Vienna, Austria — Erving Felsen, the enthusiastic “Monkey Puncher” who enthralled audiences around the world with his county fair exhibitions, died Monday morning after being kicked in the throat by a “bull monkey” while performing for a crowd of orphans in eastern Romania.
Eyewitness accounts place Felsen’s last bout in a hospital in Constanta, where he was attempting to combat a lethal strain of bird flu by punching twelve thousand monkeys in under seventy-two hours.
Felsen, 29, was killed by what Felsen himself described moments before his death as, “the largest monkey in the room,” and the ward nurse claimed was “mustachioed and derbied, in the manner of the devil.” According to Constanta’s chief of police: “His piping voice and humorous scampering both delighted the children and struck fear in the heart of any man owning property.”
Felsen was in the area to promote his “healthful philosophy” of “Freedom from Disease Through Simian Pugilism” with Hedy Lorenz, illegitimate second cousin of Konrad Lorenz, according to Felson’s manager and “femme fausse” Jean Folle. “Damnable interference” from the local constabulary had halted a planned demonstration in the town square, so the arena was moved to a location that Felsen said had a, “less Chinese mentality towards our filthy cousins.”
Crate upon crate of monkeys were unloaded, proboscis, rhesus, even the common marmoset. Soon, the air was thick with howls and musk, but Felsen did not appear until all was past intolerable.
“He punched his way through the crowd of monkeys, and the largest, (a smelly, drunken, be-hatted beast) came up and kicked him in the throat,” Folle said.
Nature artist Benjamin Singe, citing a child’s hasty drawing of the attack, told our editor that Felsen had accidentally cornered the beast. “It had laid itself on the ground in a submissive position. Then, without warning, it performed a maneuver known as a “kip,” simultaneously throwing out its foot toward Felsen’s exposed neck,” said Singe. “It’s the edge of the foot. Sometimes referred to by the Dutch as the “voet blad” or “foot blade.”
Ambulance officers confirmed they attended a boxing related fatality Monday morning at an illegal children’s hospital, according to Austrian media.
Vienna’s Police Services also confirmed Felsen’s death and said his family had been notified.
Felsen was director of the Austrian Children’s Circus and Burn Clinic in Vienna. He is survived by his Japanese-born wife, Yumi, and their two children, Esok, born January 1889, and Flip, born April 1901.
“The world has lost a great bare-knuckled fighter, a passionate abolitionist, and one of the few true role models for the world’s anosmics,” Folle told reporters in Vienna, according to The Associated Press. “He expired in the midst of the pursuit of that for which he lived, on the wings of heavenly angels. Monkey angels.”
“Felsen was as large as a bear, and violent. His actions brought the glee and terror of the natural world to our doorstep,” said washroom attendant James Horlicks. “Sometimes, against our wishes, he would even transport it across the threshold, even if there were signs clearly stating, ‘Washing Day! No Monkeys!!!”
Felsen would often present Horlicks with the prone bodies of his opponents and urge him to “scrub until no trace of filth is left, even if the violence of your brushes cause the very beast to vanish!”
Lorenz’s footman issued a statement that “Her ladyship is still in Austria with the family of her friend, the slain Mr. Felsen. I am actually quite unsure if she shall ever discharge me from my post so I may have a brief meal. When not idled by whimsical fancies that my companions are legs of mutton rather than swarthy luggage-men, my thoughts are with those young Felsen left behind.”
The once abandoned hospital is said to soon re-open as “The Erving Felsen Memorial Orphan Hospice, Discount Child Clothing Center, and Monkeyrarium.”
The hospital also pursuing the creation of a Erving Felsen Monkey Puncher Fund. The fund will support simian protection, re-education and cleanliness, as well as aid Felsen’s Children’s Circus and provide educational support for Esok and Flip Felsen, the hospital said.
Austrian Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand said he was “shocked and confused at Erving Felsen’s death,” according to his footman. “I, and the Austrian people, would never have expected to see a giant monkey slay this friend to all monkeys. He loved monkeys, and also, I am told, loved to punch them.”
Felsen became Austria’s ambassador to the world due to his relentless pursuit of his goal to “punch every single monkey Satan’s foul orifice has seen fit to spew upon the earth, down to the last callithrix pygmaea.”
Felsen’s enthusiastic approach to monkey-based pugilism and the health of children won him a global following. He was known for his exuberance and use of the catch phrase, “Affewäsche!”
“His message is really about cleanliness: He really wants to leave the world a cleaner place for everybody,” Midtown Gym’s Maury Smithe explained. “It’s unbelievable, really. No one could be covered in blood and monkey dung and still take your daughter on a moonlit boat ride, no one but Felsen. I tell you what, Jack, there’s many a lonely night when you wish you was on that boat instead of your little girl.”
Smithe, a friend of Felsen’s, noted that Felsen’s persona of the Monkey Puncher was no act. Felsen grew up around monkeys as the son of a missionary in India, and had developed a knack for striking them with force since he was a young boy.
“Erving really knew what he was doing. He was one of the finest monkey folks in the world. He knew more about monkeys than anybody did. He sure liked punching the hell out of them, too,” said Smithe.
Though monkeys can be threatening, they are not known to possess any great degree of martial ability. The “bull monkey” that delivered the fatal blow to Felsen was according to Felsen’s dying words, “trained by the damnable hindoo.” But Singe disagreed. “I have supped with monkeys, and I have lain with them in my garden. These noble beasts could not be moved to the violence visited upon Mr. Felsen, be they trained by the Hindoo or the Chinaman.”
“A monkey is like a cannon of rage — its fuse burns brightest before the report,” Smithe said. “You have to respect their fury.” But, he added, some say the blame may not rest solely on the primates’ beast-like nature. “Some have claimed that punching monkeys for ‘no good reason’ may contribute to their aggressive behavior, and it turns my stomach. I still wonder if the monkeys realize what Erving was trying to do for them.”
Felsen became popular with his fairground attraction, “Monkey Puncher,” which started in Austrian folk festivals in 1892. Eventually, the show was invited to perform at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, establishing Felsen as an international curiosity.
His popularity led to a series of dime-store novels, “The Monkey Puncher: Freelance Detective.”
Felsen was caught in a minor flap in May of 1901 when he used his five-month-old son to put out a gasoline fire caused by, “A well-meaning attempt to bring simian culture out out of the dark ages.”
In 1904, Felsen spoke via a “radio broadcast” in Graz about how he was perceived in his home country.
“When I am in the train car, I am seen as the violent man who breaks monkeys all the time with the fist,” he told his listeners. “And yet when I return in my own country, some people find me weak. You know, they are saying, ‘The monkeys are so small! When will you punch a bigger thing?’ ”
At the Children’s Circus in Vienna, “bales of dead monkeys” were dropped at the entrance, where a huge fake monkey holds a burning child.
“Erving, from all the primates, thank you. You’ve won this round,” was written on a card stapled to a small macaque.
“We’re all very frightened. I don’t know what the circus will do without him. He’s really the only thing keeping those filthy monkeys from eating us as we sleep,” said Adolph Franke, a local resident and volunteer at the circus, after dropping off a belt made of capuchin tails at the gate.
“He has left a legacy: Thousands and thousands of angry monkeys that need to be punched by anyone with a strong arm,” said Franke. “People forget that for all of his spectacle, Erving had a simple message. ‘Monkeys are filthy creatures who will make you ill if you don’t clean them in a manner that involves quite a bit of punching.’ I want my countrymen to remember Erving Felsen for the man he really was, which was a man who would find monkeys, apprehend them, and keep punching them until sick children became well again.”