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  • victoriaannehancox

Behind the Scenes on the NIGHTSHIFT

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Believe it or not, there is a method to the madness and most people or objects that you encounter during the Nightshift, have been chosen for a reason. Read on for foreshadowing, historical events and, of course, SPOILERS!

But before we start, the image is by the talented artist TroyAnthony Schermer. There is just something about plague doctors, isn't there? Even though he's such a small cameo in the story, it was blindingly obvious that he would be the cover star - no-one else would do! - and it's fantastic to have this incarnation of him.

Let’s start with the knives. The athame knife is a real item in witchcraft and is used for pagan rituals with its traditional black handle. In Nightshift, you may also find the white handled boline knife in the macerator. Later on, you hear the two ghost nurses arguing about which coloured handle knife is needed to ‘off him’. Seeing as the boline knife is commonly used for preparing herbs, I couldn’t have used that as the weapon to defeat Carmichael, but that’s the reason why it has crushed basil on the blade, as you discover if you end up in the pit.

Talking of colours, the black and white theme rears its head a few times. Other than the knives, there are:

· The two children in the playroom – like chess pieces, one is jet-black and the other is snow-white.

· The smoke that rises from your spell to destroy Jezebeth

Another theme is that of puppets, with the blood of the puppet master needed for your spell; the torn-out baby is actually a marionette; if you don’t beat Jezebeth, then she climbs inside your skin and takes you over, and Carmichael thinks he in charge but really it’s Jezebeth who’s pulling the strings.

And whilst we’re on the subject of Jezebeth, this is the name for a demon of falsehoods, although her origins are not so clear. She’s snake-like because, let’s face it, that’s scary looking and it also links to the Bowl of Hygieia. This is the symbol of the pharmacy – yes, that’s where the final battle happens – and is a snake coiled around a chalice. Obviously, snakes have a bad reputation throughout literature and religion as being liars and generally evil, so it fitted well with Jezebeth. Plus, the ‘child’ you meet is one of the demon’s entourage and turns into a snake; there is a braided snake skin bracelet in the cafeteria and the Ouroboros symbol in ITU, not only is a snake but it also foreshadows Jezebeth’s eventual destruction by eating herself out of existence.

Other names in Nightshift are:

Alice Nutter – a real woman accused of and hanged for witchcraft in Pendle, Lancashire, 1612.

Hecate – the Goddess of witchcraft in Greek mythology

Jinny the witch – she has many names in folklore but is usually with green skin, sharp teeth and near water. She’s always evil, hence you find her at the swimming pool and it doesn’t end well!

Empusa – she has different interpretations and also comes from Greek mythology, but common traits are being related to Hecate, sucking blood and having one leg. Like you do…

Erichtho – She was my second favourite witch (first one was the charred witch in A + E) and comes from Thessalian literature. Her main defining feature is being horrifically repugnant and a necromancer, so it was an easy choice to have her stolen power as the ability to resurrect the dead.

As a rule, the array of witches have mostly been killed by drowning (Geriatrics), burning (A + E) or hanging (Psychiatrics) to reflect real-life experiences of the women accused of practising witchcraft over the centuries.

Baigujing – is a Chinese shapeshifting demon and is normally depicted as a skeleton, so I placed the passageway that she tells you to use in the fracture room. Clearly though, taking advice from a demon is not a wise move…

However, this is foreshadowed by the skin barrier. There are 3 things seen there and ‘Beware of foxes and Baigujing’ was a clue to not trust the French women in the shop who is holding a cuddly fox. The gossamer fairy was a nod towards the tiny creature in the mirror microscope who is acting out how to take someone’s dying breath (which comes in handy only a few moves later) and finally, a German error. In the first edition it reads ‘Mein Haut ist mein Grimoire’ – my skin is my book of spells – but I’ve got a mental block with Haut and always want it to be a neutral noun. It’s not; it should be meine Haut. I swear, German is the hardest language to learn!

Anyhow, back to dying breath. The codeword for that was CHEYNE STOKES – which is the actual term for the disordered breathing that can happen when someone is dying – and the codeword GLOSSAL comes from the Greek word for tongue or language. Which is useful when you need to talk to crows.

One of my favourite characters was Charpentier the cat. He behaved in exactly the way you’d expect of any cat that can talk. The name though is derived from the chemist Paul Charpentier. He created the drug, promethazine, which is an early antihistamine and if anyone has had these drugs – Piriton is another one – you’ll know just how sleepy they can make you. That’s why they’re often used as a pre-med too. And where is Charpentier the cat working? The sleep laboratory…

A more obvious link for the sleep lab was its flower name: ‘Poppy Ward’. It was a short and simple skip from the poppy fields in The Wizard of Oz to opium to sleepiness.

And finally, the newspaper crossword puzzle – it was published on Nov 9th, 1888, which may seem like a random date from the Victorian era, but it has much more notoriety than that. Mary Kelly was murdered in Whitechapel on this day and seeing as Nightshift is about a Victorian serial killer who targets women and takes their organs away, who better to reference than Jack the Ripper.

That’s not all but it feels that an appropriate place to wrap it up for now! Sweet dreams!

603 views4 comments


Borislav Traykov
Borislav Traykov
Dec 31, 2020

Wow! These are exactly the details that I was thrilled to learn about! Victoria, do you think that in your future gamebooks - or all books in general - you can add this information - as an afterword section perhaps? In Bulgaria during the Old Wave of gamebooks some authors did a "a few words from the author" section where they would describe things surrounding their work on the book - for example in what ambiance they were working, what music they had on, what inspired them and even what references to real life stuff they used. One of the things that drew me into reading Nightshift was reading that you had medical experience and that couple with the gory previews wa…

Markus Burger
Markus Burger
Mar 28, 2021
Replying to

Many thanks for your help. I will go with the map first. That is something I missed so far. I wandered through the hospital and got lost immediately every time I read the book. I chose to draw a map myself because I

didn't know that it already exist. Saves me a lot of time now.

I really appreciate your reply. If I need further help I will let you know.

Meanwhile I started with the alchemists foley and the phantom self. The alchemists foley is very tricky. A lot more than nightshift. I will have to look if there is a map for that too. Without I'm stuck as well as in the nightshift. Very complex design by Victoria.…

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