Silver John: Can These Bones Live?

Silver John: Can These Bones Live?

I’m still a fan of Manly Wade Wellman’s pulp hero Silver John, the roaming singer and guitarist who fights supernatural forces in the Appalachian Mountains of long ago, sort of like a countrified  Orpheus  meets Kolchak. He’s called Silver John because of the silver strings on his guitar and the silver coins he carries in his pockets.

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NOBODY EVER GOES THERE – Just a reminder that all the Silver John stories published after his marriage to his beloved Evadare (click here if you missed the tales chronicling that landmark event –  ) jump around in time.

This short story is set when John is much older. Plus the tale breaks from the tradition of having the stories narrated by Silver John in the first person. We get a third person narrative in which the older (probably 40s) balladeer comes to the aid of two young lovers in the town of Trimble.

Mark Banion and Ruth Covel, two teachers at Trimble High, cross to the forbidden side of Catch River, where ancient, shadowy life forms caused the disappearance of an entire textile factory crew plus their families. All of that happened over 75 years ago, but strange sounds still emanate from the creepy-looking abandoned factory and the company houses nearby.

The romantic leads investigate the strange place and find themselves surrounded by the nebulous creatures from the past. Can Silver John use music to drive away the malevolent entities, like the Native Americans did long ago?

NONE WISER FOR THE TRIP – In this vignette Silver John encounters Jabe Mawks, who vanished 28 years ago. Jabe has now returned, as young as he was then, and with no memory of any time passing, but his wife has passed away and his grown children are strangers to him.

CAN THESE BONES LIVE? – Silver John arrives in Chaw Hollow, where the malformed bones of a large, humanoid skeleton have been discovered. Our hero helps the coffin-makers carry the huge casket they’ve made for the remains of the unknown being. At the graveyard outside Stumber Creek Church Preacher Melick performs a burial service and assumes the affair is completed. Silver John knows better, of course, and spends the night in the graveyard.

Late at night the bones of the skeleton reassemble themselves, reanimating the figure, who bursts up from its grave. The huge, walking skeleton is strong enough to tear up trees with its bare hands, and is ravenously hungry. Its hunger can be satisfied only by feeding on the living in order to restore flesh to its frame, and Silver John and one of the creature’s gravediggers look to be its first meal after untold years of hunger.


*** For more neglected pulp heroes click here: 


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 



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