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This is my attempt at a chronological list of events mentioned in Frank Belknap Long’s short story, “The Hounds of Tindalos.” I am including the events of the ‘present’ only – not those mentioned as being in the distant past.
Here be spoilers:
Among its many smaller enigmas, the original BR is a forest of mysterious bottles used as props and set dressing. Foremost among these are the 2019 Johnny Walker Black Label bottle and the Smirnoff de Czar bottles, but there are others. One is the elusive, tall ‘craft bottle,’ the labels of which recently turned up at auction. But this post is about another bottle, buried deep in the background: a Kirin beer bottle.
Some of you may be familiar with the famous ‘chess-playing automaton’ known as “The Turk.” In fact, The Turk was an elaborate hoax, concealing a human chess player inside it. Of course, like anything successful and / or famous, there were imitations:
The Turk (debuted in Austria in 1770) changed hands a few times, and was eventually destroyed in a museum fire in Philadelphia 1854. Ajeeb was allegedly destroyed by in a fire at Coney Island in 1926, though at least one apparent copy of Ajeeb toured Canada in the 1930’s. Mephisto debuted in London in 1876, played games in England for several years, and was shown in Paris in 1889. “After 1889 it was dismantled and its subsequent whereabouts are unknown.”
And there is your inspiration: A long-lost ‘automaton’ re-discovered! Was it the product of a mad genius? What powers it? An entrapped demon? Alien technology? The ghost of a murdered operator? What secrets does it contain? And who is willing to kill to get it?
And a copy of what sounds like an urban legend about Ajeeb:
In one instance, a sore loser shot Ajeeb in the torso and supposedly wounded its operator. However … several others knew that the apprentice had been killed. To cover up for their still-successful ‘automaton,’ they got rid of the apprentice’s body. Due to the transient nature of the apprentice (who was known by no reputable or believable sources) the murder was never discovered. By 1898 … the operator … left, complaining of strange occurrences from inside Ajeeb where the automaton was moving on its own accord… two other operators [b]oth sometime later reported to friends and family brief incidents where Ajeeb seemed to be acting on its own. Allegedly, the last operator refused to play anything but checkers due to strange occurrences within the automaton.
… And the course of the path of the moon is light to the righteous, and darkness to the sinners … – I Enoch 41:8, R. H. Charles’ translation.
For those who have no idea what I’ll be talking about, here’s a primer:
For “fun,” I’ve been poking at the Google Newspaper Archive and Wikipedia, and trying to dig up some more articles / background info. Inspired by Ken Hite’s “The Dracula Dossier,” I briefly thought I might phony up a whole, physical mock dossier, but that would be a lot of work, so I’m just going to post my copy-pasted bullet points.
The idea is that you can use this ‘raw material’ to flesh out some RPG thing you’re writing background for. Periodic alien visitation, ancient alien satellite left in orbit, prehistoric human space-faring evidence, etc. Maybe change the names / dates / locations if you need to. I’ve got most of the Black Knight Satellite ‘events’ on my list, and I’ve added some more arguably ‘relevant’ material.
If you were more industrious than I, however, you could easily print out the photos, and print the articles on newsprint and put them in a folder. Ideally, you’d have some supporting ‘memos,’ and similar period paperwork. Could be a neat ‘artifact’ for your players to find.
Timeline and articles below the jump: