Gruesome Cargoes

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

Posts Tagged ‘Christine Campbell Thomson’

L. A. Lewis – Tales Of The Grotesque

Posted by demonik on May 13, 2009

L. A. Lewis – Tales Of The Grotesque: Uneasy Tales (Philip Allan, 1934)

L A Lewis Tales Of The Grotesque

L A Lewis Tales Of The Grotesque

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

Lost Keep
The Tower Of Moab
The Child
The Dirk
The Chords Of Chaos
The Meerschaum Pipe
Haunted Air
The Iron Swine
Animate In Death

“Squadron Leader Leslie Allin Lewis (1899-1961) was a veteran of both world wars, flying Sopwith Camels over France in 1918 and Hurricanes over England in 1940. He was also one of the best writers in the macabre and supernatural genre between wars. A collection of his unusual and excellent stories was published in 1934 under the title Tales Of The Grotesque.

From Richard Dalby’s introduction to Haunted Air in The Mammoth Book Of Ghost Stories 2, 1977.

Officially a Creep, a modern edition, edited by Richard Dalby was published by the Ghost Story Press in 1994, and includes what seems to be L(eslie) A. Lewis’s only other contribution to horror fiction, The Author’s Tale – ghosts get down to some serious bondage and caning fun (!) – from Christine Campbell Thomson’s Terror By Night. Prior to that, the excellent Hugh Lamb had revived a few of the stories for his anthologies.

The Child: The narrator, a city boy and motorcyclist – though not, as he hastens to point out, the type “that carries a leggy flapper on the pinion and sports a cigarette holder a yard long”: What’s the matter with him? – investigates an alleged haunting at a gamekeepers cottage in the woods near ‘Wailing Dip’. Some years before, a woman who’d murdered her children had escaped from the local asylum and was last seen near the site. She was heavily pregnant at the time. The woman is presumed dead down a pot hole, but who or what has been stealing poultry from the village these past years and what did a poacher see that scared him to death?

The Meerschaum Pipe: The narrator moves into ‘Heroney’, the former country residence of Harper who butchered several women and buried them in the surrounding fields. Or rather, parts of them:

“The most revolting feature of the murders was his habit of severing the head and limbs and leaving them on the scene for identification, while carrying away the trunk for addition to a sort of museum …”

In between visits to the Vicarage and brushing up on his golf handicap, the new squire takes to smoking Harper’s best pipe. The discovery of a gypsy girl’s mutilated remains in Arningham Woods signals a new reign of terror …

Hybrid: In his youth Chambers was plagued by nightmares which a clairvoyant later convinced him were flashbacks from a previous life when he was an adept black magician. when Chambers marries and takes up home in Sussex he realises that this is where his diabolical incarnation practiced evil and the adjoining field is where he was burnt at the stake. his familiar, a raven-like bird, gradually takes him over until – as his devoted wife explains to Dr. Cole – “His body is mad, but his mind is sane”. chambers degenerates into a hopping, squawking sex maniac and ravishes his wife. Dr. Cole eventually gets a specialist to take care of him but in the meantime Mrs. Chambers gives birth …

The Tower Of Moab: “A veritable flock of ghoulish wraiths whirling about a young girl who stood on the kerb, wearing on her face a look of desperation that spoke of private tragedy … She uttered a ghastly, sobbing scream and hurled herself with a kind of boneless wriggle under the wheels of a lorry.”

A salesman, down on his luck, is fascinated by a huge yellow structure began by a religious cult eighty years earlier as their answer to the Tower of Babel. Fascinated and at a loose end, he jacks in his job and takes a room at the local inn where he can drink himself insensible while investigating the tower. As he sinks further into Whiskey oblivion, he becomes aware of the Devils and Angels flitting about the top of the column until the latter descend on the unwitting public en masse, tormenting them with their sins. Eventually his own demons appear and he’s taken away to a lunatic asylum.

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 …

Haunted Air: “Apart from its extraordinary shade of pulsating, unnatural green, the object was quite evidently not a bird, and he might momentarily have dubbed it a grotesque toy balloon … but for the fact that it was so obviously – and somehow horribly alive. Carr described it as resembling a monstrous monkey, clambering with incredible speed up an invisible rope.”

A series of mysterious light aircraft crashes claim the lives of a succession of experienced pilots and their passengers. Ace record-breaker Pitchmann sneers at Carr’s death, dismissing him as an amateur and a lightweight, and takes to the skies in unpromising weather to prove how great he is. Meanwhile at the bar, Beckett gives his alarming take on the recent tragedies.

Vault of Evil’s Tales of the Grotesque thread.


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Mike Ashley: Unlocking The Night

Posted by demonik on June 14, 2008

There doesn’t seem to be much literary criticism of the Not At Night and Creeps series’. The article that I’ve found of most help to date is unquestionably Mike Ashley’s splendid Unlocking The Night in Stephen Jones & Jo Fletcher (eds.) Gaslight And Ghosts (World Fantasy Convention/ Robinsons, 1988) which I’ve heavily drawn on for my CCT and Oscar Cook info. I met Mr. Ashley briefly at the Zardoz book fair in 2005 but my brain wouldn’t go and therefore I completely wasted the opportunity to grill him about anything remotely relevant.


Micheal Foreman

Introduction: A Ripping Yarn – Stephen Jones & Jo Fletcher

James Herbert – Halloween’s Child
Neil Gamman – James Herbert: Growing Up In Public
Dianna Wynne Jones – The Green Stone
Clive Barker – The Rhapsodist
Hugh Lamb – Victorian Terror
Garry Kilworth – Beyond Byzantium
Brian Lumley – The Writer In The Garret
Ian Watson – The Case Of The Glass Slipper
R. Chetwynd-Hayes – Fog Ghost
Peter Tremayne – A Reflection Of Ghosts
Robert Holdstock – Time Of The Tree
Ramsey Campbell – Cat And Mouse
Brian W. Aldiss – Forgotten Life
Karl E. Wagner – Beyond Any Measure
Mike Ashley – Unlocking The Night
Terry Pratchett – Sphinx
Barbara Hambly – Immortal Blood
Lisa Tuttle – The Modern Prometheus
Adrian Cole – Grimander
Kim Newman – The Long Autumn Of 1888
Charles L. Grant – Snowman

If buying a book for a solitary article reeks of extravagance/ completist desperation, then rest assured that Gaslight And Ghosts has much else to recommend it including Hugh Lamb’s enthusiastic essay on Victorian Nightmares, Kim Newman’s annotated listing of Jack the Ripper movies and TV appearances The Long Autumn Of 1888 and some excellent fiction by Karl E. Wagner, Chetwynd-Hayes and Charles L. Grant among others.  It’s a weird amalgam of horror and fantasy stories, artwork, articles, extracts from then forthcoming novels, ads and co., loosely based around a  Jack The Ripper/ Victorian theme, although many of the items don’t come within spitting distance. The overall effect is like an extended, hardcover issue of Fantasy Tales magazine.

As to the short stories, Beyond Any Measure has to be the stand out, a vampire/ doppelganger classic, and the Campbell is resurrected from early Michel Parry anthology, Beware Of The Cat. Fog Ghost seems to have been written to order, but it’s mercifully free of the heavy-handed humour that blights some of RCH’s other work. Hallowe’en Child is reputedly based on a true incident on the night Herbert’s daughter was born.

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Still Not At Night : Arrow edition

Posted by demonik on August 20, 2007

Christine Campbell Thomson (ed) – Still Not At Night (Arrow, 1962)


Joseph O. Kesselring – King Cobra
Joseph McCord – The Girdle
Flavia Richardson (Christine Campbell Thomson) – Behind the Blinds
Michael Gwynn – The Death Plant
Greye La Spina – The Tortoiseshell Cat
J. Dyott Mathews – The Tapping
Oscar Cook – Si Urag Of The Tail
August Derleth – The Metronome
H. Thomson – Offspring Of hell
Elizabeth Sheldon – The Ghost That Never Died
Henry S. Whitehead – The Passing Of A God
Jessie D. Kerruish – The Wonderful Tune
Geoffrey Vace (Hugh B. Cave?) – Four Doomed Men

More Not At Night was reprinted as Never At Night (Arrow, 1971) and Still Not At Night was reissued as Only By Daylight (Arrow, 1972).


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More Not At Night: Arrow edition

Posted by demonik on August 20, 2007

Christine Campbell Thomson (ed.) – More Not At Night (Arrow, 1961, 1963)


Harold Ward – The Closed Door
Mortimer Levitan – The Third Thumbprint
Romeo Poole – The Death Crescents Of Koti
Will Smith & R. J. Robbins – Swamp Horror
Oscar Cook – Golden Lilies
Jessie D. Kerruish – The Seven Locked Room
Loretta G. Burroughs – Creeping Fingers
Flavia Richardson – Out Of The Earth
B. W. Sliney – The Man Who Was Saved
Hester Holland – Dorner Cordainthus
Robert E. Howard – Rogues In The House
David H. Keller – The Thing In The Cellar
Oswell Blakeston – The Crack
Archie Binns – The Last Trip


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Not at Night Omnibus

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

There’s more, far more to the series than this greatest hits selection, but it’s as good a place to start as any. Readers of the early “Pan Horror” books will be familiar with a goodly few of these.

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

Zealia B. Bishop – The Curse of Yig
W. J. Stamper – Lips of the Dead
Jessie D. Kerruish – The Wonderful Tune
Michael Gwynn – The Death Plant
R. Anthony – The Witch-Baiter
Hester Holland – The Library
Guy Preston – The Inn
A. W. Kapfer – The Phantom Drug
H. P. Lovecraft – Pickman’s Model
Oscar Cook – His Beautiful Hands
Edmond Hamilton – Pigmy Island
Flavia Richardson (Christine Campbell Thomson) – Behind the Yellow Door
Oswell Blakeston – The Crack
J. Joseph Renaud – Suzanne
Mary E. Counselman – The Accursed Isle
Warden Ledge – The Legion of Evil
Seabury Quinn – The House of Horror
Guy Preston – The Way He Died
Hazel Heald – The Horror in the Museum
George Fielding Eliot – The Copper Bowl
Hugh B. Cave – The Watcher in the Green Room
G. Frederick Montefiore – Black Curtains
L. A. Lewis – The Author’s Tale
H. Warner Munn – The Chain
Oscar Cook – Piecemeal
Hester Holland – The Scream
Will Smith & R. J. Robbins – Swamp Horror
Jessie D. Kerruish – The Seven Locked Room
Henry S. Whitehead – The Chadbourne Episode
David H. Keller – The Thing in the Cellar
Flavia Richardson – The Black Hare
Anthony Vercoe – Flies
August Derleth – The Tenant
Gordon Chesson – Little Red Shoes
Harold Ward – The Closed Door

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Not At Night

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007


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

“Not At Night” ed. Christine Campbell Thomson (Selwyn & Blount, October 1925)

” … I do not care to know how far Henry James believed in the possibility of “The Turn Of The Screw”, but his genius succeeded in creating an atmosphere of spiritual dread because he realised this was necessary to his art … It seems to me that it is exactly this lack of spirituality which so fatally flaws the vast majority of tales in a series generally known as “Not At Night”, which has now attained six volumes of similar if slightly varying titles. If there is a note of spiritual horror, whether it be vampire horror, as in ‘Four Wooden Stakes’, or Satanism, as in ‘The Devil’s Martyr’ and ‘The Witch-Baiter’, the story is raised to another plane far higher than the rather nauseating sensationalism of fiendish serums, foul experiments of lunatic surgeons, half-human plants, monstrous insects and the like.

Montague Summers, “The Supernatural Omnibus”, 1931.

Conceived (on the back of a bus) as a cheap one off anthology, this was where the popular series began. Summers’ was one of the less hostile assessments – it seems the books were pretty much loathed by the critics from the off. By no means the finest collection in the series, the debut is still enjoyable on its own terms – most notably in Roman’s enjoyable trad. vampire yarn, and Binn’s bus journey to the grave – but the best was yet to come.

Paul S. Powers – Monsters Of The Pit
Victor Roman – Four Wooden Stakes
Mortimer Levitan – The Third Thumb-Print
W. J. Stamper – Lips Of The Dead
Gerald Dean – The Devil Bed
Frank Belknap Long jr. – Death-Waters
G. Frederick Montefoire – Black Curtains
R. G. MacReady – The Plant-Thing
C. Franklin Miller – His Family
Romeo Poole – A Hand From The Deep
Greye La Spina – The Tortoise-Shell Cat
Henry W. Whitehill – The Case Of The Russian Stevedore
W. Chiswell Collins – The Leopard’s Trail
Archie Binns – The Last Trip
H. Thompson Rich – The Purple Cincture

Paul S. Power – Monsters Of The Pit: Port Said. Scott falls in love with Irene, the sheltered daughter of Prof. Denham, mad scientist and misanthrope. Denham has bred ghastly, squirming diseased bacteria to unleash on the world, and he’s also been experimenting with insects. He throws Scott into the pit where, caught in a huge web, he awaits the approach of giant spiders (their last meal was an ox). He escapes minus an arm, which Irene is obliged to hack off with an axe when one of the arachnids sinks its fangs in. It takes her three attempts.

Victor Roman – Four Wooden Stakes: Holroyd Estate, Charing. Remson Holroyd’s grandfather, father and two brothers have all died within the past five years. Prior to his death, Grand-pops had spent time in South America where he was attacked by a huge bloodsucking bat and in his will he requested that a crypt be built on the estate and his body interred therein. Narrator Jack has just solved a case that baffled “the police and two of the best detective agencies in the city”, but even he is stumped to begin with. Once he gets going, however, there’s no stopping him: “Remson, what we are up against is a vampire” he explains, after they’ve watched a shrouded figure return to the vault. “I noticed you had an old edition of the Encyclopedia on your shelf. If you bring me volume XXIV I’ll be able to explain more fully the meaning of the word.”

R. G. Macready – The Plant Thing: Dick, star reporter with The Clarion, breaks into Professor Carter’s grounds to investigate claims that he’s carrying out dreadful vivisections. In reality, the old boy is a well-meaning fellow and the missing sheep & co. are being fed to his pride and joy, a 25ft carnivorous “travesty” which he believes to be the missing link between plant and animal (see also Hester Holland’s Dorner Cordainthus). Both men are attacked and almost eaten by it.

W. J. Stamper – Lips Of The Dead: “Down with Theodor! Death to Black Oscar!” Port Au Prince, Haiti. When the corrupt leaders decapitate the people’s champion, Papillon, his severed head warns: “To-morrow, Theodor, to-morrow.”
The following day the mob storm the palace. Black Oscar is – disappointingly – merely shot dead, but Theodor is dragged by a horse and then crucified.

G. Frederick Montefiore – Black Curtains: “I want to paint something different … something that will wake them up! Gruesome, perhaps, But with a touch of pathos and the ever necessary feminine interest!” So Victor Stapleton meditates, projecting the designs in his head onto the black curtains which separate his room from his neighbours … and is startled to life when a hand parts them from the other side. It belongs to Mr. Fland, the miser. Victor has never seen him before, although he’s certainly aware of the old man’s beautiful grand-daughter.
Mr. Fland is reputed to have killed all his relatives, although he seems friendly enough when he invites the young artist into his room. Once Victor accompanies through the curtains however, he’s back on barking form. “Gold! Hidden gold! and – it’s yours! If you can find it!”
Victor reluctantly searches the room high and low, revealing new horrors as he goes until finally …

H. Thompson Rich – The Purple Cincture: April 8th – My flaming foot dropped off tonight, seared at the ankle by the purple cincture, and I flung it outside the cave. I wonder. Perhaps I may yet live to return to the world. Ah, I will be avenged for this!

The narrator finds a headless skeleton in a fissure in a rock. Beside it, a mouldering journal explaining how it came to be that way…

A gloriously over the top study of obsessive jealousy, misplaced blame and a spectacular and hideously protracted death by ‘germ poison’ via a rare purple and orange-banded spider.

Henry W. Whitehill – The Case Of The Russian Stevedore: “You were a beast and I made you a man!”

Some years earlier, Dr. August Dinwoodie performed an operation on the ‘Russian’ known to the world as Abe Goril. Goril is a mis-shapen, hideous travesty of a man, but he’s sought after as a dock-hand on account of his prodigious strength. So far, the terrified surgeon has stayed one step ahead of him, but his luck is about to run out …

Mortimer Levitan – The Third Thumb-Print: “My system enables you to tell whether a man is a criminal merely by measuring and classifying his thumb-print.”

Prof. Sanders has spent the past twenty years working on a fool-proof method for identifying murderers. Hateful of press-intrusion, his single confidante throughout has been young Guy Steel. Steel gives him five random thumb-prints and asks him to spot the murderer. One of them is Sanders’ own and it denounces him as a killer in waiting. Steel picks the wrong moment to confess that he’s a journalist …

Archie Binns – The Last Trip: “I would have died long ago if it hadn’t been for her. I was blown up and shot to pieces … they brought back what was left of me, and put me away. I waited my chance until tonight, when I came to find you!”

The late bus from Pacific Street to Lewis. Butler is first irked then increasingly terrified as the journey proceeds in sombre silence, save for the mantra “Driver, I want to get off here” when one of the passengers wants to disembark. Eventually, there is only one man left, who pulls a gun, introduces himself as Death and says he wants to go to Woodland Cemetery.
Essentially a precursor of Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors‘ framing story, this would have made for a great EC strip.

C. Franklin Miller – His Family: ” … for sheer horror none of the famous tragedies of history can equal the warped affection which forms the basis of the incident I am about to narrate.”

Upper Congo, 1890. Brent, a member of a scientific party, goes to investigate a case of tent-robbing and finds himself at a hovel where the emaciated Colonel Warner of Kentucky (aka, ‘the mad colonel’) resides with his wife and daughter. Warner tells his story of how they have been persecuted by a ‘maniac’ named Andrew Lang and his men. One of their number surprises Warner as he is entertaining his guest and a fight to the death ensues. Brent gets to meet the family. What little is left of them.

Gerald Dean – The Devil Bed:


Those who’ve slept in the carved monstrosity tend to have embarked on murder sprees shortly afterward (the record number of kills by one man is nine). Antique collector Harry Ware isn’t to be taken in by this superstitious mumbo jumbo and decides to grab some sleep in the devil bed on the night before it’s to be donated to a museum.

Romeo Poole – A Hand From The Deep: Simon Glaze is the only survivor of a fire at Dr. Whitby’s place, an institution which has been the subject of several disturbing rumours. Glaze lost an arm in an accident and Whitby treated him with one of his serums free of charge. There are side effects. Glaze forever wants to take a bath and curls up in a ball whenever he feels threatened. “He is now coming more and more every day to resemble a gigantic shellfish, in both body and mind …” Yes, Glaze is fast mutating into … a human lobster!

W. Chiswell Collins – The Leopard’s Trail: Duala, West African Bush. Chisholm and Hodgins, searching for Nazi gold buries at Dead Creek, are betrayed into the clutches of the Leopard Society. The Leopards’ specialty is cutting the pancreas from their still-living victim and draining him of blood.
There is a footnote to the effect that the cult are not of fictitious origin and Collins cites a number of ritualistic murders attributed to them prior to 1916.

Frank Belknap Long – Death Waters: ” … the mass of seething corruption rolled down the hill until it reached the level rocky lake shore, and then it oozed obnoxiously towards us.”

Honduras. Byrne, a New York businessman, bullies and cajoles a huge black boatman into sampling a mouthful of the filthy lake water. The native retaliates by galvanizing a teeming mass of assorted snakes against him.

Greye La Spina – The Tortoise-Shell Cat: In her youth Mammy Jinny had loved a fellow slave who was falsely accused of theft and banished by their master. Mammy knew that there had been no theft and the missing jewelery had been given to a girl by the master’s son, but he laughed in her face when she begged him to confess.
To avenge herself, Manny uses voodoo to transform the transgressor’s innocent young daughter, Vida de Monserreau, into a yellow and black striped cat. Unwittingly, Vida girl goes on a crime spree at the Pine Valley Academy Of Young Ladies, nightly pilfering the other girls’ trinkets.

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