Gruesome Cargoes

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

Archive for the ‘Charles Birkin’ Category

Quakes

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

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

quakes

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.

Mirabel Cobbold – The Incredible
Phyllis Stone – B72
P. Beaufoy Barry – The Man In The Mirror
Charles Lloyd – Old Mrs. Strathers
H. Glyn-Ward – The Spirit Of Higgins
Hester Gorst – Littlesmith
Ismay Trimble – The Terror By Night
Douglas Newton – The People Of Darkness
A.J. Woodgate – Death Is Avenged
Charles Lloyd – The Actor’s Story
Edith Olivier – Dead Men’s Bones
Elliott O’Donnell – The Cupboard Of Dread
Charles Cullum – Queer

The terror that lurked and laughed in the night, the Thing that screamed in the crypt, the baby with webbed hands, the monster that came out of the mirror – these are among the unpublished stories by Edith Olivier, Douglas Newton, Elliott O’Donnell, Charles Lloyd, and other brilliant writers.

Charles Lloyd – Old Mrs. Strathers: Paralysed by a stroke, old Mrs. Strathers is powerless to intervene on her doting son’s behalf when his faithless wife, Molly, sets about poisoning him. As Ronnie lies dying, with a supreme effort she raises herself from her chair, and … pitches headfirst into the fireplace ….

Edith Olivier – Dead Men’s Bones: When Southover church was under construction, workmen excavated a pile of bones indicating that the site had once been a burial ground. The remains are stored away en masse. A young girl is given the job of locking the vault for the night and walks in on a huge commotion. The bones are trying to sort themselves out.

… and that’s all I can tell you about Quakes at this moment in time.

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Nightmares

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

Charles Lloyd (Birkin) – Nightmares (Philip Allan, 1933)

nightmares

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.

Numbered among the sensations are: “High Tide”, a grisly and extremely ingenious story; “The Headless Leper”, which sounds, shall we say … promising; “The Whimpus” that lured men to their death; the dancer who was crucified with her lover on a golden door; a haunted bungalow set among the sinister forests of the Far East; and other tales of the eerie and terrible.

Hester Holland Gaskell – High Tide
John Ratho – The Escape
Aldwyn Tibbett – “Binkie”
Philip Murray – Hangman’s Cottage
Frederick Cowles – The Headless Leper
Charles Lloyd – “The Happy Dancers”
B. Lumsden Milne – The Haunted Bungalow
V.A. Chappell – The End of the Holiday
Sonya Converse – “Is It True?”
Ronald Aggett – The Curse
Tod Robbins – The Whimpus
Paul Erroll – The Woolen Helmet

To me, this is one of the weaker “Creeps” with too many second-stringers that wouldn’t have got anywhere near the first three books. Notable exceptions are “Hangman’s Cottage” wherin the narrators father learns the hard way that it’s not a good idea to build your home on the site of a former gallows, Cowles’ East Anglian ghost story (M. R. James meets, well, “Creeps”) and – best of all – Birkin’s “The Happy Dancers”. Mention should also be made of Paul Errol’s “the Woolen Helmet.” David G. Rowland once wrote of Rosalie ‘Jasper John’ Muspratt story:

“.. if one wants real excitement, try “The Hound From Hell” in which a black boar-hound comes into a cottage parlour and then goes out again”

Some people, they just don’t know when they’re well off. I’ve not read Ms Muspratt’s action packed adventure myself, but I reckon it will have to go some to be less exhilarating than the balaclava horrors of Errol’s tortured creation …

******

Charles Birkin – “The Happy Dancers”: Russia on the eve of the revolution. Serge, son of the Grand Duke, marries Louba, a peasant girl whose father is Boris Kerensky, a political agitator. The Duke has recently had him whipped and has threatened him with Siberia if he continues to stir up dissent.

Come 1917 and Serge is a soldier, while Louba has blossomed. As ‘Nikakova’ she is a celebrated cabaret performer at “The Happy Dancers”. She is also pregnant with the couples’ first child and is awaiting Serges return from duty to break the good news to him. The only blot on the landscape is that her father has discovered her whereabouts and his mob are fighting with the infantry on the outskirts of town. Their arrival at “The Happy Dancers” coincides with Serge’s …

Writing in The Penguin Encyclopedia Of Horror & The Supernatural, T. E. D. Klein describes Birkin’s stories as “genteely tricked up sadism” and he’s not wrong.

Philip Murray – Hangman’s Cottage: Ashton House stands on the site of a gallows. The narrator’s father, Mr. Weir, buys it as his retirement home. Before long he becomes aware that he is not alone in the house and he gradually declines into a drink-fueled depression. Come the day when his son pays a visit and finds him swinging from a beam.

Hester Holland Gaskell – High Tide: Barr has the effrontery to die in Jorland’s car as the latter is driving them to the coast where he had planned to bury him up to the neck in sand and watch him drown. In life Barr would boast that he could will himself to do anything, even kill himself to deny his bitter rival the pleasure. With the tide moving steadily in, Jorland digs the hole and, in his frustration, makes the mistake of commanding Barr “in the name of the giver of life” to be alive.

Frederick Cowles – The Headless Leper: The Leper Hospital Of St. Mary Of Pity, East Anglia. The narrator, an archaeologist, is accosted by a ghastly smell as he inspects the ruined Norman chapel and realises that, far from being alone, there are a number of men in yellow robes standing at the altar. Unbeknown to him, in 1298, a stranger from Yorkshire arrived at the sanctuary and, the disease having eaten away his mind, launched an unprovoked attack on one of the brethren, Raymond of Low, lopping his head off with a sickle before the horrified onlookers could intervene. The gruesome murder is re-enacted before the archaeologist’s eyes.

Sonya Converse – “Is It True?”: The celebrated cabaret singer, Corinne, is trapped in a loveless relationship with petty serial-failure Mark. One Christmas Eve, as she dines with her would-be suitor, Philip Haubert, at the Muscovite Club, Mark storms in and, in a fit of jealousy, grabs a ceremonial knife from the wall and plunges it into his rival, sending Corinne insane in the process. Haubert survives, but she is committed to a Sanitarium abroad, a drooling, gibbering lunatic.
For five long years the men await word of her and strike up an uneasy truce whereby they meet at the Muscovite Club on the anniversary of the incident to reminisce on Corinne’s former glory. When Mark has a chance meeting with her aboard a train, events move swiftly toward their inevitable grim conclusion.

John Ratho – The Escape: Sitting in the garden of her friend’s new home, Diana has a premonition in which she is throttled and buried alive in the shadow of a great tree. Years later it seems the vision will become reality when she marries a man who may or may not have murdered his first wife. Before the narrator can warn her, fate has intervened and she has escaped one horrendous doom for another.

V. A. Chappell – The End Of The Holiday: Deepdene, Sussex. Edward Simmons, lost in the mist, is beset by spectral Druids and sacrificed on the altar.

Aldwyn Tibbett – “Binkie”: Before they leave their St. John’s Wood home for India, somebody sends the narrator and his wife, Marie, a crate containing a mummified cat. Always having had an affinity with the creatures, Marie insists they keep it as ‘Binkie’ has been sent to protect her. So it proves when she is attacked by a cobra in their new residence.

B. Lumsden Milne – The Haunted Bungalow: Malay. When his engagement tp Evelyn, the girl back home, is broken off due to a misunderstanding, Darrell Waring begins an affair with a native girl, Rokeah, which scandalises the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, her intended, Hassan, doesn’t take kindly to this arrangement and comes at the white man with a knife. Rokeah throws herself in it’s path and is killed as, in the ensuing struggle, is Hassan who strikes his head on a decanter.
For some months afterward, Darrell endures nightmares in which he is involved in a death-struggle with an unseen opponent. His health suffers and his employers send him on a cruise to recuperate. Who should he meet aboard the ship but Evelyn, who has reconsidered his marriage proposal and is willing to accept? Darrell is delighted, until a series of circumstances lead them back to the bungalow he once shared with Rokeah. Night falls, and the bad dreams return with a vengeance …

Tod Robbins – The Whimpus: The whimpus are blue-eyed, golden haired half-fish, half-vampires who originate from an island off the China coast.When Cockney sailor Bill Farley demonstrates their treasure hunting abilities, Captain Ben, Mr. Wilkinson, his daughter Elizabeth and her fiance Jay immediately set off with him aboard the yacht Adventurer to seek their fortune. As they near Whimpus Island, Farley steals a lifeboat and goes ahead, failing to reappear. The men – who’ve now captured one of the creatures – go ashore and likewise disappear.
The plucky Elizabeth sets off on her own and eventually arrives at an underground cavern where she finds a mountain of gold and jewels and the skeletons of all those the whimpus’ have lured here down the centuries, lulling them into an endless sleep with their soft, dream-inducing humming. Fortunately, they have no power over women and are more terrified of Elizabeth than she is if them, and she is able to rouse the men and lead them to safety.
A likeable enough fantasy but, running to almost eighty pages, it’s too short on horror content to justify inclusion in a book called Nightmares.

Paul Errol – The Woollen Helmet: Mrs. Salter of Mill House is desperate to buy a balaclava, but the storekeeper in Upper Bolden is right out of them! The old lady requires it for her son, Mark, who she keeps hidden away from society because he was born with a cat’s head. Pulse-stopping horror.

Ronald Aggett – The Curse: Two hundred years earlier, a Baring stabbed a Clayton in his sleep after losing at cards, and the wounded man cursed him with his dying breath. In the present day, Clayton returns from the grave and, from their boarding school years in Dorchester onward, cultivates the friendship of Richard Baring with the sole objective of destroying him.

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HORRORS

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

HORRORS ed. ‘Charles Lloyd’ (Philip Allan, 1933)

Dust jacket via the superlative Facsimile Dust Jackets

The mad woman who needed blood, the horror in the lonely farm-house, the girl who was strangled in the locked room, the Thing that came out of the pond – these are among the twelve hitherto unpublished horrors in this volume.

E. S. Knights – Dr. Browning’s Bus
Allan Govan – The Ever-Turning Dynamos
Hester Gorst – The Doll’s House
Charles Lloyd (Charles Birkin) – Special Diet
Neville Kilvington – Meshes Of Doom
N. Dennett – Unburied Bane
Elliott O’Donnell – The Mystery of the Locked Room
R. F. Broad – Doctor Fawcett’s Experiment
Pamela James – Without A Hitch
John Ratho – Lover’s Meeting
Charles Lloyd (Birkin) – A Poem And A Bunch of Roses
George Benwood – Dark Seance

“The mad woman who needed blood, the horror in the lonely farm-house, the girl who was strangled in the locked room, the Thing that came out of the pond …”

Fourth book in the series. I don’t have a copy of “Horrors”, but thanks To Herbert Van Thal and “Pan Horror #3”, I don’t feel as though I really need one!

Hester Gorst – The Dolls House: The narrator buys a Georgian Dolls house at an auction immediatly and begins to suffer from nightmares in which he becomes “A rake … coming home very late and very drunk”, ascending the staircase of the original for his recent purchase. It becomes apparent that his dream-self is one some terrible errand, and he convinces himself that this is the murder of a woman. Best friend Jack offers to spend the night with him to see what he gets up to when he’s asleep.

Charles Lloyd – A Poem And A Bunch Of Roses: Sally Russell wonders why Madame de Civennes invites her to stay at the Chateau Montnegre after the death of Andre, M. de Civennes’s husband with whom Sally was having an affair. Surely the widow should despise her?
As it turns out, M. de Civennes hates her with a passion and, on the last night of Sally’s stay, unleashes Pierre, her servant Marie’s imbecile son, with instructions to take the girl down to the dungeon and enjoy himself. Sally is a long time dying.

John Ratho – Lover’s Meeting: Greta, neglected by her workaholic husband, Leo, self-proclaimed “greatest scientist in the world”, receives a call from old flame Frank Arko and invites him to dinner. She soon realises she’s quite gone off him in the intervening years and is further alienated when he makes a drunken pass at her – witnessed by her husband. When Arko complains of a headache, the prof gives him a shot of something to take his mind off it: leprosy.

Charles Lloyd (Charles Birkin) – Special Diet: The doctor tries to persuade Mrs. Willoughby to put her aged mother into care as her behavior is completely unhinged, but the loyal daughter opts to hire a second nurse and keep her at home. When Nurse Charteris informs her that the old girl has just decapitated a mouse and drunk its blood, Mrs. Willoughby decides that, yes, it is time for her mum to be confined at the Parkside Home for mental cases after all. Before she can sort it, she’s called away. This is not a good time for her little grand-daughter, Mary, to show up …

Edith Oliver – The Old Caretaker’s Story: The superstitious, guilt-ridden old sea salt, Horler, manfully sticks to writing up his confession even as he’s cutting lumps out of his legs to feed to the seagulls. He’s still penning his comentary as they attack him en masse and tear him to pieces.

N. Dennett – Unburied Bane: There IT stood, its face cadaverous blue, its long fingers cold with the cold of the grave, its eyes grown empty hollows, the rank odour of stagnant water about its clothes …

Oliver and Frances Winthrop rent rooms at a spectacularly decrepit moorland farmhouse from the emaciated, clearly demented old Ann Skegg. Frances is reluctant from the first, not least because of creepy Ms. Skegg who takes too great a delight in relating the history of the skull on the parlour windowsill which must never be removed (it once belonged to an evil crone who was drowned in the filthy pond and laid a curse on the place). Oliver, however, is delighted: he’s after a plot for his latest sensational thriller and is soon hard at work on The Death-Defying Skull. Having finished the play, he sets off to London to have it put into production, leaving Frances alone for a few days with their sinister landlady …

Elliott O’ Donnell – The Mystery Of The Locked Room: Amelia Jenkyns is taken on as a maid at 109 Bolsover Square by stern, forty-something widow Mrs. Bishop of the ‘Greta Garbo eyebrows’ and desultory wages. Amelia is of a prying nature and often tries on Mrs. Bishop’s best hats and dresses when she’s out, so it’s no surprise that she can’t help but fantasise as to the reason why one of the rooms is kept permanently locked. Convinced that this is where Madam keeps her treasure, she resolves to break in the next time the fearsome Mrs. Bishop is out. On finally entering the room she discovers that this is where the woman’s fortune is secured, but is horrified to find a man lying on the bed, seemingly oblivious to her presence. Worse – Mrs. Bishop materialises out of nowhere and smothers the old boy with a pillow.
Realising that she’s witnessed the ghostly re-enactment of a murder, Amelia turns to run – just as the flesh and blood Mrs. Bishop appears in the doorway, a length of wire in her hands …

Neville Kilvington – Meshes Of Doom: Told in diary form. Jacob Trezbond, a fellow of the Botanical Society, strangles his wife Frances and buries her in the conservatory. He’s recently acquired a seed of South American origin which he sets about cultivating despite the warnings of Armand, the dealer who sold it to him. The ghost of Frances begins to haunt him and the plant-thing grows with alarming speed. As is the way with demon flower stories, Trezbond’s pets are first to be crushed and devoured, then the huge creepers turn their attention to him. An afterword from Armand gives a very different version of events.

Robert Ferrers Broad- Dr. Fawcett’s Experiment: The disgraced biologist, ‘Nicholas Fawcett’, holes up in the country where he can conduct undisturbed his researches for the dubious benefit of mankind. A luckless, epileptic tramp chooses to take a doze in his garden and the kindly mad professor takes him under his wing, helping himself to the fellow’s brain and sundry internal organs while he’s about it. Fawcett raises a murderous culture – “an obscene thing that … swelled in my glass dish like a huge puffball” – which soon runs amok in a frenzy of throat-ripping.

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Shivers

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

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

[image]

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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Shudders

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

Charles Lloyd (ed) – Shudders (Phillip Allan,1932)

H. R. Wakefield – Or Persons Unknown
Tod Robbins – Toys
Elliott O’Donnell – Accusing Shadows
H. R. Wakefield – Professor Pownall’s Oversight
Charles Lloyd – The Harlem Horror
Philip Murray – The Trunk
H. R. Wakefield – The Third Coach
Mrs. Everett – The Crimson Blind
Elliott O’Donnell – The Haunted Spinney
Philip Murray – The Patch
H. R. Wakefield – That Dieth Not

Charles Birkin – The Harlem Horror: The Harwoods, Michael, Mary and little Clare, move from London to New York. There have been a spate of child disappearances in the Big Apple, and one day Clare goes missing. Some months later, the grieving, broken parents attend a funfair on Coney Island. During a sudden downpour they take shelter in a tent which turns out to be the entrance to a freak show. The star exhibit is the ‘What-is-it?’, a one-eyed, hideously deformed creature which the barker assures is female and aged no more than ten. On the boat home to England, Michael buys a newspaper. The lead story tells of a police raid on a laboratory in Harlem where the brilliant – albeit criminally insane – plastic surgeon, Sir John Trowbridge, has been performing abominable vivisections on children and animals which he then sells on to the freak shows …

Tod Robbins – Toys: Before the town of Creston is destroyed by an earthquake, the narrator owns a toy shop in the High Street. His pride and joy is a hand-crafted model of the town, peopled with little wooden figures, one for each resident.
As the evenings grow darker, he notices a disheveled, hugely sinister gent peering through the window whenever he is alone and after several weeks this person introduces himself as Mr. L. P. D. Fate and asks him to name his price for the model. To get rid of him, the owner quotes £1,000 and is astonished when the old boy pays for it in cash there and then. Before he leaves, Fate sets fire to the model representing the owner’s house with the figure depicting his mother-in-law inside. Even as the replica burns, so does the original.
Fate, bored senseless by his immortality, uses the model as a voodoo doll, having a boy who displeases him run over by a tram and pouring a cup of water in the river to overflow the banks. By the time he’s finished, only the narrator is in one piece.

Philip Murray – The Trunk: “It is the execution of Burgomaster Heinrich who, as you see, was tortured to death in 1547. Yes, the method of extracting the entrails by drawing them from the slit belly by a spit was rather a favourite in those days …”
His aunt’s dying wish is that he take the massive iron-bound trunk and burn it. When he examines it a first time, he notes a deep stain at the bottom. Later, this time viewing it by candlelight, “inside glistened the back of a naked boy, the head forced down so abruptly that the shoulders almost touched the end of the box. The lid fell with a crash … when my brother found me a few moments later and we opened the trunk it was empty.” Later, a torture scene in a Flemish painting offers some clue as to the history of the grim dower-chest.

Philip Murray – The Trunk: The old woman on her death bed, paralysed and only able to turn her eyes in the direction of the trunk, orders ‘Burn it.’ But of course he doesn’t… A chilly little vignette from the ‘Thirties, not easily forgotten. Roger Pile

H. R. Wakefield – The Third Coach: The life and crimes of Rev. Wellington Scott, a con-merchant exposed 74 times by Truth magazine, written in his own hand from his cell at the Royal Portwick Lunatic Asylum. The ‘supernatural’ element is small but significant. Scott witnesses a train crash in which the third carriage is destroyed. Running off to inform the newspapers and claim his £20 for the scoop (no-one does sardonic quite like Wakefield), he suddenly realises there was something very odd about the tragedy: it took place in complete silence. When he looks back over the hill, all is as it should be. In time the premonition serves him well when he wishes to dispense with the services of Charity, his treacherous partner.
Dr. Langton confides to the narrator, Martin Trout, that this confession, which Scott compulsively rewrites with nary a word out of place, is all nonsense. Rev. Scott has been under the delusion that he is an infamous conman ever since he received a head injury in the Panthem rail disaster when he was thrown from the third coach.

Philip Murray – The Patch: A haunted four-poster. The narrator is convinced that somebody is hiding under his bed and, armed with a poker, takes a look. Sure enough, “A man was lying there on his side, his face toward me, his knees drawn up.” He raises the alarm, but when his fellow guests investigate they discover a dark patch on the carpet in the vague shape of a man. The next night, the bed having been moved, he allows himself a tiny peek to reassure himself that it was all nonsense …

H. R. Wakefield – Or Persons Unknown: How Sir Roger Wallington met his dreadful end after taking on the Gypsy poachers on his magnificent property, Elin Court. Having gotten himself royally pissed at his club, Wallington is driving home by the woods near Ollen when he spies his nemesis, Black Jack and his faithful hound, Scottie, standing in the road. Sir Roger swings the car at Black Jack, misses, and mows down the dog instead. “I was rather fond of Scottie, and knew all his tricks … He’s got some funny tricks too. Don’t be too sure you’ve done with him!” warns the poacher, shoving the dogs mangled face into Wallington’s.

Scottie dead proves to be even more formidable than Scottie alive and tears out the old boy’s throat.

Elliott O’Donnell – The Haunted Spinney: St. Meave, Cornwall. The narrator is passing through the Spinney by moonlight when he is accosted by a terrified, clearly half-witted labourer who asks if he heard a scream. Together they investigate and chance upon the body of a young woman – the half-wit’s wife, Mary – brutally murdered. At this grim discovery, the labourer loses it completely and accuses the stranger of killing her. The police see it differently, and the local man is hung.

Six weeks later, back in London, our man is visited by a journalist friend, Widmore, who is a member of the New Occult Research Society and imposes upon him to return to St. Meave where there have been reports of ghostly activity. Reluctantly, he complies and joins with Widmore in a midnight vigil. Sure enough, the murder is re-enacted before their eyes …

Mrs. Everett – The Crimson Blind: In his youth, Ronald McEwen had spent a fortnight at Swanmere Rectory as a guest of his uncle, Rev. Sylvanus Applegarth. The reverend’s sons are wont to tease Ronald about his belief in ghosts and one night persuaded him to visit a derelict house which – they tell him – has a reputation of being haunted. Ronald is well aware that the boys are planning a prank, but they seem as surprised as he when an upstairs blind is raised and a deranged figure comes crashing through the glass at them. Twenty years later, when the property is incorporated into his friend’s luxurious manor house, McEwen learns the truth. It transpires that the place was once a lunatic asylum, and an inmate had tried to burn his room to the ground, killing himself when he jumped out through the window.

H. R. Wakefield – That Dieth Not: “… and there were the steps at Paradown, and Ethel came out, and I behind her, and down she went, and then her crushed and bleeding face grew and grew and thrust itself into mine.”

Two documents. In the first, Sir Arthur Paradown outlines how and why he came to murder his abominable first wife, Ethel. The second is his suicide note, relating how Ethel has haunted him with crushing relentlessness since her death, the final straw being when she slips into bed with him after ruining his night out at the cinema with second wife Margaret. At one point in the drama, Ethel’s mutilated face invades a Charlie Chaplin movie!

H. R. Wakefield – Professor Pownall’s Oversight: “Morrison and you are the most brilliant undergraduates who have been at Oxford in my time. I am not quite sure why, but I am convinced of two things; firstly, that he will always above you, and secondly, that you have the better brain.”

So it proves, save for at games of chess, Pownall showing himself to be the greatest player in Britain … until a slip up at Bournemouth in the Masters final – versus Morrison – decides him to murder his life-long rival. Pownall goes on to represent his country at the World Championship in Budapesth, but Morrison’s ghost is waiting for him, guiding the pieces of his bewildered opponents. Exasperated, the Professor can only see one way out.

Elliott O’Donnell – Accusing Shadows: “A ghost story founded in fact.” Hartz Mountains. Osmandson, desperate for a room for the night, takes refuge at Frau Krassein’s. All she can offer him is the room in which her master passed away two days ago – and his remains have yet to be removed. Osmandson reluctantly accepts, even when he discovers the big black coffin at the foot of his four poster. During the night, the old man’s gruesome hammer-and-nail murder is re-enacted in shadow play on the ceiling.

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Creeps

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

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

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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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