Session 1: Prologue through chapter 5

The story begins in Egypt in the desert 20 miles south of the city of Cairo:

Cairo by night
Cairo (Arabic: القاهرة‎ al-Qāhira) is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab World. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a center of the region's political and cultural life. Even before Cairo was established in the tenth century, the land composing the present-day city
Egypt: site of Cairo top/center
was the site of national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo is also associated with Ancient Egypt due to its proximity to the Great Sphinx and the pyramids in nearby Giza.
Egyptians today often refer to Cairo as Maṣr (Arabic: مصر‎), the Egyptian Arabic pronunciation of the Arabic name for Egypt itself, emphasizing the city's continued role in Egyptian influence. Cairo has the oldest and largest film and music industries in the Arab World, as well as the world's second-oldest institution of higher learning, al-Azhar University. Many international media, businesses, and organizations have regional headquarters in the city, and the Arab League has been based in Cairo for most of its existence.
Desert near Cairo
With a population of 6.8 million spread over 214 square kilometers (83 sq mi), Cairo is by far the largest city in Egypt. With an additional ten million inhabitants just outside the city, Cairo resides at the center of the largest metropolitan area in Africa and the eleventh-largest urban area in the world. Cairo, like many large cities in developing countries, suffers from high levels of pollution and traffic, but its metro – currently the only on the African continent – also ranks among the fifteen busiest in the world,with over 700 million passenger rides annually.

Stele.jpgEgyptian Stele: In the Prologue: Hussein Hussaout and his son, Baksheesh, discover an Egyptian Stele during an earthquake in Cairo, Egypt on page 5.

A stele (pronounced /ˈstiːliː/, older /ˈstiːl/, from Greek: στήλη stēlē; plural: stelae /ˈstiːlaɪ/, στῆλαι stēlai; also found: Latinised singular stela and Anglicised plural steles) is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief (bas-relief, sunken-relief, high-relief, and so forth), or painted onto the slab.

Stelae were also used as territorial markers, as the boundary stelae of Akhenaton at Amarna, or to commemorate military victories. They were widely used in the Ancient Near East, Greece, Egypt, Ethiopia, and, most likely independently, in China and some Buddhist cultures (see the Nestorian Stele), and, more surely independently, by Mesoamerican civilisations, notably the Olmec and Maya. The huge number of stelae surviving from ancient Egypt and in Central America constitute one of the largest and most significant sources of information on those civilisations.

Egyptian hieroglyphs (pronounced /ˈhaɪ(ə)roʊɡlɪf/; from Greek ἱερογλύφος "sacred carving", itself pronounced [ˌhieroˈɡlypʰos]) was a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that contained a combination of topographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood. Less formal variations of the script, called hieratic and demotic, are technically not hieroglyphs.
Click here to visit an online hieroglyphics translator

Egyptian_Princess.jpgEighteenth Dynasty (1550-1292 BC) is perhaps the best known of all the dynasties of ancient Egypt. As well as boasting a number of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs, it included Tutankhamun, the finding of whose tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 was a sensational archaeological discovery despite its having been twice disturbed by tomb robbers. The dynasty is sometimes known as the 'Thutmosid Dynasty' because four of the pharaohs had the name Thutmosis, which means "(The God) Thoth (Appears as a) Child." Hatshepsut and perhaps two others of a handful of native women known to be crowned king of Egypt, ruled during this dynasty, as did Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV), the "heretic Pharaoh" who with his wife, Nefertiti, instituted what many identify as the first recorded monotheistic state religion.

In Chapter 2, The setting changes to New York City. The family lives in an the old townhouse at number 7, East 77th Street. We don't know what part of 77th Street...

NY.jpgNew York is the most populous city in the United States, and the center of the New York metropolitan area, which is among the most populous urban areas in the world. A leading global city, New York exerts a powerful influence over worldwide commerce, finance, culture, fashion and entertainment. As host of the United Nations headquarters, it is also an important center for international affairs. The city is often referred to as New York City to differentiate it from the state of New York, of which it is a part.
Located on a large natural harbor on the Atlantic coast of the Northeastern United NY_Map.pngStates, the city consists of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. The city's 2007 estimated population exceeds 8.3 million people, and with a land area of 305 square miles (790 km2), New York City is the most densely populated major city in the United States. The New York metropolitan area's population is also the nation's largest, estimated at 18.8 million people over 6,720 square miles (17,400 km2). Furthermore, the Combined Statistical Area containing the Greater New York metropolitan area contained 22.155 million people as of 2008 Census estimates, also the largest in the United States.
New York was founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1624. The settlement was called New Amsterdam until 1664 when the colony came under English control. New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790. It has been the country's largest city since 1790.
Many districts and landmarks in the city have become well-known to outsiders. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, has been a dominant global financial center since World War II and is home to the New York Stock Exchange. The city has been home to several of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Empire State Building and the twin towers of the former World Trade Center.
The City is the birthplace of many cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance in literature and visual art; abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School) in painting; hip hop, punk, salsa, disco and Tin Pan Alley in music; and is the home of Broadway theater.
New York is notable among American cities for its high use of mass transit, most of which runs 24 hours per day, and for the overall density and diversity of its population. In 2005, nearly 170 languages were spoken in the city and 36% of its population was born outside the United States. The city is sometimes referred to as "The City that Never Sleeps", while other nicknames include The Capital of the world, Gotham, and the Big Apple.

On page 8, we meet the family Rottweilers, Alan and Neil (aka Elvis and Winston) What do you know about Rottweilers?

The Rottweiler, or Rottweil Metzgerhund ("Butchers Dog"), is a " large size, stalwart dog" breed originating in Germany as a herding dog. It is a hardy and very intelligent breed. Rottweilers also worked as draught dogs, pulling carts to carry meat and other products to market as well as for hunting . "Rottweiler breeders aim at a dog of abundant strength, black coated with clearly defined rich tan markings, whose powerful appearance does not lack nobility and which is exceptionally well suited to being a companion, service and working dog."
The Rottweiler was kept busy in these traditional roles until the mid-19th century when railroads replaced droving for getting livestock to market. Although there are still Rottweilers working stock all over the world, many other roles have been found for this versatile breed.
During the First and Second World Wars, Rottweilers were put into service in various roles including as messenger, draught, and guard dogs. Currently they are often used as search and rescue, assistance, guide dogs for the blind, guard and police dogs in addition to their traditional roles.

Do you know who Elvis and Winston are? Would you name a dog after either of these people?
Elvis.jpgElvis Presley:

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. A cultural icon, he is commonly known simply as Elvis and is also sometimes referred to as The King of Rock 'n' Roll or The King.
Presley began his career in 1954 as one of the first performers of rockabilly, an uptempo fusion of country and rhythm and blues with a strong back beat. His novel versions of existing songs, mixing "black" and "white" sounds, made him popular—and controversial —as did his uninhibited performances. Presley had a versatile voice and he had unusually wide success encompassing many genres, including rock and roll, gospel, blues, country, ballads and pop. To date, he has been inducted into four music halls of fame.

Churchill.jpgWinston Churchill

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician known chiefly for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. He served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, historian, writer, and artist. He is the only British Prime Minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature and the second person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.
During his army career, Churchill saw military action in India, in the Sudan and the Second Boer War. He gained fame and notoriety as a war correspondent and through contemporary books he wrote describing the campaigns. He also served briefly in the British Army on the Western Front in World War I, commanding the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

On page 9, John suggests renaming the rottweilers more suitable names, like Nero and Tiberius. Mr. Gaunt tells John that the two were not very nice people.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (15 December AD 37–9 June AD 68), born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, also called Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus, was the fifth and last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great uncle Claudius to become heir to the throne. As Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, he succeeded to the throne on 13 October 54, following Claudius's death.
Nero ruled from 54 to 68, focusing much of his attention on diplomacy, trade, and increasing the cultural capital of the empire. He ordered the building of theaters and promoted athletic games. His reign included a successful war and negotiated peace with the Parthian Empire (58–63), the suppression of the British revolt (60–61) and improving relations with Greece. The First Roman-Jewish War (66–70) started during his reign. In 68 a military coup drove Nero from the throne. Facing assassination, he committed suicide on 9 June 68.
Nero's rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for a number of executions, including those of his mother and step-brother, as the emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned",and as an early persecutor of Christians. This view is based upon the main surviving sources for Nero's reign—Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio. Few surviving sources paint Nero in a favorable light. Some sources, though, including those mentioned above, portray him as an emperor who was popular with the common Roman people, especially in the East. The study of Nero is problematic as some modern historians question the reliability of ancient sources when reporting on Nero's tyrannical acts
Bust of Tiberius

Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus, born Tiberius Claudius Nero (November 16, 42 BCMarch 16, AD 37), was the second Roman Emperor, from the death of Augustus in AD 14 until his own death in 37. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced his father and was remarried to Octavian Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian. Tiberius would later marry Augustus' daughter Julia the Elder (from an earlier marriage) and even later be adopted by Augustus, by which act he officially became a Julian, bearing the name Tiberius Julius Caesar. The subsequent emperors after Tiberius would continue this blended dynasty of both families for the next forty years; historians have named it the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
Tiberius was one of Rome's greatest generals, whose campaigns in Pannonia, Illyricum, Rhaetia and Germania laid the foundations for the northern frontier. But he came to be remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler who never really desired to be emperor; Pliny the Elder called him tristissimus hominum, "the gloomiest of men."[1] After the death of Tiberius’ son Drusus Julius Caesar in 23, the quality of his rule declined and ended in a terror. In 26, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous Praetorian Prefects Lucius Aelius Sejanus and Quintus Naevius Sutorius Macro. Caligula, Tiberius’ adopted grandson, succeeded the Emperor upon his death.

On page 9: Mr. Gaunt spreaks Latin. He says, "civile ingenium" What do you think this means? Use the online Latin Translator. Click here to go there. Then try and translate what he says on page 10--
"Odisse coepi, postquam parricida matris et uxoris, auriga et histrio et incendiarius extitisti."

On page 17, "...while he had been sleeping, the mirror on the wall beside his bed had cracked from side to side: and not just the mirror but also the headboard above his bed so that the crack from the glass led neatly into the wood...for there was even a small scorch mark and tear in the pillowcase where his head had been resting, so that it was almost as if the pain created by his dreaming mind had manifested itself in some kind of power over the surrounding matter..." "If I didn't know any better, I'd say this was the result of an earthquake. Only the last one of any magnitude in New York State was a 5.1 in 1983."
This is true:

On 7 October 1983 a magnitude 5.1 (mb) earthquake occurred in the central Adirondack Mountains, near the town of Goodnow, New York. The earthquake was well recorded both by regional stations and by a large number of digital and analog seismographs in North and South America and Europe. These regional and teleseismic data are complemented by accurate locations of aftershocks recorded by a portable network from 17 hours after the main shock, providing an unusually complete dataset to study the source process of an intraplate earthquake.
What is an earthquake?
An earthquake (Fault_types.pngalso known as a tremor or temblor) is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes are recorded with a seismometer, also known as a seismograph. The moment magnitude (or the related and mostly obsolete Richter magnitude) of an earthquake is conventionally reported, with magnitude 3 or lower earthquakes being mostly imperceptible and magnitude 7 causing serious damage over large areas. Intensity of shaking is measured on the modified Mercalli scale.
At the Earth's surface, earthquakes manifest themselves by shaking and sometimes displacing the ground. When a large earthquake epicenter is located offshore, the seabed sometimes suffers sufficient displacement to cause a tsunami. The shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides and occasionally volcanic activity.
In its most generic sense, the word earthquake is used to describe any seismic event — whether a natural phenomenon or an event caused by humans — that generates seismic waves. Earthquakes are caused mostly by rupture of geological faults, but also by volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts, and nuclear experiments. An earthquake's point of initial rupture is called its focus or hypocenter. The term epicenter refers to the point at ground level directly above the hypocenter.

One page 17, John and Phillipa mention the earthquake that had recently happened in Cairo,
The earthquake causes destruction to Egyptian Statues
Egypt. Art does imitate 1992 in Cairo, Egypt...

On 12 October 1992, an earthquake, magnitude mb = 5.9 and M s = 5.2, hit the City of Cairo, Egypt. It was this century's largest earthquake in northern Egypt with related destruction in the City of Cairo, the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta areas. Our source parameter determinations show that the 1992 earthquake had a normal faulting mechanism, seismic moment M o = 5.2 × 1017 Nm, centroid depth of 23 km and a source time function duration of 3 seconds. The mechanism is compared with those corresponding to two other events that occurred in the northern Red Sea. The similarity between the mechanisms as well as the spatial distribution of the geological faults around Cairo suggest seismic activity along the extension of the stress field of the Red Sea rift system to the area around the City of Cairo. This situation affects the level of seismic hazard in the Cairo area. The 1992 earthquake belongs to an unusual class of relatively small, M w > 6.0, yet destructive earthquakes. The damage caused by these events is usually attributed to their shallow focal depth,
5 km, and to

EgyptianMuseum.jpgEyptian Museum of Antiquities also known as the Cairo Museum:
Phillipa notes that the crack in John's mirror is similar to the crack in the wall of the world famous Egyptian Museum of Antiquities-- page 17

The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities contains many important pieces of ancient Egyptian history. It houses the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, and many treasures of King Tutankhamen. The Egyptian government established the museum, built in 1835 near the Ezbekeyah Gardens. The museum soon moved to Boulaq in 1858 because the original building was getting to be too small to hold all of the artifacts. In 1855, shortly after the artifacts were moved, Duke Maximilian of Austria was given all of the artifacts. He hired a French architect to design and construct a new museum for the antiquities. The new building was to be constructed on the bank of the Nile River in Boulaq. In 1878, after the museum was completed for some time, it suffered some irreversible damage; a flood of the Nile River caused the antiquities to be relocated to another museum, in Giza. The artifacts remained there until 1902 when they were moved, for the last time to the current museum in Tahrir Square.

On pp 22 and 23 John and Phillipa find out that they will have their wisdom teeth removed.

Wisdom.jpgThird molar teeth (commonly referred to as wisdom teeth) consist of the mandibular and maxillary third molars; they usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25. They are called wisdom teeth because they usually come in when a person is between age 17 and 25 or older—old enough to have supposedly gained some wisdom. Most adults have four wisdom teeth, but it is possible to have more or fewer. Absence of one or more wisdom teeth is an example of hypodontia. Any extra teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth. Wisdom teeth commonly affect other teeth as they develop, becoming impacted or "coming in sideways".They are often extracted when this occurs.

On page 28, the children are sent to W.C. Fields Memorial Children's Hospital to have their wisdom teeth removed. Read the summary about this comedian to understand P.B. Kerr's sense of humor.

Click on the movie to watch a classic scene from W.C. Fields--The Ping Pong Match

W.C. Fields (1880 - 1946) (Best known as a comedian)
A renowned gambler and card-shark, a gin drinker, and hater of children, iconic actor- comedian W.C. Fields was known as all these things and more - a pool hustler, a juggler and an ordinary man struggling against life. Some widely held beliefs were true; some were part of the act, but above all the cantankerous man with a bulbous nose and a drawling voice was one of the funniest, richest and most influential comics of the twentieth century. He was quoted as saying, "Anyone who hates children and animals can't be all bad." and "Children should neither be seen or heard from - ever again." and "I like children - fried." and "I never met a kid I liked." and "Get outa' here kid, you're bothering me." and "Never work with children or animals."

Alembic House: Webster defines "alembic," as --

1. A device that purifies or alters by a process comparable to distillation. 2. Anything that refines or purifies.
How does Alembic House purify or alter their campers? Hmmmmmmmm........

What is ironic about its location in Salem Massachusettes?
salemwitchtrial-e.jpgThe Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693. The episode has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of false accusations, lapses in due process, and governmental intrusion on individual liberties.

On page 49 John mentions reading, The Crucible --
The Crucible
is a 1953 play by Arthur Miller. It is a dramatization of the Salem witchcraft trials that took place in Province of Massachusetts Bay during 1692 and 1693. Miller wrote the play as a response to McCarthyism, when the US government blacklisted accused communists. Miller himself was to be questioned by the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of "contempt of Congress" for failing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.

Dr. Moody uses Ketamine to put John and Phillipa to sleep during the wisdom tooth extractions.

is a drug used in human and veterinary medicine developed by Parke-Davis (today a part of Pfizer) in 1962. Its hydrochloride salt is sold as Ketanest, Ketaset, and Ketalar. Pharmacologically, ketamine is classified as an NMDA receptor antagonist. At high, fully anesthetic level doses, ketamine has also been found to bind to opioid μ receptors and sigma receptors. Like other drugs of this class such as tiletamine and phencyclidine (PCP), it induces a state referred to as "dissociative anesthesia".
Ketamine has a wide range of effects in humans, including analgesia, anesthesia, hallucinations, elevated blood pressure, and bronchodilation.Ketamine is primarily used for the induction and maintenance of general anesthesia, usually in combination with some sedative drug. Other uses include sedation in intensive care, analgesia (particularly in emergency medicine), and treatment of bronchospasm. It is also a popular anesthetic in veterinary medicine.

On page 34: In a dream, Uncle Nimrod visits John and Phillipa at the Brighton Royal Pavillion.


The Royal Pavilion is a former royal residence located in Brighton, England. It was built in the early 19th Century as a seaside retreat for the then Prince Regent. It is often referred to as the Brighton Pavilion. It is built in the Indo-Saracenic style prevalent in India for most of the 19th Century.

Coleridge.jpgOn page 34, Nimrod quotes Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure dome decree." Here is more of this poem... To read the poem in its entirety click here.
The poem's opening lines are often quoted, and it introduces the name Xanadu (or Shangdu, the summer palace of Kublai Khan):

In Xanadu did Kubla KhanA stately pleasure-dome decree:Where Alph, the sacred river, ranThrough caverns measureless to manDown to a sunless sea.
Coleridge claimed that the poem was inspired by an opium-induced dream (implicit in the poem's subtitle A Vision in a Dream) but that the composition was interrupted by a person from Porlock. A note on a manuscript by Coleridge explicitly states that he had taken opium at the time to combat dysentery. Some have speculated that the vivid imagery of the poem stems from a waking hallucination, most likely opium-induced. Additionally, a quotation from William Bartram is believed to have been a source of the poem. There is widespread speculation on the poem's meaning, some suggesting the author is merely portraying his vision while others insist on a theme or purpose.

On page 34, In John and Phillipa's dream an Abyssinian maid plays the dulcimer.


The Appalachian dulcimer (or mountain dulcimer) is a fretted string instrument of the zither family, typically with three or four strings. It is native to the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.

There is also a hammered dulcimer. I'm not sure which one our author, P.B. Kerr, is referring to in our story.

Nimrod plays Tesserae with the twins during their "dream" on page 34

Playing Dice was very popular game among the Romans. The Romans called these tesserae, but they also had a type with only four marked faces called tali. The only difference between these Roman dice and modern dice is that the numbers were arranged such that any two opposite sides would add up to seven. Dice were shaken in a cup then tossed, as croupiers do today. Bets were placed the same manner as we place them today. Greeks played with three dice, but Romans played with two, except for the board game Duodecim Scripta.
[[image:../images/pomdice.gif width="251" height="180" align="right"]]This game was played in taverns as well as gambling houses, brothels and on the street. The emperor pomdice.gifCommodus was fond of gambling with dice, and once turned the Imperial Palace into a brothel and gambling house to raise money for the treasury he bankrupted. In this he may have followed a precedent set by the mad emperor Caligula.
The game of dice could be played with other pieces, such as knucklebones, or Senet sticks, which would be tossed in the same way. The Romans, in fact, played a variety of games of chance for the purpose of gambling. Coin tossing was known as capita aut navia, which means "heads or ships," (early Roman coins always had a ship on the tail side). These games were often played in the streets.

On page 36: Uncle Nimrod refers to a game that's called Astaragali. He explains that it is, "A game played with seven hexagonal dice...A game that was invented thousands of years ago to circumvent luck."

I am not sure how it circumvents luck.

This is all I could find...
Before standard cubical dice became common, ancient peoples would use fruit stones, sets of flat sticks, sea shells, nut shells, and pebbles to generate random results for games. These were probably adopted from witch doctors and shaman who would throw them to gain insight and knowledge of the unknown and things to come. Animal knuckle bones were the next step in the evolution of dice. The Greeks and Romans used sheep anklebones as well as the more developed cubical spotted dice. The Romans called the four-sided anklebones Tali or Astaragali and the standard six-sided dice Tesserae. The Arab word for knuckle bones is the same as that for dice, and playing with dice is known as “rolling the bones” to this day.
Of course, many games have always been played with dice, the dice being employed as random number generators. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt were portrayed playing dice and both the Romans and Greeks were keen dice players. Roman Emperors notoriously played and gambled with dice compulsively. Dice games are known to have been popular in Europe during the Middle Ages. In England, both Richard the Lion Heart and King John gambled with dice, and King Henry VIII lost the bells of old St Paul's church on a roll of the dice.

dreaming.jpgOn page 36, Phillipa and John think that they are just having a crazy dream, but Uncle Nimrod tells them that, "the Aboriginal peoples of Australia...dreaming is as important as real life. Quite often, it's where all the really important things happen."

In Australian Aboriginal mythology, The Dreaming or Altjeringa (also called the Dreamtime) is a sacred 'once upon a time' in which ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed The Creation.
Fred Alan Wolf opens chapter nine of The Dreaming Universe (1994) entitled The Dreamtime with a quote from The Last Wave, a film by Peter Weir:

Aboriginals believe in two forms of time; two parallel streams of activity. One is the daily objective activity, the other is an infinite spiritual cycle called the "dreamtime", more real than reality itself. Whatever happens in the dreamtime establishes the values, symbols, and laws of Aboriginal society. It was believed that some people of unusual spiritual powers had contact with the dreamtime.