Category Archives: Halloween Season

CITY OF VAMPIRES (1867)

Halloween Month moved another notch today. Balladeer’s Blog continues its month-long celebration with a look at another neglected gem of horror fiction.

Vampire city 2LA VILLE-VAMPIRE (City of Vampires) 1867 – Written by the accomplished and prolific Paul Feval, it’s Village of Vampires, or City of Vampires or, if you prefer, Vampire City (Wham, bam, thank you ma’am! Va- va- va- Vampire CIT-EEE! … Had to be said.)

Paul Feval’s heroine in this story is the young Ann Ward, who went on to be Ann Radcliffe, pioneer of Gothic Horror through such works as The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian. Ann’s friends Cornelia de Witt and Ned Barton depart for the continent with their new acquaintance Otto Goetzi.

Vampire CityGoetzi turns out to be a vampire who lures Cornelia and Ned deeper and deeper into a trap. Back in England, Ann Ward deduces all this from odd letters that she receives from her friends and from horrific premonitions which come to her in nightmares.

Ann and a much older family servant called Grey Jack cross the English Channel to come to the rescue of Ann’s friends. Soon the trail leads to Belgrade and then to a dismal city called Selene by outsiders but known as the Sepulchre to its inhabitants, all of whom are vampires.    Continue reading

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THE COFFIN (2000): HALLOWEEN SUPERHERO

Balladeer’s Blog’s 31 Days of Halloween continues with this neglected horror hero.

CoffinTHE COFFIN (2000) – Written by Phil Hester and drawn by Mike Huddleston, The Coffin was originally a four-part serial before being collected into graphic novel format. I’ll provide details below but right up front let me point out that the horrific but intriguing premise is that the Coffin is a dead scientist whose soul is trapped within a polymer techno-suit of his own creation.

Dr Ashar Ahmad, the brilliant scientist in question, is employed by Heller Technologies, whose eponymous owner is a vile and amoral tycoon. Heller himself is a figure straight out of a horror film.

He’s incredibly old and his withered, wrinkled body is still functioning only because of all of the legal and illegal organ transplants he has had. His body is a battleground of scars from all that surgery. Obviously immortality is what our power-mad plutocrat longs for.

Coffin bAnd so Heller Technologies recruited Dr Ahmad to devise strong, lightweight polymers for medical purposes. To that end Ashar has developed polymers that can be used to form an artificial membrane that is perfectly impermeable and incredibly durable.

Extensions of that technology result in masses of polymers – literally thousands of layers – some of them only a few molecules thick. Dr Ahmad has managed to make it so that these polymers react to electronic pulses like the kind from a human brain to its body’s muscles, making the polymer “skin” or membrane expand or contract in response to those electronic pulses. Continue reading

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THE GHOST GARDEN (1918): HALLOWEEN NOVEL

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues.

Ghost GardenTHE GHOST GARDEN (1918) – Written by female author Amelie Rives. This story starts out in Colonial Virginia. Melany Horsemanden was almost legendary for her beauty but also for her mean-spirited nature and casual cruelty.

She had an elaborate dream-mansion constructed for herself and named it Her Wish. True love comes Melany’s way but her selfish and outrightly villainous nature drives away the only man who truly loved her, not just her wealth and beauty.

Horsemanden dies young and her ghost haunts the mansion for years. Eventually Evan Radford, a wealthy northern man, shows up and is so intrigued by the history of the deserted mansion Her Wish that he explores the grounds. Continue reading

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THE CENTENARIAN (1822): GOTHIC HORROR

CentenarianTHE CENTENARIAN (1822) – Written by THE Honore de Balzac. Thirty-one days of Halloween continue here at Balladeer’s Blog! The Centenarian or The Two Beringhelds was one of the “quickie” novels that Balzac wrote in his early career, this one under the pseudonym Horace de Saint-Aubin.  

Balzac himself looked down on The Centenarian and other early works that he churned out for quick money like the Pulp writers of a century later. Still, this work has value, just like the early Pulp stories from writers like Tennessee Williams, Dashiell Hammett and others. Plus I’m a Napoleon geek so I love immersing myself in the time period in which the novel is set.

The title character is really Count Maxime Beringheld Sculdans. The Centenarian was born in 1470 and led an adventurous life, supposedly even serving as a ship’s doctor when Columbus visited the New World. During his wanderings across the globe Count Maxime studied all the medicine and related sciences that he could.

Under the Rosicrucians the Centenarian learned various secrets of alchemy, including universal healing powers and immortality. Those last two secrets often worked hand in hand: Maxime would use his powers to mystically withdraw the illness or injury out of a sufferer but his “fee” was the draining of the life essence of another person in return. 

Honore de BalzacThe Centenarian leeches out the vitality of his victims but NOT by sucking out blood like a vampire. He drains their life force via alchemical means with his “medical” equipment. By the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Count Maxime has grown a bit weary of his eternal life in typical Gothic style.  

In recent centuries our title character has devoted himself to secretly watching over his family line, mysteriously saving their lives or killing off their enemies at crucial periods. The Centenarian has most recently intervened in Spain during the Wars of the French Revolution, saving the life of his descendant General Tullius Beringheld.

Intrigued, Tullius seeks out information on his enigmatic savior and eventually learns the Centenarian’s true identity and about his supernatural nature. By this point (the 1790s) Maxime’s body is misshapen. His arms are emaciated but his torso and legs are thick and muscular.

He is unusually tall but the skin on his head is so thin that his  scalp and facial features resemble a living skull. He smells of the grave but his powers of healing make others treat him with fear and respect despite the awful fee he demands.  

The Centenarian’s additional powers include immunity to hanging and other forms of mortal injury. He has superhuman strength and his fiery eyes can induce fear, paralysis or death. He can read minds and teleport as well.   Continue reading

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THE WIZARD OF THE MOUNTAIN (1867): HALLOWEEN STORY

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues!

wizard of the mountainTHE WIZARD OF THE MOUNTAIN (1867) – Written by William Gilbert, father of THE W.S. Gilbert.

This book centers around the wizard Innominato (“Nameless One”) in Italy during the 1200s. Though sometimes classed as a novel this is technically a collection of episodes or short stories centering around the customers of the Innominato.

These figures pay the feared wizard for his services but dark twists often befall the customers anthology show style. Here are the individual episodes:

THE DOCTOR ONOFRIO – An evil lawyer (the doctor of the title, as in juris doctorate) wants the Innominato to magically grant him wealth and a restoration of his youth. The wizard agrees but warns the lawyer to change his ways. If he doesn’t, every malevolent act he commits will age him. The vile man’s behavior quickly ages him to death.

THE LAST LORDS OF GARDONAL – A sleazy nobleman lusts after a beautiful peasant girl but in his feverish pursuit accidentally kills her. He wants the wizard to bring the girl back to life. The Innominato does … but she turns out to be a vampire.

THE ROBBER CHIEF – A bandit comes into conflict with our sorcerer. The magician serves up a very cold revenge that goes beyond the grave. After he is killed the dead outlaw’s ghost is mystically condemned to haunt a palace until he has done sufficient penance for all of his evil acts in life.   Continue reading

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HELLRAISER: THE FOUR BEST FILMS

Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with my take on the top four (of ten) movies in the Hellraiser franchise. 

HellraiserHELLRAISER (1987) – “Jee-zuz WEPT!” Clive Barker helped translate his novel The Hellbound Heart to the big screen in this film. It’s incredibly rare for a novelist to get to DIRECT a movie version of one of his own works but Barker made the most of it.

Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) has exhausted sexual sensation with women, men, corpses and animals. Seeking new stimulation he solves LeMerchand’s Puzzle Box, a “Rubik’s Cube From Hell” which leaves him at the mercy of the demonic inter-dimensional sadomasochists called the Cenobites of the Order of the Gash. 

Suffering unimaginable torments as the M in this S&M relationship, Frank struggles to escape the Cenobites for good, even if it means sacrificing his brother Larry plus Larry’s wife Julia (Clare Higgins) and daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence). Continue reading

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MUMMY STORY FOR HALLOWEEN – IRAS: A MYSTERY (1896)

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this vintage mummy tale.

Iras A MysteryIRAS: A MYSTERY (1896) – This story was written by female author Henrietta Dorothy Everett under the pseudonym Theo Douglas. The setting is the 1880s.

Our main character, Egyptologist Ralph Lavenham, becomes haunted by Savak, an evil priest whose spirit was unleashed during a séance Lavenham attended. The spirit of this ancient Egyptian continues harassing our hero until he pieces together the fact that the ghost has an interest in a mummy that the Egyptologist owns. Continue reading

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