Last Saturday an article appeared on The Silent Listener. The Life and Works of J.H.W. Eldermans in the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. You can read the online version here.
This article is in Dutch only, here is the translation in English:
A civil servant from The Hague worked on thousands of drawings full of magical symbols which he fearfully kept secret. Now his works are exhibited in a British museum for Witchcraft.
Theo Paijmans 16-06-18, 17:55 Final update: 17.59
Those who cross the threshold of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the English town Boscastle, wanders into a twilight zone of occultism and superstition. A special room of this museum is filled with remarkable drawings full of magical symbolism. This is the work of Jan Eldermans from The Hague. At days he worked at the Probation Offices, at night he retreated in his world of magic. For forty years Eldermans drew night after night sheets of paper full of symbols and magic spells. If he wasn’t drawing, he could be found in the Royal Library, where he avidly read all kinds of books on magic. After his passing, the mystery grew larger. Because his drawings were donated to an English museum, Eldermans is seen as a dark Harry Potter who hid the keys to occult secrets in his works.
A quest for three years
It motivated cultural historian Wilmar Taal to study the civil servant from The Hague with his second, hidden life. Eventually that quest lasted three years. Taal wrote a lengthy book on Eldermans, which recently rolled off the press in England. Not a simple matter, because Eldermans was secretive about his activities during his life. He didn’t like to discuss private matters. “Even finding out where he went to school was a hell of a job”, Taal sighs. He pushed through, visited archives in The Netherlands and abroad and interviewed family members of the creator of the magical drawings from The Hague. Who was Eldermans?
The Artist was born in 1904 in Enschede. His father earned a living as a train conductor. As a child he was a shy little boy. On his sixteenth he went into the military service. The family held their vacations on the Veluwe and Jan was there quite often. On one of his walks during the 1920’s he met a mysterious person, who taught him about the occult.
Van Reesstraat 25
In 1949 Eldermans moved to The Hague when an offer for a job at the Probation council came through. He moved to a house in the Van Reesstraat 25. There he is seen at his desk, bent over his drawings of which he made thousands. Around him his wife and two daughters minded their own business.
His drawings include references to secret societies like the “Magical circle The Hague’ and all kinds of persons with whom he might have formed these societies. But how hard he sought, Taal never found a trace of these societies. ‘Eldermans created a world of his own, in which he was the important centre. His brother was more successful, he became chief editor of the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, while he was a simple probation officer.
Eldermans appeared to make everything up, Taal concludes. But his drawings in the English witchcraft museum still fascinate visitors to a certain degree. It might have to do with the fact that most English visitors can’t read the Dutch texts on his drawings. This makes everything more mysterious.
But Taal remains with a gnawing thought. “Eldermans lived according to the rules of the magical arts, knowledge should not be shared with the uninitiated”. A policy of ‘don’t tell anything’. Could it be possible that Eldermans still has a secret hidden away? It could be possible, Taal thinks.
A few weeks before his passing Eldermans suddenly started to destroy his life’s work. According to eye-witnesses he was busy for weeks. What he put in the shredder can’t be established anymore. More than half of his drawings is the estimation. But then death catches up with him. Eldermans passes away on 17 March 1985. He is cremated five days later. His ashes are scattered on a cemetery near Ockenburgh crematory. None of his relatives is present.
The occultist behind the drawing board doesn’t leave a headstone, nothing reminds of his existence. ‘According to his wishes’, the brief obituary mentioned.
© 2018 Theo Paijmans (newspaper article)
© 2018 Wilmar Taal