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Saturday, June 15, 2024

What's Ticking in The Walls

1. The Dark Secret of Forty 
Dial Books for Young Readers published the second book in the Anthony Monday series forty years ago this month. The Dark Secret of Weatherend (1984) returned Anthony Monday and Miss Eells to print for the first time since 1978's The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn and gave them a more harrowing adventure to untangle. That, and Mrs. Hanson Oxenstern, the president of the library board. 

2. Quake, Rattle, Roll
This month is also the anniversary of the 1692 Jamaica earthquake. On June 7, 1692, the quake hit and destroyed much of the city of Port Royal. While many buildings, houses, and streets of the once-prosperous town were damaged, Fort Charles, the first port on the harbor, survived and has become a tourist attraction. Johnny Dixon learns about the earthquake - and what may have caused it - during his adventure in The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost (1999).

3. Alone Again (Naturally)
Bellairs's first book, Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966), touched on several aspects of the Roman Catholic Church. There's the titular saint, less-than-pius popes, architecturally unsound cathedrals, and quips on various rituals. Bellairs even mentions an ascetic monk being cured of nervous shakes after praying to Saint Fidgeta. Asceticism is a self-discipline avoiding all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. in a recent JSTOR Daily article, Amelia Soth discusses some of these so-called "Desert Fathers":
Early Christian lore is full of tales..., accounts of ascetics who sought salvation through a return to wildness. These bestial saints wandered through the desert, eating only raw food and clothed only in their long, unruly hair; their nails grown into claws, and they shied away from people like wild deer.
The ascetics reportedly lived alongside lions and gazelles, sharing their food and water, forgetting human civilization and all its evils. By the fourth century, there are accounts of up to 5,000 monks living in the deserts of Egypt. Most of these, however, weren't wandering the wilds; rather, they lived in small monastic communities inhabiting simple clay cells spaced far apart, to allow each monk solitude. In the heat of the afternoon, the whole area resounded with the sound of continuously chanted psalms.
4. What If...
For the What if file ... I recently rediscovered the website of Boilerplate, a fictional combat robot from the Victorian era and early 20th century, created in 2000 by artist Paul Guinan. What if Evaristus Sloane's baseball pitching robot – from The Eyes of the Killer Robot (1986) – had a change of heart and sought new adventures? Spencer Talus has a new "vision" and is no longer considered a killer. It might work.

5. Get Into the Spirit
The book The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie (1994) introduced readers to the Haitian Vodou spirit Baron Samedi, known as Lord of the Dead. Erin Kelly, writing at All That's Interesting, shared some of the spirit's history:
In the Haitian Voodoo religion, the Baron is the spirit who bears souls to the underworld. But unlike figures such as the shinigami of Japan, the banshees of Celtic lore, or the Grim Reaper, Baron Samedi is not quite the menacing specter one might expect a personification of death to be. A suave trickster known for his wicked wit, he takes joy in smoking, drinking, and obscenity. And as much as Baron Samedi is a bringer of death, he's is also a protector of life, and he may be willing to spare yours — if you know how to bribe him.
6. Question Box
Finally, it's more than time for a quick dip into the question box – a review of Bellairsia's search logs. What are visitors searching for? For some reason, there were three recent searches for Jefferson, Virginia, and Monticello. You can find two items on the American 5-cent coin: Monticello was U.S. President Jefferson's home. And it was in Virginia. I'm not sure why someone is searching our site for that.

The other search term of interest was "Where does uncle Jonathan go to see dr Marvell's". Hmmm. I'm not batting high on these. Was it something from the House movie?

The search term "Lewis" makes sense, being the beloved main character in twelve books. But "Baardt" seems to be a misspelling of Father Remigius Baart, the late priest at Johnny Dixon's church.

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