Gruesome Cargoes

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

Archive for the ‘Tales Of Death’ Category

Tales Of Death

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

Charles Birkin (ed.) – Tales Of Death (Philip Allan, 1936)

Clifford Knight – Kismet
H. Boswell Lancaster – Down-Draught To Hell
Oswell Blakeston – The Hut
Hope Wilson – Lion Of Bengal
Malcolm Ellison – The Devil-Plant
Sydney Darcy – Swift Death
W.J. Pollock – The Cottage
R. P. Morrison – Lost With All Hands
Malcolm Critchley – The Return
Esme H. Bidlake – An Appointment With Death
S.G. MacDonnell – The Graverhouse Affair

Malcolm Ellison – The Devil-Plant: Clare, Suffolk, May 1933. Whatever killed the rats sucked out every morsel of meat from their bodies, leaving two flattened pelts on the greenhouse floor. Eric Brent won’t be convinced that his beloved South African ‘everlasting orchid’ is to blame, which is bad news for his domestic pets. And his wife Elsie’s arm …

Hope Wilson – Lion Of Bengal: Indian jungle. Cyril Frobisher is among a party of railway engineers commissioned to build a line through Willawance territory. The witch-doctor doesn’t take kindly to the idea.
Death by witchcraft, poison dart, malaria and an attack by Mango trees!

Oswell Blakeston – The Hut: “The first lad who slept there hacked off his hand with a penknife. He confessed, afterwards, that he had stolen with that hand … The last …er … victim, was a tramp who had stolen a bag of gardening tools from the village … he blinded himself on a rake …”

It served as home to a religious fanatic, a fervent believer in “if thy right hand causes thee to sin ..” self-mutilation for even the slightest transgressions. Peter and Daisy, lost in the countryside, hole up there for the night but she is unable to sleep and, fatally, says as much to the sinister stranger who greets them in the morning. The hut is on his land and, back at his farmhouse, he relates to them the macabre history of the hut with obscene relish …

Blakeston was revising this for inclusion in a Hugh Lamb anthology when he died and it’s certainly worthy of revival. Head and shoulders above anything else in the disappointingly weak Tales Of Death.

Sydney Darcy – Swift Death : Cornwall. Gretchen, unhappily married to Julian, can’t find it in her to leave him as she knows it will break his heart. So she pushes him off a cliff instead. Or was it all a dream?

H. Boswell Lancaster – Down-Draught To Hell: Ernest Rackman and wife Margaret take up residence in a village on the outskirts of Liverpool. Margaret hates it from the first and even the skeptical Ernest comes to admit it’s haunted. It was built from the materials of a demolished prison where men were crammed into an underground cell and left to rot. They want company.

Clifford Knight – Kismet: Uncle George has acted as young Arthur’s benefactor ever since his father’s suicide but, despairing of the young man’s profligate ways, leaves him just a year’s allowance and a statue of Osiris in his will. When Arthur smashes the statue, he finds inside a papyrus which, Mr. Wellbye of the British Museum excitedly informs him, contains details of a previously undiscovered Egyptian tomb. The pair set off to excavate a site near the Giza pyramid. Inevitably, Arthur’s greed gets the better of him and he’s crushed to death while merrily looting a booby-trapped burial chamber.

Esme H. Bidlake – An Appointment With Death: Little Tony has been knocked down by a roadhog and hovers on the brink of death. The Doctor gravely warns that if he doesn’t recover by 11 o’clock he’s a goner. Come the fatal hour and the boy’s eyes flicker open just as there’s an almighty crash in the street outside. Tony has been delivered but his father’s been mangled in a car accident.

Malcolm Critchley – The Return: “Gruesome Discovery At Brighton”. Ralph Hamlyn learns of his wife Edith’s affair with Robert Hardinge and avenges himself by lacing their drinks with poison, sacking them up and dumping their mutilated bodies in the sea at Black Rock. Their ghosts haunt him until he does the decent thing and blows his brains out.
Hamlyn confesses all via an aspiring author whom he temporarily possesses to jot down his confession.

R. P. Morrison – Lost With All Hands: Such was the fate of the Kamptee which went down off the coast of Gibraltar on 4th October 1924. Exactly a year later, John March, whose twin brother was a casualty of the disaster, is transported back through time and aboard the Kamptee from its sister ship, Satara. During his absence he is presumed dead and trussed in a sack for burial at sea until one of the crew spots him struggling. He tells the Doctor of his experience aboard the doomed vessel and tries to convince him that it portends evil for Satara.

W. J. Pollock – The Cottage: ” …. as fast as thought itself, my head and shoulders were enclosed in a slimy, quivering mass, that seemed to be possessed of a hundred pairs of arms.”

Loughton Hollow. The two previous occupants of the cottage have been killed in mysterious circumstances, the most recent casualty having half his face eaten away in the process. Narrator John still believes there must be “some quite ordinary explanation” for the murders and the fact that scores of duck bills float atop the filthy pond in the garden. He’s right of course. That night as he and friend Dick Chalmers keep vigil in the haunted room, they are attacked … by an octopus. John is half-throttled as we wrestles the beast until Dick finds an axe and sets about hacking it to pieces.

“How [it] managed to live in our climate and under such unusual circumstances must always remain a mystery.”

S . G. MacDonell – The Graverhouse Affair: “Dressed in some indescribable garb, its face a horrible whitish hue, shiny and putrid in effect … the hair, bleached and tangled, matted over parts of the skull and face, the dead eyes gazing our way … then the awful figure stopped and gave a senile cackle as it waved its stump at us …”
Graverhouse Grange plays host to a terrible secret, known to the Lady of the house and her pretty daughter Miriam but kept from the headstrong son, Clive. All he knows about his father is that he died in mysterious circumstances when he was a child and the tragedy affected his mother’s mind to the point where she is ever watchful and prone to wild mood swings. One stormy night, a dreadful figure approaches them at table and the awful truth is revealed.


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