The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Bulletin (32)

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

I have a few events coming up, which I mention here so that you can prepare accordingly.

At Brooklyn’s inimitable Morbid Anatomy Museum, on August 20, there will be a launch party for my translation of The Zombie of Great Peru, by the equally inimitable Pierre-Corneille Blessebois, published by the also inimitable Black Scat Books. It’s a peculiar little book, noted for, among other things, the first mention of zombies in literature (that would be in 1697).

Also at Morbid Anatomy, on September 10, I will give a talk on Charles Fort, the Fortean society, and successive Forteans.

And, sometime this summer, Black Scat Books will release The Doug Skinner Dossier, a large collection of my short stories, columns, literary essays, monologues, cartoons, rounds, and other short pieces. It weighs in at 248 pages, in a handsome design by Norman Conquest.

Details will follow.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Musical Calling Cards

May 19th, 2015 · 1 Comment

At one time, many people were musically literate, and music was printed on calling cards. These two examples are 1 1/2 by 2 3/4 inches, printed in black, and colored by hand. People had better eyesight then too, I suppose. The music on the second one is rather badly printed; maybe it was intended simply to be decorative.



(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (214)

May 13th, 2015 · No Comments


We have another old, undated example of “Authors.” I found this one complete, without the original box, and worn from many hours of play. The canon this time includes Poe, Longfellow, Scott, Cooper, Hawthorne, Irving, Stevenson, Emerson, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Tennyson.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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May 7th, 2015 · No Comments


In 2012, Norman Conquest kicked off the Absurdist Texts and Documents series at Black Scat Books with his illustrated adaptation of Alphonse Allais’s story Un drame bien parisien. The original limited edition is now out of print. He has just republished a new expanded edition, with an introduction and notes by Doug Skinner. You can find it at Black Scat Books. Alphonse rides again!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Memorable Magazines (3): Beyond

April 27th, 2015 · 3 Comments

The success of Fate, started in 1948 by Ray Palmer and Curtis Fuller, inspired many imitations. Among the trashiest was Beyond, which put out its first issue in September 1968, published by Bernard S. Adelman and edited by Keith Ayling. It began as a digest, changing to a larger format in September 1969. I don’t know how long it lasted; the latest issue I have is from February 1971, in which it is announced that it will return to the digest format. I don’t know if it did.

Some veteran forteans contributed to it (Vincent Gaddis and Brad Steiger, for example), but Adelman and Ayling (and later editor Robert O’Dell) seemed happiest with articles like “Strange Forces Cause Animals to Accost Mankind,” “Does God Fill Teeth?” and sensational pieces on celebrities. Here are four covers from 1968 and 1969.





(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 3 CommentsTags: Ephemera · Forteana

Children’s Card Games (213)

April 20th, 2015 · 3 Comments


This undated deck, made by Gemaco, offers a slogan about safety on every card. I don’t know if this was for children, or for adults in the workplace. In either case, it encourages them to play cards rather than do something dangerous.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (212)

April 14th, 2015 · No Comments


“Whoopee!”, a 1929 game from Milton Bradley, used cards, counters, and dice. As usual, I just like the graphics. The backs of the cards are stylish too.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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The Zombie of Great Peru

April 3rd, 2015 · 1 Comment


The Zombie of Great Peru, or the Countess of Cocagne, by Pierre-Corneille Blessebois, rises from the grave in its first English edition, translated by Doug Skinner! It’s available now from Black Scat Books.

This bizarre novel, written in 1697, marks the first mention of the word “zombie” in world literature. It is a wicked tale of lascivious lust and lunatic desires, a strange concoction of prose and verse, from the sexual and racial hothouse of colonial Guadeloupe. Our narrator has his eye on the beautiful Creole Countess, who goes barefoot and serves her guests tadpoles. When she offers him sex in exchange for magical powers, he tricks her into thinking she’s an invisible zombie; slapstick, humiliation, and confusion follow. With a preface by the avant-garde magus Guillaume Apollinaire.

Pierre-Corneille Blessebois, also known as “the Casanova of the 17th century,” had an eye for the ladies and a taste for literary revenge. He was, at times, an arsonist, murderer, mercenary, deserter, and galley slave, finally ending up as a conscript in Guadeloupe. He wrote to boast about his sexual conquests and to mock his former partners; this book is no exception.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Anomalous Music

March 16th, 2015 · 1 Comment


I will be presenting three programs of “Anomalous Music” at the Morbid Anatomy Museum. They will be in the form of informal talks, with musical examples on keyboard.

Wednesday, March 25: Music from the Ultraterrestrials; music attributed to fairies, banshees, trowies, gnomes, ghosts, aliens, and other supposedly nonhuman creatures. Selections include fairy tunes from Norway and the British Isles and the channeled piano music of Rosemary Brown.

Wednesday, April 1: Music from the Occult; music by Rosicrucians, alchemists, Thelemites, and members of various secret societies. Selections include Athanasius Kircher’s music of the spheres, Lawsonomy hymns, and a puzzling tune by Paschal Beverly Randolph. Plus: the proper use of a monochord.

Wednesday, April 8: A Collection of Curiosities; agricultural plainchant, artificial musical languages, the music of Rameau’s Nephew, the troubling history of the gizmo harp, and other oddities.

All events are at 8pm; admission is $8 apiece, or $20 for all three. The Morbid Anatomy Museum is at 424 Third Ave, in Brooklyn, at the corner of 7th Street. Their website is

(Depicted: Robert Fludd’s Celestial Monochord. Posted by Doug Skinner.)

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A Frog Fall in Fludd

March 9th, 2015 · No Comments

Falling frogs are particularly associated with Charles Fort, who collected many reports in his 1919 book The Book of the Damned. Frog falls, however, have been reported for centuries, and I always enjoy spotting a reference.

I was, therefore, gratified to find a frog fall depicted by the curious 17th century philosopher and nonpareil, Robert Fludd, and reproduced in Joscelyn Godwin’s monograph (Thames and Hudson, 1979). The frogs fall in Fludd’s 1626 book Philosophia sacra et vere Christiana Seu Meteorologia Cosmica. You can see them in the “Great Meteorological Chart,” which shows a variety of celestial and meteorological phenomena and their effects on man. Here is a greatly reduced image of the full picture, just for context:


And here is a detail of the frogs, which are tumbling from the top of the arch, between stones and thunderbolts.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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