Ludger Sylbaris of St. Pierre, Martinique was very lucky to have been arrested on May 7, 1902, for engaging in a drunken brawl as the stone cell that he was placed in overnight ended up saving his life when a volcanic eruption destroyed the city the next day.
The Mt. Pelee volcano has been described as the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century as it completely flattened the entire town of Saint Pierre to ashes, killing an estimated 40,000 people.
The city burned for days afterwards but Sylbaris survived.
Born in 1875 on the island of Martinique, Sylbaris has throughout his lifetime been known as a troublemaker.
When he was arrested on May 7, he was put into solitary confinement and locked in an underground single-cell.
This rather harsh punishment saved his life when the volcano erupted. Trapped alone in his cell, Sylbaris had to urinate on his clothing and stuff them in a tiny slot in the door as hot air mixed with ashes had started entering his cell.
When he was rescued four days later, he had terrible burns on his arms, back and legs because of the heat.
Having survived such a terrible disaster, Sylbaris became a world celebrity. His crimes were pardoned and he was hired to tour with the Barnum & Bailey circus where he was advertised as being a “living relic” and “the man who lived through Doomsday”.
The town has since not fully recovered from that disaster, as the population is still low as compared to 1902. Not more than 6,000 people currently live in the town.
The cell which saved Sylbaris’ life has also become a tourist attraction and can be visited in St. Pierre.