Father Ernest was the head of St. Gall Boarding School, and is currently the head of the hospital that St. Gall has become. He is a very strict head master who is not afraid to severely punish students who he thinks deserve punishment. He seems to be very religious and wants all his students to act accordingly.
Father Ernest was also part of the Philosophy Club back in the days together with Jeremiah Devitt, Anthony Beechworth and Alexandre. In the end of chapter 2 Jeremiah discovers that Ernest also participated in the experiments related with breaching the veil (the playwright) with Jeremiah and his friends back in the boarding school days. Furthermore Ernest never stopped with trying to discover what is beyond the veil. In order to do so he transformed St.Gall in a hospital for the weak and dying, in order to attract being from beyond the veil. One of the theories is that weak and dying people are closer to the other side of the veil. An place that gathers these people was suited perfectly for this purpose. Together with Baldwin he sacrifices the weakest patients, by injecting them with the serum, in order to lift the Veil. He's being heavily affected by being confronted with the Simurg, the eye of the bird. After Devitt discovers this scheme, Ernest sets himself on fire in a last try to purge himself.
Biography, by avecEdit
Ernest was not one of the original members of Anthony's secret group. Anthony noticed that he was curious and invited him to join. Along with the others, Ernest took Anthony’s serum, entered the Veil, and saw “the eye of the bird.” Shortly thereafter, Ernest showed signs of mental illness. In early 1876, a student noticed that he was irritable, pale, and sweaty. A few weeks later, he stopped teaching. A month later, the school closed (Chapter 2). [Or maybe they just announced that it was going to close, since Devitt appears in a graduation photo.]
It seems fairly clear that Ernest’s mentally instability was due to his experiences in the Veil, especially seeing the Simurg. Ernest was probably not ill before then, or else Anthony would not have invited him to join. Also, Anthony described Ernest as being “one of the most renowned theologists” (Chapter 2), which would seem to imply that he was very sharp and composed. I'm guessing that his illness was sudden and profound. It’s implied that another priest (Father Eugene) became ill at the same time. I wonder if the Simurg could somehow "see" Eugene because he was close to Ernest. (It’s also possible that Ernest stole the serum and used it on Eugene.) When the priests abandoned St. Gall, only Ernest remained behind. Perhaps the priests believed that Ernest and St. Gall had both become toxic.
Sometime later, maybe in the 1880s, an order of nuns turned St. Gall into a hospital. By that time, Ernest was a Monsignor. The nuns accepted Ernest as the head of the hospital, though they rarely saw him. Ernest instructed them to hire Frank Baldwin as a caretaker.
When Devitt investigated the hospital, he found records of six suspicious deaths that occurred in November and December 1891 (there were also two deaths that were not necessarily suspicious) (Chapter 2). Baldwin was eventually found guilty of murdering 14 hospital patients (Collector’s Edition). Since six of Baldwin’s murders occurred during the last two months of 1891, then most (or all) of the other eight murders might have occurred earlier in 1891. Devitt seemed to believe that the deaths had been occurring “lately” (Chapter 2). If the murders didn’t start until 1891, then maybe Ernest suddenly went completely mad in early 1891 (whereas before he had only been mentally ill). This is important because Anthony also went mad in early 1891.
Baldwin almost certainly injected his victims with serum. One of the patients spoke of “the darkness of his eye,” which matches Devitt’s description of the Simurg (Chapter 2). Kaufmann said that the nuns had found a hypodermic needle in Devitt’s coffin, along with traces of an unknown substance (Chapter 4). Ms. Parnell was also at St. Gall, and she apparently also entered the Veil (Collector’s Edition). Ernest said that he was trying to send his victims to the Simurg (Chapter 2).
It’s unclear how Ernest came to possess the serum. Anthony might have left it behind when the boarding school closed in 1876. But Devitt remembered Anthony as being very careful during his boarding school days (Chapter 2). Also, I don’t know if the serum would work after sitting around for 15 years.
Ernest might have acquired the serum from Alexandre or another member of the Playwright. In St. Gall, there is a picture of Devitt’s graduating class, with one person scratched out. It doesn’t look like Alexandre is in the photo (Chapter 2). If Ernest scratched out Alexandre’s picture, maybe there’s some sort of connection between them. However, Alexandre had been in a trance since 1887 and Ernest probably did not use the serum until 1891. Also, the Playwright’s one rule is “see that no one knows” (Chapter 5). If they had given the serum to an unstable person like Ernest, they’d risk creating a public scandal (and Baldwin's actions did indeed become very public) (Chapter 4).
It’s possible that Ernest stole the serum or acquired it by accident. He might have gotten it from someone we haven’t seen yet. It’s fun to think that Devitt gave him the serum and then forgot about it.
Personally, I suspect that Ernest got the serum from Anthony. Some evidence suggests that they went mad at the same time. Also, Anthony explicitly told Devitt to go to St. Gall, where “they” would be waiting for him (Chapter 1). During Ernest’s autopsy, a pathologist found a piece of paper in his stomach. It was a list of names: Ernest Glynn, Jeremiah Devitt, Alexandre D., and Hugo Ashdown. Hugo’s name was crossed out (Collector’s Edition). This list may suggest a connection between Ernest and Anthony, since Ernest had the list and Anthony’s name wasn’t on it.
On the other hand, Ernest said, “I haven’t heard from any of you” (Chapter 2), which would seem to imply that he had no contact with anyone from Devitt's student group. It's possible that Ernest meant that he hadn't been in contact with the other three witnesses, but he *had* been in contact with Anthony, who was technically not a “witness.” In other words, maybe Ernest was trying to mislead Devitt without lying to him. Personally, I think a simpler explanation is that Ernest was unreliable. He might not have lied intentionally, but he was raving without thinking about what he was saying. In any event, whoever made the list knew to cross out Hugo’s name. Therefore, either Ernest knew about Hugo, or he was in contact with someone who knew about Hugo.
If Anthony gave Ernest the serum, why would he send Devitt to St. Gall? Maybe he didn't realize that people were being murdered there. Maybe Anthony was hoping that Devitt would use the serum to recover his memories and find a way to oppose the Simurg. Another, darker possibility is that Anthony was hoping Ernest would kill Devitt. Maybe Anthony believed that, if a person has seen the Simurg, then the Simurg could use that person to influence our world. Therefore, if Anthony killed everyone who has seen the Simurg, then the Simurg would lose its influence over our world. Of course, according to Skidd, many people in the Playwright have also glimpsed the “horrors” beyond the Veil. Anthony may have been a member of the Playwright (he possessed a ceremonial robe and mask). Did he not realize how many people may have seen the Simurg? Or does it take more than a glimpse of the Simurg to be a “witness”?
Anthony spoke regretfully about the people who died. I could be wrong, but I don’t have the impression that he killed them.
In Chapter 8, the Playwright did not seem to be particularly concerned about the Simurg.
When Devitt approached Ernest’s room, someone broke the windows in the hallway. It could have been just a jump scare that we shouldn’t think too much about. Or maybe someone (or something) was trying to discourage Devitt from making contact with Ernest. Could it have been Alexandre, working from within the veil? Could Alexandre have been trying to drive Devitt away, so that Baldwin wouldn't be able to kill him?