Tag Archives: Balladeer’s Blog

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1869)

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1869) – Written by Victor Hugo. 

Man who laughs book coverI always commit the literary blasphemy of saying that I don’t consider Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame to be very much of a horror story. I will forever maintain that Hugo’s overlooked novel The Man Who Laughs features all the virtues of Quasimodo’s tale AND presents them all in a superior fashion.

In addition The Man Who Laughs contains many more elements that lend themselves to pure horror than does The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the past I’ve examined elements of the film adaptations of The Man Who Laughs (including the fact that the physical appearance of Batman’s foe the Joker was inspired by Conrad Veidt’s 1928 portrayal of the title figure.)

Here’s a breakdown of why I prefer TMWL, with Hugo’s tragic monster Gwynplaine to THOND, with his tragic hunchback Quasimodo:

GwynplaineTIME PERIOD: The Man Who Laughs has the action set mostly in England in 1705. For Gothic Horror I prefer that time period to the late 1400s, when The Hunchback of Notre Dame takes place.

ORIGIN OF THE TITLE CHARACTER: Quasimodo the hunchback was simply born in a deformed state. 

Gwynplaine on the other hand, was born looking normal, but was stolen away and sold by villains to the Comprachicos, evil anatomists who distorted the bodies of children in very painful ways. Continue reading

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QLETT SDO ZXXTNG!

A1 cHalloween Month plactan jremm!

Zxxtng klitmo junb Jack Parsons gwytrty sdo.

Bih gneq zyzy Babalon Working. Qlett sdo zxxtng twa kwa sdo! Sruohu gzevvro kna lu gzevvro sdo feswaq ts o pa Marjorie Cameron.

Ghui laktim laktoma Jan-Mar 3112 YOLD.

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ACE OF SPADES: HALLOWEEN SONG

Mascot FOUR original pics

Balladeer’s Blog

Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog. Today I decided to take time out from my magnum opus titled Was Paul McCartney Really John Lennon? to send a musical shoutout to Motorhead’s Ace of Spades.  

This is my favorite song about a gravedigger. Not even those songs in Repo! The Genetic Opera come close. But let’s face it, I think we’d all LOVE to hear Paul Sorvino and  Paris Hilton performing a duet of Ace of Spades for Lemmy’s birthday.

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THE SOUL OF KOL NIKON (1913): NEGLECTED HORROR

Soul of Kol NikonTHE SOUL OF KOL NIKON (1913) – Written by author, poet and librettist Eleanor Farjeon as a serial in 1913. Later novelized. Halloween Month rolls along with another look at a neglected tale of horror.

In Denmark a baby named Kol Nikon is born to a hysterical woman whose husband has just died. The terrified mother is convinced that Elves caused her husband’s death and replaced her real son with a Changeling.

Kol Nikon thus grows up unloved by his fearful, possibly insane mother. Plus the young man is shunned by the equally superstitious villagers of his mother’s hometown. Kol is comforted by a pagan nature goddess and grows up with all manner of supernatural creatures as his playmates.

As the Changeling matures he longs for a soul of his own since – as the offspring of Elves who exchanged him for the human infant they stole from his mother – he is soulless. Kol Nikon’s quest for a soul to steal would make a good (but dark) companion musical to Pippin, which was also based on a work by Eleanor Farjeon.  Continue reading

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THE GALLOWS MAN: NEGLECTED HORROR LEGEND

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this slice of pure Americana.

gallows-manTHE GALLOWS MAN – This is another neglected American horror legend which has been presented in many different versions over the years. Ralph Sutherland was born in 1702 in either New York City or a town near the Catskills, depending on the version.

Sutherland was born into the New York gentry but in his adult years his drinking and gambling eventually embarrassed the family enough that they stopped associating with him. After boozing, whoring and gambling away a large part of his money Ralph was left with just one reasonably-sized home surrounded by a stone wall. He had enough funds left to maintain that house and took in an indentured servant – a beautiful teen girl from Scotland.

Sutherland’s foul and obnoxious nature soon led the girl to flee. In a rage Ralph mounted a horse and tracked her down before she got far. The black-hearted man tied the terrified girl to his horse and rode back to his home, but was either so furious or so drunk that he inadvertently dragged the poor female to her death. Continue reading

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LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN!

From The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it’s the proverbial song that needs no introduction! 

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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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