The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Dracula Solution

In 1453, the forces of Mehmed II, the seventh sultan (1) of the Ottoman Empire, besieged the city of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire.   The siege started on the sixth of April, and ended a little under two months later on the twenty-ninth of May.   It ended in total victory for Mehmed II and the fall of the Byzantine Empire, whose last emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos died in the field of battle defending Eastern Christianity and his city, throne, and empire.   This was the culmination of centuries worth of assault by Islamic forces on Eastern Christendom that had started before the Turks had become the dominant power in the Islamic world and before Eastern and Western Christianity had undergone a formal ecclesiastical separation to match the earlier civil separation of the Roman Empire, an assault which had provoked the response of the Crusades only decades after the aforementioned ecclesiastical separation.   After the walls that had long protected the Byzantine capital fell to Mehmed’s artillery, the triumphant sultan renamed the city, which had been Constantinople since Constantine the Great had relocated the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium over a millennium earlier, Istanbul, made it the capital of his own empire, and declared himself the new Caesar.   The Ottomans then set their sights on the conquest of Western Christendom, launching a campaign that would eventually bring them to the gates of the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in 1683, where they would be decisively defeated by the allied forces of Emperor Leopold I and Polish King Jan III Sobieski.  


That, however, was two hundred and thirty years after Mehmed’s victory.    Immediately after the Fall of Constantinople, the conquering sultan went on to attack other Christian territories, winning a number of significant victories in the Balkans.   Then, less than a decade after the defeat of the Byzantine Empire, he turned his attention to Wallachia, in what is now Romania.   Wallachia was situated between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary and both had long laid claim to it as a vassal state.   In the fifteenth century, these larger powers were constantly struggling against each other to put one of their own puppets on the Wallachian throne, and against a growing determination on the part of the Wallachian royalty to resist submission to either.   It was this sort of resistance on the part of the Wallachian voivode (prince/warlord) that drew Mehmed’s attention.   He had sent emissaries to Wallachia to receive tribute from the Romanian prince, but they were killed and the sultan received instead an invasion of his own territory, in which villages were laid waste and thousands killed.   Raising a tremendous army, in 1462 he marched into Wallachia, convinced that victory was assured him.   After crossing the Danube, his camp was attacked but the Romanians failed to capture him.    Shortly thereafter he made it to the Wallachian capital of Târgoviște, where he met with a bone-chilling, blood-curdling spectacle.    The city was deserted, but surrounding it, was a gigantic field containing large wooden stakes or pikes.   Impaled upon those stakes were about twenty thousand Turks, men, women and children, whom the Wallachian prince had captured.   Both impressed and horrified, Mehmed retreated.

The name of the voivode who struck such awe in the heart of the Turkish sultan is one that I am sure you are all familiar with.   His name was Dracula.  


The image that that name has probably summoned up is one of a clean-shaven, pale man in a tuxedo with a big cape, his black hair slicked back from his widow’s peak and plastered to his head with what looks to be an entire jar of pomade, who sleeps in a coffin all day, waking at night to speak in a bad imitation of an Eastern European accent while he bites beautiful young ladies in the neck and drinks their blood.


The above image comes, of course, from the Hollywood versions of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula.   Bram Stoker, who was born and raised in Dublin, lived most of his life in London, where he managed the Lyceum Theatre, owned by his friend, the actor Sir Henry Irving, and wrote novels on the side.  Dracula was his fifth published novel.   Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which had appeared eight decades earlier, it is written in epistolary format, that is to say, as a collection of letters, journal entries, and diary clippings, rather than from the point of view of a single narrator.   In the novel, Dracula is a Transylvanian Count who moves to London, where he stalks a young lady named Lucy, the best friend of the fiancée of an English lawyer he had employed, draining her of most of her blood and putting her under a kind of mind control.   Her friends, concerned about what is happening to her, put her in the hands of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, a physician who, conveniently enough, has the hobby of vampirology.   When Lucy dies and becomes a vampire, Van Helsing and the others put an end to her undead existence and then go in hunt of Count Dracula.   They track him down as he is nearing his castle in Transylvania in his last remaining coffin – he had brought a lot of backups which the vampire hunters had destroyed – and kill him.


Stoker’s having given his vampire the name of the fifteenth century historical figure was presumably a result of his having relied heavily upon Romanian folklore for his research into the vampire legend prior to writing his novel (vampire legends occur in folklore around the world, but, due mostly to Stoker’s book, the vampires that appear in twentieth century film and literature, most closely resemble those of Eastern European folklore).   Within the novel, the historical figure is alluded to on a couple of occasions.   Count Dracula himself, when he is trying to pass himself off as a human aristocrat, speaks of the historical Dracula as an ancestor.   Dr. Van Helsing, however, later expresses the opinion that the count is none other than the undead corpse of the voivode himself.


Vlad III of Wallachia, of course, had a reputation for bloodthirstiness long before Stoker wrote his novel.   One can hardly do such things as he did at Târgoviște, as described a few paragraphs back, without gaining such a reputation.   Among his Hungarian and Saxon enemies, this reputation even took on aspects more closely resembling the kind of bloodthirstiness that appears in Stoker’s novel.    They spread the report that Vlad would set up his table in the midst of his impaled enemies, dipping his bread in their blood.    Since this comes from his enemies, it is probably wisest to take it with a grain of salt.   In his own Romania, however, where he is celebrated as a national hero, he is commonly referred to as Vlad Tepes (pronounced ze-pesh).   Although this designation draws attention to the rather sadistic way in which he dealt with his foes – Tepes translates into English as “The Impaler” – it does not detract from his domestic heroic image but rather enhances it.   He was the man who did what had to be done to prevent the barbarian hordes that had sacked the capital of Eastern Christianity from overrunning his country too.


Vlad III inherited his fight against the Ottoman Turks.   His father, Vlad II, was given the name Dracul when he joined the Order of the Dragon in 1431, which is why his descendants bore the patronym Dracula, a diminutive form meaning “son of Dracul.”   The Order of the Dragon was a knightly fraternity, founded by Sigismund of Luxemburg, King of Hungary in 1408, and modelled on the Order of St. George of the previous century.   Its members were sworn to protect Christianity and Christendom, against the Ottoman Turks.   Vlad Dracul was an illegitimate son of Mircea the Elder, who was raised in Sigismund’s court.   Upon Mircea’s death, Sigismund had backed Dracul’s claim to his father’s throne, whereas the Ottomans had supported the claim of his half-brother Alexander.   It was only after Alexander died that Dracul was able to assume the throne.   In the meantime he had moved to Transylvania, where Vlad III, his second son, was born.


When Vlad Dracul assumed the throne of Wallachia he had a strong backer in Sigismund, who had become the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire three years previously.   Sigismund died the following year, however, and the throne of Hungary was filled by Albert the Magnificent, who, not being emperor, was much weaker than this predecessor, causing Dracul to seek terms of peace with the Ottomans.   When, a couple of years later, Albert himself died, the much stronger Wladyslaw III, King of Poland took his place.   Wladyslaw, along with John Hunyadi, the Transylvanian voivode, pressed Dracul back into the fight against the Turks.   This led to his capture by the Turks, however, who released him, only upon his agreeing to a long list of conditions, the security of which they ensured by taking Dracul’s younger sons, Vlad III and Radu, as hostages.   The result of this period of captivity in the sultan’s court was that Vlad became a more zealous foe of the Turks than his father had ever been, while Radu became their loyal supporter, fighting under Mehmed at Constantinople.   The consequence of this was that when Vlad Dracula claimed his father’s throne – his elder brother Mircea II had been captured and tortured to death by the boyars (patricians) of his capital city shortly before their father was killed - and turned against the Turkish sultan, Mehmed had a replacement at hand in Radu.   Indeed, when the sultan retreated from Târgovișt, Radu remained to fight his brother and, garnering support among the Wallachian aristocracy and middle class, replaced Vlad III when the latter turned to the Hungarians for assistance and was imprisoned.    Fourteen years later, Vlad, with the support of the same Hungarians, briefly returned to the throne before dying fighting the Turks. (2)


Vlad Dracula was a severe and cruel man even by the standards of his own day.   It was not the incident at Târgoviște alone that earned him the cognomen Tepes.   He was, however, in one sense, a fairly just ruler.   That is to say, if the quick and efficient dispensation of punishment to the guilty is all that you are looking for by way of justice.   By Singapore’s present standards, he might even be considered an exemplary ruler.  For those of us in the Commonwealth realms, (3) whose traditional Common Law understanding of justice places a premium on such concepts as the presumption of innocence, trial by jury, letting the punishment fit the crime, etc., he is much further removed from our idea of a model governor.     We ought, however, to refrain from judging him by the standards of our own tradition, especially without considering the historical context in which he committed his famous/infamous deeds.   A good understanding of the history of the attempted Islamic conquest of Christendom, the fifteenth century collapse of the Byzantine Empire under the weight of that onslaught, and the inroads the Turks were making into the Balkans in the immediate aftermath of that collapse is essential to viewing Dracula in his proper context, and goes a long way towards helping us understand why he is considered a hero in his own national tradition.


Dracula and his era hardly held a monopoly on cruelty.   Progressives of our own day, who are seemingly incapable of thinking outside of the box of liberalism, universal human rights and democracy, condemn the inhumanity of the kind of cruelty that involves physical torture except when it is a voluntary alternative lifestyle choice such as in the erotic novels of E. L. James.   They are blind, however, to the cruelty they themselves often support in the name of their humanitarian, do-gooder, causes.


Consider the example of the measures taken in response to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus this year.   After initially pooh-poohing the virus, and calling anybody who suggested a temporary ban on travel in and out of China to attempt to contain the outbreak within that country a “racist”, once it was clearly too late do any such thing and the virus was already speeding around the world, they did a complete turnabout and began supporting the most oppressive of measures aimed at stopping the virus.   When the WHO first declared a pandemic it was still winter in this part of this world, but that did not prevent our governments from closing all public facilities and restaurant dining rooms and telling everybody to “stay home”, leaving the thousands of people with no home to stay at, literally out in the cold.   That was an act of cruelty.   Then, because very elderly people with multiple health problems are the most at risk from the virus, their loved ones were prohibited from visiting them in long-term care facilities, condemning them, in the name of keeping them “safe”, to months of loneliness and despair, which in the end, probably contributed more to the death toll in such facilities this year than the virus itself.  Another act of insanely inhumane cruelty.   If being very cruel to the destitute and homeless on the one hand and the elderly on the other were not bad enough, our governments, to pay for the insane and unprecedented universal quarantine they imposed upon us all, have saddled future generations for centuries to come with the burden of paying off the debt they have racked up.    Christians, Jews, Muslims, and, indeed, people of all religions, have been denied the spiritual solace and comfort of their faith traditions in a time when they have an especially great need for it, this having been what has gotten people through pandemics in the past.  Then, of course, there is the cruelty of the restrictions placed upon small business owners, that have been driving them into bankruptcy, even while the despicable, vile, low-life, scum who run the big technology and pharmaceutical companies have been raking in the billions off of this scam of a pandemic.   Finally, there is the cruelty of telling people that they are not allowed to work, buy food and other necessities, or, basically, live, unless they wear a stupid, ugly, totem, over their noses and mouths, that has no real protective value whatsoever despite all the horse manure being spread about “the science” behind them, which makes breathing and communicating both more difficult and more uncomfortable, and which, since these things collect and breed germs the way they are being used, which is not in conformity with the safety guidelines for the use of higher grade masks in hospitals, will have the necessary effect of making people more sick rather than less.


All of the bleeding heart, world-and-humanity-loving, liberal, progressive types, who are the first to condemn the cruelty of torture and the death penalty, do not seem to have any problem with the kind of cruelty outlined in the previous paragraph, for they have been cheering all of these measures, and, indeed, crawling to their governments, like Oliver Twist, saying “please sir, I want some more”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it is not just their own rights and freedoms that they are sacrificing and surrendering for protection from the Bogeyman of SARS-CoV-2, but those of their family, friends, neighbours, and everybody else as well.   As with most other matters, they have got everything backwards.  The cruelty of stakes and iron maidens and other medieval tortures was at least an honest cruelty, one which made no pretense of being anything else.   The cruelty which the progressives support, wears the mask of benevolence.   It is the worst of the two.


If there were any human justice worth speaking of left on this planet, an extremely dubious protasis indeed, all those responsible for thinking up and imposing these measures on us all would be put on trial and charged with crimes against humanity.   The precedent established at Nuremberg for dealing with such crimes, was capital punishment, at least for those who bear the greatest responsibility.   In the event that this hypothetical and highly unlikely scenario were to materialize,  and the court finds the culprits guilty and pronounces sentence after the Nuremberg precedent, should the judges truly wish to send a definitive message that there are to be no more universal lockdowns ever again, then when it comes time to determining the mode of execution, perhaps they should not peremptorily rule out the method preferred by Dracula.   Brutal though it be, it seems somewhat appropriate for the ghoulish spiritual vampires who have spent most of this year sucking the joy out of life and making this world a living hell for everyone else.

(1)  The numbering of the sultans does not include several individuals whose claim to the title was on more dubious grounds than that of those recognized by the historians.

(2)   In between Dracula’s imprisonment and his brief return to power, the voivodeship of Wallachia had passed between his brother Radu the Fair and Basarab Laiotă multiple times.    Basarab Laiotă was a cousin of theirs – the Draculas or Draculesti are a branch of the Basarab family, and indeed, Dracula’s full legal name, included Basarab along with Vlad and Dracula (Tepes was only added after his death, although his enemies called him by the equivalent in their tongues during his lifetime).   Basarab Laiotă held the voivodeship last before Dracula’s return and would resume it again after Dracula’s death.    The competing claims of the different branches of the dynasty – and it was far more complicated than when the House of Plantagenet divided into the Houses of Lancaster and York in England during the period of the War of the Roses,  as can be seen in the fact that Vlad and Radu were rivals but both from the Dracula line of the divided Basarab House - were, of course, the primary means through which the larger Ottoman and Hungarian powers contended for control of the region. 

(3) Singapore is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations but not a Commonwealth realm.   The latter are parliamentary monarchies with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.   Singapore is a republic.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Frankenstein’s Monster of Science


Mary Shelley, the author of the gothic horror/sci-fi novel Frankenstein, could be said to have been a child of the Modern Age in more ways than one.   Her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” (1792), one of the first modern feminists, if not the very first, as well as a defender of the ideology of the French Revolution who deliberately ended her history of this event in its first year in order to avoid talking about how the Reign of Terror had ensued from it.   Shelley’s father, William Godwin, had been trained as a Nonconformist clergyman, but seduced by the antichristian doctrines that had been brewing in the salons and cafes of eighteenth century France, turned to a career in writing, in which he enthusiastically endorsed every new philosophical idea and the most radical form of republican liberalism, while long labouring to destroy the Christian faith he was once appointed to preach.


Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin was truly her parents’ daughter and embraced their radicalism from her earliest childhood.   When she was seventeen, she began an affair with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a disciple of her father’s, Lord Byron’s best friend, and a Romantic poet in his own right.  Nineteenth century Romanticism was primarily a rejection of the classicism that had undergone a major revival in Europe during the Renaissance, and then again in the eighteenth century.   In the eighteenth century, classicism reached its apex, being embraced both by the orthodox, such as Dr. Johnson, and by the radicals of the Enlightenment.   Similarly, Romanticism had both its left and right wings.   The latter included those who started out with radical religious and political sympathies but who matured into Tories – the Lake Poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and William Wordsworth come immediately to mind – as well as life-long reactionary Tory Sir Walter Scott.   Shelley, like Byron, most definitely belonged to the other side of the movement.


When Shelley met Mary Godwin, his first wife Harriet was pregnant with their son, but this did not prevent him from seducing Mary, using the blackmail of empty suicide threats to do so.   They would meet in secret at the grave of Mary Wollstonecraft, which most people would regard as rather morbid, until William Godwin found out about it.   Then they ran off to France together, taking Mary’s stepsister Claire along as an interpreter, and embarked upon a tour of Europe, returning home when they ran out of money, with Mary now pregnant.   Their daughter was born premature and died within two weeks.   After Mary, whose health had been weakened by the pregnancy recovered, they took off again, this time to join Lord Byron at Lake Geneva, Switzerland for the summer.   By all accounts it was a miserable, rainy, summer, but it was an incredibly productive one for the trio of writers.   Lord Byron’s Don Juan, Percy Shelley’s Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, all had their origins in that summer together, although only the second of the three was actually completed that year and none were published prior to the following year.   Upon their return to England after that trip. Mary’s older sister Fanny and Shelley’s first wife Harriet, both killed themselves, (1) and the couple celebrated by getting married.


What’s that?   I don’t think much of the Shelleys?  I don’t know where you would have gotten that idea. 


Mary Shelley’s first and most famous novel was first published in 1818, two years after the summer at Lake Geneva where she first conceived the idea.   The title was likely taken from Frankenstein Castle in Germany, which the Shelleys would have seen, if they didn’t actually visit, when travelling down the Rhine on their first trip to Europe.   In the novel Frankenstein is the last name of the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, who belongs to a wealthy and noble family from Geneva and studies science at the University of Ingolstadt in Germany, where he becomes obsessed with the idea of artificially creating life.   Constructing an oversized human body he successfully brings it to life, but immediately rejects his creation because of its ugliness.   The monster responds to this rejection, by murdering his brother.   The monster confronts his creator, relates his experiences since awakening and his rejection by everybody due to his hideousness, and demands that Victor create for him a bride.  Victor initially agrees to do so, but at the last minute reneges and the monster responds by murdering Victor’s own bride Elizabeth on their honeymoon.  Victor then pursues the creature, seeking its destruction, all the way to the North Pole, only to succumb to the elements after being found by Captain Robert Walton to whom he relates his story.   Walton also encounters the monster, repentant over the fate of his creator, who vows to rid the world of his own existence.   The story is told in the form of a series of letters from Captain Walton to his sister.  


The story has been adapted numerous times.   The image we all have of what Frankenstein’s monster looks like comes from the 1931 Universal Studios film in which Boris Karloff portrayed the monster.   It is from the same film that we get the idea of Frankenstein robbing graves, stitching the parts together to form the body, and animating it using lightening.   Shelley was much more ambiguous, although the filmmakers expanded upon some hints she had dropped here and there.   My favourite “adapation” is Mel Brooks’ 1974 Young Frankenstein, featuring Gene Wilders as Frederick Frankenstein, the American grandson of Victor, initially embarrassed at the association, but who later re-creates the experiment at the family estate (relocated to Transylvania).   Marty Feldman steals the show with his performance as Frederick’s hunchbacked assistant Igor (“It’s pronounced Eye-gore”).  


Did Shelley intend any particular message by her story?  Is there any larger significance to it than what she did intend?

The subtitle of the novel would seem to suggest that the answer to the first question is yes.   That subtitle is “The Modern Prometheus.”   Prometheus was a figure in Greek mythology.   He was one of the Titans, the race that had overthrown the Elder Gods, before themselves being overthrown by the Olympians.   In the war between the Titans and the Olympians, Prometheus, foreseeing that the Olympians would win, sided with Zeus.   Later, however, he would perform a series of tricks on Zeus, each of which benefited mankind in some way.   In the last of those tricks he stole fire and gave it to man.   Zeus then chained him to a rock, where a vulture would pick away at his liver, which would regrow each day.   Hercules eventually sets him free, and he reconciles with Zeus by providing him with the information that the nymph Thetis, whom Zeus and Poseidon have been competing for, is destined to give birth to a son who will overthrow his father, as Zeus had overthrown Kronos, and Kronos had overthrown Uranus. (2)  


What did Mary Shelly mean by giving her novel this subtitle?   Who is the “Modern Prometheus” alluded to?


It seems fairly obvious that Victor Frankenstein is the character who is supposed to correspond to Prometheus.   The structure of the title certainly indicates so, and the parallels are striking.   As the original Prometheus gave fire to mankind, so Victor Frankenstein gives life.   The original Prometheus trespassed against Zeus to do so, Victor Frankenstein commits a form of blasphemy by taking upon himself the divine prerogative of giving life.   Both figures bring torture and anguish upon themselves for their hubris.   In this, Mary Shelley, despite her associations with the leading figures of the Romantic Movement, was a classicist, for her Victor Frankenstein is Aristotle’s tragic hero, brought down by his own arrogance.


One interpretation which seems to jump out from all of this is Frankenstein as a kind of warning against the attitude towards science on display in Sir Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis.    In this unfinished utopian novel, a scientific foundation which has as its end or purpose “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible” by the pursuit of the same end creates an ideal society on the island of Bensalem.   Frankenstein seems to present a scenario in which someone with very much the same ideas and attitude as Salomon’s House in Bacon’s novelette, brings about his own destruction.


Yet it is hardly likely that Mary Shelley had any such meaning in mind when she wrote the book.   Such an interpretation would run contrary to the entire way of thinking that she had imbibed from her father and shared with her husband.      


Consider how Percy Shelley had himself handled the myth of Prometheus in a play he was working on when Frankenstein was first published, and which came out two years later. He took the title of Prometheus Unbound from a non-extant play of Aeschylus, one of a trilogy of tragedies of which only one, Prometheus Bound, survives.    Only fragments of Aeschylus’s Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus The Fire-bringer have come down to us, but we know more-or-less, the story they tell, including Prometheus’ eventual reconciliation with Zeus.   Shelley presents a story that is the direct inversion of this.   In his play, Jupiter (Zeus) is challenged and defeated by Demogorgon in the third Act, bringing about the release of Prometheus.   While the inversion of Aeschylus is in part a reflection of Shelley’s politics, a revolutionary radicalism as opposed to Aeschylus’ conservatism, his meaning was more than just political.   His Prometheus represents the human will and spirit, and the message of his play is that of the Modern Age – the triumph of the human will and spirit over all that would bind and confine it, especially the divine.   The same message is evident in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which ends in the Ragnarok of Gotterdammerung with the burning of Valhalla, as man takes the place of the gods. Even Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem Ulysses, takes the tale of Ulysses’ last voyage, as first recounted by Ulysses himself in the torments of hell in Canto XXVI of Dante’s Inferno, and portrays what in Dante was the hubris that brought damnation down upon Ulysses’ head in a heroic light.   What is being lionized in all of this literature, is the driving spirit of the Modern Age, the idea that knowledge serves the human will, and that man should recognize no limits in his pursuit of that knowledge and the triumph of that will.   This is the spirit of modern science, which is why Oswald Spengler correctly identified the spirit of Modern Western Civilization as Faustian, after Goethe’s version of Faust, the scholar who sold his very soul to obtain boundless knowledge (in Goethe’s nineteenth century re-telling of the story, Dr. Faust gets a happy ending, unlike Christopher Marlowe’s sixteenth century play which ends with his dismemberment and damnation). (3)


Since the Shelleys shared a similar, Modern, progressive, outlook, it is unthinkable that the author of Frankenstein intended a message so contrary to that of Prometheus Unbound.   Nevertheless, the message that man should beware scientific hubris because his own inventions may turn on him and destroy him, is the message that has come across to a great many readers.   Without endorsing the postmodern deconstructionist total divorce of a text from its author’s intent, this is, perhaps, a case of a story with a meaning much larger than what its author could see.


The view that science was the path to a man-made Paradise on earth was strong in the nineteenth century and even up until World War I.   This optimistic view was shattered by the atomic bombs which brought the Second World War to an end.   At that point, the message which Mary Shelley had not intended, but which many have derived from her best-known novel, began to resonate with people, and the concept of a world devastated by man’s scientific and technological hubris, became a standard feature of dystopian literature.  

Today, all those who want us to obey every draconian and totalitarian “public health” order issued in the name of saving us from the Bogeyman of COVID-19, which orders are turning our countries more and more into something that resembles Orwell’s 1984, tell us to “follow the science”.  


What if the science they are telling us to follow turns out to be Frankenstein’s monster?

(1)  Harriet Shelley was found drowned.   The inquest ruled suicide and that is the most likely explanation, considering that she left a suicide note, although there is some slight evidence of foul play on the part of William Godwin.   In the case of Fanny Imlay, Mary’s older sister from an affair Wollstonecraft had with an American diplomat before meeting Godwin, there is no doubt that it was suicide by laudanum overdose, although her motivation for doing so has been the subject of endless speculation.

(2)  This is the beginning of the background story of the Trojan War.   Zeus and Poseidon, based upon Prometheus’ information, agree to give Thetis up and marry her off to Peleus, king of Thessaly.   This is the wedding, to which all the gods except the goddess of discord are invited.   She shows up anyway, and tosses the apple of discord between Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena which starts the chain of events that eventually leads to the Trojan War.   Thetis does indeed give birth to a son destined to be greater than his father – Achilles, the greatest of the Greek heroes of said conflict.

(3)   The legend is based on an actual person, a German parlour magician, alchemist, and astrologer who lived in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and whose end, at least in terms of how he departed this earth, without speculating as to where he went after, corresponds more closely with Marlowe’s account rather than Goethe’s.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Bogeyman

A few years ago, when the progressive commentariat was going on and on about the evils of “homophobia”, before that became old hat and they turned to the new bugbear of “transphobia”, there was a man who happened to catch the end of one of their sermonettes warning about homophobes.   Now this fellow was a little hard of hearing and he mistook the word for “homophones”.   Consequently, he began avoiding the dance hall like the plague.   He didn’t want to run in to the Boogie Man.


Now that you are all groaning over that exceedingly dreadful double-pun, allow me to say a few words about the Bogeyman.  


The Bogeyman is a figure who has appeared, under one name or another, in pretty much all of the world’s folklore, in all places and all times.   He can be regarded, in a sense, as the standard to which all other legendary spooky monsters are to be compared.  The details about his nature and appearance vary considerably, except in that they are usually quite vague, much more so than is the case with most other legendary beings.   It is the purpose he serves that is consistent.   He serves as a warning to children against bad behaviour.   Behave yourselves or the Bogeyman will get you.   In the cultural traditions in which Saint Nicholas or whoever else has been assigned the role of bringing gifts to the good children around Christmas time is accompanied by someone whose job it is to deal with the other kids, that someone – Black Pete, the Krampus, Knecht Ruprecht, whoever – is essentially a Bogeyman, certainly in function, often in description as well.


While frightening children into good behaviour is the primary and universal purpose of the Bogeyman, a notable secondary purpose for his legend can be found in the song “The Booger Man” which is the second track on the 1989 studio album, I Never Made a Record I Didn’t Like, by the “Clown Prince of Country Music”, Ray Stevens.   The song, co-written by Stevens and his longtime friend and song-writing collaborator, C. W. “Buddy” Kalb, the alternate spelling in the title of which reflects a Southern regional variation rather than the reference to mucus that would probably be the first thing it brings to mind for most others, involves a narrator boasting about how he is not afraid of a long list of monsters, movie and otherwise, all of whom he dismisses as nothing in comparison to the Booger Man, who “don’t need no other makeup/no fancy Hollywood name/his mangled bloody victims/are his only claim to fame.”   Towards the end of the song, it is revealed that the narrator is a young man, parked with his date in Lovers’ Lane.   “Listen, did I hear some scratchin’, outside your side of the car?”


There are those these days who object on moral grounds to telling children scary stories to frighten them out of misbehaving.   I am not going to pass judgment on this one way or another, and bring it up merely to note the irony that these are often the same people who buy completely into stories that are clearly designed to frighten the entire populace, adult and child alike, into obeying some set of, usually ridiculous, new rules.


That there is nothing sadder than an adult terrified of the Bogeyman was well illustrated by The Simpsons in an early episode.   The tenth episode of the fifth season was entitled “$pringfield (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling), in which Mr. Burns builds a casino and Marge becomes addicted to the slot machines.   Since Marge is now spending all of her time in the casino, Homer is the only one home one night, when Lisa, woken by a nightmare, wakes him up and tells him “I know its absurd, but I dreamed the Bogeyman was after me” at which she is interrupted by a screaming Homer “Aaarggh.   Bogeyman!   You nail the windows shut, I’ll get the gun.”   Homer then wakes Bart, saying “Bart, I don’t want to alarm you, but there may be a Bogeyman or Bogeymen in the house.”   When Marge finally returns home, a gun shot blows a hole in the door of the house, which, when she opens, she finds it barricaded with Homer, hiding behind a mattress with the kids, aiming his shotgun at her.  “What happened here?” she asks, to be told “Oh nothing Marge, just a little incident involving the Bogeyman.  Of course, none of this would have happened if you had been here to keep me from acting stupid.”


A truly pathetic number of adults have been behaving just like Homer this year.   Just last week, Donald the Orange, was asked by both his opponent in the televised popularity contest by which our American friends and neighbours foolishly choose their head of state rather than rely on the time-tested, God-honoured, tradition of royal lineage, and by debate moderator Chris Wallace, to denounce the Bogeyman.   Granted, they called the Bogeyman “white supremacism”, but actual white supremacists have not posed a real threat to law, order, civilization, rights, and freedoms, anywhere in the Western world for decades now.   White supremacism is now merely another name for the Bogeyman.  Donald the Orange did not, contrary to the lying left-wing newsmedia, refuse to make the worthless ritual denunciation.  He has, in fact, gone through with this stupid ritual many times in the past, and agreed to do so this time as well.  He asked for specific names, and all he was given was the Proud Boys, a multi-racial organization this is not, and never has been, white supremacist.   By contrast with the lies told by CNN, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and even liberal newspapers and the Crown broadcaster up here, it was Joe Biden who refused to make a denunciation.   Except that in his case he was asked to denounce a real, present day, menace, Antifa, the well-organized groups of mask-wearing, far-left, thugs who have been going around beating people up, shutting down events and speeches they disapprove of, and terrorizing university administrators and hotel managers into giving in to their demands for years now, and this year, have been aiding and abetting Black Lives Matter, in their spree of looting, vandalism, violence, and destruction.   Indeed, rather than denounce these bastards, Biden denied their existence, saying that “Antifa is an idea not an organization.”   No, Mr. Biden, despite what you and that wretched, vile and contemptible nincompoop Christopher Wray have to say, the burning cities and toppled statues, all across the United States and the larger Western world, demonstrate Antifa to be an extremely real threat, unlike the Bogeyman of white supremacism you keep going on about.


Of course the biggest Bogeyman of this year has not been white supremacism but SARS-CoV-2.   This coronavirus produces mild to no symptoms in over 80% of those who come in contact with it.   It can produce the very painful and potentially fatal form of pneumonia dubbed SARS when the first coronavirus to produce it made its appearance twenty years ago, but for people who are under 65 and have no complicating chronic health problems, the survival rate is well over 99 percent.   Even for those who are at a higher risk, their chances of surviving are still pretty good, even more so now than in March and April when the virus was first making the rounds of the world, after escaping the confines of Wuhan.  Back in March, when the World Health Organization pressed the panic button, and governments around the planet took the unprecedented and insane step of shutting down their economies and ordering their entire populations, healthy or sick, into quarantine, we were seeing a rise both in the number of people testing positive for the presence of this virus, and in the number of people experiencing symptoms ranging from cough and shortness of breath to full-blown, death-dealing, SARS.   We have again this fall, seen a rise in the number of people testing positive, which, plotted on a graph, looks very similar to the one we saw in late winter-early spring.   We have not been seeing a similar rise in the number of people hospitalized and dying.   Indeed, plotted on the same kind of graph, the hospitalization/death numbers appear as a flat-to-declining line from the beginning of summer onward.


Sane, grown-up, people will recognize that if there is no drastic rise in people getting sick, being hospitalized, and dying, then the rise in the number of people testing positive is no cause for alarm.   Viruses have been present with us since the beginning of time and will be with us until the end of time.  To lock ourselves away in our houses, refuse all contact with other people, and worse, to demand that other people be forced to do the same, is to behave out of irrational fear, to be frightened, as it were, by the Bogeyman.  


The media is intentionally trying to frighten us in this way.   Note how they are constantly reporting about the “alarming” rise in the numbers of those who test positive.   As Karen Selick pointed out in The Western Standard about a week ago, this number is meaningless when it is not presented as a percentage of tests given.   The number of tests given has been going up steadily and is much higher now than it was back in March and April.    To emphasize only the number of new “cases” – or, more precisely, new “positive results”, for the tests give false positives all the time – without also emphasizing that they are out of a much larger number of tests being given, and that the number of people getting sick, requiring hospitalization, and dying of SARS has not been commensurately rising, but, indeed, has been remaining steady and even declining, is to engage in dishonest scare-mongering.

The “Wizard’s First Rule” in Terry Goodkind’s novel of that title, the first in his Sword of Truth series and the last in the same series worth reading, is “people are stupid” and we have certainly been living down to that this year.   Despite everything pointed out in the previous paragraph, we have been putting up with our governments’ responding to the rise in numbers by slapping more restrictions down on us, and even calling upon them to do so.   Here in the Province of Manitoba, we are now in the second week of a four-week period of heightened restrictions in Winnipeg and the surrounding region, that Dr. Brent Roussin, the public health officer who has given every evidence of having gone mad from the dictatorial-level powers given him during this scam of a health emergency, slapped down on us a couple of Fridays ago, to start from last Monday.   Earlier in the week in which he announced this, Roussin was publicly pressured to do this by Brian Bowman, the clown of a mayor that this city elected, and re-elected, although about the only thing that can be said in his favour is that he is a look-alike of television actor Jon Cryer, and even then I would have preferred Charlie Sheen any day.   Among the new restrictions a return to the limiting of gatherings to ten or under, and a new mandatory mask policy for all public indoor places.


The mask policy is especially indicative of the infantile, afraid of the Bogeyman, mentality that has infected the thinking of our adult populace.   The pores of cloth masks are 200+ times larger than the virions of SARS-CoV-2.   Anybody with an ounce of logic and who is willing to actually use it, ought to be able to deduce from this that the virus will have no difficulty passing through these masks.   Youtube videos, showing that cloth masks can lessen the spread of visible particles, hardly constitute proof to the contrary, at least to anyone aware that viruses are too small to be visible to the naked eye apart from very powerful magnifiers.   Nor do scientific research studies purporting to show that masks are effective at reducing COVID-19 transmission constitute such proof.   There is no dearth of such studies demonstrating the exact opposite, and these are more consistent with logic.   While I reject the modern consensus that logic and science trump tradition and divine revelation, I will say that between the two former, logic trumps science, and that thinking otherwise is the ultimate formula for allowing oneself to be duped.


The mandate to wear masks everywhere is essentially a mandate to wear a talisman, a magic symbol to ward off the Bogeyman.   It is very ironic, therefore, that in the popular culture of recent years, the Bogeyman has been the mask wearer.


Think back to the film that launched the plethora of serialized slasher-film franchises that glutted the cinema in the 1980s.  In 1978, John Carpenter co-wrote, directed, and composed the music for the film Halloween.   At the beginning of this film, the six-year old Michael Myers – the character’s name, not to be confused with the actor who portrayed Wayne, Shrek, and Austin Powers – wearing a Halloween costume, complete with mask, stabs his older sister to death.   The film then jumps ahead fifteen years to when Michael, who has spent the whole time in a mental hospital under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) (1), escapes and makes his way to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, stealing a bleached Captain Kirk mask on the way.   From behind that mask, he stalks teenage girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut role).   He kills a number of her friends, one of whom calls Laurie at the home where she is babysitting on Halloween night just before Michael gets her.   She, rather foolishly, heads over there and comes face-to-mask with Michael.   In the confrontation, she manages to pull his mask off, but would undoubtedly have been killed then and there, had Dr. Loomis not entered at that moment and emptied his revolver into Michael, knocking him from the hall to the bedroom, out the picture window, and over the balcony to the ground below.   Laurie turns to the psychiatrist and asks “was that the Bogeyman?”   “As a matter of fact, it was” he answers, finding confirmation when he steps out onto the balcony, looks down, and finds that Michael has disappeared.


To John Carpenter, the Bogeyman was the one in the mask.   Does this tell us anything about the multitude of dolts today, cowering away in fear behind their masks, hoping that they will save them from the Bogeyman?

(1)   In case this sort of thing interests anyone, Donald Pleasence is the one-person connection between Michael Myers the character and Mike Myers the actor.   Long before taking on the role of Dr. Samuel Loomis, which he would continue to portray in the Halloween franchise through several sequels, he was one of the actors to portray James Bond’s archnemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (who, prior to this Christopher Walz’s performance in SPECTRE and the upcoming No Time To Die, had never been portrayed by the same actor twice), and the first to portray him as anything other than a shadow, seen only from behind, stroking a cat.   Pleasence’s version of the character, from 1967’s You Only Live Twice, is the direct basis of the look of Mike Myer’s character Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers trilogy.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

A Lesson From Leroux


Gaston Leroux, after pursuing a career in journalism, which involved everything from theatrical criticism to international correspondence, turned to writing fiction in the early 1900s. In his native France, he is remembered as an author of detective fiction, as being more-or-less the French equivalent of his English contemporary Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. His first detective novel, The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1908), featured his amateur sleuth Joseph Rouletabille, who, as is often the case with fictional detectives, had a number of biographical similarities to his creator. In this novel, Rouletabille solved the mystery of how a scientist’s daughter ended up beaten unconscious in a room in her father’s castle that was locked from the inside. (1) 

Outside of France, however, he is best known as the author of one of the classics of Gothic horror, ranking right up there with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Drawing upon the many rumours surrounding the Palais Garnier opera house that had been completed in his childhood, an actual incident featuring a falling chandelier that took place there in 1896, and the entire spectrum of his journalistic experiences, he created the famous story that features a deformed and criminally insane polymath with the mononym Erik, who lives on the lake in the basement of the opera house – this lake actually exists – pretending to be a ghost to terrorize the cast of the opera and extort money from its managers, and an angel in order to transform a chorus girl into a diva. The Phantom of the Opera was, as was customary at that time, originally serialized, before being bound and published in French in 1910. The first English translation appeared the following year. 

The story has been re-told many times ever since. The first movie version – and by far the most faithful to Leroux’s novel – was a silent film that appeared in 1925, featuring Lon Chaney Sr., the legendary “Man of a Thousand Faces”, as Erik. There have been many more. It has also been adapted for stage more than once, the most well-known version being, of course, the musical that debuted in 1986, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, originally starring Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Lloyd Webber’s wife-at-the-time, Sarah Brightman as Christine Daaé, the chorus girl turned diva soprano, and is now the longest running musical on Broadway, and the second longest in London’s West End. (2) It was in this version that I first became familiar with the story when a production of the musical came to Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall in 1993 and I went to see it with my high school friends Cynthia and Tamara, although I read Leroux’s novel shortly thereafter. 

My title may, in fact, be slightly misleading, as the lesson I wish to draw from the story is, in fact, best illustrated in Lloyd Webber’s adaptation, which presents the most sympathetic version of Leroux’s Erik.

Unlike motion picture adaptations other than the 1925 original, Lloyd Webber followed Leroux in making Erik’s hideously deformed face something he was born with, rather than the result of acid being thrown in his face, as in the 1943 remake starring Claude Rains and many subsequent versions or a deal with the devil, as in the unfortunate 1989 version starring Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund. Consequently, he has had to wear a mask for any social interaction all of his life. Even more so in the musical than in Leroux’s novel, although it can be found there as well, this is offered as a partial explanation of his cruel and sadistic behaviour. Granted, the mask requirement was only one part of the whole situation of society having rejected him in disgust at his appearance, but consider how he is made to express it in one notable scene towards the end of the musical. He has just abducted Christine from the stage of the opera in the middle of a production of his own “Don Juan Triumphant”. Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny and his rival for Christine’s affections, is hot on his trail, but for a brief time he has Christine alone with him again in his lair. The following interaction takes place. 

Christine: Have you gorged yourself at last in your lust for blood? Am I now to be prey to your lust for flesh? 

The Phantom: That fate that condemned me to wallow in blood, has also denied me the joys of the flesh. This face, the infection, which poisons our love. This face which earned a mother’s fear and loathing, a mask my first unfeeling scrap of clothing. 

The words which Lloyd Webber et al., place in the mouth of the Phantom here, echo those which Leroux had placed in the mouth of Erik at a much earlier point in the story in his novel. In chapter XII,  Christine and Raoul have escaped to the roof of the opera, where Christine tells Raoul about her experiences with Erik in his subterranean home the first time he had spirited her away.  After she had snatched away his mask, Erik had entered into a spiel of self-pity, which ended with: 

Why did you want to see me? Oh, mad Christine, who wanted to see me! ... When my own father never saw me and when my mother, so as not to see me, made me a present of my first mask! 

Returning to Lloyd Webber’s version, Christine at this point treats his self-pity with scorn, informing him that “this haunted face holds no horror for me now, it’s in your soul that the true distortion lies”, at which point the scene shifts gears with the arrival of Raoul. What I wish to draw your attention to, however, is the sharp contrast between the way Erik talks about his fated and trademark mask in the above quoted lines, and the way all of the other characters talk about their masks in an earlier scene in which everyone appears masked. 

The scene is the first in the second Act, and is based upon chapter IX in Leroux’s novel. In the musical it is set six months after the events of the first Act. The Phantom has not been heard from in the meantime, and the Opera is hosting a gala event in the form of a masquerade ball to kick off their return to production. The entire cast joins in on a number entitled “Masquerade”, the chorus of which goes:

Masquerade! Paper faces on parade. 
Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you. 
Masquerade! Every face a different shade. 
Masquerade! Look around, there’s another mask behind you. 

Everybody at this ball is having a grand old time and enjoying the fun of their self-chosen masks. At least until Erik shows up dressed as Edgar Allan Poe’s Red Death. (3) 

Now let us consider what lesson we might draw from this striking contrast. Masks can be a source of great fun and enjoyment when they are voluntarily put on in circumstances like that of a masquerade ball. Yet they can be a source of incredible trauma if they are forced upon a person, especially in childhood. 

There are a lot of people today who are in need of this lesson. This month will end, as October always ends, on the eve of All Saints Day, for which reason the last day of October is known as All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween for short. It is traditionally a day in which people voluntarily put on costumes, including masks, for purposes of fun. Kids traditionally dress up in their costumes and go from house to house, ringing the doorbell or knocking, and saying “trick or treat” when the door opens. The person in the house then either gives them candy – or, if they are a health nut, something more nutritious – or risks having a trick pulled on him. This year, a bunch of adult party-poopers, who have been acting like paranoid lunatics since March, all because a virus that poses next to no threat to anybody under sixty-five and without multiple pre-existing medical conditions, has been spreading around the world, have demanded that Halloween and trick-or-treating be cancelled for this year. It is not “safe” they say. 

These same people, who give every impression of having had their brains sucked out by a zombie, are responsible for the fact that the kids who are being forbidden the fun mask-wearing experience of Halloween this year, have been forced to wear masks every day in school since it resumed last month. They are often required to wear them even when outside at recess – assuming the school allows them out at recess. 

 As Christian fantasy novelist and Chalcedon Foundation editor Lee Duigon put it a few weeks ago, “Good grief, they’ve made school even worse than it has always been.” 

Am I saying that all of these kids forced to wear masks all day, every day, are going to end up hiding out in the basements of theatres, dropping chandeliers on people, abducting beautiful singers, murdering people with nooses, and threatening to blow up their cities (4)? 

Perhaps not, but they are likely to be incredibly traumatized by it. This mandatory mask policy at schools amounts to one gigantic case of child abuse. 

Everybody who is in favour of it deserves to be horsewhipped. 

(1) There is an entire subgenre of mystery fiction featuring just this sort of dilemma. It is called the “locked-room mystery” subgenre. Edgar Allan Poe is usually regarded as the founder of the subgenre. The acknowledged master of it, John Dickson Carr, considered Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room to be his favourite. An early and excellent example, and my personal favourite, is Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas

(2) Lloyd Webber also composed a sequel musical entitled Love Never Dies which opened in 2010. He had started working on it years earlier with journalist-novelist Frederick Forsyth. Forsyth had developed their ideas into The Phantom of Manhattan, a 1999 novel which, like Love Never Dies, is a sequel, not so much to Leroux’s novel, the ending of which hardly leaves room for a follow up, as to Lloyd Webber’s adaptation. While Love Never Dies and The Phantom of Manhattan are versions of the same story, the genesis of both is such that it would be a gross oversimplification to say the former is an adaptation of the latter. 

(3) The Red Death is a character from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death (1842). The parallel Leroux originally intended by having Erik show up in this costume is that in both stories the character was a very unwanted party-crasher at a similar event. Considering the nature of the lesson I have been drawing from Leroux’s story, it will be worth our while to briefly summarize Poe’s story here. The Red Death, in Poe’s story, is a plague which Prince Prospero, the main character, attempts to avoid, by putting himself and all of his friends in lockdown behind the castle walls of his abbey. After six months – the ironic parallels just continue to pile up – he throws a masquerade ball, much like the one in Leroux’s novel. He takes his guests through seven rooms, each decorated in a different colour, the final room of which is all in black, with blood-red illumination. When the spooky clock in the room chimes midnight, Prospero and his guests notice someone dressed in a blood red shroud, with a skull for a face. Angry that someone would show up dressed as the very plague he had been hiding from, he corners the man with a dagger but drops dead when the man turns to look at him. When all of his guests then mob the Red Death and force him to remove his mask, there is nothing beneath, for it was the actual plague personified. Their attempts to lock themselves away from him had failed completely. 

(4) This part of the story was really watered down by Lloyd Webber. In his version, the Phantom offers Christine the choice of staying with him or seeing Raoul, whom he had trapped in his Punjab lasso, die. In Leroux’s novel, Raoul and his guide the Persian, a character eliminated from most adaptations except the first, get themselves trapped in Erik’s torture chamber. Christine is a given a choice – signal that she is willing to live with him forever by turning a switch shaped like a scorpion on his mantelpiece, or signal her rejecting him by turning the switch shaped like a grasshopper The grasshopper switch would have detonated a cache of gunpowder beneath the torture chamber large enough to blow up the opera house and much of the surrounding section of Paris.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Adventures of Reaction Man: Episode III

Reaction Man Defeats the Diabolical Designs of Diaper-Face

In their dens at home, Justice Bob Baddecision of the Ontario Inferior Court and Don Alfredo Fettucine of the Fettucine Crime Syndicate turned on their computers and opened a popular teleconferencing app. They had been told to be ready at 6:66 pm for a very important online meeting. They had been given special clocks for the purpose, as regular clocks don’t register a 6:66.

 At that precise moment a burst of flame appeared on their screens which began to emit a smell of sulfur into the air. The flame coalesced into the image of a man with a goatee and ponytail, and the stumps of horns on his forehead. 

“Hi Lucy” they exclaimed. 

 “Greetings my closest friends” said Lucifer, or Lucy, as the gender-confused devil preferred to be called. “I have called this very important meeting tonight to introduce you to my latest scheme.” (1)

 Lucy rubbed his hands together and began to cackle. 

 “As you are aware, some of my recent plans have suffered unfortunate setbacks. Four years ago, my favourite daughter from the Sisters of the Night coven was set to take control of the most powerful army on the face of the earth, and launch the Battle of Armageddon. My plan was foiled, however, by the rise of Donald the Orange, who has been doing the exact opposite of what I wanted, reducing his country’s military presence around the globe, putting out the fires of ethnic conflict that I have been stoking for over a century in both the Balkans and the Middle East, and even going to North Korea to negotiate peace with Kim. I have since unleashed my mutant-demon squad on Donald the Orange in the hopes of getting revenge.” (2) 

“More recently, working through my faithful minions, the Woke Millennial and his Aunty Fa, I unleashed an army of Marxist zombies on the campus of Aberhart Manning University in Brown Moose, Alberta. My scheme went awry, however, due to the interloping of that annoying superhero, Reaction Man.” (3) 

“This time, however, my plot is foolproof. Allow me to introduce you to my new minion Diaper-Face.”

Lucy stepped aside and a new face filled the screen. Or rather, what would have been a face, if a large diaper were not permanently obscuring most of it, leaving only the eyes visible. Diaper-Face said something, but neither Justice Baddecision nor Don Fettuccine could make out what it was due to the combination of his accent and his voice being muffled by the diaper. 

“Ummmm” they both said. 

 “My apologies”, Lucy said, stepping back into the screen. “What Diaper-Face was trying to say was ‘hello’”. 

The judge and the mafia boss both greeted Diaper-Face in return. 

“Diaper-Face used to be a research scientist in a virology lab in China”, Lucy said. “He was performing an experiment one day when an accident occurred and every virus in the lab escaped and infected him simultaneously. He instantly came down with the biggest attack of the sneezes the world has ever seen. You could even call it a sneeze seizure. He left the lab, intending to go to the nearest hospital, but the sneezing attack disoriented him. He ended up going into the glue factory next door instead and let out a particularly violent sneeze that knocked over a vial of the stickiest, most permanent, adhesive ever invented by man, which spilled onto his face. Not knowing what it was, he grabbed a diaper that was for some reason sitting there, and tried to wipe his face off. Instead, the diaper became permanently attached. The experience has driven him mad. He now has no desire except to see the entire world in the same predicament, with diapers permanently attached to everyone else’s face. He called upon me, and I granted him powers in exchange for his soul. With the combination of the powers I have given him, and his own in-depth understanding of virology, it should be a cinch for him to frighten the world into forcing everyone to wear diapers on their faces. The diapers will be specially consecrated in a Black Mass ceremony so that everyone who wears them will be pledging their loyalty to me.” 

“Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha” 

“Diaper-Face is my greatest creation yet! He truly is my left hand.” 

“Don’t you mean right hand?” Don Alfredo asked. 

“No, Steve Earle’s mama was right when she told him back in the General Store that that is the pistol.”

“Left hand sounds funny” said Justice Baddecision. 

“Just think of what people used to use their left hand for”, Lucy said. “Through Diaper-Face, that is what I intend to do to the world.” 

Unbeknownst to Lucy and his colleagues, their conversation had been intercepted and recorded, and the recording transmitted to an obscure monastery in the Carpathian Mountains. 

A short time thereafter, Lucy unleashed Diaper-Face. Through the combination of his expertise in virology and the powers the devil had given him in exchange for his soul, he had created two viruses. One of these he called the Viral Bogeyman, although the world was soon to know it by a different name. It produced a respiratory disease that was severe-to-fatal among a small minority, although most infected experienced only mild symptoms. It was the other virus that was the more deadly of the two, for it infected the mind rather than the body, causing people to perceive the first virus as being something other than it was, something on the same level as the Black Death or worse. This virus spread around the globe much more quickly than the first, and infected a lot more people. The symptoms of the infected were that they curled up in the fetal position, sucking their thumbs, and calling upon their government to take away all of their neighbours’ rights and freedoms while they waited for Big Pharma to produce a magic needle that would save them from the Viral Bogeyman. While they waited for the magic needle, they put their trust in a magic diaper, wearing it all times and in all places, even when sitting alone in their own cars, to ward off the Viral Bogeyman. 

Those who were fortunate enough not to be infected by Diaper-Face’s mind virus, looked around in dismay and astonishment, at the foolishness of all those around them who were. Among these were the Right Reverend John Keble Waterland, Bishop of Paleo-Middlesex and his good friend “Eddy” Johnson. Bishop Waterland and Eddy would have tea about once a week, and these days much of the conversation revolved around the craziness of everyone around him. Bishop Waterland would shake his head as he recounted the latest silliness of the Right Reverend Barty Battyblabber, Bishop of the neighbouring diocese of Neo-Soho. Most recently, Bishop Barty had taken to wearing no less than ten magic diapers on his face at any given time. (4) 

“He looks absolutely ridiculous”, Bishop Waterland told Eddy, “but he says that he would rather be safe than sorry. At least I think that is what he was saying. It is almost impossible to make out a word he says under all those layers.” 

The phone rang, and Bishop Waterland answered it. 

“Hello? Oh, alve-say Brother Whippet. I think this is the first time we have spoken since you returned to Romania. How are things over there? Why yes, as a matter of fact he is here.” 

Bishop Waterland handed the phone over to Eddy. 

Eddy took the phone and was soon in intense conversation with the member of the ancient and sacred Order of St. Michael of Marshmallow who had come to Canada and knighted him after he had received the power to turn back the clock on the anniversary of the Reaction of Thermidor, turning him into Reaction Man. It had been Brother Whippet’s superior, Brother Moonpie, who had received the transmission of the recording of Lucy’s conversation. (5) The Marshmallow Monks, having put together what had happened, urged Eddy to find Diaper-Face and defeat him. 

Eddy, after he had finished talking with Brother Whippet, handed the phone back to Bishop Waterland, explained the situation, for the Bishop knew his secret, then changed into his Reaction Man costume and set out to track down Diaper-Face. 

Reaction Man found Diaper-Face standing on a high balcony, surveying the streets below where every visible person was wearing a diaper on his face. Diaper Face was laughing and gloating over his success. 

“I’ve found you at last, Diaper-Face” said Reaction Man. “It is time to set all these people free from the bondage they are under due to the spell of your evil mind virus.” 

 In response Diaper-Face said “Good luck with that, Reaction Man. You can never defeat Lucy and me. All the people of the world will be living in slavery to the irrational fear that my mind virus has planted in their rotting brains for the rest of their lives.” 

Of course, since he said all of this in Chinese and from behind his glued-on diaper, Eddy couldn’t make out a word of that. 

“What did you say?” 

 Diaper-Face repeated himself, but was still indecipherable. 

“Pardon me, could you say that one more time?” 

 Diaper-Face gave his super-villain boast in heavily muffled Chinese again, but, of course, to no avail.

“Well, I still don’t know what you’re talking about, but I guess it doesn’t matter. It is my duty to defeat you and that is exactly what I am going to do.” 

 Reaction Man pointed at Diaper-Face and used his power to turn the clock back. The super-adhesive holding the diaper onto Diaper-Face’s face dissolved and the diaper fell to the ground. 

“My diaper! My beautiful diaper!” Diaper-Face screamed, this time in English. 

“Finally you said something that makes sense”, Reaction Man said, “although I beg to differ. That diaper was as ugly as sin.” 

“You don’t understand. All the power that Lucy gave me was contained in that diaper. Without it, the spell will be broken.” 

 Diaper-Face lunged for the diaper, but Reaction Man was faster. He grabbed the horrid thing and threw it into an incinerator that for some odd but convenient reason was located there on the balcony. As the diaper hit the flame, it burst into a cloud of brimstone. 

 All around the world, people woke up from the paranoia that the mind virus had induced, realized how foolish they all looked wearing diapers on their faces, threw them in the garbage in disgust, and resumed living their lives, no longer bound by fear of the Viral Bogeyman.

(1) Lucy the gender-confused devil and Justice Bob Baddecision first appear in Lucy’s Day in Court. Don Alfredo Fettucine first appears in Justice for Minnie?