Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will recognize Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John from my Pulp Heroes page. Silver John, so- named because of the silver strings on his guitar and the silver coins he carried in his pockets, roamed the Appalachian Mountains decades ago combating dark supernatural menaces. On my Pulp Heroes page I’ve done a synopsis for each of the short stories featuring this neglected character, but this post will simply list the four tales most appropriate for Halloween.

4. THE LITTLE BLACK TRAIN – While performing with other musicians at a wealthy Southern Belle’s outdoor celebration Silver John finds himself trying to save his alluring but wicked hostess from losing her life to a ghostly train. That pitch- black train with coffin- shaped boxcars runs only at midnight on just one night a year to run down and take the life of a designated sinner … And she’s slated to be this year’s victim.

3. CAN THESE BONES LIVE? – Our wandering balladeer encounters an odd funeral procession of mountain folk burying an extraordinarily large skeleton they’ve uncovered. After participating in the burial John stakes out the cemetary that night and winds up in a battle with the reanimated skeleton (pictured above left) when it rises from its grave determined to kill and kill and kill.

2. OWLS HOOT IN THE DAYTIME – Silver John comes across an isolated mountaintop that is a wasteland of rotted wood and twisted metal. A grizzled, dwarfish figure and his macabre animal companion live there guarding a temple built into the mountain itself. The temple has been sealed for eons and the demonic entity imprisoned within is looking to burst free and ravage the world.

1. NINE YARDS OF OTHER CLOTH – This definitive Silver John story is ideal for Halloween. In this landmark tale our hero meets his eventual wife Evadare when they are both lost inside a forest of coal- black trees. Taking shelter in a rough cabin the duo are caught between two menaces: a mad musician who wields magic by playing a fiddle carved from the wood of the black trees in this sinister woodland, and a monstrous being named Kalu who has been preying on human beings since the days when only Native Americans lived on the continent. And what is the secret of the lonely grave with a crucifix- shaped tree literally growing from it? And carved into the crucifix are the words “Pray for Hosea Palmer”.




Filed under Pulp Heroes


  1. JosephFranplou

    These silver john stories sound so interesting. Never heard of the character until now.

  2. He’s like a redneck Ash Williams from the Army of Darkness comic books!

  3. JennSi

    The train one sounds creepy.

  4. Werner

    I can see a young Bruce Campbell as Silver John.

  5. Mika

    With todays cgi a Silver John series would be pretty easy to make.

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