Archive for September, 2011

077: The Manhunt House

Posted in Gideon Keys with tags , on September 25, 2011 by glasganon

The older children in Maryhill play a strange game in what is known to them as Manhunt House. Typically, the game is reserved for those between thirteen and seventeen: the children do not often allow adults to play – they may demand the adult buy them cigarettes or alcohol from the nearby newsagents, but following through with their demands does not automatically mean that they will allow you to accompany them. They are fickle and capricious. Nonetheless, the “lucky” acolyte may be allowed to join in, on very rare occasions.

The game is kept sacred by the children, and when the game is threatened, the children’s “team spirit” keeps it safe, no matter what the cost. In 2004, several children went missing, and when word got out that the children were playing a “strange game” with certain adults in an abandoned house, a coalition of the parents, media and police tried to smoke out the individuals responsible. To protect their game, the children chose to martyr a number of their parents – those most vocal in defiance of the game – corroborating false claims of child abuse and perverse photographs in order to have them locked away. It’s impossible to say if the furore died down because the rest of the parents believed they had got the culprits, or if they were cowed into submission and silence after seeing that those who spoke out against the strange game – whatever it was – ended up getting life imprisonment. The secret game continues in the uneasy, half-knowing silence.

The game takes place at 8 p.m in a particularly run-down, dilapidated two-up two-down flat connected to a row of four other flats just like it – the eponymous Manhunt House.  The front garden is sparse and bare, occupied only by muddy stumps of ragged bushes, broken pottery and chunks of stone from the decrepit stone path, half-sunk in the choking earth. The door to the property is always locked, save for select nights of the year – usually in midsummer and midwinter – when a small, silver Yale key with an old-fashioned military patch keyring is found in the front door. This allows a new game inside Manhunt House to begin – the game starts the second that all of the players enter the house and the key is used to lock the door from the inside. The brass clock sitting on the mantel beside the front door chimes at eight o clock, then remains silent until midnight, which is when the game ends. Once the clock chimes the eighth hour, every player runs away to various parts of the house, looking for hiding-places.

The aim of the game of Manhunt is simple – the Hunted hide, and the Hunters hunt. However, this is a special version of Manhunt, and the House gives one more objective, as inside the house, there are special photographs hidden away throughout the House, pictures of bizarre objects, locations and events throughout the city of Glasgow – an album spread through the house of every Gideon Key in the city. One particular photograph that seems to crop up often when acolytes play is an overexposed, blurry image of several children, bunched together in an indistinct room, with eeriely smeared looks of abject terror on their blanched-white faces, each of which is instantly recogisable as one of the children in the house alongside the acolyte. The children collect the photos like trading cards, often completely unaware as to what the photographs really represent. The Hunted are allowed to take any photographs they find – the Hunters can only take photographs from the Hunted that they find. Acolytes, either Hunters or Hunted, are encouraged to do their utmost to collect as many photographs of their own as possible – the house conspires to keep photographs collected by the children out of the hands of acolytes using many of its idiosyncratic eccentricities.

One particular eccentricity of the house tends to go undetected by newcomers until around five minutes into the game, when the player has stumbled across the fourth kitchen, or realised that, having taken three left turns down the main hallway, they should be back where they started, and not in the attic-space above the bathroom. The house is impossibly large – but never in an obvious way. There are no sweeping ballrooms or colossal staircases, no vaulted ceilings or elaborate lounges – every space in the house is low, narrow, and cramped. The upper and lower corridors never seem excessively long – they just have far too many branching corridors, far too many doors, far too many sets of stairs. And yet, despite its cyclopean size, no two areas in the House are the same: as far as one can tell, there are no two matching sets of wallpaper anywhere in the house, each floor is seperated from the others by a differing amount of steps, and the architecture is of varying size and design – the only commonality are the brass clocks, identical to the one near the front door, in every single room, which all count down the hours til midnight. Many explain this away by claiming that the other flats in the street have had the walls seperating them knocked down, resulting in one long collection of five different apartment blocks. This goes some way to explaining the eccentricity, but does nothing to alleviate the odd sense of vertigo suffered by players that look through the cracks in the boarded-up windows of the house and realise they all look out onto different streets — even when looking through different cracks in the same window.

Another eccentricity are the players themselves. Many variations of the playground game Manhunt have the teams split into two: the Hunters and the Hunted. When a Hunter finds one of the Hunted, they become a Hunter too – any Hunted left at midnight win the game. However, whenever acolytes play the game, new Hunters begin to join in the game – as the clock counts down towards midnight, They begin to manifest, and They do their very best to find the children, Hunter and Hunted alike. For whatever reason, They leave acolytes alone inside the Manhunt House: the dull chattering and creaking of aged, stretched limbs in nearby corridors, or the heady scent of allspice wafting through the damp, earthy smell of decay that permeates Manhunt House, are the only indications that They are present – aside from the screams of the children whom They have found, of course. And when acolytes are present, it seems as though They step up their game just to impress – just to make sure the acolyte knows how good they are at finding the children hiding themselves in the house that They built.

When acolytes play, the game usually ends with every clock in Manhunt House ringing simultaneously, and you walking out of the house, alone, at midnight, after They have found all the children, to be met only by the silent, accusatory looks of a handful of parents too scared to scream blame in your direction. There is no consolation prize – no consolation at all – but you get to walk away with the photographs: one of which is a permanent reminder of the souls that were lost to the house so you could emerge the zero-sum victor.

Congratulations, you win!


041: The Roar

Posted in Gideon Keys on September 25, 2011 by glasganon

{A transcript from a radio broadcast. — Ed.}

Gordon “Gordo” Hamilton: Alright then, we’ve got another caller on the line… This is, eh… this is Michael Harris from Scotstoun. How you doing, Michael?

Michael Harris: I’m doing fine, Gordo, how’s yourself?

GH: Good, good – quiet night, no rain {laughing}.

MH: That’s good to hear.

GH: Eh, so, we’ve had people calling in to give us their, eh.. their stories, about the Roar last Saturday night. What’ve you got for us then, Michael?

MH: Well, right… I was down in Govan that night round at my mates’ house after the Old Firm match. Now, at the front of the house there’s a court that all the flats around about there use, and a bunch of us were out letting off fireworks –

GH: Ah, you’re a Hoops fan then Mike?

MH: Aye, I am, yeah… So, we were letting off a tonne of fireworks out in the communal court for a good ten minutes, and after they all went up, our ears were absolutely ringing. But then, just as it had gotten quiet, there was this massive sound all around us – like something fucking huge just screaming in a metal voice. I’ll tell you what, Gordo: I used to work in the shipbuilding industry, and one of the ships I was working on once had a leak, and the whole thing went up.

GH: It exploded?

MH: Aye, it did, with me inside it even. I didn’t even really hear the explosion so much as feel it, because it rocked the whole ship and threw me on my feet – but the sound of the metal supports straining under the weight, groaning and grinding as whole chunks of the ship twisted and collapsed inwards like hungry metal mouths trying to chew up everyone on board – I remember hearing that gnashing metal, and that was exactly the noise of the sound we heard last Saturday – like something huge and metallic grinding and twisting up in the sky.

GH: Christ, that sounds horrible. How did you and your mates react?

MH: Some of us had bleeding ears after hearing it, and my wife was having a fit, shouting and screaming about rusted lungs. We calmed down after a bit, and most of us agreed that we probably had busted eardrums from the match and the fireworks. So that settled us a little at the time – except the next day, one of my mates who’d left early and wasn’t at the football match said he had heard something too, but some of the neighbours heard the fireworks but didn’t hear the sound in the sky at all.

GH: That happens more often than you’d think, Mike. It’s like you can’t hear it when you’re indoors.

MH: What is it, Gordo?

GH: That’s just the thing, Mike – nobody knows. Every so often we get a phonecall here at the station warning us about it, then you hear a roar somewhere up in the clouds, the wind speeds crank up, all radios in a mile radius blare what can only be described as screams in static, a handful of people go missing – and nobody can tell us what the fuck is going on.

MH: {Whispering} Jesus Christ.

GH: Thanks for your time, Mike. Stay safe out there.

009: The Ephod

Posted in Gideon Keys with tags on September 25, 2011 by glasganon

{The main body of an email, which had two photos attached: the photos have since been stitched into one single image. — Ed.}

from      Eilidh Kinnaird
to            me
date       Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 8:59 PM
subject Lead about the Guides
Important mainly because of the people in the conversation.

I’m sorry to hear about Dominic Shaw – I understand you were very close: I know it’s frustrating and difficult having to fabricate events just so that the police don’t end up deciding that you’re a suspect. You said you think the Guides are involved somehow, and while I had told you everything I knew about them when we last met, one of my contacts recently clued me in to something interesting in Glasgow’s history; I offer it to you now as a gesture of goodwill and as a new lead to explore. When my mum passed away, my dad buried himself in his work, and it seemed to help him: I hope it helps you, too.

There are two pictures attached which gives the full text of the story, but, to sum it up – in the early 1900s, a man known as an “Onion Johnny” (people who made a living out of selling onions on a door-to-door basis) delivered onions to a restaurant in the east end of Glasgow; one day, when the restaurant’s cook cut into one of the onions, she found a ring inside, engraved with the word “ZEBA”. When the Onion Johnny returned the next week, she showed him it – he screamed, grabbed the ring, threw it down a drain and hurriedly left the city, weeping. The man was never seen again.

This story is obscure and rather dull – until you look at it in the wider context of the city and its associated cabals. “ZEBA” – which supposedly means “Manslayer” – is the name of a Midianite King, the Midianites being a tribe of people from Biblical times who worshipped “false gods”, such as Baal-Beirith and Asherah. Zeba was slain by a man sent by God on a holy mission to avenge his people and bring an end to the worship of idols. Now, I know who it is you think I mean, and I’m afraid it’s not Moses – the answer is far more interesting.

His name was Gideon.

According to Judges 8:24, after completing his mission, Gideon took a number of relics and jewelry from the Israelites and their foes, melted them down, and had an “Ephod” made out of them. The Ephod (sometimes associated with a “Teraphim”) was an object that, alongside the “Urim and Thummim”, was commonly used in some kind of divination practise that modern scholars still haven’t managed to identify – I’m guessing they’re rings, like the ZEBA ring in the story. In an amusing twist, it turns out that the Ephod Gideon created led his tribe back into idol worship after he died. God forever sends prophets to abolish idolatry, only to have them facilitate idolatry all over again.

My purpose in telling you this is that if anyone knew where the ZEBA ring is now – or the Ephod, Urim and Thummim associated with it -it would be one of those unhinged Key collectors that show up at Relics on the solstice/equinox. Strike up a conversation with one of them and maybe you’ll find it – or maybe they’ll throw you in the White Room. It’s dangerous, but danger surrounds the Keys like an aura to keep people away from them – even people who don’t know the danger for what it is, like Dominic Shaw.

And please, for the love of the dear green place, stop framing the Keys as mere stories. You’ve dug yourself into a hole by telling people the shadows at the Borstal and Duke Street were fictional, and now Dominic is dead, the police are investigating your “unusual microfiction”, and people think you forged Dominic’s note. It took blood, sweat, tears – and a good bit more blood – to find out what little we know of the Keys, and a lot of people are angry that you’re belittling the danger they’ve put themselves in by documenting them with half-truths. You need to start either writing fiction or reporting fact – not half of one and the other – or else the hole you’ve dug yourself into will be your grave. Consider that a threat if it will spur you to action sooner.

063: The Water Tower

Posted in Gideon Keys with tags , on September 18, 2011 by glasganon

It is often suggested that the elemental attribution of the city of Glasgow is “Water”. Geomantic practises that operate on the scale of the central belt of the country declare that, with its birth on the Molendinar Burn and subsequent growth over the River Clyde, Glasgow, in the West, represents Water. Airy Edinburgh, with its elevation and lofty castle atop the mountain lies in the East; Fiery Carluke with its coal mines lies in the South; Scottish Geomancers bicker over whether North is represented by Stirling (The Gateway to the Highlands), Aberdeen (The Granite City) or Falkirk (The Speckled Church). Much of Glasgow’s mysteries seem to grow out of the water. Glasgow itself has yet more esoteric associations which further develop its strange connection to water – its nine major water towers are often said to be symbolic of the planets, and the tower at Cranhill represents watery Neptune, which in astrological terms governs the mind, mystery, dreams, illusion, deception, the occult, isolation, and visionary experiences – in a sense, it is the planet most strongly associated with acolytes.

The Cranhill water tower looks bizarre – when it is lit up at night by the eerie colours from the lamps placed around it, the cuboidal tank with cylindrical legs suggest a colossal, cosmic fountain-temple, spilling over with sacred water. For many, gazing upon it its otherworldy appearance sometimes dregs up memories of something seen within their dreams, and they will readily attest to the feeling of some deep secret locked away inside.

To unlock this mystery, the acolyte must go to the tower at night – an act itself fraught with danger, since many unsavory types are attracted to the eerie allure of the tower – and fall asleep underneath it, at the feet of one of the harpy-like wireframe sculptures that stand as guardians around it. The tower acts as a kind of “sleep temple” common to Egyptian or Greek cultures, allowing the acolyte to gain insight in their dreams – and certainly, once asleep, the acolyte will dream. It is important to keep in mind that, should the dream become lucid at any point, the acolyte must “tell” their subconscious to allow them to talk to “The Man in the Tower”.

The acolyte will cut through their dream and find themselves in a tight, constricted room of complete and total darkness. Walking a few paces in any direction reveals metal walls, but no exits; the only other sensations are the sound of great, heaving breaths from an unknown source, and the trickle of water. A voice will penetrate the darkness, in between the heavy inhalations – somewhere in the room, beyond sight and touch, is a person who introduces themselves as “The Man in the Tower”.

He will first ask if They are there – to which you must answer “No”. Declare yourself as “An acolyte that seeks the truth”, and he will answer any questions you may have about the watery mysteries in the city, including the Necropolis Lake, the Lady Love Well and the Rain of Annunciation. However, you only have five minutes to ask your questions and have them answered; the room is slowly filling up with water, and the acolyte must wake themselves from their dream before it completely fills – those acolytes with little or no lucid dreaming experience go missing, the final impact of their lives nothing more than another tangy taste in the drinking water of the city.

022: The Video File

Posted in Gideon Keys with tags on September 17, 2011 by glasganon

The Department of Psychology at the University of Glasgow has an interesting mpeg video file on their server that was used up until 2009 as part of a presentation to second-year psychology students for two tutorials on cognitive bias and visual perception.

The video was shot by a group of four fourth-year students at the university, and was intended to chronicle a five-day period in which they all lived on the streets of Glasgow without provisions, money or modern conveniences, as part of a thesis on the Maslow hierarchy and how it corresponds to psychogenic needs. The video has been cropped and edited heavily – first by the students for their thesis, then by the module leaders for use in the cognitive bias tutorials.

The video file – named “02.01.2005_parei_exped.mpeg” – opens with an introduction to Surinder, Stacy, Rashima and Natalie, who give a brief outline of what they intend to study by sleeping on the Glasgow streets for a week. The next ten minutes documents the group trying to find a place amongst the twilit central streets in which to set up their sleeping bags as the sky begins to darken. Spirits are high, but it’s obvious that much of the cheer and messing around is done to keep the feeling of the January chill away – Surinder continually makes light of the camera attempting to use its facial-focus technology to focus in on each of the group and failing. Once the group find an acceptable place – up a side-street just off of Argyle Street, in between a tall apartment building and the entrance to a walled yard filled half with rampant weeds and half with trash, broken glass, and gravel. The group keep the tape running for ten more minutes, with Surinder manning the camera, as they lie in their sleeping bags and discuss what they expect the next day will bring – the biting cold in the air easily felt in the quiver of their voices – before they bunker down and try to sleep.

The tape’s next five minutes shows the group discussing how they slept – and in Rashima’s case, it was badly; she reports waking several times through the night and thinking that she saw figures standing out amongst the shadows of the tall weeds in the gravelled yard adjacent to the group’s “camp”.

The footage cuts to the evening, where three of the group are bunched together, talking about an encounter with the police that must have happened off-camera, before Rashima’s voice cuts through the air as she waves maniacally at the group from inside the yard. The camera cuts to the group’s feet as they stand around an open, uncovered drain hole in the ground, around three feet wide, with a rudimentary set of iron bars pushed into the wall to act as a functional ladder.  Rashima insists she saw a figure standing in the same location the night before. The group seem to entertain her story rather than dismiss it instantly, and, as the camera continually flickers its focus while facing the impenetrable darkness only a few feet down from the mouth of the open drain, the team agrees that everyone will sleep in shifts in case there is someone nearby that may pose danger to the group. The camera pans back to the area of the yard where the open drain sits as the group head back to their camp; for all that those few seconds are shot with no focusing problems, there is still something stark and eerie about the scene, almost as though there was something there that, when the viewer sees it, would immediately “unlock” it.

Once again, the camera cuts to late night – it is difficult to see well due to the inadequate lighting from nearby streets and from the camera’s continual auto-focusing. Stacy is sound asleep, Rashima is sitting up in her sleeping bag, and Natalie is standing up next to the six-feet-high metal fence around the yard, apparently shouting over towards a dark corner at the far side of the yard. “Isn’t that where the drain is?” Surinder asks from behind the camera – no-one answers, but Rashima turns to face Surinder with an expression of equal parts contempt and fear. The camera alternately focuses on Natalie and the corner of the yard where Natalie has focused her attention.

The footage jumps to the next morning, with Surinder and Natalie looking at the hole again; Surinder takes a bottle lying nearby and drops it into the hole to gauge its depth, but no sound answers his query. Stacy soon joins the group, insisting that the footage is detracting from what they were there to investigate, and that they are being unprofessional and unscientific in passively encouraging Rashima to be frightened.

The final twenty minutes of the footage takes place at night; the entire group is awake and talking (or bickering) animatedly. The camera pulls up as Surinder stands and takes it to the edge of the yard, then jams his arm through a hole in the fence to get the camera as far in as possible. For three seconds, there is silence that accompanies the shot of an indistinct, but vaguely humanoid figure in the shadows of the yard – a muffled sound, like the crunch of gravel muffled by a cloth-shod foot, chokes the silence – and the whole scene erupts: Rashima screams, Natalie shouts something to an unknown person, Stacy begins to moan as if in pain, and Surinder yelps and drops the camera.

The last few seconds are footage of the camera spinning, hitting the ground, and staring out into darkness. The frames immediately following the camera’s crash to the gravelled ground have been slowed down either due to the damage or to postprocessing; the facial-focus flickers once, towards the interminable blackness before it, and the sharp contours of a vaguely-human face emerge from the shadows of the darkened yard. The camera catches only the pinprick eyes and ragged grin of the face before it falls out of focus and turns off completely.

014: The Catalogue

Posted in Gideon Keys with tags on September 16, 2011 by glasganon

There’s an unusual catalogue being delivered throughout the city that’s very easy to miss – but with the offers inside, it’s well worth a look.

The catalogue requires a subscription to be delivered, but without having actually seen a copy of the book, it’s impossible to get the details required to make a subscription – the people who compile the catalogue (listed only as “G & J Distribution”, apparently also the title of the catalogue) have arranged its circulation such that only those “in the know” about the catalogue’s odd contents can pass the details along to like-minded associates. However, the catalogue can sometimes be found on the doorsteps of acolytes and people involved in the occult, “accidentally” left on subway trains in the morning, in the magazine rack at a certain dentist’s office in the East End, or, very occasionally, at one of the desks in the Mitchell Library. The details for subscription are found inside the front cover – they are not reproduced here as per a previous agreement with G & J Distribution.

The catalogue is usually around fifty pages thick, printed in black and white on flimsy off-white paper, with the occasional grainy, low-quality photograph, rather like a poorly-made version of the telephone directory; most of its contents are described in a sparse, economic way that does not immediately make obvious the true nature of what is on offer. However, for those of discerning or unusual tastes and interests, the catalogue lists a smorgasbord of items and services in the city of Glasgow to peruse and purchase. The catalogue has a section for furniture and personal effects of the deceased – disguised, innocuously, as a “previously owned” section – where the lucky buyer may snatch themselves up a genuinely-haunted mirror or cursed engagement ring. The “marketplace” occasionally lists dubious bargains such as vials of Milk of Mary, bundles of hair clippings with names of acolytes attached, videotapes of unnameable rites, bottles of ritually-prepared water and the rarely-seen Glascau Tarot.  The “personals” section contains a number of acolytes at various stages of cognizance looking for companionship, collaboration or Keys (and, recently, listed an ad for people to assist in the “reclamation of a certain book” which resulted in the first and only robbery ever successfully committed at the Hidden Exhibition). The services page has a number of permanent advertisements by people and small businesses (like a listing for the Voice of Other Glasgows radio station and a number of pirate television stations) as well as the occasional listing of various unusual services, for example the Guided Tour of the Gideon Keys of Glasgow, or the Search for Remains Foundation, which invariably are listed once before never appearing again. Alongside every service or product in the catalogue is a set of numbers that you can call to arrange orders and get additional information.

It is crucial that the acolyte only purchase or place something from the catalogue if they are in great need – if you call to do business, they will ask for your home address, and irrespective of what address you may give them, G & J Distribution will always, always know exactly where you live.

120: The Flesh Chorus

Posted in Gideon Keys with tags , on September 14, 2011 by glasganon

In Ibrox, south-west of the center of the city, there is a small set of flats considered unfit for residence by the local government – and even by homeless people in the area. Nonetheless, they visit the flat as part of an “urban saint feast day”, to pay respect to the flesh chorus.

The crumbling brown stone flats are inaccessible from the front: the door lies hidden behind a panel of solid steel, and every one of the windows of the building’s three storeys are similarly blocked. The flats immediately to the left and right of the block stretch out to each end of the street, allowing no way around – however, on Wednesdays, the rubbish bins for the flats adjacent to the condemned flat are emptied, and the front and back doors are often left open – and this is the only way through. Walking down through one of the adjacent flat’s closes and out through the back door leads to the back gardens – scaling a wall allows the acolyte to access the back garden, and the back door, of the condemned flat.

Once inside the condemned block, the route to take is marked out on the walls of the tenement. Arrows have been etched into the eroding stone, alongside a gallery of various bizarre images: chalk drawings of the Virgin Mary, trapped inside her own halo; depictions of arms in weeping white paint; multiple motifs of women holding accordions; and a particularly harrowing scrawl, drawn using some kind of waxy substance, shows a tall figure in a coat, obscuring all its features save for square, blocky feet, standing at the end of a narrow corridor – the letters “SHH” are scribbled all around it. The hallway’s imagery is made more unsettling by the continual murmurs and groans of multiple pitches and timbres that seem to emanate from somewhere upstairs

Following the arrows up a flight of stairs will bring the acolyte to an apartment that, despite its severe dilapidation and the various moulds growing across the walls, is still apparently in use. In every room, accompanied by a heavy scent of ozone and the dull buzz of electricity, there are lamps and desklights plugged into multi-sockets in the walls, torches and candles clustered together in corners on the floor, resulting in every room being unbearably bright – all except for one room, which has no illumination of its own, and it is from here that the sound of murmuring that permeates the flat seems to emanate. From the flickers of failing electrical lights and the guttering of days-old candles, the acolyte’s eye will be drawn to a crack in the wall of this half-lit room, framed by curling, singed wallpaper and deteriorating plaster. Visible inside the crack is the right-hand side of a bare torso and lower body of a human figure – the head and legs are obscured behind the wall.

The body behind the wall will judder and be thrown into spasm as you approach, perhaps disturbing the gentle and fragile play of light that it has become accustomed to. Unintelligible yelps and moans will echo out from the crack in the wall, the scrape of skin-on-stone punctuating its murmurs and mutters. The body will thrash more viciously the closer the acolyte gets, and, without timely intervention, blood will seep down the chest of the figure. The only way to prevent the body’s thrashing is to approach with an outstretched hand.

In so doing, the body will reduce its movement to a small tremble, and, with some difficulty, will pull its arm free from the crack in the wall and open its hand, to reveal a number of bloody teeth.

Grab the arm by the wrist before it grabs you, and force it to drop the teeth – if they are crushed to a fine powder, burnt, then snorted, they will allow you to “eat” pain, gaining sustenance from your own suffering. Do not try to take the teeth from the hand directly – it will drop them, grab you by the wrist, and pull you in to join the flesh chorus – victims dragged through the stone crack and squeezed into the tight, constricted and clammy gap behind the walls, unable to stand, unable to sit, unable to lie down, forced into painful positions of torturous interminability and continuously chanting in groans of breathless, claustrophobic misery as they thrash against one another, unable to free themselves from their prison.

The homeless men and women that attend to the flesh chorus on certain holy days attest that the bravest of them will venture into the flesh chorus on that day to try to get to the end of the row of quivering, groaning bodies, which terminates in an opening similar to the one they entered through – a crack in the walls of Heaven.