Squamous But True (for Christmas)

Here are a couple of Christmas-themed articles from real newspapers of the 1920s  & 1930s which … well, which have a kind of strange aspect to their subject matter which could easily be twisted to form part of a Lovecraftian-themed game scenario. Because I know some of you out there in Internet-land love Christmas, while others hate it with a passion, I have included one upbeat story and, er, one not-so-upbeat story.

The first article is about a little girl who slept for almost three earthly years … anybody know how long that is in Dreamlands years?

Exhibit C: News article from December 23, 1934

Sleeping Beauty’s

Christmas Planned

CHICAGO — For the first time in three years Patricia Maguire, the modern sleeping beauty, is to join the family circle around the Christmas tree.

She slipped away into that strange unnatural sleep on Feb. 15, 1932.

Last Christmas her eyes still had the unseeing dullness of the blind. She was unresponsive to the world.

Today, though still in a twilight of sleeping sickness, her brown eyes have the sparkle of one who sees again.

So Christmas, 1934, is to have something of the cheer that has been lacking since Christmas, 1931, at the modest little yellow home in Oak Park. With a happy twinkle in her blue eyes the girl’s mother, Mrs. Peter Miley, and her elder daughter, Mrs. Gladys Hansen, are trimming the Christmas tree that stands near the big window of the living room.

Here’s a Christmas story that is a bit less light-and-fluffy … (and if it puts you off your Christmas cake, just be thankful that I chose not to go with the 1930s story about the young actor kidnapped and brutally tortured … with his ransom not coming on a Christmas card from the abductors; that one might, er, put you off receiving Christmas cards FOR LIFE :-)).

Exhibit D: News article from December 21, 1929



Action by U. S. Food Officials Probably Saves Suffering.

WASHINGTON, D. C. — By speedily establishing the presence of poison, in nine Christmas fruit cakes, the United States food and drug administration not only protected the persons who might have eaten them but also probably saved the life of the woman who baked them.

Her case had baffled physicians up to the time the analysis was made. Now she is being treated for poisoning, and is responding, though still seriously ill.

Names Are Witheld

Inspector G. P. Larrick, who traced eight fruit cakes in this region and one to Quebec, Canada, Monday told the peculiar circumstances which led to the investigation but refused to reveal the name of any of the persons concerned. “The fruit cake first was brought to our laboratories by a physician,” he said, “he had been treating a woman who was very ill of some sort of poisoning, but he could not establish its nature. The symptoms might have indicated one of several poisons. “It just chanced that he was invited to the home of a dentist friend, and the doctor and his wife and the dentist and his wife sampled the Christmas fruit cake. All four became ill.

Finds Source of Cake.

The doctor asked where the fruit cake had been purchased, and when he learned that it was at the home of his patient, he at once thought of the possibility that he might have hit upon her ailment.”

Inspector Larrick’s story was that a poison, flour like in appearance, had been so unevenly mixed through a batch of flour that the housewife had eaten but small doses in her baking. It was his opinion that some person, wanting a paper bag, had dumped its poison contents into a sack of flour, thinking it was flour.

(and in case you’re wondering what the last sentence actually means … I have no idea, either).

3 responses to “Squamous But True (for Christmas)

  • Raven

    Patricia Maguire’s ‘sleepy-sickness’ (as it was called early last century) might have been a late case of encephalitis lethargica, whose peak years were 1915-1926.

    In fantasy literature, you may recall the opening issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman explained that epidemic as caused by a magus having imprisoned Morpheus a.k.a. Dream — inadvertently; the intended captive had been his older sister Death, in order to demand immortality.

    • deanadelaide

      That would definitely make for an excellent plot-hook in a Call of Cthulhu story … in fact the 1920s epidemic of “sleepy sickness” plays an important role in Penelope Love’s excellent scenario “Porphyry & Asphodel” which we published a few years back. It also turns up as a plot element in another (as yet unpublished) campaign that we are hoping to one day release … So Patricia Maguire is not alone in the CoC world.

      Good pick up on the Neil Gaiman / Sandman connection, too.

  • Raven

    Oh, and regarding “Poisoned Yule Cakes”:

    It was his opinion that some person, wanting a paper bag, had dumped its poison contents into a sack of flour, thinking it was flour.

    (and in case you’re wondering what the last sentence actually means … I have no idea, either).

    Thinking that the contents of the bag were flour, rather than poison. (Perhaps it had been some form of rat poison made to resemble flour so that rats would consume it, and it also fooled a human being.)

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