Count Jacob Daniel Bruce (or Graf Yakov Vilimovich Bryus), a scientist and military expert, an heir of a Scottish clan, was a close associate of emperor Peter The Great. He was well educated in many fields and knew mathematics, astronomy, topography, spoke several languages and was believed by many to be an occultist and a warlock.
His many talents were admired by the emperor, who often granted Bruce various political authorities and relied on his competence. The Count was a commander of artillery, a knight of the Order of St Andrew, a member of the Senate.
Jacob Bruce was also the founder of the first observatory in Russian Empire, that used to take up the space on the upper levels of the Sukharev Tower. Jacob Bruce was very fond of astronomy and read various books on the subject, his personal library is full of them, as well as many other scientific treatises. Some sources claim that he was often seen carrying a small spyglass in one of his pockets. It is a known fact that it was Bruce himself, who taught Peter I to navigate his way in the sea or on earth according to the position of stars. The count would stay up at nights in the Tower, watching the night sky, documenting his observations. These nightly activities became one of the reasons for an array of rumours to appear.
At that time, this intelligent, mystical man was believed by some to be too odd for an ordinary human. They said that Bruce was a black magician, who performs rituals in the dead of night, at the top of his Sukharev Tower. Some even claim that iron birds with human heads were noticed flying out of his windows, others told that Jacob himself turned into a crow and flew around the city from time to time.
Bruce also was granted access to the underground levels of the Sukharev Tower, where the Count arranged a scientific laboratory. And, of course, it was seen by the folk as a place where Bruce conducted sinister alchemical experiments.
One of the strangest and the most interesting stories about Jacob Bruce was the story of his death. According to some, he knew the secret of The Water of Life and The Water of Death, a magical substances, capable of healing wounds and bringing people back to life. And legend has it, that one day, Bruce ordered his servant to kill him and cut his body in four parts. After, the servant needed to bury his master and pour the magic liquid on his remains for several days and nights. On the fourth day, Count’s body was exhumed and, to people’s astonishment, he appeared to be alive, only sleeping.
He was also believed to have a very peculiar book that held the secrets of the world and of the dark mystical practices – “The Black Book”. Apparently, it was able to locate all the hidden treasures, open all the locks, know all the truths. It’s origins were unclear. According to one version it was once owned by the king Solomon, according to the other it was written by the Satan himself. Before his death, Jacob hid this special tome somewhere in the Tower, presumably in it’s walls or somewhere in the basement. Empress Catherine I believed in the talks surrounding the unusual figure of Count Bruce and even tried to find the book after this death in 1735. She ransacked through his archives in The Academy of Sciences and through all the documents in the Tower, but the search came up empty. When in 1934 the Sukharev Tower was to be demolished, it was decided to carefully dismantle it brick by brick, instead of blowing it up. It seems that even soviet government strived to get their hands on Bruce’s secret book.
After the Count’s death he was buried in a crypt on the territory of Lutheran Michael-Kirche in German Quarter. Locals said that when the darkness engulfed the streets, the light was seen at the top of the Sukharev Tower every night, as if the spirit of Jacob Bruce was still there, guarding his “Black Book”.