Sunday, February 17, 2013

SKELETON KEY ~ A Secret History

~ 40 Portraits ~

Presented in no particular order ~
(Or are they?)

Print them out and compile your very own
Secret Dossier of Arcane Knowledge!
(Additional information may be added to each entry as it becomes available.)

1. Super-Enigmatix!

1. Super-Enigmatix!

Ruthless and cunning, Super-Enigmatix is diabolical genius who masterminds monstrous crimes.  His goal is to spread fear and cause chaos and ruin.   
He is a  master of disguise and could be anyone - anywhere at anytime.  
His is true face is unknown. 
He is aided in his villainy by a small army of female commandos. 

Quote:  "Fools!  You cannot escape me!" 

2. Mia Moray

2. Mia Moray

Mia Moray is one of a handful of agents who work for the shadowy figure of the night known as Mr. Ixnay ~ a former member of a network of global assassins who has now sworn to destroy it.

The daughter of Russian circus performers, she is Mr. Ixnay's most trusted agent, brave and loyal.  

During the course of Ixnay's elaborate scheme to destroy his old assassins-for-hire organization, Mia finds she has a soft spot for their chosen patsy, a certain Mr. Broom, and she takes an interest in his welfare.  (See: THE CHUCKLING WHATSIT).

She has a rather heavy accent, which some might consider unfortunate, since she is occasionally called upon to deliver several pages of exposition in an attempt to help shed light on certain convoluted and bewildering scenarios!

3. K. Westree

3. K. Westree

When her missing parents are declared dead, the infant Katherine Westree is taken to an orphanage which turns out to be a front for a gang of criminals known as The Obtainers.  

The children of the orphanage are raised from infancy to be expert thieves, pickpockets and cat burglars. all under the watchful eye of the frightful and sadistic Mother Claude.

Eventually the orphanage is raided and the adolescent K. spends time in a reformatory, where she proves to be a model inmate, working as a counselor for the younger children.

Upon her release she accepts an invitation to visit the Bellsong Academy, a school for young ladies hidden deep in the woods of Northern California.  Once there she finds herself confronted with new mysteries -- and some old ones!  (See CAT BURGLAR BLACK)

Qualities:  fearlessness, skepticism, anger at injustice.

Unusual physical characteristics:  Her hair turned white when she was twelve, a trait inherited from her father's side of the family.

4. Lamb the Toymaker

4. Lamb

Lamb (first name unknown) is an inventor, hobbiest. collector, maker of unusual toys and an avid student of the occult.  

His toy repair shop is located in a section of town where an usually high number of disappearances - as well as an occasional grisly mutilation murder - have been reported.  

He keeps his aged mother securely locked away in her upstairs sewing room.  His father is kept in the basement, in the freezer.


5. "Frankenstein"

5. "Frankenstein"

"Frankenstein" is the nickname given to the nameless creature created by Victor Frankenstein, under the tutelage of his mentor Konrad Dippel.

  Attempting to understand the secrets of life and death, the two scientists assemble the creature from dead bodies and bring him to life through a mixture of electricity, alchemy and the black arts.  When Victor realizes what he has done, he is horrified by the soul-less, undead thing he has created and attempts to destroy it  - but fails.  

Abandoned by his creator, the seemingly deathless creature roams the world, with a bitter and murderous hatred of humanity and the living.  

He spends years plotting revenge, and using guile and brute force, becomes a wealthy recluse.  He acts as a puppet master, controlling events behind the scenes.  

Following the example of his creator, he plots to create his own army of undead creatures who will ultimately destroy humanity - so that he and his "New People" will have the world to themselves.  


6. Nellie Kelly

6. Nellie Kelly

Nellie is a troubled girl who lives in the rundown village of Obidiah's Glen.

After her father, an unsavory scoundrel, attempts to violate the grave of a witch, a series of events transpire leading to the destruction of the town by a supernatural army of zombie clowns.

On her own and in hiding, Nellie gets some assistance from stranded motorist (and "girl detective") Judy Drood, before the witch reappears and offers Nellie the ultimate revenge.


7. Herr Schpook

7. Herr Schpook

Shadowy figure with a mysterious past, whose secrets are known only to his obsequious underling, Klaus Bindle.

Bindle reveals to "girl detective" Judy Drood, that Herr Schpook comes from "the old country" where he may or may not be wanted for certain notorious war crimes.  

He eventually ends up in a small college town in the US, living in the back of a costume shop where he spends his time spying through peepholes, scheming, snooping, worrying about busy bodies and berating his obsequious underling. 


8. Colleen

8. Colleen 

Colleen is a normal college student who is thrown into an extraordinary and terrifying situation - nothing less than the end of the world as we know it.

When mankind is attacked and nearly destroyed by grotesque creatures calling themselves "The New People," Colleen - facing horrors beyond her worst nightmares - rises to the occasion and survives, heroically persevering, even when all seems lost.  (See THE HIDDEN).

After the events chronicled in THE HIDDEN take place, she makes an uneasy alliance with the man who is actually to blame for the worldwide disaster, Victor Frankenstein.  Although she secretly plans to kill him when the moment is right, the two rely on each other to survive in the desolate "New World" and have a number of adventures together.

At one point they learn that Victor's creation, also named "Frankenstein," had been attempting to build a time machine - and they wonder if this could be the key to humanity's salvation.

9. Dr. Lynx

9. Dr. Lynx

Dr. Lynx is a brilliant surgeon and cranial specialist, engaged in research at the local university, who becomes a pawn in a sinister scheme to revive the disembodied head of the villainous mesmerist, Zolok.

(See:  "Thirteen O'Clock" in the book MANIAC KILLER STRIKES AGAIN!)

During her involvement in the Zolok affair, she encounters the singular man of mystery known as Mr. Murmur.  She becomes fascinated by him and is ultimately able to assist the shadowy avenger on several exciting adventures, such as The Case of The Crawling Crepuscularist and The Mystery of the Albino Doll.

10. George

10. George

George is a curious youngster who tends to find himself in unusual and dangerous situations.  Though somewhat diminutive and unskilled in conversation, he is intelligent enough to make shrewd decisions when a crisis does arise.

When he finds himself trapped - alongside the local baby-sitters' club - by family of vampires, he also discovers that he can run a lot faster than he (or anyone else) ever thought he could!  George is able to survive his hair-raising night in the house of vampires with the help of gypsy matriarch Madame Rojo (who turns out to be an old-hand at vampire slaying) and the mysterious waif Peculia.

(See:  Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires)

11. Obscurus

11. Obscurus

No one knows where to find him or how to reach him, but Obscurus is always actively (though rather moodily) keeping an eye on those who interest him, or who he is instructed to watch by "The Man On The Phone," (also known as Mr. Upstairs).   

In his remote mountaintop tower, Obscurus has banks of video screens, radios and even a helpful robot or two - all assisting him in his furtive surveillance. 

 He has connections to the infamous (some say mythical) "school for weird kids", Reynardine, which is where he met former pupils Justine and Peculia.  Obscurus and Peculia became close, but had a falling out due to a misunderstanding, and have since become wary and mistrustful of each other.

  Justine, who was jealous of their friendship and schemes to keep them apart, becomes Obscurus' assistant, although she is not exactly a model employee.   Obscurus knows he can't fully trust her, especially where her interaction with Peculia is concerned, since Justine makes no secret of the fact that she wouldn't mind seeing Peculia come to a sudden, sticky end.


12. The Creeping Cat

12. The Creeping Cat

Although the actual identity of The Creeping Cat remains a mystery, some details about the life of this ruthless, methodical killer have come to light.  

There was once a group of vigilantes known as The Fellowship of The Creeping Cat.  The masked members of this secret society regularly took the law into their own hands.  Criminals who, for one reason or another, remained beyond the grasp of the law, were executed ~ gunned down in the street.  

Then one night things went tragically wrong and a young husband and wife were caught in the crossfire.  Because innocent blood had been spilled, the remorseful fellowship voted to disband forever. 
However, there was an orphan involved, and evidence suggests that years later, the now grown child returned, seeking revenge.  In the guise of The Creeping Cat, he hunted down and killed all of the former members and (in the event that they were already deceased) their children.  

According to official police records, authorities concluded that a failed poet named Avery Finch was the masked killer.  However, readers of Avery's private journal know better.

(See: The Fellowship of the Creeping Cat in the book MANIAC KILLER STRIKES AGAIN)

13. Phillipa Knicely

13. Phillipa Knicely

Phillipa Knicely is a normal teenager who accepts a scholarship at a prestigious but somewhat mysterious school ~ far, far away from her family and friends.  Once there, Phillipa is confronted with several unnerving experiences.  In addition, she is urged by one of her professors, Dr. Frauenhexer, to undergo the school's  battery of tests for extrasensory perception.  Oddly, the professor seems to know quite a bit more about Phillipa's upbringing than he could have possibly learned from her application.

It turns out that Dr. Frauenhexer has been locating promising candidates for his experiments and luring them to his laboratory.  He has discovered a way to harness and strengthen the latent telekinetic powers of the students.  He then sets about indoctrinating them ~ training them to become psychic assassins!  He plans to offer their services to various governments for a handsome fee.  

When Phillipa discovers the truth, she tries to extricate herself from the situation.  However, several of the professor's more talented students have managed to push their psychic abilities to such extremes that they are able to conjure up all manner of strange forces and ectoplasmic beings from "beyond the veil."  

During one of their attacks on her and her friends, Phillipa finds that her powers have grown stronger, too, and she ultimately defeats them.  

She is assisted in her adventures by another student who takes an interest in her ~ young James Jekyll, whose late father had engaged in some dubious experiments of his own.

Eventually she becomes a member of a special government team of extraordinary crime fighters.

14. Ms. Moss

14. Ms. Moss

Ms. Moss is a member of the Science Faculty at Lone Mountain College.

She led a rather colorless and uneventful life until she became acquainted with the work of Massimo Ibex, after which things changed dramatically.

Although considered harsh when it comes to grading her classes, she is nevertheless well-liked by her students, especially those she sees something "special" in.  Occasionally, she will invite one of her lucky pupils for a private tour of an old, condemned building on campus where ancient occult rituals may or may not be secretly performed.

Interests: Scorpions, forbidden knowledge, arcane texts, alchemy, glandular research, needles.


15. Mr. Ixnay

15. Mr. Ixnay

Those of you who have heard the name of Mr. Ixnay believe him to be a tall tale or urban myth, a bogeyman invented to frighten children.  But there is another world - an underground world of lowlifes, scoundrels and crooks - and to those people, he is terrifyingly real - a phantom avenger who has returned from hell, who appears out of nowhere and kills quickly and without mercy and who then vanishes in a puff of smoke to the echoes of hollow, mocking laughter.

The dwellers of the underworld know that, years ago,  a man named Aldo Ixnay was a founding member of the Global Association for Sabotage and Homicide (G.A.S.H. ) ~ a league of professional killers ~ and was both respected and feared.  They know that when he announced his intentions to leave G.A.S.H. and retire from the assassination game, the other members held a secret vote and conspired to do away with him.  But he proved a difficult person to kill.  Many attempts were made, and all failed, until he seemed to finally meet his doom in the spectacular Harrisville train wreck, an abominable act of G.A.S.H. sabotage.  

But then, five years later, there were whispers that he was back, that he'd been seen lurking in alleyways, peering in windows.  No one really believed it, of course, ~ or at least not until the remaining members of G.A.S.H. were all suddenly sent to hell themselves in a single bloody night.

(See: The Chuckling Whatsit)

16. Peculia

16. Peculia

Little is known about Peculia, other than what the local gossips and busybodies say.  They say that although she appears to be a street urchin or waif, she actually lives in a big house behind tall iron gates and thick thorn bushes. 
 They say that she lives there all by herself, with only the company of a loyal (and remarkably resourceful) butler named Ambrose.  

They also say she went to the infamous "school for weird kids" called Reynardine, which, according to someone who knows someone who knows, has since burned down.

She can often be seen strolling through some of the more out-of-the-way villages that dot the hilly countryside, dreamily humming to herself and leaving bread crumbs for birds.  

But some mutter darker things about her, saying she is bad luck, an ill omen and that trouble, heartache and death seem to follow her wherever she goes…


17 The Twinge

17 The Twinge

The loathsome creature known only as "The Twinge" is a notorious fiend, a mysterious demented super crook who haunts the city nights.  
He is a master of disguise, and a twisted romantic who often leaves dead flowers at the scene of his crimes.

After one of his most notorious murder sprees ~ eliminating a number of local art critics ~ he mysteriously vanishes.  But is he really gone ~ or merely in hiding, waiting for the right moment to strike?

A woman known as Penelope X claims to have met The Twinge and writes several paperback romances which portray him as a rather dashing and heroic figure, resulting in ladies everywhere swooning at the mention of his name.

(See: The End Of The Street in the book MANIAC KILLER STRIKES AGAIN)

18. Nicola

18. Nicola Karnstein  

Nicola is a new student at the local high school, having recently moved into town with her two sisters and her Grandmama from a small village in the Carpathian Mountains.

Dislikes:  Sunlight. Hawthorne trees. Nosy little boys. Girls who are too clever for their own good. Gypsies.

(See: Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires)

19. Judy Drood ~ "Girl Detective"

19. Judy Drood ~ "Girl Detective"

The entire town is in shock when Judy's father, lovable old Colonel Drood, a leading member of the community, is arrested for a series of unusually vicious murders.  

Though the evidence against him is strong, Judy, a student at the local high school, believes he is innocent and sets out to prove it.  However, the more her investigations uncover, the more Judy inadvertently proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that her father was actually a fiendish master criminal!

But Judy is blinded by loyalty and does everything she can to prove him innocent, including tampering with evidence and harassing witnesses.  Eventually, however, her father is sent to prison for life, leaving Judy somewhat psychologically scarred and jaded, with a cynical distrust of law enforcement and some rather severe anger issues.

While still in high school, Judy becomes obsessed with solving mysteries and uncovering crimes - often where none exist.  Her unorthodox (not to mention illegal) methods annoy and antagonize the local police.  

However, she does manage to solve enough real crimes that the local papers refer to her as the "teen girl detective"  - a label Judy despises, but which, unfortunately, sticks, even after she graduates from high school and becomes a student at Lone Mountain College.  

Judy is a loner who doesn't trust anyone, except perhaps her hapless childhood friend, Kasper Keene, who often finds himself, against his better judgement, assisting Judy on one of her "cases".

(See:  MAD NIGHT and THE GRAVE ROBBER'S DAUGHTER.  Judy's first appearance was in 1993 in the book BLACK CAT CROSSING, in a story reprinted in MANIAC KILLER STRIKES AGAIN)

20. The Black Provost

20. The Black Provost

In the late 1800's, shortly after Lone Mountain College was established, the original board of regents, reacting to the rowdiness of the post-Civil War student body, appointed one of their own to administer discipline.

Known as The Black Provost, he soon began abusing his power, delighting in sadistic torture in his hidden chamber of horrors, assisted by six tongueless nuns.  He is believed to be responsible for the deaths of over a dozen students.  His reign of terror ended when the truth was discovered and he was hung for his crimes.

Since then, it has been said that his spirit still haunts the campus and many people over the years have reported seeing The Ghost of The Black Provost,  stealing across the quad in the moonlight, a bloody hatchet in his hand.

More seriously, authorities suspect that the same deranged individual who stole the hood and robes of The Black Provost from the Anthropology Museum, may have been responsible for the recent rash of violent murders on and around the Lone Mountain campus.


21. Mother Claude

21. Mother Claude

The vile, black-hearted, monstrous Mother Claude was a high-ranking member of a secret organization of criminals known as The Obtainers.  She ran one of their largest orphanages ~ which were actually schools where children were raised from infancy to be expert thieves, pickpockets and cat burglars.  

The children were terrified of disobeying her and those who did learned that she took a sadistic glee in their punishment.  She promised those who longed to escape that they never could because The Obtainers were everywhere and would catch up with them eventually.

When a great fire consumed the orphanage, Mother Claude was officially declared dead.  However, many of the children refuse to believe she really died in the fire and swear they have seen her peering in their windows at night.


22. Professor Sovac ~ aka The Iguana ~ and The Brain of Cagliostro

22. Professor Sovac ~ aka The Iguana ~ and The Brain of Cagliostro

While on a research expedition on a remote mountain village, Professor Egon Sovac discovers the ancient hiding place containing the living brain of the dark sorcerer Cagliostro.  The brain's powerful thoughts easily  overwhelm the professor who becomes a slave to the brain's evil desires and schemes.

Eventually, The Brain of Cagliostro succeeds in sucking all the personality and memory from the professor, turning him into an empty shell, a mere puppet doomed to do the brain's bidding.

Together they spend years traveling the endless Red Desert Valley in search of a cave that, legend has it, contains the doorway to another dimension.  Sovac survives the journey by eating insects and becomes known to local tribesmen as "The Iguana."

The pair eventually return to civilization. and the brain, more powerful than ever, embarks on a campaign of crime and terror.  

They are finally defeated and captured due to the efforts of telekinetic teenager, Phillipa Knicely.  The two are confined to a single padded cell in an isolated asylum, which is tragically washed away when a nearby dam bursts, for reasons still being investigated.

23. Phoebe Duprey

23. Phoebe Duprey

The story goes that a kindly traveling surgeon, Dr. Vogardus, rescued young waif Phoebe Duprey from a life on the streets of Paris, and brought her back to the village of Crow's Creek were he raised her to be a well-adjusted and proper young lady.  

The truth is ~ a bit more complicated.


24. Dr. Trepan

24. Dr. Trepan

Once a respected surgeon, Dr. Trepan had his medical license revoked due to some questionable operations and experiments on the human brain.

Eventually he became the director of a private asylum where he was able to secretly continue his forbidden research.
It was Dr Trepan who was chiefly responsible for reviving the utilization of a banned psychological test known only as "The Examination."  The notorious test was developed during the earliest days of psychological research but eventually outlawed due to the distressing effects it seemed to have on anyone who took it.
In The Examination, the subject is shown a series of four photographs taken over a century ago in the caves of Mt. Diablo by the explorer Gustuvas Nacht.  Viewed individually the photos appear quite mundane, but when placed side by side in a very specific arrangement, they reveal something ~ something extraordinary.  
So extraordinary, in fact, that once the average subject gazes at the arrangement, they are suddenly struck with what can only be described as an overwhelming sense of terror - followed by a quick descent into writhing, gibbering psychosis.
However, it has been proven that certain individuals are able to view the arrangement with little or no ill effects.  The purpose of the test is to find those special individuals.
Dr Trepan and his assistant, Nurse Christina, have themselves never actually seen the pictures in the proper arrangement - they have never dared, having witnessed the unfortunate effects on the average subject, many of whom go on to reside permanently in the dank cellar of the Doctor's  private asylum, locked away and heavily guarded, due to their propensity for ferocious violence.