The Spider Cliff Mysteries

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Clues in the Gondola Cypher

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Posted by FFWF, 11:48am, 23 Dec, 2007

Edit: Apologies for the tl;dr - I didn't realise this was so long when I wrote it.

The next resident of Spider Cliff is the woods nymph, surely... if she really is a woods nymph. There's something that looks like an old lady out there, anyway, and perhaps a lot of the Smoggy Woods spookiness is just her tricking people to see that they stay out of her home? Perhaps Elkwood found out about her when he went into the woods, and kept her secret. With her cover blown by the Spider Cliff residents in The Gondola Cypher, she'd probably make more regular appearances in future. Assuming she's not just another hallucination.

If I recall correctly, there were four people who went in the gondola, but so far we've got Elkwood, a (male-looking) skeleton and a skull. One person's missing, and Katherine has enough character development to look like a top suspect for that, so maybe she's the old lady in the woods, but she might be just a bit too old - she should be Vedalia's age, right? Elkwood might have been coming back to town to warn people of something dangerous that was at the other gondola station, or perhaps he found out about the love potion, or was given an anti-love potion, and tried to leave Katherine. I don't know, there's an awful lot going on. But I imagine that the duality between love and anti-love potions in the present reflects events in the past.

The people writing the messages have me baffled. The third message looks like it's directed to Alex, to warn him about the love potion pie, but Rebecca was one person who knew about the pie and wanted to warn him. Rebecca went around with the Sheriff checking who was lying and who wasn't, but there's nothing to stop her lying herself, but if she was working with Alex to leave the messages, well, there's no point, they could just speak normally. That pie is dangerous, anyway, and anyone could have ended up eating it, so I guess we can't rule anyone out. But both people writing messages have access to the town, so that theoretically rules out any strangers, but we can't be sure it's not someone sneaky. The handwriting is probably important; the first messenger writes in a fancy, old-style script, and the second messenger writes in a more normal-looking script. I tried comparing it to the blackboard writing in the vote chapter, but I got nothing out of it, and I suspect I'd be looking too deep. But the first messenger is clearly older, and from the content of the messages, we know that they're the superior in this arrangement. [Ignore the following, the mistake was mine: Oh, and it seems there's a typo in the second message; the last word is "NEXS," rather than "NEXT." Accident by jason? Or an accident by the person using the code, who wasn't very familiar with it?]

The weathervane that points to demons in the forest is deeply suspicious. A weathervane is also called a wind vane; it's just something that points where the wind blows, and of course on this one day of the year the wind is blowing right into the forest, blowing the fog away. What's strange is why it is just one day a year, but I'm not sure we're in a position to answer that. For all we know it's the weathervane controlling the wind, or something like that.

There's also a really intricate web of demons going on here - a child-stealing demon that tried to destroy Spider Cliff, someone who helped them, Hatchet-Paws who killed a child and made pacts with demons... When did Hatchet-Paws get pushed into the woods relative to when the gondola disaster occurred? It would be easy for him to have dunnit... or to make it look like he did it, aye? But would his hatchet-paws have survived? Is it one of them in the Bean Mansion mirror? If so, should there be another one somewhere? In the hands of a woods nymph, perhaps? And if the two of them were put together...

Important?: I was rereading Story 3 recently, and in Chapter 25 Alex claimed to be the only person who'd entered the woods and returned. He probably didn't know about Elkwood and the gondola, but maybe he does know about the woods nymph. Or maybe that doesn't matter any more.

For story purposes, it's important that nobody alive today is too great a criminal or too big a danger. So I suspect that whoever the culprits are, the really dangerous ones, they're long since dead and buried. Maybe that's why something was waiting at the second gondola station, and why the gondola was prevented from coming back.

I've got lots of ideas, but I'm low on details, and I don't know how to slot it all together... and it has been more than a year since a new chapter. We could really do with a new one, as if nobody's solved it already, it may be that all we can do is retread old ground. At the point the story broke off, there must have been something big coming, I'll wager, to turn everything around.
This message was last edited on 24 Dec 2007.

Posted by smjjames, 2:52pm, 23 Dec, 2007

yea, Jason stopped the story right at a crucial moment. I wouldn't mind if he decided to release several chapters at once, but heck, we can't do anything without more chapters.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 10:52am, 24 Dec, 2007

How would Katherine be too old? When Crystal and Annabelle met the Sheriff in the woods, he was talking to an old woman. (And I think Katherine was his aunt, which would explain why he thought the jealousy was unjustified, but not why he wouldn't explain his actions.)

I think Alex wrote the chalk message because:
- He assumed the first burned message was a warning about demons and a request to stop the gondola, and it was.
- Whoever wrote the chalk message presumably understood the first and destroyed the books.
- The second burned message was obviously intended for Alex.
- He had been hanging out in the furniture store a lot, and is likely to recognize the keyphrase.

Posted by FFWF, 11:54am, 24 Dec, 2007

I assume Katherine and Vedalia must have been about the same age. In retrospect, though, I'm not sure if I see any reason for that to be so. But under that assumption, my train of thought was that Vedalia is both ancient and dead, and she hadn't been living in the Smoggy Woods for fifty years. Katherine's a dead cert to have something we don't know about her, and she could also be the cause of the rumours about woods nymphs, which in reality would never have existed. If that's the case, she'd be a brilliant subversion of Barlow and Alex's hopes for the woods nymphs.

Alex seems a good candidate for the chalk message, yeah; [ignore the following, the mistake was mine: he's inexperienced enough to have made that error in the second message], he does seem to have reacted to them, and he wouldn't have to lie about having written the first message because he of course wouldn't have written it - just understood it (eventually). He may genuinely believe that Elkwood is writing the messages to him, and a town hero like Elkwood is probably the sort of person he'd look up to and take orders from, but the true identity of the message-writer may be very different. The oracle's clues on the first messenger seemed to refer to keeping things the same in a time of great danger, which figures; "run up the uniform flag"? Could it be another mishearing, as with the axis in Story 6? I'm not sure what of, though. Turnip stole Eliza's miniature acetylene torch, but could he have been taking it to the real messenger, who couldn't afford to show themselves? A lot of Spider Cliff is about the seeming impossibility of anyone to have committed the crime, but of course there's always someone... well, except when there isn't.

Who put the hatchet in the secret fireplace room, and left the message there? They had very little time to do so, but it was probably the same person who put Elkwood in Barlow's room. Crystal and Annabelle didn't know how Barlow got to the basement without them hearing him, so I'd suggest that perhaps the Bean Mansion has some more secret passages in it - ones that genuinely aren't known to just about all the town's inhabitants. Maybe Katherine Ivy Sprawling is pulling a Phantom of the Opera trick, creeping around in underground passages all over the place.
This message was last edited on 24 Dec 2007.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 12:09pm, 24 Dec, 2007

Are you sure there's a typo on the second message? I had the last word as "NEWS".

Posted by FFWF, 1:18pm, 24 Dec, 2007

Huh? Oh, maybe I misread it. I thought it was a typo of "NEXT," as in "AWAITING NEXT," as in "next message." I was thinking the messenger might have been in a hurry and unable to finish what they'd said, or was just being concise. Yeah, I just checked, and you're right; I mixed up the code letter for X and W, which is kind of understandable as they're right next to each other. Pity, I thought it was a subtle clue. That does actually add a new slant, though; "awaiting news"? What kind of news? Just the prosaic kind, as in "news from you [in response to what I've just done for you]," or news as in "developments regarding something you're doing that I'm not particularly familiar with"? The latter would be more interesting.

What was the first message? "Beware demons must stop gondola repair destroy books," something like that? Do we know if it's meant to be phrased as "beware demons - must stop gondola repair" or "beware - demons must stop gondola repair"? Strictly speaking, we only have one demon in Spider Cliff at the moment, but that might not matter. Whichever it is, it completely changes the meaning of the message; if it's the first version, then whoever's writing the message doesn't know Spider Cliff very well, or there's something dangerous to humans at the gondola station (heh, no kidding), but if it's the second version, the story of the gondola is actually more dangerous to Spider Cliff's resident demons, but Alex picked up on the arrangement instead, and he'd of course have misread it. Or maybe I'm trying to make an already complicated mystery even more complicated. We've got enough questions as it is without creating more.

The guess box for this mystery was opened quite a while ago, so presumably that means the mystery can be solved now - but perhaps only just. It might have to be a long shot.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 3:57pm, 24 Dec, 2007

I'm thinking that:
- The sheriff has likely been telling Katherine about Spider Cliff news.
- She therefore knew about Alex's demon obsession.
- There was something dangerous to her at the platform.
- She wrote that hoping Alex would follow it.

Posted by smjjames, 9:39pm, 24 Dec, 2007

Well, if Katherine IS alive, she would have to be very old, almost 100, if we can rely on the birthdates, Vedalia would have been 98 when she died. Depending on how many years after Vedalia's death the SC story started, Katherine would have to be between 95 and 100 years old at this time.

Also, in chapter 9, Alex says that Katherine had been in the gondola car with Elkwood, and that is tagged as a clue there. Also, I think Elkwood survived the initial fall (says Eliza), which is probably plausible because the trees look pretty dense in that area and so it could have fallen on one and the ground could be soft as it looked slightly pressed into the ground. So, if he survived, then what killed him?

The fallen tree you see in the foreground in chapter 8 I think, is most likely later, but I'm no expert in how fast things decompose in a forest like that, and besides, the rules are obviously different from ours.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 10:33pm, 24 Dec, 2007

In Chapter 6, Barlow mentioned that Vedalia buried the coffin five years ago.

Posted by FFWF, 7:41am, 25 Dec, 2007

Maybe it is a woods nymph in the Smoggy Woods, then, who wouldn't have much trouble surviving out there. Or... a stolen child, perhaps? Just an idea. They'd be old, but not too old. I wonder who let that child-stealing demon into Spider Cliff. Someone jealous, someone angry? Someone who'd lost a child to Hatchetpaws and needed a way to get another?

It wasn't the fall that killed Elkwood, but do we know if he was killed beforehand or afterwards? While Hatchetpaws being pushed into Smoggy Woods does make him a definite candidate for all kinds of things going on out there, Elkwood's got no obvious hatchet wounds. And I recall that the recipe for the love/anti-love potion can be deadly.
This message was last edited on 25 Dec 2007.

Posted by smjjames, 1:59pm, 25 Dec, 2007

Also, we don't really know how long paper mammals can live. Since the young paper mammal in the old pic in story 4, chapter 10 is named kibbles, later we find that he became a doctor, and in story 6 chapter 1, we find his full name is Dr. Kibbles Sawbones.

We know Kibbles died sometime in the 50's and so if he looks about turnips age in the pic, at least 20, then he certainly lived well into his 50s, possibly into his 70s, maybe 80s, so about the same as a human. But we don't know whether that was an exception or the rule.

So, in any case, I doubt Hatchetpaws is alive as he could have died of old age by this time, if he did survive.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 6:56pm, 25 Dec, 2007

A few discrepancies:

- In Chickaree, Alex said he was the only person who'd ever survived the woods, but the Sheriff said Elkwood also had. (But perhaps Alex didn't know.)
- In chapter 4, the sheriff says there's a plant in the woods that repels zombies. In chapter 5, Alex says bumberberry only grows on moldy furniture. (But perhaps there were two different plants.)

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