Clackprattle and Pook’s Counterfeit Current Affairs Creator

The Daily Scandal

Gentle Reader,

Whilst researching our current story, The Paris Awakening, we have come across a startling fact. It seems that the fiendish swine at the heart of the story, Messers Clackprattle and Pook, have had an alternate career before their appearance in these pages. Why,  the scurrilous swine had been busy bamboozling the good and honest folk of the British press. Can you imagine!

Their modus operandi was to invent some fictitious, scandalous tale regarding a famous personage. They would then contact members of the journalistic profession with aforementioned stories and attempt to extract money from these poor deluded souls. The details that these devils supplied were naturally as lurid as possible in order to extract the maximum payment possible. Luckily we have been able to uncover this practice and find the tool they used to perpetrate this fraud. We present it below. By choosing a sequence of random numbers one can quickly generate some fictitious “news” stories.

We can only thank the good editing principles of the more moral periodicals and hope that such a swindle isn’t visited upon other more modern forms of communication. For how would an honest chap know what was real and what was not?

Yours – in shock and horror

Mr Michael and Miss Pichette

Number Famous Personage Scurrilous Act Dubious Location
1 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Consumed a voluminous quantity of French pastries In a poorhouse
2 Dr David Livingstone Entertained a lady of questionable moral standards In the Queen’s bedchambers
3 Miss Florence Nightingale Dined with a gentleman of lesser breeding In a nunnery
4 Her Majesty Queen Victoria Imbibed a significant quantity of alcohol In the House of Lords
5 Mr Charles Dickens Participated in a bizarre occult ceremony In an opium den
6 Mr Isambard Kingdom Brunel Danced around in a state of undress In a house of ill repute
7 Mr Oscar Wilde Formed a daguerreotype of a lady’s ankle In Paris
8 Mr Aleister Crowley Smoked a frightening quantity of opium In St Paul’s Cathedral
9 The Rt Hon Benjamin Disreali Drank a full pint of laudanum On the royal barge
10 Mme Marie Curie Executed a painting of a nude gentleman In the Peruvian embassy


WH Rugbinder: A Biography

Tea Fiend“Can there be any greater depravity?” WH Rugbinder

Many remember Victorian writer Wilberforce Horacio Rugbinder for his classic text on contemporary mores, The Multitudinous Vile Sins of the Working Class That Will Cause Them to Burn In Hell. At the time it was considered a well-meaning and insightful account of the slum life in Victorian London, although by modern readers it is regarded as a little prudish and judgemental. In particular, the forthright and voluminous chapters condemning the practice of having a day off from work are seen as contrary to modern thinking. However, few people know that WH Rugbinder published other works on moral topics too. This little article hopes to correct that situation.

WH Rugbinder was born to a middle-class family in the borough of Ealing. After an unremarkable schooling where he made few friends, he entered a seminary in the hope of becoming a priest. Unfortunately, this was not to be as Rugbinder clashed with his teachers on a number of theological points. In particular, they objected to his assertion that not just the priesthood but the laity, should be celibate. Leaving the church unfulfilled, he spent time in London to understand first hand the problems caused by sinning. His first attempt at a book, Diary of a Tea Fiend, relates in a semi-fictious way the descent into debauched existence that befalls a young fellow who becomes obsessed with tea drinking. After losing, in short succession, his wife, his livelihood, and the good opinion of his family, he ends up drowning in a bath filled with Oolong. This remarkable book was self published at no small cost and sold almost ten copies.

Rugbinder then went on to confront another beverage related evil in the form of coffee. This time he took a wider view and interviewed a multitude of “coffee pot heads” as he called them. His analysis and conclusions were again self published in a luxurious leather-bound book with gold leafed lettering on the cover. Unfortunately, this was to be a terrible error as the cost of each copy of The Tyrannical Evil of the Foul Plant Known as Coffee, its Effects on Diverse Patrons of Coffee Shops in London, and the Inevitable Decline of Morality that Accompanies Drinking It was to far outweigh the cover price and so nearly bankrupted Rugbinder.

It was this experience of extreme poverty that was to force Rugbinder to live in the poorest parts of London and to lead to his final tome, which was his most popular in terms of sales. Unfortunately word of the contents reached his neighbours and Rugbinder was forced to flee London. His final attempt at a book, The Comfort of Solitude was uncompleted. He left behind no family, children, or indeed, friends.


With thanks to Breaking the Glass Slipper for inspirational twitter chat…

And to Angela McFall for the lovely tea service

Your Call is Important to Us

Extract from “Your Call is Important to Us: Towards a Socio-political Praxis of On-Hold Music by Dr Jeff Grunt.

It has been well documented in this treatise how poor cultural framing of “on-hold music” can induce cognitive dissonance in the intended audience. British users of Southern Rail’s helpline demonstrated this cross-wiring of outcome and intention quite clearly when 56% reported they were “quite distressed” or “very distressed” when hearing The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, apparently as it reminded them that British weather was more homogenous, located as it is in a generic “single season” paradigm of rain and wind.

What has been less well researched has been the kinetic-auditory impact of, for example, timbre and “note envelope” parameters. Anecdotally, a lower-quality under-developed timbre may induce a certain displeasure, but there has yet to be a wide-scale analysis of, for example, whether Beethoven’s Ninth is less likely to provoke negative-biased responses when played by a full orchestra rather than on a stylophone.


Nevertheless, an early attempt at producing telephonic music may prove instructive, especially as to its demise. The “Telharmonium” (pictured above) was an early electronic instrument developed in the later Victorian era by a Thaddeus Cahil. Three versions were produced, the last weighing around 200 tons. The instrument itself would take up an entire room.  Thus, proving unwieldy to travel, the instrument was used primarily for telephone users to listen to music. However, despite the relative unavailability of recorded music at that time, the telharmonium was not a success. Notwithstanding the tremendous power consumption required, the fatal flaw seemed two-fold.

The first problem noted was that the basic sound, a sine wave, was “pure and clear”. Although there were options to modify this source, I contend that this purity, this perfection, may well have contrived to create displeasure. The sounds may have been unearthly or ethereal to the listener used to the more visceral sounds of a street urchin playing a violin. Secondly, there are also reports of cross-talk incidents, where conversations were interrupted by ghostly music. In all, by the early part of the 20th century, the instrument had lost favour and fell into disuse.

We can, I think, conclude clearly that here we have less a sociological issue than a timbral one. I shall be exploring this more thoroughly in the next chapter “Windpipes and their Role in Helpdesk Worker Abuse.”

(Dr Grunt is Lecture of Muzack at UMIST and is also author of “Elevation: The Use of Religious Music in Lifts” and “Liminal Exotica: Bossa Nova Rhythms and Hotel Lobbies”)



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





The Second Salem Witch Trials

by Professor Marmaduke Herringbone-Stove

There has been much interest recently in these fair shores on the topic of the diabolical and malevolent practice of mesmerism.

I hear you gasp at my mention of the word, but as an expert I hold no fear of these devious practices. I have spent many years studying this foul perversion of natural forces. I understand how it operates, how it can control the mind of a more fragile being, how it can destroy a man. But I have no wish now to expand on this topic. I have written elsewhere on it and frequently give speeches and lectures.

No, today I wish to keep you abreast of events on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, namely in America. It has come to my attention that there has been a  legal trial most recently near the famed city of Salem. A trial that was called by the newspapers the “Second Salem Witch Trials” although it features no witch. Indeed the indicted, one Daniel H Spofford, was accused of none other than mesmerism!

SpoffordDaniel H Spofford,  Alleged Mesmerist

Let me acquaint you of the facts as they appear to me. This seems a tragic tale indeed, a “fall from grace” if you will. For Mr Spofford was very much engaged with the brilliant if theoretically misguided Mary Baker Eddy and her Christian Science movement. Clearly, there he was exposed to the powers and practice that Mrs Eddy and others have called “animal magnetism”. But these powers have a dark side too. A power that Mrs Eddy has written about in a chapter of her famed “Science and Health” book. That she has called Malignant Animal Magnetism, or more simply, mindcrime.

Daniel H Spofford, for all his years of service to Mrs Eddy, must have been seduced by these dark powers. It was said in court that he

“is a mesmerist, and practices the art of mesmermism, and by his said art and the power of his mind influences and controls the minds and bodies of other persons, and uses his said power and art for the purposes of injuring the persons and property and social relations of others and does by said means so injure them”

In particular, the unfortunate Lucretia Brown was a target of his terrible powers, being made invalided by this devious soul Spofford. Yes, it is true she had received the injury decades before and yes, Spofford had fallen out with Mrs Eddy. It is also alleged that Mrs Eddy’s lawyers assisted in drawing up the complaint, but surely this is merely the act of a benevolent friend.

In any account, the law proved once again what an ass it can be. The case was thrown out by the Judge, who foolishly suggested the claim was vague, that no law had been broken and that the law would not be able to stop Mr Spofford if he did have the powers that Mrs Brown suggested he had. I say the law is an ass, but maybe there is another, more sinister reason why the case was rejected. My conjecture is this, Mr Spofford used his powers as a mesmerist…to mesmerise the judge!

Now surely we can see how powerful these mesmerists are and surely all good men and women should arm themselves against such mental meddling. The truth should be told, explained, and given to all mankind, that they may keep themselves safe

Professor Herringbone-Stove, Greater Manchester

(Professor Herringbone-Stove is available to deliver lectures to meetings attended by appropriate gentlefolk, birthdays for over 10s and weddings where liqour is not served.)

Please Note: The views expressed by contributors to The Benthic Times may not reflect the views of the editors or owners. Students of legal history are earnestly encouraged to study this document for an alternative perspective.

M Head’s Unfortunate Situation

Dear Reader, 

As we are getting better acquainted, I feel I must tell you about my dear, tragic brother Saul. Like myself, he was fascinated by the more esoteric aspects of science. Unlike myself though, he became obsessed by some balderdash he called Quantum Physick. He believed, bizarrely, that there were a multitude of parallel worlds, each subtly different from our own. Disastrously, he build a sort of cabinet to allow him to visit these worlds. He hoped to travel the highways and byways of the universe.  One terrible day he walked into the contraption and vanished, never to be seen again. 

I keep the cabinet in my study as a reminder of the folly of man and the dangers of science unchecked. But a curious thing happens: From time to time, I find letters or papers in the cabinet. The tone and language is strange to me, and I can barely make sense of them. I wonder if they are some coded message from my long lost brother. I present a recent example here, as mysterious as the others. 

Sir John Jennings

Saul's Magic Cabinet

Monsieur Head’s Unfortunate Situation

Monsieur Head first discovered his unfortunate situation at breakfast one Tuesday. Early in the previous week he had, to his astonishment, been a victim of crime. As a good citizen he had reported to the local constabulary the crime: namely, the theft of his bicycle. On that fateful Tuesday he received a letter from the police station which informed him that he, M. Bicycle, had reported to them that his head had recently been stolen. This caused him some amusement. He chuckled to himself at the comical mix up, although he was almost as surprised to see an erroneous official letter as he had been to have his bicycle stolen. Clearly standards were deteriorating.

On his morning train, as punctual as ever, he showed the letter to the gentlemen opposite, with whom he travelled every day and with whom he chatted from time to time. The man opposite appeared curious at first, then shocked, and then looked rather suspiciously at M Head.

“My dear Monsieur Bicycle,” he exclaimed, “what a terrible set of circumstances to find yourself in.”

“My good friend,” replied M Head, “you know full well my name is Head not Bicycle. Furthermore the letter is in error, can you not see. It’s rather amusing, you see it was my bicycle which was stolen.”

“I’m not sure I see anything terribly amusing in that,” replied the commuter, “but that aside, this is an official letter. I cannot believe they are in error. Perhaps your, er, new head has yet to settle to its home and it is you that is confused.”

With this he handed back the letter and looked solidly and fixedly out of the window for the remainder of the journey.

At M Head’s work he took the opportunity afforded by an official break to show the letter to his co-workers. To his amazement, they reacted as his commuter friend had, with a mixture of sympathy, confusion and suspicion. M Head decided that he would use his lunch break at noon to travel to the police station and have the letter rectified. But just before his lunch, his manager summoned him to a meeting room. When he arrived, he found that a woman from the Personnel department was also there.

“Monsieur,” said the manager “I believe you have in your possession a letter from the local police. Would you be kind enough to share it with me.”

“Of course,” replied M Head. “It is really rather amusing as there is a humorous error in it.”

At this the lady from Personnel and the manager exchanged a glance, which M Head missed as he extracted the letter from his leather briefcase. The manager retrieved a pair of glasses from his top pocket and read the letter slowly. Then he turned to the lady from Personnel and said,

“It is as we thought.”

At this the woman nodded once briskly and left the room.

“M Bicycle,” continued the manager, “I’m afraid this puts us in a difficult position. For a start we clearly have our personnel records wrong and we must correct this. And in this there is an implication of, shall we say, misdirection on your part. But further, there is the issue of how you came about your current head as the letter clearly indicates yours was stolen.”

“Sir, surely you can see there has been an administrative error at the police station. It is clearly absurd that my head could have been stolen. It was my bicycle that was stolen and my head is the same head I have always had.”

“I would have said so too, but there it is in black and white. I might add that you have failed to provide the explanation I asked for. You see, I am in a difficult position, with two possible explanations. Either it is as you say and there is an error in the letter. Alternately, the letter is in fact correct and you have obtained an alternate head. Since the latter is equally likely and the head you now possess is either malfunctioning or potentially even stolen itself, a black market head, I am in a very difficult position indeed.”

“My good sir,” said M Head, “you have seen me every day for the last ten years. Have I ever seemed the type to procure, as you put it, an illicit head?”

“Indeed not, but then that was before I saw this letter. No, I am sorry M Bicycle, I cannot be sure, and it is better safe than sorry. I simply cannot have the suspicion of illicit head purchase on our firm. Our very reputation depends on it. I’m afraid I must let you go.”

The manager then escorted M Head out of the office and out the front door. M Head tried several times to explain the situation but the manager was adamant. Confused and now concerned for his very well being, M Head made straight to the police station to clear up the problem. He presented himself at the desk and produced the letter, asking the constable to read it.

“I see,” said the constable at the desk. “And what do you wish me to do, M Bicycle.”

“Head!” exclaimed M Head, who was quite exasperated by now. “My name is Head! The letter is a mistake and it is causing me all sorts of problems. I’m here so that you may correct it and my life may return to normal.”

“Are you saying that your head has not been stolen M Bicycle.” said the policeman.

“Yes, exactly that. My head is still very much here.”

“So you have been wasting police time with a false report?”

“No, no, no,” said M Head. “My bicycle was stolen, not my head. It is a mix up.”

The policeman’s eyes narrowed. “Are you saying we made a mistake?”

“Yes, yes you did!”

“This all seems very unusual, very unlikely. What if we didn’t make a mistake. What if you are the thief who took M Bicycle’s head and are even now trying to get your crime removed. Do you have any identification M Bicycle.”

“Yes, no, yes I do, but not as M Bicycle.”

“So you are not the victim of this crime? I see. Then I’m afraid I have no choice. I am arresting you on suspicion of possession of a stolen head, wasting police time, and defaming an employee of the state.”

And M Head was taken to the cells.

Hours passed and no food or drink was brought. When M Head asked for both, the staff seemed surprised and explained that, as a headless man, he should not need either. Eventually the door unlocked and a smartly dressed man walked in.

“Good evening M Head, I am Detective Schwarz. I believe we owe you an apology”

“I should… what did you call me? At last! You have realised the truth”

“Indeed,” said the man, “the letter is plainly in error.”

“Then I am free to go?” asked M Head plaintively. “You will correct the letter.”

“No,” said the detective, “I cannot do that. You see M Head, this is a letter from the State. To correct it would imply a failure on the part of the State. That would create uncertainty for the people. They would lose the trust they have in the State, in society itself. It could, no, would, be a doorway to anarchy. I cannot do that.”

“But it is a simple thing,” whined M Head. “My life is in tatters, a small error, no one would mind.”

“I don’t doubt this has affected you badly, but the needs of the many must outweigh those of the few. That is the cornerstone of good governance. It is a sad fact for you, but there you are. But I wanted you to have some peace, even so, which is why I am explaining this to you.”

“What,” whimpered M Head, “what will happen to me?”

“Prison is too complicated as you have committed no crime that we could convict you for. So I am afraid you are to be committed to a lunatic asylum. Some men will come shortly and take you away. They have been told that you are a dangerous lunatic who believes he is called M Head. Believe me it is better for a man like you.”

With that the detective left the cell and M Head was left to sit and ponder his most unfortunate situation.