July 16th 1937, 3 ships set off from Murmansk in the Baltic Sea; their official mission is to deliver agricultural machinery to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The real reason for this voyage is known only by 3 men, one of them Josef Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union. The ships’ holds contain crates of industrial scrap iron wrapped in straw; they will pass a cursury examination if the convoy is stopped and challenged. The real cargo is contained in a small box in ship no. 2, the S.S. Wozny Crispus.
In that box are 6 reels of a recently made feature film called “Nothing Lasts Forever”; a romantic musical comedy of the kind that was popular in the 1930’s. The film would never receive a public screening and would only be seen by less than 30 people. There’s nothing remarkable about the film for the most part; it’s a lightweight piece about a farm worker and a girl working in the Yakolev factory who fall in love. The only thing of note in the movie occurs 10 minutes into the third reel. The young man, Trofimov, tells Ludmilla, his lover, that he must travel to the great folk dancing contest in Lodz and that he must leave her to follow his dream. What caught the attention of the film makers, and eventually Stalin himself, was an image inscribed on one of the set walls in the background. It was a diagram plus some inscriptions placed on what should have been the huge roller doors in the factory set. The diagram was not supposed to have been there; the set designs did not contain it on any of the drawings and when the Director of the film plus representatives of the NKVD quizzed the art director, he had no recollection of the diagram ever being placed there, only that a trainee set dresser who was hired at the last minute had put it up just before the cameras rolled. The dresser had then vanished from the set and no one could find him. A search of records found that no one of that name and description actually existed, his work papers were all forged and his identity a complete mystery. Photographic experts examined the film footage, and of the scene in particular and found that if you reversed the image and enlarged it, the diagram revealed itself to be plans for an advanced electronic device based on electromagnetic sound and light transmission. The text along the side not only contained a description of the machine’s components, but also plans for the German “Case Yellow” strategy for the invasion of the Low Countries and France.
The film was ordered to be boxed, and shipped with this convoy to an island owned by the Soviet Union in the North Atlantic; co-ordinates Longitude 45 degrees North, Latitude 22 degrees West. Don’t look for it, it’s not recorded on any maps. When the convoy arrived at the island, the ships were all ordered to be scuttled and the crew were instructed to burn their uniforms. Then, travelling under forged travel papers the crews took circuitous routes back to Russia, travelling in groups of no more than 3. Back in Russia, Stalin had the entire film crew and its director purged, with the exception of the 2 lead actors who were brainwashed and given new identities: The young man would later go on to be the Hollywood actor, Yul Brynner.
Work on building the prototype machine and the analysis of the film footage continued on the island. But the work was of such a dangerous nature, 15 technicians were killed over the ensuing 18 months and 3 went permanently insane. The device proved extremely unstable and many of the research team requested to be sent home; most of them were in turn purged. Things came to a head when one of the researchers, Zbgniew Karnalov, stole the 3rd reel of “Nothing Lasts Forever” and escaped the island, rendezvousing with an Argentinian cargo ship. Karnalov was taken to Paramaribo in the then Dutch Guyana, whereapon he made his way up along Central America before arriving in Austin, Texas. The search for him and the film was abandoned because the Russians had embroiled themselves in the Finnish-Soviet Winter War of 1939.
In America, Karnalov began a new life as Bruce Devereaux and got a job with the food company, Nabisco, then struggling against the industry leader, Kellogs. Devereaux rose rapidly through the ranks of the company, and many a market analyst were perplexed at Nabisco’s meteroric rise to rival Kellogs and Heinz. They could now produce and distribute food in a manner hitherto unknown, their refrigeration and packaging methods revolutionised the food industry forever. But little did the public know that Nabisco branched out into other areas; for example, they were the 3rd biggest subcontractor for Project Apollo, NASA’s moon mission. A lot of this work went un-noticed but disaster almost struck the company when part of the mysterious device, first discovered in a roll of film from nearly 25 years previously, turned up in the lining of the chair Bobby Fischer used in his challenge to win the 1972 World Chess Championship. Fischer famously complained of headaches and stomach troubles during the tournament, but the chair went missing for 12 hours, and when it returned, nothing amiss could be found in it.
Karnalov, now as Bruce Devereaux, defected to Kellogs in 1988, after the near collapse of Nabisco due to bad financial planning. A couple of years later, Pop Tarts were invented.