Tag Archives: Halloween stories

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

2 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

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

6 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

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

2 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

HALLOWEEN STORIES OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this look at six of the neglected horror stories written by architect Ralph Adams Cram between 1894 and 1903.

Black Spirits and whiteNUMBER 252 RUE M LE PRINCE – A haunted house at the title address in Paris turns out to be the former home of a Spanish sorcerer. The story’s narrator makes the typically stupid decision for a horror story of spending a night in the house to get to the bottom of the supernatural phenomena.

He compounds his stupidity by sleeping in the temple room in which the sorcerer performed rituals on his Black Magic altar. Overnight the foolish narrator is attacked by a blob-like, protoplasmic monster with wide, staring eyes.

THE DEAD SMILE – Lured by shrill screaming and shrieking from the family mausoleum, Sir Gabriel Ockham seeks to quiet the dead. To that end he must creep into the tomb of his evil late father and obtain a mysterious package containing an old family secret. His father’s corpse lies there outside its coffin and with its decapitated head which moves around on its own, smiling at all who enter. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

LA MALROCHE (1833): HALLOWEEN READING

La MalrocheLA MALROCHE (1833) – By Louisa Stuart Costello. Halloween month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with yet another look at a neglected work of Gothic Horror, this one dealing with witchcraft, a monstrous child and supernatural beasts. Louisa Costello, the female author of this eerie tale, deserves to be much better known.

La Malroche refers to a mountain in a dreaded and generally avoided area of 1830s France. At the foot of that mountain is the town of Escures, where only people too poor to have fled the area still live. Also near the foot of La Malroche is the home of the witch called La Bonne Femme (“The Good Woman”) by the local citizenry, a title bestowed on her out of fear rather than merit.   Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

LE DIABLE AMOUREUX (1772): HALLOWEEN STORY

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this look at a neglected Gothic Horror tale.

Le Diable AmoureuxLE DIABLE AMOUREUX (THE DEVIL IN LOVE) – Written in 1772 and translated into English in 1793. This story was penned by Jacques Cazotte and is a forerunner of the type of fantastic, oneiric horror stories that E.T.A. Hoffmann would specialize in.

The tale’s protagonist is Don Alvaro, a Spanish military officer serving in the army of the King of Naples in the 1750s. Don Alvaro is a swashbuckling young man with a cavalier irreverence toward organized religion and a fascination with the forbidden thrills of occultism.

Some of our hero’s fellow officers grow annoyed with his lack of piety and resolve to teach him a lesson in the dangers that can be unleashed by diabolism. They provide him with a Black Magic spell and tell him that if he wants a real-life experience with the supernatural he must go to creepy, neglected ruins in the countryside and recite the spell. Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

THE WOLF IN THE GARDEN: WEREWOLF STORY FOR HALLOWEEN

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

Wolf in the GardenTHE WOLF IN THE GARDEN (1931) – Written by Alfred Hoyt Bill. This neglected novel is ideal for people who go in for horror tales set long ago. In this case the 1790s.

New Dordrecht, a town in New York’s Hudson Valley, becomes the home of the fallen Count de Saint Loup, a French aristocrat fleeing the guillotine during the French Revolution. Anyone who remembers that “loup” is French for wolf will immediately know that this figure will be our title werewolf. (Though his deadly hound DeRetz is a red herring at first.)  

The Count transferred much of his wealth before fleeing his homeland so he is initially welcomed as a prominent new citizen in New Dordrecht. Unfortunately Count de Saint Loup soon displays the overbearing, snobbish airs that drove the French underclasses to overthrow the aristocrats in the first place.

People who get on the wrong side of the former “aristo” start to turn up dead after getting attacked by a monstrous wolf-like creature. Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season