Perhaps there is something about Buentoille’s communal mindset that makes it more prone to bouts of mass hysteria? Maybe there’s something in the water? Whatever it is, in recent years there have been new instances of collective psychological symptoms, in addition to the more established Sleepwalkers’ Night and the Festival of Deep and True Laughter; there was the Deep and Resonant Sigh of 1969, and the Phantom Flea Epidemic of 1912. Yet the best well known of these newer hysterias is Blemmer Vaughn’s Day, if only by virtue of its annual nature.
Blemmer Vaughn was a character on the hit 90s television show Praktical Magyk, a sitcom that centres on a coven of witches living in an alternate version of Buentoille where the Revolution never happened, and where witch hunts have emerged as a government-sponsored sport. Vaughn was a side character, a morally grey fixer who gets them out of many scrapes for pay, but who, just when they have begun to trust him and see him as a friend, betrays the witches to the hunters. Apparently in the original plot this change of allegiance was never planned, but when Maker Dorritch, the man who played Vaughn, abruptly went missing, the show’s producers added the betrayal in to explain his absence, unintentionally creating one of the greatest television moments in popular memory.
It was many years before Maker Dorritch was pronounced legally dead, and investigators have never found a single clue as to where he went, or why. Whilst he was not a main character, his career was progressing well; Praktical Magyk was one of the most popular programmes on television at the time. He had an excellent relationship with his girlfriend, a good group of friends and family who supported him. He was well regarded and despite the shady character he played, in person was of good character, the kind of person you could go to for advice. There was no reason for Dorritch’s disappearance, he simply walked out his front door to go to work one day and never made it there. His absence still haunts his family and friends.
It is not just those who knew Dorritch who find themselves haunted, not by his absence but by his image. On this day every year, thousands of people right across the City report seeing Blemmer Vaughn when they close their eyes. Apparently it is quite a disturbing experience, and most are glad that they don’t have to experience it for longer than a day. Strangely enough, even people who allegedly never watched Praktical Magyk see the character’s image right besides them, sitting slightly off to their left, uncomfortably close. He seems blurry, an effect that worsens the more they try to focus on him, and no matter how much they turn their heads, they cannot look directly at him; he remains off to the left.
It would perhaps make more sense if this strange phenomena happened on the day that Dorritch went missing, or on the day that the episode of Vaughn’s betrayal was aired, but both of these events happened in the summer, not on the edge of winter where we are now. The first reports of the hysteria (this, surely, is the only explanation) started coming in in the early morning of this day in 1998, a year after the man went missing, and whilst there was a growth of the phenomena in later years, these first few hundred individuals were seemingly unlinked. The City’s medical professionals all seem uncharacteristically stumped, and even the conspiracy theorists have few workable theories, besides perhaps a vague suggestion that the visions are something to do with the City’s power supply.
What we do know, however, is that despite causing anxiety and distress, the visions seem not to have any lasting impact on the health of those experiencing them, and they are not, as some have suggested, the harbinger of certain mental illnesses. There is no observed pattern to the hysteria, no groups of people that it affects with higher incidence, and being affected one year does not mean that you will be the next. Through chance, only one person who personally knew Dorritch has ever experienced the hysteria, and their descriptions seem in line with the general population’s, besides perhaps one aspect: ‘Somehow, and I don’t know if it was maybe just a feeling or a what, somehow I knew it wasn’t Maker I was seeing. It wasn’t Maker, it was Blemmer. I don’t know how I knew that.’
Other festivals happening today:
- The Festival of Delicate Pastries
- The Festival of the Crush
- The Droithammer Drip Appreciation Day