Page 27. " I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day "
In a novel suffused with Halloween, a Christmas carol seems incongruous. And so it is, particularly since the tune is whistled by a tall man in a dark suit, who is putting up posters to advertise the evil carnival, and whom we will only learn sometime later is actually one of the owners, Mr. Dark.

But the song is not purely ironic here: its lyrics were written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864, during the depths of the brutal Civil War, and only set to music eight years later by John B. Calkin. The singer is in fact near despair, and strongly disagrees with the hopeful message of the bells. As several verses which are rarely seen in hymnals and never heard from the mouths of carolers put it:

"Then from each black, accursed mouth / The cannon thundered in the South, / And with the sound the carols drowned / Of peace on earth, good will to men.

"It was as if an earthquake rent / The hearth-stones of a continent, / And made forlorn, the households born / Of peace on earth, good will to men.

"And in despair I bowed my head / 'There is no peace on earth.'; I said, / 'For hate is strong and mocks the song / Of peace on earth, good will to men.' "
Page 28. " Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show "
This name appears to originate this novel, but it is chosen for various associations. Cooger sounds like cougar, another name for the mountain lion or puma, native to the Americas and the fourth largest cat in the world -- skilled at stalk-and-ambush predation, though rarely of humans. Dark is self-explanatory. The word “pandemonium” means uncontrolled uproar, tumult, or chaos, which is an odd name for a traveling entertainment; a bit of truth-in-advertising, that.
Page 29. " Star of India "

Star of India
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumStar of India - Credit: Daniel Torres, Jr.
Though there have been and are both ships and restaurants by this name, since it is used as a simile for the ice coffin shining in the darkness of an unused shop, this probably refers to the largest and most famous star sapphire in the world: 563 carats in size, and a gift to the American Museum of Natural History by financier J.P. Morgan in 1900.

Curiously, two years after Something Wicked This Way Comes was published in 1962, the real Star of India was stolen in a daring robbery by Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy and two accomplices, but recovered several months later.

Page 30. " the Theater "
The concept of “the Theater” as a room or series of rooms in a boardinghouse (or perhaps even a brothel) in which the boys are able to witness adults engaged in sexual activity if they climb a certain tree and look in, is probably Bradbury’s own. However, it illustrates the author’s awareness of the erotic element in life, which Bradbury never writes about directly, but manages to infuse many of his tales with subtle references to its power and omnipresence. As he said in a 1967 interview in “Writer’s Digest” magazine, “I’m bored limp by writers who think that by describing a thing realistically, they’ve described it. I’m not interested in the facts, the machinery, the mechanics. I’m interested in the interpretation of those facts…. I’m interested in what sex does to us as people. This is the fire at which we all warm our hands.”
Page 32. " Episcopal Baptist "
A member of a Baptist sect in which local congregations have less autonomy and take more direction from the bishop. Jim isn’t making any particular theological point here, just tossing an insult at Will that implies he’s especially uptight and not flexible in his thinking.
Page 34. " Mephistophele … Mr. Electrico … the Monster Montgolfier … Mademoiselle Tarot … The Dangling Man … The Illustrated Man … The Skeleton "


Montgolfier balloon
Public DomainMontgolfier balloon - Credit: Mike Young

This list, though somewhat generic and characteristic of a Midwestern traveling carnival’s array of sideshow attractions, includes a few items that have a special resonance in Bradbury’s oeuvre. In the same way he reuses favorite images and motifs (for example: October, carnivals, visits with his literary heroes, and dwarves) in his stories and novels, Bradbury reuses names and characters.


He has related the story many times of an incident in 1932, when he was 12 and a carnival entertainer named Mr. Electrico touched him with an electrified rod, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, “Live forever!” The boy decided that was a fine idea, and decided to go about trying to make it happen. (Note that Charles Halloway expresses that wish to his son in Chapter 28 -- see Bookmark for page 144 in this edition.) He has all but done so with his writing career.

The Illustrated Man was the title of a collection Bradbury had published in 1951, in which he loosely tied together 18 unrelated stories through the device of having them appear as tattoos on a vagrant whom the narrator meets.

A montgolfier, as Will points out, is a large balloon, from the French brothers Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, who ascended in large, ornate hot-air balloons in the early 1780s. The image shown here is a model of the original Montgolfier brothers balloon that is on display at the London Science Museum. Bradbury published a story in 1956 called “Icarus Montgolfier Wright” (which incorporates the three notable names in the history of flight).

In a 1945 horror story called simply “Skeleton,” a man’s entire bone structure gets removed from his skin so that his wife comes home to find a pile of jelly calling her name.

Page 34. " The Dust Witch "

The Dust Witch will turn out to be the most significant and dangerous member of the carnival, apart from Cooger and Dark. The boys will get a better look at her when they go to check out the carnival in chapter 24, on the day after its middle-of-the-night arrival; and she will come searching for Jim's house in the balloon in chapter 29.

Her most significant appearances will be in chapter 43 when she comes to the library to fetch the boys back to the carnival, and in chapter 47 when she participates (unwillingly, for once) in "The World Famous Bullet Trick."

Witches play a significant role not only in Bradbury's work -- a family of witches appears in the stories from his first book, Dark Carnival -- but even in his ancestry. As detailed by biographer Sam Weller in The Bradbury Chronicles, Mary Perkins Bradbury, the wife of ancestor Thomas Bradbury, who emigrated to the colonies from England in 1634, was charged and convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692, when she was 72.

Though found guilty and sentenced to die along with 19 others who died by hanging, she somehow escaped the gallows (the guards were bribed to set her free, Weller suggests), and died a free woman in 1700. Bradbury has always been keenly aware of unfair social and political persecution of innocents, based on the experience of his forebears.

Page 47. " the Louvre "

The Louvre
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Louvre - Credit: Raphael Frey
The largest and most visited art museum in the world, located in Paris and known officially as Musée du Louvre. It is the home of Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" (the center of Bradbury's story "The Smile").