What better meeting place for the purveyors of dark, magickal tales than Sneaton Castle situated on the wind-swept moors above Whitby, a town with plenty of darkly magickal connections itself. On Ashton Carter’s recommendation we stayed at the Number Seven Guest House, near the whalebone arch. The house was built in 1847 and in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in 1897, is mentioned as the home of Count Dracula’s lawyer.
I’d been hoping to attend this gathering of practitioners of magic’s more bizarre reaches since Roni Shachnaey first introduced the event. This year I made it. Doomsday VI was the first to be organised by Dan Baines of Lebanon Circle; he is to be congratulated! I’ve attended many conventions in the UK and across Europe and this has to go down as one of the most enjoyable.
We met for introductions and drinks early Friday evening after a somewhat protracted journey from Sheffield. The opening performance was guaranteed to put us in appropriate mood for the weekend: Doctor Diablo‘s Carnival Macabre — classic sideshow featuring “fire, nails, swords, pins, electrocution, escapes and many other dark delights”, plus guest contortionist and sword-swallower Bendini.
Saturday’s array of lectures, discussions and performances opened with Todd Landman’s Mystery Boxes, a real lesson in carefully-crafted story telling magic rooted in a deep understanding of the history and philosphy behind each tale.
Stuart Burrell followed with a discourse on The Dark Origins of Escapology, with demonstrations of ancient and modern devices of restraint. Stuart is a multiple world record holding escapologist and stamina strong man. He finished his piece by bending a heavy frying pan in half and rolling it into a curl.
In At the Heart of the Tale Prof BC revealed his aproach to ‘haunting investigations’, in which his role was as a facilitator working with a group of spectators in a way which got them truly involved in the development of the presentation and its resolution.
The morning concluded with the incomparable Voodoo Mick, The Singing Psychic, with musical revelations of thought-of songs. Thence to lunch in the castle refectory.
Lothar Malmberg, assisted by his daughter Grace, presented Echoes, which gave us a fascinating insight into Lothar’s approach to bizarre magic which aligned with his own religious beliefs — a gentle approach which eschewed the traditional tales of horror and darkness in favour of presentations which could be positive and thoughtful.
Ingeniously constructed first-class mentalism was at the core of Lars Ruth’s Arcanum Mentis — Secrets of the Mind.
To close the afternoon Oskar Hejll opened his Cabinet of Curiosities to fascinate and entertain us with his talk on the history and folklore of vampires and the ‘undead’.
On to the evening show, which opened with a classic performance by Master Bizarrist and godfather of Doomsday, Roni Shachnaey.
Nick Brunger had the unenviable task of following that, which he did with his richly textured Strange Tales from the Darker Side.
CSI Whitby? Tracy Wise’s Crime Scene Illusion brought together mentalism and crime investigation in a novel presentation which featured the enthusiastic involvement of Lounger Tony McMylor as the ‘murderer’.
I’d been primed beforehand to watch out for Brian Maxwell… his hilarious The Travelling Werewolf Show did not disappoint, from the opening werewolf song to the final manifestation of the lycanthrope itself!
Closing a memorable show was Iain J Mindwraith’s Glass-Walking demonstration which he took that extra scary step further by at one point being sandwiched between broken glass and a bed of nails with a hefty volunteer atop the lot. Afterwards he kindly offered to teach a few foolhardy spectators the correct technique of fractured glass perambulation. (I made it without a scratch.)
This bare description of the programmed events doesn’t really give the full flavour of Doomsday. The late-night discussions and unscheduled performances were fascinating, provocative and invaluable in stimulating our own thoughts and ideas. Difficult to single out one item with so much going on around me, but a definite highlight was watching the reaction to Jim Critchlow’s ‘one step beyond’ ACAAN which culminates with the thought-of card at the chosen number in a punched and laced deck, cased, sealed in plastic and wrapped in brown paper.
Next year we’re promised twin Northern and Southern Doomsdays. Put my name down for both!