It is Halloween night, and at last we return to Saviso. Last year we visited the foreboding Kingseat Hospital, but this time we're going into the heart of the beast. But Saviso tonight is a very strange place - across the city, a gloom has descended. The normally cheery Savisans are dragging their feet, the weather is sullen and grey, and all people want is for the horror to end. What could have possibly happened to this great city?
It's election day on Saturday.
In the interests of brevity (and because my time is limited), we will confine this entry to a selection from the city centre and its surrounds, much as we did with Holme last year. Still, there is much to cover, so let us begin with a trip to Parliament in Aslington, where Certain Things await...
The Halls of Power
- Parliament Buildings, Aslington, and Maitland House, St Quentin
Standing stately on the western bank of the Saviso River, the Parliament Buildings are one of the city’s great landmarks. Dating to 1843 when the national capital was moved to Saviso (something that still rankles some Holmesiders), the grounds of Parliament have seen much in the way of decision-making, spirited debate, and vigorous protests. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that Parliament itself is teeming with paranormal activity.
Many politicians with strong connections to Parliament are said to still roam the halls long after their deaths. Robert Peak, a prominent socialist who was the MP for Silverton from 1885 to 1919, has been seen walking briskly down the corridor to his office decades after his passing in 1939. James Williamson, Speaker of the House of Commons between 1902 and 1907, has been claimed to occasionally return to preside over the chamber. Security guards have reported hearing muffled shouting from the Senate chamber, but when they go to investigate, they find the chamber completely empty. Similarly, motion-activated security alarms have been tripped in various offices around Parliament by person or persons unseen, while unusual flashes have been sighted on security footage late at night. The Parliamentary Library has two spirits – one who coughs in the dead of night, and another who moves books around, much to the chagrin of the staff. The most unusual, however, is generally agreed to be the sound of a heavy ball – not too dissimilar to that of a bowling ball – rolling along the atrium floor and hitting the far wall with a thud in the dead of night. The strange sound is commonly attributed to Jack Pascall, MP for Cornotorina (1922-59), who had a penchant for the eccentric, and who occasionally liked to roll balls of various sizes along the atrium’s black and white tiles to distract the press assembled there; other highlights include walking backwards into the House, answering all press questions directed to him in Franquese or Gaerman, and attending every sitting of the House during the Great War in military dress. It’s no wonder that the statue of him in Cornotorina is usually topped with a road cone or other strange adornment.
The Premier’s office is naturally one of the most active. Cigar smoke is often smelled in the room, even though every Premier since Otto van Helsing has been a non-smoker, and shadowy figures are sometimes seen moving around from the outside. A number of leaders have reported seeing a figure standing at the corner of their vision, but when they look up, nobody is there. John Graine, Premier from 2001 to 2010, even reported a physical encounter when he was given an abrupt slap on the back by an unseen hand; this is believed to be the spirit of Caldwell Runciman, a giant of a man who served as Premier from 1889 to 1902, and who rewarded those whom he liked with hard slaps on the back that could easily knock the wind out of the recipient.
Of course, a number of Premiers have been said to haunt Parliament, but if you want to see some more of Vodeo’s most legendary leaders, a trip to Maitland House is in order. The building, dating from the 1820s, was originally the Savisan residence of the monarch, but since the 1850s has been the official residence of the Premier. Victoria Stobie is far from the only Premier in residence, however. Practically every late leader has been seen in some form here. Otto van Helsing (1980-89) once woke up to see the unmistakable face of Gustav Bauer (1857-62) looming over him in the dim light, while Richard Simpson (1902-10), Oliver King (1934-46), and Guy Bradford (1950-65) have all been seen in the lounge, among others. Even Stobie herself has encountered none other than her own great-great-great-great grandfather, Harry Bentinck, who was Premier from 1910 to 1919 (by coincidence, Stobie has been in office since 2010, and she'll be hoping to win again come Saturday night) a couple of times; she likes to think he's watching over her and helping her govern well. A leader needs all the help they can get sometimes.
The Cohe's Last Voyage
- Saviso Harbour
It is 1943, and the world is at war. A great conflict that seemingly erupted out of nowhere has drawn in nations from all parts of the globe, and Vodeo is no exception. Great sacrifices are being made for King and Country; young men have put their lives on hold to take up arms and travel to far-off lands, while at home their families wait anxiously, hoping for a letter but dreading a telegram. Rationing of a number of vital materials is in place, and the country's entire economy has been put on a war footing. Never before has Vodeo been so militarised, but everyone hopes and prays that it won't be for long.
It is in this atmosphere of uncertainty that the troop ship HVMS Cohe prepared to set sail for Uletha on the morning of July 27. Despite the persistent rain, there had been much fanfare at the docks of Port Saviso as the brave men and women boarded and waved goodbye to their friends and family. The St Austell Telegraph noted that "while the crowd cheered and bid fond farewells to their loved ones, there was an unmistakable air of sadness on the docks, with both soldier and civilian wondering if they would ever see one-another again." It is worth noting that while the Cohe was not the first troop ship to sail for the Great War, it was one of the largest, and was transporting more than 370 soldiers and support from around much of southern and western Vodeo; as such, there were people gathered from as far away as Radern and as close as Marchbanks on the docks that morning.
Just after noon, the ship's horn gave a blast, and as the ship began to pull away from the quay, the band assembled there struck up a loud rendition of "Upon the Bountiful Rabe", a popular folk song considered the nation's unofficial anthem. The Cohe steamed down the harbour, and before long, had disappeared out of sight past Stafford Entrance. One can only wonder what those on board were thinking as Saviso disappeared slowly into the distance.
The evening of August 1 was a miserable one, with the heavy monsoon rain beating down upon the city. A little after 8pm, the lookout station at Wingate Head sighted the shape of a troop ship, fully lit up, making its way through the rain towards Saviso Harbour. Despite attempts being made to contact the ship, no reply came back, and as per protocol, the gun emplacement at Wingate Head and naval base at Padina were warned. Last-ditch efforts to identify the ship were made to no avail, and the order was given to fire upon the ship; but to the men's horror, the guns jammed and refused to fire, despite later being found to have been in perfect working order. The Navy had meanwhile dispatched an interception vessel to try and halt the ship before it entered the harbour, and as the mystery ship passed Heytesbury Point, the Navy caught up. To their surprise, the sailors found themselves looking at the Cohe, full of life and with scores of men on the decks despite the driving rain. Realising the ship was friendly, they followed alongside to escort the Cohe to the docks, but to their sheer astonishment, the ship simply vanished as it came within sight of Port Saviso. The captain on board the interceptor reported that "she was there one second, and gone the next."
Everyone was left scratching their heads until the next morning, when the story took a sudden and eerie turn. At around 7:40 the previous night, the Cohe had been torpedoed by an enemy submarine, and had slid beneath the waves just before 8pm with the loss of 366 unfortunate souls. The families of the victims were quietly informed, and the story of the Cohe's arrival in Saviso Harbour was kept secret until well after the war, despite the reports of those who had witnessed the strange sight on the water that evening.
What happened that night on the Saviso Harbour? Did the Cohe and those who had perished aboard her make their way back so their souls could be at peace on home soil? The 1943 military report could offer no conclusions, and neither could a number of investigations that have taken place in the decades since.
Eight Bells for Black Jack
- Padina Naval Base, Padina
Keeping with our wartime setting and naval theme for another story, we take in the naval base at Padina, where the Saviso River empties into Saviso Harbour. Yes, they’re very original with their names around here. The Navy has had a base here since the early 19th century, and these days is its principal southern base. Being part of the military, the base has any number of tales that date back centuries, but there’s one in particular that stands out among those fine sailors who’ve called Padina their home.
In the early 1940s, on the very day Vodeo was dragged into the outbreak of the Great War, a guard making his patrol between midnight and one o’clock caught sight of a lone figure in 18th century uniform standing on the dock looking out toward the harbour. When the guard called out to the figure and received no reply, he marched over to find out what this sailor, obviously a new recruit being put through some form of hazing ritual, was up to. To his astonishment, as he approached the figure, it quickly faded away. Bewildered, the guard looked around to try and make sense of what he had just seen, but as soon as he moved away, the figure faded back into view. Concerned that he might be losing command of his senses, he hurried off to fetch another guard, and when they returned, the sailor was still here, and once again disappeared when approached. The guards stood back and watched, trying to figure out what could be happening, when the mysterious sailor once again faded from view. Instinctively, one of the guards looked at his watch, and noticed it was the stroke of one o’clock. After waiting a while longer, the figure did not reappear, and so the guards left to continue their rounds and file a very unusual report. Later that day, Vodeo declared war on its aggressors, and the navy prepared for battle.
It didn’t take long for sailors to hear of the strange apparition, and many risked being caught out after curfew trying to catch a glimpse of the sailor. For those that picked the right nights to see him, it was a bittersweet sight; being a superstitious lot, the sailors quickly realised that the old-time seaman was an omen, and not a good one: he would take his watch on nights before setbacks, tragedies, or calamities for Vodeans fighting overseas. There had been a few nicknames tossed around, but one soon stuck: “Black Jack”. On and off during the war, he would take his post for his midnight watch, and after his hour was up, fade back into the blackness of the night. His appearances weren’t the best for morale, and while base commanders attempted to squash talk of “Black Jack”, news of his watches always got through. It is worth noting that “Black Jack” was seen keeping watch on the morning of August 1, 1943.
“Black Jack” has made mercifully few appearances since the end of the war; each one, however, has kept to the superstition. He was seen on watch the night before a Federal States Navy ship collided with the HMVS Corm during manoeuvres in the Gulf of Havilland in 1966, leading to the sinking of the latter with 21 deaths. His watches have seen him on the docks thrice to warn of the demise of the Crown, in 1954, 1975, and 1988. In 1993, he was seen the night before news broke that a small naval vessel had run aground near the Welcome Islands as a result of a navigational error; in this case, there were no deaths involved, although it was a cause of great embarrassment for the navy built by pirates.
Rumour is he is a sailor killed during the War of the Vodean Coast (1722-24), where sea battles were fought all along the Vodean coast between the Ingerish and pirates on one side, and Castellanese on the other. According to the Navy, he officially doesn’t exist, but stories about his appearances have woven their way into the fabric of the force. As for why he made his first appearance on the eve of the Great War, it is presumed that as it was to be the largest war Vodeo was to ever be involved in, he felt a need to return to warn the sailors. Whatever reasons “Black Jack” has for his eerie appearances, nobody at the Padina naval base hopes he makes a reappearance to reveal them.
Are You Being Served?
- Godfree King, St Anne's Square, Aslington
A grand store stands on the corner of St Anne's Square and Gore Street in Aslington. Dating in one form or another to the 1850s, it is an Aslington institution, its Adelaidean architecture a reminder of a Saviso of years gone by. The shop goes by the name of Godfree King, a store as legendary for its clientele as its enormous sandwiches.
But there's more to this store than just cuts of meat and a proud history. Among Godfree King's large list of regulars is a fellow known by all as Percy. Where he comes from or what his real name is, nobody can say, for nobody has ever seen him. Since the 1850s, staff and customers alike have reported a litany of peculiar occurrences, such as salamis hanging from hooks swinging violently and inexplicably, being pushed or shoved, and cash registers opening and closing with a frightening bang on their own. Cleaners have told of their buckets being overturned and mysterious footprints appearing on their nicely washed floors. Down below in the storeroom, some staff have witnessed boxes moving of their own accord, the feeling of someone breathing down their neck, heavy footsteps running toward them before falling silent, or a gruff voice calling something unintelligible from the other end of the room. In the offices upstairs, a former manager once watched on with astonishment as his calendar was ripped from the wall and hurled across the room by an unseen hand. Perhaps most curiously, a tourist took a video inside the store in the early 1990s, and at one point on the tape a translucent white figure passes by in the background, even though the tourist in question swore there was nobody there when he filmed.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Saviso
- Fox Street, Southbank
Those looking for a good night out can’t go past Southbank. With any number of restaurants, nightclubs, and establishments of a more personal nature, there’s something for everyone once the sun goes down and the street lights come on around Spencer Street and Holdings Place. The Apostolic and Romantian Churches have been trying to have the suburb dynamited for decades now, but to no avail. As Brynderwyn was in the 1710s, so Southbank is in the 2010s, albeit with fewer pirates and a greater selection of fruity cocktails with little umbrellas.
Southbank has retained a large number of its heritage buildings, and there’s one in particular on Fox Street that has gained a reputation that stands out even in this most hedonistic of suburbs. It is inconspicuous to look at, wedged in between larger buildings halfway between Ladder Alley and Upton Street, and home to a fancy restaurant, but looks can be deceiving: in the latter part of the 19th century, the site once housed a brothel. This in itself is nothing unusual – Southbank is famous for its history of dirty goings-on behind closed doors – but the one that operated here for some 22 years, the Pig Pen, was famous even here for its sheer debauchery. Every sin and vice one can imagine was indulged within its walls, and even though it was the only house of ill-repute operating on Fox Street, the street soon became known as the most debauched in the world off the reputation of the Pig Pen alone. The brothel was finally closed down by a court order in 1904, the stories coming out of the Pig Pen having been simply too much for the city to allow. The building sat unoccupied for a short while before being demolished and replaced with the present building, and in time the memories of the Pig Pen were forgotten. But as the occupants of the new building soon found, while the Pig Pen might be gone, one vengeful spirit was not.
Men have reported being shoved, scratched, and slapped when they venture up to the second or third floors. Those who have slept upstairs have woken to the sensation of being choked or even pushed off their beds, and in the dim light, some have said they saw the unmistakeable figure of a woman looming over them, but when they switch on a light, she is gone. It is worth noting that no women have been attacked by the spirit, only men, although women have been present when a number of attacks have taken place.
It is theorised that the spirit is that of a prostitute who died in mysterious circumstances sometime during the brothel’s operation; whether she died in an unfortunate accident or was killed in a rendezvous gone wrong depends on who is telling the story. In an effort to try and give the poor woman some peace at last, in 2002 a bishop from the Trinity Cathedral was brought in to bless the site and encourage her to move on. It would seem that some divine intervention did the trick, as no more attacks have been reported since. Whoever the lost and angry soul was remains a mystery, but she has become a part of the wild fabric of Southbank’s history.
For a city of Saviso's size and prominence, I've only scratched the surface of what mysterious goings-on take place here. I've had most of these stories planned since the end of the 2018 run, but life stuff has meant that I was a bit limited in my ability to map; other stories I wanted to add in have had to be delayed until I can get Saviso looking a bit more presentable. I can't have a story about a phantom car on the Harbour Bridge when it's not there at the moment, can I? Unlike Holme's stories, Saviso's don't really draw much inspiration from real life - they're more tales I've thought up over the past year or so and figured they'd be fun to write about.
The aforementioned life stuff meant that I was unable to dedicate as much time as I would have liked to Curious Vodeo this year, and I apologise if the stories seemed a little weak compared to last year. Next year I may well trim it down to one or two entries around Halloween, since I was beginning to run out of places that were ready to go for stories; Bunenton literally had to be built from scratch just for its story (then again, so did Kingseat). Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed this year's stories of Vodeo's strange side; we'll have to see what emerges from the darkness this time next year.
Until then, sleep tight.
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It has really been entertaining reading about such stories. It's a bit sad not many took up this for their histories and add a bit of chill. Anyway, happy Halloween to those who celebrate it. Best wishes. Sleep tight. Eat the good candy. Hope to see more stories next year.--Happy mapping and God blesses you, ZK (talk) 12:44, 31 October 2019 (CET)