Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #4-6: Give Three Knocks

The Victorian era embraced the mystical even as rational thought, science, and industrialisation gripped Britain, the empire upon which, near the end of that time, the sun never set. This was especially apparent in the love affair with mediums and séances. Previous discussions have considered the impact of speaking with the dead on a horror setting, but the methods of communication were not covered. Séances with or without a proper spirit medium present have a unique flavour. There is a particular phenomena that is associated with séances and mediums that doesn’t see a lot of coverage elsewhere. That would be ectoplasm, oft exteriorised by mediums and the foundation upon which a ghost may build limbs or a body with which to exert itself on the physical world.

Among the options for the setting there is an allowance for different expressions of the physicality of ectoplasm. Historically speaking comparisons have been made to gauze, and less interestingly mucus. There is a suggestion that apparitions are indistinguishable from the living in non-contact situations, the realisation arrived at only with the dissipation of the ghost or similar impossibility for a living person. This distinction and the scientific definition of ectoplasm as the outer part of a cell’s cytoplasm supports the option of ectoplasm that is fleshier, like the gelatinous extrusion of fat and other material from cooking meat. This meatier ectoplasm will come out of the medium through the skin rather than being excreted through the mucus membranes and it will be more substantial.

Along side ectoplasm’s highly visual physical manifestation of the spirit world there are the psychokinetic displays associated with séances. The simplest is the request that the spirit summoned show its presence by rapping or knocking on the table around which the participants are seated or some other object in the room. The sound can also simply manifest in the air. The spirit can answer yes and no questions by knocking using one knock for yes and two for no. More complex questions can be asked using a Ouija or Spirit Board. Less helpful to the séance but more exciting are the poltergeist-like outbursts, and being fiction there can be straight up voices and even pyrokinetic displays. It is also common that called spirits may not be truthful, the one asked to appear, or a devil instead.

Mood: C.H.U.D.-tastic.
Music: When Two Worlds Collide by Iron Maiden and Love At First Bite by Wolf.

Iron Maiden: Virtual XI
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Wolf: Ravenous
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