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Posts Tagged ‘London’

Photo by Richard Alois

Photo by Richard Alois

Gothic London, its varied history, and just getting to and from places has kept me so busy and exhausted over the past month that I’ve shirked my duties as guest blogger for STEAMED. My apologies. Even now as I write this, I’m on a bus to the train station to see the editor of Gearhearts Steampunk Glamour Revue, Patricia Ash. Unlike most places in the USA (and even many in the UK), traveling in London can be an all-day affair. If I’m out of the flat (and not indulging in a frothy mocha at a Starbucks), I’m either on a bus, on the tube, or walking up to 10 miles a day exploring this glorious city. I’ve even hired a Barclay Bicycle and tooled around a bit. Great fun. It’s not unusual that I get totally lost walking from here to there, even with my Mini A to Z, discovering many wondrous things along the way. Things, of course, that I would unlikely ever be able to find again.

I highly recommend going on guided walks in London on your visit, but not through London Walks. Although they have a varied menu of walks, it’s really hit or miss with the guide and crowd. It’s not unusual for them to have 50-100 people on a walk, and then it’s a big mess. You can’t hear the guide and your constantly moving with a huge crowd. Not fun.

For you Gothic Ghost Story fans, I can’t recommend the walks hosted by Richard Jones enough. He came highly recommended to me by my writerly colleague Leanna Renee Hieber. Richard has written something like twenty-three books on haunted London. Leanna used some of his ghosts in her fabulous Strangely Beautiful series.

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting Richard and talking about publishing and marketing with him between the stops on the Sweeney Todd Haunted Walking Tour, which I thoroughly enjoyed. His dramatic presentation of ghost stories and history is fabulously entertaining. On his walk, I learned that many of the churchyards throughout London are higher than the rest of the city. This is because in the early 19th century, they were quite literally burying people on top of one another. The gravediggers would dig up a grave, move the existing bones out of the way, wait until after the current mourners were done saying their goodbyes, and then they’d slip the bones back in the new grave.

In the 1830s, a law was passed that closed many of the overrun graveyards in The City of London, including the Cross Bones Graveyard, on which I wrote about in June 2013. At this time, cemeteries were set up around the perimeter of London, like Kensal Green Cemetery, close to where I stay while in London. I’ll be visiting Kensal Green Cemetery shortly, and I’ll hopefully have a report on their catacombs! Seven of these cemeteries were built, known affectionately as the Magnificent Seven.

There was also a practice called “fishing” among grave robbers. Grave robbing could be a lucrative business at £12-15 per body (a considerable amount of money then), but it was also against the law. Grave robbers had to get in and out quickly before the cemetery security watch made their way back around. Family members would arrange things on the fresh grave in a particular way so they’d know if the grave had been disturbed. Thus, the grave robbers would first take note on how things, flowers and tokens and such, were arranged on the grave. Then they’d dig a thin notch across near the top of the grave, crack open the coffin with their shovel, and lower a rope down into the coffin and around the corpse. They’d pull the body out of the grave, strip it of it’s clothes and jewelry, for it was death if caught stealing personal property. A dead body, however, just carried a hearty fine. They’d put everything back the way they found it and then sell the corpses to doctors and medical schools for research.

There are hundreds of thousands of graves all over London, in the many churchyards as well as in larger cemeteries like Brompton Cemetery, also one of the Magnificent Seven. I visited Brompton Cemetery my first week here because it appears in my book Avalon Revisited. I rode a Barclay Bicycle through the ancient grounds in awe. This is where my characters Arthur and Avalon discovered the resurrected Pembertons.
O. M. Grey in London

O. M. Grey in London

I’ve had a lovely time visiting historical places, Harry Potter filming locations, and all the places in my books. I’ve made a preliminary map for readers interested in seeing the settings themselves. Perhaps 2014 will bring a proper O. M. Grey and Leanna Renee Hieber tour of London.

For now, I’ll take my leave until (hopefully) two weeks from now when I’ll have more Gothic Goodies to share. Until then, more mochas, more exploration, more walking and then even more walking.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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The lovely Lolitas of STEAMED! have asked me to contribute twice a month, and I am quite honored to do so. Initially, at least, my articles will revolve around the interesting historical tidbits of the Victorian Era that appear in my novels and stories.

One my favorite things about writing Steampunk is the research. It’s fascinating, really. So often in my fiction, I incorporate historical people or events or places or even technology. My imagination for technology is rather limited, I’m afraid, as my strengths as a writer are characterization, emotional depth, and dialogue. Technology and world-building are far down the list, so I work with what’s already there, although much of what I incorporate into my work has been all but lost to history. These little-known facts and events and gadgets find new life in my work. With that splendid thing known as creative license, I embellish and bend historical events and 19th century technology to fit the needs of my story.

Today, I’ll focus on The Air Loom: The Human Influencing Machine, something devised in 1810, even before the Victoria’s Reign began in 1837. While doing research on the notorious Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital, aka Bethlem) Asylum for a guest post called “Lunatics in London” for Bitten by Books during a blog tour, I watched a fascinating documentary on the infamous hospital. Within, they introduced one James Tilly Matthews, the first documented paranoid schizophrenic. I was immediately fascinated by this person and his concept of The Air Loom, so I vowed to work it into my next novel.

In my Steampunk teen romance The Zombies of Mesmer, we visit the horrible Bethlehem Asylum. Although set in 1880, my Bedlam’s halls contain the misery and pain seen in the hospital in Matthews’ time there. After being released from a three-year stint in a French prison for suspicion of being a double agent, Matthews returned to London and proceeded to accuse the Home Secretary of treason in a rather dramatic and publicly disruptive way. Matthews was committed to Bethlem Asylum in 1797 as a lunatic. Fortunately for Matthews, a resident of the hospital for over a decade, he had a relatively cushy room there and ended up drawing plans for the renovation of Bethlem Hospital among many other helpful things. In 1810, he wrote a book called Illustrations of Madness in which he illustrated the influencing machine in great detail both in design and description of purpose. Matthews believed that scientist spies, experts in “pneumatic chemistry,” had set up near Bedlam and was tormenting him by means of rays emitted from The Air Loom.

The Air Loom was a piece of advanced technology, but in the early part of the industrial age advanced technology often meant enormous machinery, rather than the increasing minutarisation that characterise the 21st century. The Air Loom was enormous. The mechanism stood seven metres tall and occupied a footprint of nine square metres, and it was constructed from oak with machined brass fittings.

It was surrounded by barrels that fed noxious gases through oiled leather pipes into the main body of the machine. The gases were derived from substances including ‘gas from the horse’s anus’, ‘seminal fluid’, ‘putrid human breath’ and ‘effluvia of dogs’. (Source)

The machine’s rays exacted such horrendous tortures onto Matthews’ mind like “kiteing,” where ideas were forced into his brain; “thought-making,” where thoughts were removed and replaced by others of the scientist’s choosing; and Lobster Cracking, where “the external pressure of the magnetic atmosphere surrounding the person assailed was increased, ‘so as to stagnate his circulation, impede his vital motions, and produce instant death’.” Other torments included “lengthening of the brain,” “thigh talking,” “fluid locking,” and “bomb bursting.”

Read more about this fascinating machine and see images of The Air Loom, built by artist Rod Dickinson using Matthews’ illustrations at http://www.theairloom.org.

An altered version of The Air Loom appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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