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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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COLLEGE FOOTBALL RESULTS FROM OCTOBER 19th

HEADLINES

Evangel CrusadersTHAT WAS NUMBER FIIIIVE – In the NAIA the 16th ranked EVANGEL UNIVERSITY CRUSADERS welcomed the number 5 team in the nation – the BENEDICTINE COLLEGE RAVENS. After a slow start the Crusaders made their move, overtaking the Ravens and Upsetting them by a final tally of 35-21.

Nebraska-KearneyDOWN GOES NUMBER SIX – Over in NCAA Division Two the UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT KEARNEY LOPERS took the field against the visiting 6th ranked NORTHWEST MISSOURI STATE BEARCATS. A 14-0 1st Quarter lead for the Lopers was unchanged at Halftime. The 3rd Quarter ended with UNK on top 21-14 and the 4th with a 24-17 triumph for the Lopers.

Birmingham Southern helmetKNOCKING OFF NUMBER SEVEN – Meanwhile, down in NCAA Division Three the BIRMINGHAM SOUTHERN COLLEGE PANTHERS played host to the country’s number 7 team – the BERRY UNIVERSITY VIKINGS. The Panthers put the Vikings on Upset Alert with a 21-6 lead at the Half, then coasted to a 28-15 victory. 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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COLLEGE FOOTBALL RESULTS FROM OCTOBER 17th

Dickinson State Blue Hawks helmet NEWNUMBER FOURTEEN ROLLS – The number 14 team in the nation – the DICKINSON STATE BLUE HAWKS – took it on the road against the DAKOTA STATE TROJANS. The 1st Half ended with the Blue Hawks on top by a mere 14-9 but after the break Dickinson State made their move. In the end the Blue Hawks won out 31-14.

Frostburg State BobcatsBOBCAT STADIUM BLOWOUT – Last night the FROSTBURG STATE BOBCATS welcomed the UNIVERSITY OF CHARLESTON GOLDEN EAGLES. The Bobcats were less than gracious hosts, leading the Golden Eagles 28-0 by Halftime on their way to a 42-7 demolition of their opponents.

Point University good helmetROAD WARRIORS – The POINT UNIVERSITY SKYHAWKS won a 35-10 affair at the CINCINNATI CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY EAGLES   ###   Meanwhile the VALLEY CITY STATE VIKINGS smacked around their hosts the PRESENTATION COLLEGE SAINTS 35-7   ###   And the WALDORF COLLEGE WARRIORS utterly annihilated the MAYVILLE STATE COMETS to the tune of SIXTY-THREE to NOTHING. 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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MAD MAX (1979)

Mad MaxMAD MAX (1979) – Balladeer’s Blog’s “Weirdness at the End of the World” takes a look at one of the best movies in the best franchise in the crowded Post-Apocalypse sub-genre.

I recently re-watched this 1979 gem in the full 93 minute Aussie “language” version. Using the sub-titles to make sure I missed nothing from the heavy accents, I was struck once again by how part of the post-apocalyptic atmosphere is filled in via the full text of what the Main Force Patrol radio operators are saying AND by the news reports. Outside of those brief touches Mad Max perfectly embodies the cinematic principle of “show don’t tell.”  

In a dying world after a limited nuclear war over oil between world powers, Mad Max is set in a few Australian towns which escaped destruction presumably because they were safely away from strategic sites targeted by missiles. Supplies are tight and citizens are warned not to abuse their food rationing privileges.

Law and order have become very tenuous concepts amid this spreading societal collapse. There is no evidence of anyone except local authorities being in charge, including their law enforcement arm, the Main Force Patrol (MFP) which includes Max Rockatansky, brought to life by Mel Gibson. 

Mad Max BThough in real life this sense of no larger government having control may have been a function of the film’s low budget, I find it adds nicely to the uncertain atmosphere. In just a few years the American telefilm The Day After would come close to presenting that same air of confusion about the new state of affairs following a catastrophic war.

Who’s in charge? And who – if anyone – won? Like the opening song One of the Living in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome would later remind us, a very old saying pointed out that following a nuclear war the living would envy the dead.

Getting back to the Main Force Patrol, their “uniform” is the all-black outfit with thigh holsters for their shotguns that became Mad Max’s signature look. Their bronze badges are why the lawless element derisively refers to them as “the bronze.” 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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