When Oddities of Fiction Encroach on Fact

"Houdini walked through a wall two bricklayers had built onstage: People swore he had the power to dematerialize. You find out he used a trapdoor under a carpet, it's too mundane: you feel cheated. That's all magic is, an illusion."
- Jonathan Creek (The Wrestler's Tomb
At the moment, I'm still working my way through a collection of short stories of the mysterious kind (of course!), which leaves me with a poor excuse to whip out a folder, labeled "Oddities," for my third installment (first and second post) of examples of fictional impossibilities encroaching on reality. So this is, in fact, a filler post.

I'll begin clearing this pile with an example that’s conventional in appearance for an oddity, but it's the solution that put the case on this list and the fact that it's seen as a model for a thousand murders – real and imagined. 

In May, 1835, a swift and silent assassin descended on the people of Paris and plunged a knife in the heart of the widowed Monsieur Loubet. The scene of the crime is a box of riddles, locked doors and an open window fronting on a canal, baffling the Parisian police until they examine the final hours of Loubet's life and hear a witness who saw "a flash in the sun" at the time of the murder. It’s to the credit of the Prefect of Police for drawing a coherent pictures between a handful of dots and giving orders to drag the canal, which revealed a Javanese dagger with a cord and weight tied to it. But those muddy waters also revealed the motive of a grieving man whose only wish in life was to be buried alongside his wife.

Unfortunately, "The Loubet Sacrifice," which is definitely not as exciting, as a move on a chessboard of wits, as "The Birlstone Gambit," ruined a few promising impossible crime stories for me, because there's nothing as destructive to a locked room mystery than taking the ingenuity out of the explanation. The difference between a magic show and a locked room is that a magician only has to concern himself with satisfying the audience with the effect of an illusion, while mystery writers have the additional burden of pleasing their readers with a clever solution – and trapdoors, hidden passageways, murderous animals and suicides disguised as murders aren't going to do it after 1894. You can read a full account here.

The following case is one of those examples were the scissors snip a rounded pattern to bring a pair of unusual detectives together to offer a rational explanation for a truly amazing example of a ghost caught on video. 

Captain Disillusion is a YouTube character promoting rational thought and skepticism, his catchphrase is "love with your heart and use your head for everything else," by debunking hoaxes with the illuminating help of Mr. Flare, but the disquieting problem of the Pantry Door Ghost has him at his wit ends and it takes the appearance of dues ex machina to remind him that not every trick hinges on digital manipulation – producing a solution based on a secret room and wind from closing the hidden panel caused the pantry door the open as if by ghostly hands. Naturally, this explanation is far from satisfying (even if it's the most likely answer), but than Captain Disillusion uploaded an addendum with an exposition of the Pantry Door Ghost conundrum worthy of Jonathan Creek and other magician detectives. You can only pull this off with a camera and audience who are in on it, but it's still a great trick! I recommend you dig around in his video archive for more, like explaining how Derren Brown predicts lottery results. Great stuff!

 I found this oddity on a message board dedicated to a fantasy game and a member reports that, upon his arrival at the air temple and opening the secret door to Yulgash's Room, all he found was an orb – indicating that his opponent had passed on, which is apparently odd. I know, I know, I would not have included this one in the list, if another member had not suggested that the game automatically generates items in that area and a "nasty potion" may've appeared in the room and that's about the only part I could follow from that conversation, but the idea of a game generating locked room mysteries amuses me – and found another example of this happening here. And I think this video might explain how these impossible situations happened ("They say the user lives outside the net and puts in games for pleasure...").
Well, that was the last one I had and perhaps the last one in this series, for now, but to not leave you completely under whelmed, I'll refer you to this post from April, 7, on the GAD Group, in which I pretend to be Thackeray Phin and give a highly fictionalized account of the how murderer of Isidore Fink managed to escape from a room that was locked-up from the inside.

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