The Midnight Cabaret

by DJ Babb

WARNING: This article contains some gruesome concepts and images. These are graphic examples of the Nephandi, and may be too explicit for some readers.

(with special thanks to Franchesca d'Medici. You know how to find me.)


They're known across the world to fans of magic and horror as masters of gore and prestidigitation, so gruesome that children are not allowed to attend. The Midnight Cabaret regularly tours across small clubs in America and occasionally to other parts of the globe, especially in England, France, and Germany. The illusionists of the Cabaret confuse the senses of the audience, and corrupts their very souls.

Background: The Midnight Cabaret was formed during the early 1980's, by the meeting of a Hermetic barabbi named Phillip Harding, and the Hollow One barabbi, Morlock, at a Nephandi coven. The two talked and soon formed a dark unity. By combining the Hermetic's interest in corruption of the masses, the Orphan's love for bloodshed and gore, and a mutual hobby of stage magic they conceived the idea of the "Midnight Cabaret, the Dark Magics of the World Revealed!"

The two unlikely partners soon formed a small gathering of loyal Disciples, Consors, and Acolytes from the population of Nephandi on Earth, and a few from beyond, from the darkest parts of the Umbra. They began their tours, always careful to maintain a high level of caution in their acts so as to escape detection from both the Traditions and the Technocracy. They began to become quite popular in select circles, and it was this small fame that led other Nephandi to contact them. Some would join as members of the Midnight Cabaret, some would try to wrest control of the Cabaret, and some would try to destroy the Cabaret entirely, but the show went on nonetheless.

In 1987 the Cabaret was infiltrated by a NWO agent known as Mr. Wells, but the spy had been slowly turning to the ways of the Nephandi long before he had joined the Cabaret. In fact, spy revealed himself to Morlock and Harding almost immediately, feeding his NWO superiors false information on the Cabaret so as to better protect it, a situation that will inevitably be discovered by his supervisors in the NWO.

In 1992 the Cabaret came under heavy attack by a cabal of Cult of Ecstasy mages after one of their performances. The Cabaret suffered many losses, but Mr. Wells turned in the information on the Ecstasy mages along with evidence showing the Cultists to be responsible for several magickal disturbances in the area (which were actually the result of the Cabaret), leading to the Cultists' enslavement in MECHA.

The Cabaret has just recently been able to fully recover, and its plans are growing in scope.

Acts: The Midnight Cabaret uses all manner of bizarre magic tricks and elaborate sets, but it also presents members of its "Freak Gallery", and wonders from its "Cabinet of Curiosities." Many of the creatures and items presented would have been destroyed by Paradox long ago, if it weren't for the fact that the Cabaret mages siphon Quintessence to feed the dark hungers of their freaks and curios, as well as the fact that audiences expect the existence of such things when they go to visit the Cabaret.

Within the Cabinet of Curiosities are many items of torture and death. Included among them is the guillotine claimed to have been used to behead Marie Antoinette, an iron maiden used in the execution of over 300 men and women, the crucifix of Rasputin, and a supposedly unknown painting by Hieronomus Bosch. In total the Cabinet consists of over two hundred odd items from around the world and different parts of history. Many historians and antiques dealers scoff at the possibility of the items being authentic, but the majority of them are later seen offering enormous sums for their purchase.

[In fact, many of these are authentic artifacts, with stagehands giving accurate representations of their histories. They are always surrounded by a Mind 2 effect, driving audience on-lookers to become obsessed with the object, even to the point of stealing it. Once taken, the object begins to show its darker side.]

One of the more commonly seen freaks is the Masochist. Wearing nothing but a g-string, he walks amongst the audience of the Cabaret, pins run through both sides of his neck, staples run all along his inner arms, and needles piercing the entire surface of his legs. For some shows the Masochist has been known to allow people in the audience to insert foot long needles into his stomach as far as the "stabber" can handle. Many are squeamish at first about the idea, but with the Masochist's persistence they soon find the concept amusing and many will run the entire needle through the man's body. Sometimes the Masochist will choose a person to stick smaller needles through the pupils of his eyes.

[By using Mind 2 magicks, the Masochist slowly reduces his audience's reluctance towards inflicting pain. An important feature in later "acts."]

Elsewhere, sitting on a small throne in a huge open box, is a man nearly buried by maggots, for he is the Maggot King. A thalidomide baby, the Maggot King has mere stumps for arms and legs, but his mind is gifted beyond that of any normal sleeper, as he seems to have the power to command the maggots to move and obey him. The Cabaret makes no claims as to how this is done, merely saying that the audience may judge for themselves how such a freak can stand to live. Oftentimes the audience will begin to snicker at, or ridicule the Maggot King, especially after he's eaten a fist full of his "subjects."

[Again, the use of Mind 2 magicks make the audience feel superior and arrogant, often leading them to ridicule the King.]

Among the magic acts, a popular trick is the "Resurrection!" Typically, Harding will select a subject from the audience, usually attractive and female, and ask her to step up on stage. Once on stage, Harding will blindfold her, pull a sword out from behind the curtain, and run her through the stomach. Many in the audience will begin to scream as the subject falls to the floor, blood flowing from her mouth. But Harding will command them to be silent, and will remove the blindfold, snap his fingers, and the subject's eyes will open as if nothing has happened.

[In this case, the subject IS slain, and her body possessed by the Nephandi spirit, Xane (described below). Also, another Mind 2 effect is used to continually reduce the audience's mental blocks against committing murder and acts of violence. In this case, Harding chooses females so as to increase the idea of acceptability towards violence against women.]

Morlock has also been known to stage an act he calls Parting of the Vapors. To begin the act, the room is filled with a thick fog, through which the audience can barely see. Then Morlock warns the audience, and begins chanting in ancient Sumerian. Soon the first of the wailings can be heard, faint at first, but growing in number. As the wails become clearer, the room fills with a multitude of spectral images of maimed people. Some sit in chairs, some rest upon members of the audience. Then, Morlock will scream at the spirits, telling them they must leave, but instead the spirits will began to yell and act as if they will devour the audience. At the last moment the lights will turn on, and the spirits will be gone.

[In actuality, the Sumerian, the fog, and the commanding of the spirits are all fake. In fact, Morlock has a small stable of spirits under his command which desire nothing more than to corrupt the souls of the living. When enacting this performance, Morlock will use Mind 2 and 3 magicks so as to weaken the mental resolve of the victims in the audience, allowing for greater ease of possession and corruption.]

Harding's favorite act, the Prophet, is one of the darkest performances ever seen. At the beginning, Harding warns the audience that they are about to see an act of erotic, almost pornographic extremes, and that they may leave if they feel like it. Of course, by this time into the act the audience hungers for more mystery and carnage, and few have the desire to leave. A naked woman is brought onto the stage, seemingly hypnotized, and laid upon a simple, uncovered table. From behind the curtain a man, wearing only a hood, enters the stage and walks up to the woman's face. Some in the audience expect an oral sex show at this point, but what happens is even more bizarre as the man begins to move his arm down the woman's throat.

The show proceeds slowly, as the man puts more and more of his body into the woman, over a period of what seems like hours. After the man has completely entered the woman, her stomach begins to swell, larger and larger, until finally the man can be seen emerging from between her legs, covered in the blood of his "re-birth." On top of this horror is added the fact that the man is no longer purely human, but instead has become something else. And the woman lay motionless on the table.

[Besides fulfilling Harding's perverse lusts, this act also allows for the re-birth of a person into a Nephandi. In this case, the woman (usually a prostitute or a vagrant) is drugged, and ritually prepared to house the Caul of the Cabaret, so that the recipient is truly reborn a Nephandi. The reborn are also "blessed" with gifts from the Wyrm, and added to the ever-growing number of freaks. As if this wasn't enough, Mind magicks are again used to promote more atrocity in the minds of the viewers as they watch the bizarre murder/birth scene.]

The Cabaret also performs magic acts of a more mundane sort, but always with the addition of some shockingly graphic element, and always some new twist. Common acts include the classical sawing a woman in half, only using a chainsaw and up the middle. Another common act is for Harding or Morlock to be split into thirds, and then have the individual sections move separate from one another, usually with each section holding onto tokens taken from three members of the audience. The image of a man split into thirds and scrambled between three different areas of the stage while each section fiddles with an item belonging to an audience member can be highly disturbing. And of course, all acts use enormous amounts of gore and bile. Not all of which is fake.

[The Cabaret often performs these more "mundane" acts when under suspected Technocracy observation, or just to impress the masses. When they feel safe, the Cabaret will continue to use it's magicks to corrupt the minds and souls of the masses, as well as to perform spectacular acts of prestidigitation.]

Members: Currently the Midnight Cabaret contains 23 members, including 12 stage hands. Morlock (Master) and Phillip Harding (Master) currently lead the Cabaret, with Mr. Wells (Master) as a consultant. Among their "freaks" are the Masochist (Disciple), the Maggot King (Adept), the Bottled Child (Disciple), the Trinity (Adepts), Gertrude (Acolyte), the Knight Errant(Adept), the Tiger Warrior (Acolyte), and the Window on the Human Machine. All are ruthless and deadly. Also, the Midnight Cabaret has a small collection of fetishes and other items infused with demonic energies, including the "lost dagger," an unknown painting by Hieronymus Bosch titled "The Abyss," and the axe of Lizzy Borden.


Characters of Note

Stagehands (12, all effectively identical)


The Maggot King

Mr. Wells


Xane (Demonic Tempter)

Phillip Harding

Tradition: Order of Hermes (barabbi) Essence: Pattern

Nature: Architect Demeanor: Director




Abilities: Alertness 5, Awareness 5, Blatancy 5, Cosmology 4, Dodge 2, Expression 5, Languages 4 (Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, English, Sumerian), Melee 4, Subterfuge 3, Garou Lore 4, Mage Lore 5, Wraith Lore 4, Wyrm Lore 5, Vampire Lore 5

Backgrounds: Arcane 5, Avatar 5, Destiny 5, Dream 4, Fame 2 (leader of the Midnight Cabaret), Follower 1 (Xane), Library 5 (over many subjects), Resources 5.

Spheres: Correspondence 5, Entropy 4, Forces 5, Life 5, Mind 4, Matter 4, Prime 5, Spirit 5, Time 4

Arete: 8 Willpower: 10

Quintessence: 6 Paradox: 8

Image: Phillip Harding never smiles. Ever. A emotion-less man in his early fifties, Harding is always dressed in the newest and most expensive fashions. Harding is always spotlessly clean, and his movements seem almost mechanical in their efficient expenditure of energy. Harding would seem to be ideal material for Iteration X, if it weren't for the fact that the man is thoroughly vile and corrupted by the Wyrm.

Background: Harding can't remember. He knows that he lost a battle to a woman in the Umbra who called herself Vera, and that he was once much more powerful and knowledgeable. But that is all he can remember from before 1968. Harding has spent the years since then relearning, and growing in power, intent on finding out who Vera is, and what role she played in his life. And then he shall kill her.

Role-Playing Notes: Never let them know what you feel. You always keep a part of your mind chanting incantations to protect your thoughts just to be safe. Always act as emotion-less as possible, to better hide your true thoughts from the others. You are driven by four desires: you seek power over others, knowledge of your past, the death of Vera (whoever she may be), the corruption of the masses, and brutalization of women to avenge your loss to Vera.

Tactics: The Cabaret works as a team of individuals. Each member tends to do their own thing, with Masochist and Mr. Wells using Mind Magicks to demoralize the enemy while the others go for more direct attacks. After a conflict, Mr. Wells will call upon his contacts in the NWO and have the Pogrom called against any survivors. As if this wasn't enough, each freak will take a pair of stagehands to respond to less threatening scenarios (such as the reclaiming of "borrowed" curios, and collection of sacrifices).

The Midnight Cabaret values subtlety and secrecy above all else. Their magicks are coincidental whenever possible, and will not risk discovery for the sake of a dozen souls. The Cabaret uses certain tactics depending on its location. In cities the Cabaret works coincidental magicks, and settles for the corruption of the items it displays. In the countryside, the cabaret has been known to become quite vulgar, and its members become an almost common sight in the nearby towns. Wherever they go however, the Cabaret is careful to perform only in out-of-the-way, hidden places, away from hostile eyes. And after a week or so, the Cabaret packs up it belongings and moves to a new location.

Story Ideas: 1) The players hear of a bizarre new magic show, where the performers are suspected of being Awakened. While at opening night for the act, Morlock begins his Parting of the Vapors act, and summons a horde of spirits from beyond. Perhaps the spirits prove beyond Morlock's control, and attack everyone in the audience. Another, more menacing possibility, is that one of the spirits "adopts" a PC, following him and whispering acts of evil into his ear.

2) A friend or love one of a PC went to the Cabaret, and never returned. The PCs, after a small bit of checking, learn of the Cabaret and how it performs brutal acts of violence and torture in its magic shows. The PCs, suspecting the Cabaret of somehow being behind the disappearance, seek out the Cabaret for some answers.

Of course, the Cabaret could be an innocent red-herring in this one case. The loved one may have been struck by car and placed in a hospital, unable to contact the PC. So that by the time the PCs discover that the Cabaret is innocent, Harding and Morlock will have ordered the PCs destruction.

3) (only for use after you've milked the Cabaret for everything you can) The PCs are after them, most likely with Technocracy allies (the alliance ends with the defeat of the Nephandi). As if this wasn't enough, the Marauders and other Nephandi have decided to take a shot at besting the Cabaret. Even others among the Traditions and Technocracy are after the Cabaret as a source of power and information. To buy themselves time, the Cabaret has discarded numerous amounts of its items and human/demon creations along the path of their pursuants.

The PCs and their allies have to deal with many things. Will they allow the Progenitors to capture the freaks alive for later study and disection (does even a Nephandi deserve that?)? Hermetics and Syndicate mages scramble to collect the valuable, powerful talismans of darkness and antiquity. The Nephandi and Marauders may appear at any time, attacking any faction, trying to seize as much as they can from their competitors. And maybe that albino will come looking for the Bosch painting he sold Harding....

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