Mystery Package – Final Letter

DSC_2669

My final mailing arrived about a week ago, but I was saving it until I finished all the jigsaws and deciphering that came in the crate.  There were a few things in the envelope that brought the story of the house right up to the current day.

By 2002, the house still has a reputation for being haunted.  Two aptly named urban explorers, Eurydice and Djinn, break into the property by scaling the garden wall and enter the house through the conservatory.  Although there are a few broken windows and tags on the outside of the conservatory,  it looks as though no one has dared damage the interior.

After finding a gnome door, hidden by vines in the conservatory – the same door that the Gruesome Phantom was using to watch Hélène Ashworth – they discovered a trap door into the basement, revealing a long, narrow hallway, covered in dried flower petals.  From there, they find a niche containing a “nest” of old blankets and papers, the walls covered in markings carved into the wood, which lead to another ladder up to the ground floor.  The explorers separate, Djinn remaining on the ground floor and Eurydice going up to the next storey.  Although the top of the stairs appeared to be a dead end, a panel in the wall eventually opened into a bedroom, which must be the one in the top left corner of the second floor.  Once the panel closed, it was almost impossible to see from within the room.  Makeup has been painted onto the vanity mirror to create a face and the room smells of lavender.  The sound of a woman weeping draws Eurydice’s attention and when she looks back at the mirror,  in the place of the makeup is a real face with “begging eyes.”

Eurydice flees, crashing through the rooms to find an accessible staircase, and eventually hears Djinn and an unknown voice speaking to one another.  When she finds him, he is standing in front of another mirror, which is intact despite the shards of glass scattered across the floor, taking photographs of what he sees reflected in it.  The mirror clearly shows a shadowy figure lurching along a narrow hallway, however the only thing that should be reflected, other than the explorers themselves, is the marble fireplace (which is noted to be cracked).  The wallpaper in the photograph of the mirror matches the scrap that had Henry’s final journal entry scribbled on the reverse.

With the figure moving faster and faster towards them, Eurydice drags Djinn back towards the conservatory and they find another passage way under the back staircase – possibly the place that Hélène’s body was found.  Eurydice notes that she ran without even looking back once, securing her escape.  There was a tortured howl behind them, suddenly cut off as they left the house.  Although Djinn managed to stay with her as they fled, he was not the same again and talks frequently about the house and its secrets. By the time of the article, he is in care and may end up permanently institutionalised.  She brings him photographs from their previous adventures and sometimes seems like himself, but when he saw a picture from the house that had accidentally been mixed in, he started screaming and Eurydice has not been allowed to return.  She has since given up urban exploration, but still feels drawn to the house, although she feels that if either of them ever returns, they will never be allowed to leave.

 

The brochure for Griggs Manor advertises the development of the estate into luxury flats.  Although the scheduled completion is due in 2020, the website for Regal Residencies says that the project has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, possibly similar problems to those Henry and Laura had with their own workmen while the house was being built.

Normally, I tell my cats off for climbing on my desk and stomping on my keyboard, but on this occasion I gave them as pass, because they inadvertently showed me a hidden reference.  I came back from making a drink to find that one of them had opened my start menu and had also hit F12 on my open browser (or perhaps it was the Grinning Goblin?)

Griggs Manor - Regal Residencies

The last item in the envelope was a letter to explain that the game was by the Mystery Package Company and the link to find out the identity of my mysterious benefactor, but I’m going to keep that to myself for the time being.

DSC_2662DSC_2659

At every stage, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the quality of every item I’ve received.  Significant effort has gone into all of the props and, my initial reaction aside, it has been so much fun getting each package through the post and working through all of the contents.  Getting to see the story unfold and handling all of the artifacts added a wonderful multi-sensory experience.  Now I want to pick their artists’ brains on how they have weathered everything so beautifully, including the thick and dusty feel of the paper and the scent of neglect and age that lingers on everything.  Unless there really is a cursed house, all of the props are real and the Mysterious Package company are spreading genuine curses around the world under the guise of games.

I’m a little sad that it’s over, but I suppose I can get back to my costuming projects now that my summer distraction is finished.

Advertisements

Mysterious Package – Part Five

DSC_2535mysterious package box 02

As ever, SPOILERS everywhere!
Previous Mysterious Package posts:

Just a regular Monday…

Mysterious Package – Part Two

Mysterious Package – Part Three

Mysterious Package – Part Four

This package arrived in a gorgeous cosmetics box and had some serious assembly required!  And here’s what was hiding under the jigsaw pieces, but we’ll get to this in a minute…

DSC_2613

With no real reference picture and no idea of the finished shapes, I spent more than thirty (truly frustrating) hours piecing together what turned out to be five jigsaw puzzles.

 

Eventually, I had five floor plans for 27 East Heath Road and a lot of ciphers to translate.  I realised that I had a few letters missing and remembered the partial blueprint that had come in the first package had random letters scattered across it.

BlueprintBlueprint no text

As well as the larger symbols across the ground and first floors, there are also lots of notes written in much smaller symbols on four of the puzzles, so it’s taken me a while to work them all out.  Click here for the translations

The little bundle of papers that had been in the box contained three photographs, a newspaper article, a letter and a bloodied hatpin.

Photographs

 

Newspaper

The photographs filled in a lot of my last questions.  From left to right the pictures portray Henry Griggs, Hélène Ashworth and Dr. William Elliott.  On the reverse of Henry’s photograph is the following conversation between the symbols and letters:

Why do they come
You must act, again.
Ive watched them all come and made them all go
You have done well.
Am I a ghost
Only you know what you are.
I have made my own face
You are what you have become.
Am I dangerous
Dangerous? Oh, yes.
I am Griggs the Grinning Goblin the Loathsome Fiend the Gruesome Phantom you and I are one
Always.
The one who comes and goes is it my daughter
She is the last.
If her face lies she will die like the rest
One way or the other, I will be free.

The letter, dated 29th July 1897, was written by Lizzy Griggs to her late father.  Lizzy has come into her inheritance, via Sebastian Coldfield, and has set aside her other personas.  With Hélène dead and Claude in Broadmoor Asylum,  Lizzy purchased 27 East Heath Road and has moved in, and says that her childhood bedroom makes her feel close to her father; “not only in my heart,” she writes, “but in the very walls.”  She remembers finding the “Goblin Letters” as a child, which her father helped her to translate, and explains that she saw glimpses of the Goblin writing while she was attending appointments with Dr. Elliott; “on the wallpaper, carved into the balustrade, on the frame of the mirror, even on a slip of paper under a vase of flowers once,” but she couldn’t remember how to decipher it and couldn’t make the doctor leave her along long enough to work it out.  Now that she lives there again, she often thinks that sees the Goblin, lurking around the house.

The newspaper article gives the rest of the story.  While dressing for an evening out, Lizzy and her maid saw a hideous figure, wearing a ragged nightgown, come crashing through a parlor mirror to attack them.  Lizzy, who was adjusting her hat, stabbed the figure in the throat.  As the attacker fell forward, Lizzy was knocked down, struck her head on the mantelpiece and died of her injuries.  The maid reported that the ghastly face turned out to be a mask that was knocked aside as the attacker fell and his last words before he died were, “Lizzy!  It is you!”   The body was identified as her father, Henry, and investigators later identified a “nest” in the warrens of the attic where he had presumably been living for sixteen years since his apparent suicide (the word “Sanctuary” is marked on one section of the floor plan).  According to the police, neither the hatpin nor the mask were recovered.

DSC_2614
Nice to meet you…

It’s incredibly difficult to get a good photo of it, but it’s an impressive artifact.  The inside of the eye sockets is flocked (which scared the hell out of me when I tried to pick it up and felt an unexpected texture on the inside!) and it’s so weighty that I wouldn’t like to spend very long with it strapped to my face.  I suspect this face will be haunting my sleep for a few nights to come.  The two lines of symbols on the tongue read: “They see me through you.”

There’s something about it that the pictures don’t really convey.  Not only is it impressive to look at but there’s something “wrong” with the textures that I can’t articulate, but holding it completely creeps me out.  Every time I put it down, I catch myself wiping my hands as if I’ve held something unpleasant.  There’s also a scent that reminds me of musty attics and dusty long forgotten relics.  There’s been real thought and attention to detail put into every single item, to make the game a full sensory experience, but the mask really is the crown jewel.

I have one more mailing to open, which arrived about a week ago, that I have been saving until I got finished with the contents of the box, so I’ll save my last thoughts on the game for then.

Mysterious Package – Part Four

DSC_2472

Beware – SPOILERS everywhere!
Previous Mysterious Package posts:

Just a regular Monday…

Mysterious Package – Part Two

Mysterious Package – Part Three

It’s another large letter this time, with an interesting assortment of documents:

  • a poster for The Great Goodyear, escapologist and raconteur, performing incredible feats of mystification, obfuscation and prestidigitation.  The back is marked with a stamp;
  • a flip book of The Great Goodyear performing.  The pages appear to be marked with letters;
  • a clipping from a newspaper.  The article is “Murder at Mad Magician’s Mansion”.  The reverse is an advert for Wyrm Bros. Cigars;
  • pages 51 and 52, torn from Charles Dickens’ The Chimes.  The lines “Monsters uncouth and wild, arise in premature, imperfect resurrection; the several parts and shapes of different things are joined and mixed by chance”; “Haunt and hunt him”; “Break his slumbers”; and “saw these creatures, not only among sleeping men but waking also,” are underlined. The last line of page 51 has been amended from “he saw this Goblin Sight” to “he saw with Goblin Sight,” and there is a line of cipher symbols;
  • a label from Elise cosmetics face powder, containing rose water, mercury, arsenic and lead.  On the reverse is handwritten: “You think to hide yourself from me?” followed by several lines of cipher symbols;
  • a garden diary belonging to Hélène Ashworth;
  • an unopened envelope, containing pieces of lavender.  The envelope and sealing wax match those Sebastian Coldfield sent to Henry Griggs.

 

Timeline (7th June 1892 – 1887)

Record of the Orphans Working Home (from the first package)

Timeline 06Timeline 07Timeline 08Timeline 09

Ciphers

Written on the illustrated page torn from Dickens’ The Chimes

Written on the reverse of the Elise face powder label

The flick book has been more challenging to figure out.  Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t flick the pages smoothly enough to see the animation properly and although I could see writing on each image, I couldn’t decipher what it was supposed to say.  Enter PhotoShop…

The writing and images run in opposite directions, which is why I couldn’t make sense of it, but with the animation playing in reverse, it’s possible to spell out the words “murder” and “madness.”  And is that Lizzy’s goblin in the corner of the stage…?

flip-book-2

flip-book-01

 

Mysterious Package – Part Three

DSC_1374

SPOILERS ABOUND!
Previous Mysterious Package posts:

Just a regular Monday…

Mysterious Package – part two

My second mysterious package arrived in a smaller envelope and without any covering letter from my “friend.”  This time, I have:

  • an annotated page torn from a medical text (Baldwin’s Physician’s Guide), marked with the cipher;
  • a sheaf of patent notes from the office of Dr. William Elliott;
  • a couple of letters between Dr. Elliott and Dr. Jack S. Aigner;
  • labels from a bottle of arsenic and something called “Dr. Elliott’s Tincture,” both marked with the cipher;
  • a zoetrope;
  • the deed to the property at 27 East Heath Road, also marked with the cipher.

 

Timeline (5th November 1888 – 12th February 1892)

Timeline 03Timeline 04Timeline 05

The two symbols noted in William’s letter both correspond to what I had worked out from the last package, so this time the cipher messages are:

Written on the property deed of 27 East Heath Road

Written on the page torn from Baldwin’s Physician’s Guide

The message on the reverse of the arsenic label reads: “Are you sure” and the reverse of the tincture label: “You’ve got the right bottle, Doctor”.

Arsenic

Written on the arsenic label

Tincture

Written on the tincture label

I’m fairly sure that the patient, Beth Siggers, must be Elizabeth Griggs, although it is not apparent whether she has since left the Orphan Working House.  She is listed as fifteen when she is referred to Dr. Elliott, which does create a slight discrepancy – Lizzy was born in May, so would actually still be fourteen in February, and would have been seventeen at the time of her last known appointment.  I might just be nitpicking a small oversight or there may be an in-game explanation (lax record keeping or Lizzy’s just slightly inflated her age for her own reasons).

Given the messages, it’s clear that the arsenic and tincture labels had been switched and that the stomach cramps William suffered were a result of the arsenic in his system and I suspect the second experiment probably killed him.

The last piece for this delivery is the zoetrope.  Although I’ve built a lot of zoetropes in my years working in museum education, I quickly realised why I’d never made one of this design before – the cone on the bottom doesn’t spin it as smoothly as one on a stand or dowel and makes it incredibly difficult to actually look through the slits to see the animation.

DSC_1393
Zoetrope

So we ended up scanning the extra strips and animating them!  I’m not quite sure yet what their relevance is, but they’re damn creepy.

Person-In-The-WindowYawning-Daemon

Mysterious Package – Part Two

BEWARE – SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!

I had a rather sleepless night, in part because of the heat but partly because every noise was absolutely, definitely something unpleasant slithering out of the mirror in the bathroom and crawling up the stairs towards the bedroom.
I think most of the documents that arrived yesterday are intended to set the scene and introduce the people involved, but the lines of code written on various documents started driving me round the bend, so I got stuck into deciphering them.
Mysterious package 05
Ciphers everywhere!
Here’s the timeline I’ve written up from all the letters and notes:

Document 2Document 2

 

I was convinced that the coded messages would give me a better idea of exactly what was going on or instructions for what I should do next, so I spent ages cataloging each symbol (with some margin for error in handwriting discrepancies) and analysing the usage frequency.  Then I got to play many frustrating hours of mystery-letter hangman by making best guesses based on the most frequent usage of words and doubled letters.
It was actually pure luck that finally got me the answers, because I forgot to clear an “a” that I’d assigned earlier to a particular symbol and noticed that, along with the new letter I was testing, it was cropping up in the same places as it did in part of the English written on the same document.   So while I now have most of the alphabet, I still can’t decipher the code on the blueprint.  At the moment, it’s just random letters and one thus-far unused symbol, which could be one of three letters, so I guess it’s part of a larger message that will be revealed in time.
If you want to see what the codes I’ve cracked said, click below:
I think all that’s left now is to wait for the next package to turn up, whenever that may be.

Just a regular Monday…

Since I was not aware that I was likely to be terrorised by my mail today, I didn’t think to record my reaction for posterity. Therefore, I shall attempt to describe what was going through my mind in the moment I opened my post, in the manner of a text-based RPG.

<You have just woken from an unfulfilling nap and put a pot of coffee on. You’re still half asleep but it’s later than you expected, so you go to see if there has been any mail. A large manila envelope is waiting on the mat>

Your brain: Oh, crap, that looks important, which probably means I’ve defaulted on a loan I didn’t know I had, am in trouble for something I don’t remember doing or am having my house repossessed… by Canada?

<You mentally tot up all the possible reasons why people in Canada with access to official-looking stationery might be writing to you. Sensible reasons are in short supply, so you shift gear towards entirely nonsensical ones. Now you are suddenly entirely awake, moving up the scales of anxiety and kind of hoping you (and by extension, the postman) just misread the address>

<Nope, it’s definitely intended for you>

Your brain: Oh, shit.

<The rational part of your brain taps on your shoulder and suggests that perhaps you don’t know why you have official-looking stationery from Canada, marked with a sticker from either a financial institution or a solicitor in your hand, because you actually haven’t done anything wrong>

<You put the letter down on the bureau>

<You pick it up again>

Your brain (resolutely): Better to find out.

<Your hands are shaking slightly while you try to open the envelope. The tape holding the flap down refuses to peel off>

<You go to the kitchen for a knife>

Your brain (hopefully): Maybe the tape doesn’t want me to see what’s in the envelope, either?

<You take a knife and manage to slit the end of the envelope open without cutting off any of your own fingers>

<The first sheet of paper you see has been written on in a child’s scrawl. Beneath the words is a scribbled sketch that dumps adrenaline in your system and makes your skin crawl>

You, out loud: What the actual fuck?

Your brain (wails): OMG, I read the writing! I read the writing! Why did I have to read the goddamned writing?

<Your hand moves, unbidden, to take the paper. You realise it’s one of many documents filling the envelope. You absolutely DO NOT want to touch it but you’re going to do it anyway>

<Something small and soft flies out of the envelope and bounces off your arm. Somewhere between it hitting you and falling to the floor, you realise it’s a lock of hair>

<You shriek like you’re about to be murdered and drop everything. You were asleep ten minutes ago and now you’re starring in a horror film that should be taking place in a gothic mansion on a misty island, inhabited by a weird, hermit-like couple and their creepy, dead-eyed kids, not in your perfectly normal and perfectly sane kitchen>

<Hearing the scream, your dogs come running, barking and start bouncing around you. They don’t know if it’s a game or if they are supposed to rescue you from something but whatever it is, it’s exciting!>

<Your heart is beating so hard, you can actually feel your pulse in your fingertips>

<Rational-brain taps on your shoulder again>

R-B: If you’re done with the theatrics, entertaining as they are, can I tell you that you’re a complete moron?

Your brain: Huh?

<You try to calm yourself and two licking, bouncing, barking lurchers down, and rescue everything off the floor>

<The dogs realise the floorshow is over and start to settle, and the penny finally drops>

Your brain (starts checking for unusual electronic devices in the corners): I’m on a hidden camera show!

R-B: (Sigh) No, try again.

<You look down at the envelope and lock of hair in your hands, confused. You think you can feel the black eyes of the goblin watching you, even though you can only see the top corner of the page poking out>

Your brain: Ummm…

R-B: You saw it on Facebook about six months ago? Does that help?

<It does. You’re an idiot. And, likely, a drama queen. You actually screamed, you fool. Someone obviously thought you had too much time on your hands and they’re clearly right if insane flights of fancy are the first place your mind goes to on getting a strange letter>

You, out loud: Oh, crap. It’s a mysterious package, isn’t it?

R-B: Yes. Yes, it is.

<Overwhelmed with relief that you’re not about to start being stalked by some demon from the Dungeon Dimensions and mildly embarrassed by your extreme over-the-top-ness, you quite suddenly sit down on the floor and start laughing like a lunatic>

<The dogs are equally excited by this and the bouncing starts up again but you can barely gather enough breath to calm them>

R-B: You’re aware that this is still an extreme reaction, right? Go get some coffee before you embarrass yourself any further.

<You get up, carefully return the hair to the envelope and pour yourself some coffee. You’re only sorry that no one was home to document the entire incident on camera>

Mysterious package 02
Click if you want a closer look.  That drawing, though…  

 

The letter that accompanied my nightmare-in-an-envelope informed me that the contents are from the first of several safe-deposit boxes, and that anonymous instructions were given to forward their contents to me if they had not been collected by July 2017.  The writer expressed their own personal curiosity, as they grew up in the area of London noted on the letters and blueprint, and noted that while no one seems sure what had happened,  the house in question had a dark history.

Now that I’m over my initial insanity, I’m having so much fun digging through all the documents.  They’re beautifully made and there’s nothing obvious about either the items or the envelope they arrived in to indicate that it’s anything but what it claims.

From the top left and moving clockwise:

  • Records of an orphanage’s intake, with a cipher written along the bottom;
  • A Forfeiture Notice stating that the property is being seized due to insolvency, clearly torn down.  The same cipher symbols appear at the bottom;
  • A lock of hair (presumably Laura’s);
  • A mourning card from the funeral of Laura Griggs, wife and mother.  She was only twenty-three or twenty-four when she died;
  • Several undated journal entries, apparently written by Henry Griggs;
  • Three letters from Sebastian Colefield, financier, to Henry Griggs.  The first, dated 12th May 1874, is a congratulatory card on the birth of a daughter; a letter, dated 3rd March 1879, which had already been opened; and a letter, dated 12th April 1881, which remained sealed;
  • Child’s drawing and a poem that reads: “G is for Goblin who lives in the mirror/ When I am quiet it sneaks ever nearer” (Yes, I totally check over my shoulder every time I write that).  More cipher symbols in the lower right corner;
  • A photograph of a man and girl, with the words “Last day together” hand-written on the back.  More cipher symbols appear in the same ink;
  • And finally a bloodstained blueprint for a property described as “Griggs Estate.”  The architect is listed as Henry Griggs but most of the date is obscured by a bloody thumbprint.  There are several of the symbols on this, too, but instead of in lines like the rest, they’re either individually placed or in groups of two and three.

The Kidquisition!

With ten days until The Calling, I’ve been buried under piles of fabric and foam to get my cosplays ready.  During some downtime, I joined in with a FaceApp thread on a Dragon Age Facebook group and the next thing I knew, I’d lost half the afternoon to it.

I present…

Kidquisition logo

View this post on Instagram

The Kidquisition, part 2 – Fenris, Isabela, Solas & Vivienne

A post shared by Nymeria (@nymeria_lavellan) on

View this post on Instagram

The Kidquisition, part 3 – Josephine, Lace, Cassandra & Sera

A post shared by Nymeria (@nymeria_lavellan) on

(Credit to Ehamloptiran on Nexus Mods for the mods to remove Dorian and Blackwall’s facial hair)