Gruesome Cargoes

Horror fiction 1925-1937: ‘Not At Nights’ & ‘Creeps’


Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

Charles Lloyd (ed.) – Creeps (Phillip Allan,1932)

Thanks to Rog Pile for providing this scan

Tod Robbins – Silent, White, & Beautiful
H. R. Wakefield – The Red Lodge
Elliott O’Donnell – The Ghost Table
Tod Robbins – Spurs
H. R. Wakefield – “He Cometh And He Passeth By”
Philip Murray – The Charnel House
Elliott O’Donnell – A Wager And A Ghost
Charles Lloyd – The Last Night
Tod Robbins – Cockrow Inn

Tod Robbins – Silent, White And Beautiful: New York. Confession of sculptor Rene Galien as he awaits execution in the electric chair. Having been tricked into marriage to her daughter Louise by the conniving Madame Fabien, Rene poisons both, encases them both in clay and creates the finest statue of his career. But it’s not quite the finished article. “It was shortly after this that I began to visit the park. With bags of candy in my pocket, I soon made friends with a multitude of children”. A little boy and girl are added to ‘the Happy Family’. Galen decides that the finishing touch will be a husband for Louise. When a detective calls, investigating the disappearance of the infants, the sculptor is already sizing him up as the final component for his creation when he upsets M. Fabien on her pedestal and her plaster shell shatters to pieces on the floor.

H. R. Wakefield – The Red Lodge: The narrator, his wife Mary and son Tim move into the old Queen Anne house of the title, rented from an unscrupulous estate agent, Wilkes, who turns a blind eye to the numerous tragic deaths associated with the property. Before long the new residents are subjected to all manner of supernatural manifestations, beginning with the slime trodden into the carpets of many of the rooms by persons unseen and the recurrent apparition of a ‘green monkey’ sprinting toward the pond. Legend has it that, back in the early eighteenth century, the then owner brided his servants to terrify his wife to death. They succeeded all too well, and one night she ran from the house and drowned herself. Her husband wasted no time in installing a harem at the lodge, but one by one his lovers followed her example. And so it has continued to the present day.

Apparently the first ghost story Wakefield ever wrote, this has endured as a genuine creepy classic. As with all but two of his contributions to the series, The Red Lodge was reprinted from his excellent collection They Return At Evening (Philip Allan, 1928).

Tod Robbins – Spurs: Famously, the basis for Todd Browning’s infinitely scarier Freaks. Copo’s Circus. “She loved Simon LaFleur: but she well knew this Romeo in tights would never espouse a dowerless girl”, so when the 28-inch tall Jacques Courbe proposes to her, bareback rider Jean-Marie agrees to marry him as a means of getting her hands on his inheritance. The truth emerges in a drunken moment at the wedding feast and the humiliated Jacques ensures her life is a living hell from then on. A fine story in its own right, but don’t expect the notorious chicken woman episode from the movie as the punishment the dwarf inflicts on his gold-digging wife is one of degradation as opposed to vivisection.

Elliott O’Donnell – A Wager And A Ghost: Valladolid. Luzan challenges fellow medical student Juan de Garez to spend a night alone in the dissecting room at St. Fernando Hospital. It is agreed that he will remain there from 11 at night until 4 in the morning whereupon Luzan and their mutual friends Hervada and Suarez will come and release him. Juan’s only conditions are that he is allowed a fire and they give their solemn oath that they’ll not play a trick on him. Luzan gives his word when, of course, he’s already instigated his macabre prank in collusion with the night-watchman. Unfortunately, he’d not counted on the corpse of a murderer, Enrique Geraldo, being laid out in the dissecting room the previous day.

H. R. Wakefield – ‘He Cometh And He Passeth By’: A clever reworking of M. R. James’ Casting The Runes. London, in and around Shaftsbury Avenue and Museum Street. Oscar Clinton (a thinly veiled Aleister Crowley) is a master Satanist, incorrigible sponger, ruiner of women and patron of the Chorazin Club. Philip, fearful that Clinton will abuse his friends’ good nature as he has his own, veto’s his application to join ‘Ye Ancient Mysteries’ – “it meets once a month and discusses famous mysteries of the past – the Marie Celeste, the ‘MacLachlan case’, and so on with a flippant but scholarly zeal” – and, when the black magician learns of this, he sics a demon on him via a curious paper doll he sends him in the post. Philip’s friend, Edward Bellamy is unable to save him from the huge, shadowy form so instead vows to destroy Clinton.

Charles Lloyd – The Last Night: “It’s to be our secret, my dear. You understand that, don’t you? If you tell anyone that I shall come, I’ll kill you.” Meryham Mental Home. Nora, who is to be freed tomorrow after three years incarceration, pleads with the staff not to let Dr. Morris come anywhere near her. She can’t get Dr. Patterson to listen to her, and nurse tells her to stop being a naughty girl or they’ll keep her in indefinitely. In the early hours, Dr. Morris pays her a visit. After hypnotizing her he sets out to prove that “pain exists only in the imagination.” Out comes the scalpel …

Philip Murray – The Charnel House: Henry Vokes is a mortuary assistant. One night he admits a ghoulish thrill-seeker to watch him embalming one lucky corpses and muses: “I wonder if I shall come to this myself?” When he dies, he gets to find out, as he remains conscious throughout the whole procedure, right down to the lid being screwed shut on his coffin.

Elliott O’Donnell – The Ghost Table: Val buys the fiendish furniture in an Earl’s Court antique store at a ridiculously reasonable price. He is particularly impressed with the finely carved legs which end in clawed feet. The first night they have it, the heavy oak table goes on the rampage, trashing the drawing room. The second, and the cat, Miggles, is “literally pounded to pieces”. It is not so much a ‘Ghost Table’ as a possessed one, animated during a seance by a professor experimenting in telekinesis.

Tod Robbins – Cock-Crow Inn: On Halloween night, the notorious pirate Whitechapel Willie climbs down from the gallows and sets off for the village of Wishbone Point to avenge himself on Hangman Tibbit and steal from him his girl, Nancy Greer, the innkeeper’s daughter. He’s been swinging for twenty days and the crows have modified his looks, but then Nancy always was sweet on him. Although Tibbet survives, Nancy is a madwoman from that day forth and the Tibbet family are cursed to be born with elongated necks. It’s widely held amongst the villagers that Nancy is entirely to blame: if she’d only attended the burning of witch Anna Mulvane that night as a good Christian woman should then none of it would have happened.


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