91 stories
·
2 followers

The Small Script-Copying Service That Powered NYC Entertainment for Decades

1 Comment
article-image

n 1957, playwright Tennessee Williams received an offer he couldn't refuse. Recommend Studio Duplicating Service to your friends, said its founder, Jean Shepard, and we'll print your scripts for free.

So begins the story of a copy shop that opened on 9th Street in New York’s East Village that year, and for the next four decades printed the lion's share of scripts for the city’s entertainers in film, television, and the theater.

The story of the shop and the paper it churned out is the secret history of the printed archive of the New York entertainment industry for almost half of the 20th century, sitting squarely at the intersection of the history of drama, printing, and labor. It’s also the story of a woman entrepreneur whose working life was designed to maintain her life as a creative person, and how the business helped her employees do the same along the way.

article-image

Everybody from Edward Albee to Spike Lee went to Studio Duplicating. From 1975 to 1997, NBC’s Saturday Night Live was one of Shepard's biggest and most demanding customers. A first draft of an episode’s script came into the shop on Friday evening, and Studio staff worked through the night to get it printed by Saturday morning. A round of revisions came back Saturday afternoon, and new pages were delivered to NBC Studios in time for evening rehearsals after a frenzied round of proofing, typing, and printing. ABC was another major client, hiring Studio Duplicating for soap operas like All My Children and Dark Shadows. Typists got hooked on the stories and fought to type the soaps to get a sneak-peek at new episodes before they aired.

These three shows were a few of many loyal clients that helped the business grow. Scripts for movies shot in New York were constantly coming in, and a lot of play- and screenwriters were repeat customers. Woody Allen was a major client, and Jean’s son Grey Shepard, who I interviewed for this article, recalls reading his newest scripts over the dinner table with Jean.

article-image

Allen often edited his work in person at a desk reserved for writers in the shop. Elaine May, Terry Southern, William Goldman, and Spike Lee were just a few of the screenwriters whose scripts were printed there. One of Grey's summers off from school was spent mimeographing, collating, and binding shooting scripts for Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather.

article-image

Major work for television signaled the height of the Studio Duplicating Service, which was by then an all-night operation that employed around 30 people in a brownstone on 44th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. Studio Duplicating took up the ground floor, and the Shepards’ home—which featured an indoor badminton court and art studio—was on the upper floors. The shop’s beginnings, however, were humbler. Shepard and her founding business partner, Patricia Scott, rented a tiny office in the back of a dry cleaner’s shop on East 9th.

In those early years, most of the work they printed was for theatrical productions on and off Broadway. Among the nearly 600 scripts printed by Studio Duplicating in the New York Public Library are scripts by Tennessee Williams, Aldus Huxley, Irving Berlin, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, and Truman Capote. Scott sold her share in the business in 1961, and that year Studio Duplicating relocated to larger quarters on West 43rd Street. Six years later, Shepard purchased the 44th Street brownstone. Grey remembers how rough the block was in those days. His mother, however, loved dogs and they always kept two German shepherds that went with them almost everywhere. Nobody messed with the Shepards because nobody wanted to mess with their dogs.

article-image

Grey also recalls that most of Studio Duplicating’s employees were men—he remembers only five women who worked there—and that they were working actors. There were a handful of writers, too, and anyone who wasn't working yet was trying to make it. One employee to go onto a successful acting career was Marcia Wallace (1942-2013), who played receptionist Carol Kester on The Bob Newhart Show and voiced Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons. Joel Parsons, an actor traceable to productions of Shakespeare's As You Like It and Henry IV, worked as a mimeographer at Studio when the business opened, and stayed on for 30 years.

Working at Studio Duplicating was a great gig for actors because their boss understood the ebb and flow of the profession. Shepard readily gave time off for performances and auditions, and if someone got a part in a touring company, he could hop on the bus for three months and his job would be waiting when he returned. Shepard gave herself the same flexibility. She hated mornings and refused to take calls before noon, and also spent part of each day writing, painting, or at her pottery wheel. She devoted time in the afternoon and late at night to the business, keeping up with orders, billing, and bookkeeping in the wee hours.

article-image

Shepard was well connected to the theater world partly because she trained as a lighting designer at Northwestern University in Illinois, where she met her actor-husband, Richard Shepard. (They divorced in the early sixties but remained close friends.) Co-founder Patricia Scott was a singer and actress, and her actor-husband was George C. Scott, a.k.a. General Patton and General Buck Turgidson. Their social and professional network was the New York theater world, and they ran a business that never advertised to attract new clients or staff. Hiring actors to work at Studio Duplicating made sense because it was the first print shop in New York to specialize exclusively in scripts. Having a great American playwright vouch for your services is a pretty good way to get started in business, but Studio Duplicating lasted because they got scripts right, at least in part because everybody who worked there knew from experience what right looked like.

Studio Duplicating’s employees were proofreaders, typists, mimeographers, or binders, and scripts passed through their hands in that order. Proofreaders never interfered with the text, but read things through to regularize spelling and punctuation and make sure the script was complete. Some writers' manuscripts always went straight to the only proofreader who could read their uniquely indecipherable handwriting. Corrected manuscripts next went to typists, who typed up one mimeograph stencil for each page of text.

article-image

The mimeographer would then affix the stencil to the cylindrical drum of the motorized machine, and power it on to turn the drum and stencil across an inked pad. Typed holes in the waxy surface coating on the blue mimeostencil absorbed the ink, and transferred it to blank sheets of paper. Scripts were printed and collated sheet-by-sheet, then hole-punched and bound in colored vinyl stamped with the title and the Studio Duplicating Service logo. In the early 1990s the shop bought a Xerox machine and word processor—mimeograph supplies were difficult to obtain, and by then the business served only a handful longtime, major clients—but their archive of mimeostencils stayed in storage in the shop basement until the doors closed for good in 1997.

article-image

Mimeo was a great technology for a small printing business. The machines required a relatively small investment, were easy to maintain and operate, and supplies were inexpensive. It worked really well for scripts because the typed stencils were easy to file and store. This meant that a writer, agent, producer, or director could order new copies of a script and expect a quick turnaround—no retyping required. It was also easy to keep scripts up to date with the latest revisions, and print either a full revised script or just revised pages. This was crucial, because in both the pre-production and production phases, screenplays and stageplays often went through multiple rounds of revisions. Many scripts also spent months or even years in development. An order might come in for just a few copies, and work on revisions and a larger print run would follow if and when production started. The stencils stayed in the Studio Duplicating archive for years, and even after they stopped printing new jobs with the mimeo machine they could still run off copies from a mimeostencil long after it was first created.

article-image

In the author bio in Nobody Home, the novel she published in 1977, Shepard alluded to her work with Studio Duplicating Service last, saying "Jennifer Lloyd Paul is the pseudonym of a writer, artist, and businesswoman." Before publishing Nobody Home, which was warmly reviewed by the New York Times, her clay work stocked New York City's first Pottery Barn when it opened in 1963. A play based on her novel called A Firehouse Bride opened Off Broadway in 1985.

Today we remember Shepard first as the brains behind the small yet significant printing operation that manufactured the printed matter essential to New York's entertainment industry, much of which still survives in public and private collections across the country. But Shepard's life and her business were supportive of one of the creative worlds she loved in more ways than one. Shepard's understanding of her own need to make a living without sacrificing her life as a creative person gave her the perspective to make the same thing possible for the people who worked for her. The plays, TV shows, and movies that Studio Duplicating staff wrote or acted in may have never brought them fame and fortune, but they considered themselves actors first and their work in the shop made it possible for them to do what they loved when they could and still make rent.

Movies, television, and the theater need scripts and actors. Studio Duplicating gave them both.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
rraszews
8 days ago
reply
I was very confused until I worked out that the Jean Shepard in this story is not the same person as the guy who wrote the book "A Christmas Story" is based on.

According to Japanese Traffic Lights, Bleen Means Go

1 Comment and 2 Shares
article-image

The streets of Japan have no shortage of interesting sights. Standing at one of Tokyo’s bustling intersections, sharp-eyed visitors might spot something unusual about the traffic signals hanging above, which feature green lights with a noticeably blue tinge—so much so that illustrated Japanese road safety guides use distinctively blue “green” lights. This is no illusion. Blue and green—a combination known alternatively as “grue” or "bleen”—traffic signals in Japan are the result of a mix of linguistics, international law and a dash of passive-aggressive policy by the Japanese government.

It is a near universal constant when driving: red means stop, and green means go. So fundamental is this dynamic that it is codified in international law under the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, which has been ratified by 74 countries. Why, then, does Japan—not a signatory to the Convention—seem to buck the trend with its blue/green traffic signals?

article-image

Historically, there has been significant overlap in the Japanese language as it pertains to green (midori) and blue (ao). In that regard, blue—one of the four traditional colors originally established in the Japanese language along with red, black and white—historically encompassed items that other cultures would describe as green—creating the concept of “grue,” the portmanteau of blue and green first coined by philosopher Nelson Goodman in 1955. Indeed, a distinct word for green is a relatively recent development in Japanese, only coming into existence in the late Heian Period (794-1185). This continues to manifest itself in several ways in Japanese.

As in many languages, green in Japanese can be used in reference to something new or inexperienced. Whereas in English a rookie employee might be referred to as being “green,” in Japanese they are aonisai, meaning a “blue two-year old.” Elsewhere, a visitor to Japan might be tempted to try the exotic sounding ao-ringo—“blue apple,” only to perhaps be disappointed at finding out it refers to a regular green Granny Smith apple. Dozens of other examples exist in relation to nature, food and animals.

article-image

Traffic lights are treated similarly. In official literature and conversation, the “green” traffic light is referenced as ao, rather than midori. Even dating back to when traffic lights were first introduced in Japan in the 1930s—a time when traffic signals employed a distinctly green light—common practice was to make reference to “blue” lights. In modern times, Japanese traffic law requires those seeking a driver’s license to pass an eye exam specifying, among other things, the ability to distinguish between red, yellow and blue.

In the intervening years, this system of officially referring to green lights as blue put the Japanese government in a difficult position. Linguists took issue with the continued use of ao for what was a distinctly green color, and the country faced pressure to comply with international traffic customs regarding traffic lights.

article-image

Ultimately, a novel solution was employed. In 1973, the government mandated through a cabinet order that traffic lights use the bluest shade of green possible—still technically green, but noticeably blue enough to justifiably continue using the ao nomenclature. While modern Japanese allows for a clear delineation between blue and green, the concept of blue still encompassing shades of green still remains firmly rooted in Japanese culture and language.

“Grue” traffic lights remain a common sight in cities across Japan. While some newer traffic signals come equipped with bright green LEDs—still referred to as blue—the familiar blue-green lights can still be found without much effort—representing a nod to the evolution of the Japanese language.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
rraszews
37 days ago
reply
There's apparently an episode of "Detective Conan" where the solution to the mystery hinges on the witness, being an elderly woman, describing someone as wearing a "blue" (ao) coat, which confuses the younger detectives (except for the master sleuth), as they thought of that color as green (midori)

3 Corpse Flowers Are About to Bloom in Washington, D.C.

1 Comment
article-image

Washington, D.C., won't see a total solar eclipse on August 21 (residents will get upwards of 80 percent coverage), but there's another incredible natural phenomenon that could help make up for it. Three corpse flowers are expected to bloom at the United States Botanic Garden, stinking up its conservatory sometime between August 17 and 23.

Corpse flowers are native to Indonesia and known for their pungent smell that's reminiscent of rotting garbage, as well as their infrequent blooms. The strange plant, also called the titan arum, can grow up to 12 feet tall, so its blooms (technically inflorescences, or flower clusters) are quite the spectacle. The three plants at the Botanic Garden started out between two and three feet in height, but are growing quickly as they approach opening. The flower on the far left in the Botanic Garden's live stream, below, was 36 inches tall on August 6. By August 10, it had already shot up to 54 inches.

The Botanic Garden says this is likely the first time three corpse flowers at one institution have bloomed at once in North America. Chicago's Botanic Garden had two bloom back in June, and the New York Botanic Garden and the United States Botanic Garden had one bloom each last summer. There are a few possible explanations for why all these corpse flowers appear to be blooming around the same time, but the eclipse isn't one of them. The partial occlusion of the sun over D.C. is just a coincidence, but together they might make quite the natural show for the nation's capital.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
rraszews
66 days ago
reply
A weird, huge flower that smells of death and only blooms during a TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN? Um. I've seen Little Shop of Horrors. This sounds like bad news.

How an 1892 'Trip to the Moon' Changed How We Think About Space

1 Comment
article-image

Most days in 1892, ticketholders at Manhattan's Carnegie Music Hall enjoyed programs of standard entertainment: the New York Philharmonic; a famous speaker; a ragtime show. But starting in February, every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, they got something a little different. As soon as the theater's lights went down, the sun came up again, rising over an onstage lake that rippled just like the real thing. Next, the moon began to rise next to the sun, and gradually, dramatically obscured it. This was Scene #1 of A Trip to the Moon—a perfect rendition of the total solar eclipse of 1887, yanked through time and space and reconstructed inside the theater.

"Audiences had, in a sense, seen it all," writes the media scholar Artemis Willis. But when curtain lifted on A Trip to the Moon's first scene, "their cynicism yielded to wonder." Over the next 90 minutes, viewers were treated to a number of rare and, at the time, impossible sights: lunar landscapes, cosmic nebulae, the earth as viewed from the moon, and more, all produced through an alchemy of stagecraft, lighting, and special effects. By the time they rose from their seats, Willis argues, they had absorbed not only facts and figures, but a whole new way of looking at space.

As Willis details in a recent paper about the show, A Trip to the Moon was first dreamed up in 1889, at the Urania Institute in Berlin. Unlike most observatories at the time, which had their hands full catering to experts, the Institute focused on curious laypeople—what one admirer, the astronomer Edward Holden, described as "that very large and intelligent section of the public which is intensely interested in the results of astronomical observation… but does not care at all for the small details which the special student must attend to."

article-image

As part of these efforts, the Institute put together a number of stage presentations, which taught attendees about everything from the geological birth of Earth to the tides and currents of the Arctic Ocean. The shows proved extremely popular, and when word of them reached Andrew Carnegie, he decided to bring one or two over to New York City and stage them in his brand new Music Hall. "Mr. Carnegie's idea is to discover whether there is real demand for such institutes in America, and to assist in founding them, if there is," wrote Holden.

The Berlin version of the show was already a multimedia marvel, but for its own trip to the Music Hall—about seven times the size of the theater at the Urania Institute—A Trip to the Moon got even more gussied up. Larger versions of the set pieces were painted in Berlin and shipped over, and the staging took full advantage of the Music Hall's recent renovations, during which the venue had been outfitted with electrical wiring and lighting.

Every scene involved what Willis calls an "electro-mechanical-theatrical tableau," in which stage lights waxed, waned, and changed colors, magic lanterns projected scenes onto set pieces, and backstage crew members put various props through complex paces. Plus, it was all accurate: "Each move of the moon was charted to accurately reflect the phenomena, and then choreographed behind the scenes," says Willis. "It would be really difficult to pull off such a performance today."

article-image

For example, the climactic "Scene #6: Solar Eclipse as Seen from the Moon," involved three celestial bodies, each differently positioned, and all interacting with one another. As illustrated at the top of this article, the moon—the scene's vantage point—was represented by a painted canvas, lit from underneath by electric footlights. The sun was a lightbox sewn into a black drop cloth (which also had holes pricked in, for stars), and the earth was a phosphorescent disk with a ring of red gelatin around it. In the scene, the sun slowly crosses behind the earth, backlighting the gelatin and suffusing the stage with a red glow. The footlights below the canvas then gradually change to red, "transferring" the light of the eclipse to the moon's surface.

A Trip to the Moon premiered on February 10, 1892, to an intrigued audience. But after a week and a half of lukewarm reviews, the production took the step that, in Willis's view, really put it over the top: it went in for a script rewrite. The original narration, written by the Urania Institute's Max Wilhelm Meyer and performed by a wide-eyed actor, "was sort of clunky and romantic," Willis says. "The New York press picked up on that right away."

As one New York Times critic wrote, the "Wagnerian drama" didn't play well with this particular audience: "The lecture is heralded as gravely as if it were a new religion just discovered," they wrote. "The audience is edified so gradually that there is more awe than comfort in it."

article-image

The producers went out looking for a script doctor, and settled on Garrett P. Serviss, an astronomy columnist for the New York Sun. Over the course of nine days, Serviss rewrote the narration completely; when the show re-opened, he had taken on hosting duties as well. The result was a Trip to the Moon that, a happier Times critic wrote, was led "by someone who knew the way." Where Meyer had spun grandiose tales, Serviss provided plainspoken explanations, grounded in facts. For example, during Scene #6, Serviss laid out exactly what was going on:

"Such an eclipse would present phenomena far different from those which we behold during a solar eclipse upon the earth. The most remarkable difference would be that arising from the fact that the earth is enveloped in air. The atmosphere of the earth, owing to its refractive property, acts like a lens surrounding the terrestrial globe, and bends the sunlight around its edge.

So, when the sun disappears behind the earth as seen from the moon, a brilliant circle of light girds the earth, and this light… produces a considerable illumination on the moon. The color of the luminous ring encircling the earth, under these circumstances, will be that of the sunrise and sunset sky, because the light has to penetrate the dust and vapor floating in the air, and the red rays most easily accomplish the passage."

Compare this, Willis says, to Meyer's version of the scene, in which the Earth is referred to as "the moon's astral mother," and its light as "the only agency of communication that is still left to her," sent through space "a last greeting to her only daughter, lost so early in death."

article-image

A hobbyist astronomer himself, Serviss also made sure to foreground the concerns of actual experts. "He would try to find ways to help his audiences imagine our relation to the cosmos as investigators of it," says Willis. "[He was] encouraging a kind of mind travel, [as with the] 'Spaceship of the Imagination'"—a device Carl Sagan used, in his seminal television show Cosmos, to represent the possibilities of scientific inquiry.

A Trip to the Moon played at the Music Hall for just over two years, and then did a short tour of the East Coast. Its creators went on to successful careers: Serviss began lecturing full-time (and later established himself as a prolific science fiction author), and the show's lighting designer, J. Carl Mayrhofer, started his own company.

article-image

But in Willis's reading, the show left another legacy: the ability for ordinary people to look at the heavens with something more than slack-jawed awe. Where earlier astronomical entertainments, including Meyer's original A Trip to the Moon, leaned into astronomy's reputation as "the sublime science"—full of proof of God's limitless power, and humanity's infinite smallness—A Trip to the Moon replaced some of that void-staring with curiosity. "It didn't just say, 'This is God's great work, be afraid of it,'" says Willis. "It described the phenomena in terms that produced wonder."

"The information was as new as possible, and the technology was as new as possible," she says. "That's where I think wonder was produced: in the space between the actual lunar phenomena, and the enactment of them." As with an eclipse, in which the juxtaposition of the sun and the moon makes each more magnificent, A Trip to the Moon made knowledge and its representation dance around each other, equal at last.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
rraszews
70 days ago
reply
Serviss also penned an unlicensed sequel to HG Wells's "The War of the Worlds" in which Thomas Edison invents a death ray and uses it to lead a genocidal counter-invasion of Mars.

'Giants' on Granville Island Silos in Vancouver, Canada

1 Comment

Giants.

A row of silos on Granville Island is among the most photographed things in Vancouver. The six towers, each 70 feet tall, were once a dull gray, but now feature a colorful crew of giants. Half of them face the boats on False Creek, and the other three look inward, towards the Ocean Concrete plant.

The silos are the work of Brazilian twins Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, known collectively as OSGEMEOS (Portuguese for THETWINS). The duo has been graffitiing since 1987. Their work has had a profound influence on Brazilian graffiti and spans the globe, with pieces in Asia, Europe, and North and South Americas.

In 2014 the Vancouver Biennale commissioned the twins to bring their ongoing mural series “Giants” to British Columbia. OSGEMEOS chose the silos on Granville Island to add depth to the two-dimensional pieces they normally create. Ocean Concrete has a long history of community participation and happily offered a medium for what was at the time the biggest public mural of their career.

Initial estimates were set around $50,000, which included cleaning the grime from the silos and supplying 90 gallons of paint for the undercoat. The twins went through 1,400 cans of spray paint, and the final bill ended up at $180,000, some of which was crowdsourced during the project.

Giants was part of the Biennale’s Open Air Museum, which curates international art in the city’s public spaces. None of it is intended to be permanent though; after two years the pieces are taken down or painted over to make room for new projects, unless a donor intervenes. As was the case with previous Open Air artist Yue Minjun’s “A-maze-ing Laughter.” The city was so distraught over the thought of losing the 14 laughing men statues that Lululemon founder Chip Wilson and his wife Shannon bought the piece and donated it to the city.

The fate of OSGEMEOS Giants is still uncertain. They’re a beloved addition to the Vancouver skyline, but it costs about $17,000 a year to maintain them, and someone will have to step up, just as Chip and Shannon Wilson did for “A-maze-ing Laughter,” if they’re to remain.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
rraszews
72 days ago
reply
Striking resemblance to the MyFamilyBuilders toy line.

The Mischievous 'Ghost Hoaxers' of 19th-Century Australia

1 Comment
article-image

In 1882, in the southeast Australian state of Victoria, repeated attacks on the general public were carried out by a figure known only as the “Wizard Bombardier.”

This individual was known for wearing an ostentatious outfit of white robes and a sugarloaf hat. The Wizard’s strategy involved disorienting people with loud screams before hurling stones and other sorts of missiles at them. Then the ghoulish individual made a quick dash and was gone.

Attacks like these, in which pranksters disguised as ghosts would wreak havoc, came to be known as “ghost hoaxing.” There were many cases and perpetrators in Australia from the late 19th century to the First World War—to the point that rewards were offered for the apprehension of ghost hoaxers.

In this era, Australia was the perfect location for villains and rogues who wished to imitate apparitions for their own ends. Dr David Waldron, author of “ Playing the Ghost: Ghost Hoaxing and Supernaturalism in Late Nineteenth-Century Victoria,” says that the lack of professionalised police meant that Australia had a particular “lawlessness.” An abundance of leisure time and a lack of affordable entertainment options created an environment ideal for ghost hoaxers who often used their own theatrics to entertain themselves.

article-image

Technology helped make the ghost pranksters look more spooky. As Waldron writes, the recent invention of phosphorescent paint meant that individuals could glow in the dark as they menaced others, which made their outfits all the more believable and gave the hoaxers an otherworldly appearance. Ghost hoaxers sometimes fashioned elaborate disguises—in 1895, one prankster created a costume to resemble a knight and emblazoned the phrase “prepare to meet thy doom” on his armor. To ratchet up the threat factor, this “knight” also threatened people with decapitation.

Australia during this period was very concerned about the threat of “larrikins,” who were rowdy youths out to cause mischief. Some of these larrikins regarded ghost costumes as suitable devices with which to commit crime and violence. A sort of urban warfare was fought, with ghost hoaxers on one side and, on the other, vigilantes and armed guards who were determined to shoot these pranksters with buckshot to end their mischief.

Waldron has identified that despite the ghost pranks being associated with the working class, once the ghosts were apprehended, “many if not most of those arrested” were in fact “school teachers and clerks and the like and a small number of middle-class women.”

article-image

One unexpected ghost hoaxer was Herbert Patrick McLennan, who in 1904 equipped himself with a glowing outfit that included a top hat, frock coat, and boots. Most menacingly, McLennan carried a cat o’nine tails whip and used it to assault women he encountered. When a bounty of £5 was placed on McLennan, he proceeded to declare war on the authorities, threatening to shoot anyone who came after him in a letter addressed to local leaders, in which he referred to himself as “the ghost.” When McLennan was arrested, however, it was discovered that he was a powerful and influential clerk and public speaker. McLennan was sent to jail, but he was soon back out again.

Some ghost pranksters made their own custom disguises, such as wearing a coffin strapped to their backs so as to give the appearance of having risen from the dead, as in one case in 1895. A female ghost hoaxer even incorporated music by playing a guitar while she skulked around near a hotel, according to reports in 1880 and 1889.

One theme common to ghost hoaxers was the use of pre-existing superstitions and locations that were regarded as haunted. Ghost hoaxers often occupied sites that were already associated with death, such as cemeteries, in order to double down on fear. Some hoaxers even painted a skull and crossbones in a particular location to create fear before they arrived wearing claws and animal skins to wreak havoc.

article-image

To the wider community, ghost hoaxers presented a threat not just through fear but also via crime and violence, such as indecent exposure, sexual assault, or even just stealing eggs. Not all citizens were prepared to stay helpless in the face of this threat. In 1896, ex-soldier called Charles Horman seemed to be a one-man army against the ghost impersonators. He opened fire with a shotgun on one youth who was pretending to be a ghost, while using a cane to attack another hoaxer who was assaulting a woman.

Parents whose children had been physically attacked by ghost pranksters also took the law into their own hands. One woman, Mrs Date, unleashed her pit bull on a ghost hoaxer who had assaulted her daughter. In 1913 a mob of vigilantes chased after and beat a man wearing a glowing ghost outfit who had terrified an old man.

Eventually the phenomenon of the ghost hoaxers disappeared, hastened by the arrival of World War I, which took the lives of over 60,000 Australian soldiers. As Waldron says, the war showed that there were “far bigger issues at stake and the symbolism of death becoming less amusing.” With human mortality no longer a premise for pranks, ghost hoaxing lost its spirit for good.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
rraszews
78 days ago
reply
And they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids.
Next Page of Stories