This is from a collection of short stories set in the same fictional universe. Like much of my writing, it is an ‘alternate history.’ The basic premise of these stories is that in 1956, something happened that gave to most people some sort of mental powers. These are not magical, but beyond our current level of knowledge. Different people get different powers and some have them to a greater degree than others – just as with any talents. These powers include Telepathy and Empathy in various forms, as well as a range of others. These are not Mutants, or X-Men, just ordinary people trying to survive in a changed world. The central character in this story is a pervert and sexual predator. Do not read on if you find these issues disturbing.
Outsiders—the Criminology of Talents.
Andrew Underwood, Martin Watson and Kwame McMahon, 2017
The activities of the self-styled “Wizard of Wallsend” (real name Maurice Kelly) were perhaps the earliest and most extreme example of the deliberate use of Talents for nefarious purposes. Kelly first surfaced late in 1956 with claims to be in communication with entities he called ‘The Great Ones.’ He claimed in particular to be a “Seventh Level Adept” of the supposed deity “Abholoth.” Unfortunately for those who succumbed to his manipulations, the writings of H P Lovecraft had fallen out of favour. As it was, by the time he opened his so-called Temple, he had gained a coterie of devoted followers.
Perhaps equally bizarrely, he only came to the attention of police because of a breach of planning law. The ‘Temple’ was in a former butchers, located on Wallsend High Street, to the east of Newcastle on Tyne. Kelly should have obtained Planning Permission to change from that use to religious purposes.
Inquiries by the Council into the unauthorised use led to reports of screaming and shouting emanating from the premises. Kelly attempted to pass these off as ‘religious chanting’. The invetigating officer became suspicious after he was refused access to the premises. Then after hearing the screaming for himself, the matter was passed to the Police. Their investigations eventually led to the arrest of Kelly and numerous others. The investigation rapidly expanded to cover numerous Missing Persons, all female. Eventually Kelly and others were charged with murder, kidnapping, rape and sexual assault.
Kelly was charged with kidnapping, rape and sexual assault. The trial came close to farce on its opening day, when Kelly’s defence counsel claimed that he had no memory of the crimes on which he was charged, that he had been coerced, and his memory had been tampered with.
In his opening statement for the prosecution, Edward St John Simmons Q.C. said that Kelly had persuaded a number of young women to accompany him to a shop on Wallsend High Street which he had converted to use, according to the handpainted sign across the window, as the ‘Temple of Abholoth’. The same sign also described him as the Chief Adept.
Once inside, they were imprisoned in the upstairs flat and subjected to vile treatment by Kelly and others until rescued by police. Kelly claimed to the young women that as a Seventh Level Adept of the Temple, he could bestow eternal youth on anyone who swore an oath to the deity Abholoth. It was unclear, said Mr Simmons, how such an unattractive and unprepossessing person as Kelly had been able to persuade these young and attractive women to go with him, but persuade them he did. Once lured into the property, all pretence of charm was dropped and the women were forced to perform vile and degrading acts with each other and with a succession of men brought to the premises by Kelly.
In reality, said Mr Simmons, Abholoth was of course one of the fictional gods in the fantastical works of H P Lovecraft. Evidence would be called, he said, to show that Kelly had been an avid reader of these works for many years and had deliberately called this fictional deity into aid of his appalling plot. The young women themselves would testify as to his actions in luring them to his alleged ‘Temple’ and his behaviour once there. Kelly and his associates had arranged for photographic records of their activities and evidence would be offered of the many thousands of photographs found on the premises and in the possession of others, including a large quantity of pornography acquired over many years.
Kelly had acquired the premises in Wallsend in December of 1956 and opened his so-called ‘Temple’ in January 1957 without securing consent from the Local Planning Authority for the change of use from shop to religious use. It was the investigation into the unauthorised use that led to the reports by neighbours of screaming and shouting emanating from the premises. These were passed to the Police whose own investigations led to the present case and to the reuniting of five young women with their families.
Speaking for the defence, Barrister Andrew Macleod said that Kelly was indeed a despicable character who had collected pornographic material for most of his adult life. He admitted inviting the young women to the premises, but not for the purposes alleged by the prosecution. He admitted that his intention was to take pornographic photographs of his own, with the aim of adding to his collection and also of receiving an income from their sale in some of the less salubrious magazines available. Kelly would deny any responsibility or knowledge of the so-called ‘Temple’ and of any claim to be an ‘Adept’. He did not paint or have made the sign.
Kelly would argue that the other activities that took place on the premises took place without his consent or knowledge. He accepts that some of the photographic evidence includes him, but in his defence he would argue that he had been coerced by another in some way. There were periods of time of which he had no or little memory. He had no memory of detaining the young women or of abusing them, with one exception when intimacy took place he believed with the consent of the young woman concerned. In summary, while Kelly accepted all charges relating to the possession of obscene images and with some qualifications to the charges of producing obscene images, he would deny all charges of kidnapping, assault and rape.
After the opening statements, the prosecution called a succession of witnesses proving Kelly had let the premises, had installed the sign, had personally purchased numerous items of photographic equipment and had personally placed advertisements advertising the ‘Temple’ and its ceremonies. Further witnesses testified to attending such ceremonies, which included much in the way of lewd behaviour by the celebrants. Others testified to paying large sums of money for instruction in the rites of the ‘Cult of Abholoth’ with attendant claims by Kelly that this would raise them in the inner levels of the cult and admit them to secret ceremonies and rituals. According to these witnesses, no such initiations had ever taken place. The ceremonies were always postponed for various esoteric reasons. All these witnesses held to their claims despite cross-examination by the defence.
Further witnesses then described seeing groups of men arriving at the premises in the early evening and then departing late at night. They testified that it was during those times they heard loud cries and screams coming from the premises. Under cross-examination they admitted that they had not seen the defendant arriving as part of these groups.
Finally, the prosecution called the five young women themselves. Their testimony proved that Kelly had made the first contact with them. They all denied that they had been asked to take part in photographic sessions, only that Kelly had hinted at secret powers available only to him as an adept of the Temple. None of them could understand why that suggestion had been so persuasive, but now believed that they had been in some way under his control, perhaps by the use of drugs.
One witness described how he had sat opposite her in a public house and stared directly into her eyes as he spoke. She said his eyes were large and attractive, and somehow she had agreed to go with him to the Temple. Under cross-examination by the defence barrister, they all again denied any suggestion that they were paid to model for obscene photographs or that they took part in these acts of their own free will.
On the third day of the trial, the defence called its only witness, Maurice Kelly. His defence was that he had secured the attendance of the women in question for the purposes of taking obscene photographs, that so far as he was concerned everything recorded in those photographs was voluntary. Kelly denied keeping the women at the temple against their will, saying that it was his belief they had been free to leave at any time. He claimed that he himself had been coerced into taking part in the various obscene acts described by the women and was as much a victim as they had been. Despite the evidence, he repeated his claim that he had no part in the installation of the ‘Temple’ sign or any reference to himself as ‘Adept’. He resolutely maintained that claim under relentless cross-examination by the prosecution.
In his summing up the Judge, Mr Harcourt Saundersfoot, said that the jury had to consider only the objective evidence presented to them. Much of that evidence had not been denied and must therefore be taken at face value. The defence case rested he said on alternative explanations for that evidence. In arriving at their decision they therefore also had to weigh in the balance the plausibility of these explanations, but in doing so they should rely only on what was put before them in court. They should have no heed of speculation in the press or elsewhere. The jury then retired to consider their verdict. They returned after little more than an hour’s deliberation and found Kelly guilty on all counts. Kelly was eventually sentenced to 23 years in prison.
The later trial for murder of one of those arrested with him was halted after the Judge ruled that in the absence of a body and with credible witnesses claiming to have seen the young woman in question after the alleged murder, it was unsafe to continue. Some 20 years later a body was found buried in the yard behind another shop in Wallsend which at the time had been occupied by the original defendant Donald Jay. It was identified from jewellery on the body as that of the missing girl, Pauline Armstrong. Jay had been sentenced to 15 years on the other charges and had been released some 4 years before the discovery. Police inquiries failed to locate him, and he was never brought to trial.
Eventually, in 1994, a letter was received by a firm of solicitors in Wallsend whose predecessors had acted for Jay at his original trial. In the letter, posted in the USA, Jay admitted to the murder of Pauline Armstrong and to two other murders of young women between 1952 and 1957. He also admitted to tampering with Kelly’s memory in order to deflect attention away from his own activities. He denied coercing Kelly in any way to commit any illegal acts, claiming that the idea to establish the so-called Temple had come from Kelly via a circle of men who had shared the pornographic material found by Police. The letter had been deposited with a legal firm in Atlanta, Georgia with instructions to forward it on his death. Kelly’s original conviction was reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions who found that there was no case for a review of the verdict despite the new information.
Kelly is a rare example of the overt, coercive abuse of Talents. He continued to deny any responsibility for his actions, claiming, until his death in prison in 1974, that he himself had been the subject of coercion. At this distance in time, it is no longer possible to find out how he gained such control over his powers so early.
Other cases took much greater care to hide their actions. Few convictions can be identified before the mid 60s. By then the existence of powers was known and some lessons learnt. There is anecdotal evidence of predatory behaviour, largely but not exclusively by men. Examination of court records of sexual and marital abuse indicates the probability that abuse of Talents played a part in at least 20% of cases.
You can find more alternate history here:
You can find other alternate history stories I’ve posted on this site here –