Halloween Month rolls blithely along as Balladeer’s Blog presents another look at a neglected work of horror fiction.
THE DEVIL OF PEI-LING (1927) – This minor masterpiece was penned by the Bard of the Bowery himself, Herbert Asbury! New York Detective Inspector Conroy tries to stop a reign of terror which is in actuality being inflicted on the world by supernatural forces from beyond the grave and from just north of Hell.
The Inspector was first drawn into the affair by the novel’s narrator, a physician friend of Conroy’s a la Doctor Watson to Sherlock Holmes. The doctor treats a comatose woman following a car accident and notices that she has deep red stigmata on her hands and feet. These stigmata don’t stop at an imitation of Christ’s wounds and begin to sprout nails as well.
The horrors just keep coming from there, as a “living” crimson rope often appears out of nowhere to hang a series of law enforcement figures and jurors who sentenced a murderous magician named Paul Silvio to death by hanging.
As Conroy and his medical friend probe deeper they learn that after Silvio was hanged, his corpse animated itself long enough to threaten vengeance on everyone involved in his execution. Soon after the comatose stigmatic woman appears at the hospital other horrors abound.
Gigantic toads the size of small dogs show up, bloody human sacrifices take place and a bronze idol of a demonic being called Pei-Ling periodically comes to life to murder people.
Is it Paul Silvio behind it all, getting his promised revenge from beyond the grave? Or is his step-daughter Dorothy Crawford really a witch unleashing the dark forces on New York City?
Personally, I couldn’t help but think of Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks when reading this tale which features a brand of black magick peculiar to Tibet.
The Devil of Pei-Ling was published in England under the title The Crimson Rope and was presented as a Broadway play in the 1930s but no cinematic adaptation was made. That’s a shame because the Roaring Twenties backdrop to the story would make this neglected horror story irresistible to me.
The Inspector is upstaged by his physician friend most of the time it turns out.
For a nice break from vampires, zombies and slashers this novel is excellent Halloween fare. +++
FOR ISABELLA OF EGYPT, FEATURING A GOLEM, A MANDRAGORE, A LIVING DEAD MAN, A GYPSY WITCH AND A JEWISH SORCEROR CLICK HERE
FOR MORE HALLOWEEN ITEMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/halloween-season/
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