Today is the anniversary of one of the most famous assassinations in Buentoilliçan history. It’s also the day that many people will refuse to open any doors, refraining even from touching a doorknob or the handle of a cabinet. Today is the day that the Ghost Union is remembered, with terror, respect and solidarity.
The Ghost Union is the kind of emigmatic name that grows its own history organically in the minds of those who hear it, especially the young and impressionable who are not privy to it’s true meaning. Unfortunately for the more supernaturally-inclined among us, the Ghost Union is not, in fact, a union of ghosts; it is the name often given to the Union of Dignified Locksmiths, Handlemakers and Knobturners (UDLHK), on account of it being the best known example of a union that was forced out of existence.
Having the people responsible for creating almost all the locks in the City in your union certainly had its benefits, but unfortunately it also meant that it was far easier to criminalise a powerful union who were seeking wholesale political change. After the UDLHK protested the lack of political representation that workers received through Parliament; which throughout its long history almost unfailingly protected the interests of the landed and wealthy; by unlocking the Royal Treasury in 1582, the response was quick and brutal. The Union was held responsible for all financial losses incurred (the vault was entirely cleaned out by enterprising Buentoillitants), and payment was to be divided by the membership, who were personally responsible so long as they retained Union membership.
The response had its intended effect; the union rapidly lost members to the extent that there were only fourteen remaining members, who, for their stubborn principled stand, were lumbered with unimaginable debts that they could never repay, except through lengthy prison sentences. Those who left the union were forced to renounce all ties to it, and could not join any other similar union lest they wish to be once more held liable for the financial loss sustained. It was around this point that the term ‘Ghost Union’ was coined in the papers, and it was only three weeks later that Derglin Morass was assassinated by a plot carried out by embittered ex-unionists.
Derglin Morass was the owner of the Morass Metallurgical Works and Foundry, the largest single employer of UDLHK members and member of Parliament, who was said to have masterminded the legal action brought against them. With their collective bargaining powers lost, Morass’ employees suffered a sustained campaign of abuse and a worsening of their pay and conditions. A small subsection of workers whose spirits had not been crushed banded together in secret illegal meetings, terming themselves the Ghost Unionists, in a nod to the papers. Denied their normal recourse to right the wrongs inflicted upon them by Morass, these ‘ghosts’ became increasingly embittered and focused on violent methods.
When Morass’ office door handle required replacement to keep up with the latest fashion, the Ghost Union ensured that they were the ones to replace it. Inside the mechanism they rigged a small but powerful bomb that would go off when the handle was turned. At 6:00 the next day, the 22nd of April of that year, when Morass turned up for work his right arm was near-vaporised and he died three minutes later from shock.
As previously stated, enigmatic names like ‘Ghost Union’ have a way of spawning their own apocryphal history, and it wasn’t long before children’s games appeared that mimicked the assassination. The first reports of these are found in an indignant letter to Buentoilliçan Market Magazine which complains of the ‘disrespect’ that children showed towards their ‘elders and betters, the great merchant men who make our great city greater by the day,’ by re-enacting the assassination with glee; they would prank their parents with small firecrackers attached in ingenious ways to door handles. Later on this developed into a game called ‘ghost door’ in which children had to open a door, and if in the process the handle squeaked it meant that the ghosts would ‘get them’ that night. Slowly this evolved into the customs which can be observed today.
It is considered very unlucky to open a door today; door knobs and handles are allegedly ‘cursed’ for the day, and there have been various accounts of glass handles and lock mechanisms spontaneously shattering, exploding or breaking on those who did not pay adequate heed to the stories. Some people roll their sleeve over their hand when they open a door today, but some take this much further, wedging open all internal doors in their house and workplace yesterday, and either refusing to leave the building or exiting their homes via a window. For some this is an act of homage and solidarity with their persecuted predecessors, but for most it is primarily based in superstition and an over-insistence on not wanting ‘bad luck.’
The remains of the door can still be found in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, where they were transferred after being used as evidence in the trial of the ‘murderers’ (when the real perpetrators couldn’t be found, three other ex-unionists were rounded up, convicted on concocted evidence, and hanged three weeks later). They used a shaped charge, and the door was made of ebony so remained surprisingly intact after the blast, although a large blast hole is evidently clear where the handle would have been. Fragments of Morass’ bone can still be seen poking out of the woodwork, alongside a number of Union slogans and memorials to the wrongly-convicted people that have been scratched into the door over the years.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Festival of the Lost Wave
- The Festival of Ugly Flowers
- The Day of Lesser Heartbreak