Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
“Therefore the force, secrecy and power, in what manner the sacred names of
spirits are truly and rightly found out, consisteth in the disposing of the vowels,
which do make the name of a spirit, and wherewith is constituted the true
name and right word.” -HENRY CORNELIUS AGRIPPA
(The following is an excerpt from the archaeological journals of Sir Charles Leonard Woolley during his excavation of a Sumerian site in what is now the Tell el-Muqayyar province of Iraq.)
June 8, 1932
This has been a momentous day for our endeavors here. First, I should like to apologize for the brevity of this entry. I simply cannot write this account whilst my findings remain in the tent beside; such is the extent of my excitement. Had I known the importance of our findings in lot Cl-23, and therefore knew of the immeasurable bounty of knowledge beyond that stone doorway, there would have been no delay in opening the archaic vault. Such things are not worth dwelling upon however, for as it stands the door is open; a mere 2 weeks’ time since its finding.
As I left things in the previous entry, my relationship with the other excavators had been reaching a sour head. My “friends” were quite adamant in their persuasion to open the vault immediately, without the oversight of the Persians. This I felt was a great fault of foresight and character, for the destruction of this piece would only serve to rob the Persians of their forgotten history. Being our party’s leader I decided to wait for word from the locals. They had delayed far too long however, for not a man on my team desired to linger any longer. Wherefore they all conspired, save Asad our linguist and local expert, to blast the door in the still of night.
I awoke immediately following the explosion and, seeing the results of their endeavours, lashed out with an unquenchable fury. By the time this rage had subsided Asad was packed and ready to leave. He said that we had bestowed a great curse upon ourselves, and that he had no wish of being a party to common thieves and tomb robbers. I deeply regret the means with which the vault was opened and if I could have lived the whole affair over again, I would have fired Roger Upton, the security officer who supplied the dynamite. As things were however, the vault was open and there was little else to do then explore it.
We were then surprised by the shear vastness of this vault. The antechamber itself was 6 meters in breadth, with two other chambers yet unexplored. This complex was markedly well preserved despite its apparent age. The marks on the walls reflected the earliest of known Sumerian alphabets. The carvings associated with the text were magnificently crafted and illuminated as well. The wall’s imagery included a great, cloud piercing pyramid at the back of the chamber, a king raising his own crown heavenward on the left-hand wall, and that same king in conversation with a messenger on the opposing wall. The greatest find of the day, however, was a carved stone tablet erected between a statue of the earlier mentioned messenger and the statue of a powerful, goddess like being. This tablet, situated in the center of the chamber itself, was decorated with a singular Sumerian phrase. Once I have catalogued this piece, I plan to ship it to the British Museum promptly.
(The following is an excerpt from the research logs of Dr. Elise Furrow and the British museum)
Date: May 2, 1939
Item #: MESO-5434
Subject: Sumerian Tablet and vault photographs
The tablet appears to be carved from a mud or clay brick, consistent with the assumed composition of the “Vault” structure itself. Any attempts to translate the phrase therein have proved fruitless due to the presence of several unrecognizable symbols. Neither these symbols, nor any similar likenesses have been found in previous Mesopotamian excavations. The walls however show many familiar qualities. John Riley, my colleague in this task, has pointed out several features in the photographs that are reminiscent of the Neo-Sumerian story of the Tower of Babel. If this find and the legend are tied, it is possible that the King is a depiction of the King of Aratta, the messenger a depiction of Enmerkar, the goddess a depiction of Inanna, and the pyramid or ziggurat a depiction of the ‘Temple of Ana’. According to the legend, the King of Aratta angers the goddess Inanna by presuming himself king in her name. She then sends Enmerkar to contend with the pretender and teaches him the “Incantation of Nudimmud”, a hymn that would implore the god Enki to restore and unite the many languages of the surrounding area. In the end, Enmerkar creates the first written language on stone tablets. If the link between the site and the legend are to be believed, then the tablet itself could be the Incantation of Nudimmud and thereby the first example of Sumerian written word! Furthermore my colleague has found evidence pointing to a phonetic pronunciation of the phrase! He claims, and I have checked, that the statues and carvings of the figures depict, in detail, the proper articulation needed to recite these ancient vowel sounds. The first clue is the number of figures. There are five human depictions at the site, which corresponds to the five symbols on the tablet. Secondly, the amount of detail present in the figures’ oratory positioning is astounding. Each shows an apparent difference in height, roundedness, and relative back or front positioning. In fact, the only issue is in discerning their order! We are excited to put this hypothesis to the test and become the first people to speak Sumerian for thousands of years.
(The following is an excerpt from an autopsy and investigation report by the Metropolitan Police Service and officer Henry Tallard)
The subject is one Doctor Elise Claire Furrow, advising researcher for the British Museum. Her body was discovered within her offices on May 23rd, 1939 alongside her assistant John Kenneth Riley. Riley has since been sent to an institution due to the abhorrent behavior which he displayed towards the officers upon their appearance on the scene. Riley is not currently a suspect do to the nature of Furrow’s injuries, and the state of mind which must have been present in both subjects. Furrow’s body was found in the far corner of the cluttered space, just opposite the corner where Riley was found cowering. The body was laid out face down on its ventral side with its arms and hands pressed close to the chest. Were it not for the particular amount of blood, this may have suggested a heart attack or a constriction of the air ways. The arms and legs were still rigid due to Rigimortis, suggesting her death to be somewhere between 8 to 36 hours. Flipping the body revealed an extensive amount of skin laceration and self-mutilation. Furrow’s eyes and neck suffered the bulk of the damage. Furrow had somehow managed to gouge her eyes free from the oculus, presumably with her thumbs. Furrow then brought her crossed hands down to the neck, leaving a trail of blood and vitreous matter from the eye socket to base of the jaw line. Here Furrow lashed at her own neck, pushed her fingers into the skin, ripped downward with some extensive force, flayed the skin into three ribbons on either side, and managed to tear the Carotid Artery. Furrow’s cause of death appears to be stroke rather than blood loss, and this assertion is backed by the brain autopsy which revealed extensive brain damage as well as unusual damage to the Corpus Callosum. Upon questioning, Riley revealed no information as to the cause of Furrow’s break down. Riley himself had been displaying severe cases of post-traumatic stress. His few clear responses included reports of an inescapable, shadowy figure who had been stalking Furrow’s over the course of two weeks. Other than this Riley primarily repeated one, garbled, alien phrase over and over again. As aforementioned, Riley is not a suspect; although he has been institutionalized for his own protection.
(The following are entries from the personal journal officer Henry Tallard)
May 23rd, 1939
Today I have chosen to resign my position as an officer of Scotland Yard. This decision stems directly from my dreadful duty today, and had the affair not occurred I may have stayed to serve a few more years on the force. Of all the horrendous scenes and wicked crimes I have witnessed, I can absolutely say that none will haunt me quite as surely as the suicide of Elise Furrows. How her neck had been rend, the look of those two bloodied pits, and that frozen expression of torment; these things shall wrack my mind for many, if not all, of my years to come. But worse of all was the boy, whom no doubt witnessed the whole of the affair. Perhaps he was once a simple boy who had been charismatic, well loved, and happy. Now he was a muttering shell of whatever he had been. He was cold, small, and consumed by a tremulous weight of terror, the likes of which I have rarely if ever seen. Then there was his phrase; that simple yet unnerving pattern of sounds which he had repeated over and over again with terrible effect. It was these words which had awaken something in me, something as weak and frightened as Riley himself. It feels as though, at any point, something may whisk its way through the darkest shadows and devour me whole. Tomorrow this may all seem like silly paranoia, but the fact remains; I shall no longer be serving on the force.
May 27th, 1939
I heard something today; it was a strange scratching noise. Well I suppose scratching is not the right word, I suppose it would be a tearing. Yes a tearing coming from the other side of my wall. It started out soft and low but has gradually begun building in volume and frequency. When I spoke with my barber about the ordeal he asserted that it had been rats, but rats do not tear. Even through its volume and frequency however, the noise is not half as terrible as the thoughts they inspire. They cause me to think of the Furrow women and the gashes upon her neck. I shall try to get some sleep and push these thoughts from my mind. Tomorrow I shall hire an exterminator.
May 31st, 1939
I understand now why the traps have not been sprung. We were wrong to think the now deafening noises had stemmed from rats. They were not rats and there never were any rats. This had all been confirmed today, when the man I had hired to rid my house of vermin confided in me that he heard no noise. He didn’t hear a thing, yet I was deafened by the noise. This can only mean one thing, that my mind has been fabricating the whole ordeal, but even this knowledge isn’t enough to cure my ailment. Still I hear the noise and still it works my nerves. It was the Furrows case, I’m sure of it. The boy or the body; something had caused this drastic change in my thinking. I believe I must undergo psychiatric evaluation.
June 3rd, 1939
The medication has stopped working and the noises have returned in full force. On top of that there is the crushing darkness. I cannot leave my home without being enveloped in it. I cannot go to the grocer, I cannot go to a picture film, I cannot dine with my friends or my prior colleagues, and I certainly cannot visit my psychiatrist for reevaluation. Such actions would send me into a tumult of black, thus leaving me blinded. There is also the issue of the pursuer. Last time I left my house I became lost and twisted amongst the dark city streets. Once I had traveled too far into the darkness I had felt a presence leering over me. All though I couldn’t see it, I could picture how it must have looked. It was a queer sensation, a sixth sense of sorts. As to the being; it was dreadful. It was darker than any shadow and hunched in such a way that it practically walked on four legs, like some kind of primitive, albeit giant, ape. He had no skin, merely dark mutterings and black words which writhed and filled his spectral being. Furthermore the thing was fast and strong, and murmured in harsh, eccentric whispers whilst it chased me. My only saving grace was the beasts own piercing orange eyes, which bestirred the darkness for a distance, so long as I stayed in front of them. Finally, due to some power of the holy Lord our Father, I managed to find my front door again, fling myself inside, slam it shut, and crumple down to the floor exhausted. It would seem that this is my only sanctuary from the darkness and the pursuer, although the deafening tearing still persists.
June 5th, 1939
It has broken inside! I did not hear it come! I left my room and the darkness had already reached the hall. That damnable noise! The tearing was so load that I must have missed the crash as the creature blast through my front door. The minute I saw the darkness lingering there, I knew the beast was not far. Its powers have grown however. Now, where ever shadows lay, thousands of hands wriggle and squirm trying to catch a hold of me. I got too close to one. It grabbed my neck and I had to pry myself free, scratching myself in the process. I am not sure how much longer I can stand this; the noise, the visions, the crushing anxiety. I do know one thing though; once my bedroom door is broken the thing will have me. Soon the thing will have me. It will have me soon. It will have me!
Note: I have studied these proceedings and compiled them for one purpose; to document a disorder of the psyche more perverse than any I have ever seen. Not only is this disorder rare, here described are the first recorded cases of the phenomenon. This lethal, contagious, mental illness has taken many lives in its brief lifespan. These victims include Dr. Furrow, then Mr. Riley, and Officer Tallard. There were others too; Riley’s physician, the poor women who discovered Riley and Furrow, Riley’s mates at the institution, three officers who questioned Riley, five pedestrians Tallard passed while muttering on the street, and the officer who found and had to kill a hysteric Tallard within his home. All victims had identical symptoms; visions, noises, and a peculiar phrase are all consistent between the victims. The other similarity is the unusual damage to the corpus callosum after death. This suggests that some stimulus, probably the spoken phrase, breaks down this membrane, causing it to misfire and send information to the wrong hemisphere of the brain. Wherefore the phrase, rather than being heard, is seen in the mind’s eye. This then results in a continued misfire, and the eventual breakdown of spoken language. I have made attempts to save some of the patients by severing the corpus callosum, so that the process of sharing information between hemispheres ceases. This experiment has been met with varying success. It is interesting to think that mind can be reprocessed and reconfigured, by just hearing a simple phrase.
– Roger Wolcott Sperry, 1941