Lava Lockup -- The Man Who Rode Out A Volcanic Eruption In His Cell

Ludger Sylbaris was no mere mortal like us.
Lava Lockup -- The Man Who Rode Out A Volcanic Eruption In His Cell

Volcanos are just one of those things, man. One of those rare natural phenomena that we all have to respect. A true force of nature that exists on our planet exclusively to humble us, showing us that everywhere we go on this Earth is like an open-world video game, and we're just stumbling around in it. At one time, we could be in the idyllic village where nothing can get to us, and it's just a bunch of people emoting and following around any female avatar they come across, but if we ride a few maps east, there's a goddamn cave troll surfing a tsunami wave heading right for us. 

Volcanos are here, and they could go off at any minute and turn all of us into that scene from Terminator 2. For us mortals, if a volcano went off within a hundred miles of us, we will become over-microwaved taquitos in an instant. But Ludger Sylbaris is no mere mortal like us. He's a dude that sees an oncoming lava wave, grabs his boogie board, and starts shredding. This is the impossible story of how one man rode out a disastrous volcano from his prison cell ...

Before The Blast

If you're the kind of person whose origin story is that you survived a volcano, you're probably a bad guy. That's the kind of detail you'd find on the back of the box of a COBRA G.I. Joe figure. Good guy origin stories are full of letdown or failure to step up in a big moment, but if you're one bad dude, you jumped into a volcano hole and blasted out like you were a Mentos dropped into a Diet Coke, only to land on your feet with new powers, ready to tear a hole in the metropolis before you. Ludger Sylbaris was, by all accounts, one bad dude. 

Living on the West Indies island of Martinique in its capital city, Saint-Pierre, in the early 1900s, Lava Luger liked to mix things up. Known for getting into drunken brawls and just causing an all-around scene, he is that classic dude in your town that you just know to avoid because there's something about the look in his eyes that says, "I will sucker punch you out of nowhere and then go take a bubble bath in molten lava, you little shit."

Pelée Mountain, Saint-Pierre, Martinique

Rehcral/Wiki Commons

“Hey guys, you ever wonder what that hot, smoky thing looking over our city is all about?”

With the foreboding specter of Mount Pelée looming over the island, Ludger was going about his daily business of being a troublemaking NPC when he made a bad decision that would actually save his life. He did what he does best and got drunk as hell and started a fight. So over his antics, police on the island rounded him up and threw him into a cell. But not just any cell, a stone-cold solitary coffin that would turn out to be just the lava cocoon that he needed. 

His cell was the kind of thing the rest of us would break down inside of within the first thirty seconds. A cold, massive stone beast that was built halfway underground and had only a single slit for ventilation, fortuitously facing towards the shore, away from the volcano. He was, essentially, sent into exactly the kind of prison that they usually throw supervillain bad guys into because they're purpose-built to nullify their powers and keep them contained, and away from the world they so badly want to do damage to. No doubt nursing a little bit of a hangover, waking up in his new stone home, Ludger surely had no idea that he just booked the highest-rated Airbnb when you search: "Places to stay when a volcano is about to erupt and kill just an absolute shitload of people. Don't need much. No amenities. Just lava survival and all that jazz."

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A Heavy Flow Guy

On the morning of May 8th, 1902, people in Saint-Pierre could not possibly have been ready for what was about to happen. Actually, that's not really true. They lived so goddamn close to an active volcano that it probably cast an actual shadow over their town. Everywhere they looked, they could literally see the thing that was going to kill them and thought to themselves, "Ah, nah, I'm good." It's like having Michael Myers as your roommate and watching him kind of just place around your place, around the kitchen, and shrugging, putting the headset back on, and turning back to Call of Duty

So, in the early morning hours, Mount Pelée did exactly what it was born to do, and it blew its damn load of Hot Pocket innards all over the place. But one of the wildest things, at least to my dumb ass, is what this eruption actually looked like. Conditioned to believe that every volcanic eruption just spews out a blanket of liquid magma that slowly rolls towards its destination and destroys everything in its path, this was somehow even more terrifying. The volcano tore open and spewed out a black cloud fifty miles wide, and a plume of ultra-hot gasses and debris rolled through. The volcanic gas and dust cruised in at around 100 miles an hour, and within just a minute, it had burned or suffocated some 30,000 residents on the island. Yes, you read both of those numbers right: one minute, 30,000. Number 30,001 was old drunken Ludger, kicking it at his volcano resort.

The jail of Louis-Auguste Cyparis, survivor of the eruption of the Mont Pele in Saint-Pierre (Martinique)

Riba/Wiki Commons

It ain’t much, but it’s home to us. And, also, kind of good for not dying in a volcano. Mostly that

But, the anguish he felt within his cell was far from an easy ride. With his hot lil' studio apartment hitting temperatures of 1,000 degrees, he was badly burned by the extreme heat. Like a dad monitoring the thermostat in the summer, Ludger just sat there and took the heat like a goddamn boss and somehow survived the blast. Ludger, essentially, Honey, I Shrunk himself, headbutted the big round microwave door button, and hopped the hell in. In what has to be the single worst example of the dangers of drinking, Ludger was quite literally saved by being an absolute drunken asshole. 

Four days later, rescuers heard cries coming from within the stone tomb and dug out the badly burned man. A man who was one of very few survivors and no doubt asked for a damn drink the second they pulled him out of there. What is even going through your head at that moment? You just rode out a volcano. A damn volcano that killed 30,000 people. You are, essentially, a god at that moment. I'm assuming this dude already had some sort of complex that made him get drunk and start fights and think he was the shit. Can you imagine what he's like now, hunched down at the bar, slurring over his bourbon as he snickers at the dude one stool over trying to impress a woman with the one time he caught a pretty big fish? Ludger is well within his rights now to crack a bottle over everyone's head and get on top of the bar and proclaim himself king of the island.

After Getting Blasted

In today's world, Ludger would have been bombarded by messages from the marketing team of whatever booze he was crushing the night before his fight to become their new spokesman. I can see him now on Instagram, completing a CrossFit workout and immediately reaching for a glass of Wild Turkey that was just beneath the squat rack. Ludger was, however, lucky enough to become the turn of the century version of this kind of guy. 

First, Ludger was pardoned for his crimes, which, honestly, seems more than fair. I'd say that if you shoplifted a pack of Starburst and were thrown into jail, only to see the entire town ravaged by a tornado, a tornado that you ended up leaping into and swirling about and riding within before touching down pillowy-soft onto the back of a horse that you immediately ride back into town to look for survivors, you should probably have that one wiped from your record. 

But, in a stroke of even more luck for one of the world's luckiest men, he was invited to tour with Barnum & Bailey to share his story and become a roaming attraction. Because, I don't know, if you went to the circus and someone told you that over beyond the lame elephant tricks, there's a dude that laughed in the face of a volcano, you might at least go see what's up.

A postcard featuring Sylbaris/Cyparis labelled "survivor of Saint-Pierre".

via Wiki Commons

Just a touch more badass than any of us will ever be

Ludger's cell still stands on the island, and the volcano is still active, undoubtedly primed to erupt yet again. But, these days, people have wised up, and there are far fewer inhabitants of the town spitting in the face of obvious danger. 

I'm not entirely sure what to make of Ludger's story because I wish it was something of a cautionary tale. That would be easy. A reminder of why we shouldn't be assholes when we drink and how fighting is stupid and unnecessary. But, shit, you simply cannot say that in good faith here. I suppose the main takeaway is that if you are, truly, a real deal bad boy, maybe your own villain origin story where you get loaded, punch a police horse, and dive into a sinkhole to live in the core of the Earth with the oversized insects and dinosaurs for a while until you sober up and emerge to a million social media followers might be the right call for your life's direction.

Top Image: PxFuel 

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