Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Dr. Evermore's Forevertron
March 2012

        Leaving Joe Bandel (see my previous entry) I headed back into Wisconsin and headed towards the strange world of Dr. Evermore and the Forevertron.

    I had heard of this having been pointed towards it via the excellent website
'Roadside America' (thank you Sarah!) which is a site of odd things to places and places to go. It is a (sort of) guide to the follies/oddities of the U.S. Stateside they more often termed 'enviroments'.

    Of course its folly of a different sort not to visit a few bookshops en route and thus I ended in the back room of the excellent
Midway Books in St. Paul where I was shown wonderful stuff indeed. Original Harry Clarke illustration for Edgar Allan Poe? Oh yes. A large edition (in both senses) by Ferdinand Von Bayros book containing many of his (underrated) non-erotic works? Tick. Perhaps some original Alastair (Baron Hans Henning Voight) drawings? Absolutely. Or some original Hannes Bok erotica painted for Harry Dunniger's collection. A whole portfolio of it. Plus a wonderful array of John Austin books, some Austin Spare  edited 'Golden Hind's' and so much more.

    Most interesting were a collection of original paintings and drawings by Howard Wandrai (1909-1956)  brother of Donald (the co-founder of Arkham House) which they were selling on behalf of the Estate.

The Woman At The Window

    The two jpgs above are representative of the work (for legal reasons I could not take photos of those Midway were selling) but don't do it justice, as the originals are generally large scale (600 x 400mm for the paintings) and intricately drawn and inked. If you were at the New York book fair you could have viewed a selection. Much of what I saw is not listed on the website so its worth an e-mail or some sweet talking to see them at the shop.

   This digression meant it was the next day before I finally reached my goal.

A general view. L-R main elements are; Royal Gazebo, Farady cage (foreground), main thrusters, Tyro Telescope
    Forevertron lies a few miles of Burraboo  at North Freedom on US HWY 12.

    This (ongoing) project was begun by Tom Every in collaboration with his wife Lady Eleanor in 1982 and is an interpretation/realization/recreation of a machine that had previously 'existed' in England built during the last decade of Victoria's reign by Every's ancestor Dr. Evermore (R.A.). Here is the story.

    As a child Evermore Jnr. had been told that "lightening comes from God almighty" and rationalized that  "if lightning comes from God, maybe I can get to God by creating lightning on earth and riding it up to the celestial spheres".

    Over the years he became a successful scientist, ultimately inventing and building the original Forevertron, which he demonstrated in front of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1899. This is what occurred...

    "On a prearranged signal, Col. Chester Cjertsen, Dr Cjertsen of the Norwegian Academy, took his position in the Overload Master Control Tower. He switched on the Celestial Listening Ears, plotted the co-ordinates, and calibrated the Magnetic steering Gyro, locking in the trajectory. When all was ready he signalled and shouted, "Power on, Dr. Evermore." The Doctor approached the travel chamber, turned to the crowd, waved, and declared, "I'm ready to highball it to heaven!". He entered the glass ball inside the copper egg...The dynamos powered up and shook the ground, the thrusters glowed and rumbled, with an unearthly sound, the groan grew louder and louder, many ladies fainted from fright, children covered their ears and cried. The piecing sound rose in a shrieking crescendo, and then  shhhhhhhhhhh-ooooooo- it was over. He was gone, simply vanished."

    The 20th century Every was able to recreate the machine by the good fortune of being in the scrap (or just perhaps hoarding) business amassing a collection of historically important bits and pieces from the likes of the Apollo Space Program, Nasa's space research facilities, power stations, historic buildings and the like. as well as more general 'stuff'.

    I still remain unclear as to how Forevertron took over Every's life, but reading between the lines of a conversation I had with Lady Eleanor Every and  the book 'A Mythic Obsession' by friend Tom Kupash, it seems as if Every, always something of a maverick, and certainly not one for following rules that he deemed to make no sense, came into some conflict with the legal/tax system and/or had some sort of breakdown as a result and/or that he just decided to opt out of a 'system' that was becoming increasingly bureaucratic. One one hand he acknowledges that the 'myth' is a fabrication but on the other works very hard to maintain its 'truth'. Such is the way of the artist.

    The photos do not do it justice. Forevertron is vast (approximately 108 feet long, 72 feet wide and weighing 300 tons)  and appears at first glance to be  mix of a scaled up Baron Frankenstein laboratory/sci-fi fantasy with a large dose of steampunk aesthetic. It takes the eye some time to stop roaming over the vast structure begin to focus on specifics, so skillfully have they been melded together.

Travel chamber and thrusters
    The central 'travel chamber' sits above four 'thrusters' which are composites from transformers used in Wisconsin powerhouse dam. The stray voltage and static are rendered safe by four 'Faraday cages' on each corner and the two tall structures are 'The Royal Gazebo' and a giant 'Tyro Telescope' so that the launch could be observed accurately  "because we have those cotton pickin' non believers around". There are searchlights and of course a vast amount of cabling to link it all together.

    Over time various other elements have been added. 
The 'Juicer Bug' collects lightning and saves it as backup power in case there is a electrical failure in Foreverton itself  as does the 'Albert Mellentine' also known as the 'Cherry Picker'.

Juicer Bug

Albert Mellentine
   One of the most charming additions is the large 'Bird Band' with their musical instrument bodies. These represent the band that will be present when Foreverton is powered up. 

There are perhaps some fifty of these full size figues though some birds stand approximately 50 feet high. They are complemented by a conductor bird and security in the  form of 'cannon birds'.

    As Forevertron grew it attracted some intergalactic attention, and a small U.F.O. probe arrived, as did the friendly Komodo dragons who suck up sand and energy to then spit it out to make music.
U.F.O. probe
Komodo Dragons in the foreground (The Royal Gezebo can be seen rear left)

Both dragons and some of the birds can be played by visitors who can strike the various bells, tubes and bowls that partly constitute them.  There are dozens of other visitors to be discovered.

    Sadly, Every and his two main assistant's are all getting infirm (in Every's case quite ill) and it appears to have fallen on Lady Eleanor to see the project onto its next stage. There are the usual running repairs as well as planned works such as getting the spotlights that are already in position working. However a larger problem looms in that it is not certain that Forevertron will stay in its present location. My mind boggled when she informed me that the whole structure is actually modular and thus could be dismantled and re-assembled.

   In a perfect world Forevertron would be completed (though is such an undertaking ever 'complete') and once in working order would give light/sound shows to (paying) visitors. At present it is free and open most afternoons. There would be some sort of visitor reception space constructed, much of the latter is already in existence, but stored within three containers parked at the back of the site.

Myself and Lady Eleanor. The Tyro Telescope can be seen rear left and one of the four Faraday Cages on the right.
    Lady Eleanor is so spry that one feels it might just happen, as her cheerful charm and enthusiasm is infectious and I for one wished I could volunteer for a week or so to help out as it is such a great project. However she is very special, and I fear that without her and Tom Every himself to drive it forward, it could become a very different situation. One would hope that the community would support and protect it, in the way that Simon Rhodia's wonderful Watts Towers are now cared for; but for the meantime, in the words of Dr. Evermore himself, "Power On!"

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