Febuary 0003


The Big Prize Awarded! Vince’s Cylinder, The Ark Of The Covenant


We haven’t had many entries for the competition recently. If you don’t get your skates on, and send a few more entries, I’m going to award it to a random citizen of the planet. In the meantime, here’s one that did turn up:


Where did you find this extraordinarily interesting document? This is in a secret language that was used by the Brotherhood of Assassins in the middle ages, and it is a report from an agent in the Levant to the Old Man of the Mountains concerning the successful execution of a minor sheikh. He says that poisoned food was tried initially, but it killed the taster and not the intended victim, so instead he put the poison on the finger nails of the Sheikh’s favourite bride, who used to enjoy scratching her husband’s back. Or maybe he enjoyed having his back scratched by her. The text isn’t very clear on this point. However, it worked, and the bride was immured by the Vizier, who did not suspect Assassin involvement.

I found this particularly interesting, as I’m the official historian to the New York Mafia, and my particular field of interest is extortion rackets in the medieval Maghreb.

Joey, Brooklyn.


Sorry Joey, but you’re wrong. I can see where you got the idea from, but this is not the right answer. Also, you should have provided a translation and not a paraphrase. I've

 come to the conclusion that no=one is going to get it, so, as stated above, I’m giving the BIG PRIZE to a random citizen of the planet. And, the winner is

………………………Sarl Cherifla, Rue Missira 35, Bamako, Mali. Congratulations Sarl! By the way, your BIG PRIZE is……………

………………………………The Spiral Nebula! Well done! You are now the proprietor of:





Hey Vince! What condition’s your cylinder of Bitter ‘n’ Twisted in?

Springman Trumpington, USAF Eccles England.


Here’s the description I’m just going to cut and paste into my on-line catalogue:

Jones, Solomon Samuel “Bitter ‘n’ Twisted:

Dragged Down Low Blues

Wax Cylinder mfd. by Republic Aurophone, Elmer’s Crossing, Mo, probably 1902, 2 mins 16 secs.

Description of Cylinder: slight scratching (c.15mm depth) to surface, cylinder bent (c.25 °), some heat crazing, Cylinder ends sprung, a few raccoon (?) bites at one end, colour faded, evidence of fungal infestation along one side, else in near-mint condition.

Description of Box: Gummed seal disbound, foxed, ends torn off, water stain to bottom, original ink faded, blot over label, else in fine condition. Sound track: voice indistinct, some clicks (c. one every 3 seconds) high notes inaudible. Else excellent.

Price: Best offer in excess of $8000 received in the next six weeks. Note: shipping and insurance not included.

This item may be a historical artifact. Foreign customers are responsible for ensuring it is legal to export it from the USA.

Hope this answers your question Springman!

Vince Darrow, Vince’s Vinyl.


Springman here! Near mint huh? I’ll bid $11,500, as long as you throw in the shipping to England.

Springman Trumpington, USAF Eccles England.


Hey Vince! How do you know this is a genuine one? There was a whole batch of bootleg copies made in 1908. How do you know it isn’t one of them?

Marvin Gunk, c/o Joe’s Diner, Hicksville.


Good question Marvin. You’ve got to look at the way the label was printed. The first capital B has a tiny little chip in it on the good copies. Also the wax of the cylinder on the good copies is a bit darker.

Vince Barlow, Vince’s Vinyl.


I’ll bid $15,000. I know I can resell it for $30,000 easy.

Bill Z. Nixon, Anchorage.


Vince, how come your name’s suddenly changed from Darrow to Barlow? Is something crazy going on?

Marvin Gunk, c/o Joe’s Diner, Hicksville.


Just changed my name, that’s all.

Vince Darrow, Vince’s Vinyl.


How come it’s Darrow again? I think something crazy is going on.

Marvin Gunk, c/o Joe’s Diner, Hicksville.


Just changed it back again. I decided I preferred Darrow after all. You going to bid for the cylinder or not Marvin?

Vince Darrow, Vince’s Vinyl.


OK, I’ll bid $15,000.25, provided nothing crazy is going on. I’ve had enough craziness recently. If there is something crazy going on, I’m only bidding $15,000.05

Marvin Gunk, c/o Joe’s Diner, Hicksville.


Is this a private party or can anyone join in? I’m going to make you an offer that’s so good you can forget any other bids and send it straight to me. I bid $2,000, yes, that’s right, $2,000. What’s so special about that I hear you ask? It’s because I’ll post you actual cash as soon as I get the cylinder, that’s what! You can send it to my Post Office Box here in Tallahassee.

Al Terego, PO Box 396 Tallahassee.


Sounds pretty good to me, Al. The cylinder’s in the post already.

Vince Clewlow, Vince’s Vinyl.


Clewlow eh? Now I know something crazy’s going on for sure. Watch out Al, you’re going to get burned!

Marvin Gunk, c/o Joe’s Diner, Hicksville.


Vince does seem to be rather a disturbed individual, doesn’t he? Is he wise to trust Al so much? Or is Al going to get burned as Marvin thinks? Maybe we’ll find out next month.



In the late summer of 1857 Colonel Sir Hugh Horridge was sent by the British Government to make a series of maps of the Sinai Desert. It was he who discovered the Ark, abandoned in the desert, about 15 miles east of St Catharine’s Monastery. Fortunately, his column had been provided with a number of elephants, and he prepared to tow it away. As he was doing this, a group of local Bedouin demanded a small payment, under the impression that Horridge wanted to use it for firewood. After a bout of furious haggling, he beat them down to a price of two jars of Camp coffee. When he added the lanyard from his Webley naval revolver to his offer the tribesmen also agreed to help him dig it out. A few hours work, and the little expedition was ready for the arduous journey to Port Said, where the precious relic was crated and safely placed on a ship for the journey to England. A few weeks later, in October 1857, the Ark arrived at “Cricklewood”, Horridge’s house in Somerset. There it remained for seventy years.

The Ark of the Covenant as found abandoned in the Sinai Desert by Colonel Sir Hugh Horridge.

Daguerrotype by F. St. J St. N Smythe, Daguerrotypist to the Horridge Expedition.

By 1928, Hugh Horridge had been dead for thirty eight years, and the house was now owned by his grandson, James. James found the Ark, which filled most of the morning room, ugly and oppressive, and decided to get rid of it. As an enthusiastic Freemason, he offered to donate it to the United Grand Lodge, and it was agreed that the Ark of the Covenant would go on display in the Freemason’s Hall in London. However, he seems to have had rather a whimsical sense of humour, and there were a number of conditions attached to his gift. Some of these were very unusual.

The first condition was that the Lodge would never sell the Ark, or otherwise voluntarily part with it.

The second was that the Ark would be on display to the public, and that no charge would be made to see it.

The third condition was where things started to become a little strange. James Horridge was that though people should be able to see the sacred relic without paying, they should not have it too easy. Accordingly, the staff at the Freemason’s Hall were instructed that they should deny all knowledge of the Ark if asked about it. They should persist in this denial until the tenth time the intending visitor repeated his question. Only then should they relent and point him or her towards the room in the basement where the Ark was kept.

These rules are still in force today. If you want to see the Ark, you have to go to the Freemason’s Hall in person, and ask to see it. There is absolutely no point in phoning or sending a letter or e-mail in this connection, as you will always be met with a denial of the Ark’s existence if you do this. When you have asked to see the Ark, you need to repeat your question nine times, using precisely the same words. You will then be told how to get to the room containing the Ark.

I asked Gavin Wilson, spokesman for the Freemason’s Hall, what he felt about all this.

“It’s a little sad”, he said. “Here we have this priceless relic. It’s absolutely unique. If we could tell people we had it, we’d get millions of visitors. But as it is, most weeks we only get one or two visitors at the front desk, and most of those don’t realize they have to use exactly the same words each time they ask. Last year only forty nine people saw the Ark. I’d be grateful if you could do a little piece on us to persuade your readers to come and see it. It really is worth the trip”. As one of the lucky forty nine, I must say, I agree with Mr. Wilson. This is a trip you really must make.