Revealing the secrets of the dead seems an appropriate topic for Halloween, and Russell Martin’s documentary – Beethoven’s Hair – not only invites you to meet the ghost of a renowned composer, but also includes details on his contemporaries.
The story includes details of the composer’s life and follows the lock of hair that ultimately reveals the physical conditions that caused not only illness and pain throughout his life but also his deafness. The lock of hair, taken from Beethoven on his deathbed and lost during World War II, reappeared in Europe and was auctioned to two collectors who share ownership today. Scientific studies conducted on the lock of hair determined his cause of death and possibly the reason for his deafness to be a prolonged poisoning by lead. This nonfiction account includes speculation about how the hair survived the war, and detailed accounts of the composer’s later life.
In researching the book, I found the book was developed into a documentary in 2005, with Beethoven’s music in the background as well as abridged into a children’s book by the author. A friendly librarian gave me this book, which had traveled from Porter County, Indiana, as a gift to its new home in the Honolulu Library – just in time for Halloween.