Brian May in Fortean Times


kA scene from Brian May’s “Diableries” book, co-authored with Denis Pellerin and Paula Fleming, graces the cover of the November 2016 Halloween issue of Fortean Times, currently on sale. A fascinating 6-page artclewritten by Brian, “Diableries – The Devil in 3-D”, appears on Page 26 – 31.

November 2016 cover - Fortean Times


November 2016

DAIBLERIES – THE DEVIL IN 3-D In the second half of the 19th century, Paris was overtaken by a new sensation – stereoscopic cards in which the Devil and all his works were shown in astonishing, and often humourously satirical, detail. BRIAN MAY tells how he fell under their diabolical spell and with fellow fiends DENIS PELLERIN & PAULA FLEMING explores the technological and cultural background of these hellish creations.

“The first time I encountered a Diablerie card was very early on a cold, frosty morning in the late 1960s, in that romantic marketplace of curious antiquities of all kinds – Portobello Road Market in West London. Being already obsessed with all things stereoscopic, I used to go there every Saturday morning to browse around the stalls looking for stereoscopes, stereo cards, Viewmaster reels, stereo cameras, and anything related to what seemed to me a lost art; for the magic of 3-D had lit a spark in me that was to last a lifetime.

One morning, one of the street traders showed me something I had never seen before – a magical group of yellow-rimmed stereo cards showing scenes of skeletons and demons. These were apparently engaged in various activities that made it seem as if life in Hell might be quite similar to that on Earth; the fact that most of the inhabitants were no more than bags of animated bones did not stand in the way of them having fun! Viewed in the stereoscope these scenes jumped into life in an astonishing way, and it was evident that they represented a whole new Universe created by skilful sculptors – dioramas populated with characters beautifully modelled in clay and photographed in 3-D. But the magic did not stop there. The photographs mounted in these cards were monochrome – made in the 1860s, long before colour photography. Viewed with light shining on the front, in the usual way, the images were seen just in various shades of sepia – a ‘day-time’ view. But their creators had built colouring – and more – into them by ingenious means.

When the cards were held up to a bright light source, so that they became more illuminated from the back than the front, an amazing transformation happened.The pictures sprang into full colour, and the scene morphed from day into night: chandeliers, lanterns, and strings of incandescent torches burst into light against dark skies and murky waters, and hellish fires appeared from below. And to top it all, the eyes of the Devil and his skeletons and ghouls gleamed with an eerie red glow. No one viewing an original Diablerie tissue in a stereoscope for the first time can fail to be stunned by the ingenuity, the beauty,and the sheer madness of these small works of art.”… (continues)