Whilst by Kristin Garth
CW: Mass Kidnapping, creating a new society
Two generations lived in Bollwick — the first culled from a cancelled reality show Victorian Village — cast and crew. No behind the scenes or fourth wall, in the parlance of the industry, all in this untelevised iteration became the talent. The crew was not informed of their new role until they reached the island.
Whilst cameras flank our hideaway, summon me
with lewd sobriquets, demeaning requests
upon a dirt basement floor. Nobody
obeyed but you anymore. We are blessed
with gifts of tongues, countless assignations
since we were young outside the scope of
the lens, where it is safe, for adulations,
mistress to waif. Taught this is not love
but shame we must hide. Enlace gloved fingers
with boys whilst we walk outside. Judged by men
appointed by a billionaire. We linger
in a staged old fashioned nightmare. Pretend
to acquiesce inside his dystopian game
whilst I submit, in secret, to a girl he named.
The second generation included Clementine and Lillian, young women whose poetry decorates the pages of this sordid tome (see excerpt above) and other direct descendants of the cast and crew. There would be no further generations on Bollwick.
Victorian Village was ahead of its time; its poor ratings reflect this. The show ran concurrently with groundbreaking and acclaimed docuseries television like The Real World, Road Rules and Eco-Challenge for one year in 1995. Victorian Village failed to garner an adequate audience. It spawned several copycats (Victorian Slum House, The 1900 House, Manor House). Some would argue it to be a spawn itself of shows like Living In The Past (1978) and The Victorian Kitchen Garden (1987). Inside of that small audience, though, of Victorian Village was one zealous, powerful and infamous fan, the billionaire social media titan, Neil Boll.
It is sociologically significant to note in its second iteration, Victorian Village, now Bollwick, had one casting agent, one producer as well as an audience of just one. Neil Boll assigned the roles on the island — designating crew to live as villagers in an agrarian lifestyle while cast lived as nobility in the three large estates (Castle Stone, Heartleaf Hall and Meredith Manor) surrounding the village.
No broadcast seasons, no threat of cancellation, but there would still be terminations of talent. These terminations were of a different sort – not the end of a career but of life itself. These crimes — for indeed the island of Bollwick was more crime scene than show location— were carried out by henchman who lived on Bollwick costumed as law enforcement, referred to as Peelers (a reference to Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) who inspired the nickname for the policing body of Victorian England.)
The Peelers were a dozen men, mostly of Israeli intelligence backgrounds, employed to maintain Boll’s twisted ideal of utopia — complete submission to assigned roles as nobility or villagers with no manifestations of the modern era they knew before. There had been some rebellion within the first generation shortly after the realities of Bollwick became known to it new inhabitants. The personal diaries of Neil Boll, (housed at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Library) shed light upon Boll’s challenges initially at Bollwick, namely the murdered dissenters.. The diaries do not enumerate the means by which the dissenters were dispatched.
Boll, like many megalomaniacs, was not physically charged with the day to day details of dominance. He, in fact, visited the island a mere six times in the nearly two and a half decades of its existence — never overnight. This is not to say that Boll’s involvement was distant but omnipresent, godlike, through the thousands of cameras installed all over the island’s geography – in trees, above beds, fireplace mantles and sundry other cleverly devised and undisclosed locations.
Neil Boll named every child born on the island, approved every coupling. The reasons for such interference in even the bedrooms of his inhabitants are evidenced, again, in the criminal’s diaries and even in the personal history of Boll himself. Boll was married once during his decades-long criminal spree upon the island of Bollwick. Neil married his wife, Dahlia Fagles Boll who attended a Ted Talk Boll gave in 2001 on the subject of entrepreneurial vision. Neil Boll preferred women
Much has been mentioned of the island Neil Boll named after himself without any identifying information about the island’s placement. Of course, the inhabitants of Bollwick were given no information about the outside world – including a context of where they were residing. They knew the climate was cold – brutal in the winter and cool to the point of cold in the summer months. The inhabitants of Castle Stone layered clothes and lounged with blankets most of the year.
In the diaries of Neil Boll, we learn that the island he would call Bollwick was known as Swan Island before Boll’s purchase in the year 1995. The timing of Boll’s purchase of the island establishes an interesting timeline in the criminal enterprise. Boll was purchasing the island that would become perhaps the most infamous crime scene in modern times while Victorian Village was still on television -- before any announcement of cancellation. This begs this question, was Boll planning to emulate Victorian Village on his own private stage with an entirely new populace had the show continued? How might he have gone about such an enterprise with the requisite secrecy essential to its success?
Neil Boll was incredibly successful in his criminal enterprise. For over 24 years, his crimes remained undetected and the cast of crew of Victorian Village lived under his thumb and those of their keepers, the Peelers.
The first generation followed the edicts, populating the island with new victims. The second generation offered the island none. From the curated writings of its members, like Clementine and Lillian, it appears the second generation was educated secretly, by their elders, in modern mores and evasive techniques of communication. The younger generation, as evidenced by the poetry, seems well versed in the placement of cameras and the necessity of secrets.
Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net 2020 finalist. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of 20 books of poetry including Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir (Hedgehog Poetry Press), Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press), and Girlarium (Fahmidan Journal). She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com