THE BLACK REAPER (1899) – By Bernard Capes. Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this neglected horror tale. The story takes place in 1665 in a secluded British farming town called Anathoth.
The Black Reaper of the title is an interesting humanoid monster. Religious superstition and human evil mingle in this tale, just like in so many other great horror stories. And it seems Stephen King must have been, uh … “inspired” by The Black Reaper.
The citizens of Anathoth are described in the narrative as the kind of religious people who merely pay lip service to their beliefs but don’t live by them. They even treated their previous Vicar like a joke.
Now the plague is once more at large in the land and a new fire-and- brimstone preacher has replaced the disrespected man in Anathoth. The new “holy” man frequently rails at the citizens, telling them that they are all horrible sinners and that God will one day mow them down like ripe corn.
All of them, that is, except the children. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s 31 Days of Halloween continues with this neglected horror hero.
THE 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.
And 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
As Halloween Month rolls along, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at two horror stories written by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son, Julian.
THE UNSEEN MAN’S STORY (1893) – A needlessly neglected mummy tale. At age twenty-eight, a Frenchman named Carigliano arrives in Egypt on assignment from the French government. He has studied Egyptology and is thrilled with his placement.
Gradually, dreams and waking visions propel him to investigate around Thebes. Once there, he discovers the previously unviolated tomb of Queen Amunuhet. Throughout the tomb’s halls and chambers he encounters reanimated mummies which stalk him, intent on killing him. Continue reading
Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at some of the neglected literary horror tales I’ve reviewed.
THE ENSOULED VIOLIN (1880) – Written by THE Madame Blavatsky. A gifted Austrian violin player named Franz Stenio is drawn to occult studies while away at college. Hearing dark legends about how Niccolo Paganini supposedly acquired his otherworldly skill with the violin, Franz carries out some of the rumored rituals in real life, to bloody and deadly effect. The fallout is horrific. CLICK HERE.
CITY OF VAMPIRES (1867) – Written by Paul Feval. This criminally neglected story depicts a fictionalized young version of the Gothic horror writer Ann Radcliffe when she was still Ann Ward. To try to save some friends she trails them to the Belgrade city of vampires called Selene as well as the Sepulchre. In that perpetually gloomy and overcast village Ann and company must deal with vampires of varied abilities from back in the era before vampire lore was as set in stone as it later became. CLICK HERE.
THE WERWOLVES (1898) – Written by Honore Beaugrand. A pack of werewolves prey upon victims in Canada. Plenty of unusual takes on lycanthrope lore with a north of the border touch. These particular werewolves are of Iroquois extraction which, along with the cold and snowy backdrop, helps to make this Canadian horror tale stand out from the rest. CLICK HERE. Continue reading
With Squaw Valley becoming Palisades Tahoe now I figured what better time to revisit this neglected 1879 horror story which deserves to be as remembered as Sleepy Hollow, House of the Seven Gables and others.
THE SQUAW HOLLOW SENSATION (1879) – The Squaw Hollow Sensation was originally published in serialized form in the California newspaper The Mountain Democrat from May 31st to July 26th, 1879. The story was set in Squaw Hollow, California, near Placerville in present-day El Dorado County. In fact the El Dorado County Historical Museum was where I obtained my copy of the story for this review.
Our main character is Berlin’s Doctor Loerder Von Herbst, a man trying to prove that ancient Egyptians migrated across the Atlantic Ocean and that the Aztecs were really a colony of Egypt. His studies have led him throughout the American West, northern Mexico and part of California, wherever he believes the legendary region of ancient Aztlan to have been. Von Herbst theorizes that the preserved figures called Aztec Mummies are not corpses but rather living beings who were put into a centuries-long sleep and can be revived.
The good doctor has created a special chemical solution that in experiments has restored body parts from dissected corpses to a condition resembling living tissue. He believes he can use this chemical solution as part of a procedure to bring an Aztec Mummy back to life. Ancient papyri refer to “Heaven’s fire” and Dr Von Herbst is convinced that means lightning and so he plans to use electricity generated from a Daniell’s Battery to aid in the resuscitation process.
With the aid of various assistants the doctor investigates an Aztec tomb uncovered by mining operations. Inside that subterranean tomb are 50 mummified Aztec bodies that are over a thousand years old. With this bonanza on his hands Doctor Von Herbst sets up a laboratory in the massive burial structure and sets to work, carefully keeping a secret of the bodies he and his assistants have discovered. He begins by soaking the mummies in large vats full of his restorative chemical solution which replenishes the bodily fluids of the dehydrated bodies. Continue reading
THE MAGICIAN – During Halloween Season a few years back Balladeer’s Blog reviewed the 1926 silent movie adaptation of The Magician. This time around I’ll review the original Somerset Maugham novel from 1908. It’s no secret at this late date that the malevolent sorceror of the title, Oliver Haddo, was based on the real-life Aleister Crowley. In fact, Crowley would accuse Maugham of plagiarism when he reviewed The Magician under the name Oliver Haddo, his fictional counterpart.
At any rate the 1926 film is an under-appreciated classic of the Silent Era and the novel is of an even higher quality. In Paris – where Maugham first met Crowley in real life – Dr Arthur Burdon, a prominent young British surgeon, has come to visit his fiancee, artist Margaret Dauncey.
Burdon also visits his elderly former mentor, Dr Porhoet, who has turned from medicine to the study of Magick and the occult arts. It is through Porhoet that Dr Burdon and Margaret – plus Margaret’s friend Susie Boyd – first encounter the elegant yet repellant Oliver Haddo. The cadre of friends make the mistake of ridiculing the boastful Haddo’s claims of being a sorceror in the young 20th Century. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this look at two neglected werewolf legends from Detroit.
I. Jacques Morand – Roughly 300 years ago Jacques Morand was in love with Genevieve Parent. Unfortunately for him Genevieve decided to join a convent. When Morand could not change her mind through pleading he turned to threats, which drew warnings from Genevieve’s father and brothers.
In desperation Jacques sold his soul through one of the White Witches of the Woods. In return he gained the unholy power to turn himself into a werewolf after dark. After preying on Genevieve’s father one night he followed that up the next by picking off one of her brothers. Continue reading
THE DUST CLOUD (1912) – Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a look at this tale written by British author E.F. Benson. The story deals with a ghostly automobile and for me the 1912 setting and several macabre touches give it a certain charm that makes it irresistible.
Our unnamed narrator is a well-to-do Brit visiting with his much wealthier friend Harry Combe-Martin near Suffolk. The pair are the stereotypical Gearheads of Old, passionate about driving and discussing every type of automobile model that comes along. Given the time period their goggles and long coats when driving are a given.
After-dinner conversation about the finer points of assorted automobiles turns to Harry’s late friend Guy Elphinstone, another car enthusiast. Elphinstone was a singularly unpleasant man and often spitefully drove over chickens and rabbits who got in his way as he flew along the roadways.
One day a few months earlier, Guy Elphinstone’s impatience caused an accident in which he ran over and killed a little girl and crashed into his own manor’s closed park gates, thus killing himself, too. His car – a twenty-five horsepower Amedee Bollee – was totaled in the wreck. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this slice of pure Americana.
THE 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
Halloween Month continues with Balladeer’s Blog’s look at some seasonal stories by the one and only Ambrose Bierce. I think we’re all sick of Owl Creek Bridge so here are a few lesser-known tales from “Bitter Bierce.”
THE SPOOK HOUSE (1889) – In pre-Civil War Kentucky a pair of traveling politicians take shelter in a notoriously haunted house which was once the site of a bloody massacre. The eerie abandoned house features a room from which an unearthly green glow emanates … a room in which lie all the corpses of the missing massacre victims and of all those foolish enough to stay in the house ever since. Continue reading