Episode Four: INANIMATE
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 Spaghettification that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
A Chair Named Daniel
On your right, you will see a table and two chairs: one a dark mahogany, the other a pale white, both with fine leather cushions in their respective seats. The white chair's name is Daniel. For your own safety- and common courtesy, please refrain from referring to him by any other names or gender identities.
Daniel came to our attention a few years ago after his last owner- well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. His owner, Samantha Hargreave, received Daniel as a final gift from her dying grandmother. It Is unknown if they had a positive relationship, as while Daniel is a very nice and well-made chair, he did come with a caveat which soured the deal somewhat: his name is Daniel, and Samantha and must greet him as such every morning and night. Under no circumstances could she call him by any other name, and she must never fail to greet him. Grandmother Hargreave was reportedly very insistent on this matter. Samantha and the rest of her family dismissed this advice, as Grandmother Hargreave had been quote "a bit not right in the head for the last few years" end quote.
However, the next morning, when Samantha came downstairs to make breakfast and prepare for the day ahead, she felt a strange and unsettling aura emanating from the dining room. Though she tried to put it out of her mind, she couldn't help but feel that Daniel- who had received a prime position at the head of her dining table- was watching her, always lurking in the corner of her eye. When she sat on Daniel in order to eat her scrambled eggs, she felt pins and needles shoot up her spine. The eggs tasted like ash in her mouth, and her coffee was unusually bitter. The ominous energy grew and grew until she could hardly bear it, at which point, almost unaware that she was doing it at all, she swallowed a mouthful of eggs and mumbled "Good morning Daniel, you're very comfortable today."
The fog in her head lightened instantly and was replaced with a sense of brightness and satisfaction, which she likened to the sensation of "trying on a new top for the first time and finding that it fits perfectly." While Daniel was perfectly silent and still, as ever, she could swear that he felt satisfied, like a contented cat. She finished her breakfast- which suddenly tasted like the finest gourmet food- and left for work.
The next morning she felt the same unpleasant atmosphere when she came downstairs- but this time, she walked right over to Daniel, patted his cushion, and said "good morning Daniel". The same lightening effect occurred instantly, and so this routine continued for the next two years of Samantha and Daniel's lives. It came to an abrupt stop when Samantha returned from a business trip which had kept her from home for a full week. Even before she got off the plane, she could feel a familiar sense of foreboding and resentment- Daniel was angry with her. He had been neglected and- as Samantha discovered when she got home, he had taken it out on her other possessions. Every item in her dining room had been smashed to pieces, including several antiques and all but one of the windows. The other chairs had gotten the worst of it, as they had first been smashed, and then burnt and their ashes scattered across the room.
Daniel hadn't moved an inch. Samantha approached him, standing where the table used to be, and said "did you do this?". The only response she received was a sudden wave of nausea and an urge to sit down. She asked again: "Did you do this?" The atmosphere darkened further, and Samantha knew why: she still hasn't said hello. But Samantha was understandably upset with Daniel, and so instead she huffed and turned to go to bed. From force of habit, she began to say "Goodnight Daniel", but she caught herself. A thought had occurred to her. She turned, looked at the chair, and said "Goodnight Josh". As she headed upstairs, she heard the final window shatter.
For some time after, Samantha began her mornings by standing in her dining room and eating her breakfast while staring at Daniel. When she was done, she picked up her handbag and said goodbye to Daniel, each time with a different name: Matthew, Chris, Arnold, and so on. Her house was becoming more and more dilapidated as each day passed and Daniel's rage grew, but Samantha found that the satisfaction of quote "getting one over on that stupid bloody chair" unquote was more than enough to make up for the ongoing destruction of her home.
Then, one day, the person she was dating at the time insisted on dropping her home in their car. As they pulled up outside her house, Daniel caught a glimpse of them sitting in the car, and snapped. The seats beneath Samantha and her suitor burst into flames, and though the occupants were able to get away with only mild burns, Samantha had had enough. Leaving her date to stare at the car as it was engulfed in flames, Samantha stormed into the house and confronted Daniel with a barrage of insults, mocking the stitching of his cushion, the grain of his wood, the steadiness of his legs, and throughout she peppered in a number of different names. She could feel Daniel's rage growing as she ranted, but she didn't care. Finally, just as she was running out of ways she could insult Daniel, she had an idea. One that, in hindsight, she couldn't believe she hadn't had before: she looked at Daniel, smirked, and said “Goodnight, Danielle.”
The chair sitting at the table across from Daniel is named Samantha. While, unlike Daniel, she is a deep mahogany, it is expected that her colour will fade over the next few decades, until she looks almost identical to Daniel.
The table between them has not expressed a desire to be referred to by any name or gender identity, though Museum staff regularly check to see if this has changed.
The Curator just thought that it looked a bit weird to have two chairs without a table.
Something About The Lighting
CONTENT WARNINGS: Unreality, Paranoia
Many patrons and Museum Staff have reported that the lighting in this room tends to put them in a nostalgic mood, reminding them of an event from their youth. If you are affected, you may experience the following symptoms. Your mind may be cast back to a trip your family took when you were young. Perhaps it was a camping trip, or maybe you were touring a foreign country. In particular, it may remind you of a night you didn’t realise you remembered with such clarity. It wasn’t a particularly memorable night, as you and your family stayed in your accommodation and had takeout for dinner. You may smile wistfully, looking back on this night as one of those pleasantly mundane events that don’t mean much in the moment, but are in hindsight the building blocks that make up a life well-lived. You may remember looking around at your family and feeling a kind of contentment that is increasingly hard to come by in this ever more complex and uncertain world. Your eye may be caught by something you didn’t expect to see: a man, sitting between your parents, whom you don’t remember being there. He is smiling and laughing at something your mother said, and as he does so he catches your eye and freezes. Everyone else looks around at what startled him so much, and when they see you they recoil in shock and fright. You can see in their eyes that they don’t recognise you- worse than that… they’re afraid of you. You look around at your family and realise that you are a stranger to these people, your mother backing away, your father angrily asking who you are, the man you don’t recognise is standing up, he’s walking towards you and as he gets closer and closer you see his face changing into something far more familiar and yet far more terrifying because the man is gone and now you’re staring into your own face, your own eyes, your own mouth whispering in a voice like honey and chocolate and coffee all at once “You don’t belong here anymore. They’re mine.” and he’s so close and he’s reaching out and-
Then the memory usually fades.
You also might not experience this. It’s different for different people.
Something about the lighting.
This is Ivan Ivanovich. As you can see, Ivan is a mannequin, similar to the crash test dummies commonly used to test car safety- though Ivan is somewhat more lifelike. He is largely made of metal, with skin made from synthetic leather, and he is clad in a bright orange space suit. As you may have gathered from his name and attire, he was created to test the Vostok spacecraft used in the Soviet Space program in the 1960s, and according to official records he made two successful trips into earth’s orbit in the year 1961. Interestingly, you can also see Ivan on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. You may be wondering “which of these is the original”. The answer, confoundingly, appears to be that they both are.
On the 25th of March 1961, the spacecraft Korabl-Sputnik 5 successfully launched, orbited the earth once, then made re-entry. On board was a veritable menagerie of small animals such as mice, rats, guinea pigs, lizards, bacteria, and a dog named Zvyozdochka- all of which were used for testing the effects of space travel on living creatures- and the mannequin dubbed Ivan Ivanovich. NOTE: Due to frequent requests from our patrons, we would like to add that none of these animals were harmed during the course of the flight. Please do not get upset, or register any complaints to the museum regarding the mistreatment of animals.
During re-entry, Ivan was- according to plan- ejected from the module with a parachute, after which he came to rest outside a village near the Ural Mountains, where he was briefly mistaken for a dead body by confused villagers before being retrieved. The main module, filled with adorable and lovely animals, safely landed elsewhere, and the animals all went on to live long and happy lives. The mission was declared a rousing success, and paved the way for Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight just a few weeks later.
This is where we here at the museum come into the story. You see, the Museum’s staff play a rather more prominent role in this exhibit’s history than in most cases. This is very much by design, as part of our purpose here is to collect interesting or noteworthy objects and stories, and we pride ourselves in not being interesting or noteworthy. However, in this instance it is somewhat unavoidable. Because on the 27th of March, 1961, the Museum’s scanners picked up a transmission from just outside earth’s orbit. The transmission was, at first, a garbled combination of a russian choir singing and a man reciting a recipe for cabbage soup; these were the placeholder transmissions broadcast from Korabl-Sputnik 5, and would have been little more than a curiosity were it not for the fact that Korabl-Sputnik 5 and its cargo of precious animals were safely back in the custody of the USSR, and had been for some hours at this point. Our technicians assumed that there was some sort of error with their equipment, and were in the process of double checking their instruments when the signal cut out- and was replaced by the voice of a man, clearly panicking, begging for help in Russian. Still unsure of what exactly was going on, the technicians brought a translator to decipher the mysterious man’s words. The translator reported that the man was identifying himself as Ivan Ivanovich, and that he was claiming to be aboard Korabl-Sputnik 5. A Cosmonaut, he had been launched into space the previous day and had since lost contact with Soviet Space Command. He begged for help, claiming that something had gone wrong with the craft’s trajectory and it was uncontrollably spinning away into space. Though skeptical, the technicians did their due diligence, bringing the Museum’s Observatory online and directing it toward the signal’s origin. When they saw what appeared to be Korabl-Sputnik 5, the technicians immediately contacted Soviet Space Command.
The response, however, only served to make the situation even more complicated: the Soviets insisted that the Korabl-Sputnik 5 had made its re-entry successfully, that the vessel and its occupants were safely on solid ground, and that Ivan Ivanovich was most assuredly not a living person capable of making distress calls. Confounded, the technicians also contacted NASA and asked if they could offer any insight into the matter: this led to a rare instance of international harmony between the two superpowers, as representatives of both the USA and USSR came together to laugh at these silly foreigners, who seemed to believe that a dummy had magically come to life in outer space. Chagrined by this mockery, and nonetheless certain that action needed to be taken immediately, the technicians escalated this matter to the highest authority within the Museum.
After a brief conference call with the Museum's Curator, a joint operation between NASA and the Soviet Space Program was launched, with information shared between both nations leading to the creation of a craft capable of retrieving Ivan Ivanovich. The craft, manned by a select crew of Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and Museum Personnel, burned hard, on a tight timeline to catch up with the mysterious vessel before it got out of range. Throughout the hours-long journey the Museum staff on the ground were in constant contact with Ivan Ivanovich, who was equal parts grateful for the rescue and terrified that it might fail. Finally, just as the craft was about to cross the threshold into being irretrievable, the brave crew caught it and redirected it back toward earth. It safely made re-entry and was swiftly located by Museum Agents.
But when the Agents opened the capsule, they were taken aback by what they saw within: an inanimate mannequin, with skin of synthetic leather, and bones of metal, clad in an orange flight suit. The various animals that had been sent up with the mannequin were… fine, and the agents each adopted a different one and gave it a very good home. The mannequin was identical in every way to the one that had touched down near the Ural Mountains two days prior- including in its silence. For a moment, back at the Museum, the Curator and technicians wondered if they had indeed been pranked. Then, a final transmission came through. It was very faint, almost lost in a sea of static, but recognisably the same voice from before, asking when the rescue would come. The Observatory’s telescopes were refocused, and they saw Korabl-Sputnik 5, now hopelessly out of reach, spinning away into the endless black. Though the image quality was poor, the operators of the telescope could just barely detect movement through one of the craft’s viewports. And just before the signal was lost forever, the Museum’s radio operators received a final message from Ivan Ivanovich. “I’m scared.”
The union between the USA and USSR collapsed almost immediately after this incident, as neither side could agree who would get custody of the specialised craft built for the mission. To save face, they agreed to never publicly admit to the collaboration, and the ship was dismantled and the plans destroyed. This left only the question of what to do with the duplicate Korabl-Sputnik 5 and Ivan Ivanovich. After some debate, it was decided that, quote, “it belongs in a museum” unquote.
Specifically, this one.
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.