Thursday, June 28, 2012

Skeleton Key #12

36. The Gull Street Ghoul

37. Madame Masque

38. Phantasmiac

36. The Gull Street Ghoul

The true identity of The Gull Street Ghoul, the Bay Area's most notorious serial killer, has been a topic of lively debate among true crime scholars for many years.

Who was he?  Why did he commit such appalling crimes?  What did he do with the pieces of his victims he took with him - the hanks of hair and slices of skin?  What could be the story behind his unusually-shaped murder knife?  And what about the testimony of one surviving witness, who claimed The Ghoul wore a leather-like mask, possibly stitched together from human skin?  These questions remain unanswered, since The Ghoul was never captured.  

However, now, almost thirty years after he vanished, The Gull Street Ghoul seems to have returned for a series of new murders.  Is it a "copycat killer" - or has the original Ghoul come out of retirement?  And why on earth do the victims of the new Ghoul murders all seem to be local astrologers or writers of newspaper horoscope columns?

Curious true crime aficionados are urged to visit The Ghoul Appreciation Society Headquarters (or G.A.S.H.), to learn more.  However, since G.A.S.H. happens to be located on a poorly lit, narrow street in the very neighborhood where the original killings took place, potential visitors are advised not to attempt to venture there after dark.

(See: The Chuckling Whatsit)

37. Madame Masque

Three times a week, the trendy little dive Club Escapade features "The Mysterious Melodies of Madame Masque."  Advertised as being "too beautiful for human eyes", the masked torch singer is actually Pandora Arkwright who is, in fact, "too hideous for human eyes," having been disfigured in a tragic accident.  Emotionally fragile and living in a childish dream world, her only solace is singing her haunting melodies.

Her husband is Ivor Arkwright, a lighthouse keeper and amateur oceanographer.  Desperate to restore his wife's former beauty, he makes an unholy pact with the nefarious Dr. Quintana, a villainous slice-happy quack who has recently escaped from prison.  Arkwright, aware of the disgraced doctor's illegal surgical experiments, hires Quintana to perform operations on Pandora's face.  Legitimate medical procedures have proven ineffective, so Quintana experiments with using skin grafts of living human tissue.  For this living tissue, newly dead bodies are required, so Arkwright and Quintana set about finding suitable victims.  

They use Arkwright's discovery, a savage primordial sea creature he keeps locked up in the lighthouse, to kidnap go-go dancers from Club Escapade and similar establishments.  Quintana then removes the faces of the hapless girls, hoping to find the perfect match - one that will adhere to Pandora's scarred and boney visage.  Unfortunatley, he has little success.

Troubled by the state of affairs, Pandora sends an anonymous note to enigmatic avenger, Mr. Murmur, hoping he will be able to help put an end to the madness.

In the meantime, Dr. Quintana's faithful servant, Pepi, a subject of the doctor's experimental animal organ transplant operations, accompanies Pandora on stage with his guitar.

(See:  The Diabolical Doctor Q. in the book MANIAC KILLER STRIKES AGAIN)

38. Phantasmiac

The self-dubbed "Master of Musical Malice," Phantasmiac, is actually Forest Thursby, a former High School music teacher and failed violinist and composer.

Inspired by his (unrequited) love for drama teacher, Miss Valentina, he helped raise community support and money for a Performing Arts Center that would benefit students as well as provide a place to stage his own operettas.  But jealous colleagues, the Principal and the Coach, frame him for embezzling the project's funds.  They also scheme to turn the Arts Center into a sports arena.

His dreams crushed, the disgraced and desperate teacher attempts to blow up the new building, but only succeeds in disfiguring himself when the bomb misfires.

Assumed to be dead, he stumbles into the underground labyrinths that wind under the town, connecting various buildings.  These tunnels allow him to come and go in secret, and - his former good nature now twisted by madness - he becomes Phantasmiac, embarking on a campaign of terror and destruction, seeking revenge for all of his disappointments.  Many Prom Nights and Community Theater productions have been marred by murder and mayhem caused by Phantasmiac! 

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