Richard Dadd received directions from Egyptian god to kill his father
Robert Dadd was a retired apothecary, as the English called those individuals who dispensed pills and potions before the turn of the century.
Upon retirement, he took up residence in London.
On Monday, Aug. 28, 1843, Robert drove into the tiny village of Cobham with his son Richard in tow.
There are two things you should know about Richard.
First, he was not rowing with both oars in the aqua.
His father realized Richard was extremely unstable.
The boy had just returned from the Mediterranean and from all reports available to the elder Dadd, Richard had acted irrationally and had caused several disturbances.
The concerned father had English doctors examine Richard.
They agreed that he was unstable and dangerous.
In addition, Richard was an artist of some renown and promise.
His paintings featured fairies drawn from his imagination. They were a commercial success and had been the subject of several exclusive shows.
Robert Dadd was deeply involved with his son's well being. He stayed with Richard most of the time.
On this day late in August, he was accompanying Richard on the short trip to Cobham as a sort of vacation, which he felt his son needed.
Robert Dadd had no way of knowing that his son was hallucinating.
Richard believed he was receiving messages from the ancient Egyptian god Osiris.
In his hallucinatory state, he had come to regard his father as "the man who calls himself my father.''
Unknown to Robert, his son was stalking him under the direction of Osiris.
The Dadds pulled up to The Ship, a well-known watering hole in the village.
Robert asked if they could provide beds for the night.
John Adams, who knew Robert slightly, explained that they didn't have rooms, but because they received so many requests for accommodations, they had a working arrangement with locals who lived in cottages close to the pub.
They could provide one double bed.
Before Adams could continue, Robert Dadd said that one double bed would do just fine. He introduced Adams to his son.
Richard rather surlily stated that he wanted his own bed.
Adams explained that there would be no trouble providing single beds, but the two would have to sleep in separate cottages. Richard agreed to these arrangements.
Father and son had a beer and then went out for a walk to take in the pleasant summer evening.
An hour later they returned and ordered supper.
Richard Dadd behaved somewhat erratically. At one point during his meal, he dashed to another area of the pub and gulped down two glasses of water when all the while there was a tumbler of water within arm's reach at his table.
At about 8:45 p.m., Robert and Richard went for another walk in the fading light.
Near a gravel pit beside a large tree, the branches of which almost touched the ground, Richard hit his father from behind.
The blow to the head stunned the older man, who fell to the ground.
Richard was on his father like a crazed animal, raining blows to the head and body.
He pulled his half conscious father under the branches of the tree.
He then took a straight razor out of his pocket and relentlessly slashed at his helpless victim.
Because Robert's clothing was bunched up from being dragged under the bushes, the razor didn't inflict any real damage.
Frustrated, Richard extracted a large new seaman's spring-bladed knife from his pocket.
Well-directed blows with this formidable weapon ended his father's life.
In Richard's warped mind, he had killed Satan, who had been posing as his father.
That evening, some villagers passed near the body.
They paid scant attention, figuring that someone had had too much grog and was sleeping it off.
The following morning, one of the villagers who had seen the still form the night before decided to investigate.
It was he who raised the cry of bloody murder.
Richard had a night's head start.
He made his way to Dover, where he hired a small private boat to take him to France.
From Calais, he travelled to Paris.
Fellow passengers on the coach well remembered the wild-eyed Englishman who had been their travelling companion.
After a shopping binge for a new wardrobe in Paris, Richard booked passage on a stage coach bound for Vienna, Austria.
Before Richard left French soil, the god Osiris once more spoke to him.
Osiris told him that Satan was the lone fellow traveller sitting right beside him. Satan had to be annihilated.
Richard slashed viciously at the man's throat, but the attack was far different from the one that had taken place on the deserted country road.
The intended victim screamed and the coachman quickly came to his rescue, pulling Richard away.
Once overpowered, Richard settled down and was turned over to the authorities.
He was sent to an asylum at Melun and later to Clermont-Ferrand, where he stayed 10 months.
Initially, the French were reluctant to allow Richard to be extradited, fearing an English court would execute an insane man.
However, once they received assurances from English authorities that he would be certified insane, they agreed to send him back.
It is interesting to note that, despite the murderous attack on his father, Richard's family considered the gifted painter to be a sick person rather than a criminal.
This was certainly an enlightened view for those times.
Richard was sent to Bethlem Royal Hospital, an insane asylum that is credited with giving us the word bedlam.
Many believed that a masterful artist would be lost to the world, but such was not to be the case.
Richard was transferred to Broadmoor when that infamous institution was opened. Here he painted diligently and produced some of his finest works, featuring fairies and fantasy scenes from his imagination.
He died of natural causes in the institution in 1887, at the age of 70.
In 1960, much of Richard's work was discovered by an archivist who had been left the old Bethlem Royal Hospital's records and files.
Scholars have studied the paintings and believe them to be the work of a genius.
In 1974, the prestigious Tate Gallery in London held an exhibition of his works.
Today, one of Richard's finest works, The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke, is permanently on display in the Tate Gallery.
If you look closely enough at the obsessively detailed studies of gnomes and elves, you will find the likeness of Robert Dadd.
Somewhere along the line, Osiris decreed that the image of Richard's murdered father would live forever in the work of his son.