December 23rd – The Festival of Eddel Duhrer’s Lady

Whenever anyone new came into Eddel Duhrer’s ‘study’ (that is, the laundry room of his small house on Good Hope Alley, where he had a fold-down desk and chair set up in the corner) they inevitably commented on the small statue that he kept on a shelf. It was painted wood, depicting a woman reaching into a sack, whilst looking wide eyed away from the bag, as if she had just been caught, or found something awful. Her eyes were the most arresting part, and he always kept her staring at the door, which was directly behind his desk (so that nobody snuck up on him), which is probably reason she garnered so many comments. Duhrer would always respond, ‘Oh that? That’s my lady.’

Duhrer had owned his ‘lady’ for about six years before this day in 1997, when he was sitting quietly in the study looking out at the yard and next-door’s cat, which was at that time starting intently at a tree where a robin was hiding. ‘I was writing, or at least that was what I had sat down to do, but around that time I was finding it very difficult to get going and so inevitably the things out the window started to get my attention instead. It was very quiet and there was washing all around that I’d only just put out, so it smelled nice, if a little damp, and then all of a sudden I heard this little bell and I looked up and my lady was moving!’

Quite where Duhrer got the statue from seems to be something of a mystery, not because he has now died and taken the secret to the grave, or because it was sold to him by a shady stranger, but because he obstinately refuses to tell. He has variously claimed to several news organisations that he bought it from a witch, or that he found it in a deep cave, or that he bought it from a wonderful second-hand shop that he’d never seen before and never saw again. None of these explanations are true, and many commentators have proposed that he made the statue himself, despite having allegedly no mechanical know-how and despite professing great surprise at the first time that his ‘lady’ sprang to life.

According to Duhrer (and a number of others that he has invited to watch the lady move), after the bell has sounded, the lady takes her hand out of the sack, holding up some new item each time. On that first year it was apparently a small beating heart, but since there has been a squirming octopus, a cat, little bird, and a flickering lamp. All of the items pulled from the sack are exquisite miniatures, and in some way animated, and when they have been revealed they are swiftly replaced again, the whole thing taking under a minute. The whole time the woman maintains the same shocked look, and when she is done moving the joints, which were so apparent a few moments ago, are suddenly invisible once again.

The guests invited to come and watch this fleeting moment today are especially picked from a pool of applicants by Duhrer, and have been coming ever since that first display; it’s likely that the lady moved before 1997 but nobody noticed. Alongside the very exclusive guest list, which mainly involves his friends and family, Duhrer’s refusal to allow anyone to test and scan the lady to see whether his claims are true tends to raise some eyebrows. Duhrer’s explanation is that he doesn’t want to ‘spoil the surprise’ of future items pulled from the sack. Presumably, at some point, these items will cycle, starting again with the heart, at which point he has said he’ll happily invite some scientists around to look at it. They seemingly have to begin again soon, or else where will these brief masterpieces be stored? Quite where the bell is sounding from is another mystery, as there appear to be no holes for the sound to escape from so clearly.

After the viewing of the lady, Duhrer’s guests will retire to the dining room/kitchen, where they will be served an elaborate meal. Apparently he is quite the conversationalist, although Margaret Spinewinch, who visited in 2003 advised others not to ‘get him started on his novel, or he might bring it through, all two thousand pages of it, and start reading.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Nice Festival of Calming Experiences
  • The Festival of Terrible Breath
  • Creatures of the Night – A Festival of Cinematic Horror