“Only in Vienna…”
If I had a penny for every time I have heard
that expression, I would be living in splendour right now.
Weird House Press has just released my trilogy – Nemesis of the Gods.
For the first time, all three novels – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the
Ancients and Damned by the Ancients – are together in one volume.
Centreing on the sinister archaeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, much of the action
takes place in Vienna, Austria’s imperial capital and surely one of the most
beautiful and enchanting cities in the world. Its streets team with culture and
its proud residents are almost fiercely protective of their enigmatic,
sometimes quirky, and endlessly fascinating home, where everyone from Strauss
to Klimt and Freud lived and worked.
Vienna is home to well over a hundred museums. It seems there is one for
almost anything – Chimney Sweeps, Boy Scouts, Tobacco, Trams, Undertakers,
Contraception and Abortion… the list goes on and on. And that’s in addition to
the wealth of art and history museums on a grand scale. One of the quirkiest –
and the first of its kind anywhere in the world – is the Funeral Museum which
has been relocated from the centre of Vienna to its new home in the Zentralfriedhof
– Vienna’s main cemetery on the outskirts of the city.
When you enter, you are plunged into a dark, funereal atmosphere where
the history of funerals and of the main funeral directors’ company in Vienna – Bestattung Wien – is laid out in all its
pomp and ceremony. The Viennese have always had something of a fascination with
death and the quest to achieve a Schöne
Leich (literally ‘beautiful corpse’) is a passion. Most frequently that
means creating the most lavish of funerals. This was especially the case in the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when it seemed people vied with each
other to create the most over-the-top ceremony.
Wien prides itself on being able to create the most unusual and
individually designed funerals. So successful is it that people even come
from abroad in order to have their unique vision executed. Who would believe it? Funeral tourism! The
company handles some 20,000 funerals a year, in Vienna and the surrounding
area. Anything from traditional limousines, to horse-drawn vehicles. The
coffins are made by their own coffin makers and pretty much anything your heart
desires can be arranged – at a price of course.
The museum features insignia, ceremonial uniforms, lanterns, a full-size
horse-drawn hearse containing a coffin (but minus the horses, of course!)
In a more modern vein, there is a display cabinet featuring a number of
items including a small box with a tiny blue diamond. Yes, this is someone’s
ashes, turned into an imitation diamond. The relative could, if they wanted,
have this mounted into a piece of jewellery so they could wear their loved one
around their neck, on their wrist, finger or even in a brooch worn over their
heart. All this is on display at the museum,
providing a unique insight into the Viennese way of death.
You will also see death masks, and a picture showing the specially
designed Sitzsarg or ‘sitting-up’
coffin, based on a painting by Rene Magritte. Only one of these was ever made
and it used to be on show but apparently not anymore.
Also on display are reminders that medical science was not always as
accurate as it is today when determining whether a person was actually dead. In
the first half of the 19th century, there was a widespread fear of
being buried alive so a piece of string was attached to the deceased’s finger
before burial. This string led into the cemetery warden’s office so that, in
the event the ‘corpse’ woke up, they would ring the bell. Sadly, this led to a great many false alarms.
Decomposition, shifting earth, release of gases after death all lead to changes
in the position of the body sufficient to make the bell ring. Eventually the
wardens got so fed up, they ceased the practice of attaching the warning bells,
but you can see them here.
Even today, if you are still concerned that you might wake up after
being buried, you can specify another option to ensure this could never happen
by stating in your Will that, once your death has been pronounced, a thin
stiletto-like knife should be used to pierce your heart. Now there can be no
mistake. In the museum, one such stiletto is displayed in all its glory, on
purple velvet in a glass case. Chilling. That will cost you around 300 Euros.
In the so-called Age of Enlightenment, in the 18th century,
Emperor Josef II saw fit to ban all cemeteries from the centre of Vienna and
introduced the ‘reusable’ coffin. This contained a retractable hatch at the
bottom. The body was placed in it, lowered, and the hatch released. The corpse,
wrapped only in a sack would then fall into the grave. The coffin could then be
used again and again. Needless to say, this did not agree with the Viennese way
of death, the ‘beautiful corpse’ and all the pomp and ceremony, and was
The museum also features a section dedicated to the burials of six
famous people from the modern era– some of whom may be less familiar to
non-Austrians although Falco (Rock me
Amadeus) is well-remembered, as is Curd Jürgens the actor who played a Bond
villain in The Spy Who Loved Me.
The Viennese dark sense of
humour is also evident in the museum’s gift shop where it is possible to buy
coffin-shaped USB memory sticks and cigarette cases bearing the words, Rauchen sichert Arbeitsplätze (‘smoking
As I said at the beginning,
“Only in Vienna…”
of the Gods
beyond reason. A passion that transcends the grave…
Wrath of the Ancients
Storm clouds gather over Europe – and in a basement in Vienna, an unquiet
always dreamed of visiting the Austrian capital, so the chance to work there
seems like a dream come true. But, from the moment she sets foot in the elegant
mansion that belonged to the late archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, she
senses a presence—one so menacing and evil, she fears for her sanity and her
noises from behind the walls, shadowy figures that cannot be there,
hieroglyphics that appear on the wall, and an enigmatic portrait of a long dead
Egyptian queen. Quintillus had made the discovery of the century—so why did he
enemies are at war in this mysterious house, and Adeline’s fate is inextricably
woven with theirs.
Waking the Ancients
Quintillus is waiting. Arsinoe will have her revenge…
should have been the assignment of a lifetime. Newly arrived in Vienna and
living in a sumptuous mansion, Paula’s only challenge appears to be learning
the language. But Villa Dürnstein is a house of sinister secrets—most of them
in the basement. There, the unquiet spirit of Dr. Emeryk Quintillus continues
to search for the woman who will take on the essence of Cleopatra. His obsession with her has reached fever-pitch.
he has found her.
Damned by the Ancients
Dare to defy the gods and you will pay the price…
1908 – Quintillus, brings Gabriele Ziegler to the studio of Gustav Klimt. The
artist will paint the troubled girl as Cleopatra, with whom Quintillus is
infatuated, but the painting is cursed and the girl is possessed by the spirit
of Cleopatra’s long-dead sister, the vengeful Arsinoe.
Arsinoe and Quintillus begin their unholy alliance.
2018 – nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer can see things others cannot. Her almost
cat-like vision enables her to see the mysterious man in the basement. He asks
for her help but her parents will not believe her. Yet in the basement, Quintillus is trapped, but not for long. He knows the little girl will
settings that grab you and hurl you back to the past.” Book Nook
C.Wraith Walker and Weird House Press