Gruesome Cargoes

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

Gruesome Cargoes

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007


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Many thanks to Robert Weinberg for kindly granting me permission to use his cover scans.

Gruesome Cargoes – ed. Christine Campbell Thomson, (Selwyn & Blount, 1928 )

Lockhart North – Dead Man’s Luck
Flavia Richardson – When Hell Laughed
Edmund Snell – The Black Spider
Anthony Wharton – The Hunting on the Doonagh Bog
Dora Christie-Murray – Drums of Fear
Harold Markham – The Hand From The Ruins
Harry De Windt – A Celestial Hell
Dagney Major – The Children of Bondage
Rupert Grayson – The Man Who Ordered a Double
Oscar Cook – When Glister Walked
H. Thomson – Offspring Of Hell
Francis Beeding – The Tomb
A. A. Rawlinson – The Creeping Horror
Benge Atlee – The Green Eyes of Mbuiri
L. Oulton – The Padlocked House

All but bereft of famous names, but here’s what the second-stringers could come up with when they put their minds to it.

Dagney Major – Children Of Bondage: A revolt among the circus freaks (a popular pat-time for the special people). The Blue Surprise, Human Egg, What-is-it and the Mystery turn on Joshua Bob, the cruel proprietor of Wonderland who keeps them in place with thumbscrews. The children also blame him for the death of their friend, Lamp-post the Giant. The Human Egg performs advanced surgery without first administering anesthetic.
Predates “Freaks” and the Tod Robbins story that inspired it, “Spurs”, by a few years.

Rupert Grayson – The Man Who Ordered A Double:The narrator and Mary take up residence at a Schloss located on an island on the Danube. From the first they are warned by the local innkeeper that the place had a dreadful reputation. An intruder does his best to make it worse. Without wishing to give too much away, the ending is outrageous.

Flavia Richardson – When Hell Laughed: Halloween. Terrific night for raising the Devil, making him bend to your will, etcetera etcetera. Such is the view of Chester Warren, dark occultist. Wife Estelle thinks it’s all a jolly wheeze until they’re deep into the business and figures manifest on the outside of the pentagram …

Dora Christie-Murray – Drums Of Fear: Stewart, the driver of ambulance 17, misses the Kings Cross train North, so he has to bring home a coffin containing the remains of a Geordie who’d specified he wished to be buried on Tyneside. As Stewart settles down to sleep, he hears a knocking from within the box …

Francis Beeding – The Tomb: French – Spanish border. The narrator witnesses a bizarre ritual while hiding away in a monastery. The monks drag a terrified girl toward a tomb at dead of night. When they reach it, a space beneath it opens and the young woman is thrown in. There’s a splash, and the sound of something moving around down there. That’s the last anyone sees of her.

Oscar Cook – When Glister Walked: Borneo: Glister, a white man, seduces a native girl, Jebee, who is already married to the God Maboga (or rather, his earthly receptacle, a big jug). When the crops fail, her people blame their woes on the scandalous affair, and a penitent Jebee returns to the village. Glister blows his brains out.
To appease their God, the natives dig up Glister’s body and abduct his son, whose head they intend adding to their impressive collection of trophies. Only district officers Dennis and Wakely can save him.

A very busy story with Glister’s ghost thrown in for good measure, it doesn’t really measure up to the stories featuring the delightfully ghoulish Warwick. Dennis also features in “Si Urag Of The Tale.”

Harry De Windt – A Celestial Hell: Englishman Alan Carris a beggar squatting outside the Palace Hotel. A year earlier, as a healthy sailor, he attempted to steal an idol from a temple while drunk. Arrested, he was kept in a plush room, well fed and even enjoyed a joke with one of his jailers, the priest Chang-Fu. Came the day when he was placed in the stocks with a vulture chained beside him …

Lockhart North – Dead Man’s Luck: San Franciscan gangster Whitey Ferris and master safe-cracker Billy Tumblers have a great thing going … until Billy realises his greedy colleague has been swindling him for years. Whitey shoots him dead and dumps the corpse in a weighted trunk having decided on a burial at sea. He loads his package onto the night ferry, but Billy doesn’t seem in any rush to dissolve the partnership.
A decent enough crime/ suspense yarn, but a curious choice of opener given that the horror content is relatively minimal.

L. Oulton – The Padlocked House: “The friar was standing in the middle of the room – the green light of his eyes shining with a deep intensity – jeering, jeering at them – his terrible smile the acme of mockery, with its background devoid of hope.”

Sisters Eleanor and Anne take up residence in a Dublin house which has stood empty for several years. Noises from the bedroom wardrobe, a phantom in a black cloak, the smell of putrefaction … no wonder the cat, Sybil, is forever freaking out.

H. Thomson – Offspring Of Hell: Windford is invited by Count Norlasky to stay at his Austrian home which he is attempting to vanquish of evil spirits. The Englishman is met at the door by the sinister retainer, Karl, who passes on a message from his master. It seems Norlasky has rid the place of werewolves, but the vampire-like elementals have proved a stumbling block. The letter trails off into unintelligible gibberish: “Do … can … help … soul … God help … dying”. What can it all mean? Windford investigates and comes into conflict with an elemental in the form of a jelly-like mass which is draining the breath from the stricken Count.

Edmund Snell – The Black Spider: (Ghost Stories, Jan. 1927). Mirabalu, Borneo. A half-drowned Japanese is rescued by The Batilcoa and Dr. Langley saves his life. In his delirium, Kamaga raves about his pet which has to be fed as it must grow and grow. The ‘pet’ turns out to be a massive spider. Kamaga takes a shine to Langley’s charge, Bianca Seldon, and sets up his laboratory close to her brother, Barry’s estate. When the brother boots him off his property for stalking the girl, Kamaga unleashes his pet plus other huge monstrosities from his terrifying menagerie which, of course, have all been treated with a serum. Terrific ending.

A. A. Rawlinson – The Creeping Horror: “Naked it was, this thing, and absolutely hairless – memberless, too, nothing but a mound of dead white flesh that quivered and shook like a jelly as it dragged its way towards us.”

Probably inspired by the Monster of Glamis legend (which is mentioned in passing). The narrator’s friend inherits a Scottish castle and agrees to let him explore it. Although the old ruin is supposed to be uninhabited, our man is met by a weird old timer who shows him his room. There is a foul charnel stench emanating from the pit below and the old guy offers to introduce him to his pet. Together the two descend the steps to find the gummy horror busy flattening its latest prey. A struggle ensues as the narrator realises he’s been lined up as the main course.

Harold Markham – The Hand From The Ruins:Prof. Carfrae gives brash wealthy Gregory and his wilting young wife Sonia a guided tour of Pompeii. The boorish Gregory decides he’d like to obtain a skull to use as an inkpot, settles for a human arm which he later throws to his pet Terrier, Snowball. The dog dies in agony, while his master’s demise is protracted and terrible.

Anthony Wharton – The Hunting On The Doonagh Bog: Ballaclare, County Mayo, 1919. Several years ago, Mrs. Garraty, a red eyed, wizened old horror had cursed the arrogant Mrs. Harte. That night, Mrs. Harte died within hours of giving birth to a blind monster. Her husband Ulick paid the greedy Mellish’s to look after the hideously deformed creature. Now fully grown, it kills its guardians and goes on the rampage. Fifty men and their dogs track it across the treacherous bogs where awaits a Sucking Pool …

Benge Atlee – The Green Eyes Of Mbuiri: West Africa. Dick Orpen has been promoted above the permanently drunk Mackinder who is being relieved of his post at the Trading Company. Desperate, Mackinder steals the jewels that act as the eyes of the Igalwas’ God, Mbuiri and plants them on his successor. Orpen is abducted and taken to the Ingalwas Temple where their Ju Ju man is to avenge the God by burning out the Englishman’s eyes.

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