We’ve always admired John’s ability to mention something in passing that may seem unimportant but find out later that it’s something of a joke. Take Roger Bacon’s slightly deaf Brass Head and the instructions for a wall of glass it spews out late one night. It’s a funny story on its own but it’s not until you realize John is having a bit of fun with the brazen head legend that you realize John really knows his historic legends. John did some of this in Saint Fidgeta, too - Dragomira, Sporus, Floradora, and Pope Joan’s true identity come to mind.
Of course it’s sometimes difficult to know when John is simply wearing his motley cap or talking out of it:
"I once had to put to rest the ghost of an old woman who was haunting a village south of here. She had been a witch, and her power to return came from a little wooden charm she had hidden under the floor of her house. I found it and decided to burn it in the town square—with the proper ceremonies, of course. When I set fire to the amulet, she appeared and rushed at me with her arms raised. She had long hooked nails and looked as though she wanted to scratch my eyes out. [The Face in the Frost; 18]"
This, too, is another of Roger Bacon’s stories. Is this another (lesser-known) legend surrounding Bacon that was given the Bellairsian twist, or is this one completely John? More than anything it sounds like an amalgamation of ghost stories or folktales that John reassembled to stir the mood. Ring any bells?