Sax Rohmer, writing in The Insidious Dr Fu Manchu (1913):
Imagine a person tall, lean and feline, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long magnetic eyes of the true cat green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect. Imagine that awful being and you have a mental picture of Dr Fu-Manchu.
Rohmer’s yellow peril tales were regularly serialized in America by Collier’s Weekly beginning in the 1910s. These editions were visualized by Collier’s excellent team of in-house illustrators: first Joseph Clement Coll, then John R. Flanagan. Both artists worked in pen and ink, delineating the lurid stories in a style somehow reminiscent of J.C. Leyendecker’s Arrow shirt collar advertisements as well as the future genre of comic book superheroes.
John Coulthart has reprinted a suitably weird anecdote about Lovecraft told by Frank Belknap Long. It was originally published in a 1982 issue of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine. An interviewer asked Long about a visit he and H. P. Lovecraft made to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York some six decades earlier.
Frank Belknap Long: You mean the time we visited the Egyptian tomb? Well, the Metropolitan apparently still has it. This was way back in the 1920s. The tomb was on the main floor in the Hall of Egyptian Antiquities, and we both went inside to the inner burial chamber. Howard was fascinated by the somberness of the whole thing. He put his hand against the corrugated stone wall, just casually, and the next day he developed a pronounced but not too serious inflammation. There was no great pain involved, and the swelling went down in two or three days. But it seems as if some malign, supernatural influence still lingered in the burial chamber—The Curse of the Pharaohs—as if they resented the fact that Howard had entered this tomb and touched the wall. Perhaps they had singled him out because of his stories and feared he was getting too close to the Ancient Mysteries.
The chamber in question is the Tomb of Perneb, which is of course still on display at the Met. It had opened to the public in 1916, roughly a decade before Lovecraft and Long visited. Met archaeologist Caroline Ransom Williams wrote of the unveiling:
People were formed in line two abreast all the way back to the Fifth avenue entrance to get into the chambers. Glass positions electrically lighted illustrate the former position and the taking down of the tomb. There are two cases of the objects found in the course of the excavations including the greater part of Perneb’s skull. A model of the entire tomb makes clear the position of the burial chamber.
Lovecraft had just finished writing “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” around this time. It was the last story he wrote in Providence before moving to New York in 1924, where he lived for two years. The story was ghost-written for Harry Houdini and published under Houdini’s byline in the May 1924 edition of Weird Tales.
When Stanford White designed the second Madison Square Garden at 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, he commissioned the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a statue of the Roman goddess Diana, which would surmount the tower.
The venue opened in 1890 and Diana was installed the following year. Saint-Gaudens made several versions and casts of the sculpture. At eighteen feet and eighteen hundred pounds the original was deemed too large and was replaced. It went on to adorn the Women’s Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago where it was ultimately destroyed by the fire that ravaged the fairgrounds eight month after the exhibition concluded.
A second version was installed at Madison Square Garden in November of 1893. A much lighter thirteen feet of hollow gilt copper, it functioned as a weathervane, turning on an orb plinth in the wind. This version became an iconic feature of the New York City skyline, lit at night by electric lights.
When Stanford White’s Madison Square Garden was demolished in 1925 the statue was moved to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where it remains today.
But at the same time that Saint-Gaudens made the second version he designed a half-sized copy for White, who displayed it at his summer home on Long Island.
Diana of the Tower still has a presence in New York, in the form of a 1928 cast of White’s version. It stands in pride of place in the courtyard of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in front of a fine Neoclassical facade, both pictured below.
Peter Cushing’s notes on playing Sherlock Holmes for his performance in The Hound of the Baskervilles [Hammer Films, 1959]:
Morning suit—hat—gloves?—cane. Cape over tweed suit (no hat). Put stains and burns on gloves. Don’t make Holmes obvious—or his suspicions. Suspect everything. Don’t do jackets up at all. Get nervous energy over. Just slip pipe to mouth (not open mouth). Puff clouds of smoke. Sardonic sense of humour. Flashes of steel after laconicness. The deerstalker has been dyed a little. Do cuffs up as if buttoned—short links. Make top quiff of hair stand up a little. Have hypnotic quality. Slight mystic quality.
Dialogue from Horror Express [Granada Films, 1972]:
Inspector Mirov: But what if one of you is the monster? Dr Wells: Monster? We’re British, you know!
The Broadway actor-manager William Gillette was famous for playing Sherlock Holmes. His 1899 production was the first stage play authorized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The image of the character with his deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, and curved meerschaum pipe is largely derived from Gillette’s stage persona.
A native of Connecticut, Gillette built a large and eccentric country house in Hadlyme near the mouth of the Connecticut River. The estate is now operated as a state park.
Gillette Castle re-opened this summer season after being closed for more than a year. I took the opportunity to visit on opening day back in May.
The exterior could pass for a gothic ruin weathered by centuries. The interior is Arts & Crafts. The walls are covered in woven rattan. Secret doors communicated between rooms so Gillette could surprise (or avoid) his guests.
While the house was being built he lived on a boat named Aunt Polly. It was later destroyed in a fire but a few details remain.
Upstairs in the tower is a collection of theatrical memorabilia, including sketches of Gillette in character by Pamela Colman Smith, who illustrated the Rider-Waite tarot.
A miniature railway once traversed the estate. Gillette housed his engines in a shed he called Grand Central Station. Walking trails now follow the route of the rails.
We know that the current Covid-19 vaccines do not prevent transmission of the virus. This fact was announced today by CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky. But there is a more worrying question. What are the long-term side-effects of these vaccines? The underlying technology has never been used on humans. As everyone knows they rely on mRNA rather than a dead or weakened virus like traditional vaccines. Dr Robert Malone who invented the mRNA technology seems to believe that the worst case scenario in terms of side-effects is entirely possible. He writes in the Washington Times:
Known side effects include serious cardiac and thrombotic conditions…Unknown side effects which virologists fear may emerge include existential reproductive risks, additional autoimmune conditions, and various forms of disease enhancement, i.e., the vaccines can make people more vulnerable to reinfection by SARS-CoV-2 or reactivation of latent viral infections and associated diseases such as shingles.
We would need decades of data to rule out these side effects, including “existential reproductive risks.” For example, last month Pfizer halted distribution of its drug Chantix after finding the pill contained elevated levels of cancer-causing agents. Chantix had been on the market for fifteen years at that point.
I wrote at length about Dennis Severs’ House in my book Victoriana. You can read the chapter in an earlier post. The house is an extraordinary creation that defies easy explanation. Is it a museum? Is it a work of theater? Is it an artwork that the viewer enters into? It is all of these things.
The Guardianreports that curators have recently discovered “hundreds of cassette tapes stuffed in cupboards” containing narration of the original house tour given by Severs, who died in 2000. The headline reads: “Dennis Severs’ House recreates his eccentric tours based on found tapes.”
These recordings “have been distilled down to create a new tour” by The Gentle Author who writes the Spitalfields Life blog. An actor will conduct the tours in place of Severs.
Dan Cruickshank is quoted as saying, “Dennis was an amazing character and his spirit does live on with these tapes. There is life after death, he is back from the grave … We have resurrected him. We’ve brought Dennis back, and he would love that.”
There is breaking news on the proposed road tunnel at Stonehenge which I reported on over the past few years. The High Court of Justice in the UK has reversed the government’s authorization for the development in a victory for preservation campaigners. According to a summary at 39 Essex Chambers:
The High Court has quashed the development consent order (“DCO”) which authorises the construction of a dual-carriageway road tunnel at Stonehenge to replace the existing A303 road. Mr Justice Holgate allowed the judicial review by Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site Limited on 30th July 2021 on two grounds, relating to the adequacy of the information before Ministers and his consideration of alternatives.
The judge ruled that transport secretary Grant Shapps acted “irrationally and unlawfully” when he approved the project. This is excellent news that will hopefully safeguard the site going forward. My previous posts on the subject are linked below.