Benedictus did not, however, volunteer to try out this plan himself. He did not feel quite prepared to do so, he said, owing to age and infirmity. The senate called on the burghers, the military and police but found no man of sufficient courage to seek out and destroy the basilisk within its lair. A Silesian convict named Johann Faurer, who had been sentenced to death for robbery, was at length persuaded to make the attempt, on the condition that he be given a complete pardon if he survived his encounter with the loathsome beast. Faurer was dressed in creaking black leather covered with a mass of tinkling mirrors, and his eyes were protected with large eyeglasses. Armed with a sturdy rake in his right hand and a blazing torch in his left, he must have presented a singular aspect when venturing forth into the cellar. He was cheered on by at least two thousand people who had gathered to see the basilisk being beaten to death. After searching the cellar for more than an hour, the brave Johann Faurer finally saw the basilisk, lurking in a niche of the wall. Old Dr. Benedictus shouted instructions to him: he was to seize it with his rake and carry it out into the broad daylight.
Read the whole story on the Smithsonian's Past Imperfect blog.