Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween skedaddles along! Here’s a look at my favorite horror tales of the neglected American writer Irvin S Cobb.
THE GALLOWSMITH (1918) – A traveling hangman really loves his work and has executed countless figures with no care regarding their guilt or innocence. If the court condemned them, he does his job.
An evil gunslinger called the Lone-Hand Kid has been condemned to death for a killing he didn’t actually commit. He berates the Gallowsmith so thoroughly while being hanged that our title character screws up, killing the Kid slowly and painfully instead of with one clean, neck-breaking drop.
As he dies the Kid curses the hangman, bringing on a ghastly finale.
MR LOBEL’S APOPLEXY (1922) – A greedy, mean-spirited silent film director named Lobel trashes a dead woman’s reputation simply because it’s to his financial benefit.
The late actress’ ghost manifests on the big screen in the director’s latest movie to take her revenge. I give this tale extra points for the fairly unique way of haunting one’s victim.
FISHHEAD (1913) – In the American South a mutant black man is an outcast because his head and facial features look like a catfish. Though that may sound silly it is played for horror.
At one point the unfortunate man gets harassed by hostile white guys who kill him in reaction to his freakish appearance. As he dies he calls upon giant catfish to kill his murderers. And they do.
To not come across as absurd for modern audiences a short film adaptation would need to be reset in South America and have the title character look like a piranha. As he dies he could summon those more serious and deadly fish to avenge him.
SNAKE DOCTOR (1923) – A backwoods Tennessee character called the Snake Doctor makes a living by catching snakes. The bachelor is presumed to have all his earnings hidden somewhere in his cabin home.
A villainous figure plans to kill the Snake Doctor and find his stashed fortune. A stuffed snake guards the treasure and comes to life to attack the would-be thief.