Step 1: The Pledge
A story told by mail
It began one evening with a strange letter from a law firm I'd never heard of. Inside, I was informed of the passing of my Great Aunt Hanna – I didn't even know I had a Great Aunt Hanna – and she had left a note for me. It was handwritten, and contained within a frail, ancient envelope. It was written in longhand, a warning about ghosts, and some coordinates that seem to be from a small island in the South Pacific. There was a map fragment of the island as well, but none of this makes any sense.
Our stories begin with The Pledge, often an unexpected letter, and often regarding a relative or other previously unknown person. This is the start of the adventure, a puzzling moment of intrigue that draws the recipient into the scheme. We pay careful attention to all aspects of what we send: the date of the stamps, the style of the postmark, the age of the paper... how everything feels in the hand is as important as what is written on the page.
Step 2: The Turn
Additional Strange Correspondence
A manilla envelope arrived today from what seems to be a shipping company. Their website says they specialize in time-sensitive shipments, but the contents of the envelope date from before even my parents were born. There's another map fragment that fits with the one from my Aunt, and a couple of coins that were wrapped in a newspaper article. I don't recognize what country they're from, and one of them has a large X cut into it, like by a sword or something. Crazy. Finally, there's a postcard addressed to Hanna with some numbers written on it, maybe it's some kind of code?
The narrative continues over weeks or months, supplying additional information to bring the story into focus. This is The Turn: photographs, old newspaper clippings, diary pages, patient records, and in some cases, coded messages. These all work to compel the recipient to research what is happening to them, and hook them into the storyline. We take a great deal of care to base the locations, people, and events of our stories in reality as much as possible, so when you search for the sanatorium, or experiments done at a particular Gulag, or the bankruptcy of a particular publisher online, a wealth of additional information appears, filling in blanks and making everything feel more authentic.
Step 3: The Prestige
An artifact arrives, within a wooden crate
A heavy box arrived today, and inside it was a wooden crate. There was a metal plate nailed to it, with my name on it, which was a little unsettling, I have to say. Because it was nailed shut, I had to find my pry bar from the basement, but when I opened the crate there was a lot more stuff to go through. Sitting on top were some newspaper articles, an old ship ticket, and a shipping manifest with a bunch of redacted items on it. But one thing was circled in faded red: a statue of some kind. Once I pulled the hay out of the crate, inside I found what must be the statue on the manifest. Now I'm going to try and piece together what's going on.
The artifact itself is a handmade objet d'art, the central focus of the story, and an impressive end to the adventure. It is The Prestige, acting as a touchstone for the experience, something that can be displayed on a mantelpiece, or set upon a table. Many conversations begin with "that's a strange statue you have there," This is the aspiration of what we do: creating fond memories that are told and retold to kith and kin, over dinner at home, or drinks in a pub. Our goal is to make this something that brings a spark every time its recounted.
Step 4: The Reveal
Wherein the ruse is disclosed
So, I found out where all these crazy things from my Great Aunt Hanna really came from: it was a birthday gift from my brother, that tricksy guy! It turns out my folks were in on it, too. I can't wait to show them everything all together.
All adventures must eventually come to an end, and our experiences are no different. We cap the story with a suitably mysterious black envelope, containing an elegantly sealed message on parchment. The note reveals who was behind this wonderful gift, as well as offering immediate membership to the recipient. It furnishes a moment for reflection on the experience as a whole, and provides some necessary closure.