Isolation Tales 12: ‘The Night Museum’
Although the isolation is now guaranteed for a further three weeks, I have a feeling that full isolation won’t be lifted until at least mid-June, especially with UK death figures still rising. In that case, the last story in this series of twelve Isolation Tales may not be the last. Meanwhile let’s end with a surreal museum brochure that forms a nonsense story. I was going for the feeling of Maurice Richardson’s ‘Exploits of Englebrecht’ when I wrote this, quite a long time ago now.
Welcome To The Night Museum
The Museum is located between Arches 4 and 6 of London Bridge Ferryboy’s Vaults (formerly the Sir Joshua Pimm Home For Seamen’s Personal Diseases)
Admission is free
Opening hours: 12:00 am–4:00 am Mon-Fri
12:30 am–4:30 am Sat
CLOSED Sun for private functions
Please do not touch the exhibits
WINTER SEASON INFORMATION
The Night Museum houses the Dagenham
Fawcett Collection of Unique Artefacts
The building comprises six sections:
The Lady Augusta Lavinia Travernum Hall of Antiquities
The Lord Pettigrew Stanivlas Plunkett Chamber of Damnation
The Countess Dorothea Spang Vestibule of English Cruelties
The Very Reverend Trebuthnot Skank-Damply Rotunda
The Councillor McTriffid Blaster Memorial Corridor
The Ron Git Wing (Recent Acquisitions)
A few words from Olivanda Drainboil, the Night Museum’s Custodian and Curator:
Dear friends, welcome, one and all, to the Night Museum, a repository of the unexpected.
After all the other museums have closed during the hours of darkness, we prepare to open our doors to discerning members of the public. Our museum is underlit and pocketed with gloomy corners that strain the eye. It smells of mildew and lavender polish, of too few people and too much damp, dark wood. We hope you enjoy your visit.
Please do not use the toilets on the second floor as they are intermittently dangerous, and may cause physical harm during blowback periods. The third floor has a large number of gaps, and is not to be trusted. We accept no responsibility for visitors becoming irretrievably lost or mortally wounded during the tour. The cafeteria stocks an interesting selection of commemorative sandwiches from British military history, but combinations created before 1880 may induce vomiting among those with unsuited stomachs. Many sandwiches come with free protective wipes. This month’s special: ‘Crimean Horse With Mustard Seeds On A Wholemeal Bap’.
The Night Museum Shop has currently requested a product recall on all eyeballs purchased from the Burke & Hare Bequest, as these items have been found to contain parasites which may prove harmful to anyone with an A-T-T-C-A DNA strand. Please also be aware that although the Ming Tannis papyruses purchased in the shop are reproductions, several still carry potentially fatal curses. Please be careful when using Lady Mona Dracona souvenir hatpins, as they are tipped with curare.
Dagenham Fawcett (1843–1899)
In the fine tradition of great Victorian explorers, Dagenham Fawcett was unique, in that he failed to discover anything of the remotest use to the British Empire. He did, however, return from his Mongolian travels with a rare form of bubonic bacillus that accidentally killed the King of Norway after being released into the ornamental pond at Buckingham Palace.
Passing through Turkey, Siberia, South America and Africa, he amassed the vast collection of artefacts, mostly stolen or purchased with beads and handfuls of grit, that comprise the unique collection housed here. His self-published treatise, ‘The Treatment of Supernatural Infestations Of The Urinary Tract’, became a standard work in parts of the Nile’s Upper Delta. Fawcett patented his mechanical device for removing trapped wind from bilious natives, and tested a working model on the impoverished children of London’s East End, causing the tragic ‘human barrage balloon’ accident of 1882. The original device is still in operation, and can be tried out on the third floor of the museum.
Fawcett refused a knighthood for services rendered to the female patients of the Trans-Slovenian National Clinic of Fertility, but accepted a Légion d’honneur medal on behalf of Oodles, his much operated-upon pet chihuahua. A subsequent legal action brought by his patients resulted in a painful public flogging, scorning and involuntary vasectomy in the town square. Humiliated and ridiculed, Fawcett married Lady Augusta Lavinia Travernum (née Mountebank) in 1893, and later succumbed during an attack of blood frenzy in the East. The mysterious circumstances of his death remain unexplained to this day.
Please note that the Night Museum’s famous exhibit The Vessel Of All Counted Sorrows is currently closed for examination by experts after being stolen by brigands and returned in cloned form.
The Lady Augusta Lavinia Travernum Hall of Antiquities now houses the Travernum Bequest of Curious Sanitary Equipment, including the Rain-Flushing Drainage Pit of the Sampito Archipelago Indians, Dr Nathaniel Scowling’s Self-Mulching Portable Zinc Cistern and the Great Toilet of Stern (formerly the Great Pot of Stern). All devices may be tested upon production of a doctor’s certificate and driving licence.
Due to a technical fault, the Valide Dowager Sultana Seyfeddin Mehmet II’s Looking Glass of Restored Youth is currently only working in the opposite direction. This item appears by kind permission of Mr Cliff Richard.
Headsets rented for the tour of the Conservatory of Tropical Illnesses and Mummified Scabs must be returned within one hour to be sterilised.
Due to the unfortunate events befalling diners at the museum’s annual Hallowe’en memorial dinner, ceremonies for the revival of the dead are no longer allowed in the restaurant.
A Note On The Collection From Custodian Olivanda Drainboil
First, would the persons who removed the knees of the Emperor Augustus Satan III from the glass case on the lower ground floor and replaced them with soup spoons kindly return them before dawn on June 21st as they are needed for the Solstice Ceremony.
Dr Nathaniel Scowling, Md Pna will be giving a lecture on Hungarian Erotic Bathchairs in the deconsecrated chapel at midnight on Thursday. (NB This lecture will be delivered in Welsh, with mimed actions for the hard of hearing.)
This annual event, in which disreputable gods have their idolatrous status ceremonially removed, takes place on Midsummer Eve, and attracted a lot of publicity in certain secular quarters last year after the museum’s resident religious-status removal officer, Pastor Walter Bleen, failed to deconsecrate the Cillit Bang, Volcano god of its namesake Indonesian cargo cult. His lack of success created an urgent need for placatory sacrifices from attendees chosen from the audience. If you do not wish to be selected for sacrifice, kindly do not sit in the front three rows of the chamber.
Arrival of a New Exhibit in the Ron Git Wing
This acquisition, recently discovered in a sealed-up sewer by members of the Deptford Creek Potholing Society, is now known to be the Gethsemane Relic Box upon which the fabled Arbingham Clam was modelled. Inscribed with the legend Non Sum Pisces, or ‘I Am Not A Fish’, the box is carved from alabaster and wormwood, and appears to have been struck by lightning on at least three separate occasions.
The items once contained inside were said to have curative powers, according to the Night Museum’s resident antiques expert Dropsy Mower, but are now missing, along with the two potholers who made the discovery. The box’s unusual smell is said to stem from deposits left in the box by lung weevils.
The Great Pot of Stern
This enormous ceramic bucket was knocked from its stand by drunk Spanish sailors in 1908, and was repaired by the late Sir Archie F’Arcy with the aid of a scalding tube and Brewer’s Elastic Cement. Unfortunately, Sir Archie went mad in the process of tabulating the 209,000 separate identical pieces of china making up the Great Pot of Stern, and rebuilt the pot inside out; hence the strange patination in the glaze, which was caused during the pot’s latter use as a pagan defecation receptacle.
The Sacrilegious Fungus of Spangly-Po
This patch of ancient tree fungus caused the West African War of Seven Thousand Cuts after tribal members noticed that it resembled Cilia Black.
St Agnetha, Our Lady of Patient Reward and Redemption
This saint is no longer in use and is not accepting prayers.
Please note that the witches on the fourth floor are undergoing restoration and are currently out of bounds.
The Siberian Gulag Razor-Chair beside the entrance to the third floor gallery is a prisoners’ torture device, and not for sitting on. Weary visitors are advised to keep moving at all times on this floor, as hesitations in motion attract deadly brain fleas breeding in the walls. It is unlucky to touch The Penis of Prince Alfalfa, or even to stand within eight inches of the display.
Exhibits Of Special Interest:
Moraturu, God of Unnatural Practices
This ancient sacrificial altar depicts many interesting adult acts performed by Moraturu and his young acolytes, and is currently being recreated for us by the ladies of the Cheltenham Spa Water Ballet Team in the basement of the museum. The altar is currently closed for cleaning following an unsanctioned sacrificial act carried out by a member of the public during one of the museum’s periodic blackouts.
The Hell Hound of Gash
Black Shag, the flame-eyed screaming Norfolk Hell Hound, no longer haunts flat foggy marshlands around the village of Gash, where his owner was brutally slaughtered in a threshing machine, and is now the official mascot of the Night Museum. He can be found in the cage on the ground floor and loves having his tummy rubbed, but before petting him, please check with the custodian to make sure that he has been decanted.
The Germs of the Archangel
These effervescent vials of fluid are encased in a jewelled retort stand in the Lord Pettigrew Stanivlas Plunkett Chamber of Damnation, and register a grade seven level of toxicity, which means that only lead walls and holy water can prevent their escape if inadvertently tipped over. They were extracted from the lower intestine of the Archangel Gabriel, and their power has yet to be fully understood, but we do know that they can bend radio waves and alter the fabric of time during thunderstorms.
Samarkand Tree Bores
The darkened glass cases beside the entrance to the second floor hold a number of nocturnal tree-dwelling creatures that do not readily reveal their presence. They can be seen by pressing your face against the glass and remaining immobile for fifteen minutes, after which time they will fly from their branches and attempt to attach themselves to your face with a banshee scream.
They were first discovered by Lord Pettigrew Stanivlas Plunkett in 1922, in the tragic Saharan camel accident that claimed the life of his third wife Spongella, their son Dwightly, their aunt Immeldra, their twin cousins Carrie and Blasphetimine, their vicar the Very Reverend Svetlana Dongle, his children, their grandchildren, their concubine Fatima of the Lash, their butler Putney, their native bearers Ongo and Bopso Ngfa, their Yorkshire terrier Chortles and seventeen junior members of the Dagenham Girl Pipers.
The Erotic Frieze of Montefiore
This eighteen-hundred-year-old tableau was discovered in an Egyptian railway siding by Dagenham Fawcett in 1892, and consists of nude alabaster figures performing ‘The Seven Hundred Positions of Aroused Frenzy’. Dagenham Fawcett spent three years cataloguing the positions before testing them out on his new wife, Lady Augusta, over the course of a rainy weekend in Cardiff. Lady Augusta subsequently undertook holy orders at Our Lady of Suffering and Periodic Discomfort (Orkney Branch). Dagenham Fawcett lost the use of his legs as a direct result of his experiment, and concluded that the Erotic Frieze is to be viewed for entertainment purposes, and not intended as an instruction manual.
The Great Royal Secret
Carefully restored by a remote sect of Orkney nuns in 1888, the Great Royal Secret has been kept in a golden casket lined with Balmoral velvet since 1900. The box has two double-twist spandrel keys, one of which is held by the Head of Endpapers in the Royal Library at Sandringham, the other of which is kept around the neck of Durnley, the corpse of Queen Victorias beloved King Charles spaniel, buried at an unmarked location on the Isle of Wight.
The casket was only opened twice in the twentieth century, just before each of the world wars. Only the reigning monarch may be permitted to view the Great Royal Secret, and then for just two minutes and thirty seconds before incurring the Great Royal Wrath. The Chief Privy Seal was caught glancing at it over King Edward’s shoulder, and had his eyes put out with hot pins for his troubles. As the only two people to use the Secret are both dead, the contents of this casket remain a mystery. (The Orkney nuns were first sworn to secrecy, and then interred alive as an added precaution.)
The Topaz Dagger of Ormond
This graceful golden blade is encrusted with semi-precious gems and etched with the figures of those victims ritually killed in the Great Purge of Kandepoor (1785). It is currently under investigation by the City of London police following its connection with the Pentacle Murders of Whitechapel (2007), after being borrowed by Councillor McTriffid Blaster to open a tea caddy during a late-night parliamentary session.
Countess Dorothea Spang’s Predictive Wheel of Death
Once thought to be a simple carnival novelty produced by dustbowl sharecroppers in the American Midwest in 1929, this exhibit has been reassessed by experts, and is now known to have belonged to the Tongue-Tearing Winsi Cult of Kathmandu. The colourful spiked wooden wheel is attached to a series of pulleys and springs that tell the fortune of the user, with predictions ranging from ‘A Long & Fecund Life’ to ‘The Agony of Eternal Grimacing Torment’. It is possible to influence the outcome of the future by pressing Lever ‘B’ while holding in buttons ‘L’ through ‘Q’.
The Pleading Monkey of Sumavera-Sum
This wretched creature was once the pet of the Princess Arthur of Connaught, and is in the habit of rolling its large tearful eyes and begging children to open its cage. However, if allowed to escape, it will bite its way through everything from living tissue to concrete. As its saliva contains an incurable form of Black Pansy Death, this is not desirable. The Pleading Monkey is scheduled to be put down on December 28th, and again on January 4th.
The Al-Q’Ha-Himm D’Whaa Sand Homunculus
This wind-dried skeleton belongs to an ancient demon with the power to indiscriminately send fiery comets raining upon one’s enemies (and friends) but is harmless providing the demonic entity is not reconstituted by water of any kind, including the perspiration from human palms. (Please mind the rain bucket next to the exhibit – roof guttering above the case is currently awaiting repair.)
Dr Phileas Bose-Trunkly’s Book of Wonders
This tome was allegedly written on the buttocks of female midgets and smuggled out of Aflenistan (formerly the People’s Republic of Wong). The catalogue, bound in human flesh, was designed to record the Eleven Plagues of Aflenistan, which befell the people of that benighted principality after they disobeyed the orders of their leader, the Exulted Grand High Emperor of the Sacred Heavens above Wong. The recorded plagues include the Great Fall of Mud, the Embittered Mockery of Legs, and Death by a Thousand Hats.
Lady Simplistia Clittering’s Book of Nocturnal Garden Verse
It is no longer possible to flick through this wonderful anthology due to accidents of a botanical nature that leave sufferers feeling vague and sexually unfulfilled.
The Tin Nose of the Very Reverend Trebuthnot Skank-Damply
This mortal remainder of the celebrated Anglican is all that survived following his attempts to convert the native tribes of Angora to Christianity. His death would not have occurred had he not mistranslated their cry of ‘Not Today, Thank You’ as ‘We Are Proud Heathens’.
Please be aware that the wall tiles in the Very Reverend Trebuthnot Skank-Damply Rotunda are capable of firing poison darts if leaned upon. Also, please remember that the razor-spined glass fish in the aquarium have the power to leap from their water and blind the unwary with their whip-stings. Stroking of the stuffed lizards currently on loan from Princess Michael of Kent may cause immediate inflammation of the bowel.
The Precious Tableau of Lady Sumptua
This delicately fretted porcelain diorama depicted the rise and fall of the Mayan civilisation in over seven thousand individual scenes carved over a period of four hundred years by blind nuns, until it was dropped last month.
Suggested Tour of the Museum
Start in the trellis lift at the rear of the ground floor vestibule (the hardy may take the Penryth Escalator, but please be aware that this does not always lead to the required destination). Tipping the liftman is suggested, as for a few pennies he will supply visitors with safety hints not covered in this leaflet. Upon disembarkation in the basement, it is best to don galoshes and protective gloves if visiting the toilets or snack bar. Torches may be rented for the exploration of the crypt mummy cases – these are recommended in order to avoid the large hole to the rear of the basement, which leads directly to the Well of Walled-Up Children.
Many visitors ask why the eyes of the painting of Viscount Rochdale of Sporley appear to follow the viewer around the room and sometimes out into the corridor. This is because the painting was modelled on – and indeed contains – the eyes of the Viscount’s imbecile cousin, Bungo.
Passing this painting, you will find yourself opposite a passage leading to a case containing the Chattering Skeleton of Kettering Parva, which was discovered in the destroyed remains of Kettering Parva House, with its teeth still sunken into Lord Kettering’s thigh. The skeleton is believed to be that of Lady Swarfega Kettering. The smaller skeleton to its right may be Lady Swarfega as a child.
At the top of the stairs leading to the first floor, a hyacinthine urn contains the Nasal Contents of the Antichrist of Bengalore, and is highly flammable, therefore not to be used for the disposal of cigarettes.
Passing by several cases displaying the rubber trouser-masks of the Ulu Sect, we come to the Gift Shop, where you may purchase items such as T-shirts bearing the legends My parents went to the Night Museum and came home crawling with lice and That’s not dinner on my shirt it’s ectoplasmic mucus. We currently have brain-fever leeches in stock, and a plentiful supply of dung produced by the Hell Hound of Gash, which is ideal for fertilising strawberry beds. Please note there is a product recall on our Lavenham Iron Witch Bridles, which, once closed about the head, cannot be opened.
Many of our visitors find it safer to break their tour at this point and seek help from our on-site medical advisors, especially those who have ventured too close to the Spitting Ant display without goggles.
The Night Museum contains over 3,000 items of dubious provenance, which are constantly being reassessed. For example, the inlaid gold Devil’s Tongue Cup formerly attributed to the private collection of the Duke of Edinburgh has now been reattributed to the collection of Attila the Hun.
One unmissable exhibit remains at the top of the building, where the Great God Pan is himself displayed in a variety of poses suitable for viewing by over–21s only. Be careful what you wish for while standing within three feet of this imposing figure, as Pan has the power to monitor thoughts and act according to instructions. We hope to have rounded up most of the missing schoolgirl party from Durham’s Lady of Suffering Catholic Comprehensive in the next few nights, and wish them a speedy return to human form.
It is not possible to take photographs of the exhibits, as the building is filled with magnetic clouds that tend to fog film and cause cameras to malfunction. Visitors with artificial limbs or heart transplants are not permitted to lick the third floor Strontium Processor, despite notices insisting that all visitors should do so.
The curators would ask you to fill out the Visitor Comment Form (pp. 103–672 only) so that we may continue to improve our museum for your mental purification. Completion of this form entitles you to enter the national lottery to find the Isle of Man’s annual ritual sacrifice victim.
You may wish to make a thankful donation as you leave, and will find a receptacle for such a purpose in the main hall. This is not to be confused with the Mull Anglican Spittoon, which is a similar size and shape. Please note we no longer accept payment in Spangerian Centimes, despite their continued validity on the Commonwealth Islands of Dengit Pu-Yana and in parts of the Upper Umboko. All monies will go towards the provision of new dousing hoses in the Sir Joshua Pimm Home For Mentally Diseased Gentlefolk.
We wish you an enlightening, safe and informative visit,
Dagenham Fawcett (currently deceased)