The True Tale of Mad Mary Stoppelmoor and Her Chronovoltaic Gobsmacker

The True Tale of Mad Mary Stoppelmoor and Her Chronovoltaic Gobsmacker

A Story by Chronovoltograph

People always said Mary Stoppelmoor was dangerous. "Lookit her, in that black frilly skirt," they would say, "and those corsets! Is that really someone you want mucking about with chronovoltaic energy?"

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Sorry about that. Nowadays I get too excited; it's the excavation, you see.

We have our local legends here in Colorado. The tragic tale of Baby Doe, the unusual cuisine of Alferd Packer, the unsinkable heroism of Molly Brown. I think it's time Mad Mary got her due.

From Wikipedia:

Mary Stoppelmoor was born in England at some time in the 1850's, of uncertain parentage. It's not known where she got her education, but when she showed up at London's Great Energies Expo in 1887, she dazzled the assembled experts with her thorough knowledge of the Great Energies. Some of those present sneered at her for her cockney accent and her flamboyant hat, but when she spoke about her work with chronovoltaic energy, the men burst into enthusiastic applause, and Nikola Tesla had to excuse himself. Thomas Alva Edison is said to have dubbed her "the hourglass shape of things to come."

For the next year, Stoppelmoor was all the rage in London. "Lady Scientist" characters began appearing in the penny dreadfuls. "Lady Scientist Stops the Crooks" became a popular title among working-class adolescent males; it cost a half-penny, but boys formed clubs so they could afford to read her adventures.

Hers seemed to be the name on everyone's lips. Charlatans sold snake oil with her image on the label, called "Marvelous Mary Stoppelmoor's Patented Curative Elixir;" it cost two farthing, though it's unlikely the Lady Scientist received any royalties.

All changed for Stoppelmoor the following year, at the Great Energies Expo of 1888, which was held in Belgium. The greatest scientific minds of the day hushed when she stood to give her demonstration; across the world, her Chronovoltaic Contraption had been the most anticipated invention in decades.

It's hardly necessary to repeat the details. Everybody knows what happened when she flipped the knife switch. World leaders are still trying to solve the zombie problem in Belgium.

Stoppelmoor was blamed for the catastrophe. Thomas Edison was quoted saying, "Is chronovoltaic energy unstable -- or is Mary Stoppelmoor the unstable one?" Snake oil salesmen peeled the labels off their Patented Curative Elixirs, and penny dreadfuls began to represent "Lady Scientist" characters as villains. "Union Jack Saves England" became a popular title; each issue featured Union Jack preserving England from Lady Scientist's schemes.

Stoppelmoor was forced to go into hiding. In the dead of night, she packed her lab equipment and moved it all to an undisclosed location, somewhere in Whitechapel. She was still the subject of every discussion throughout London, though now when people spoke of her, they called her Mad Mary. Parents used her name to frighten children: "Behave, or Mad Mary will turn you into a zombie!"

It went on like that for months. And then, suddenly, hers was no longer the name being spoken.

Everyone was talking about Jack. Some said that Jack was a surgeon. Others thought him the imbalanced son of a family of high station. There were those who suspected he was a Jew. No one really knows. All we know about him is the women.

First was Mary Ann Nichols. Next came Annie Chapman. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes followed. Then Mary Jane Kelly. Five women. Five corpses left butchered on London's cobbled streets.

It was just what Mad Mary needed. With the public distracted, she began to toil in her Whitechapel laboratory. Two adjustments were needed for her Chronovoltaic Contraption to be perfect. First, she needed to reduce it to a portable size, and second, she needed to stop it from creating any more zombie apocalypses. She worked day and night, and then, one day, it was finally finished. Her masterpiece.

It was Christmas Eve, and Mad Mary's Chronovoltaic Gobsmacker was ready. She knew what she needed to do.

Mad Mary had a date, you see.

It was going to be a bit of a surprise. Jack certainly didn't expect it.

Snow dropped sparsely over London; it drifted down like ashes after a forest fire. Mad Mary wandered the alleys of Whitechapel, grinning a fool's grin. She was carrying her invention.

Bells jingled, and carolers sang, "God rest ye merry gentlemen..."

"Let nothing ye dismay," said Jack to Mary, and smiled like a rusty razor.


When the constables arrived, they didn't know what to do. They called for the chaplain, but he was no help. No one knew what to make of the scene. That woman over there -- could that really be the notorious Lady Scientist herself, "Mad Mary" Stoppelmoor? What was that pink vapor in the air, and why was it sobbing like a child?

The constabulary scratched their heads. Mad Mary leaned against a brick wall, reading a penny dreadful.

Everyone knows what happened the next day. Mary Stoppelmoor always insisted that she wasn't responsible for those zombies attacking London on Christmas Day of 1888, but she was widely blamed.

It was too much. Fearing persecution, the Lady Scientist fled. She changed her identity. Vanished.

The disappearance of Mad Mary has puzzled historians for over a century. Well, it did, until the excavation.

The details are still sparse. But it's clear from the evidence that Mary Stoppelmoor fled to America, and lived to a ripe old age in what is now Denver, Colorado.

I'm proud to play a small part in this historic discovery. For me to be entrusted with the restoration of a relic as historically and technologically significant as the Chronovoltaic Gobsmacker is --

well, I don't have the gall to interpret its meaning through the diffracting lens of metaphor. Let me just say that I am deeply, profoundly grateful to have this opportunity.

I will be presenting Mad Mary's Chronovoltaic Gobsmacker to my girlfriend on Christmas Day, 2010 -- exactly 112 years and a day since the night when Mad Mary gobsmacked Jack.

© 2010 Chronovoltograph

Author's Note

I only created this account so I could post this story on Facebook, for our friends to read. I wrote this steampunk history to get my girlfriend excited about her Christmas gift.

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Added on December 7, 2010
Last Updated on December 7, 2010
Tags: steampunk