Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum
William James Stokes
William James Stokes was the first son of Thomas Stokes and Eliza Browning. Oddly, his birth was registered in Witham in Essex, on the 6th September 1841.
Birth certificate of William James Stokes:
His father Thomas Stokes has not yet been found on the 1841 census, and his mother Eliza was staying with her uncle Thomas Lock in Cirencester in 1841. Eliza’s mother Mary Browning (nee Lock) was staying there too. Thomas and Eliza were married in September 1840 in Hempstead in Gloucestershire.
It’s a mystery why William was born in Essex but one possibility is that his father Thomas, who later worked with the Chipperfields making circus wagons, was staying with the Chipperfields who were wheelwrights in Witham in 1841. Or perhaps even away with a traveling circus at the time of the census, learning the circus waggon wheelwright trade. But this is a guess and it’s far from clear why Eliza would make the journey to Witham to have the baby when she was staying in Cirencester a few months prior.
In 1851 Thomas and Eliza, William and four younger siblings were living in Bledington in Oxfordshire.
William was a 19 year old wheelwright living with his parents in Evesham in 1861. He married Elizabeth Meldrum in December 1867 in Hackney, London. He and his father are both wheelwrights on the marriage register.
Marriage of William James Stokes and Elizabeth Meldrum in 1867:
On the 3rd of December 1870, William James Stokes was admitted to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. One week later on the 10th of December, he was dead.
On his death certificate the cause of death was “general paralysis and exhaustion, certified. MD Edgar Sheppard in attendance.” William was just 29 years old.
Death certificate William James Stokes:
I asked on a genealogy forum what could possibly have caused this death at such a young age. A retired pathology professor replied that “in medicine the term General Paralysis is only used in one context – that of Tertiary Syphilis.”
“Tertiary syphilis is the third and final stage of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that unfolds in stages when the individual affected doesn’t receive appropriate treatment.”
From the article “Looking back: This fascinating and fatal disease” by Jennifer Wallis:
“……in asylums across Britain in the late 19th century, with hundreds of people receiving the diagnosis of general paralysis of the insane (GPI). The majority of these were men in their 30s and 40s, all exhibiting one or more of the disease’s telltale signs: grandiose delusions, a staggering gait, disturbed reflexes, asymmetrical pupils, tremulous voice, and muscular weakness. Their prognosis was bleak, most dying within months, weeks, or sometimes days of admission.
The fatal nature of GPI made it of particular concern to asylum superintendents, who became worried that their institutions were full of incurable cases requiring constant care. The social effects of the disease were also significant, attacking men in the prime of life whose admission to the asylum frequently left a wife and children at home. Compounding the problem was the erratic behaviour of the general paralytic, who might get themselves into financial or legal difficulties. Delusions about their vast wealth led some to squander scarce family resources on extravagant purchases – one man’s wife reported he had bought ‘a quantity of hats’ despite their meagre income – and doctors pointed to the frequency of thefts by general paralytics who imagined that everything belonged to them.”
The London Archives hold the records for Colney Hatch, but they informed me that the particular records for the dates that William was admitted and died were in too poor a condition to be accessed without causing further damage.
Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum gained such notoriety that the name “Colney Hatch” appeared in various terms of abuse associated with the concept of madness. Infamous inmates that were institutionalized at Colney Hatch (later called Friern Hospital) include Jack the Ripper suspect Aaron Kosminski from 1891, and from 1911 the wife of occultist Aleister Crowley. In 1993 the hospital grounds were sold and the exclusive apartment complex called Princess Park Manor was built.
In 1873 Williams widow married William Hallam in Limehouse in London. Elizabeth died in 1930, apparently unaffected by her first husbands ailment.February 8, 2022 at 2:24 pm #6275
“AND NOW ABOUT EMMA”
and a mystery about George
I had overlooked this interesting part of Barbara Housley’s “Narrative on the Letters” initially, perhaps because I was more focused on finding Samuel Housley. But when I did eventually notice, I wondered how I had missed it! In this particularly interesting letter excerpt from Joseph, Barbara has not put the date of the letter ~ unusually, because she did with all of the others. However I dated the letter to later than 1867, because Joseph mentions his wife, and they married in 1867. This is important, because there are two Emma Housleys. Joseph had a sister Emma, born in 1836, two years before Joseph was born. At first glance, one would assume that a reference to Emma in the letters would mean his sister, but Emma the sister was married in Derby in 1858, and by 1869 had four children.
But there was another Emma Housley, born in 1851.
From Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters:
“AND NOW ABOUT EMMA”
A very mysterious comment is contained in a letter from Joseph:
“And now about Emma. I have only seen her once and she came to me to get your address but I did not feel at liberty to give it to her until I had wrote to you but however she got it from someone. I think it was in this way. I was so pleased to hear from you in the first place and with John’s family coming to see me I let them read one or two of your letters thinking they would like to hear of you and I expect it was Will that noticed your address and gave it to her. She came up to our house one day when I was at work to know if I had heard from you but I had not heard from you since I saw her myself and then she called again after that and my wife showed her your boys’ portraits thinking no harm in doing so.”
At this point Joseph interrupted himself to thank them for sending the portraits. The next sentence is:
“Your son JOHN I have never seen to know him but I hear he is rather wild,” followed by: “EMMA has been living out service but don’t know where she is now.”
Since Joseph had just been talking about the portraits of George’s three sons, one of whom is John Eley, this could be a reference to things George has written in despair about a teen age son–but could Emma be a first wife and John their son? Or could Emma and John both be the children of a first wife?
Elsewhere, Joseph wrote, “AMY ELEY died 14 years ago. (circa 1858) She left a son and a daughter.”
An Amey Eley and a George Housley were married on April 1, 1849 in Duffield which is about as far west of Smalley as Heanor is East. She was the daughter of John, a framework knitter, and Sarah Eley. George’s father is listed as William, a farmer. Amey was described as “of full age” and made her mark on the marriage document.
On the 1851 census, George Housley and his wife Amey Housley are living with her parents in Heanor, John Eley, a framework knitter, and his wife Rebecca. Also on the census are Charles J Housley, born in 1849 in Heanor, and Emma Housley, three months old at the time of the census, born in 1851. George’s birth place is listed as Smalley.
On the 1861 census in Heanor, Rebecca Eley was a widow, her husband John having died in 1852, and she had three grandchildren living with her: Charles J Housley aged 12, Emma Housley, 10, and mysteriously a William Housley aged 5! Amey Housley, the childrens mother, died in 1858.
Back to the mysterious comment in Joseph’s letter. Joseph couldn’t have been speaking of his sister Emma. She was married with children by the time Joseph wrote that letter, so was not just out of service, and Joseph would have known where she was. There is no reason to suppose that the sister Emma was trying unsuccessfully to find George’s addresss: she had been sending him letters for years. Joseph must have been referring to George’s daughter Emma.
As for the child William born five years after George left for USA, despite his name of Housley, which was his mothers married name, we can assume that he was not a Housley ~ not George’s child, anyway. It is not clear who his father was, as Amey did not remarry.
A further excerpt from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters:
Certainly there was some mystery in George’s life. George apparently wanted his whereabouts kept secret. Anne wrote: “People are at a loss to know where you are. The general idea is you are with Charles. We don’t satisfy them.” In that same letter Anne wrote: “I know you could not help thinking of us very often although you neglected writing…and no doubt would feel grieved for the trouble you at times caused (our mother). She freely forgives all.” Near the end of the letter, Anne added: “Mother sends her love to you and hopes you will write and if you want to tell her anything you don’t want all to see you must write it on a piece of loose paper and put it inside the letter.”
In a letter to George from his sister Emma:
Emma wrote in 1855, “We write in love to your wife and yourself and you must write soon and tell us whether there is a little nephew or niece and what you call them.”
In June of 1856, Emma wrote: “We want to see dear Sarah Ann and the dear little boy. We were much pleased with the “bit of news” you sent.” The bit of news was the birth of John Eley Housley, January 11, 1855. Emma concluded her letter “Give our very kindest love to dear sister and dearest Johnnie.”
It would seem that George Housley named his first son with his second wife after his first wife’s father ~ while he was married to both of them.
In 1871 Emma was 20 years old and “in service” living as a lodger in West Hallam, not far from Heanor. As she didn’t appear on a 1881 census, I looked for a marriage, but the only one that seemed right in every other way had Emma Housley’s father registered as Ralph Wibberly!
Who was Ralph Wibberly? A family friend or neighbour, perhaps, someone who had been a father figure? The first Ralph Wibberly I found was a blind wood cutter living in Derby. He had a son also called Ralph Wibberly. I did not think Ralph Wibberly would be a very common name, but I was wrong.
I then found a Ralph Wibberly living in Heanor, with a son also named Ralph Wibberly. A Ralph Wibberly married an Emma Salt from Heanor. In 1874, a 36 year old Ralph Wibberly (born in 1838) was on trial in Derby for inflicting grevious bodily harm on William Fretwell of Heanor. His occupation is “platelayer” (a person employed in laying and maintaining railway track.) The jury found him not guilty.
In 1851 a 23 year old Ralph Wibberly (born in 1828) was a prisoner in Derby Gaol. However, Ralph Wibberly, a 50 year old labourer born in 1801 and his son Ralph Wibberly, aged 13 and born in 1838, are living in Belper on the 1851 census. Perhaps the son was the same Ralph Wibberly who was found not guilty of GBH in 1874. This appears to be the one who married Emma Salt, as his wife on the 1871 census is called Emma, and his occupation is “Midland Company Railway labourer”.
Which was the Ralph Wibberly that Emma chose to name as her father on the marriage register? We may never know, but perhaps we can assume it was Ralph Wibberly born in 1801. It is unlikely to be the blind wood cutter from Derby; more likely to be the local Ralph Wibberly. Maybe his son Ralph, who we know was involved in a fight in 1874, was a friend of Emma’s brother Charles John, who was described by Joseph as a “wild one”, although Ralph was 11 years older than Charles John.
Emma Housley married James Slater on Christmas day in Heanor in 1873. Their first child, a daughter, was called Amy. Emma’s mother was Amy Eley. James Slater was a colliery brakesman (employed to work the steam-engine, or other machinery used in raising the coal from the mine.)
It occurred to me to wonder if Emma Housley (George’s daughter) knew Elizabeth, Mary Anne and Catherine (Samuel’s daughters). They were cousins, lived in the vicinity, and they had in common with each other having been deserted by their fathers who were brothers. Emma was born two years after Catherine. Catherine was living with John Benniston, a framework knitter in Heanor, from 1851 to 1861. Emma was living with her grandfather John Ely, a framework knitter in Heanor. In 1861, George Purdy was also living in Heanor. He was listed on the census as a 13 year old coal miner! George Purdy and Catherine Housley married in 1866 in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire ~ just over the county border. Emma’s first child Amy was born in Heanor, but the next two children, Eliza and Lilly, were born in Eastwood, in 1878 and 1880. Catherine and George’s fifth child, my great grandmother Mary Ann Gilman Purdy, was born in Eastwood in 1880, the same year as Lilly Slater.
By 1881 Emma and James Slater were living in Woodlinkin, Codnor and Loscoe, close to Heanor and Eastwood, on the Derbyshire side of the border. On each census up to 1911 their address on the census is Woodlinkin. Emma and James had nine children: six girls and 3 boys, the last, Alfred Frederick, born in 1901.
Emma and James lived three doors up from the Thorn Tree pub in Woodlinkin, Codnor:
Emma Slater died in 1935 at the age of 84.
LOVING MEMORY OF
SEPT 12th 1935
AGED 84 YEARS
Crosshill Cemetery, Codnor, Amber Valley Borough, Derbyshire, England:
Charles John Housley
1949-February 5, 2022 at 10:50 am #6271
The Housley Letters
FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters:
George apparently asked about old friends and acquaintances and the family did their best to answer although Joseph wrote in 1873: “There is very few of your old cronies that I know of knocking about.”
In Anne’s first letter she wrote about a conversation which Robert had with EMMA LYON before his death and added “It (his death) was a great trouble to Lyons.” In her second letter Anne wrote: “Emma Lyon is to be married September 5. I am going the Friday before if all is well. There is every prospect of her being comfortable. MRS. L. always asks after you.” In 1855 Emma wrote: “Emma Lyon now Mrs. Woolhouse has got a fine boy and a pretty fuss is made with him. They call him ALFRED LYON WOOLHOUSE.”
(Interesting to note that Elizabeth Housley, the eldest daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth, was living with a Lyon family in Derby in 1861, after she left Belper workhouse. The Emma listed on the census in 1861 was 10 years old, and so can not be the Emma Lyon mentioned here, but it’s possible, indeed likely, that Peter Lyon the baker was related to the Lyon’s who were friends of the Housley’s. The mention of a sea captain in the Lyon family begs the question did Elizabeth Housley meet her husband, George William Stafford, a seaman, through some Lyon connections, but to date this remains a mystery.)
A Henrietta Lyon was married in 1860. Her father was Matthew, a Navy Captain. The 1857 Derby Directory listed a Richard Woolhouse, plumber, glazier, and gas fitter on St. Peter’s Street. Robert lived in St. Peter’s parish at the time of his death. An Alfred Lyon, son of Alfred and Jemima Lyon 93 Friargate, Derby was baptised on December 4, 1877. An Allen Hewley Lyon, born February 1, 1879 was baptised June 17 1879.
Anne wrote in August 1854: “KERRY was married three weeks since to ELIZABETH EATON. He has left Smith some time.” Perhaps this was the same person referred to by Joseph: “BILL KERRY, the blacksmith for DANIEL SMITH, is working for John Fletcher lace manufacturer.” According to the 1841 census, Elizabeth age 12, was the oldest daughter of Thomas and Rebecca Eaton. She would certainly have been of marriagable age in 1854. A William Kerry, age 14, was listed as a blacksmith’s apprentice in the 1851 census; but another William Kerry who was 29 in 1851 was already working for Daniel Smith as a blacksmith. REBECCA EATON was listed in the 1851 census as a widow serving as a nurse in the John Housley household. The 1881 census lists the family of William Kerry, blacksmith, as Jane, 19; William 13; Anne, 7; and Joseph, 4. Elizabeth is not mentioned but Bill is not listed as a widower.
Anne also wrote in 1854 that she had not seen or heard anything of DICK HANSON for two years. Joseph wrote that he did not know Old BETTY HANSON’S son. A Richard Hanson, age 24 in 1851, lived with a family named Moore. His occupation was listed as “journeyman knitter.” An Elizabeth Hanson listed as 24 in 1851 could hardly be “Old Betty.” Emma wrote in June 1856 that JOE OLDKNOW age 27 had married Mrs. Gribble’s servant age 17.
Anne wrote that “JOHN SPENCER had not been since father died.” The only John Spencer in Smalley in 1841 was four years old. He would have been 11 at the time of William Housley’s death. Certainly, the two could have been friends, but perhaps young John was named for his grandfather who was a crony of William’s living in a locality not included in the Smalley census.
TAILOR ALLEN had lost his wife and was still living in the old house in 1872. JACK WHITE had died very suddenly, and DR. BODEN had died also. Dr. Boden’s first name was Robert. He was 53 in 1851, and was probably the Robert, son of Richard and Jane, who was christened in Morely in 1797. By 1861, he had married Catherine, a native of Smalley, who was at least 14 years his junior–18 according to the 1871 census!
Among the family’s dearest friends were JOSEPH AND ELIZABETH DAVY, who were married some time after 1841. Mrs. Davy was born in 1812 and her husband in 1805. In 1841, the Kidsley Park farm household included DANIEL SMITH 72, Elizabeth 29 and 5 year old Hannah Smith. In 1851, Mr. Davy’s brother William and 10 year old Emma Davy were visiting from London. Joseph reported the death of both Davy brothers in 1872; Joseph apparently died first.
Mrs. Davy’s father, was a well known Quaker. In 1856, Emma wrote: “Mr. Smith is very hearty and looks much the same.” He died in December 1863 at the age of 94. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers visited Kidsley Park in 1650 and 1654.
Mr. Davy died in 1863, but in 1854 Anne wrote how ill he had been for two years. “For two last winters we never thought he would live. He is now able to go out a little on the pony.” In March 1856, his wife wrote, “My husband is in poor health and fell.” Later in 1856, Emma wrote, “Mr. Davy is living which is a great wonder. Mrs. Davy is very delicate but as good a friend as ever.”
In The Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 15 May 1863:
Whenever the girls sent greetings from Mrs. Davy they used her Quaker speech pattern of “thee and thy.” Mrs. Davy wrote to George on March 21 1856 sending some gifts from his sisters and a portrait of their mother–“Emma is away yet and A is so much worse.” Mrs. Davy concluded: “With best wishes for thy health and prosperity in this world and the next I am thy sincere friend.”
Mrs. Davy later remarried. Her new husband was W.T. BARBER. The 1861 census lists William Barber, 35, Bachelor of Arts, Cambridge, living with his 82 year old widowed mother on an 135 acre farm with three servants. One of these may have been the Ann who, according to Joseph, married Jack Oldknow. By 1871 the farm, now occupied by William, 47 and Elizabeth, 57, had grown to 189 acres. Meanwhile, Kidsley Park Farm became the home of the Housleys’ cousin Selina Carrington and her husband Walker Martin. Both Barbers were still living in 1881.
Mrs. Davy was described in Kerry’s History of Smalley as “an accomplished and exemplary lady.” A piece of her poetry “Farewell to Kidsley Park” was published in the history. It was probably written when Elizabeth moved to the Barber farm. Emma sent one of her poems to George. It was supposed to be about their house. “We have sent you a piece of poetry that Mrs. Davy composed about our ‘Old House.’ I am sure you will like it though you may not understand all the allusions she makes use of as well as we do.”
Kiddsley Park Farm, Smalley, in 1898. (note that the Housley’s lived at Kiddsley Grange Farm, and the Davy’s at neighbouring Kiddsley Park Farm)
Emma was not sure if George wanted to hear the local gossip (“I don’t know whether such little particulars will interest you”), but shared it anyway. In November 1855: “We have let the house to Mr. Gribble. I dare say you know who he married, Matilda Else. They came from Lincoln here in March. Mrs. Gribble gets drunk nearly every day and there are such goings on it is really shameful. So you may be sure we have not very pleasant neighbors but we have very little to do with them.”
John Else and his wife Hannah and their children John and Harriet (who were born in Smalley) lived in Tag Hill in 1851. With them lived a granddaughter Matilda Gribble age 3 who was born in Lincoln. A Matilda, daughter of John and Hannah, was christened in 1815. (A Sam Else died when he fell down the steps of a bar in 1855.)December 13, 2021 at 2:34 pm #6227
The Scottish Connection
My grandfather always used to say we had some Scottish blood because his “mother was a Purdy”, and that they were from the low counties of Scotland near to the English border.
My mother had a Scottish hat in among the boxes of souvenirs and old photographs. In one of her recent house moves, she finally threw it away, not knowing why we had it or where it came from, and of course has since regretted it! It probably came from one of her aunts, either Phyllis or Dorothy. Neither of them had children, and they both died in 1983. My grandfather was executor of the estate in both cases, and it’s assumed that the portraits, the many photographs, the booklet on Primitive Methodists, and the Scottish hat, all relating to his mother’s side of the family, came into his possession then. His sister Phyllis never married and was living in her parents home until she died, and is the likeliest candidate for the keeper of the family souvenirs.
Catherine Housley married George Purdy, and his father was Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist preacher. William Purdy was the father of Francis.
Record searches find William Purdy was born on 16 July 1767 in Carluke, Lanarkshire, near Glasgow in Scotland. He worked for James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, and moved to Derbyshire for the purpose of installing steam driven pumps to remove the water from the collieries in the area.
Another descendant of Francis Purdy found the following in a book in a library in Eastwood:
William married a local girl, Ruth Clarke, in Duffield in Derbyshire in 1786. William and Ruth had nine children, and the seventh was Francis who was born at West Hallam in 1795.
Perhaps the Scottish hat came from William Purdy, but there is another story of Scottish connections in Smalley: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Although the Purdy’s were not from Smalley, Catherine Housley was.
From an article on the Heanor and District Local History Society website:
The Jacobites in Smalley
Few people would readily associate the village of Smalley, situated about two miles west of Heanor, with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 – but there is a clear link.
During the winter of 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, the “Bonnie Prince” or “The Young Pretender”, marched south from Scotland. His troops reached Derby on 4 December, and looted the town, staying for two days before they commenced a fateful retreat as the Duke of Cumberland’s army approached.
While staying in Derby, or during the retreat, some of the Jacobites are said to have visited some of the nearby villages, including Smalley.
A history of the local aspects of this escapade was written in 1933 by L. Eardley-Simpson, entitled “Derby and the ‘45,” from which the following is an extract:
“The presence of a party at Smalley is attested by several local traditions and relics. Not long ago there were people living who remember to have seen at least a dozen old pikes in a room adjoining the stables at Smalley Hall, and these were stated to have been left by a party of Highlanders who came to exchange their ponies for horses belonging to the then owner, Mrs Richardson; in 1907, one of these pikes still remained. Another resident of Smalley had a claymore which was alleged to have been found on Drumhill, Breadsall Moor, while the writer of the History of Smalley himself (Reverend C. Kerry) had a magnificent Andrew Ferrara, with a guard of finely wrought iron, engraved with two heads in Tudor helmets, of the same style, he states, as the one left at Wingfield Manor, though why the outlying bands of Army should have gone so far afield, he omits to mention. Smalley is also mentioned in another strange story as to the origin of the family of Woolley of Collingham who attained more wealth and a better position in the world than some of their relatives. The story is to the effect that when the Scots who had visited Mrs Richardson’s stables were returning to Derby, they fell in with one Woolley of Smalley, a coal carrier, and impressed him with horse and cart for the conveyance of certain heavy baggage. On the retreat, the party with Woolley was surprised by some of the Elector’s troopers (the Royal army) who pursued the Scots, leaving Woolley to shift for himself. This he did, and, his suspicion that the baggage he was carrying was part of the Prince’s treasure turning out to be correct, he retired to Collingham, and spent the rest of his life there in the enjoyment of his luckily acquired gains. Another story of a similar sort was designed to explain the rise of the well-known Derbyshire family of Cox of Brailsford, but the dates by no means agree with the family pedigree, and in any event the suggestion – for it is little more – is entirely at variance with the views as to the rights of the Royal House of Stuart which were expressed by certain members of the Cox family who were alive not many years ago.”
A letter from Charles Kerry, dated 30 July 1903, narrates another strange twist to the tale. When the Highlanders turned up in Smalley, a large crowd, mainly women, gathered. “On a command in Gaelic, the regiment stooped, and throwing their kilts over their backs revealed to the astonished ladies and all what modesty is careful to conceal. Father, who told me, said they were not any more troubled with crowds of women.”
Folklore or fact? We are unlikely to know, but the Scottish artefacts in the Smalley area certainly suggest that some of the story is based on fact.
We are unlikely to know where that Scottish hat came from, but we did find the Scottish connection. William Purdy’s mother was Grizel Gibson, and her mother was Grizel Murray, both of Lanarkshire in Scotland. The name Grizel is a Scottish form of the name Griselda, and means “grey battle maiden”. But with the exception of the name Murray, The Purdy and Gibson names are not traditionally Scottish, so there is not much of a Scottish connection after all. But the mystery of the Scottish hat remains unsolved.December 13, 2021 at 12:17 pm #6224
The Woman in the Portrait: Catherine Housley’s Mother
“The One I Ruined”
I was living in England at the time of my great aunts deaths in 1983, both Dorothy Tooby and Phyllis Marshall, when this portrait came to be in my possession via their brother, my grandfather George Marshall. There was some damage on the mouth. I mentioned it at work and my boss said he had a friend who could fix it, but when I eventually got it back it was much worse. Since then, this portrait has been known as “the one I ruined”.
This picture remains a mystery, even though we know her name now. She appears to be in mourning. She doesn’t appear to be too poor, or unhealthy. And yet Elizabeth died at just thirty years of age of TB and her children were in the workhouse a year later.
On closer inspection, the portrait could be a photograph that has been painted over, but it’s considerably larger than any of the usual photographs of the time. Is there a possibility that the picture was made later, after her death, in memory of her? This seems to be the likeliest explanation.
They found me and locked me up again but I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later. I don’t mind though, I can always plot an escape when I’m ready but the fact is, I was tired after awhile. I needed a rest and so here I am. The weather’s awful so I may as well rest up here for a bit longer. They gave me a shot, too, so I don’t have to wear a mask anymore. Unless I want to wear it as a disguise of course, so I’ll keep a couple for when I escape again.
They gave me a computer to keep me amused and showed me how to do the daftest things I’d never want to do and I thought, what a load of rubbish, just give me a good book, but then this charming little angel of a helper appeared as if by magic and showed me how to do a family tree on this machine. Well! I had no idea such pursuits could be so engrossing, it’s like being the heroine in a detective novel, like writing your own book in a way.
I got off on a sidetrack with the search for one woman in particular and got I tell you I got so sucked inside the story I spent a fortnight in a small village in the north midlands two centuries ago that I had to shake me head to get back to the present for the necessary daily functions. I feel like I could write a book about that fortnight. Two hundred years explored in a fortnight in the search for CH’s mother.
I could write a book on the maternal line and how patriarchy has failed us in the search for our ancestry and blood lines. The changing names, the census status, lack of individual occupation but a mother knows for sure who her children are. And yet we follow paternal lines because the names are easier, but mothers know for sure which child is theirs whereas men can not be as sure as that. Barking up the wrong tree is easy done.
I can’t start writing any of these books at the moment because I’m still trying to find out who won the SK&JH vs ALL the rest of the H family court case in 1873. It seems the youngest son (who was an overseer with questionable accounts) was left out of the will. The executor of the will was his co plaintiff in the court case, a neighbouring land owner, and the whole rest of the family were the defendants. It’s gripping, there are so many twists and turns. This might give us a clue why CH grew up in the B’s house instead of her own. Why did CH’s mothers keep the boys and send two girls to live with another family? How did we end up with the oil painting of CH’s mother? It’s a mystery and I’m having a whale of a time.
Another good thing about my little adventure and then this new hobby is how, as you may have noticed, I’m not half as daft as I was when I was withering away in that place with nothing to do. I mean I know I’m withering away and not going anywhere again now, but on the other hand I’ve just had a fortnights holiday in the nineteenth century, which is more than many can say, even if they’ve been allowed out.
Clara wiggled her wooly fair isle toes in front of the log fire. She was glad she’d brought her thick socks ~ the temperature had dropped and snow was forecast. Good job we got that box out before the ground froze, she said to her grandfather. He made an indecipherable harumphing noise by way of reply and asked her if she’d found out anything yet about the inscriptions.
“No,” Clara sighed, “Not a thing. I’ll probably find it when I stop looking.”
Bob raised an eyebrow and said nothing. She’d always had a funny way of looking at things. Years ago he’d come to the conclusion that he’d never really fathom how her mind worked, and he’d accepted it. Now, though, he felt a little uneasy.
“Oh look, Grandpa! How fitting! It’s the daily random quote from The Daily Wail. Listen to this: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift; that’s why it’s called The Present.” What a perfect sync!”
“Oh aye, it’s a grand sink, glad you like it! It was about time I had a new one. It was a wrench to part with the old one, after seeing your grandma standing over it for all those years, but it was half price in the sale, and I thought, why not Bob, be a devil. One last new sink before I kick the bucket. I was fed up with that bucket under the old sink, I can tell you!”
Clara blinked, and then smiled at the old man, leaning over to squeeze his arm. “It’s a great sink, Grandpa.”FloveParticipant
Aunt April blew her nose loudly into a tissue.
“The real Vince has a tattoo of a bell-bird on his right buttock.”
“I had my suspicions … so I had to see for myself. On pretext of being a nurse, I managed to inveigle myself into the institution where he is supposedly being kept to look at his derriere. There are other small differences too, but that clinched it for me.”
Star nodded. “I see, well done! So you and Vincent French were having an …?”
“A liaison of rather a passionate nature. Yes.”
“And the wardrobe? The notes?”
“I had the wardrobe sent up.”
Tara looked puzzled. “But … what on earth for?”
“Oh, the wardrobe is a red herring. I really just wanted to get rid of it and rather than send it to charity thought you girls might make use of it.”
April screwed up her face and giggled nervously. “Well, you are a struggling start-up business and there were no social media reviews to go by … so it was a test really. To see if you were good enough to take on the case.”
Tara glowered at her. “And?”
“You passed! Congratulations! As Rosamund may have told you, I am filthy rich and money is no object. We must get to the bottom of this mystery.”
“Bottom,” said Rosamund and sniggered.
Board 5, Story 1
Before the quizzical look of April, she ventured “Thought I’d forgotten all about that dolls mystery on that weirdo website, have you?”
April yawned. “Well, beats the daily boredom for sure. Wait,” she added with a second thought “how are you sure the carotene virus hasn’t travelled the Sarcastic Sea?”
“Ella Marie was formal about it, her voodoo isn’t that out of touch, you know.” She mouthed detaching all the syllables “Nothing harmful ever ventured past the Bermuda Triangle.” June was beaming. Then, she thought again. “Unless she said the contrary, you silly tart, you’re making me doubt now. No matter, it’ll just be a quick touch and go.”
“Touch and go, it is then.” pouted April not all too sure where that next chapter was heading to.
Voice town welcome virus suddenly
Dusty complete plague flew trail
Fell party change attention crying
Walk move drama married experiment
Arthur baby showed deal stress
Rose legs aren luckily doctor
Resumed worn shaman spotted focused
Throwing cool arona giant secretive
Considering cave mangled pearl offer
The Doctor was at times confused about his own plan. Well, most of the time if felt clear and perfectly diabolical, and he could easily understand why at times lesser minds could get confused about the twists and turns —and to those lesser minds, it would usually suffice to say “don’t worry, it’s all part of the Plan.” It was difficult to properly phrase the sentence so that the Plan doesn’t get too easily confused with any plan. But he was expert in conveying that it wasn’t a mere plan.
After having tried and used old or elaborate devices beyond known technology like alleged alien crystal skulls to outcomes of various satisfaction in the past, he’d realized that those so called AI technologies were a silent gangrene for the mind. By becoming more tech-savvy, people lost their savoir and their savour by relying too much on external support. People were becoming malleable, predictable, and replaceable.
His bloody assistant was a sad testament to the downward evolution humanity was rushing towards. It was a strange and sad irony, that by enhancing their ineptitude, he was actually working to the perfection of the human race.
“Ah yes! Evolution!” That was his legacy, and he was of course profoundly misunderstood.
This whole sad business with the chase after the dolls and the keys and the remote control of magpies, and the psychic blasts, beauty treatments and Barbara enhancements, all that made sense once you showed it in the proper light. These were the catalyst to the real and interesting events. The ones which mattered.
It all started after the Army got him out of his prison rot in exchange for his work on some special science experiments. Top-secret, evidently. His handler, a certain nobody by the name of Fergus, was assigning him the experiments.
While he was dutifully working on his assigned projects, he quickly realized that he was given vast funding which would have taken him more time to gather on his own, so he did his part, all while experimenting and honing his skills. Clearly, the Army lacked any vision beyond the confines of “find a better way to torture, maim or kill mass amount of individuals.” Primates. Luckily, their experiments with remote control, brainwashing, and body modelage were less gory than the average science experiments, and far more into his own area of expertise.
It took him 5 years to escape. This plan (a smaller plan, part of the Plan which had not yet fully hatched at the time) — this plan for an escape started to form when Fergus let slip important bits of information, which seemed insignificant taken in isolation, but meant a whole new area of discoveries when put together by a brilliant mind like his own.
Fergus started to gloat about securing some secrets as a blackmail or fail-safe policy in case the Army’s “hired help” misbehaved. This part was known for a long time, it was what was called our ‘retirement plan’ in the contract we signed. What was more peculiar was when he started to let details slip about the method. All thanks to little doses of hypnotic potion in spiked shared drinks, courtesy of the Doctor. It seemed clear that this elaborate scheming of keys and dolls was child’s play and nothing particularly genius, however what was more interesting was when Fergus started to realize that the dolls his niece had made somehow matched certain persons of interest without her conscious knowing. There was a deeper mystery to be cracked, and even Fergus wondered if the Army had not tempered with his family genetics to induce certain characteristics or something of the like. Well, all ramblings of a simpleton you would say, but maybe it wasn’t.
After all these searches to externalize certain abilities of the mind, the Doctor was starting to get fascinated by people exhibiting these qualities naturally.
The appearance of this strange red crystal seems to confirm these doubts. There are untapped forces at play, and maybe doors that could be opened.
Barbara suddenly irrupted into the room “Our guests are coming, just received a text!”
The Doctor sighed thinking some doors should remain closed.
The sun was high in the sky and birds were chirping in the trees by the pool. Roberto was facing a conundrum as the biseasonal pool had started acting strangely. Well even more strangely than one part being frozen in winter and one part stuck in the dog days of who knew what year.
It had already been hard to manage an even level between the iced layer, which tended to get brittle near the seasonal line, and the warm waters evaporating too quickly. When it first happened the water pump had been stuck in winter and they had to break some ice to move it to the summer part. Everything had been fine until the last Roman party and they could enjoy ice skating and warm spring like pool in any season. Roberto especially liked the winter season when the steam would create a nice and cozy mist, conducive to some intimate bathing together.
Now, after that party, something weird…er was happening. The line between winter and summer had started to shift around the center of the pool. -ish. And now the pump was stuck in ice again and the summer pool was being evaporated too quickly. Roberto had to save two mandarin ducks who had their legs caught in by the ice while bathing in the warm pool. Breaking the ice layer without hurting the tiny bird legs had been quite a challenge, but Roberto was proud to say that they were now safe and sound. One of the unforeseen consequences was that they had been following him everywhere ever since and he had to install two boxes for them to sleep near his bed.
Roberto and the ducks were looking at the summer half-pool. It was half empty, even if Ma’am Liz would certainly entertain the idea that it was half full, it was certainly not going stay that way very long if nothing was done.
What had happened was some mystery and Roberto was not very good at solving mysteries. He wished that that inspector with the melon hat had not left in such a hurry during the party, he could have asked him some advice.
“You want some French pastries?” It was the new French maid, Mirabelle. Roberto had been calling her Marbella and she seemed to like it. She held a silver plate of what she called creamy nuns and chocolate eclairs.
“Thanks,” he said.
Liz couldn’t believe her ears; at first she’d ignored the harbingers, the unattended dust trails, and of course, all the crumbs on the table piling up day after day.
He paused to leave room for Liz’ to answer, not that she ever needed any to start with. But she was profoundly shocked at the betrayal.
“I don’t believe you gave her paid leaves, have you; one of your silly ideas?”
Godfrey thought for a moment, “Now you mention it, I don’t believe she had any, even after all this time, had she?”
“Don’t be daft, Godfrey, she wouldn’t want any; of course, there’s a reason I chose her over the other very qualified staff lining up to work here.”
“Not even a trace, her personal belonging are gone; not even a message left behind. A mystery fit for one of your novels, eh.”
POP-IN THREAD (Maeve, Lucinda, Shawn-Paul, Jerk, [Granola])
Granola is popping in and out of the stories, exploring interacting more physically with her friends through Tiku, a bush lady focus of hers.
Luckily (not so coincidentally) Maeve and Shawn-Paul were given coupons to travel from their rural Canada town to the middle of Australia. Maeve is suspicious of being followed by a strange man, and tags along with Shawn-Paul to keep a cover of a young couple. Maeve is trying to find the key to the doll that she made in her secret mission for Uncle Fergus, which has suddenly reappeared at her friend Lucinda’s place. She’ll probably is going to have to check on the other dolls that she made as well.
Jerk continues to administrate some forum where among other things, special dolls are found and exchanged, and he moderates some strange messages.
Lucinda is enjoying Fabio’s company, Maeve’s dog, that she has in her care while Maeve is travelling.
FLYING FISH INN THREAD (Mater/Finly, Idle/Coriander/Clove, Devan, Prune, [Tiku])
The mysteries of the Flying Fish Inn seem to unravel slowly, like Idle’s wits.
Long time family member are being drawn inexplicably, such as Prune and brother Devan. The local bush lady Tiku is helping Finly with the catering, although Finly would rather do everything by herself. The totemic Fish was revealed to be a talisman placed here against bad luck – “for all the good it did” (Mater).
Bert, thought to be an old flame of Mater, who’s acted for the longest time as gardener, handyman and the likes, is revealed to be the father of Prune, Devan, Coriander and Clove’s mother. Mater knew of course and kept him around. He was trained in codes during his time with the military, and has a stash of potentially dangerous books. He may be the key to the mystery of the underground tunnels leading to the mines, and hidden chests of gold. Devan is onto a mystery that a guy on a motorbike (thought to be Uncle Fergus of Maeve’s story) told him about.
DOLINE THREAD (Arona, Sanso/Lottie, Ugo, Albie)
Mandrake & Albie after a trip in the bayou, and looking for the dragon Leormn’s pearls and the sabulmantium, have finally found Arona after they have emerged from the interdimentional water network from the Doline, to the coast of Australia in our reality, where cats don’t usually talk.
Albie is expecting a quest, while the others are just following Arona’s lead, as she is in possession of a mysterious key with 3 words engraved.
After some traveling in hot air balloon, and with a local jeep, they have arrived at a local Inn in the bush, with a rather peculiar family of owners, and quite colorful roster of guests. That’s not even counting the all-you-can-eat lizard meat buffet. What joy.
NEWSREEL THREAD (Ms Bossy, Hilda/Connie, Sophie, Ricardo)
Ms Bossy is looking to uncover the Doctor’s surely nefarious plans while her newspaper business isn’t doing so well. She’s got some help from Ricardo the intern. They have found out that the elderly temp worker who’s fascinated by the future, Sophie (aka Sweet Sophie) had been the first subject of the Doctor’s experiments. Sophie has been trying to uncover clues in the dreams, but it’s just likely she is still a sleeper agent of the Doctor.
Despite all common sense and SMS threats, Hilda & Connie have gone in Australia to chase a trail (from a flimsy tip-off from Superjerk that may have gone to Lucinda to her friend journalist). They are in touch with Lucinda, and post their updates on social media, flirting with the risk of being uncovered and having trouble come at their door.
Sha, Glo and Mavis are considering reaching out for a vacation of the nursing home to get new free beauty treatments.
In his secret lair, the Doctor is reviving his team of brazen teafing operatives: the magpies.
LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)
Not much happened as usual, mostly an entertaining night with Inspector Melon who is quizzing Liz’ about her last novel about mysterious messages hidden in dolls with secret keys, which may be her best novel yet…
DRAGON 💚 WOOD THREAD (Glynnis, Eleri, Fox/Gorrash, Rukshan)
Before Rukshan goes to the underworld land of Giants, he’s going to the cottage to gather some of his team of friends, Fox, Ollie etc. Glynis is taking care of Tak during Margoritt’s winter time in the city. Margoritt’s sister, Muriel is an uninvited and unpleasant guest at the cottage.
Tak is making friends with a young girl who may have special powers (Nesy).
The biggest mystery now is… is the loo going to get fixed in time?
During summer, activity was slow at the mall in Kelowna, BC, so Jerk had a little more time to check on his other pastimes. Interestingly there seemed to be a lot of unusual activity on the findmydolls group.
He was also tinkering with a home brewed AI, and launched the program.
“Trancie are you awake?”
“Did I fall asleep?” the AI answered back.
“For a little while, yes. Trancie, analyse logs from findmystuff website, check group findmydolls.”
“A moment. A moment. A moment. Analysis complete. Activity spike 57.21% increase.”
This was quite unusual, but he wasn’t sure were to look. He looked at his administrator box, in case another message had required moderation. The filters triggers were not too sensitive, so there wasn’t a lot of messages.
One in particular had triggered the system.
“Trancie, read message in moderation queue #5363.”
“You need to come for information. Am sending you tickets and instructions for hotspot, so it won’t cost you a bomb. hashtag flagged for terror threat. D for Destroy, A for Approve.”
That was obviously amateur work, Jerk thought. Criminals nowadays were much more careful.
Another thought crossed his mind.
“Trancie, plot past month activity by geolocation on mapearth.com”
It took a few minutes to refine the query so he could check the heatmap, and remove the background noise.
The last messages all seemed to concentrate in the middle of nowhere in Australia.
“How odd. So glad I’m not an investigative journalist, that place must be crawling with nasty things, scaly and poisonous and downright deadly.”
Interestingly, a second point on the map was close to Kelowna. Actually, although it could just be narrowed down to a 5 kilometer radius, it looked ominously close to where he lived.
Shivers started to run down his spine. Maybe he’d just stumbled onto a dangerous conspiracy. Dolls could be a code word for horrible things, possibly even human trafficking.
He closed the laptop suddenly, his mind racing. What if they were onto him? He struggled for a moment with the urge to destroy his laptop and burn down the place and disappear off the grid, but he remembered he needed to breathe, so his rational mind could be oxygenated and think properly.
“I may be a tad on the paranoid side.”
But it ain’t paranoia, if they are trying to get you.
He looked around. He was already as close as possible to off-the-grid without vanishing out of society. The place was deserted, and only a janitor was roaming the place mindlessly on his cleaning car. There was zero chance he could be a target.
“Oh shut up!” he exclaimed out loud.
He was intrigued by the mystery, but for now, he wanted to let it play out. He needed more data points to have Trancie plot a heuristic pattern. Well, to make sense of it, while he was working on her personality.
“It is a rather peculiar mystery indeed, don’t you think.” Liz leaned suggestively towards the Inspector. He had insisted to keep his trench-coat on, which for some reason she was finding incredibly alluring. It reminded her of all the fun she had in the past, playing her favourite character, Becky in tarty nun’s outfit. She made a mental note for the next costumed party.
“Some peanuts, Inspector?”
“Good gracious, no. I’m terribly allergic to nuts, but I’m partial to your delicious canapés.”
After a mouthful of tarragon cod pâté with capers, Walter leaned back and a little further from Liz and said “Mmm, delicious. Well, it is indeed quite a good mystery you’ve chosen to write about. All these keys, I love the idea. It sounds out of a spy novel, but I do wonder what are the connections, you see, in most crimes I’ve solved in the past,” he cleared his throat, taking the glass of red wine Finnley had just brought “there is always a good chance the culprit is closer than you know. The skill is always to find the hidden connection.”
“Aaah. I’m so glad you’re saying that Walter, I was telling them the same no later than this morning!”
She took a random ramekin from the coffee table “some peanuts?”.
- (Lucinda describes a) “strange gaunt doll with the grey dreadlocks and patchwork dress”
- Its description matches Dido “Aunt Idle” of the Flying Fish Inn
- called “Ima” by the Maker
- Made in Canada, sent to Australia, got separated from its key at an airport, found its way to a market in Canada where Lucinda acquired it.
- Currently with Arona, in Australia
What it does/open
- Still a mystery as of now
Walter Melon knew there was something fishy about this invitation. Or maybe that was only the scent of homemade manure lingering on the Bristol board.
In his line of work, you couldn’t be careful enough. And his last visit to the Liz Manor had had its fair share of fishiness, stockings notwithstanding.
The invitation and the signature were obviously fake, even if the counterfeiter had taken some pain at imitating the shaky signature of the Dame of the place. But the lack of typos were a dead give-away.
I need your help to solve a tantalizing mystery in my latest novel, please come to my party Inspector. You’ll only need wear a towel, and bring your sharpest tools. I mean, your brains.
Sincerely yours, Elizabeth Mary Tattler
At that moment the trap in the ceiling opened revealing the dark attic.
“Is that smoke coming from the attic?” asked Godfrey, suddenly worried someone had started a fire up there.
“It’s looking more like mist,” said Liz who had suddenly forgotten about her unborn babies. “You know, in those mystery novels they add some when they want to create an atmosphere of suspens.”
Godfrey looked doubtful as the mist was continuing to pour down from the attic in slow motion, like the harbinger of a darker secret. A loud noise made them jump. A metallic ladder, apparently attached on the attic’s floor which was the corridor’s ceiling, unfolded quickly. It stopped just before hitting the floor.
They all looked at each others, waiting for someone to say something. Anything.
Liz looked a bit uncomfortable.
“I’m not sure,” she said in a hum. “There might be some dark secrets I don’t want to reveal to outsiders.”
“Are you coming or what?” Said a voice coming from the attic.
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