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RANGE: A Stylus Devil comes with every phonograph sold in America.
This ear-bending imp is to be found under the machine’s tone arm, hanging in
a position convenient to steer minute flecks of ash, hair, and other rubbish
toward the needle. If seen, the Stylus Devil will usually run up the tone arm
with such great speed that the surprised viewer will “accidentally” drop the
arm onto the record, causing the slam and scream of a stylus sliding across
the disc and leaving a deep scratch in its wake. This, if anything, is music to
the Devil’s ears.
HABITS: The Stylus Devil is a most malicious member of a larger group of
demons known as the Stereogres, those two-faced folk who pass their time
destroying our listening pleasure: tempting components to become
incompatible, causing static wow, flutter, etc. The Devil’s own greatest
delight is to cause a phonograph record to stick and, when the listener
approaches, to cause it to play normally. We may take some solace in
knowing that occasionally they laugh so hard at their own cleverness that
they fall off the tone arm and come to grief on the needle. Their mashed
forms resemble balls of dust.
HISTORY: The Stylus Devil appears to be a native American fairy,
although creatures of similar habits have been sighted as far away as
Germany, Japan and (increasingly) Taiwan. His first appearance may have
been in the New Jersey laboratories of Thomas Alva Edison, where his birth
was announced by a great howling of neighborhood dogs.
Even though he has no history to speak of, the Stylus Devil nonetheless
has many relatives, including The Tape Worm, who enjoys snagging cassette
tapes into Gordian knots, and the Video Bugger, whose peculiar joy it is to
depress the “record” button before you screen your incredibly rare bootleg
outtakes from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
SPOTTER’S TIPS: It is virtually impossible to sight a Stylus Devil. They
are, however, reported to be averse to the music of “Splattered Boots,” an
Australian New Wave band, and can be scared off with a sledge hammer,
which is unfortunately hard on sensitive turntables.
*When it comes to repetition, Stylus Devils set the record set the record set the