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Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

This has to be one of the most fortean items I’ve ever seen in a museum – a spoon that was supposedly bent “with mind power” by Uri Geller! I spotted it last week amongst countless other fascinating objects in the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall. This was my second visit there – I went five years ago (see this blog post), but that was on a very busy day and the milling crowds made it difficult to see everything properly. It was much quieter last week and I managed to see a lot that I missed the first time – including Uri Geller’s spoon.

Other items on display include mediaeval books on witchcraft (including Saducismus Triumphatus, which I’ve written about before), protective charms used by soldiers in the 1st and 2nd world wars, Ouija boards, a large collection of magical artifacts that belonged to Gerald Gardner (the founder of modern Wicca), and several dead cats that had been walled up inside houses to keep the rats away. To top it all, there’s a “sex magic” display featuring a large number of little dicks (at least twice as many as I managed to get in this photo):
Actually the main reason I wanted to go to that part of Cornwall was to visit a much newer and less well known museum just a few miles from Boscastle – the Cornwall at War Museum. It’s off-topic for this blog, but highly recommended for anyone interested in 20th century military history. It’s a big place, occupying more than a dozen recently renovated buildings at what used to be RAF Davidstow. There are two full-size aircraft (a Hawker Hunter and a Fairey Gannet), several torpedoes, missiles and target drones, and loads of smaller items.

In one building I spotted an R1155 radio similar to the one I own (cf. the post about my various Museum Pieces). More surprisingly, in a different display in the same building I saw another very familiar object. This is something I’ve had since I was 12 years old, when I inherited all my father’s junk after he died. It’s nothing special – just a camera controller from a photo-reconnaissance aircraft – but I’ve always wondered exactly what period and what type of aircraft it came from. Unfortunately the one in the museum is unlabelled, although it appears to be identical to mine (as you can see from the two photos below). However, an online search yielded this page which includes a picture of one inside a 1950s-era Canberra PR.3/7.

8 comments:

Colin Jones said...

Andrew, sorry to hear your father died when you were 12 - that must have been awful. My father died when I was 33 which was traumatic enough so I can't imagine what it would be like for a 12 year-old.

Andrew May said...

Thanks Colin. Actually children are very resilient, and it's probably easier to deal with a big shock as a 12-year-old than as an adult. Also my father had always been in poor health, and his English wasn't very fluent (he never taught me Polish - I wish he had now) so I wasn't that close to him. Much more traumatic for me at the time was the depressing effect his death had on my mother.

Colin Jones said...

So your original surname isn't May ? Gosh, Andrew, don't let any Brexit voters know you're half-Polish - they'll tell you to pack your bags now that we've "got our country back" from the evil clutches of the EU. Myself, I'm far more worried about the evil clutches of the Tory party and UKIP...sorry, I'm being political again, I must stop it :D

Andrew May said...

Oh dear, Colin, I really need to put up a big "NO POLITICS" sign on this blog, don't I? I did start to check yesterday to see if I was eligible for dual nationality, then realized there's no point as I can't speak the language. My parents shortened their name before I was born - the original is both unspellable and unpronounceable for English-speakers.

Kid said...

No politics ('cos I think all politicians are dodgy), but it's worth pointing out for CJ's benefit that not everyone (or even the majority in all likelihood) who voted to leave the EU did so because they're racist. Hence the words 'any Brexit voters' don't really apply. It's a bit like saying that any Scot who didn't vote for Independence isn't a 'true' Scot.

Andrew May said...

Thanks Kid - that's a very good point. The reason I dislike politics so much (or rather political arguments) is the way people who claim to have strong opinions on the subject start by turning their opponents into cartoon caricatures, then argue with the caricature they've just created rather than with a real person's real views.

On to more pleasant matters (and on-topic, for a change!) - do you have any views on Roy Lichtenstein's "plagiarism" of DC comics that I mentioned in the previous post? I'd be interested in the opinion of a comics professional on this. My own feeling is that "swiping" of other people's layouts is just part of the game, and if Lichtenstein found a way to make more money out of it than the average comic-book artist then good for him. But you may disagree!

Kid said...

Took a look at that post at the same time I first answered this one, but couldn't make up my mind on the question, Andrew. I see a lot of merit in what you say and part of me leans in that direction. After all, comic artists were swiping from each other all the time, and even some of the greats did it. There's another part of me 'though, that thinks it's a shame that the artists Lichtenstein 'swiped' from didn't make as much money from their original work as Lichtenstein did. Personally, I don't think the paintings are that great, but I suppose Lichtenstein's reputation preceded him. Maybe it would've been better if he'd come up with his own ideas for 'pop art' 'though, eh?

Andrew May said...

Thanks Kid. As I said, Lichtenstein's paintings (well WHAAM at least, which is the only one I've seen) look much more impressive in reality than in a small reproduction, but you're quite right that he could easily (if less lazily) have achieved the same ends using original layouts of his own instead of someone else's.