May 2nd, 2008

How to drive someone absolutely insane

This is half-inspiration, half-factual research, but hopefully it's close enough.

I've got a malevolent spirit who has placed all sorts of curses on a 1921-era Bostonian academic. Specifically, the academic is a woman who's as close to a professor as a woman comfortably gets in this era. She is unmarried, and lives in a standard professional-class house.

These curses will pertain to her personal life, and cause "bizarro impressions":
- If she uses her hairbrush, she will percieve that her hair is falling out.
- If she uses tooth paste, her teeth will (to her eyes) turn yellow and decay.
- If she puts a meal in the oven, when she comes back to check on it, it appears to have become a thoroughly unappetizing mouldy-maggoty pile of green sludge.

I'm looking for other examples of household or quotidien objects that could be similarly exploited. The spirit is trying to challenge her sanity, either by simply driving her insane or by futzing with her perceptions so that her reactions seem absurd and demented to onlookers, which would wind her up in asylum. (To use the tooth paste example, when she looks in a mirror, she sees cavity-ridden, yellowing fangs, but when someone else looks at her, her teeth appear perfectly normal.)

Anyone have any ideas?

passenger shipping from London to Bordeaux c.1902

I have two characters who travel from London to Bordeaux around 1902. From searching around on various 'maritime London' sites, including that of the Maritime History Museum, and googling 'port of London', it seems they would have been likely to travel by General Navigation Company steamer which ran a lot of Channel cargo and passenger services until it was taken over by P&O.

What I want to know is where exactly my characters are likely to have boarded the vessel. I would have assumed passengers boarded somewhere out towards Docklands, but there is a postcard image of the Eagle (in service 1898-1928) going under Tower Bridge, which suggests there was a Westminster pier. Can anyone with more knowledge confirm? Also, would some of such cross-Channel services have been combined cargo/passenger crossings? My characters are poor and almost without luggage, and would be taking the cheapest possible option.

Many thanks.

List of alcoholic beverages by proof

Okay, tried every combination of Google search I could think of, and I'm tired of sorting through the useless crap trying to find what I'm looking for.

So I have this character in this story who is completely straight-edge, doesn't even drink caffeine. But he's mildly insane anyway (one of those brilliant eccentrics), and he's having an especially bad incident right now. ("Gone completely off his rocker" is close, but not entirely accurate.) Because of this incident, he goes to a liquor store to buy alcohol to get drunk. But his knowledge of alcohol is severely limited, because he has never watched TV in his life, nor gotten on the Internet, and has never been around anyone who drank. So he's asking questions that make the liquor store guy worried that he'll overdose himself, and subsequently lies about what is the hardest stuff available for the character's protection. I don't want him to be so completely naive that he accepts beer as the hardest stuff they have, but having heard of beer and of wine, and knowing that there are harder alcohols (but not knowing what they are called) is, essentially, the limit of his knowledge. I've been trying to find a list of alcohols by proof to figure out which one to use, but I'm afraid that my own knowledge of alcohol is not far beyond my character's knowledge. I know what some of the hardest alcoholic beverages are, but the rest I don't know the proofs of. Any suggestions? Right now I'm leaning towards wine coolers.

EDIT: Found the one I'm going to use. Zima! (The story is comedy.)
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Child Protective Services in Germany

I’ve tried Googling this, but I guess I’m not using the right searches, because all I’m getting are personal “horror” stories.  I found something similar in the community’s archives, but I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for.
I have two characters, in modern Germany (Munich), who are living together, unmarried (not sure if that makes a difference), and have a two year-old daughter (hers, not his). One of her exes makes an unfounded call to CPS out of spite.
What’s the procedure that CPS would follow in Germany? How long would they be under investigation before they were able to clear their names? When the ex made the call, would he be required to leave his name? Would they be able to ask who it was who made the report on them?
Thanks :)