Tag Archives: Gothic horror

MALDOROR 3:2 – VICTIMS BOTH LIVING AND DEAD

As Halloween Month continues what could be more appropriate than to resume Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.

WARNING: THIS IS ANOTHER OF THE MOST TWISTED, DISTURBING AND HORRIFIC STANZAS IN THE ENTIRE BOOK. 

VICTIMS BOTH LIVING AND DEAD

Maldoror 2The malevolent supernatural being Maldoror commits one of his most horrific acts of violence ever in this stanza. For those horror fans who prefer to see our vile main character perpetrating genuine atrocities this is the tale for you.  

This stanza begins with Maldoror contemplating an elderly, poverty-stricken madwoman who roams the roads of France. She wears tattered clothing and her aged face is withered like a mummy’s while what little hair she has left falls like long spider-legs over her head and neck. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season, Maldoror

THE MONKS OF MONK HALL (1844-1845)

As Halloween Month continues, Balladeer’s Blog looks at a neglected work of American horror.

Monks of Monk Hall

THE MONKS OF MONK HALL aka THE QUAKER CITY (1844-1845) – Written by George Lippard, this strange and macabre story was originally serialized from 1844-1845 before being published in novel form. This bloody, horrific work was America’s best-selling novel before Uncle Tom’s Cabin

I always refer to this book as “Twin Peaks Goes To The 1840s.” On one level The Monks of Monk Hall deals with crime, corruption, drugs and sex-trafficking among many supposedly “respectable” citizens of Philadelphia the way Twin Peaks did with residents of the title town.

On another level the novel deals with supernatural horrors that lurk behind the Quaker City’s murders, vices and sexual perversions, again like the David Lynch series. The center of the darkness is Monk Hall, an old, sprawling mansion with an unsavory history and reputation. Many have disappeared into the bowels of the building, never to be seen again. The power players and criminals who mingle at the Hall in bizarre orgies, secret murders and drunken debauches are known as “Monks” – Monk Hall’s exclusive membership.

Monks of Monk Hall 4

Think of Monk Hall as a combination of Twin Peaks establishments like the Black Lodge, One-Eyed Jacks and the Great Northern all rolled into one. The vast, multi-roomed Hall is honey-combed with secret passageways and trap doors. Beneath the mansion are a subterranean river plus several levels of labyrinthine catacombs filled with rats, refuse and the skeletal remains of the Monks’ many victims from the past century and a half.   

The sinister staff of Monk Hall are happy to provide their members with all the sex, opium and other diversions that they hunger for behind their public veil of respectability. Throw in the occult practices of the members and there’s a sort of “American version of Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hellfire Club” feel to it. Among the novel’s more horrific characters:

Monks of Monk Hall 2

DEVIL-BUG – The deformed, depraved and deranged bastard offspring of one of Monk Hall’s members and one of the many prostitutes who are literally enslaved there. Devil-Bug has spent his entire life in the Hall and has no other name. He is squat, incredibly strong and grotesquely ugly with one large gaping eye and one small, withered, empty socket on his face.

This monstrosity works as Monk Hall’s combination door-man, bouncer and executioner, gleefully murdering on demand and secreting the corpses away in the sub-basements beneath the mansion. Just to make him even more unwholesome, Devil-Bug sleeps next to the corpse of one of his victims and uses occupied coffins as furniture in his creepy rooms.

Monks of Monk Hall 3

RAVONI – Interchangeably referred to as a sorcerer, mad doctor, astrologer and anatomist, this handsome but sinister man pulls the strings behind the supernatural evils of Philadelphia and vicinity.

Master of an occult method of eternal youth, Ravoni has been alive for over two hundred years. (The novel repeatedly says just two hundred years, but the villain refers to having been present at the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which happened in 1572, so it has to be longer)

Ravoni has powers of mesmerism, prognostication and can even raise the dead. He was the original owner of Monk Hall under another name long ago. Readers eventually learn the kind of dark rituals the man performed at the Hall but don’t learn the full extent of his evil plans until the climax of the novel.         

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

MALDOROR 2:6 – THE JUSTICE OFFERED BY THE LAW IS WORTHLESS

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. NOT FOR THE EASILY UPSET.

THE JUSTICE OFFERED BY THE LAW IS WORTHLESS

Tuileries gardens at nightThe supernatural being Maldoror, fresh off his sadistic murder of a 10 year old girl in the previous stanza, this time around turns his attentions on an 8 year old little boy. Our vile protagonist first spots the child sitting on a bench in the Tuileries Gardens. Maldoror sits down next to the boy and engages him in conversation. 

The conversation consists of the monstrous figure peppering the child with questions about his beliefs and his dreams for the future as well as his barely-developed notions of right and wrong.  Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season, Maldoror

MALDOROR 2:5 – INDELIBLE BLOOD GLITTERING LIKE A DIAMOND

mascot sword and gun picBalladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.

PLEASE NOTE:

As I’ve warned in the past, don’t let the 1868 date fool you. There are disturbing elements to this.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you if this really gets to you. 

INDELIBLE BLOOD GLITTERING LIKE A DIAMOND

Maldoror 2 5Back to the insane, taciturn and blood-thirsty Maldoror we’re used to this time around. The supernatural being has been strolling through a particular narrow Paris alley as part of the ground he covers while taking his walk. A slender ten year old girl, oblivious to the danger she’s courting, takes to following him each time until he gets to the end of the alley where she and her mother live.

Growing bolder she even takes to playfully blocking his way sometimes. On occasions when Maldoror tries to walk through at a brisker pace she speeds up her own gait to keep pace with him. On occasions when he goes slowly through the alley the little girl matches that pace, too. When she tries to start a conversation with the monstrous figure by asking him what time it is he coldly replies that he has no watch. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Halloween Season, Maldoror

MALDOROR 2:4 – THE MIDNIGHT OMNIBUS

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.

THE MIDNIGHT OMNIBUS

Midnight strikes in Paris. An eerie double-decker horse-drawn omnibus bursts forth from the ground and begins making its way through the nearly empty, night-darkened streets.

A few late night wayfarers regard the unusual omnibus with a shudder as it goes by. The vehicle carries the full passenger load of twenty-four but all of the travelers on the upper deck appear to be lifeless corpses leaned against each other.

The top-hatted driver looks like another corpse, and the whip he uses to urge on his horses seems more alive than he is. That whip appears to be what animates the arm of the otherwise lifeless driver, not the other way around. Even the passengers on the inner deck remain mute and still and are likewise as pale as ghosts.   Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Halloween Season, Maldoror

MALDOROR THIRTEEN: THE GREAT TOAD ANGEL

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.

THE GREAT TOAD-ANGEL 

Maldoror 13This stanza opens up with the supernatural being Maldoror contemplating the worms he pulls from the swollen belly of a dead dog. Slicing the worms into small bits he philosophizes on how human beings should learn a lesson about their own mortality from the state of such dead, worm-riddled bodies. 

Night is falling. In the distance he spies a horse-sized toad with white wings flying down from the sky and landing on the road he is traveling. As the two draw nearer to each other Maldoror senses something familiar about the creature and reflects that its face is “as beautiful as suicide”. He resents the being over how beautiful it looks even in its massive ugliness and the halo over the toad’s head tells him it has come from Heaven and his archrival God.  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Halloween Season, Maldoror

MALDOROR 12: THE PHILOSOPHICAL GRAVEDIGGER

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. NOTE: As always, the Maldoror blog posts are not for the squeamish. 

THE PHILOSOPHICAL GRAVEDIGGER

Maldoror gravediggerThe supernatural being Maldoror, here referring to himself as “He who knows not how to weep”, found himself in Norway in his wanderings. While in the Faroe Islands he observed men who hunt for the nests of sea birds in mountain crevices hundreds of feet deep. He mused that if he was in charge of such an expedition he would have knicked the strong rope the mountain climbers use, weakening it so he could enjoy watching at least one of them plummet to a bone-shattering death far below.  

Balladeer's Blog mascot

BALLADEER’S BLOG

This image of a human body fatally falling into a massive hole in the earth put him in mind of freshly-dug graves. Thus inspired, Maldoror indulged in a nocturnal exploration of the area’s graveyards. In one in particular he passed a band of necrophiliacs violating beautiful corpses and stopped to chat with a nearby gravedigger.

With typical vanity Maldoror told the gravedigger to consider himself lucky to be interacting with him. He (Maldoror) fancied himself a figurative “great whale” momentarily raising his head above the waters of the Sea of Death in which he made his home, granting a mere mortal like the gravedigger the privilege of seeing him in his dread majesty.    Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

MALDOROR 11: DISTANT SCREAMS OF MOST POIGNANT AGONY

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. NOT FOR THE EASILY FRIGHTENED.

DISTANT SCREAMS OF MOST POIGNANT AGONY

Maldoror 11For a change of pace we readers are not immersed entirely in a first person narration by Maldoror himself. This section begins with a mother, father and their beloved child Edward spending a quiet evening together. The parents are advanced in age and did not have Edward until very late in life after years of longing for a child of their own. 

The happy trio catch a glimpse of the supernatural being Maldoror peering in at them through a window. Though they think they succeed at shooing him away from their home little Edward cannot get the hideous man out of his mind. The family’s conversation is periodically and repeatedly punctuated by what the author describes as “distant prolonged screams of the most poignant agony.”  Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season, Maldoror

MALDOROR: A NEGLECTED MASTERPIECE OF SURREAL HORROR

“Maldoror and His Smile” by Lord Orlando

Balladeer’s Blog has done a comprehensive examination of The Songs of Maldoror, often referred to as just Maldoror. The original 1868 French language work by the self-designated Count de Lautreamont (real name Isidore Ducasse) was in verse form, which is great for poetry geeks like me but if you prefer prose there are plenty of prose translations available. 

This work of surreal horror was so far ahead of its time that the author himself, in one of the few existing copies of his correspondence, expressed fears that he might be jailed or thrown into an insane asylum and requested that the publisher literally “stop the presses.” Just 88 copies of the book were completed in that initial run and for a few decades The Songs of Maldoror languished in obscurity.  

By the 1890s those few copies of Maldoror had been circulating among the more adventurous literati of the time period and the work began to be hailed as a forgotten masterpiece by Maeterlink, Bloy, Huysmans and de Gourmont. This new acclaim ultimately resulted in a new run of copies – this time in the thousands instead of dozens like the first run. This also accounts for why some reviewers mistakenly refer to The Songs of Maldoror as an 1890s work, despite its original publication date of 1868. Continue reading

21 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

THE MONKS OF MONK HALL (1844-1845): HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Happy Halloween! Balladeer’s Blog marks it with a neglected work of American horror.

Monks of Monk HallTHE MONKS OF MONK HALL aka THE QUAKER CITY (1844-1845) – Written by George Lippard, this strange and macabre story was originally serialized from 1844-1845 before being published in novel form. This bloody, horrific work was America’s best-selling novel before Uncle Tom’s Cabin

I always refer to this book as “Twin Peaks Goes To The 1840s.” On one level The Monks of Monk Hall deals with crime, corruption, drugs and sex-trafficking among many supposedly “respectable” citizens of Philadelphia the way Twin Peaks did with residents of the title town.

On another level the novel deals with supernatural horrors that lurk behind the Quaker City’s murders, vices and sexual perversions, again like the David Lynch series. The center of the darkness is Monk Hall, an old, sprawling mansion with an unsavory history and reputation. Many have disappeared into the bowels of the building, never to be seen again. The power players and criminals who mingle at the Hall in bizarre orgies, secret murders and drunken debauches are known as “Monks” – Monk Hall’s exclusive membership.

Monks of Monk Hall 4Think of Monk Hall as a combination of Twin Peaks establishments like the Black Lodge, One-Eyed Jacks and the Great Northern all rolled into one. The vast, multi-roomed Hall is honey-combed with secret passageways and trap doors. Beneath the mansion are a subterranean river plus several levels of labyrinthine catacombs filled with rats, refuse and the skeletal remains of the Monks’ many victims from the past century and a half.   

The sinister staff of Monk Hall are happy to provide their members with all the sex, opium and other diversions that they hunger for behind their public veil of respectability. Throw in the occult practices of the members and there’s a sort of “American version of Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hellfire Club” feel to it. Among the novel’s more horrific characters:

Monks of Monk Hall 2DEVIL-BUG – The deformed, depraved and deranged bastard offspring of one of Monk Hall’s members and one of the many prostitutes who are literally enslaved there. Devil-Bug has spent his entire life in the Hall and has no other name. He is squat, incredibly strong and grotesquely ugly with one large gaping eye and one small, withered, empty socket on his face.

This monstrosity works as Monk Hall’s combination door-man, bouncer and executioner, gleefully murdering on demand and secreting the corpses away in the sub-basements beneath the mansion. Just to make him even more unwholesome, Devil-Bug sleeps next to the corpse of one of his victims and uses occupied coffins as furniture in his creepy rooms.

RAVONI – Interchangeably referred to as a sorcerer, mad doctor, astrologer and anatomist, this handsome but sinister man pulls the strings behind the supernatural evils of Philadelphia and vicinity.

Monks of Monk Hall 3Master of an occult method of eternal youth, Ravoni has been alive for over two hundred years. (The novel repeatedly says just two hundred years, but the villain refers to having been present at the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which happened in 1572, so it has to be longer)

Ravoni has powers of mesmerism, prognostication and can even raise the dead. He was the original owner of Monk Hall under another name long ago. Readers eventually learn the kind of dark rituals the man performed at the Hall but don’t learn the full extent of his evil plans until the climax of the novel.          Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season