Gruesome Cargoes

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


Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

Charles Lloyd (ed) – Shivers (Phillip Allan, 1933)


Many thanks to Raymond Russell and Rosalie Parker of Tartarus Press and the excellent Supernatural Fiction Database for kindly granting me permission to use this cover scan.

H. R. Wakefield – The 17th Hole at Duncaster
Charles Lloyd – An Eye for an Eye
Tod Robbins – Wild Wullie the Waster
Mrs. Everett – The Death Mask
Elliott O’Donnell – The Ghost in the Ring
Philip Murray – The Poplar Tree
H. R. Wakefield – “And He Shall Sing…”
Tod Robbins – Who Wants a Green Bottle?
Elliott O’Donnell – The Tank of Death

H. R. Wakefield – The Seventeenth Hole At Duncaster: A golf club on the Norfolk coast. The course has recently been extended at the expense of a strip of woodland, but members complain the hole is unplayable and a particularly foul stench periodically emanates from the vicinity. The secretary, Mr. Baxter, suffers nightmares in which he is gloatingly informed of who will be next to die at the 17th, and the voices are never wrong. After a woman is stripped and murdered by persons unknown at the blighted spot, he wisely obtains a transfer to London, where he later learns that ‘Blood Wood’ – as it is known locally – was once the haunt of Druids.

Charles Birkin – An Eye For An Eye: Dr. Peters’ daughter, Angela, is raped and murdered on Wimbledon Common, the finer details of the crime being too ghastly to be divulged to the press. The finger of suspicion points at Peters’ chauffeur, George Yarrow, but he walks from the court a free man as there is no concrete evidence against him. Peters gives him his old job back and bides his time until such evidence is forthcoming. When Yarrow’s embittered lover, Nelly Torr, comes out of a coma, she gives him enough detail to hang the wretch, but Dr. Peters isn’t about to let him off that lightly.

Mrs. Everett – The Death Mask: Gloriana Enderby is fanatically opposed to second marriages. On her deathbed she requests that her husband, Tom, covers her face with a particular handkerchief she values among her possessions.
After the funeral Tom sets his cap at the new neighbours’ daughter, Lucy Ashcroft. When they become engaged Gloriana haunts them, the image of her face forming upon hankies and sheets. When it glowers at them from the tablecloth as they’re attempting to dine, Lucy throws in the towel.

H. R. Wakefield – “And He Shall Sing …”: “A foul and deadly stench filled the room … he saw that that Something was naked, livid, and that blood was streaming jerkily from its rotting lips.”

Mr. Kato approaches Mr. Cheltenham with a book of Japanese verse which he is desperate to see published. Cheltenham realises he has a masterpiece on his hands, but can it really be the work of the semi-literate Kato and, if not, what’s happened to the man who really wrote it? Come to that, why is he always seeing a small black figure out of the corner of his eye these days?

Buried underneath Wakefield’s usual sarcasm, a truly grim story surreptitiously claws its way to the surface.

Tod Robbins – Wild Wullie the Waster: Branstaun Tower, Scotland. A pointless argument during a billiards match leads to the premature ends of Wild Wullie Campbell and his friend Roderick Dingwall. As ghosts the “doddering old fossils” hide away in the attic by day and enjoy nightly billiards, but then the new owners arrive …
Delightful. It’s like some kind of literary precursor to the Shiver & Shake comic strip!

Elliott O’Donnell – The Ghost in the Ring: Prize fighter Jim Rogers disposes of his next opponent Eddy O’Malley by nudging him into a quicksands. Two years later O’Malley’s ghost comes to the assistance of a novice who is fighting Rogers for the Californian heavyweight championship.

Philip Murray – The Poplar Tree: Her late husband planted the tree and, at first, it was a comfort to her in her solitude. Of late it’s started to creep her out. So she instructs the gardener to chop it down …

Elliott O’Donnell – The Tank of Death: Dick ‘The Snake’ Driscoll, an ex-rugby international now gentleman thief, is hired by Prof. Carleras to steal a document from a house in Maida Vale. Driscoll’s friend Marcelle Garteau takes a job at The Herrings as a maid, fending off her lecherous employer for a fortnight until her mission is accomplished. A freak injury prevents Driscoll from taking the papers to Carleras, so Marcelle goes in his stead. Unfortunately for her, the professor has no intention of settling his debt and he doesn’t want any living witnesses to the theft either …

Part crime caper, part love story and just the one moment of horror to warrant it’s inclusion in the book, this is a more enjoyable read than The Ghost In The Ring.

Tod Robbins – Who Wants A Green Bottle?: Scotland. The Laird of Kilgour’s deathbed confession. When his miserly Uncle Peter died, Kilgour gleefully partied the old skinflint’s fortune away. One Halloween he sees a tiny man trying to make away with a gold coin. Trapping him under a tumbler, he extracts from his uncle (for it is his spirit) a wish and is soon given a guided tour of Hell. He learns that, to avoid the torments of the pit, the soul must be contained in a green bottle at the moment of death.

Plenty of potential for horror, but this is Robbins at his most whimsical.


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