Steven Jones, an entertainment producer from Chicago, journeys to London in search of new attractions. There he discovers the strange and disturbing wax museum of George Rodgers and his inscrutable associate Orabona. Is the mad artist able to conjure up the world's most horrifying waxen effigies through his occult inspirations, or is there a darker secret lurking behind the wax and paint?
The motif of the statue-come-to-life has been frequently used in literature, from the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion to the legend of the Golem to the fairy tale of Pinocchio. In his tale of Rhan-Tegoth, HPL turns the trope upside-down and makes George Rodgers into a reverse Geppetto. Although Hazel Heald provided the initial synopsis for the story, the finished tale is almost entirely the work of Lovecraft.Get it now!
To enhance your listening pleasure, the HPLHS has packed the binder sleeve for The Horror in the Museum with carefully created props from the story. You'll get:
1. Opening 3:20
2. The Impresarios 11:25
3. The Artist 20:23
4. The Thing in the Ice 18:08
5. The Wax Museum 10:34
6. The Aftermath 12:19
7. Closing 1:11
Total Runtime 77:23
Sean Branney...George Rodgers
Ken Clement...Lester Mayhew
Matt Foyer...Humphrey, Det. Inspector Brunk
Bernadette Halpin...Hazel, Mrs. Broadhurst
McKerrin Kelly...Eleanor Patterson
Andrew Leman...Richard Carrey, Cameron
David Pavao...Steven Jones
Kevin Stidham...Jennings, Barker
Time Winters...Complaining Man, Brophy
Based on the story by Hazel Heald and H.P. Lovecraft
Written by Sean Branney & Andrew Leman
Original Music by Reber Clark
Dark Adventure Theme by Troy Sterling Nies
Cover and Disc illustrations by Darrell Tutchton
Prop Inserts by Andrew Leman & Sean Branney
Calligraphy by Shruti Shankar
Miniature Photography by Davey Robertson
Produced by Sean Branney and Andrew Leman
The same year HPL wrote this story, Warner Bros. released this film. It doesn't appear to be streaming anywhere and is available to watch only on disc, but you can see the opening sequence and a few other clips on YouTube, including the "unmasking" scene that HPL approved of. This film also features a basement wax museum, but that appears to be a coincidence, since it was based on an unpublished story by Charles S. Belden that neither Hazel Heald nor HPL could presumably have read. According to George Higham's book Wax Museum Movies: A Comprehensive Filmography, there are at least 127 movies set in wax museums, dating from as early as 1899! People have been creeped out by wax figures for a very long time.
In his 1920 memoir The Romance of Madame Tussaud's, John T. Tussaud says: "We have speculated much upon the origin of what has come to be called 'The Chamber of Horrors Rumour,' related to a popular delusion that Madame Tussaud's will pay a sum of money to any person who spends a night alone with the criminals assembled therein. It need hardly be pointed out that no such ridiculous challenge was ever issued to the public, although the rumour has run for nearly twenty years, in spite of repeated contradictions."
"Eskimo" characters appear in this and other HPL stories, where they are presented as stereotypes. We at the HPLHS are committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in our projects, and saw this episode as an opportunity both to better represent indigenous people and hire indigenous actors to play the roles. The original drafts of the script included two indigenous characters in the Alaskan flashback sequence, and we very much hoped to cast those characters with Alaska Native voice artists. We reached out to a number of cultural organizations in Alaska in our casting search, including The Bering Straits Native Corporation, Kawerak, The Alaska Native Language Center of the University of Alaska, and Perseverance Theatre Company. After a number of difficult and heartfelt conversations, what we learned was that it just isn't that simple. There are numerous distinct cultural and ethnic groups in Alaska, with long and fascinating histories, speaking a number of languages (some of them nearly extinct). We had gone ahead and written our script in English, making a lot of presumptions about the characters, and assuming it could all be translated after the fact. We came to understand that we should have included Alaska Native consultants from the beginning of the writing process. Even for just a cameo appearance, our approach was insensitive despite our best intentions, and assuming that Alaska Natives could fix it all for us was inappropriate. In the end we regretfully agreed with some advice that we got that rather than represent them inadequately, it would be better not to include the Alaska Native characters at all. We are sincerely grateful to the people who gave us new ways of thinking about the issues, including Leslie Ishii, Artistic Director of Perseverance Theatre, and Inuit artist Holly Nordlum, among others.
Climate change and many decades of extractive capitalism have had terrible repercussions for Alaska Natives, and their traditional ways of life are ever harder to preserve. We are donating to a number of non-profits that benefit Alaska Natives, including Kawerak and Perseverance Theatre, as well as The Native American Rights Fund, The Alaska Conservation Foundation, and KOTZ, the local radio station in Kotzebue.
We very much doubted that attempting to digitally fake up a photo of Rhan-Tegoth's throne room would yield satisfying results, so we decided to build a miniature and really photograph it. For convenience it was built at traditional dollhouse scale: 1 inch equals 1 foot. The miniature was 56 inches wide, 32 inches high and 36 inches deep. From the very beginning we included a little scale cut-out of Orabona to help keep everything in proportion. The cut-out was based on a photo of Matthew Henson, the African-American arctic explorer who was Robert Peary's right-hand man in discovering the North Pole.
Built from sheets of polyethelene foam, with foamcore board for rigidity and polystyrene blocks for the stairs, the whole thing was then covered in mulberry paper saturated with acrylic polymer emulsion to mask the seams and give it a uniform stone texture. The ivory throne was also made of foam blocks, topped with a sheet of cardboard with the glyph of Rhan-Tegoth laser-cut into it. The glyph was inspired by the work of graffiti artist Retna. For mammoth tusks we used actual beaver teeth, plus longer tusks formed out of Sculpey, all tied together with artificial sinew.
About 200 small animal bones from rodents, birds and snakes were scattered over the stairs and floor, along with model railway talus. We cast chunks of "ice" using polyurethane resin, and added some broken glass we found in the parking lot outside HPLHS headquarters. Excellent dollhouse-scale skulls of caribou, elk and moose made by Jessy Dion add to the litter of bones on the floor. There is a life-size replica of a wolf eel skull peeking out at the top of the stairs.
HPLHS cinematographer Davey Robertson took the official photograph. The only digital augmentations to the final image were compositing in Orabona and adding some symbols carved into the wall above the stairs.
The character of Eleanor Patterson is inspired by a real person! Eleanor "Cissy" Patterson was a member of the rich and highly influential Medill/Patterson family of Chicago. Her grandfather was mayor of Chicago and owned the Chicago Tribune, and she herself founded and edited the Washington Times-Herald, which published ten editions a day. She was also a socialite with lots of rich and powerful friends, and enemies. She was a very right-wing conservative and a tough broad. Her marriage to a Polish cavalry officer/count ended in a protracted divorce, and she didn't get along with her daughter, either. She also owned a ranch in Wyoming and was apparently something of a horse whisperer.
By including a highly fictionalized version of this captivating historical figure in our story, no disrespect is intended. Rather, we hoped our listeners might share our interest in the real Mrs. Patterson and the remarkable achievements of her life.
HPL mentions the glass flowers created by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka in the story, and we were amazed to learn more about them. The Blaschkas were glassworking masters based in Dresden, Germany. They got their start in 1863 making glass models of jellyfish, squid and other marine invertebrates and selling them by mail order to museums and private collectors all over the world. They made some 10,000 of these highly detailed models, and samples of the Blaschka’s cephalopods are currently on display in the “Tentacles” exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where they are shown alongside “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft.
After the tremendous success of their glass invertebrates, they were commissioned to make scientifically accurate glass models of plants by George Lincoln Goodale, the director of the Harvard Botanical Museum. They developed their own techniques to produce the models over a period of fifty years, from 1886 to 1936.
For your enjoyment, we present free PDF downloads of the final recording script and liner notes of "The Horror in the Museum". Note: this script is only for use for reading along with Dark Adventure Radio Theatre; no publication or performance of the script may be made without written consent of the HPLHS.