Episode Nine- FALLEN
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 embiggening that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
Springheeled Jack’s Costume
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Suicide (Accidental, Falling)
Oh, I like this one. This mannequin is dressed in black fabric, with a cowl atop his head, claws on the fingers of its gloves, and strange mechanical boots on its feet. Joining the ends of the sleeves to the waist area of the shirt are strips of cloth which are intended to function as wings when the wearer spreads their arms. Altogether, you might think this was the costume of a superhero- and you would be right. But this superhero is no mere fictional character: he was very real. The time has come for the tale of Springheeled Jack: The world’s first superhero.
Now, before you say anything, you may be aware of the traditionally told story of Springheeled Jack, and so you might take issue with my description of him as a superhero. This is understandable, as there has been a great deal of… well, I don’t want to say slander, so let’s call it a series of misunderstandings. The more well-known version of Springheeled Jack’s tale is one of a terrifying spectre of the night: a man whose frightful visage terrified dozens of London’s innocent young women in the late 1930s, with metal claws and glowing eyes and the voice of the devil himself, and whenever upstanding citizens intervened he simply disappeared, leaping over high walls and vanishing into the night. The numerous reported sightings of Springheeled Jack are typically put down to some combination of hoax and shared delusion; the truth of the matter is… somewhat more complicated.
The truth is, Jack was just a man. An earnest, well meaning, romantic young man from Paris, named Jaques. Growing up, he had heard stories from his parents about how terrible life was across the Channel, of how the young women of London feared for their lives as they walked the streets at night. In particular, one story his mother often told him was that of the London Monster, an individual that had harassed and even attacked many young London ladies a few decades earlier, only being apprehended after several years by a hopeful suitor of one of his victims. His mother intended to instill in young Jaques a sense of national pride, and a healthy disdain for the English; she had a rather different effect, however. Jaques grew up with a great sympathy in his heart for the poor young ladies of London that they should have to live in such fear, and instead of despising England as a whole he hated only those who would behave so untowardly towards its women.
And so, perhaps inevitably, Jaques decided he would put a stop to this horrible behaviour. He would be a saviour to the ladies of London, a stalwart defender of their honour and virtue, and a bulwark against the forces of evil who sought to do them harm. Shortly after reaching adulthood, he said goodbye to his baffled and concerned parents and boarded a ship to England. Upon arrival, Jaques was detained at the Customs House for some time, as the agents believed that his stated purpose of visit- to protect London’s ladies from terror at the hand of scoundrels- was some sort of code or euphemism for the engagement of prostitutes. When they figured out he was being totally sincere, they detained him for some more time, so that they could call in as many of their colleagues as they could to laugh and taunt the silly Frenchman. Jaques didn’t mind though: he had expected this sort of uncouth behaviour from the men of London. That was why he was needed, after all. When he was finally allowed to exit the Customs House, Jaques stepped onto the sidewalk and closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath of the musty dockside air. When he opened his eyes, he saw the young man who had just stolen his wallet dart across the street and disappear into a crowd of pedestrians. He called out in alarm, shouting that there was a thief as he began to make chase. The people around him didn’t pay him much notice, however, and they paid little more when he was promptly knocked to the ground by a passing horse-drawn carriage. By the time he got to his feet, the culprit had disappeared into a crowd, and he was left with the little money he had stowed in the bottom of his luggage.
He arrived at his accommodation just as dusk was falling. It was a cramped, musty, and run-down little third-floor flat, but it would suffice for now as a base of operations. And besides, with most of his money and possessions having been reappropriated by the locals at the Docks, it was also the best he could afford right now. Jaques was almost trembling with excitement as he prepared for his first night as London's saviour. In the time it had taken him to walk to his flat he had seen no fewer than three instances of young ladies being harrassed by strange men- and that was in broad daylight! He shuddered to think what it would be like once the sun went down and the real freaks came out- fortunately, he would be there as well, clad in black, with a cowl and mask and gloves whose fingers contained the tips of needles he had stolen from his mother. The piece de resistance of this costume was, however, the boots. His father was a cobbler, and a good one at that, but he was rather unimaginative and safe in the types of shoes he made. Throughout his youth, Jaques had brought to him new and exciting innovations in the field of shoemaking, but his father had rejected them all as quote silly unquote. Jaques had abandoned most of these prototypes when he left Paris, but he had brought one pair with him: a pair which utilised a complex internal set of springs in order to significantly increase the speed and jumping ability of the wearer. These would be what gave him an edge over the scum of London, the most important part of the entire outfit. He had meticulously crafted this getup with the intent of striking fear into the hearts of his foes, to evoke the idea of a creature of the night coming to smite the unjust.
NOTE: You may be thinking to yourself, “Hmmm. This spooky black costume with a cowl and mask intended to strike fear into the hearts of the unjust sounds an awful lot like a certain fictional character who shall not be named.” This is understandable. However, The Museum’s Legal Advisors would like to firmly state that the tale of Spring-Heeled Jack is in no way related to whatever it is that you’re thinking of, and that any claims to the contrary are spurious and libellous and this story predates the one you’re thinking of so don’t even think about suing us. I may be paraphrasing there.
Anyway, that night Jaques left his apartment via a zipline he had set up from his flat’s window and got to work. He ran across the rooftops of South London, watching over ladies as they went about their business, searching for any who dared interfere. He stalked above the darkened streets and alleyways, ever vigilant, ever ready to leap into action. But though he searched all night, he saw not a single assault, nor even any thugs lying in wait. He saw only people going about their business, and occasionally exclaiming in what he assumed was delight when they saw him watching. The same went for the next night, and the next. On the fourth night he saw someone snatch a lady’s purse but his attempt to apprehend the culprit proved unsuccessful.
By the end of his first week, Jaques was beginning to lose hope. He had failed, thus far, to make things any safer in London- and in fact it seemed as though the situation had been rather exaggerated to him by his parents. The little money that hadn't been stolen would soon run out, and he was already bracing himself for the humiliation of returning home with nothing to show for himself. Then, as he leaned against a chimney and scowled menacingly down at the street below, his moment finally arrived. A young lady was strolling down a street by herself, likely on her way to work. But at the corner she was nearing- a shadow! It could only be one thing: some lout was waiting in this young woman’s path, waiting to pull her into the shadows and do god only knew what. The hair stood up on the back of Jaques’ neck as he realised that the woman would reach the man before him. Thinking quickly, Jaques leapt down into the street- hurting his ankle a little in the process- and lunged for the woman. He gripped her shoulders and urgently told her to flee, lest something terrible happened to her. She screamed in fright, and wrenched herself free- to Jaques regret, scratching herself on his claws in the process- and fled down the street back the way she had come. Jaques grinned as she looked over her shoulder, and called after her “Never fear, mademoiselle! Jaques is here for help!” He turned and- doing his best to conceal his limp- checked the spot where he had sighted the man, but found nothing but an oddly shaped bush. Satisfied that the ruffian had fled at the sight of him, he leapt over a nearby wall and disappeared into the night.
The next evening, as Jaques wrapped his ankle and prepared himself for another night’s work, he spied a headline in the evening paper that grabbed his attention. Someone had been attacked the previous night! In one of the neighbourhoods he had been patrolling no less. The young woman had managed to get away, but not before the attacker had savagely clawed at her and torn her clothes. As she had fled, the black-clad figure had cried out in a bizarre and frightful voice, and though some of the words sounded like gibberish the last had been very clear indeed: “Jack is here from hell”. And with that the creature had bounded away, his bizarre gait carrying him far faster than should have been humanly possible, before leaping away into the darkness. Jaques was stunned. This poor woman! If only he had been there to help her, she might have been spared this frightful assault like the woman whom he had aided that same night. The paper went on to mention that there had been a number of sightings of a man of similar appearance stalking the city’s rooftops in the preceding nights, and coined a name for this frightful creature of the night: Spring-Heeled Jack. Jaques felt an odd sort of elation; a worthy foe had emerged! The people of London were being tormented by the forces of hell itself, but he was here to deliver him from this evil. Invigorated by this revelation, Jaques leapt out the window to begin another night’s patrol. He had suffered untold indignities and tribulations since he had arrived in London, but now it was all worth it. He had saved one woman last night, and in the ones that followed he would save many more. He was Jaques. He was London's saviour.
It should, of course, be noted that- while he meant well and was a generally pleasant man- Jaques was not a smart man. In fact, part of the reason that his parents were so worried about his planned trip to London was that he might get himself into trouble like this- though they probably never imagined precisely this scenario. As a boy he had always been throwing himself headfirst into fights in order to defend those who could not defend themselves, without first considering if he himself was one of those defenseless people. His youth had, as a result, been a long succession of injuries and humiliations, but Jaques never seemed to learn from his mistakes. His mother and father had always harboured a fear that one of these days Jaques would get into a fight that he would lose so badly he might just lose his life. But they needn’t have worried that Jaque would die in a fight, as that was not the end destiny had in store for him. Because he actually fell to his death, having leapt out his window while still half-dressed, and become entangled in his trousers when he attempted to grab hold of the zipline. He died instantly on impact with the street below, and the baffled coroner eventually declared his death a suicide. His bizarre outfit was placed into storage at Scotland Yard, as the detectives thought it too strange to simply throw away. It was recovered from storage many years later, and eventually made its way here. The spirit of Spring-heeled Jack lived on… Sort of. Well, not really. He was rather misunderstood in his time, clearly, and so the spate of copycats that cropped up in the years after his death rather contributed to the fears of London’s young ladies, rather than alleviating them.
But he did his best, and in the end, isn’t that what counts most?
Oh, look! It's Bull. Bull is a bull, that wanders the halls here, looking at the exhibits, letting people pet him, generally just having a gentle, good time. If you've ever heard of the phrase "a bull in a China shop", it's believed that it was inspired by Bull here, though he's never been anywhere near so destructive as that idiom implies. He seems to be functionally immortal, as he appears in a number of stories throughout history and throughout the world. An oft-repeated explanation for his longevity is that he is too gentle and peaceful for anything in the world to want to kill, and so he is allowed to live forever. It's unlikely that that's the whole story, but the stories involving Bull rarely have a great deal of detail or- frankly speaking- much of interest at all. They mostly just tell of a really lovely bull that wandered onto someone's property one day, and that the owner of that property quickly found that bull to be so lovely that they allowed him to stay. Eventually that person inevitably died for one reason or another, and the bull moved on, to brighten someone else's day for a time. The Museum's Research Department believe that they are the first to put together that these disparate incidents are the continued travails of a single bull, rather than a number of different lovely bulls.
As you may know, Bulls and other forms of bovine have been part of the mythology of a number of societies all over the world throughout history, such as in ancient Mesopotamia, India, and Greece; in some depictions of the birth of Christ a bull or ox is present; and perhaps most significantly, the Zodiac prominently features a bull, also known as "The Divine Bull of Heaven", which has persisted as part of a common mythology for millennia. Now, proving that all of these were inspired by Bull here would be very difficult indeed- not to mention potentially offensive to a great many people- but there is a commonality there worth mentioning. In addition, it is believed that many folk tales are inspired by or are even garbled retellings of true encounters with Bull. Examples of this include Paul Bunyan's famous blue ox Babe, and the cow that Jack- of "And The Bean Stalk" fame- traded for some quote magic beans unquote.
Bull only came to the Museum's attention a handful of years ago, when he wandered into the Museum of his own accord. It is unclear, at this stage, if Bull has decided to set down roots at The Museum, or if- as has seemingly been the case in the past- he has attached himself to an individual here, such as a member of staff or an exhibit. If he has settled in the Museum, it is unclear how long he will remain here, as in the past he has moved on when the owner of the properties he has settled on has died, and the Museum has no owner.
For the time being, however, we are happy to just enjoy his company. He has never caused any damage or mischief to any exhibits, nor distress to any patrons- in fact, he is often a soothing influence on those who have suffered distress. His fur is hypoallergenic, and oh so soft. Go on, give him a pat. No? Well, ok, suit yourself.
Did you hear that? That sound. If I’m not mistaken, that was The Sound, capital T, capital S. Not just any sound, but The Sound that appears throughout history in one form or another. Of course, perhaps I was mistaken- that’s what’s so tricky about The Sound. It’s just Sound, without any particular point of origin or purpose, that comes in different forms and disappears as quickly as it appeared. Also, I don’t hear with ears like yours, so it’s entirely possible that we hear things differently and you don’t even know what I’m talking about. Or perhaps you do.
There have been attempts, at various points, to create an exhibit based around The Sound, but none have yet come to fruition. Part of the reason is that it’s too difficult for the Research Department to determine what is and isn’t a true example of The Sound being heard, and getting good recordings often proves impossible. Can you imagine, an exhibit about a Sound, where you just have to read a description of what it sounded like? That would be like listening to an audio tour guide without seeing what’s being described, what nonsense.
The Sound has been referred to by many names, largely as a result of people mistakenly believing instances of The Sound to be different phenomena, as opposed to variations on a greater pattern. Indeed, there has been some debate among Museum Staff as to whether or not The Sound is indeed one phenomenon, although that has largely been settled by the discovery of distinctive frequencies and patterns within the various iterations of The Sound, and nowadays the debate is more about whether or not The Sound is a natural occurrence or a conscious creation of something or someone. I’m not supposed to have opinions on that sort of thing, but… I do. Secretly, I’ve been keeping up on all the research around The Sound and I’ve become kind of obsessed. I suppose maybe it’s because I feel a kind of connection to it- after all, I’m also composed chiefly of Sound, so maybe there’s some kind of kinship there? I don’t know, I admit it’s silly, but I can’t help it. Every time there’s a report of a new iteration of The Sound I sort of geek out about it, and for a while it seems like maybe the Research Department is going to finally put the pieces together about The Sound’s origins.
They never do though. Which is a little disappointing to them and to myself. Sometimes I worry that they’ll stop bothering to collect data on The Sound, but the folks here can’t resist a good mystery, so I think they’ll be observing it for a while yet.
I’m REALLY not supposed to do this- like, really, if any museum staff heard me talking about this it would be incinerator time for me- but I’ve actually come to some of my own… conclusions regarding The Sound. Well, not conclusions. Hypotheses, I guess? Well, nobody’s gonna stop me from talking about it now. I think that The Sound is more than just a sound. Well, sort of. It is just sound, but also it’s more than just sounds. It’s a living being made of sound. I think that The Sound is actually a heretofore undiscovered kind of life form that exists on a level that people can’t usually comprehend. It’s a being made entirely from sound, it exists everywhere sound can be heard but it only makes itself known from time to time. Here are some examples of occasions on which people have heard what is believed to be The Sound.
Just a few years ago, there was an incident in which a number of individuals working at an embassy in the Carribean experienced a number of health issues after hearing what they described as “strange grating noises” coming from an indeterminate direction. Curiously, nobody apart from these specific individuals has claimed to have heard anything of the sort, and no source could be found. Those that heard it suffered effects not unlike those of a concussion, with headaches, nausea, and hearing and memory loss chief among them. Some claimed that the victims had been the target of a new form of sonic weapon, though this was never confirmed and all investigations eventually ceased. However, Museum Researchers discovered that each of the people affected was involved in the production of a new oil drilling platform off the nearby coast, which environmentalist groups stated would have devastating effects on the local wildlife, not to mention the threat that Fossil Fuels pose to the Global Climate. While no conclusions were ever reached, it was posited that The Sound was intended as an attack on these individuals in order to prevent the drilling from going ahead, or perhaps to punish them for doing so. Regardless of whether or not this was the intention, the Embassy in question was reduced to minimum staffing requirements immediately after the incident, and as a result the plans were indefinitely stalled.
Residents of a small town bordering a nature reserve were woken from their beds by a strange whining sound coming from the forest to the east. It was variously described by the people of the town as sounding like an out of tune woodwind instrument, a mechanical screech, or a distorted animal howl, but everyone agreed it sounded entirely unlike anything that should be echoing from a deserted part of the forest late at night. An investigation was launched, and the authorities swiftly discovered an illegal logging operation in the woods that was in the process of covertly harvesting ancient and endangered trees. Those involved were arrested, and the sound was never heard again. But, perplexingly, those involved with the logging operation insisted that they had not been in the woods when the sound had been heard, and testing showed that none of their equipment was capable of producing such a noise as had been heard by the townsfolk. The source of The Sound was never determined.
In ancient times there once stood a colossal natural rock formation, described by historians who witnessed it as being beautiful beyond measure. It was utterly unique in nature, standing dozens of metres tall, twisting this way and that like smoke blowing in the breeze, evoking different emotions in everyone who beheld in in much the same way that two different people might look at a cloud formation and see two entirely different images. It is not known how such a structure could have formed naturally, but sadly it is well know how it was destroyed: a simple earthquake that cracked its core and reduced it to rubble as it fell crashing to the ground. The people of the regions were saddened by its loss, at first, and in the days after the quake many visited the site where it once stood to pay their respects to the fallen monument. But the mourners quickly abandoned the site, as it became common knowledge that the ruin was haunted; what else could explain the sinister, hollow sound that echoed throughout the area at all hours of the day, with no obvious source and regardless of the wind? Some mused that perhaps the gods themselves had struck down the formation, and that the sound was a warning from them to stay away; this quickly became a well-known fact, and though the location of the rock formation has been lost to history, the fact of its existence and of the strange aural phenomenon that followed its destruction were well documented, and to this day historians wonder at the cause.
These are just some of the instances of The Sound being heard that I could tell you about. I could tell you more, but honestly we’d be here all day, and I think I’ve said enough to make my point: I think that The Sound is some sort of being that takes it upon itself to act as a defender of the natural world. Sometimes it does what it can here and there to try and prevent environmental destruction, and when it can’t it mourns openly at what has been lost. But through it all, it exists only as a sound, that only some can hear. And just because you can’t hear a sound, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. All around you right now there is a cacophony of noises outside of your spectrum of hearing, and you wouldn’t even know it. Maybe you’ve heard The Sound before, as a low hum or a ringing in the back of your mind. Maybe it’s always there, and you just assumed that that’s what silence sounds like.
Who’s to say? Maybe it’s a matter of perspective.
[SEVERAL SECONDS OF EMPTY AUDIO]
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.