The "Purgatoire" Accident
Stories from Baalbeck Studios
June 1, 2020

From the onset of its activities in 1963, the administration of Baalbeck Studios kept large pay sheets on dedicated pages. Among those that survived are 44 pages for the year 1968. Each page of the staff register lists the name of an employee, date of appointment, marital status, and job title and features neatly written numbers accompanied by colorful fiscal stamps with the famous remaining six columns of the Jupiter Temple in Baalbeck, covered by the signatures of each employee.

On page 31 there is a record of nine monthly salary payments totaling 225 Lebanese lira paid out to Najib Haddad, a single electrician employed on October 19, 1965. He received his salary from January until September of 1968, below which is written: "died on 28 September 1968 (accident 'Purgatoire')." 

Najib worked on the set of director Gary Garabedian’s film "Koullouna Fidayoun," where a staged explosion went awry, injuring some 40 people and killing seven crew members, a few on the spot, including Garabedian, also known as Garabet Badikian. Others succumbed to their injuries days later.

On the top of page 31 was a sealed envelope, held there for "fifty" years by three rusty paper clips. Inside the envelope were five receipts: Najib had asked for and been approved of a LL25 advance on September 9, another one for LL50 on September 13, then again two advances amounting to LL25 each on September 20 and 27 respectively. The last of the five documents is an unclaimed receipt voucher issued by the company cashier, Joseph Akl, "in full settlement of his a/c," issued and signed on September 30, 1968, a day after the fateful explosion at the Purgatoire…