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Webster Name Games

As in my first book, Smithy, many of the character names in Webster were selected to reflect my interests or to impart a dual significance.


Many of CSAM's chimps are named after famous poltergeists:


Ted - the Tedworth Drummer, one of the earliest hauntings to come under scientific investigation

Gef - the talking mongoose investigated by parapsychologist Harry Price

Philip - the made-up subject of the Toronto "Philip" experiment

Fanny - Scratching Fanny, the Cock Lane ghost

Belle and Ol’ Kate - both references to Kate Batts, the alleged Bell Witch of Tennessee

Mr. Splitfoot - the Fox sisters' first spirit contact

Rosalie - the spirit of a 6-year old girl and the subject of another of Harry Price's investigations--and also the inspiration behind the novel The Hand of Mary Constable (1964) and the TV movie Daughter of the Mind (1969)


Additionally, the chimp Nando is named after the parapsychologist Nandor Fodor, whose own poltergeist investigation is detailed in The Haunting of Alma Fielding (2021) by Kate Summerscale


Prominent human characters are named after famous poltergeist focus persons:


TV news reporter Esther Cox - Esther Cox was the subject of the Great Amherst Mystery

TV news reporter Rob Mannheim - Robbie Mannheim, aka "Roland Doe," was the child who inspired The Exorcist

Researcher Marianne Foster - Marianne Foyster was the target of ghostly phenomena at Borley Rectory--or a hysteric who faked the haunting, depending on whose account you believe

Smithy superfan Tina Rausch - Tina Resch, the apparent focus of the 1984 Columbus poltergeist case, was caught staging activity on camera by a local news crew


Newspaper reporter Dan Ross is named after the prolific paperback writer Dan Ross (1912-1995), who gained fame by writing gothic fiction as Marilyn Ross. Among other works, Ross authored the Paperback Library Dark Shadows novels in the 1960s and 1970s. Ross once held a Guinness World Record for most published books.


Various reporters were assigned the aliases used by my favorite mystery writer Josephine Tey, who was born Elizabeth Mackintosh and also published as Gordon Daviot and F. Craigie Howe.


Mystery novelist Agatha Christie famously used the name Teresa Neele during her unexplained 11-day disappearance--and a character in Webster who wants to disappear uses it, too.


Judge Nathaniel Borley's name is derived from both Nathaniel Hawthorne, the early American writer of supernatural fiction, and Borley Rectory, "the most haunted house in England" and one of the models for Trevor Hall.


Manfred "Man" Teague, the boss from Hell, is named after the villain in The Castle of Otranto (1764), widely regarded as the first gothic/horror novel.


Conrad Hegge's law firm, Rhymer & Prest, LLP, is a reference to the 18th century authors Thomas Peckett Prest and James Malcolm Rymer, whose penny dreadfuls (including Varney the Vampyre and The String of Pearls) were published anonymously.


The mediums Celia interviews--Madame Zelda, Zachariah E. Lane, and Elise O'Shea--are named to commemorate my favorite movie mediums from Poltergeist (1982), 13 Ghosts (1960), and Insidious (2011), respectively





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