The Price of Anti-Vax

Today I read that an art academy in the USA decided that students can only attend when fully vaccinated unless they’ve got a medical or religious waiver: “Of the major religions practiced in the United States, only the Church of Christ, Scientist (whose adherents are known as Christian Scientists) and the Dutch Reformed Church are the two religious groups that openly discourage vaccination.”

Of course, the American anti-vax movement would have its roots in Dutch religious zealots. The Dutch Reformed Church would be the church of the Secession of 1834, by Reverend Hendrik de Cock, and it was his own son he carried to the grave because of his stance against vaccination. Dr. Hanneke Hoekstra, university lecturer on modern history wrote about this in her paper The Deceased Child:

In 1840 a son was born to the De Cock family, Regnerus Tjaarda. When he was one year old, the child got the feared smallpox. To survive, the little boy had to be vaccinated with cowpox, but this brought De Cock a moral dilemma. His oldest son Helenius had been vaccinated against pox in 1838; he was witness to what happened.

My father became familiar with the arguments of dr. A. Capadose and others against the vaccine soon after his conversion. Then and also later he was suspicious of everything that came from the side of the non-believers or was heavily promoted by them. (…) He constantly left the sick room and when evening had fallen I followed him without being noticed and witnessed how he poured his heart out to his God.

Trusting on his direct connection with God, De Cock decided that “Your will, and not mine, will be done.” When his son died the next day, there was not a word of complaint against God from the mouth of his father, according to Helenius. The death inspired their religious practice and their religion decided on death. (from: The Deceased Child, Hanneke Hoekstra, p. 199)

Vaccination depicted as a cow-like monster, being fed children in 1807. A precursor of the modern “not my children!” movement. Everything old is new again!

Of course, he wasn’t the first anti-vaxer; in the earlier 19th century there’d been an offensive against the pox, met by resistance from orthodox religious corners. Still; this one church, and one man’s religious verve, and we now still have people in the USA (and The Netherlands?) who are not getting vaccinated because of him. Aside from his boy Regnerus, how many have died because of it?

Farmer and writer (and De Cock’s nemesis) M.D. Teenstra had seen how tuberculosis spread like wildfire through his family in the 1820s. He’d written about smallpox in the Dutch colony of South Africa in his The Fruits of my Labours (1830):

In 1713 and 1755 smallpox must have raged terribly here. It appears that these childhood diseases are more dangerous amongst black and coloured people and make more victims than amongst Europeans. It was the knowledgeable and humanitarian Dibbetz (…), I say it was mr. R. de Klerk Dibbetz, inspector-general of the Cape’s hospitals, who in secrecy went to the Portuguese ship Belisario, anchored in the Table Bay where it had arrived on the 18th November 1803, where he got a strand of the material without the people’s knowledge, with which he in the city started his beneficial deceit, until finally governor Janssens, even though at first against the vaccine, allowed him the use the great hospital, now the barracks, for the further application of it. When the government saw the beneficial results, they showed Dibbetz their gratitude for his dangerous and courageous, his beneficial undertaking, with a genuine display of admiration for him, as well as costly gifts.

Meanwhile, in the province of Groningen (where Teenstra and De Cock lived) a 1an emergency hospital was built in 1817 because of a typhus epidemic, while newspapers in 1849 had daily updates on cholera sufferers and mortality numbers.

Article from an 1849 regional newspaper, tracking cholera infections and mortalities, much like our modern news bulletins.

All this goes to show that people of the era were well aware of the dangers and suffering caused by the various epidemics; the 19th century was an era of epidemics, but also one of enlightenment and medical progress. Not having your children vaccinated in 1840 certainly was a choice.

Hair Synchronicity

Sometimes, we invent our characters’ backstories. At other times, they write themselves.

In 1898, during the restoration of the Romanesque church of Westerwijwerd, a slab of plaster fell away, uncovering a fresco from the first half of the 14th century. It’s likely made after an example from the 12th century, and shows to Frisian warriors fighting with lance (“kletsie”) and sword. The duellists have a typical Frisian hairstyle, a status symbol for powerful medieval Frisians.

The medieval mural in the church of Westerwijwerd.

I recognised the hairstyle; my grandfather has it on a photo of him as a small child, and he still had it as an old man: shaven, except for a “tuufke” on top. It seems to me a ‘go to’ northern hairstyle in the early 20th century, and I wonder whether it’s a continuation of that old-Frisian hairdo. If it was merely practical, wherefore then the tuft?

My grandfather Hemke and grandmother Willemmina, mid-1950s.

In the middle ages the northern Dutch coastal area was a feudal society in more than one way. Rich farmers and their family clan ruled their own little fiefdoms, and they often had their strongholds in which they could retreat in times of war. And war there was often, as there was no central authority, with pope and emperor far away, the area functionally an island and rife with feuds.

This is the background we borrowed for the setting of The Red Man, in which the farm girl Ymke lives in an area of perpetual war between the local nobility. In The Return of the Uncomplaining Child we learn that our warrior woman Kaila has been in the northern region as a mercenary. Ymke doesn’t ask her on which side she fought – where nobility fights over a piece of land, the people living on it inevitably lose, whoever wins.

But then, looking at that old-Frisian hairdo, it struck me: In Ymke, she’s got a girlfriend from ‘up north’, but her mohawk haircut also comes from there!

Kaila and Ymke.

My Father’s Voice

My father, Brendan Adams, was dialect curator at the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra, and in that capacity he spent an enormous amount of time gathering and preserving the Ulster dialect, both in the field and via the ambitious Ulster Dialect Survey.

Dad wasn’t partisan when it came to language: he spoke both Irish and Ulster-Scots fluently (amongst other languages) and he believed strongly in the value of people getting together and talking to each other. So often in Northern Ireland, language and culture are weaponised to exclude and build walls between us, but Dad believed that the languages and dialects of our island belong to us all. 

Dad died right before I was born in 1981, so not only have I never met him, I’ve barely even heard his voice. Until now, the only audio sample to which I’ve had access was a snippet on a dictaphone he’d used for work, and which had been partially recorded over. 

But now Donal McAnallen at UFTM is heading up a project to digitise the museum’s old dialectology recordings, including some recordings of school children in Co. Armagh in the 1960s. Those children, now in their 60s, have been able to hear their childhood voices, as have their grandchildren, and we can all hear just how the enormous social change that has taken place in the decades since has influenced both accent and dialect.

And my father’s voice is on those newly digitised tapes too. This morning BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster played some snippets, which begins a little past the 1:25 mark.

You can read more about the project and my dad’s work on the BBC website.

BBC followed up with Angeline; she talks about the experience of hearing her father’s voice here.

Brendan Adams, with his uncle Richard Hayward, founders of the Ulster Dialect Survey

(ABA)

They Were Always Here: Tigrina

When going through the membership lists of the Weird Tales Club for our earlier post on female Weird Tales fans, one name stood out: Tigrina. I was curious who the woman was who hid behind that pseudonym. The story of Edythe Eyde (1921-2015) is far more interesting than I could have imagined, and illuminates how women’s contributions to early fandom got erased; not always by malice, but also because the stories that survived were those of the people who endured in fandom; men. For the full Tigrina story I happily point to the very extensive, three-part article on fiawol.org. Really, do click the links – there’s a wealth of ’40s fandom in there!

What we (the general ‘we’) know about early fandom is very much depending on the stories that are told around it; the stories that were told by the men who went on to write books or did other great things in the field of SFF, and were then invited on podia to tell the old stories. And what they then told about: “Uncle Forry, please tell us again about Ray Bradbury!” and “Uncle Ray, please tell us again about when you saw King Kong for the first time, and about Ray Harryhausen!” and “Other Uncle Ray, please tell us again about Forrest Ackerman!” It became a circle jerk, in which many fans who also propped up fandom got forgotten, including the women. But fandom was as lively then as now, if not more so, and fans built networks, reached out and met up.

Forrest “Forry” Ackerman wrote in Weird Tales, March 1940, on the topic of Weird Tales Clubs: “I should like to take this means of informing the imagi-natives of Los Angeles and environs of the existence of just such an organization in this vicinity. Over one hundred consecutive meetings have been held!” He counts Henry Kuttner as a member, and visits from Robert Bloch, Catherine Moore, and Emil Pataja. “We maintain a monster magazine library for the free use of all members, with Weird Tales running back over ten years, and The Hyborian Age and A History of the Necronomicon. The ‘Ghouls’ Get-together’ takes place every Thursday night of the year (excepting rare fifth Thursdays, when we all turn into vampires and go out and ‘paint the town red.‘)”

Ackerman’s pitch was clearly skewed towards the Weird Tales audience, and his trademark hyperbole is already evident. It was catnip, though, to teenage Edytha Eyde, who can be counted as an early ‘fandom goth’. She wrote to him: “I have always wished to belong to such an organization as yours, as I am deeply interested in the Occult, particularly Witchcraft and Black Magic. Unfortunately, my family has always been strongly against my studying these fascinating subjects. I am attending college now, however, (sophomore at exclusive Girls’ School) and I live away from home, so I have more of an opportunity to study the Occult sciences, and also to write this letter to all of you.”

She enclosed a piece for Ackerman’s zine, Voice of the Imagination (VOM), aptly titled ‘Hymn to Satan’. And we’re off to the races. Further issues of VOM saw letters printed, in which she expressed the wish to attend their gatherings, and told more about herself: “My parents, although kind and understanding in some ways, have never understood my liking for the weird and occult, Therefore, they would never understand or approve of my keeping up a correspondence with those who share my enjoyment of terrifying and gruesome things. In fact, if my secret were discovered, I would be denied the privileges I already enjoy, such as an occasional horror show, or spooky radio program.”

She also countered critique of her artwork: “I believe you stated…that my pictures would meet more with your approval if the characters sketched were not wearing quite so much clothing. Well, forgive me for saying this, but I disagree most heartily with your opinion. I do not wish to hurt your feelings, but the scantily clad damsels which so often appear in your fan magazines, although nicely drawn, do not seem, to me, to fit in with the type of magazines they are supposed to be. I think that figures clad in weird futuristic costumes or mystic robes and veils would be much more appropriate.”

Astute criticism there, and one which still applies to Fantasy art. She was curious about other members of the Los Angeles Fantasy Society, with a hint of things to come: “Also, I noticed that in the picture that Fojak gave me of Morojo and him in Chicago (or was it New York?) at the Fantasy Convention, there was another girl in that picture. Who is she? She certainly is attractive. I would like to meet both Morojo and her some time.” (Fojak, Morojo and Pogo are all ‘Ackermanese’ nicknames, based on Esperanto).

Forry would eventually meet up with Tigrina, and gushing write-ups in VOM ensued: “FOLLOW THIS GREAT FEATURE:–“TALES OF TIGRINA”– EVERY ISSUE EXCLUSIVELY IN THE VOICE!” 4E’s (his own rendering of “Forry”) prose is torturous, but the undercurrent is clear. He’s smitten: “She dressed in green and brown, complete to green fingernails. Fascinatingly, her second finger left hand is longer than her middle finger, the sign the Old Norse nue for the were-ylgr…the lycanthropess!(…) She said she’d offer me a lick of her ice cream but she was very conscious about germs. I wondered it she meant me. Later she tempted we with an apple. – (Serpentigrina!) I bit. But if she thought I lost my soul she was mistaken for my soul was saved — permanently — a long time ago. In The Beginning, in fact.”

Tigrina enjoyed being amongst like-minded folk, seeing Forry’s write-ups as a ‘welcome to the group!’ She cosplayed, bringing into practice what she saw as appropriate science fiction dress, started a petition to have Bela Lugosi guest star on the Inner Sanctum Mystery radio show, then just launching, and soon took another swipe at VOM‘s cover nudes: “Believe me, I hate to say this, but I thought that the cover was disgusting. It is well drawn, but it is just the picture itself which is repulsive to me.” She herself provided the cover of VOM 22, of April 1942, portraying her alter-ego, the witch Hazel with her cat Spoox.

She wrote in this issue: “To be able to retain the powers of performing spells, reciting incantations, etc. one must be possessed of a strong will. In dissipation, the will is steadily weakened so that it can easily be dominated by others. So students of the occult should not indulge in harmful practices. I am interested in Devil worship and Black Magic purely for revenge, power, love of mystery and just ‘pure devilishness’, but no further than that. I know also, that my interest in the Black Arts is, to a certain extent, a rebellion from the exceedingly ‘straight and narrow’ path that I have sometimes been forced to tread.”

And, again: “I was glad to see there were not so many of those horrid pictures this time. I feel that I must, however, express my extreme disapproval of the damsel in this edition of your magazine. Why, she is not even pretty! If all, women appeared thusly, I think that they should be exterminated. Ugh, she is posilutely rePULsive! And the title of the picture makes it doubly so. I can readily see how one might call the small picture on the cover of your magazine ‘art’, that is, if you like that sort of thing. (Said ‘art’ does not include the monster, creature, or oversized balloon she holds in her hands). But how can you even for an instant think that there is anything artistic or beautiful, or fantastic about that horrificaricature on page seven.”

Tigrina referred to part of the photo collage; a nude in the lower right corner, her nipples and genitals covered by the text “SPECIAL VOMERMAID”, holding the head of Ray Bradbury. She herself was marked with number 13. The drawing on page 7 indeed has nothing to recommend it, and nothing to do with SFF. I wonder how many female fans were turned off by these repeated nudes. They may seem tame to modern eyes, but they still give off the signal: we allow women in, but actually we’re still a boys’ club. How many women considered putting up with this as the price of admission? And how many women were unwilling to pay at all?

Her admission of Satanism got pushback in VOM 23, June 1942: “Tigrina is a silly girl.” and “Well, I don’t believe in forcing people to live religious lives, either. But she didn’t have to rebel that much!” Henry Kuttner, at 27 perhaps a bit older than other VOM readers and by then already married to CL Moore, had a more considered reply: “I do feel that Tigrina is sincere, and also that she has rather got off on the wrong foot, so to speak. Also I’m a little dubious about her expressed motives – revenge and power and so on. I have no personal criticism to make, but I feel it advisable to say that if those are Tigrina’s chief and only motives, she should consider carefully before investigating the real Satanism. (…) I thought it advisable to write her through Madge, in view of the always possible danger of an amateur student being victimized by fake cults.” It’s worth reading in full.

Tigrina’s reply to her critics was revealing, but you need to take her age and her conservative background into account: “It is true that occasionally I dabble in the Black Arts (what person does not who is interested in that sort of thing?) but only as an experiment or as a harmless (?) manner to give vent to my injured feelings. And I do not limit myself to experimenting with evil spells against those whom I dislike! But if there are truly such opposite beings as god and Satan, if such opposite beings do exist, I think that you know which deity that I would accept as Master!”

After this, there was radio silence from Tigrina, presumably because of college work. She returned with VOM 36, October 1944, (“Now that I’m not so closely supervised”), an issue that saw several of its members writing from overseas, in uniform. There had been gossip about her, which she now caught up with: “I was amused, amazed, and dismayed by the many conjectures and opinions concerning my character, physical appearance, etc. Evidently, some of you do not even believe that I exist. I assure you that I do, although I have often wondered why, and so, I imagine, have some of you.” She called out one Bob Tucker in particular, who apparently was an early champion of the ‘fake geek girl’ theory. Even then! “I shall probably never ‘keep company with any half-baked fans out of sheer gratitude’ as you so quaintly express it, nor am I in the habit of keeping company with friends for reasons of sheer gratitude anyway. I associate with my friends because of mutual enjoyment in companionship.” She also had no time for Sam Youd: “I was amused at Sam Youd’s aversion to me, and his calling me an “affected young school girl”. Perhaps I am affected, and it is true I am young in years, but I am no longer a school girl. So you would like to give me a thrashing, eh wot? What on earth for? What ever have I done to you? Do you feel the urge to beat up everyone whose opinions perhaps vary with yours?”

Then she finally read Kuttner’s open letter to her, and she reflected on the preceding few years: “I wish to express belated gratitude to Mr. Kuttner for taking the time from his writing of weird fiction in order to give me his opinions and advice. Many of you held an antagonistic attitude toward me in bygone days. I can see how you came to the conclusion that I was a spoiled young schoolgirl. Consider my position, however. There I was, for the first time away from the confines of home life. What was more natural than that I should immediately take advantage of my new “freedom”, and delve heart and soul (?) into the study of Black Magic, etc., and all the things that had been so strictly denied me? I was like the youth who, being denied the use of liquor at home, went to his first cocktail party, imbibed with great gusto, not discriminating in his choice of liquors, and who, as a result, became slightly confused.”

While Ackerman caught up with her during 1945, her contributions to VOM tapered off. She summarised: “Fantasy, to me, is an escape and refuge from the troublesome, work-a-day world, and I am sure that it is the same for many other fen.” She then capped it with a response to a humorous piece by Robert Bloch, stating that the world needed more Ackermans, and that it was therefore Forry’s duty to breed. She said: “Since Forrest Ackerman is a steadfast leader in Fandom, and a prolificontributor to Fantasy, the problem then, is not to ‘find Ackerman an Ackerwoman’, but (although this is not a ‘problem’, since the great Forrest J shows no inclination of forsaking Fandom) ‘how to retain such a valuable personality in the realms of Fantasy’.”

Forry could have read these words more closely, yet decided it was a good idea to propose to her, via a public letter to Tigrina: “Finding myself in the incredible position of being in love, I choose this unorthodox (certainly fantasstic!) method of proposing to U. U are a beautiful phantasy treasure, darling + measure up to so many of my ideals that I feel U could bring a lasting source of happiness into my life. I should very much like to be engaged to U. Please reply via ‘Dunky’ – who will be in the enviable position of knowing before me if U will do me the honour to be my fiancée. Je elske dig! Mi amas vin. Forry, 13 June 45. RSVPDQ”

An uncharacteristically pun-free cri du coeur from Ackerman. Puns, as well as common sense, an admonishment and plenty of emotional labour, were supplied by Tigrina, in her response: “So you envision us reading from the same copy of our favourite fantasy magazine, and want to play ‘ring around the rosy’ with my third finger left hand as a target? Tsk, how romantic! I’m honoured, to be sure. (…) I must compliment you upon your unique and utterly fantastic method, but there are those who might question the good taste of this public avowal of your affections. ‘Marriage is a Private Affair’, or so the theatre marquees proclaim. So are proposals! As this was rather an unexpected turn of events, I must reply with the trite phrase supposedly used by the average blushing maiden when being asked the Fatal Question, and say: “Oh, Forrest, this is so sudden!’ And as long as I am keeping myself in suspense, and you in suspense, well– let’s keep the rest of the fen guessing too, shall we?”

Tigrina was not going to turn Forry down in public, but it may be clear that marriage was not on the cards. While (relatedly?) her contributions to the ‘Ackerman group’-centred VOM waned, she was not done with fandom yet. A two week visit to Los Angeles, and Forry’s banquet in her honour got a write-up in the STEFNEWS of August 1945. Are they or aren’t they was still pretty much a topic of debate: “After the meal was finished, 4e had brought forth a cake lettered ‘Welcome Tigrina’ which was served with ice-cream (…) Tigrina wore a pea green outfit which included a hat with a veil, which she remembered to raise before eating. (I had remarked to Evans that her lifting or failure to lift this veil would indicate how excited she was.) It is fortunate that Ackerman did not wear a veil!”


FANews (also August ‘45) reported: “Last Saturday Aug 4 TIGRINA of Palo Alto came to LA to spend two weeks. Her time is being completely monopolized by 4e who is undoubtedly pressing his suit. 4E threw a welcoming party Sat. Nite in the Tamarack Room of Clifton’s Cafetaria, where the LASFS used to meet in the good old days. Most of LA Fandom attended, I believe there were about 17 altogether. ((We sincerely trust that a proper impression was made and that TIGRINA will enjoy her two weeks stay. Good Luck, everyone!))”

Further reporting from the LASFS has Forry indeed schlepping her all over town. And then, in LASFS #9 of 26 August: “Tigrina has tied herself to Los Angeles with a secretarial job at the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers in Hollywood.” While Forrest served in the US Army from 1942 to 1946 he often drove to town to attend LASFS meetings. As several fans lived nearby, the clubhouse at South Bixel Street was the social centre of a whole community of fans.

Tigrina, now also in LA, soon became a mainstay. The hormones of Shangri-L’Affaires’ 14-year old editor, Gerald Hewett, rose to the occasion: “Well, I am amazed. I am dazed. I am with glazed eyes. I got help on ‘Shaggy’ (…) The only persons present who did any actual work were the afore ahindsaid Laney, TIGRINA (lovely as the petals of the desert rose), EEEvans, SDRussell, Tigrina,(graceful as the nodding lily), Forrest J Ack-Ack, Robert Hoffman, Tigrina (radiant as the morning sunrise), and Pete Granger and I. Oh, yes, Tigrina arrived here today for the meeting. Charming girl.”

Tigrina was soon made club secretary, and made notes of club meetings. They are a fun read: “Kenneth Bonnell, not to be outdone by Wally Daugherty’s enthusiastic ideas for Club publicity at the previous meeting, piped up with an idea of his own, suggesting that the male members of the Club choose from among the many classy lassies prevalent in the motion pictures the one with whom they would most enjoy being marooned on the moon. This idea was somewhat squelched, however, when some far-seeing member suggested that the originator of this plan might find himself in quite a predicament if such a thing were actually to happen.” Tigrina laid on the burn.

FANews had several pages on LASFS affairs by her in October. “you’ll just have to take our word for it that she writes up (normally dry stuff) in a very interesting manner.”. And even in condensed form, we get nuggets of fandom tribulations. During S.D. Russell’s lecture on witchcraft: “The speech was unintentionally highlighted by a bit of modern skullduggery when Master Gerald Hewett, annoyed no doubt by the blasphemous snored of Niesen Himmel, who was obtrusively seeking the Land of Nod, proceeded to apply, by means of a lighted ‘Lucifer’, prodigious heat to Monsieur Himmel’s pedal extremities.” And, another lecture: “Russell’s second lecture was postponed because Sam arrived too late (he’d been studying the subject and lost track of time)…” And later: “Meeting adjourned at 9:36 to hear a lecture (third and final) by Russell but it had to be postponed as Sam pleaded insufficient notes… General discussions prevailed.” October 11th: “Betty Northrup and Jack Parsons came up from Pasadena especially to hear Russell’s lecture, but Russell didn’t appear.” Those lectures on witchcraft would’ve been in better hands with Tigrina herself!

Reading through the notes, you see that keeping the Club running and maintaining the Club room was a community effort: a roster was drawn up, there was a Rent Payers’ Committee, and things were taken care of (who’ll get the mimeograph fixed?). LA fandom, 1945, was more than just Forrest J. Ackerman. An acknowledgement: “All of the aforegoing ‘minutes’ have been condensed from ‘carbons’ sent to us by the LASFS Sec’y, TIGRINA. We publish them as a service to fandom to show what Fandom’s most active club is doing. (…) Thanx, LASFS. And Thank you TIGRINA!”

Editor of The Acolyte, Francis Towner Laney, wrote a memoir in 1948 about the heyday of LA fandom. On Tigrina he wrote: “One of the first arrivals was Edythe Eyde of Palo Alto, a rather handsome young lady who through her VOM-publicised romance with Ackerman received more notoriety and less fame than she deserved. Tigrina, as she preferred to be called, took a genuine interest in weird fiction and cinema, was a not incompetent poet and, in a pedantic sort of long-winded way, a pretty good fan writer. She was rather short, neatly built, and with a whooping laugh that sometimes embarrassed her. Everyone around the club seemed to like Tigrina, and she managed to stay around for close to two years without becoming embroiled in any fusses, apart from one memorable occasion when E. Everett Evans unadvisedly patted Tigrina’s little posterior one night after the meeting, and came within a hairsbreadth of having his face slapped as T told him off in a way I hugely loved. Right there in the clubroom, too.” At the end of 1946 she put her name forward as candidate for Director of the LASFS for 1947, but didn’t get the majority vote, and stayed on as secretary until June 1947.

Tigrina read fortunes as her alter ego Witch Hazel at the group’s 1945 Hallowe’en party, and on a coast-to-coast Memorial Day broadcast, she talked about the Pacificon, and especially the costume party. It was valuable publicity for the group; it would be the first post-war WorldCon, organised by the LASFS. It was held on the weekend of July 4-7 ’46, and Tigrina helped to run it: she and Virginia Daugherty organised the Masquerade, then as now a popular event, and took part herself: “Tigrina describes her costume as Dracula’s Daughter, but it didn’t follow any movie. It was all black, spangled with black sequins. A headpiece like Batman’s was at first accompanied with a black eyemask, the only mask at the masquerade. Elbow length gloves, bra, and tights from waist to ankle, with over all a peekaboo cloak. She sang a couple of songs of her own composition” I am reminded of that Weird Tales cover.

A photo of LASFS’s 1945 Christmas party shows a group of 17 people, including six women. Ackerman is in the top row, and his hand rests on Tigrina’s shoulder. The program book of WorldCon has a page with their photos and their names combined; people were shipping them – or was it a last ditch attempt by Forry himself? They visited Edgar Rice Burroughs, were photographed together at Pacificon, but still those distant wedding bells came no nearer. It slowly dawned on Forry that no matter how smitten he was, no matter what good friends they were, it could go no further than that.

Tigrina’s account of the ‘how and why’ is under the pseudonym ‘Lisa Ben’ because she was “concerned that she would upset elderly relatives”. Her parents had already been concerned about her liking for Weird Tales and supernatural radio shows. What she could not reveal, not even to her science fiction friends, was her first love. I think that where ‘Tigrina’ was an aspect of Edythe Eyde that she kept carefully hidden from her parents, ‘Lisa Ben’ was another aspect carefully compartmentalised.

“A few years later, in 1945, I moved down here to Los Angeles to get away from my mother, who was always coming by and going through my things. (…) I found out one day when I was sunning myself up on the top of the garage of the place where I had a room. Some other girls that lived in the building came up and spread out their towels and started to talk among themselves. I noticed that although there was plenty of talk, they never mentioned boys’ names. I thought, Well, gee, that’s refreshing to hear some people talk who aren’t always talking about their boyfriends and breakups. I got started talking to them just out of friendliness. I DON’T know what brought up the subject, but one of the girls turned to me and said, ‘Are you gay?’ And I said, ‘I try to be as happy as I can under the circumstances.’ They all laughed. Then they said, ‘No, no,’ and told me what it meant.”

It’s worth reading in full. It’s a poignant account of her first love and the disapproval of her mother. In Los Angeles, the girls she met took her to a gay bar, and she got the full initiation when policemen entered the bar: “Well, I was frightened. I said, ‘I think I’ll leave.’ The two women at the table said, ‘Don’t leave yet. Wait a half hour because sometimes they lurk outside and then as you leave they’ll take you in.'” It wasn’t a real raid; those policemen just came to intimidate: “In those days, every once in a while there would be an article in the newspapers like, ‘Party of Perverts Broken Up at Such and Such,’ and there would be a list of names.” It’s a tactic still used by media and politicians about gay and trans people: call them perverts, and let the readers’ imaginations come up with something infinitely worse than what really went on in those clubs: dancing.

She started publishing her magazine for gay gals, Vice Versa, in June 1947, coinciding with her stepping down as secretary for the LASFS: “I wrote Vice Versa mainly to keep myself company. I called it Vice Versa because in those days our kind of life was considered a vice. (…) And vice versa means the opposite. I thought it was very apropos. (…) I put in five copies at a time with carbon paper, and typed it through twice and ended up with ten copies of Vice Versa. (…) Then I would say to the girls as I passed the magazine out, ‘When you get through with this, don’t throw it away, pass it on to another gay gal.’ We didn’t use the term lesbian so much then. We just said gay gal. In that way Vice Versa would pass from friend to friend. I wrote almost everything in the magazine, although once in a while I would get a contribution. I wrote book reviews, although there were very few books around at the time that said anything about lesbians.”

Loose ends: By the time of Ackerman’s proposal, she knew she was gay, even though she may not have been able to put the word to it. I can imagine she did weigh up whether to marry him; it would offer a certain stability, respectability… a beard. But, there’s this occasion, earlier, when she ran into her first love: “out from this hotel doorway came my friend. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘How are you? I thought that was you. You know, I’m married now and you should see Junior. I have the cutest little boy.’ She had grabbed hold of my arm, and before I could think, I said, ‘Don’t touch me!’ I reacted that way because all through those years I had never resolved my love for her. (…) I went home and I was just crushed, although, since she was married, I wouldn’t have taken her back. I didn’t want her. She was tainted.”

Ackermanclaimed(in the program book for 1994’s GalaxiCon V, where he was a Guest of Honour): “I sort of nudged her out of the closet. In 1947 she went on to boldly create the legendary VICE VERSA, America’s first underground ‘Uranian magazine,’ a type-written and carbon copied affair. She had so few contributors that I, as an empathetic writer, adopted the pseudonym Laurajean Ermayne and wrote reviews, poetry and fiction.” I honestly think he’s overstating his own role in her ‘coming out’ (such as it was), but Ackerman has been known to be a relentless self-promotor – and architect of our collective memory of early fandom, with him as main star. Still, they kept in contact, as Tigrina she made fandom appearances, wrote stories (with Ackerman) and even appeared as fan in his Famous Monsters of Filmland with Ackerman, Don Glut and ‘Schlock’.

She put what she’d experienced in SFF fandom into practice in her newfound life, trying to find and build a community, and in the process she became an unintentional trailblazer. There was one difference though, as she reported later: “I never realized how serious it was. I blithely mailed these things out from the office with no return address, until one of my friends phoned me and said, ‘You know, you really shouldn’t be doing that. It is against the law and it could land you in trouble.’ And I said, ‘Why? I don’t mention the city it’s from. I don’t mention anybody’s name. And it’s not a dirty magazine by any stretch of the imagination.’ And she said, “Well, it would be dirty to the straight people because it’s about girls'”

After Vice Versa she started writing and performing gay song parodies, like the filking at SFF conventions. She did this as Lisa Ben, an anagram of ‘lesbian’; protecting herself, but also harking back to the days of nicknames in SFF San Francisco. Tigrina had retreated to the background, but Lisa Ben was to stay for quite a while. A favourite of hers is not a parody; written in the 1950s, it starts like this:

Scattered are we over land, over sea.
How many we number will never be known.
Each one must learn from the stars.
She must wear a mask on her heart.
And live In a world set apart.
A shy secret world of her own.
Here’s to the days that we yearn for.

Hear Edyte reminiscing on her past on the Making Gay History podcast.

Dracula’s Bridesmaid

(This appeared in Verbal Magazine in October ’10 as BRAM STOKER: ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID, NEVER DRACULA’S BRIDE)

Recently, Vampire Diaries star Paul Wesley exclaimed in an interview: “They’ve made this whole vampire thing recently like a sex thing.Back in the day it used to be like Dracula. They were genuinely frightening but now it’s a very sexual tone.”

As for many people, his image of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is that of a neck-chasing stalker with an opera cape and a thick Hungarian accent. Mainly responsible for this image is the – it has to be said – toothless movie with Bela Lugosi. If people who are put off by this creaky Count read the book, they’d find a story filled with adventure, strong characters, romance and, indeed, sex: everything you’ll find in The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Being Human and Twilight

Stoker’s book of blood is a surprisingly modern read: events happen in ‘real time’ through the use of letter fragments and diary entries. Victorian gadgetry blends scientific authority with folklore. It further convinces the reader because, unwittingly or otherwise, Stoker wrote about the things that kept him awake at night, and populated his novel with the people he knew.

In Count Dracula, beneath the disguise of the Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes, it’s easy to recognize the distinguished actor Henry Irving, who employed Stoker as manager of his Lyceum Theatre. Likewise, the equally celebrated actress Ellen Terry doubles as Stoker’s resolute, independent heroine Mina Harker. Irving and Terry were married but Stoker often found himself their go-between. Where Irving was years their senior, Stoker and Terry were of the same age and shared the playful, friendly manner of honeymooners. Terry nicknamed Stoker, “Ma” and herself “dutiful daughter”. 

Their relationship was more affectionate – though not necessarily intimate – than that of Stoker and his wife. It’s often been claimed that Florence Stoker was frigid and that the sexual undercurrents of Dracula represent Bram’s repressed sexuality boiling over. This is most notable in this scene, early in the book, in which Stoker’s protagonist is beset by a trio of female vampires:

“I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes.”

And even more explicitly: 

“I lay quiet, looking out from under my eyelashes in an agony of delightful anticipation. The fair girl advanced and bent over me till I could feel the movement of her breath upon me.”

Legend has it that Bram dreamed this scene after a too generous helping of dressed crab. This seems a bowdlerized version of events, even if it’s still terribly Freudian. Perhaps Stoker did have that nightmare, prompted by his subconscious, but the truth about Florence’s frigidity is less than straightforward.

Born in Dublin in 1847, by 1877 Bram had a respectable career as a civil servant at Dublin Castle. He had just finished a “dry as bones” book on the reformation of clerical duties, but also wrote theatrical reviews. Florence Balcombe, then 18, had been Oscar Wilde’s first love, but she chose security and a stable life with Bram. As she told Oscar: “He never gets into debt, and his character is excellent.” Irving beckoned and they married hastily, similar to Count Dracula summoning Harker on the eve of his wedding.

Florence was stunningly beautiful. She enjoyed a rich social life in the absence of Stoker, who worked long and late for Irving, with only weekends set aside for his wife. While pregnant, Florence realized that further pregnancies would destroy her looks, and that she wanted to entertain artists, not children. So, not so much the loveless marriage of rumour, as a rational choice by an emancipated woman who enjoyed her freedom – there’s more than a bit of Mina in Florence, too. 

While “Mrs. Bram” was a social butterfly, Stoker himself was well enough liked and hugely respected. Respect, however, was not to be had from the one person of whom Stoker seemed to require it the most: Henry Irving. A mesmeric figure onstage and off, his Hamlet unsurpassed, Irving rose from shoestring provincial tours to the London stage before opening his Lyceum in 1878. Stoker flattered Irving in a review, and when they met, he became hysterical with adoration. Irving’s ego was so tickled that he hired Stoker as his manager on the spot, but despite Stoker’s hard work and evident worship, Irving treated him as a mere servant. 

It’s revealing that the characters in Dracula are defined by their response to the magnetic figure of the Count, either resisting him or becoming enthralled. Stoker got caught by Irving’s gravitational pull and reflected this, perhaps in buried resentment, when he depicted Dracula as a monster of heartless manipulation and ambition. 

When Stoker did a reading of Dracula with the Lyceum cast, Irving watched a while from the back, then exclaimed, “Dreadful!’, before striding off. Dracula only made it to the stage in 1925, well after Stoker’s death in 1912, and then only as a “barnstormer”; actor-producer Hamilton Deane was a far cry from Irving, and the play was a far cry from Shakespeare. Yet it was this crowd-pleaser that was eventually adapted into the film with Bela Lugosi. 

Stoker didn’t live long enough to experience – or coast on – Dracula’s eventual fame. Despite ill health and stroke, his later years were quietly spent writing horror potboilers and articles, including a bizarre expose of Elizabeth I as a male imposter. The hallucinogenic prose of his last book, The Lair of the White Worm, prompted later suspicions that he was crazed by syphilis, contracted from prostitutes supposedly visited when Florence wouldn’t oblige.

Since Stoker’s death, increasingly bizarre theories have been posited, casting the author as a repressed homosexual, the victim of ‘haemosexual trauma’, and a conspirator hiding Jack the Ripper’s identity. It seems that in reality, Stoker was the perfect Victorian gentleman, and perhaps that inspires the search for a literary fatal flaw. 

If anything, he lacked a risk-taking spirit and was conservative. He was a writer but could never become a true artist, and lived this ambition through Irving. Consequently, if one character in Dracula sums up Stoker, it’s Renfield: the dedicated solicitor who ends up as a minion and herald of the Count, catching flies, then spiders, wanting a kitten but never getting a shot at the ultimate reward. 

Beyond the Veil

Still discombobulated from the paperback launch of The Red Man and Others, we got the message that the line-up of Flame Tree Press’s Beyond the Veil would be made public.

You can find the full list on Flame Tree Press’s blog post, as well as links to further info on each author. This anthology will come out on Kindle, in paperback and in hardback in October, just in time for Hallowe’en. It was edited by Mark Morris, and contains twenty original horror stories, sixteen of which were commissioned from some of the top names of the genre, with the other four selected from hundreds of submissions.

It’s a great list of names, and we are really proud to see ours amongst Priya Sharma, Toby Litt, Matthew Holness (Dream Weaver, and actor, of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace of which we’re huge fans), Lisa Tuttle, and Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentlemen, another favourite of ours).

For our story, For All The Dead, we returned to the area I grew up in, close to the Northern Dutch coast, but that of a century and a bit back. We find ourselves in Soltcamp, the fictionalised version of Zoutkamp, the fisherman’s village that once lay by the sea. It’s a village where the people kept, in the words of one of our characters, ‘one eye on the Bible, the other on the sea.’ It allowed us to play with the folklore of the sea, and embroider our own mythology.

Familiar as we are with the history of Zoutkamp, we worked in elements of one of its infamous residents of the past, the seer Meldine, who was said to have made many predictions of things still to happen, and with her followers to practice her own particular version of Christianity. She is said to have appeared at funerals to preach about the fate of the departed, until the villagers felt she carried that too far and told her to stop. You can read more about Meldine, and other prophets of the sea, in our article for Northern Earth.

The sea, an ever lurking danger behind the dikes of the low-lying areas, certainly had a hold over the people of the coast. It provided their livelihood, but several big floods also devastated the countryside. Chief amongst them was the Christmas flood of 1717, claiming 14,000 lives, but there were other dangers. For our story we were thinking of the disaster of of 1883. A few years ago we visited the monument on the dike of the village of Moddergat on a cold and windy April day; its plaque tells how 109 fishermen went out on 22 ships, and how 17 ships and 83 men remained at sea.

The sea giveth, and she taketh away.

Electra (1962): Blood and Mud

Mikhalis Kakogiannis’ 1962 Greek film of the Euripides play straddles a reality which is ours, and yet not quite. Its characters are human, all too human; they inhabit an earthy world, yet they follow a course which seems to be predestined, with stylised speech and ritualised movement. Where Medea was a feast of sets and costumes, Electra gets its strength from plot, character, choreography and camera.

The highlight of the film is undoubtedly actress Irene Papas, who also appears in the other parts of Kakogiannis’ ‘Greek Tragedy’ trilogy, The Trojan Women and Iphigenia. Striking, somewhat androgynous, she is stripped down to simple clothes, hair and make-up. She plays the part of Electra, who was banished when her father Agamemnon came back from the Trojan War, and was murdered by his wife and her lover. Humiliated into an arranged marriage with a farmer, Electra bides her time, and when her brother joins her in exile, they plot their revenge.

Aside from the prologue and a few other scenes, the film is set entirely around the simple farm on which Electra lives. The strongest impression we get of the city is the gargantuan walls, with small figures moving against the huge stones. Agamemnon, when we first see him, is likewise gigantic, shot from below. Gone for a decade, he’s become a mythical figure in the child Electra’s eyes. Only then, when she throws herself in his arms, does he become a man of human scale again, before being brought down by his wife and the usurper.

The outdoors is earthy; we see clouds move through the skies, sometimes becoming a character in their own right, a plough pulled through dank earth and still women, their heavy long dresses moving in the breeze. These women are both a Greek chorus and a coven, protecting and literally shielding Electra whenever intruders enter their domain. First it is Electra’s brother who comes out of his own exile. When he walks to and fro, the women move with him, just as Electra turns to keep facing him. Scenes like this could just have been two people talking, but instead it is used to prop up the idea of a heightened reality, a pseudo-reality. We’re in the ancient Greece of Troy, not that of history.

Another visitor, at Electra’s invitation, is her mother, queen Clytemnestra. She explains why she killed her husband and Electra’s father, and apologises. There is no starker contrast possible between these two powerful women: Electra with her inner strength, and her mother, whose royal bearing seems to come as much from her dazzling clothes and make-up as from her controlled movement; controlled power emanates from her.

Whereas the reckoning with Agamemnon’s murderer, the usurper Aeghistus, happened off-screen and almost off-handedly. This is a story about women, and Clytemnestra’s killing is the lynchpin of the movie. She is led into the farmhouse in which Electra’s brother Orestes waits. At her screams, Electra’s women panic. They hurl themselves around in their black cloaks, as crows fly off from the treetops and a horse bolts. This is not a murder that is being committed, it is a taboo being broken. Only the enslaved Trojan women Clytemnestra brought remain impassive. They care not. The contrast between the frantic movement and the stillness that follows is powerful. It’s a held breath, but then the women slowly rise: the Gods have not descended, and their world has not ended.

Throughout the film, you feel the constant presence of the Gods, yet they do not reveal themselves. The drama, in the end, is one on a human scale.

The Oera Linda Book

Let’s start with this: the Oera Linda book is a fake, probably put together as a satire on the Frisian nationalism of the 1870s, orthodox Christians, and the Frisian antiquarians’ zeal to piece together a Great Frisian History that never existed. The joke got out of hand when a prominent Frisian antiquarian took it seriously and had it published as genuine. While by the late 1870s it was generally recognised as a forgery, it was translated into German in 1933, dubbed “the Nordic Bible” and a panel discussion in 1934 inspired Himmler’s Ahnenerbe. It again popped up with the neopagans from the late 1970s onwards, and it’s become a bit of a darling of neo-Nazis too.

“Okke min sun. Tissa boka mot i mit lif and sele waria” – as runes go, they’re not very runey.

As we live in an era in which history is all too easily dismissed as ‘old stuff for the scrapyard,’ we would do well to remember that the study of history is a living thing in itself. Not only do we keep learning about who we are, we also keep placing history in its proper context and finding new angles: a lot of our thinking about history, and indeed history writing, was formed by the 18th and 19th century culture of conquest, empire building and white male supremacy. Only now have we begun to write women back into history, and PoCs and other groups previously omitted. In studying and teaching history, another important role is to fight the misuse and perversion of history, for example by those neo-Nazis.

But let us go back to the earliest mentions of the Oera Linda book in the Dutch papers! The first mention we find is in the Provinciale Overijsselsche en Zwolsche Courant of 16th November, 1871.

Jan Gerardus Ottema, publisher of the Oera Linda book

The bookseller H. Kuipers in Leeuwarden has sent a prospectus of the much discussed manuscript: Thet Oera Linda Bok, of which dr. J. G. Ottema has taken on the editing and translating. The prospectus states that under this title a collection of writings is offered, of which the first is called: Thet bok thére Adela Folstar and is written by Adela, the wife of Apol Grêvetman ovir the Linda wrda, the second by Apollonia her daughter, the rest by her later descendants Frêthorik en Wiljow, their son Konerêd and grandson Bêden, who all have the family name Oera Linda. The first two pieces, the prospectus says, give the most important messages about the country, the people, the social position and religion of the Frisians in the earliest centuries. The later pieces contain a history of Friso and his successors. The authors mark themselves as contemporaries of the incidents of which they write, or give an attestation of the source of the messages. The whole is a strange addition to the old Frisian letters…

In the prospectus a page has been printed from the writing by Fréthorik Tobinomath Oera Linda about the arrival of Friso in Staveren. The first page, of which the first words are in the original language goes like this: Twa jêr nêi that Gosa moder wrde, kêm er en flâte to thet Flymare en fala. Thet folk hropte ho-n-sêen; which according to the prospectus should be read as: Two years after Gosa became honorary mother, a fleet came to the Flymeer. The people called ‘Houzee!’ They sailed to Staveren, and there they called again. The banners were in top and at night they shot burning arrows in the sky. When day broke, some of them rowed to the harbour. They again called ‘Houzee!’ When they came to land a young man jumped on the shore. In his hands he carried a shield; on which were laid bread and salt. After him came an old man. He said: we come from the far Krekaland, to preserve our customs; now we wish that you are so friendly as to give us enough land to live on. He told us a whole history, which I will narrate in more detail afterwards. The elder didn’t know what to do. They send messengers round, also to myself. I went to them and said: now we have a Mother, we should ask her counsel. (Provinciale Overijsselsche en Zwolsche Courant, 16Nov, 1871)

Friso, first King of Frisia, on his way to Staveren

It goes on like this. You may have noticed that Friso, the founding father of the Frisians according to myths, comes from Krekaland – a hardly disguised Greece, “Griekenland” in Dutch. They have sailed past an island called Kreta, after the shouting (“kreten”) of the inhabitants when they see the ship. This in itself should have been a tip-off for Dr. Ottema that this document was a stinker. Not so. From the same newspaper, on 10th of October 1872, this notice: At H. Kuipers from Leeuwarded rolls off the press: Thet oera linda bok. After a manuscript from the thirteenth century. Edited, translated and published by Dr. J.G. Ottema. Price: Fl 4.

And it was good enough for some! From the Leeuwarder Courant of a week later, a book report. The newspaper only prints part of what apparently was a longer letter.

Finally the manuscript, that last year caused so much ruction amongst men of letters, has been published. Then I’ve always said: we can and must not judge before the whole work has been printed and read by us. And what impression has reading it left us with? Such a thing could one not invent; like this could someone from our century, from the us known practitioners of the Frisian language, not have composed it. The new, and so far unknown and so mathematically formed writing system; – the peculiar spelling of the old-Frisian, older and better than that of the old Frisian laws; – the style and appearance of myths and legends, as pieces from different, from older times remained writings from different people in different times; but especially the contents, the thoughts, the characteristic expressions and original images, – this all contradicts the possibility that it could be an invention from our own time. (…)

It is a miracle book which, however you look at it, praise it or doubt it, will remain a mystery, while for its provenance the honesty of the owner, who won’t sell it for any money, is guaranteed. For him it is an heirloom from his father and forefathers, and he still lives in the area which was the stage of most of what happened: because this is remarkable too, that it contains so many details about the area between the province of Noord-Holland and the islands and Staveren, and mentions countries, forests and places of which we know so little, because they have been swallowed by the South Sea in the 12th and 13th century. Though – read the book yourself and write to me what you think. Your friend, F. (Leeuwarder Courant, 18 Oct 1872)

The ‘standing runes’ of the Oera Linda book.

In 1873 academics were still stroking their learned chins. The Frisian Society for History, Antiquities and Language had their 135th meeting on the 27th of August. Twenty members and two guests heard a lecture from Dr. A.T. Reitsma, a historical-critical investigation of Thet Oera Linda bok. He encapsulated its authenticity in three questions: 1. Was the manuscript really written in 1256 by Hiddo Oera Linda? 2. Is it a copy of another manuscript by Liko Oera Linda, from 803? 3. Are the pieces in that manuscript from the times and hands of the writers whose names they bear, and composed between 558 and mid-1st century before Christ?

Regarding the 1st question we argue for authenticity; aside from the way in which the manuscript has come to the family Over de Linden, a) the language in which it was written, similar to that of the oldest old-Frisian documents, b) the completely original script, differing from the later Roman script, and c) the writing tools that were used. Regarding the 2nd question; a remarkable gap which happened because of turning two pages at the same time proves that it is not an original but a copy. Also, the preface by Liko completely corresponds with the era of Charlemagne, in which it was written, and explains why the manuscript from that time on could no longer be counted as part of the national literature, but only has been saved as a relic in one family. Regarding the 3rd question; the relationship between the various pieces show that Adela has started in 558 with writing down the curious tales from antiquity, and that this work was continued by her offspring in the family of Oera Linda, maybe until the time of Liko, though the last part of the manuscript has been lost. In this manner, each writer is a witness to the authenticity of the previous writings.

Regarding the internal proof of authenticity, the speaker pointed out firstly the general level of culture in which Frya’s people according to these writings lived in the 6th century before Christ, which is not inconsistent with, but with keeping in mind the singularity of this people, completely in correspondence with the cultural situations of other older people. Secondly, that the manner of history writing was in its infancy, not showing any artistry, and can be compared with the histories of the Greek logographs from before Herodotus. On basis of these internal and external facts the speaker concluded that the manuscript was authentic.

François Haverschmidt’s student poetry.

Of course, the ‘evidence’ trotted out could well have been foreseen by the composers of the fake manuscript: for centuries, stories have been told in the form of diaries, and ‘here a page is missing’ is one of the tricks a writer has up their sleeve to give their story a veneer of authenticity. The (likely) main author of the book, François Haverschmidt, was a preacher who had published a collection of poetry in his student days, under a punning title translating as Sobs and Grim Smiles. He did so under the pseudonym of Piet Paaltjens, a student who, according to the collection’s preface, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Leiden “on the 9th October 1853”. We see the same sort of mystification as used in the Oera Linda bok. In the collection, Haverschmidt fights his own lingering depression by ridiculing sentimentalism, and so it is a rare example of cynical romanticism. As a theology student, Haverschmidt lived above an undertaker, which lead to the following lines: When I see the mourner walk / my heart beats in joy / because I think how soon / I shall go out to pray.

“…Nei Atland sunken is…” Yes, it went there!

Haverschmidt, with help, wrote the book as an elaborate parody. As a result, scientists in 19th century Frisia found themselves the horses put behind the wagon, and confirmation bias was a significant factor: they wanted the documents to be real, and found the reasons why it was real; it conformed to their idea of what the Frisian history should be. The Oera Linda joke backfiring shows us why we need to be critical about history as we are being taught and told it, and consider: “How much of this is true? Is this interpretation of the evidence correct?” and, “What has been left out of the history books?”

On a Secession

In 1834, in the then isolated and remote village of Ulrum, Reverend De Cock was unhappy with the increasingly Enlightenment-influenced ideas that permeated the Dutch Reformed state religion, and with the church board he seceded. Eventually, his secession lead to a split in the Dutch Reformed Church, and reverberated through to the USA. Before that, De Cock was relieved of his function by the government, forbidden to preach, and another pastor, Reverend Smith, was called in. Writer, traveller and local gadfly Marten Douwes Teenstra wrote an anonymous pamphlet (with some italics mine)…

The Dutch Reformed church in Ulrum

(…)Sunday (12 October) morning ships full of hungry souls arrived in Zoutkamp (the next village, a harbour) to come to Ulrum with their dirty linen; more than a hundered carriages and a legion of pedestrians gathered in the streets of Ulrum, of which many went to the Widow Koster (in whose pub the secessionists met), who poured them gin, then left without paying – well, that was for De Cock and the landlady to solve; to pay is worldly and to pray and sigh is heavenly. It was mostly unknown faces who looked at each other in bewilderment. “O, if only these could be the last days of such violence,” others sighed.

At 10 o’clock, Reverend Smith went to the church, which was already full of people, both natural children of Adam as those who (as they felt) were reborn and had seen the light and belonged to the chosen flock. (Here Teenstra’s want of an editor becomes apparent, as the text becomes mired in smug allusions which, 185 years later, become unreadable. Suffice to say: De Cock was busy conspiring with his church council, and sent a friendly preacher, Scholte, to the church to try and preach. As designated preacher, Smith refused to forego his sermon.)

The pub of the widow Koster, meeting place of the Secessionists, early 20th c. photo

Reverend Smith, climbing off the pulpit, was asked again by Scholte to be allowed to preach in the church that afternoon. On being refused again, as Reverend Smith had received a message from the Provincial Church Council in Groningen to not only refuse it but to prevent it with suitable means, De Cock and his Xantippe started lambasting his sermon. Now the plebs started thronging more and more. Reverend Smith, almost 66 years old, was squeezed and punched, especially in the underbelly, so that his supporting girlde broke. The elderly preacher, almost breathless, would have collapsed in the pushing and pinching mass (amongst which Mrs De Cock shouted out: “Now is the time!”) if not for the few men, who also associate our own work and labours with religion, who supported him in getting out. Now the Game Cock put up his feathers (quo quis indoctior eo impudentior – the more stupid, the more brazen) and shouted to the people: “Stay in the church! Stay, people! Anon Reverend Scholte will speak.” Then some verses from Psalm 25 were sung. Later, however, De Cock and his cronies were driven out of the church by police officials, in name of the church elders and the local governors, after which the church was closed.

Reverend Hendrik de Cock, and his Act of Secession

Now we come to the main events of Sunday 19th October.

G.J. Van Polen, police officer from Appingedam, had already arrived early, as well as the constables of the neighbouring villages of Leens, Kloosterburen, Baflo, Warffum, Usquert and Kantens in Ulrum, and, with Ulrum’s constable, guarded the doors of the church. Two of them placed themselves at the pulpit, and two others accompanied J. van der Helm, reverend of Niekerk and Vliedorp, whose turn it was to preach. Coming in the church towards 9:30, it was already filled with participants and onlookers. The constables helped the preacher to get through the crowd and reached the step to the choir, close to the choir fence; here they got so much push-back that they had to retreat a little; while one Klaas Pieters Ritsema (commonly named after his wife, Klaas Wietskes), day labourer in Ulrum, being warned against pushing back by the constable of Leens, called in a loud voice: “Reverend Van der Helm will not get on the pulpit, but De Cock will.” – The constable of Leens called for help from the constables at the pulpit, but they called back that they couldn’t push through: Reverend Van der Helm, while hearing many sniggering comments, had to leave the church.

Interior of the church in Ulrum, 1925

Now De Cock, in full regalia, climbed on a bench within the choir fence, after having tried himself to get to the pulpit, now being stopped by Van Polen, whom he asked: who gave you the right to refuse me; to which Van P. answered: my superior, that is, the Officer of Justice. Upon this, De Cock, who did not want to answer to any worldly powers, read openly the ACT OF SECESSION.

(…) After reading this so-called Act of Secession – of which we could hear little, and so don’t know where De Cock ended, so we have included the whole thing (though I’m not) – Van Polen once more asked with the utmost sweetness, if it were praying and begging, to no longer rebel against the government – quoting once more the Officer of Justice, to which De Cock replied: “that the Officer didn’t have a say, and that he came in name of God, the King of Kings,” after which he called to the crowd: “Shall Van der Helm climb the pulpit? – No! No! Away with that Baal-priest! Away with the papist! Away with the idolator! Away with Satan’s sermon!” and adding: “The church is ours, we have seceded!”

Van Polen letDe Cock know in soft and modest terms that he was rousing the crowd and was heating tempers, to which De Cock replied: “I do nothing except for God, and should you use violence against me, than you will find your death; because I do not fear any worldly power of government.” A new attempt (by De Cock) to reach the pulpit failed, and the crowd started singing from the 118th Psalm, after which De Cock did a very noisy prayer. (…) We felt sorry for the man: his long, straight hair hung over his hollow eyes and pale cheeks, as if he was drowning. (…) We hoped that Van Polen would let him continue, thinking as the father of a madhouse: “leave the mad to do their talking.” But of course! He was again urged to obedience by Van Polen. De Cock said: “God should be obeyed sooner than people. There are no earthly powers who can stand against this,” and he started reading the community something from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Another caution from Van Polen again was fruitless and the gospel exercise lasted until 11:30, closing with an announcement that the service in the church would continue towards 1. Then De Cock left, the crowd thinned, those who remained were driven from the church, the door was closed and the church was surveilled by the constables.

Hotel/village hall of Ulrum, early 20th century

(…) Wednesday evening, 22nd October, De Cock and church elder J. J. Beukema, the first decent in black and wearing a tricorne hat, the other, as a crippled Vulcan, with coloured stockings, knee breeches with the buckles undone, and a blue sleeping cap on his head, appeared in the village hall. Here they immediately (as if to shoot burning soot from a chimney with a two barrel gun) announced officially that they had seceded and now were independent; requesting protection, instead of opposition, from the Council, because they had to follow God’s holy laws instead of the worldly.

(…)”What shall it be tomorrow?” was the question going round on Saturday 25 October. All sorts of rumours spread here: Reverend de Cock, Reverend J. van den Helm, the constable of Ulrum, called Jan Koster, and also the other constables present, as well as the earlier mentioned Klaas Wietskes had been summoned to appear in Appingedam at the courthouse on Friday the 31st; (…) Others said, that in Zoutkamp more than 40 ship’s mates, all big followers of their preacher Du Cloux of Vierhuizen, would appear armed with crankshafts, to help their reverend, whose turn it was, to the pulpit. One of the main Cock-friendlies (sorry, it’s what it says) said (and I have heard this myself): that opposition made matters worse, and if the constables had started anything, then it wouldn’t have stopped with the eight people (who had been summoned to Appingedam), and what would they have done against it? (…) followed by a much-meaning nodding of the head. He meant that a small force was like a drop of water in a coal fire, only stoking the heat. The sailors from Zoutkamp would not help either; because on Sunday the 26th so many people would come from Friesland, from the other side of the canal, from here to Delfzijl, to help De Cock in the pulpit, that nothing would stop them.

So, what did happen? Saturday afternoon, about 2 o’clock, an infantry company of the 10th division, one hundred men strong, not counting the officers (and Captain Vrij), came marching along the towpath from Mensingeweer to Ulrum, having come with three barges from Groningen city. (…) The soldiers were quartered with the villagers, and the night from Saturday to Sunday remained peaceful. (…)

The Ulrum rectory, 1925 postcard

Mr De Cock had not been forgotten in this respect, having aside from twelve men quartered in, also a guard at his house. Further there were no or few exceptions; all villagers, whichever denomination, were tasked with housing soldiers, of which butchers, bakers and pub landlords had the most profit: however much bakers were the main cause of the circumstances (Beukema, main church elder, was a baker and owner of half a dozen properties in the village). The girls too, being pious yet greedy, rejoiced, that Ulrum was enriched with a garison.

(…) Sunday morning, the 26th October, heard aside from the rumbling of clocks also the beating of drums. More than a thousand strangers (many out of sheer curiosity) came to Ulrum. This was the end of the handwringers’ mutiny: Soldiers who had withstood the siege and bombardment of the citadel of Antwerp in 1831, stood in line and received orders to loosen their ammunition belts. (…) The church was occupied and the reverend A.P.A. Du Cloux climbed without any opposition into the pulpit.

(…) De Cock wanted to go outside in the morning, telling his guard that he wanted to preach. (…) The guard simply kept him in the house and De Cock was not allowed to preach or go out. (…) Then came a crowd of Cock-friendlies to the rectory, and twenty were admitted, and now started a service in the presence of an officer, who quickly put an end to it.

To the south of Ulrum some of the pious gathered to hear a certain Roelf Medema, farmer in Adorp, in a field, while others played church on the sides of a ditch – then this crowd was soon disbanded.

(…) The soldiers muttered about the lady who’d have them sleep on straw, though they’d managed to get themselves beds, pillows, etc.

Reenactment soldiers at the 175-year anniversary

De Cock was now inaccessible under house arrest; and the guard at the rectory said: “He (De Cock) is not allowed out and nobody can visit him; if he has to go somewhere, an armed man goes with him, as well as with the missus, and even the maid is followed closely. All his papers have been sealed and moved away, so that he doesn’t even have a napkin left.” It goes without saying, that this was said in an exaggerated tone; only those papers were taken by the constable which had to do with his correspondence.

Everything is peaceful and quiet for now. Many poor villagers, who are not looking towards the coming winter without worry, are concerned that in their poverty they will be eaten out of bread and home, and complain about their guests. And also, these are soldiers from Holland (the west; Ulrum is in the far north), and they are not used to such guests. The soldiers guarding the rectory were also jealous that Mrs De Cock outdid them in swearing and cursing.

(…) Ulrum, 28 October 1834.

Nosferatu in Holland

This week as main attraction the most interesting film of this season.
NOSFERATU
THE SCOURGE OF MANKIND

Mysterious movie play in 6 acts. Freely adapted from the novel “Drasula” by Bram Stoker
NOSFERATU
Does this word not sound like the midnight cry of the deathbird? Beware of speaking this thought out loud; otherwise images of life will bleach to shadows. The child of Belia was the vampire Nosferatu who lived off — and fed with the blood of mankind. Ghostly shapes arise from the midnight fog and stalk their prey.

This is how the Haagsche Courant of the 16th February 1922 heralded the coming of Nosferatu to the Dutch shores; in this case to the Flora and Olympia cinemas in The Hague. It should be noted that the premiere came before the German premiere. Either the PR man or the typesetter was not familiar with Stoker’s book, though “Drasula” has a certain ring to it. You had to be 18 to be admitted, and you wre encouraged to book your seats timely. The Nieuwe Courant gave the following review:

It’s a somewhat horrific film, which is the main attraction in the Flora and Olympia. “Nosferatu, the Scourge of Mankind” immediately awakens feelings of repulsion by his appearance, which becomes abhorrence when one sees his obscure practices. Like a shadow he haunts, the vampire, in the sombre-romantic castle in Transylvania, and then later extends his territory to bring his horror elsewhere, which he and his faithful accomplices, plague and death, spread. But, as it should, we will also see the end of his reign when he, surprised by cock crow, disappears in a phosphor flame. (Nieuwe Courant, 19 Feb 1922)

Very slowly Nosferatu made his way through the Netherlands, landing in the Amsterdam Luxor Theater in April that year:

Nosferatu, the Schourge of Humanity, the plague, the ghostly mystery, the bloodsucking vampyr escorted by scary rats and with coffins filled with cursed earth as luggage; see there the attractive-sensational image of this film. It’s true, with his excessive demand of increasing tension and emotion, the audience is making a difficult job for the screenwriters. Scary absurdities, deathly leaps and death defying stunts, unnatural things “that are not meant to be” and “easy girls” are always a good draw, in film and on the stage; serious pieces of art however give low box offices. But this ghost and horror story is of a whole differnent extreme, which the visitors did not know how to fully appreciate. After all, they had the best of time with this frightful ghost and took it more as a lugubrous-sinister joke. And that’s the sad think with this film. The subject could, with a somewhat less Grand Guignol-like approach, have yielded a gripping script. The locations chosen by the director contrast well with the corruption-bringing plague: the quiet-satisfied old-German city with the pittoresk houses and streets and the costumes of almost a century ago that fit so well with them. You could also not wish for better actors for a first class work: the estate agent, the young man and his wife, and Nosferatu himself all give outstanding and touching performances. But we are assured that a less outrageous topic would have given us a better result. (Algemeen Handelsblad, 11 April 1922)

Tittering in Rotterdam too:

A moving picture which because of its excentricity will draw lots of interest played for the first time in Pompenburg and W.B. Theatre. It is a collection of horrors, which so played on weak nerves, that a part of the audience appeared to have the urge to laugh away the unpleasant feeling; a proof that the superstitious practices, for which the Medieval times are preferably qualified as “dark”, have not yet lost their influence on the modern masses. For adults this picture, showing a period from a plague-epidemic, very enjoyable; not in the least because of the technical finesse and neat scenery. (Maasbode, 11 Aug 1922)

How much film art changed in the 1920s of the last century shows this article from 1927, when the cinema club Filmliga Amsterdam held a revival screening of Nosferatu:

With Faits Divers from the French cineast Claude Autant-Lara the Filmliga brought an avant-garde film as without them we would not get to see. It’s a short film, from 1923, but it still comes across as completely modern and pure, though four years mean a lot in the development of film art. The other film of the afternoon proved this: Nosferatu, the first film of the director Murnau, who afterwards made Faust, Der Letzte Mann proves completely out of date in seven years time. The Filmliga could have chosen a more typical and nicer specimen of the German film art of that time: Caligari remains unsurpassed as a whole: but with Nosferatu one gets an interesting look back on the nature of the first attempts, for the film to win an independent place on its own terrain. Nosferatu is “eine Symphonie des Grauens” and shows the typical characteristics of what was the crown of the German film in that time: the still hesitant balancing of a direction which had resolutely stepped away from imitating the stage, but did not manage yet to fill the now available possibilities with life. Film drama was forsaken and an independent script was sought, but such a script was also in horror films from that first time often completely depending of and guided by the film effects that were then seen as characteristic: the unreal, being able to realise the supernatural, the suggestion of environment and atmosphere. Nosferatu is still sketching this jump into the fantastic, with randomly thought up and spooky scenario; the best moments of the film which still are strong are mostly those who have a quite loose connection with the whole; a single nicely lit fragment in the harbour, the passing of a sail boat, the suggestion of a wall with closed shutters. The tempo is not really fluent; a few time when the ghostly is sped up it looks comical; and what especially disappoints in Nosferatu is the lack of atmosphere: the capricious clair-obscur that, discovered by the German film, seemed full of possibilities for a whole, has not yet been used significantly and the lighting remains stark and straightforward. A look back which creates distance. (Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 27 Dec 1927)

Well, that’s Murnau told!