Gruesome Cargoes

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

Terror by Night

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

Christine Campbell Thomson (ed.) – Terror by Night – (Selwyn & Blount, Aug, 1934)


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

Joseph O. Kesselring – King Cobra
A. Barclay – The Chamber Of Death
Merle Prout – The House Of the Worm
F. Bonney – The Flying Head
J. W. Benjamin – The Man Who Saw Red
Hazel Heald – The Horror in the Museum
Oscar Cook – Dog Death
August Derleth – The Metronome
Mary E. Counselman – The Accursed Isle
Hugh B. Cave – The Watcher In The Green Room
Robert E. Howard – Rogues in the House
Harold Ward – The Closed Door
Michael Gwynn – The Death Plant
Flavia Richardson – Behind the Yellow Door
L. A. Lewis – The Author’s Tale

Flavia Richardson – Behind The Yellow Door: Mrs. Merrill, the brilliant surgeon and pathologist, advertises for a secretary. Marcia Miles is told that her main duty will be to act as a companion to her daughter, Olivette. As it transpires, Merrill only wants some of Miss Miles to act as permanent companion to the girl, who is a horror from the waist down. Together with Dorcas the ‘chambermaid’, Mrs. Merrill overpowers Marcia and straps her down on the operating table: “Assuming that the operation is successful, as it must be, you will find Olivette’s deformed legs grafted on to your body, while Olivette will at last be able to enjoy her life as a normal human being. She has waited nearly twenty years. You have had twenty years. It’s your turn.”

Flavia Richardson – Behind The Yellow Door: More surgery as the mother of a deformed girl attempts to redress the balance with a little spare-part surgery. Incredibly depressing. Roger Pile

Mary E. Counselman – The Accursed Isle: When their boat goes down, seven Americans with little in common are washed up on a desert island. On their first night, the watch is savagely killed, someone or something tearing out his throat. As their number is whittled down, it becomes apparent that one of them is the killer although, as Dr. Kenshaw points out, it’s likely that the man responsible is unaware of his actions. Eventually only two of the seven remain alive, the doctor and family man Landers, each of them tortured by the possibility that it is they who harbour cannibalistic urges. A ship approaches the island …

L. A. Lewis- The Author’s Tale: “He would kidnap the venomous swine of a woman and hold her captive in a secret place that he knew, flogging her daily until brute force brought her to absolute subjection.”
He is ‘Lester’, usually an amiable enough fellow with a weakness for the ladies, and she is his third wife who has ruined him, while the remote spot is a deserted farmhouse where he has rigged up his apparatus, a frame with straps and pulleys attached easily capable of suspending his greedy ex until she sees the error of her ways. What he hadn’t accounted for was the place being haunted – and by fiends of particularly sadistic bent who commandeer his torture device and use it to discipline one of their own with a savagery that has even the vengeful Lester. what he witnesses that night persuades him to make a significant amendment to his plans …

Hazel Heald – The Horror in the Museum: Stephen Jones is a connoisseur of the macabre, so is fascinated by George Rogers’ wax museum where he finds hideous exhibits crafted with a skill amounting to genius. It only takes a few passages more to reveal that we are treading very familiar ground; the exhibits in the museum are of course not what they seem, and both Jones and Rogers have been browsing through the Necronomicon at the local lending library. Did the world need yet another Lovecraft pastiche even back in the days of Not At Night? How can you ask? This one is actually quite gruesome in places, and the passages describing a ruined city in the Arctic wastes are quite evocative. Roger Pile

Harold Ward – The Closed Door: Lucinda Marsh poisons her despised, bullying husband, Obie, then strangles him with a sheet, but not before he’s delivered his chilling curse: “I’ll come back from th’ grave, you hussy!” He does.

Michael Gwynn – The Death Plant:Rheingelder is in search of an exotic plant of two flowers that grow from a single stalk by which each man is governed: the pretty flower is the life plant, the hideous, hairy thing is death. If he can find his own plant and destroy the death bloom then, reasons the German, “I shall be immortal!”

The narrator ferries him around the East Indies for the best part of a year until, at last, Rheingelder’s faith is rewarded. Such a pity that his callous treatment of a Chinese hand along the way has alienated the captain to the point where he wants to kill him. Slowly.

Merle Prout – The House Of The Worm: “I saw for a moment – his face! Purple, bloated, the crawling flesh nearly covered his staring eyes; white worms swarmed his puffed body, exuded squirming from his nostrils and fell upon his vivid lips. The foul stench grew stronger, so thick was it that my tortured lungs cried out for relief.”

A black magic cult worship at a shrine in Sacrament Wood, unleashing a terrible plague across the US. Only the narrator, Art, and his fellow weird fiction enthusiast, Fred, know the truth behind the epidemic – but the authorities won’t believe them!

Told in a hysterical spasm of (bad) journalese, but a must for fans of festering corpse fun.

August Derleth – The Metronome: Mrs. Farwell drowns her stepson Jimmy. After the funeral he comes back to see that she doesn’t get away with it. The Coroner is mystified by all the wet footprints and the fact that Mrs. Farwell seems to have been suffocated with damp rags.

Hugh B. Cave – The Watcher In The Green Room: Anthony Kolitt has been on a five-day drunk since his wife left him. For some reason he’s started talking to a large bureau in his room and neighbour Bellini, a psychic, warns him against his morbid obsession lest he thinks what he fears into reality. We already suspect that Kolitt knows more about his wife’s disappearance than he’s letting on but still nothing quite prepares us for the gruesome apparition and bloody, mindless carnage that ensues.

This one is more ideally suited to the soon come Sex & Sadism pulps than the relatively restrained Weird Tales.

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