Episode Three: SPIRALING
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 Implosion that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
A Correction Regarding The Exhibit Titled “The Guitar Of The Man Who Met The Devil At The Crossroads”
Before we begin today’s tour, The Mistholme Museum of Mystery Morbidity and Mortality would like to issue a correction. Previous visitors to the Museum may have seen our exhibit titled “The Guitar Of The Man Who Met The Devil At The Crossroads”. The Audio Guide for this exhibit, centred around the guitar which once belonged to legendary Blues musician Johnny Samuels, contained information in support of the legend that Johnny Samuels sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical prowess, and was eventually claimed by the devil during the recording of his third album. After the publication of that Audio Guide, a letter appeared on the desk of our complaints department written in a truly immaculate hand. The writer claimed to be Samuels himself, and according to the note he did not make any kind of deal with the devil in exchange for his musical success, and he has been forced to defend himself on this matter for decades. Johnny Samuels was, quote, “Just a really fine guitar player who finally got his big break” unquote. These rumours became so commonplace that he was, in fact, taken during the recording of his third album, but once the man with the voice like honey and chocolate and coffee- whom Samuels told us does not appreciate being referred to as the devil or any other hellish titles- realised his mistake, he gave Samuels the opportunity to slip his mortal form and become something more, the nature of which Samuels was not willing to impart to us. Samuels’ also asked if he could have his guitar back but-while we wish whatever it is that Samuels has become all the best- the guitar is Museum property and we do not under any circumstances part with any items in our collections. The guitar’s description will be corrected, and it will be moved to our “items related to urban legends with more than a grain of truth to them” section.
We regret the error, and will do our best in future to ensure that no similar mistakes are made again. And now, on with the tour.
A Horn That Grew From The Head Of A Boy
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death of a child (Implied, Murder), Parental Neglect, Mob Violence.
In this case, you will see a horn, roughly 9.6 inches in length, with an ornate spiral pattern from tip to base. Patrons familiar with the traditional animal kingdom might think it belongs to an adolescent narwhal, or perhaps a unicorn. However, this horn is special, because it comes from a most unusual and specific place: the head of a young boy.
The boy in question, whose name has been lost to time, was born somewhere in central Europe several centuries ago. His story has been twisted and mythologised a great deal in the years since but, as is so often the case with folk stories there is a grain of truth. He was, with the exception of the horn, a perfectly normal young boy physically. Mentally, he was what people in his time would describe as “touched”, with a dreamy disposition and a predilection for silence. His mother had died giving birth to him, and by some circumstance or another, he became a traveling performer in the employ of a man believed to be his father. They would travel from town to town, stopping at each location to set up a small stage from their wagon and put on a show. The man would spin some fanciful tale about the boy while the boy did as he pleased; sometimes he would roam the crowd touching babies on their foreheads to “bless” them, others he would simply sit on the stage in silence. The main attraction was his unique deformity. The man would tailor the superficial details of the performance to the mood of the boy, as well as the time and the location; most accounts hold that he was quite shrewd in this regard, and that he and the boy made a handsome income for several years- though the man saw most of the benefit, as after each performance the boy was locked in a cage in the back of the wagon. This run of good fortune came to an end quite suddenly late one winter, when they reached a mining town deep in the mountains.
When the man surveyed the atmosphere of the town he found that the people of the town had a dour and miserable aspect to them, and decided that what the town needed was some light-hearted comedy. He did his usual work rustling up a crowd, but there were precious few takers. Thinking that things would pick up once the show began, he beckoned the boy to take the stage. As the crowd saw the boy, the atmosphere turned from dour to sour, and the man began to realise that he had made a mistake. Unbeknownst to the travelling pair, there had been a terrible accident in the mine early in the day they arrived, and several souls had been lost. And now, on the very day that tragedy had struck their town, these superstitious people were looking at something entirely outside of their frame of reference. A crowd quickly gathered, but not at all the type that the man had hoped for. Angry muttering gave way to shouts of “Freak” and “It’s an Omen” and other sundry accusations that the boy had somehow caused the miner’s deaths. The boy began to become distressed by the vitriol being hurled his way, and the man knew that they had outstayed their welcome. He began hastily packing up the wagon for their departure but before he could finish, several burly miners charged at the boy intending to do him harm. There was a struggle, and one man met the pointy end of the boy’s horn. They fled down the icy mountain in their wagon; as they rode, the man berated the boy for riling up the crowd, for defending himself, for all the troubles in the world. The boy was silent: he simply stared down at his horn, tightly gripped in his hands. It had snapped off in the struggle.
The man and the boy managed to get away from their pursuers, but their misfortunes were far from over. As they attempted to cross a frozen river in the wagon, the hastily packed stage shifted suddenly and the thinning ice gave way under its weight. The man and the boy escaped the sinking wagon with their lives but none of their supplies and took shelter in a nearby cave. The man had injured his leg in the escape and would be unable to travel the icy roads for several more weeks; with no supplies the man knew that he and the boy would never last that long, and he screamed and railed at the boy for ruining everything he had built. But the boy paid him no heed. He looked out from the mouth of the cave at the wilderness beyond and- mute as ever- he strode out into the snow. The man called after him, but to no avail: the boy was gone. And then, hours later, he returned, with a fish caught tightly in his teeth. He dropped the fish at the man’s feet and looked up at him expectantly. The man was too shocked to act at first, but recovered quickly, and soon the pair were feasting on roast fish around a fire. For the next few weeks as they waited for spring, the boy would go out in the morning and return at dusk with food enough for both of them. The boy’s horn soon grew back, and he used it to defend them from wildlife on more than one occasion. As the man would often regale to anyone who would listen in the years that followed, the boy was finally in his element. He had never truly been at home in the world of man, but here he came to life. He was fearsome and cunning and entirely at home in the wilderness, in a way he had never been in civilization. When the ice melted and the man’s leg could hold his weight, they parted. The boy had found his place in the world, and the man was too grateful and filled with regret at his past mistreatment to him to deny that. As a final gift to remember him by, the boy gave him the horn he had lost back in the town; his new horn was even longer and more resplendent than the old one.
The man’s story became a folk legend, and he made an even better career with tales of the boy than he had with the real thing, with the horn a constant prop. It became almost as popular for drunks to tell stories of their own interactions with the boy, of glimpsing a wild-eyed boy with a horn while out alone in the woods. The people of the small mining town had a different version of the story. Their story tells of a wicked and monstrous demon child who had brought tragedy to their town, first in the mines and then in the street. When one brave soul confronted the boy, his caretaker- a bitter drunk who kept the creature in chains- stabbed him through the heart in cold blood. The town rallied and drove off the monster and his master, buried their dead, and moved on with their lives. Months later, when the snow had thawed, woodsmen from the town discovered the skeleton of a young boy, in a cave near a river, at the base of the mountain. His bones had been picked clean of their meat, and there was a hole in his skull where a chunk had been forcefully removed. They sealed up the cave to contain his evil, and if it truly existed it has never yet been rediscovered. All that remains of the boy is the stories. And his horn.
This is an antique radio transmitter, of the sort that would have been used in the mid 20th century for commercial radio purposes. While there is little unusual about its construction, it is noteworthy that it does not appear to match any documented make of radio transmitter that Museum Researchers could locate. It is also noteworthy that the transmitter is active, despite the fact that it is not- and, as far as the Museum is aware, has never been- connected to any power source. In fact, it still sends out a signal on a regular basis, as it has done for years at the very least, though the purpose behind these messages is the subject of a great deal of debate among the Researchers: there is clearly a logic or pattern to the broadcasts, but very few have the ability to discern it. A notable exception is a woman who- for the purposes of this exhibit, will be referred to as “Dee”.
Dee lived an unremarkable life in a mid-sized city which will remain unnamed, where she worked in a business which will remain unnamed and cared for a pet whose species will remain unnamed. Her life was utterly unremarkable- although, if it had been remarkable it would nonetheless have remained unremarked upon in this guide. Dee was, however, content with this unremarkable existence, as most people are: a life of contentment and routine is what most people aspire to, and at this point Dee would have considered herself most people.
That all changed one day, while she drove to her unnamed workplace in her car- the make of which will remain unnamed- while listening to music on her unnamed music playing device: a perfectly normal start to what she expected would be a perfectly normal day. Then, as her car idled at a red light, her music cut out. She picked up her music player and pressed a few buttons: nothing. The device was dead. She fiddled with it for a moment, then was forced to stop as a car behind her honked its horn to let her know the light had turned green. As she continued her journey, she reluctantly turned on the radio in her car for the first time since she bought it. She scanned through the frequencies searching for whatever stations were playing the sort of music she liked; never having used a radio in her life, she didn’t realise that she was scanning the AM frequency, and was therefore unlikely to find anything to her taste unless she was particularly into dry news reports in languages she didn’t understand. She had almost given up on having anything to listen to when she heard something that caught her attention. A voice, with a crisp accent she couldn’t quite place, reciting a string of numbers. 1. 6. 1. 12. 2. 33. 56. 1. 56. 3. 2. She scrolled past it in her haste, and it took her a few seconds to find it again. 101. 82. 83. 1. 23. 0. She listened to it, enthralled for reasons she couldn’t quite put her finger on, for the remainder of her drive to work. When she arrived, she sat in the car park listening for several more minutes, until the numbers abruptly stopped. She sat in her car for another minute, waiting to see if the numbers would return, before she realised that she was now late for work. As her manager admonished her for being late, her mind was still on the mysterious numbers. At her desk, she struggled to focus on her work; eventually, she gave up and began searching online for answers.
The results were as revealing as they were confounding. There was a seemingly endless number of people who had heard similar broadcasts, and a number of articles written about the phenomena and theorising what could be behind it. They referred to the broadcasts as “Numbers Stations”, and they had been witnessed by people around the world going back as far as World War One. Dee devoured all the information that she could find, but was confounded by the lack of a consensus as to the Numbers Stations’ origins and purpose. Some said they were coded messages, sent by governments to spies in foreign lands. Others, that it was a method for AI to communicate without accessing the internet. Some, that it was ghosts attempting to communicate with the world of the living. Dee didn’t think much of that last one. There were so many people theorizing, with so many examples- how could they have failed to get to the bottom of this mystery? Most people seemed to accept that the spy explanation was most likely, and that cracking the code was impossible without knowledge of the cipher being used. Disappointed, Dee returned to her work, troubled by the lack of closure. When she drove home that night, the station was silent, and she determined that she would put the Numbers Station out of her mind.
She was reminded the very next morning when she got in her car and turned the key. The radio- which she could swear she had switched off- startled her by blaring out the same voice as yesterday, reading another inscrutable string of digits. She reached out to switch off the radio, but hesitated. There was something to the numbers she couldn’t put her finger on, something that made her want to keep listening, to understand. She couldn’t but shake the phantom feeling that the numbers were, in some way, meant for her to hear. To understand. When she arrived at work, she searched the internet again, this time to see if anyone had reported on this specific station, if anyone knew how long it had been broadcasting or if anyone had gotten to the bottom of what its messages meant.
An hour later, she had found absolutely no trace of anyone discussing her Numbers Station.
She called in sick to work the next day, bought a radio set and some books on codebreaking, and sat listening to the station for the rest of the day and well into the night. When she awoke the next morning she continued in the same manner, waiting for a broadcast, writing down the numbers, and attempting to discern their meaning. She used up all her remaining sick days doing this, then- in a brief gap in her vigil- managed to convince her boss to let her take an unscheduled holiday from work. Friends called her, concerned for her wellbeing, but Dee rebuffed them, insisting she was fine. She made only brief breaks in her listening to leave the house to purchase food and other supplies, always making sure that she did so in gaps in the broadcast. Feeding her pet proved too much of a distraction, so she purchased and set up an automatic feeder. After weeks of this, however, she had made no progress. The books on codebreaking she had found were fascinating, but useless when it came to uncovering the meaning behind the Numbers. Eventually Dee found herself sitting alone in front of the radio in her dark living room, surrounded by the rubbish and filth that had built up over the course of her attempts to crack the code, in clothes that hadn’t been washed in who knows how long, with nothing to show for it. Wordlessly, she picked up the radio, took it to her front door, and hurled it out into the night. Then she went to bed.
She woke a few hours later. Her head felt like it was full of lightning. She ran out of her house in her pyjamas, past the ruined radio, to her car, and got in. She switched on her car’s radio: the numbers began immediately. She smiled, as one does when the see an old friend for the first time in years, and began to drive. She didn’t know how many times the sun rose and set while she drove: her focus was almost entirely on the numbers, with just enough spare to keep from crashing, only stopping to refuel. The numbers didn’t stop this time: they kept going on and on, guiding her in a way not even Dee fully understood as she made her way to her unknown destination.
After some time, the numbers stopped, and so did Dee. In front of her, illuminated in the headlights, was the entrance to a bunker. It was in the middle of nowhere, and there was no signage: without the numbers to guide her, Dee was quite certain it would have been impossible to find. She got out of the car and walked cautiously to the entrance; she turned the handle on the door and it swung open smoothly. Dee took a deep breath, and entered. Inside the bunker, Dee found a facility with halls that seemed to stretch on forever, with no signage to be found. She wondered how anyone could navigate the place without getting hopelessly lost; she wasn’t lost though. She knew, without knowing, where she was meant to go. She walked past strange glass windows without glancing inside, past cases with contents she didn’t care to see: the Numbers had told her where to go.
Eventually she stopped in front of one such case. She had found her destination. She looked inside the case, a mixture of elation and trepidation in her heart as she gazed upon the radio transmitter you’re looking at right now. Suddenly, a cold metal hand clapped down on her shoulder, and Dee spun around to see an imposing sight: a metallic woman, clockwork whirring at her joints, wearing a “security” badge on her chest.
Dee was interviewed extensively by Museum Security in an effort to determine how she had found our location. She insisted that she had been led here by a radio signal meant for her, that she was supposed to be here. Eventually, the Museum’s Curator themself invervened, and explained that the signal had indeed led her here for a purpose: with her investigative spirit and subconscious connection to the alternatural, she was a perfect candidate for becoming a Museum Researcher.
And so, Dee now works here at the Museum, a valued asset to our Research department and a cherished colleague to those with sufficient clearance to interact with her. She, with the rest of her department, conducts important investigations into the nature and origin of the exhibits here at the Museum: this facility would not be possible without people like her.
Addendum: the history of the radio transmitter and the signal it transmits is still a mystery to the Museum, as is the method by which it came to be on display here, as the night of Dee’s arrival is the first time anyone here learned of its existence. If you or anyone you know have any information regarding the nature of the radio transmitter or its signal, please state it in a clear tone of voice directly into your playback device after the beep.
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.