wrapped in veils that she gradually discarded. A local journalist who had seen her dancing reported

In a world growing increasingly banal and familiar, what seems enigmatic instantly draws attention. Never make it too clear what you are
doing or about to do. Do not show all your cards. An air of mystery heightens your presence; it also creates anticipation-everyone will be watching
you to see what happens next. Use mystery to beguile, seduce, even frighten.
Beginning in 1905, rumors started to spread throughout Paris of a young
Oriental girl who danced in a private horne, 

wrapped in veils that she gradually discarded. A local journalist who had seen her dancing reported that
"a woman from the Far East had come to Europe laden with perfume and
jewels, to introduce some of the richness of the Oriental colour and life into
the satiated society of European cities." Soon everyone knew the dancer's
name: Mata Hari.
Early that year, in the winter, small and select audiences would gather
in a salon filled with Indian statues and other relics while an orchestra
played music inspired by Hindu andJavanese melodies. Mter keeping the
audience waiting and wondering, Mata Hari would suddenly appear, in a
startling costume: a white cotton brassiere coyered with Indian-type jewels;
jeweled bands at the waist supporting a sarong that revealed as much as it
concealed; bracelets up the arms. Then Mata Hari would dance, in a style
no one in France had seen before, her whole body swaying as if she were in
a trance. She told her excited and curious audience that her dances told
stories from Indian mythology and Javanese folktales. 

Soon the cream of
Paris, and ambassadors from far-off lands, were competing for invitations
to the salon, where it was rumored that Mata Hari was actually performing
sacred dances in the nude.
The public wanted to know more about her. She told journalists that
she was actually Dutch in origin, but had grown up on the island of Java.
She would also talk about time spent in India, how she had leamed sacred
Hindu dances there, and how Indian women "can shoot straight, ride
horseback, and are capable of doing logarithms and talk philosophy." By
the summer of 1905, although few Parisians had actually seen Mata Hari
dance, her name was on everyone's lips.
As Mata Hari gave more interviews, the story of her origins kept
changing: She had grown up in India, her grandmother was the daughter
of a Javanese princess, she had lived on the island of Sumatra where she
had spent her time "horseback riding, gun in hand, and risking her life."
No one knew anything certain about her, but journalists did not mind these
changes in her biography. They compared her to an Indian goddess, a
creature from the pages of Baudelaire--whatever their imagination wanted
to see in this mysterious woman from the East.
In August of 1905, Mata Hari performed for the first time in public.
Crowds thronging to see her on opening night caused a riot. She had now
become a cult figure, spawning many imitations. One reviewer wrote,
"Mata Hari personifies all the poetry of India, its mysticism, its voluptuousness, its hypnotizing charm." Another noted, "If India possesses such unexpected treasures, then all Frenchmen will emigrate to the shores of the
Soon the fame of Mata Hari and her sacred Indian dances spread beyond Paris. She was invited to Berlin, Vienna, Milan. Over the next few
years she performed throughout Europe, mixed with the highest social cireIes,

 and eamed an income that gave her an independence rarely enjoyed
by a woman of the period. Then, near the end of World War I, she was arrested in France, tried, convicted, and finally executed as a German spy.
Only during the trial did the truth come out: Mata Hari was not from Java
or India, had not grown up in the Orient, did not have a drop of Eastem
blood in her body. Her real name was Margaretha Zelle, and she came
from the stolid northem province of Friesland, Holland.
When Margaretha Zelle arrived in Paris, in 1904, she had half a franc in
her pocket. She was one of the thousands of beautiful young girls who
flocked to Paris every year, taking work as artists' models, nightclub
dancers, or vaudeville performers at the Folies Bergere. Mter a few years
they would inevitably be replaced by younger girls, and would often end
up on the streets, tuming to prostitution, or else retuming to the town they
came from, older and chastened.
Zelle had higher ambitions. She had no dance experience and had
never performed in the theater, but as a young girl she had traveled with
her family and had witnessed local dances in Java and Sumatra. Zelle
eIearly understood that what was important in her act was not the dance itself, or even her face or figure, but her ability to create an air of mystery
about herself. 

The mystery she created lay not just in her dancing, or her
costumes, or the stories she would tell, or her endless lies about her origins;
it lay in an atmosphere enveloping everything she did. There was nothing
you could say for sure about her-she was always changing, always surprising her audience with new costumes, new dances, new stories. This air
of mystery left the public always wanting to know more, always wondering
about her next move. 

Mata Hari was no more beautiful than many of the
other young girls who came to Paris, and she was not a particularly good
dancer. What separated her from the mass, what attracted and held the
public's attention and made her famous and wealthy, was her mystery.
People are enthralled by mystery; because it invites constant interpretation, they never tire of it. The mysterious cannot be grasped. And what
cannot be seized and consumed creates power.
LAW 6 51
52 LAW 6
In the past, the world was filled with the terrifying and unknowablediseases, disasters, capricious despots, the mystery of death itself. What we
could not understand we reimagined as myths and spirits. Over the centuries, though, we have managed, through science and reason, to illuminate the darkness; what was mysterious and forbidding has grown familiar
and comfortable. Yet this light has a price: in a world that is ever more
banal, that has had its mystery and myth squeezed out of it, we secretly
crave enigmas, people or things that cannot be instantly interpreted,
seized, and consumed.
That is the power of the mysterious: It invites layers of interpretation,
excites our imagination, seduces us into believing that it conceals something marvelous. 

The world has become so familiar and its inhabitants so
predictable that what wraps itself in mystery will almost always draw the
limelight to it and make us watch it.
Do not imagine that to create an air of mystery you have to be grand
and awe-inspiring. Mystery that is woven into your day-to-day demeanor,
and is subtle, has that much more power to fascinate and attract attention.
Remember: Most people are upfront, can be read like an open book, take
little care to control their words or image, and are hopelessly predictable.
By simply holding back, keeping silent, occasionally uttering ambiguous
phrases, deliberately appearing inconsistent, and acting odd in the subtlest
of ways, you will emanate an aura of mystery. The people around you will
then magnify that aura by constantly trying to interpret you.
Both artists and con artists understand the vital link between being
mysterious and attracting interest. Count Victor Lustig, the aristocrat of
swindlers, played the game to perfection. He was always doing things that
were different, or seemed to make no sense. He would show up at the best
hotels in a limo driven by a Japanese chauffeur; no one had ever seen a
Japanese chauffeur before, so this seemed exotic and strange. 

Lustig would
dress in the most expensive clothing, but always with something-a medal,
a flower, an armband-out of place, at least in conventional terms. This
was seen not as tasteless but as odd and intriguing. In hotels he would be
seen receiving telegrams at all hours, one after the other, brought to hirn by
his Japanese chauffeur-telegrams he would tear up with utter nonchalance. (In fact they were fakes, completely blank.) He would sit alone in the
dining room, reading a large and impressive-Iooking book, smiling at peopIe yet remaining aloof. 

Within a few days, of course, the entire hotel
would be abuzz with interest in this strange man.
All this attention allowed Lustig to lure suckers in with ease. They
would beg for his confidence and his company. Everyone wanted to be
seen with this mysterious aristocrat. And in the presence of this distracting
enigma, they wouldn't even notice that they were being robbed blind.
An air of mystery can make the mediocre appear intelligent and profound. 

It made Mata Hari, a woman of average appearance and intelligence, seem like a goddess, and her dancing divinely inspired. An air of
mystery about an artist makes his or her artwork immediately more intriguing, a trick Marcel Duchamp played to great effect. It is all very easy to
do-say little about your work, tease and titillate with alluring, even contradictory comments, then stand back and let others try to make sense of it all.
Mysterious people put others in a kind of inferior position-that of trying to figure them out. To degrees that they can control, they also elicit the
fear surrounding anything uncertain or unknown. All great leaders know
that an aura of mystery draws attention to them and creates an intimidating
presence. Mao Tse-tung, for example, cleverly cultivated an enigmatic
image; he had no worries about seeming inconsistent or contradicting himself-the very contradictoriness of his actions and words meant that he always had the upper hand. 

No one, not even his own wife, ever feIt they
understood hirn, and he therefore seemed larger than life. This also meant
that the public paid constant attention to hirn, ever anxious to witness his
next move.
If your social position prevents you from completely wrapping your
actions in mystery, you must at least learn to make yourself less obvious.
Every now and then, act in a way that does not mesh with other people's
perception of you. This way you keep those around you on the defensive,
eliciting the kind of attention that makes you powerful. Done right, the creation of enigma can also draw the kind of attention that strikes terror into
your enemy.
During the Second Punic War (219-202 B.C.), the great Carthaginian
general Hannibal was wreaking havoc in his march on Rome. Hannibal
was known for his cleverness and duplicity.
Under his leadership Carthage's army, though smaller than those of
the Romans, had constantly outmaneuvered them. On one occasion,
though, Hannibal's scouts made a horrible blunder, leading his troops into
a marshy terrain with the sea at their back. The Roman army blocked the
mountain passes that led inland, and its general, Fabius, was ecstatic-at
last he had Hannibal trapped. Posting his best sentries on the passes, he
worked on a plan to destroy Hannibal's forces. But in the middle of the
night, the sentries looked down to see a mysterious sight: A huge pro cession of lights was heading up the mountain. 

Thousands and thousands of
lights. If this was Hannibal's army, it had suddenly grown a hundredfold.
The sentries argued heatedly about what this could mean: Reinforcements from the sea? Troops that had been hidden in the area? Ghosts? No
explanation made sense.
As they watched, fires broke out all over the mountain, and a horrible
noise drifted up to them from below, like the blowing of a million horns.
Demons, they thought. The sentries, the bravest and most sensible in the
Roman army, fled their posts in a panic.
By the next day, Hannibal had escaped from the marshland. 

What was
his trick? Had he really cOI�ured up demons? Actually what he had done
was order bundles of twigs to be fastened to the horns of the thousands of
oxen that traveled with his troops as beasts of burden. The twigs were then
LAW 6 53
54 , LAW 6
lit, giving the impression of the torches of a vast army heading up the
mountain. When the flarnes burned down to the oxen's skin, they stampeded in all directions, bellowing like mad and setting fires all over the
mountainside. The key to this device's success was not the torches, the
fires, or the noises in themselves, however, but the fact that Hannibal had
created a puzzle that captivated the sentries' attention and gradually terrified them. From the mountaintop there was no way to explain this bizarre
sight. If the sentries could have explained it they would have stayed at their
If you find yourself trapped, cornered, and on the defensive in some
situation, try a simple experiment: 

Do something that cannot be easily explained or interpreted. Choose a simple action, but carry it out in a way
that unsettles your opponent, a way with many possible interpretations,
making your intentions obscure. Don't just be unpredictable (although this
tactic too can be successful-see Law 17); like Hannibal, create a scene that
cannot be read. There will seem to be no method to your madness, no
rhyme or reason, no single explanation. If you do this right, you will inspire fear and trembling and the sentries will abandon their posts. Call it
the "feigned madness of Harnlet" tactic, for Harnlet uses it to great effect in
Shakespeare's play, frightening his stepfather Claudius through the mystery of his behavior. The mysterious makes your forces seem larger, your
power more terrifying

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