1989 biography Andrew Lloyd Webber: His Life and Works, "but it seems that the spot where [the Phantom] died… is a time capsule, not to be opened until 2007… it seems likely that that the sealed vault contains a representative sample of [Clark's] company's wares of the period."

Thus has Leroux come full circle, and one of Erik the Phantom's great secrets given up to the world. I'm proud of the small part I played in this little drama, and look forward to the day when, like music lovers all over the world, I can enjoy those lost voices (and pianist Raoul Pugno, too) from the past.

Whatever happened to Erik's skeleton, dug up when the urns were buried? Let's let Leroux have the last word:

And, now, what do they mean to do with that skeleton? Surely they will not bury it in the common grave!...I say that the place of the skeleton of the Opera Ghost is in the archives of the National Academy of Music. It is no ordinary skeleton.

No, indeed.

Michael Walsh, the former music critic of Time Magazine, is a novelist and screenwriter.


There is I'm sure more, but I don't have time to look it up right now. I think this should get us started.

Deb~ Erik's Steadfast Warrior, Protector of the Master's Ring, Writer of Love Letters

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I don't really have time for an in-depth reply but this is a very interesting question and one I've pondered upon ocassion. How fascinating would it be if there was a real Phantom of the Opera, what was he really like, what was his life story? I hope I can keep up with this discussion!
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  • 2 weeks later...

I read the Leroux book shortly after being mesmerized by the film and Gerard Butler's amazing performance. I too feel that there is more to the story than fiction, and have read some very interesting information on other Phantom websites about that possibility. Certainly, people with such deformities have lived before, and in many cultures, look at the ancient Spartans, the deformed children, and sometimes girls too were placed on a hill outside Sparta to starve to death. Nice people!!!

Unfortunately not enough people know how to look into the heart of a person. I have seen stories of people with awful deformities who are married, so it is not always the norm. However, i know from personal experience that if you don't fit the perceived idea of beauty, thin, blonde etc. you often are overlooked.

Christine was not able to see into Eric's heart. I say it is her loss. I think he had a lot to give and a tremendous amount of love bottled up in his sorrowing heart. However, many of us, myself included, often think of Erik in terms of the 2004 movie than as Leroux portrayed him. Yellow parchment skin, skinny almost bony, no nose, etc. That would take a very special type of person to accept.

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This is a cool thread. For most of my life I have believed that there is some truth to the story, and that Erik was a real person. I also have looked at Phantom sites and learn some very interesting things. How I came across the story the first time, was when I was going to be singing 'Music Of The Night' in chorus, and wanted to know the rest of the story. So I bought the Gaston Leroux book and read it, and was hooked ever since. My image of him will always be one I have imagined, when I starting reading the Leroux book a long time ago.

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:pointy: I am so happy that you ladies are starting to discuss this. I think that there is way more out there, if only we could find it...

When I read Laroux, was after I saw the 2004 movie, so it was kind of hard at first to not picture Gerry's Erik. As I read, the image of Erik shifted in my mind. Now, he is somewhere in-between Gerry's and Laroux' in my mind.

In my heart I know he was real. :wuv:

My Beloved,

Know that I still love you. Know that you are not alone.

Great start ladies...lets keep it up!

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Great idea for a thread, Knight Phantom! The idea that Leroux's book is based on a real person is fascinating. I don't have any comments, but if Leroux had a law background, as well as journalism, he should have been a good investigator. If an 'Erik' actually existed, he could have found out about him.

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This IS a great thread! I have read some of the original book and understand that the character was based more on a freak of nature whom really had no musical talent but dreamed to be like other men and live a normal life. He was also over fifty. Those of you who have read the book, feel free to correct me as I merely skimmed some pages. He had no concept of being normal, so because of his recluse existance, he lacked the ability to express love and was rather abusive towards the object of his affection, Christine. That's what I gleen from it anyway. When ALW adapted it to the stage, he wanted a less "horrid" creature and more of a romantic one. Many fans of the original book are appalled by his adaptation and think this sequel is an abomination. To each his own, I say. Give me the romance but keep the character dark, eccentric and powerful with a more human side. I believe ALW did a wonderful job and I am sure his sequel will be equally as superb!

The idea to make the Phantom's face only distorted on one half was originally decided upon so that he could sing. But it has played out to be a wonderful metaphor for the character's persona. The disfigurement of one side of his face depicts his dark, lonely and evil side while the beautiful side his more human, passionate and genius in my view.

ALW knew exactly what he was doing choosing Gerry for the role! Even though Gerry did a great job singing, ALW wanted a more "rock and roll" feel to the character he said. He was right on, in my opinion! I've seen the Broadway presentation at the historic Majestic Theatre in New York City and even though it was wonderful, the Phantom in that did not have the striking figure and raw passion that Gerry was able to deliver in the movie! No disrespect to the actors who have played the Phantom on Broadway intended. Gerry's ability to portray a man who is so intensely passionate and tender, to that of one who is violently outraged and then to a man who shows such vulnerability without the cover of his mask and becomes like a lost and lonely little boy is so powerful and poignant and such a true testament to his acting ability. No man could be so authenic to these emotions unless it was a part of who they are in reality. I am in awe of him everytime I watch it and I've watched it so many times!


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The Phantom in the book is a skeletal creature, mostly bones, face included, mostly like Bouquet's description in the movie. He was a genius though, especially in achitecture. He had built the Opera house in question, complete with his underground quarters, known as the lake house. He had torture chambers there for anyone who trespassed into his domain. He had Raul and the Persian in his torture chamber, only releasing them for Christine's sake, thus the reference in the movie to the mirrors. In the book he gave her a simple gold wedding band, which as a condition to the release of Raul, she had to keep until she was notified of his death, at which time she had to return to the lake house and put it on his hand and bury him by the fountain, which she did. He died in the book.

I much prefer the movie and I agree that NO ONE else could have been a better Phantom than Gerry.

I have been enthralled with this character since I was eight. I have seen many movie portrals, mostly of the actual book character, done beautifully, but NO ONE holds a candle light to Gerry's portral, and no Eric character has ever been perfect until Gerry's. He actually brought this long loved character to life for me in the way that seemed correct. I have always wanted Eric to be Gerry's Eric. I love this movie. It has become my all time favorite, even knocking "Ben Hur" on it's ear. Gerry is the most talented actor to come along in a very, very long time. It seems to take the natural talent, not the taught acting, to click with me. He is absolute natural talent, natural ability to create the character within himself. The best kind of actor.


Yes, Darlin',

Love You Absolutely


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I am so loving reading your individual takes on Erik. Please keep this going.

But I must point out, that while all of you are bringing great things to the discussion, no one has mentioned whether or not they believe he really existed.

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As far as whether or not I believe the character, the opera ghost or the Phantom ever existed, I couldn't say but I do know that there are lakes underneath the Paris Opera House in reality and that if you ask anyone who works there if they have heard of the "ghost", they all seem to know about it. Just googling Paris Opera House will give you the history on it. I understand that the stage only comprises a small portion of the entire building and there are stables for horses, living quarters, dormitories, etc. Napoleon had his own private entrance to the theater where he and his army could enter, horses and all, and not be seen by his enemies.

I would like to believe that he did exist. Most legends start out from an element of truth and evolve over time. Whether or not a real person existed to saitisfy our romantic curiosity is not important because he does exist in our hearts right now and isn't that what is important?


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I'm not afraid to admit, that I am one of those people who know entirely too much about the Palais Garnier, and about Erik.

I also believe that he really did exist.

I stumbled across an article over a year ago (which for the life of me I cannot find now) where there was an archeologiacal(sp?) team that got permission to explore the underground lake. Permission to do so was quite the feat, since the government, which oversees the Opera, does not like people digging into the backstory of the Phantom.

This exploration was done in 1968. I think the team consisted of five men. They went into the lake and found under the water many interesting things, like long abandoned tunnels. They were exporing one of these tunnels when they found a hidden grotto.

It was in this grotto that they found what looked to be a place where someone could have lived. It was not the 'house beyond the lake' as described in Leroux. When they exited the water and looked around they found a niche. In the niche was the skeletal remains of a man. His hands laid over his chest. Some of the bones were indeed mis-shapen, and what was left of his clothing looked to have been a black suit of excellent quality. Now here is the clincher for me...

In the ribcage of this man, whom they estimated to have been down there since 1880 or so, was a plain gold band. When I read this I began to cry. It was a wonderful feeling to know that the literary character I had come to love, was in fact once a living, breathing, man.

I know some of you won't believe me, or think me daft, and that's ok.

Please let's keep discussing this...it is really facinating!

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I'm adding this for Pat who was having a hard time getting it to 'post'...

I read it when it was first published, and it's a very interesting article indeed!

from: Smithsonian Magazine

A Record Find

How The Phantom of the Opera led me to a long-lost musical treasure in Paris

  • By Michael Walsh
  • Smithsonian magazine, March 2008
With 20 years' hindsight, it's easy to see that it was right there on the page, hiding in plain sight: "It will be remembered that, later, when digging in the substructure of the Opéra, before burying the phonographic records of the artist's voice, the workmen laid bare a corpse." Thus wrote Gaston Leroux in his horror classic, The Phantom of the Opera, first published in 1910.

As readers, we are naturally drawn to the last words of that sentence: "a corpse." Dead bodies—fact or fiction—get our attention. Based on the author's clues, the mind races to the crime scene: "the substructure of the Opéra." And so, in our haste to discover this poor unfortunate's identity, we overlook the most important words of the sentence: "before burying the phonographic records."

Few readers pick up a novel, especially a thriller, expecting a guidebook. They want to be swept away by plot and character; the story's setting is usually an afterthought. Novelists, however, know better. The best fiction is grounded, made real, by its sense of place.

So the question is not, what corpse?

It is, rather, what records?

Music lovers around the world were stunned this past December when the Opéra National de Paris and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France announced a major discovery: a time capsule, dredged up from a subbasement of the Palais Garnier, which is also known as the Opéra. Carefully packed away inside two large metal urns was not just one phantom of the opera but many—24 gramophone discs featuring such long-dead artists as Nellie Melba, Adelina Patti, Emma Calvé and Enrico Caruso. In 1907, the discs had been entombed, like Aida's lovers, beneath a great architectural monument.

Though I am a music lover, I was not among the stunned, for, in 1987, I had rediscovered the room where the records had been cached. Several stories underground, far beneath the rush of traffic on the Place de l'Opéra, I spied a metal door bearing a dusty plaque that had to be wiped and illuminated before it could be read. "Gift of M. Alfred Clark, 28 June, 1907," it said in French. "The room in which are contained the gramophone records." I had bumped into it serendipitously, but I recognized it immediately—not for musical reasons, but for literary ones.

At the time, I was involved in two related projects: a biography of Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose sensational setting of The Phantom of the Opera had been the talk of London for a year, and, for Vanity Fair magazine, an article that featured Sarah Brightman, the Phantom's original Christine (and the then-Mrs. Andrew Lloyd Webber), posing in character around the Palais Garnier, where the novel is set and where the opera company staged its productions from 1875 to the opening of the Opéra de la Bastille in 1989.

The Garnier, now used largely for ballet, is one of the world's great buildings. Yes, the composer Debussy famously likened it to a cross between a railway station and a Turkish bath, but it remains one of the most daring, elegant representations of a now-lost Western European confidence in the power of its art. As a secular temple, it might be likened to the cathedral of Notre Dame, not far away; if the great Gothic cathedrals are "symphonies in stone," then the Garnier is nothing less than Faust by Gounod.

More to the point, it is as described by Leroux in his novel, from the rooftop graffiti of the frolicsome "rats" (apprentice ballet dancers) right down to the subterranean body of water, five stories below the street, that figures so prominently in Phantom. Which is why, when I spied that metal door, I knew at once what it was. Having just reread the novel, I instantly linked Leroux's buried phonographic records to the plaque's inscription.

Later, in the opera company's library in the Rotonde de l'Empereur, I asked Martine Kahane, then head librarian, if she knew about the room. She did not. She could tell me only that Clark (1873-1950) was an American pioneer in the transition from wax cylinders to discs who ran the Gramophone Company's offices in Paris. And so I reported my find in several places, including the Vanity Fair article, which appeared in February 1988, and in my biography of Lloyd Webber, published in 1989. "No one is exactly sure what is in this room," I wrote in Andrew Lloyd Webber: His Life and Works, "but it seems that the spot where [the Phantom] died...is a time capsule, not to be opened until 2007" that likely "contains a representative sample of [Clark's] company's wares of the period."

With several other music critics, I petitioned the opera company to unseal the room, in case the gramophone records, or whatever was in it, were in urgent need of preservation. Kahane told us that Clark's gift had come with conditions—one of which was that the room not be opened until 2007—and that the conditions would be observed.

And so the Garnier ghosts were left undisturbed for two more years, when workmen installing air conditioning in the building's basement stumbled across the room once more. At that point, Jean-Jacques Beclier, the opera company's technical supervisor, had the room opened. What he found were four urns containing recordings, two buried in 1907 and two more in 1912. Sure enough, one of the newer urns had been damaged, so all four were removed and transferred without fanfare to the custody of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France until their 100-year interments were up.

Opening the 1907 urns, each of which contains 12 discs, is going to be tricky. According to Elizabeth Giuliani, assistant to the director of the audio-visual department at the Bibliothèque Nationale, the shellac discs were separated by glass plaques, which themselves were kept from touching the surface of the discs by small glass cubes. The whole assemblage was then wrapped in cloth treated with asbestos, then placed inside copper urns, which were then put in urns made of lead. At least one of the urns is to be opened this month in a laboratory under strictly controlled conditions. Eventually the recordings will be transferred digitally and made commercially available by EMI, the successor to the Gramophone Company. Music lovers will once again hear the voices of the long dead singing the music of their time.

But in the meantime, the episode stands as a testament to Gaston Leroux's literary achievement—and raises an issue that has concerned me ever since I left music criticism to write novels and movies a decade ago: To what extent must fact be blended with fancy to create the willing suspension of disbelief? For me, a novel that is not about place is not much of a novel. It is instead a memoir of thinly veiled or nonexistent people wandering through a desolate and unreal landscape.

For why, after all, does The Phantom of the Opera still resonate? Surely not for its creaky plot, its standard-issue heroine, its wooden swain, its Svengali-like villain. Not even for its romance, although that is surely part of its charm. The love story between the beautiful soprano and the disfigured composer has been exploited by everyone from Lon Chaney in 1925 to Joel Schumacher in his 2004 movie version of the Lloyd Webber interpretation.

No, the reason we still read and watch Phantom is its setting: the Opéra itself. Above all, Phantom is a story of place. Firmly grounded in the soaring, underworldly glory of Charles Garnier's architectural masterpiece, it invites readers to partake of a mystery that, if not entirely real, is close enough. From Apollo's rooftop lyre to the mysterious lake 17 stories below, the building is as much a player—and is more lovingly observed—than any of the humans who live and love in its dark embrace.

What is Dickens without London, Mann without Lübeck and Davos? Could John Kennedy Toole's comic masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces, be set anywhere but New Orleans? Though we may forget the characters, it is the places that haunt our dreams and give birth to the stories. So here's to Gaston Leroux—not to his Phantom, but to his Opéra.

"I have prayed over his mortal remains, that God might show him mercy notwithstanding his crimes," the author muses after the discovery of the phantom's body at the end of the novel. "Yes, I am sure, quite sure that I prayed beside his body, the other day, when they took it from the spot where they were burying the phonographic records."

And yet the Phantom rose to live again, incarnated by Chaney and Claude Rains and Herbert Lom and and Michael Crawford and Gerard Butler. And now the real Opéra ghosts, Melba and Patti and Caruso, may soon be heard again in glorious song. Thanks to Leroux's eerily accurate sense of place.

Michael Walsh profiled Andrew Lloyd Webber for the October 2007 issue.

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DLSPBS - PAT :rose:




Edited by DLSPBS
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Oh wow! I read the Smithsonian article when it came out, and it fascinated me. I had no idea about the earlier excavation Knight Phantom wrote about though! How cool is that!! The mind boggles to think there might have actually been an Opera Ghost.

In a way it's sad to think that a real human being may have suffered like the Phantom did, but maybe Leroux's tale is a way to bring a measure of peace to whoever the original person was.

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  • 2 months later...


Found these in an alert today. I thought some of it interesting.

The Phantom of the Opera really existed?

The Phantom's Lessons

Edited by Knight Phantom
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Both are good reads, KP! Thanks for sharing your find.

I am very familiar with the book 'Boundaries'. I have noticed the symbolism of boundaries in POTO. This article puts it together so well. Very interesting. People have a right to set boundaries. I'm afraid some don't know this fact because others have trampled into those boundaries uninvited and have made their boundaries invalid. When this happens, I wish they knew their rights to rebuild those boundaries. No one should have the power to step on another person's boundaries uninvited.

Of course, we all knew there was a real Erik out there somewhere. another piece of the puzzle of who Erik was. Great find, indeed! I knew he was real, I just knew it. He never knew how his life would some day, touch so many hearts. All he wanted was to touch one heart, that of a choir girl. How sad.


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If you've never looked at Lady Ghost's website, it's worth a peek. She has an interesting little intervew with Veronique, the great grand daughter of Gaston Leroux, with some mention about the origins of the story and the characters. Worth a short read:


Personally, I believe there may be some factual basis for the story. I think perhaps the true story has been highly embellished and romanticized, but I think it's definitely possible that there was someone who lived in the cellars beneath the Opera Garnier. Stage folk are often highly superstitious, and I think that stories of a ghost living there were born out of that. Let's face it. It's probably a really creepy place - especially when it's deserted of patrons at a performance.

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Kittypro, Thank you so much for the Lady Ghost link. That was fascinating. I was in Paris last summer. That info would have made our trip even more interesting. It would have been fun to look up Veronique's restaurant. We went by the Paris opera house on a bus tour. Does anyone know if that is the same opera house they are talking about?

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  • 1 month later...

I personally do believe that Erik was real. I've actually discussed this before on another forum and I will post what I posted there.

In the late 1800's there really was a family of De Changey's in Paris. The three sons consisted of Phillipe, Raoul and Eric. I personally believe Raoul De Changey had very little to do with the actualy set of events that happened in real life.

I believe it is possible that Erik (or Eric) was indeed related to the de Changy family. How else, in the novel, did the Count know the way to Erik's home when no one else was meant to know the way, yet alone survive getting there. Even the Persian almost died getting there. I believe they were brothers and Raoul's actual part was not as huge. He was brought in by Leroux more than anything.

If we look at Kristina (or Christine as she thought of herself) Nilsson there are a few interesting points to this woman. She did indeed sing in the production of Faust. Her first husband, August Rouzaud, allowed her to sing anywhere she wanted, except for Paris. I find this interesting because Nilsson did continue to sing until she was 45 but not in Paris as that is what her husband wanted. He died after becoming mentally ill 1882. She then remarried, to someone who would coinsidently be called Angel. He was also a Count. Could it be that Eric De Changey changed his name to Angel after the incident at the Paris Opera House.

I have not managed to do much research into the De Changey family, or what the brothers were like. Especially Eric. I do know that Phillipe did die at a considerbly young age, but I cannot find out much on the internet and living on the other side of the planet hinders me slightly into doing more in depth searching.

This is all really food for thought more than hard fact.

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