What's What?

Brazen Head

Brazen Head


Roger Bacon tells Prospero of his encounter with this object, its poor hearing, and its inability to comprehend the basic of commands [The Face in the Frost; 14-5].

The brazen head was a prophetic device attributed to many medieval scholars. The best-known version of Bacon's brass head appears in the 1594 play by Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. According to legend, Bacon created such a device but it couldn’t talk. After consulting with a demon, he was told the head would talk in a month’s time but not exactly when. Bacon and his assistant, Friar Bungay, went on a round-the-clock vigil but after several weeks nothing happened and they took the night off, leaving watch to their servant. This, of course, is when the head decided to speak. It’s first words were “Time is” – seemingly unimportant to the servant. Later it said “Time was” and later still, “'Time is past”, before exploding into pieces and awaking the sleeping friars.

 

Chimera

Chimera


Marta Krebsmeyer says the clouds over Porcupine Bay twist and contort into strange shapes, some she thought looked like this mythological beast [The Tower at the End of the World; 92].

According to Greek mythology, the chimera was a monstrous fire-breathing female creature composed of the parts of three animals: a lion, a serpent, and a goat. Usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended in a snake's head, the term chimera has also come to describe any mythical or fictional animal with parts taken from various animals. Homer's brief description in the Iliad is the earliest surviving literary reference: “a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.” You don’t want one as a pet.

 

Djinni

Djinni


A book by Giradus Abucejo references how to summon spirits such as these [The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost; 84].

Djinn – or Jinn or genies - are supernatural creatures in Arab folklore and Islamic mythology that occupy a parallel world to that of mankind. Like human beings, the Jinn can also be good, evil, or neutrally benevolent. The earliest of such Jinn stories in folklore originate in the book of the One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of West and South Asian stories and folk tales known in English as the Arabian Nights.

 

Flit


Emerson prepares to occupy his Canadian cottage by spraying the baseboards of the rooms with this popular bug killer [The Mansion in the Mist; 10].

Flit is the brand name for an insecticide. In the late-1920s it became the subject of a very successful advertising campaign by Theodor Seuss Geisel. The ads typically showed people threatened by whimsical, menacing insect-like creatures that will look familiar to fans of Dr. Seuss's later work and contained the tagline "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" This advertising campaign continued for 17 years and made “Quick, Henry...” a popular U.S. catchphrase.

 

France Ancient


A rather important clue on the Windrow estate involves this older variation of the French coat of arms [The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost; 97-8].

In antiquity the historical coat of arms of France featured an infinite number of golden fleurs-de-lis on a blue field. This all changed in 1376 when King Charles V (1338-1380) decided to place the kingdom under the double invocation of the Virgin (the lily is a symbol of Mary), and the Trinity, for the number. Henceforth the two variations have been referred to as "France Ancient" and "France Modern".

 

Glomar

Glomar


A supposedly-healthy wheat-based, coffee-like beverage produced by the Glomus Cereal Company [The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt; 4].

Glomar doesn’t sound all that hot (and we’re not sure how well it tastes when served hot, either) – but we suspect it’s pretty much similar to Postum, a powdered roasted grain beverage first created in 1895 and marketed as a healthful, caffeine-free alternative to coffee. Postum’s aggressive advertising included the mysterious slogan “There's a Reason” for years. The breakfast beverage was finally discontinued in 2007.

 

Gog and Magog

Gog and Magog


The town hall clock tower in Stillwater, Wisconsin has two figures in the shape of these two Biblical giants [The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb; 84].

Clock-jacks, or jaquemart, are mechanical human figures that strike the time on a bell. About 100 miles west of Marshall in Dearborn is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village where Gog and Magog jacks strike the quarter-hour at the Sir John Bennett Jewelry Store, much as they did from 1846 to 1929 above the original store in London. What or who Gog and Magog were is somewhat confusing, since from their mention in the Bible one could label them human, supernatural entities (giants or demons), lands or cities. In Ezekiel 38:2-3, Gog was King of Magog; later Gog and Magog symbolize the enemies of the Kindgom of God (Revelation 20:7-8). As giants, they are the traditional guardians of the City of London.

 

Gutenberg Bible


Lewis finds a copy of this volume in his cousin’s library and believes, if sold, it would bring in a lot of money [The Vengeance of the Witch-finder; 127].

The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed with movable type in the West and the first major book produced on a printing press anywhere in the world. It is an edition of the 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz, Germany, in the 1450s. 48 Bibles are known to exist, with only 21 fully complete; the last sale of a complete Bible took place in 1978 and fetched $2.2 Million. Lewis seems to be vastly under-estimating how much cousin Pelham would stand to bring in from such a sale.

 

Guardian of the Sunken Palace

Guardian of the Sunken Palace


This enchanted stone head resides in subterranean Constantinople and asks questions of those that pass through its underground cistern [The Trolley to Yesterday; 143-7].

The Guardian appears as an enormous stone head, similar to the carved Medusa heads found in the Basilica Cistern, a vast underground reservoir located beneath the northern end of the Hippodrome. Built in 532 AD, the sunken palace is supported by 336 columns pillaged from classical buildings during its construction. One Medusa head is on its side, the other inverted - positions that suggest the people who put them there were Christians and did not want to revere a god of a pagan period. Apparently, it was a largely forgotten subterranean ruin and only rediscovered again in the 19th Century.

 

Hand of Glory

Hand of Glory


Mrs. Izard uses this device to momentarily stun Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann when they and Lewis finally find the hidden Doomsday Clock [The House with a Clock in its Walls; 170-2].

The Hand of Glory was...is...a charm used for those who practice the black arts. To create such an object, the sorcerer used the right hand of a convicted criminal that was severed while the corpse was still hanging from the gallows, preferably removed during the eclipse of the moon. Once ready for use, candles were fitted on it between the fingers made from another murderer's fat, with the wick being made from his hair. Some candles are shown as being on the back of the hand. Regardless, once lit the candles froze the victims in their tracks and rendered them speechless, with milk supposedly the only thing that could extinguish it.

 

Hexerei

Hex signs


Once in Pennsylvania, Rose Rita sees farms whose barns had odd, bright-colored circular decorations painted on their sides that supposedly warded off bad luck [The Ghost in the Mirror; 20].

Hex signs are a form of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, usually in the form of "stars in circles" that grew out of traditions from around 1850 when barns first started to be painted in the area. By the 1940s commercialized hex signs, aimed at the tourist market, became popular and these often include stars, compass roses, stylized birds, hearts, or flowers. The tradition of Hex signs painted on barns in some areas originally related the region’s folk religion tradition, as the symbols were thought to have talismanic properties.

 

Ipana toothpaste

Ipana toothpaste


Mrs. Zimmermann hears the final bars of a radio jingle for this product [The Doom of the Haunted Opera; 112-3].

Wintergreen-flavored Ipana toothpaste was first introduced in 1901 by the Bristol-Myers Company and went on to become one of the country’s most popular toothpastes for five-decade run beginning in the 1920s. In the 1920s it became a major sponsor of radio broadcasts and, during the 1950s, was known for Bucky Beaver, the commercial mascot, whose popular jingle was "Brusha, Brusha, Brusha. Get the New Ipana, it's dandy for your teeth!"

 

Mail Pouch

Mail Pouch


Lewis spots this brand of tobacco promoted on sides of barns along the road between New Zebedee and Cristobal [The Specter from the Magician's Museum; 90].

Between 1890 and 1992, the West Virginia Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco Company paid farmers to allow advertisements to be painted on their barns within view of roadways; usually hand-painted in black or red with yellow or white capital lettering that read “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco Treat Yourself to the Best.” At the height of the program in the early 1960s, there were about 20,000 Mail Pouch barns spread across 22 states.

 

Mary Celeste

Mary Celeste


Sarah is reminded of the story of this sailing vessel when she and Johnny discover Professor Childermass' half-eaten meal [The Hand of the Necromancer; 109-10].

The Mary Celeste was an American merchant ship famous for having been discovered on December 4, 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean, unmanned and apparently abandoned, still in seaworthy condition and heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. The crew was never seen or heard from again, and their disappearance is often cited as the greatest maritime mystery of all time. Stories of untouched breakfasts with still-warm cups of tea on the cabin table are untrue and most likely originated with fictionalized accounts of the incident, especially one by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

Nimrod Pipe Lighter

Nimrod Pipe Lighter


When the young man at the gas station disappears, Professor Childermass uses the light from this in an attempt to locate him [The Eyes of the Killer Robot; 97].

Ward Manufacturing, founded in 1908 by Ashley F. Ward in Ohio, filed a patent in 1946 for the Nimrod Pipe Lighter. Perhaps taking inspiration from their screw products, the pipe lighter began life resembling a nut in the middle of a bolt – a design unlike any lighter manufactured at that time. The lighter was selling at a rate of 1 million units per year in the 1960's. The origin of the name is uncertain, though it seems likely it comes from the biblical Nimrod, a mighty king and hunter, as the lighters were windproof and could be used outdoors (that’s how we first saw Roderick use his...).

 

PF Flyers

PF Flyers


New kid in school David Keller gets tripped by a bully wearing this brand of sneaker [The House where Nobody Lived; 29].

First produced by BF Goodrich in 1937, PF Flyers were once one of the most popular brands of sneakers. The shoes were known for allowing wearers to “run faster and jump higher” what with their patented “Posture Foundation” that evenly distributed weight and thereby reduced leg strain and provided better comfort. By the way, they are very similar in appearance to the Chuck Taylor All-Stars manufactured by Converse, the style of shoe worn by the bearded character who wears fur coats, as drawn by Edward Gorey (wait – that is Edward Gorey).

 

SPQR

SPQR


Fleeing from The Bishop, Prospero finds traces of Roman influence in the stonework of the castle in the form of this abbreviation [The Dolphin Cross; Magic Mirrors; 226].

SPQR is an abbreviation from the Latin phrase Senatus Populusque Romanus – The Senate and People of Rome – referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic. The phrase's date of origin is not known, but its meaning places it generally after the founding of the republic. It appears many hundreds of times in Roman political, legal, and historical literature, including the speeches of Cicero and the history of Titus Livius.

 

Stereopticon

Stereopticon


Lewis finds one of these projectors and accompanying slides of distant locations [The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer; 17].

A stereopticon is a slide projector or "magic lantern", an early type of image projector developed in the 17th Century, which has two lenses, usually one above the other. During the late 18th Century there was an obsession with the bizarre and the supernatural and the magic lantern was used in séances. In these shows, the illusionists used the lantern to trick people into thinking that they had summoned up spirits. The term stereopticon has been widely misused to name a stereoscope...which we bet is really what Lewis found.