The Tulpa (and a new game)

I’ve been asking some of my favorite creatives–artists, musicians, writers, entrepreneurs, etc–to recommend some of their favorite otherworldly tunes to me. Today’s story was inspired by Oingo Boingo‘s “Insanity.”  More on the song, recommended by musician Dave Goff (aka DRBIOR) after this story.

I spent 1917 in a series of anonymous seaside cottages, bunking with proper socialites so that I might press their gowns and wash their teacups.  The daughters of London lords taught me to summon Baphomet, and I taught them to hex each other’s tea.  They had not been sent to learn such low-brow spellcraft, but the convenience of sympathetic magic wormed its way into their drawing room studies.
I think of those girls now, in their white frocks and tidy pompadours, and wonder if any survived.  You must forgive their mothers and fathers for sending them to such ungodly work.  You must consider the times, in which young women of means had only marriage to aspire to, and the War had already devoured so many eligible bachelors.  A certain kind of free-thinking parent might indeed send a bright young woman to learn the ways of the occult, ensuring her independence and safety by way of the will and the mind only.  And of those noble qualities, they were greatly blessed.

And a certain kind of school mistress might indeed take pity on an orphan girl and wish to save her from the indignities of the streets and the men that congregate there.  She might, from good intent and kindness, give the child a too-large maid’s uniform and a bed of straw in the lean-to, seeing nothing but the girl’s sweetness and little of the girl’s cunning, created by generations of village witchery.

To say I did not mean to create it would be untrue.  To say I did not intend its effects would be more accurate.  If a young lady spoke snidely to me (a regular occurrence,as any Irish girl from a Catholic parish can tell you), I would turn a quick hex as my great-aunt had taught me.  Then fearfully thinking of my parish priest and his dire warnings, I would throw the ugly thing in the corner of our bunk house where its bright red light would dwindle as I watched.

The fact of the dying embers of vengeance and spite congregating and growing under the floorboards … well, if I had attended the lectures with the students, perhaps I would have guarded against this.  Instead, I scrubbed their garments outside the open windows of their classrooms, catching half-phrases and incomplete diatribes.

What did it do, I wonder, all those years?  As I grew into a bewitching woman with ever-increasing power and none of the restraints of nobility, what was it doing?  Did it travel to far-off lands to feed off the mad and the shell-shocked?  Did it don a fringed dress and long beads and dance the Charleston, driving starlets to suicide and automobile accidents?  Did it stalk the refugees of the Dust Bowl, blowing the Black Blizzards into the minds of poor farmers’ wives?

Did it dare enter Germany during its dark years?  France?  Spain?

I cannot bring myself to think of it.  I know its excesses fed me, though I did not understand at the time and thought my allure and financial power to be wholly self-made.  And in a way, I was correct, for I made the tulpa.

Away for so many decades, the tulpa has returned to its creator.  It lurks behind the grandfather clock, ostensibly doing little but ‘breathing” in my earshot.  It does this deliberately and unnecessarily, as it has no organs or breathing apparatus.  I tell myself that it waits for a command, and that I’ve grown so old that I don’t recall what I must tell it, my indecision dooming it to an eternity of bated breath.  It is a pitiable creature, but there is nothing to be done, save to ignore it.

Over the past several months, those young ladies at the summer  cottages troubled me.  I had a mind to use the power of this “Information Age” to look them up, old as I am.  I stopped after the fifth girl I could recall.  None had survived past age forty.  One of particular beauty and cruelty had died in a madhouse as it caught fire.  If others are still alive, I do not want to know of them.

The surf crashes below my house, the sky a permanent gray.  I have learned, of course, that there is no God, only spirits more good than evil.  They will not speak to me now, not with that creature constantly near.  Therefore, I have no one to confess to, and no one to absolve me.  I have thought of suicide, but my tulpa’s presence feeds my vitality and I start to wonder if perhaps I cannot die, and if this is the eternal state of my existence.

And if that is true, without direction, we will remain together in this fearful stasis forever.

I must give it a task.  Cautiously, I offer innocuous but challenging activities.  Its breathing does not change. It does not respond until out of desperation I shout, “Make a proud and lovely girl hang herself!  There!  Is that what you want, you loathsome thing? To feed on the vibrant and healthy?”

Yes, my mistress.  Thank you, my mistress.


Those of you who aren’t familiar with Oingo Boingo might recognize the influence of the band’s singer, Danny Elfman, in several movie music scores, such as “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Check out this video–while I think the radio edit totally mangled the song (a black magic song if I ever heard one), the creepy video successfully depicts the festering underbelly* of religion, politics, and social norms. I watched it after writing “The Tulpa” and was  taken aback by the girls in white, who match up with the my story.  Stop-motion video just lends itself to creepiness.  Watch it here:

Hard to know how to classify this song.  Oingo Boingo‘s often known as a New Wave band, but this is practically gothic.  If you like the song, download it in the Otherworldly Music Store.

Thanks, Dave, for this recommendation.  To check out Dave’s  equally-weird music (recorded under DRBIOR), visit  Dave also runs Gestalt Digital, which provides digital distribution for independent musicians.  Contact him at if you want to get your music into iTunes, Amazon, etc.  even if you don’t have a CD pressed.

*Ok, I just wanted to use the word “underbelly” in a sentence.  Makes you inadvertently picture the rest of the beast, doesn’t it?  What’s it look like to you?  I just saw a disgusting-yet-fascinating live nautilus at an aquarium last week, so I’m voting for Chthulu.

Photo by Splarks, art “The Vampire” is by Philip Burne-Jones, 1897

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