Spermatic-animal-seminal rays!
September 4, 2003 1:35 PM   Subscribe

The Air Loom Gang were undercover Jacobin revolutionaries, bent on forcing Britain into a disastrous war with Revolutionary France; operating a device hidden in a London basement, they beamed their diabolical rays directly into the brain of James Tilly Matthews, who drew detailed technical diagrams of the device while confined at Bedlam. The spiritual father of all paranoid schizophrenics since, he had a fascinating set of delusions. [More inside.]
posted by languagehat (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Air Loom, for instance, "combined recent developments in gas chemistry with the strange force of animal magnetism, or mesmerism."
It incorporated keys, levers, barrels, batteries, sails, brass retorts and magnetic fluid, and worked by directing and modulating magnetically charged air currents, rather as the stops of an organ modulate its tones. It ran on a mixture of foul substances, including 'spermatic-animal-seminal rays', 'effluvia of dogs' and 'putrid human breath', and its discharges of magnetic fluid were focused to deliver thoughts, feelings and sensations directly into Matthews' brain. There were many of these mind-control settings, all classified by vivid names: 'fluid locking', 'stone making', 'thigh talking', 'lobster-cracking', 'bomb-bursting', and the dreaded 'brain-saying', whereby thoughts were forced into his brain against his will....

[The gang] were led by a puppet-master named 'Bill the King'; all details were recorded by his second-in-command, 'Jack the Schoolmaster'. The French liaison was accomplished by a woman called Charlotte, who seemed to Matthews to be as much a prisoner as himself, and was often chained up near-naked. 'Sir Archy' was a woman who dressed as a man and spoke in obscenities; the machine itself was operated by the sinister, pockmarked and nameless 'Glove Woman'....
(Yes, MetaFilter does resemble a giant Air Loom Gang, doesn't it? We all know who Bill the King is; the rest I leave to your overheated imaginations...)
posted by languagehat at 1:36 PM on September 4, 2003

I shall henceforth be known as "MrMoonPie, Absolute Sole and Sacred Omni Imperious Arch Grand Arch Sovereign Omni Imperious Arch Grand Arch Proprietor Omni Imperious Arch-Grand-Arch-Emperor Supreme." Thank you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:48 PM on September 4, 2003

I love stuff like this. I wish there was a languagehat channel.
posted by vraxoin at 2:05 PM on September 4, 2003

a 23-languages channel? wouldn't that be a nightmare of subtitles?
posted by matteo at 2:10 PM on September 4, 2003

This is fantastic! I'm going looking for that book.

Here's another fascinating book on a footnote to British history.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:31 PM on September 4, 2003

Damn. Now I too (like Mayor Curley) am going to have to buy that book. Thanks, languagehat!
posted by carter at 4:51 PM on September 4, 2003

Anyone here ever play Bedlam, the text adventure, oooh, must have been twenty years ago...
posted by five fresh fish at 7:28 PM on September 4, 2003

fff, yes I had the cassette-stored Bedlam game for the TRS-80. Had I known about the rich history of the actual place, I might have found it more interesting! Great link, languagehat.
posted by samuelad at 7:31 AM on September 5, 2003

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