Episode Two: NASCENT
Hello and welcome to the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity and Mortality. This audio tour guide will be your constant companion in your journey through the unknown and surreal.
As you approach our exhibits, the audio tour guide will provide you with information and insights into their nature and history.
Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the exhibits.
Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the audio tour guide. If you believe that the audio tour guide may be deviating from the intended tour program, please deposit your audio device in the nearest incinerator.
While the staff here at Mistholme Museum of Mystery Morbidity and Mortality do their absolute best to ensure the safety of all visitors, accidents can happen. The museum is not liable for any injury, death, or Bodily Possession that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
The Guitar Of The Man Who Met The Devil At The Crossroads
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death (supernatural), Blood and Gore.
Here we have a fairly typical looking 6-string acoustic guitar. While it may look a bit old and tatty, it actually is in quite good condition for being close to a century old. It is, physically speaking, identical in every way to how it was on the fateful night in the early 1930s,when its owner handed it to a tall dark man at a crossroads.
The guitars original owner was named John "Johnny" Samuels, a young Blues musician from a poor family about whom- despite the best efforts of Museum Researchers- very little is known. Much of Samuels' true history has become obscured both by the passage of time and by the mythology which has grown up around him. Aspects of his story have also been misapplied to other musicians from the same era, which further muddied the waters. What follows is all that the Researchers can confidently state.
Samuels had dreamt of being a great Blues player ever since he was a child. He had worked and saved to afford his first-and only- guitar from almost since he could walk, and when he was 15 he finally bought a second or third hand guitar and began to realise his dream. There was a problem though: Samuels had a persistent and severe tremor in both his hands, which- as you might expect- hampered his ability to play the guitar. Though he worked and worked as hard as he could, by age 20 his playing ability would only be described as adequate by a charitable listener; still impressive considering his handicap, but nowhere near the greatness to which he aspired.
Then, one fateful day, he heard that an obscure old Blues player named Flatshoe Hap would be playing at a venue in a nearby town that very night. He packed up his guitar and caught a ride in a pig truck, just barely making it in time to see Flatshoe play his Guitar for a small crowd who were more interested in the contents of their glasses than virtuoso onstage. Samuels, however, watched the performance with rapt attention: this was everything dreamed to be. After the performance concluded and Flatshoe left the stage amid scattered applause, Samuels raced up to him and showered him with equal parts praise and pleas for tutelage. How had Flatshoe learned to play so beautifully? How could Samuels learn to play like him? Why, with all his talent, was Flatshoe playing to such a meager and disinterested crowd? Flatshoe initially rebuffed Samuels, but as the aspiring young guitarist plied him with alcohol over the course of the evening- spending the vast majority of his funds in the process- he began to open up. He had once been a lot like Samuels, a hard-working and hard-done-by you man who dreamt of greatness, but he'd been going nowhere fast until one day he met a certain man in a certain place. Samuels begged him for more details, and while Flatshoe protested at first he relented when Samuels spent the last of his money on a final round of drinks.
Flatshoe had been close to giving up after another unsuccessful gig at another mediocre town. He was walking to the next town, dragging his guitar along the ground behind him, when he paused momentarily at a crossroads to stare at the full moon. It was then that he heard a voice behind him say "now that's no way to treat a guitar" Flatshoe said it sounded like honey and chocolate and coffee all at once, and when he turned he saw a tall, handsome man, leaning against the signpost at the centre of the crossroads. The man held out his hand and Flatshoe handed him the guitar. The man examined the wood of the instrument closely, fiddled with the pegs for a moment, and strummed it. It wasn't even a proper note but Flatshoe swore it was the sweetest sound he'd ever heard. The man told Flatshoe that, if he wished, he could make him the greatest and most successful guitar player the world had ever known. All he required in return was a promise: after Flatshoe had achieved the fame and fortune he desired, the man would someday call on him to return the favour. Flatshoe had accepted the deal eagerly, and when he took the guitar back from the man his fingers leapt across the strings, playing a melody Flatshoe remembered from his youth with an alacrity he could only have dreamt of until that day.
Flatshoe thanked the man and continued on his way to the next town with a spring in his step. When he played the next night he was showered with praise and tips, and he bought a ticket to the big city the very same night. But as he waited for the bus, eager to begin his life as the greatest blues player in the world, he'd caught a glimpse of the waning moon as it disappeared behind a cloud, and something about the sight gave him pause. Something about the deal he'd made and the man he'd made it with wasn't sitting right with him. He'd acted quickly and without thought and now that he was actually considering his choice he realised that he may have made a mistake. But it was too late to back out of the deal now; the man at the crossroads had made it clear that there could be no take-backs or renegotiations. He was on a one-way trip to becoming a legend and, beyond that, whatever fate the man had in store for when Flatshoe fulfilled his end of the bargain. There was no backing out now… unless…
Flatshoe looked at the bus ticket in his hand, his ticket to stardom, and tore it up, letting the pieces fall to the dirt. Before they had even landed, he was already walking away down the dirt road to the next one-horse town and the next meagre tavern gig. He’d been walking ever since, still playing- it was all he knew, after all- but never reaching for the stardom he’d once sought, and which was central to the deal he’d made. Flatshoe didn’t know if he’d gotten out of the deal by avoiding the stardom the man had promised- after all, it was entirely possible that the man would knock on his hotel door on any given night and tell him that it was time to pay up- but it had bee 50 years so far and he hadn’t seen the man yet.
As Flatshoe finished his story, he looked at Samuels, hopeful that maybe the young man would take the right lesson from his tale. But Samuels had a glint in his eye that made Flatshoe’s heart sink. He grabbed Samuels’ arm and begged him, made him promise that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes that Flatshoe Hap had made. Samuels looked him in the eye and promised. Then he thanked Flatshoe for his time and left.
This part of the Samuels’ story has been largely attributed to an account by a bartender who had been listening in on their conversation. What happened next cannot be confirmed, as there are no witnesses: all that is known that when Samuels resurfaced it was in New York, playing to a crowd of hundreds, with his battered old guitar. Flatshoe Hap died in his sleep the very same night.
Johnny Samuels was an instant sensation, hailed as one of the greatest- if not the greatest- blues musicians who had ever lived. He had come from nowhere and shot straight to stardom, with his scuffed acoustic guitar as his trademark. Those who had known him in his youth marveled at his new skill, which he had seemingly acquired overnight. In particular, they commented on his nimble hands, which contemporary music critics described as quote “steady as the tide and as graceful as the moon” unquote. When interviewers asked him about how he had overcome his previous condition, he would smile and put it down to practice. Over the course of the next year Samuels recorded two albums which most modern blues fans consider to be an essential part of any good collection. Samuels was reportedly working on a third record when he vanished as suddenly as he had risen to stardom. The audio technician stepped out for a smoke during a break in recording, leaving Johnny Samuels alone in the recording booth as he checked the tuning of his beloved guitar. When he returned, Samuels was simply gone, leaving nothing but his guitar behind.
That is the most commonly repeated version of events surrounding the disappearance of Johnny Samuels. A more fantastical- and yet quite persistent- version is that, while recrding that third album, Samuels broke the E string on his guitar. He quickly replaced it, but before the end of the next track the C string snapped. He replaced that as well, and before he even began the next take the A and D strings broke, seemingly of their own accord. The audio technician, who thought the situation was somewhat humourous, suggested that Samuels could use one of the studio’s guitars instead. Johnny Samuels hesitated, but with no reasonable explanation for why he would refuse this and under pressure to complete the recording on time, he accepted the offer. As he gripped the new guitar and reached for the pegs to tune it, he found that his tremor- which he claimed he had overcome- had suddenly returned. He pushed on, turning the pegs and strumming the strings, pretending that nothing was wrong. He nodded to the technician, and as soon as the technician hit “record” the tremor became so severe that Samuels dropped the studio guitar to the floor. He began to hyperventilate with terror as the tremor grew to encompass his entire body, his entire body shaking so violently that the audio technician could feel the vibrations through the floor.
And then, in the audio technician’s words, John “Johnny” Samuels quote "liquefied" unquote. Museum Researchers believe that it would be more accurate to say that he vibrated so hard that his body simply fell apart, but they are not in the habit of contradicting eyewitness accounts. Most others, particularly the authorities at the time, were not so eager to believe his account, as he appeared to have been driven quite mad by whatever it was that he had seen. Museum Researchers are more inclined to believe him, as the recording equipment was still active throughout the incident. The Museum has, in its secure archives, the only known copy of the third album by Johnny Samuels. It is an otherwise nondescript 12” vinyl record, which is stored in a lead-lined vault in our secure facility, pending any developments in how to ensure the safety of those exposed to it. Only a select few have listened to it, wearing full protective equipment, and even those brave souls required months of therapy to recover from what they heard.
The recording is consistent with what the audio technician described. However, those who listen to it all swear that they can hear the sound of a man speaking in the recording, with a voice like honey and chocolate and coffee all at once.
A Dustpan and Brush
As you may have noticed, we are approaching a dust pan and brush which is sweeping the floor seemingly of its own accord. It was located in the possession of some monks living in solitude in their monastery high in the mountains. The monks believed that the dust pan was a blessing from god, a boon to aid them in their duties. The monastery was quite large and its floors tended to become quite filthy with dust and snow, so cleanup was a constant concern, which even these pious men had gotten quite sick of. However, our Researchers were able to conclusively prove to the monks that the item had no connection to any known deity, and was in fact responsible for the disappearance of several of the monastery’s livestock. The monks, faith somewhat shaken, gladly accepted the Museum’s offer of a state-of-the-art robotic vacuum in the Dustpan’s stead.
Some stick-in-the-mud higher-ups have raised a bit of a kerfuffle over what they referred to as "a gross misuse of a powerful and potentially dangerous alternatural Item" but they quieted down quite a bit when they learned just how much money the museum stood to save e on cleaning staff.
Please make sure you stay at least 1.86 metres from the brush at all times, as it may mistake you for trash and attempt to sweep you away with its surprisingly sharp bristles. Stay clear of the dust pan's teeth.
A Clockwork Girl
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Death of a child (Illness).
In this exhibit you will see a girl made of brass, whose features were clearly crafted with love. If you examine the seams between the segments of her body, you will observe that her insides are filled with incredibly intricate clockwork mechanisms and workings- however, they are quite still. The girl has not moved, and her mechanisms have not ticked, in many years.
The Clockwork Girl was built as a replacement for a living human girl, a wonderful, vibrant, joyful girl whose life was tragically cut short by a wasting illness. Her mother, who was the girl’s only relative and who loved the girl more than anything else in the whole world, worked tirelessly to find a cure for her condition, but to no avail: the girl died in her arms, leaving the mother all alone in a world which had never felt more dark. However, the mother did not allow herself- or perhaps could not allow herself- to stop, to take time to grieve and heal. Instead, she continued to work. She could not stop her daughter from dying- instead, she would make sure that the light the girl had brought into the world never truly went away. She toiled away for years, committing herself to this new project with an even greater passion than she had the search for a cure. Finally, after years of ceaseless effort and many aborted attempts, the mother inserted the final part into the chest of the brass girl you see before you. There was a whirring noise from within the girl’s chest, followed by a ticking. The girl jolted. Her head rose. Her eyes opened. And the mother saw in the Clockwork Girl’s eyes the same spark of life that she used to see in her daughter’s eyes. They embraced, tears streaming from the mother’s eyes and splashing down onto the girl’s metallic back, and all was well.
And as is so often the case, they were not well for long.
The years of work had taken a toll on the mother, and her body began to fail her in much the same way as her daughter’s had failed her. Knowing that she didn’t have long left, and unwilling to allow her daughter to be all alone in the world without her, she got to work one final time. The experience of building her new daughter allowed her to work much faster this time, and even make some improvements to her final creation: a perfect clockwork recreation of herself, to watch over her clockwork daughter for the rest of time. And then she died, leaving a clockwork version of the perfect family that had been torn from her years before. More bittersweet than she could have expected: even as she closed her eyes for the last time, knowing full well that her clockwork family were perfect recreations of their originals, she wondered if the joy the clockwork mother and daughter expressed in each other’s presence was genuine, or just a facsimile.
The mother had done a better job than she knew: before her body had even gone cold, her clockwork replacement had already had an idea form in her metallic mind. The original mother had worked her entire life to care for her daughter, and now she was gone, relatively suddenly, and all she could do before she died was provide a substitute. The odds of something similar happening to the Clockwork Mother were too high. Unacceptable. The clockwork mother, a perfect copy of her creator, knew exactly what to do to improve that equation. Before long, the Clockwork Girl had two Clockwork Mothers caring for her, living in blissful contrast to the bittersweet lives of the people they were copied from. This went on for many many years.
The Clockwork Girl was too good a copy, in the end. Her Mothers noticed immediately when she began to break down, some minute flaw in her makeup inexorably slowing the ticking of her mechanical heart. The Mothers worked tirelessly to find a solution to the flaw- not just because they had been programmed to, but because they loved their daughter more than anything in the world. But there was no use. The Clockwork Girl’s heart slowed. And slowed and sl- and stopped. In that moment, her Clockwork Mothers both relived, with excruciating familiarity, the worst day of their original’s life, as they looked upon their perfect daughter and knew that they had failed her.
And in that moment, despite the fact that they were copied from the same person, despite the same that they were identical down to the last micron, the Clockwork Mothers began to argue. One Mother wanted to build a new daughter, to carry on her spark as the original mother had intended. The other insisted that this would simply be repeating the same cruel cycle as before, that they had no way to guarantee that a new girl wouldn’t have the same defect as her predecessors, and that they should instead take the Clockwork Girl to others who might know of a way to repair her. Despite the fact that they were identical in every way, they could not see eye to eye. And so one mother took the Clockwork Girl’s body and departed, while the other stayed behind and became consumed once more in the work of creation.
The Mother who left journey for many many years, searching for someone with the knowledge to fix the inert Clockwork Girl and restore the spark of life to her eyes. For a time, she stayed in contact with the Mother who stayed behind, as she worked and worked to create a new, improved version of the girl. But no matter how she tried, she could not recreate the spark. In the end, they lost contact, and Museum Researchers have been unable to find any trace of the other Clockwork Mother.
Many years later, the Mother who left arrived on the doorstep of the Museum, still cradling her body, and asked for help. The Researchers and Head of Restoration studied the body and listened to the Mother’s story, and for a time the work of trying to fix her began afresh. But in the end, they were forced to tell the Mother that there was nothing to be done for the girl; that whatever method the original mother had used to create this child, it was impossible to replicate. One Restorer- seemingly prone to fits of Poetry- commented that perhaps the missing ingredient was a Mother’s True Love. He was disciplined for this remark.
Finally, the Curator made an offer to the Mother. The Museum houses the best facilities in the known world for the maintenance and care of unique artifacts such as the Clockwork Girl; not only that, but it acted as an opportunity for people to see the girl and hear her story and maybe, in some way, keep her spirit alive, as her original mother intended. The Clockwork Mother agreed, on the condition that she be able to visit the girl regularly.
And so, as you travel through the museum today, you might see a strange woman, made of brass, patrolling the corridors on security detail, stopping on her rounds to hold her hand up to the glass of the Clockwork Girl’s case.
She declines all pay: the ability to protect her daughter is all she needs.
And all she has left.
Thank you for visiting the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality. We hope that you have enjoyed your visit, and that you will return one day, in this life or the next. Please, tell your friends about what a great time you had here- but don’t tell them too much! If they’re worthy, we’ll find them. Stay safe out there.