The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 13

The well dressed people gathered at the large lobby of the Peitho Institute, Marie and Sir John amongst them. Fine wine was being passed out by waiters and there was a pleasant hubbub of genteel conversation. A makeshift stage was built at the back of the room, and occasionally Earnest Pook would peer over it and smile.

“May I take your hat and coat, sir?” said an usher to Sir John.

“Er, no, I’m fine, we’re fine,” said Sir John. “We’re from London.”

“It’s starting,” said Marie as Earnest Pook walked onto the stage. He was dressed in an expensive looking suit with a silk cravat and jewelled pin.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” said Pook. “You are most terribly, terribly welcome to this event, the inauguration of our most audacious project yet. And to this end, in an act of generosity that behoves one as magnificent as himself, our benefactor has agreed to come and speak. He is, as many of you know, not one for the spotlight, not one to thrust himself into public discourse. Not that he lacks the requisite skill or talent for communication, oh no, but merely because he prefers his works to speak for themselves without the unnecessary personal adulation that such can so often accompany philanthropy such as his. I present, Arthur Clackprattle.”

MM Ch 13“The Sphere!”

The hubbub increased as people craned to look at who was coming onto the stage. An obese man dressed in a gaudy costume and with an arrogant look on his face walked onto the stage. Around his neck was a large necklace, with a transparent sphere in a metal coil.

“Look!” said Sir John, “The sphere!”

“Good evening to everyone,” said Clackprattle, “and welcome to this event. It is so wonderful to see so many of Manchester’s finest here. I am so pleased to be able to show you tonight just how incredible a machine we will be unveiling. Many of you may be wondering what it does. Well, rest assured, I shall tell you.”

There was general chatter as the crowd tried to gauge Clackprattle and some suppressed laughter at his unusual dress.

“Silence!” roared Clackprattle. The crowd fell instantly silent.

“That is so much better,” continued Clackprattle. “Silence is truly golden, especially when it’s silence from such a fatuous, smug, and profoundly self-indulgent collection as yourselves.”

No one spoke or moved.

“So, you should all be very pleased, as tonight we shall put Manchester on the map. In the very center of the map in fact,” said Clackprattle, getting more manic with each sentence he spoke. “You may have heard that this contraption will be sending music to owners of telephonic devices. Nothing could be further from the truth. You see, this Telharmonium will be sending my power instead. Anyone who picks up that receiver when we call shall be under my control, and I shall rule England and the Empire!”

Still, no one spoke or moved.

“I imagine,” said Clackprattle,” that you find all of this a little alarming. I imagine you’d like to stop me. But as I’m sure you’ve discovered, you can’t move, and you can’t talk, thanks to this little beauty.”

Clackprattle stroked the metal coil that housed the sphere and said,  “And thanks to another beauty. What you might call a ‘sleeping partner’.”

Clackprattle turned to go, chuckling a little.

“Come on Pook, you start the generator and I shall man the microphone,” he said, before looking back at the static audience. “You lot can get ready to bow to me later.”

The tall fat man and the small thin man left the room, the former going right and the latter going left.

Sir John and Marie both let out a breath.

“Good job these hats worked,” said Sir John, looking around at the motionless crowd. “Right, you wait here and I’ll tackle Clackprattle.”

“Be careful, mon cher,” said Marie.

Sir John nodded and then headed off down the right-hand corridor. Marie waited until he was gone then headed down the left.

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 14

Convivial Drinking Establishment

The Jennings are travelling at the moment (again, I hear you cry). As an unintended consequence, they have failed to supply much of interest for the end of week blog post. However, they did come across this pleasant drinking establishment which they think may entertain the readers. They also promise to post something of greater interest in the following week.


HAG sepia

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 12

It was the eve of the visit to the Peitho Institute, and Marie and Sir John sat in their quarters in the Copperwaite mansion. Both were silent, thinking of their invitation for the following day and the deadline the day after. Mrs Harper arrived with some supper which she set on a table.

“Thank you,” said Sir John absently.

“Will that be all?” said Mrs Harper. “No need for anything else? Any information? Only I’m free for lunch tomorrow…”

“No that’s fine,” said Sir John. “Oh wait, there is one thing.”

“Twelve o’clock would suit,” said Mrs Harper.

“It’s just a quick thing,” said Sir John. “You said that Miss Copperwaite had an idea to play music through telephonic devices? But you changed her mind?”

“Yes, sir,” said Mrs Harper, “I told her it was a bl… that it wasn’t a very good idea, and she agreed and said she wouldn’t do it. That was just before she fell ill, in fact.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “That will be everything, thank you.”

Mrs Harper looked a little crestfallen and left the room.

MM Ch 12“Tin Hats?”

“Do you know what I think?” said Sir John.

“That Clackprattle made Miss Copperwaite buy the sphere? That he wanted to build this musical telephone machine as well? And that he made her go to sleep when she said no to that?”

“Yes,” said Sir John, looking crestfallen now, “but why?”

“Did you say that this sphere increases his powers through sound? Perhaps he doesn’t want to send music through the devices … perhaps he wants to send mesmerism.”

Sir John gasped.

“Good lord!” he exclaimed. “The Queen has one, you know! We have to stop him!”

“Well, we have an invitation to see it happen…” said Marie, “…which is very strange. I feel it must be a trap of some kind.”

“I think so too,” said Sir John. “Well, I have some ideas to save us from that. Firstly, I’m going to put tin inside our hats.  Then, I’m going to adapt my ionospheric emitter to shoot powerful electric charges. And most vitally of all, I’m going to borrow your earmuffs.”

Marie look perplexed.

“Tin hats? Ear muffs?” she said.

“…So I can’t be mesmerised when I tackle Clackprattle,” said Sir John, pointing to his ears. He left the room whistling to himself.

Marie looked at their hats. She put a finger gently on each one and said “proteger”.

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 13

About Town


about town sepia

If rumours are to be entertained, and what other purpose do they serve I wonder, last night’s soiree at the Palace Hotel proved less than satisfactory to one guest. An heiress to a local mill owner had seemingly set her eye on a visiting Russian dignitary. She had employed a mode of dress just on the right side of risqué, but far on the wrong side of taste, to catch her erstwhile tzar. Sadly, young Ivan glanced at her not once and seemed to prefer the company of some local well-dressed gentlemen. A story that the young lady in question ran distraught from the party at midnight, like a modern Cinderella, goes unfortunately unconfirmed.

Tonight’s “entertainment” is due to be provided by the Peitho Institute. Once upon a time, this institute’s events were omnipresent on the Mancunian social scene, providing enlightenment and hilarity in equal measure, due to the idiosyncratic curation of its exhibits. It was generally assumed that the steam had long gone out of this engine of the bizarre, but it is seemingly rising phoenix-like for perhaps a last hurrah. The great and good of Manchester have been invited to an event that, it is promised, will show not just Manchester but the world a revolution in communication. Frankly, this columnist cannot wait and will be there to witness with pen, dipped lightly in vitriol, in hand.

And whilst we talk of the Peitho Institute, one cannot help but wonder about its patroness and aforementioned curator. It seems almost a year now since she was seen in public. Friends are a little vague on details on why this may be, and her famously reclusive father says nothing. Has she been banished to a nunnery for offences against artistic sensibility? Or is there a more mundane reason that our patroness of the highest of arts is no longer “about town”. Answers please. Discretion, naturally, assured.

Percival Gribblewax, Manchester Guardian


The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 11

The yard was filled with men carrying large and complicated bits of machinery and tubing from a horse and cart toward a large building.

“Another one?” said a man coming out of the building. “We’re supposed to be an art gallery not a factory.”

“Boss’ orders,” said a second man, as if that explained it, then looked to see a woman turning into the yard. “Can I help you miss?” he said.

The woman was holding something in her hand and glancing down at it from time to time. She walked over to the man who had addressed her.

“Yes,” said Marie. “Can you tell me where we are?”

The man heard her accent and strange question and began to speak slowly. “This is the Peitho Institute, miss, on Albion Street.”

Marie nodded as if expecting that and closed her hand. She then asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Ah, can’t tell you that miss… boss’ orders,” he said and smiled sheepishly.

Marie began to say something in French, then stopped herself. A shadow of sadness passed across her face. The man saw this and concern spread on his.

“Well, maybe I could explain…” he started.

MM Ch 10 sepia“Little Familiar”

“Marie?” called Sir John, coming round the corner. “What are you doing here?”

“I … I went for a walk mon cher and found myself here,” she said. “This man was just telling me about the Institute.”

“Oh good!” said Sir John, turning. “How are you carrying on without Miss Copperwaite’s patronage?”

The man looked confused when a slight, short man came out into the yard. He walked over and looked at all of them, his head turning in a birdlike manner.

“Now then Wilson,” said the man, “no need to stop working. I can talk to our guests.”

He indicated the machinery being unpacked and the workman went over to it.

“I’m so sorry,” said the birdlike man, “but we haven’t made all of the staff aware of the, er, condition of Miss Copperwaite. We fear it would be bad for morale. But please, allow me to introduce myself: My name is Ernest Pook.”

“Good day, Mr Pook,” said Sir John, “I am Sir John Jennings and this is my wife, Marie.”

Pook nodded and turned to Marie.

“Is it possible we may have met?” asked Pook glancing briefly at her hand. “You seem … a little familiar.”

“Not that I know of, sir,” said Marie. Her fingers twitched as if something was trying to wriggle out of her hand.

“I take it you’re in charge here?” asked Sir John.

“Good Lord, no!” exclaimed Mr Pook. “I am a mere presser of buttons, turner of wheels, puller of strings. No, I am under the instructions of our institute’s benefactor. He is a gentleman of wealth and taste, who has stepped in to assist due to the unfortunate circumstances of Miss Copperwaite.”

“Who is this benefactor?” asked Sir John.

“Alas sir, I cannot say, for his modesty is as great as his generosity,” continued Pook. “He wishes to remain incognito. But sir, an idea has struck me. If you are so very keen to meet him, perhaps you will come tomorrow? We have a very special soiree to celebrate our latest artistic endeavour. Mr Cl… I mean our gracious benefactor will be on hand to say a few brief words.”

“Well, that sounds most satisfactory,” said Sir John. “May I ask what the endeavour is?”

“Of course,” said Mr Pook. “It is a most exciting and enticing enterprise. We are having our first unveiling of our Telharmonium: our device which will send music through the telephonic devices to enrich the lives of all those who hear it.”

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 12

Due to unforseen circumstances involving a shortage of appropriate clothing, a badly pronounced French phrase and a princess of a minor European country…there will be a delay to our story. Normal service will resume tomorrow.

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 10

MM CH 10“Three Days!”

“Arthur Clackprattle!” bellowed Mr Copperwaite. “You’re here for weeks at my expense and when I ask you what you’ve found out, that’s all you can give me?”

“Well, there is a little more” said Sir John, sitting, along with Marie, across from the desk. “I take it you’re not familiar with the gentleman?”

“No!” said Mr Copperwaite. “I am not familiar with the gentleman. I am, however, familiar with your antics. I know, for example, that part of your so called investigations involved a trip to the theater. I know that you, Sir John, treated my beloved daughter as a plaything. And I know that you bought a member of my staff a dinner of lobster and champagne.”

Mr Copperwaite was looking quite as red as that lobster, Marie thought.

“Yes, that was a misunderstanding,” started Sir John.

“I don’t mind what you waste your money on Sir John. That’s your business, even if it does mean my Christmas bonus to the staff will raise eyebrows rather than spirits.  No, Sir John, what really bothers me is that a man who’s supposed to be an expert investigator of the occult can’t even see what’s in front of his bloody nose. That must be the oldest trick in the book, and you fell for it. How then, Sir John, am I to judge your performance when I ask what you’ve learned and you give me a name that sounds like it belongs to a bloody clown.”

Mr Copperwaite slumped back. Sir John waited but it seemed the rant was over.

“Well, that name belongs, so I’m told, to a master mesmerist,” said Sir John.

Mr Copperwaite gasped.

“What new nonsense is this? Now I’ve heard it all!” he said, starting up again. “What does this master of mesmerism do? Let me guess, he’s keeping my daughter asleep.”

“That’s what we suspect,” said Sir John.

“And why is he doing this, may I ask?” said Mr Copperwaite.

“We don’t know,” admitted Sir John.

“And where can he be found, so we can ask him?” said Mr Copperwaite.

“We don’t know that, either,” said Sir John.

“And how is he carrying out this marvellous trick?” said Mr Copperwaite.

“Ah, there I do have some information. We believe he is firing electricity at her from his pineal gland,” said Sir John, more confidently.

“He’s doing what!” roared Mr Copperwaite and thumped the desk.

“That’s just a theory at this point,” said Sir John, hoping to placate the man.

“Sir John, let me be clear, when we started I had no faith in you, and I now have less than that. You have three days to tell me something useful and plausible about my daughter’s condition or you’ll be back on that train to London, where you can con the gullible fools who live there as much as you like. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have some real work to attend to.”

Mr Copperwaite started to rise.

“Mr Copperwaite?” said Marie. “May I ask a question?”

Copperwaite glared down at her. “What?”

“Your daughter runs an institute of some kind, for art, could you tell us what the name is?” asked Marie.

“Was,” said Mr Copperwaite. “That was the first thing I put a stop to, pulled the funding out of it. I can’t remember the name, something like python institute. Forget it, it’s gone. As you will be if I don’t see results. Three days, Sir John, three days.”

With that, Mr Copperwaite left. Sir John let out a breath.

“Well, that could have gone worse,” he said. “Possibly. We have three days, at least.”

“We should investigate the institute,” said Marie. “They are the ones who bought this sphere you mentioned.”

“If it still exists,” said Sir John glumly. “I’ll try to find it tomorrow. But I’ll go alone. If this Clackprattle chap is as dangerous as we think, I don’t want you near him. Will you be alright on your own tomorrow?”

Marie felt a tapping against her shoe. She looked down and saw a small stone.

“I think I can keep myself entertained,” she said.

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 11

In Defence of Art

Dear Readers

It has come to my attention that a minor error has slipped into our current tale, which I feel the need to explain. You see, Sir John and Marie, as intrepid psychic explorers in the latter part of the nineteenth century would not be, as they seem in our story, unaware of mesmerism.

I hear you gasp at this obvious flaw, but I can explain.

The name mesmerism comes, of course, from Franz Anton Mesmer, born and practicing in the 18th century. The power he lent his name to was then called animal magnetism. He believed that blockage of this animal force was responsible for illness. His theories spread across to America from Europe and were widely known throughout the 19th century.


Of course, mesmerism is now known merely as a synonym for hypnotism, and the magnetic force is not remembered at all. All of this was uppermost in my mind as I started this tale and I was keen to ensure the reader was carefully introduced to this strange world of magnetic powers and not simply dumped in the midst of it. It is for this reason that the Jennings are curiously unaware of mesmerism.

It might appear to the casual reader that there has been a failure to research thoroughly before starting the story. This could not be farther from the truth. I am merely using a well-worn approach of introducing the reader to a novel or fantastical world by virtue of a character who is themselves new to said world.

And so I apologise for this inaccuracy in our tale, but trust you understand the artistic goal. All I can say, to reassure the disappointed reader, is that all other aspects of our stories, including ghosts, witchcraft and devices which hear the dead, are all verifiably, historically true.

Paul Michael