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The Inventions of Michael Flannigan



Related Inventions:

Bouncing Security Bubble and Prisoner Recovery Device, circa 1874

Apparatus for the prevention of aliens bursting out of the chest, circa 1889


The Spacey Inventions of Michael Flannigan
(circa 1898-1899)

Emily Chesley and Michael Flannigan first met Harry F. Ux at Dr. John Harvey Kellogg's famous Battle Creek Sanitarium, in 1895. Ux shared Flannigan's interest in the sciences, and in keeping his bowels pristine.

The lad was also the youngest son of the Perth County peanut baron, Sir Oliver S. H. Ux (1); but the son had proved uninterested in the peanut business started by his father, or indeed, anything remotely connected to the legume industry.

So Harry F. Ux had left Perth County to study the natural sciences at Oberlin College(Emily's alma mater), and there got an interest in the workings of the human gut, which had brought him to Battle Creek. While there, he had actually helped Flannigan build The Systematic Anti-autointoxication Device, which had proved so popular at The San.

In 1898, Emily had to depart London for South Africa.(2) She was concerned about leaving her aging and increasingly dotty "uncle" alone with only the housekeeper, Miss Beasley, to look after him. Then she remembered Harry-F. She wrote to Ux, who was working as an itinerant sausage-stuffer in Cleveland, and asked him to help look after her uncle. Ux was thrilled at the invitation. Not only was he a great admirer of Flannigan's inventions, in the intervening years he'd become a huge fan of Chesley's fiction too.

When he arrived, he was disappointed that Emily had already headed off for the Boer War. However, he quickly set to helping Flannigan with his work, which at the time was focused on the development of the Comet Suit. Perhaps it was Flannigan's current obsession with comets, and perhaps it was young Harry-F's fascination with the short sketches about the space-ingénue Ermila Chunt and the United Cosmos Craft Truculence, which Emily had left lying about before her departure, but whatever the reason, the young Ux and Flannigan created a number of apparatus which are still quite baffling to this day.


1) It will be of interest to Chesleyan scholars to note that it was Ux senior who put William Thudworth St.John-Smith, Poet of Spidgy-on-the-Thames, out of the peanut business shortly before his bizarre death in 1906. [back]

2) See Picking Up the Mantle [back]

Tiny Planet Device

tiny planetThis was not a device, so much as an attempt to create a self-sustaining ecosystem on a small meteoroid. It was actually quite remarkable that Flannigan was able to successfully embed the human boys in the lump of rock; unfortunately he was unsuccessful at including plant life, water or oxygen.

After several attempts, (and a baker's dozen of asphyxiated twins) Flannigan gave up the dream of tiny planets inhabited by small children. (Thought it is thought that French author and aviator, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, may have somehow got his hands on Flannigan's notes for the invention before writing The Little Prince.)

death rayDeath Ray

Harry F. Ux was fascinated with the "Death Ray" used by the heroine in Chesley's unpublished short story, "Fargle's Revenge". He prevailed upon Flannigan to invent something similar. Where the Death Ray in the short story was capable of disabling massive space ships at great distance, Flannigan's invention was not nearly as impressive. Based on the idea that sunlight can cause actinic dermatitis , Flannigan thought to use the same principle, but to increase the effects a thousand-fold. What he actually created was the world's first sunlamp. While the ray did not cause "death", it was capable of giving anyone standing in front of it a massive sunburn, even while fully clothed. It took the young Ux several weeks to recover, and several more to work up his courage to ask Flannigan to invent something else.

Rocket Jersey

rocket jerseyThis was the last invention on which Harry was able to collaborate with Flannigan. When he read Emily's short story, "Flying Buns of Boggle XII", the impressionable youth was determined that he too would "jet through the air with the power of a thousand cannons on his back." Having provided the inspiration to Flannigan, Ux soon found himself standing in an empty field at Carling's Farm, wearing the world's first Rocket Jersey. (Ux had insisted on testing it himself. They had run out of other test subjects with the failed Tiny Planet Device anyway.)

Phenias Hornblatt, who was also the only eyewitness to record the infamous Thong Bank incident, and who was later on hand to watch the first test of Flannigan's Vehicle for Dropping from an Enormous Height and Splashing About in Rapids, was also at the launch of the world's first manned rocket:

There was a palpable excitement in the air that late October morning. The Carling family had already cleared the field, so we stood in the corn stalks, forming a huge circle around the inventor Michael Flannigan and his young assistant, the courageous Harry F. Ux.

Flannigan explained to us that his assistant would soon be the first human being to fly faster than a bird. He prepared to ignite the device, while Ux introduced himself to the crowd.

"One, two, three," we could hear Flannigan mutter in his signature brogue.

Meanwhile, Harry said, "I would just like to say, that this invention was inspired by Mr. Flannigan's niece, Emily Chesley, and that I would like to dedicate this first flight to her. My name is --"

At that moment, I could hear Flannigan mutter, "shite" and there was a sputtering sound.

"Harry --"

More sputtering. Then a flash of light. Flannigan hobbled away from his assistant and the Rocket Jersey at speed, and then, the Jersey caught fire. Enormous gouts of flame engulfed Harry, Flannigan, and exploded out into the crowd, igniting the whole field of dried corn stalks.

The last thing anyone ever heard from Harry was:

"F. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuxx --"

Those of us who did not catch fire in the conflagration were treated to the most impressive and at the same time, ghastly, sight we've ever seen. It was worse, even, than the horrors of the Victoria Disaster. For where the Victoria sank to a watery grave, the Rocket Jersey catastrophe was Hades itself. A fiery, hellish, doom, killing several people in the audience, and assuredly, the unfortunate Ux, who's screams were lost in the shouts of horror and pain from the crowd.

Still, one wonders what he saw as he climbed . . . climbed. . . climbed . . . up into the sky, as smoke, and then white vapour trailed behind him. I watched in fascination as he finally disappeared into the ether, and would have watched longer, if Mrs. Macready's flaming pet schnauzer, Balvenie, had not run into me and lit my own clothes on fire.

Ux's body was never recovered, and some Chesleyan scholars have hypothesized that he may have been the first human being to actually orbit the earth.


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