Tag Archives: horror stories

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

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FOUR NEGLECTED HALLOWEEN STORIES

As Halloween Month rolls along here are four often-overlooked horror stories in the spirit of the season.

masc graveyard smallerA KISS OF JUDAS (1894) – Written by “X.L.” (Julian Osgood Field). Adapted from Moldavian folk tales, this story tells us that the descendants of Judas walk among us. They are evil people with sinister designs on the people they target. At will they can commit suicide and return from the dead. The Judas-Spawn can then approach their terrified victim and plant a “Judas Kiss” on them, which kills them. The Roman numeral XXX (for the Thirty Pieces of Silver) appears on the dead bodies of their victims.

COLD HARBOR (1924) – Written by Francis Brett Young. Cold Harbor is a forbidding old British mansion overlooking the sea. The Wakes, a young doctor and his wife, encounter the mansion’s sinister owner Furnival. Continue reading

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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.

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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

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TWENTY BEST SILVER JOHN STORIES

Mascot FOUR original pics

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Balladeer’s Blog presents another Top Twenty list for 2020. This time it’s a look at the 20 Best Silver John Stories. If you’re not familiar with this neglected Pulp Hero created by Manly Wade Wellman, Silver John was a wandering musician who battled evil supernatural forces in the Appalachian Mountains of yore. His nickname comes from his pure silver guitar strings and the silver coins he wields in his war against darkness. Think Orpheus meets Kolchak. For more info click HERE

Silver John

Silver John

O, UGLY BIRD! – In this debut Silver John story the heroic balladeer squares off against a vile man named Osmer. That villain dominates an isolated mountain community through his ability to send forth his soul in the form of a giant, hideous bird to prey on any who oppose him. 

THE DESRICK ON YANDRO – Desricks are old mountain cabins dating back to Colonial times. Such cabins were heavily fortified against potential attacks from hostile Native Americans or wild animals. This particular desrick houses a powerful old witch and is guarded by a virtual army of horrific monsters. Silver John must face the Bammat (the last of the woolly mammoths) and the Toller (a deadly winged creature), plus others called the Culverin, the Flat, the Skim and the Behinder.     Continue reading

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NOUGHTS AND CROSSES (1891): HALLOWEEN STORIES BY Q

Just one week left until Halloween! Balladeer’s Blog continues its month-long celebration.

Arthur Quiller CouchNOUGHTS AND CROSSES: COLLECTED SHORT STORIES (1891) – Written by “Q” aka Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, this was a collection of his short stories. Those stories: 

DOUBLES AND QUITS – This tale dealt with a feuding husband and wife who take their bitterness beyond the grave. After burial their ghosts continue their hate-filled struggle. 

THE HAUNTED DRAGOON – A sergeant in the dragoons helps his mistress murder her husband, then sells her out so that she gets all the blame. Her ghost and the ghost of her child begin haunting the man.

THE LADY OF THE SHIP – Lady Alicia of Bohemia is a beautiful witch. Despite the evidence of her dark nature a well-to-do man marries her, convinced he can save her. The tale nears its climax when the Devil arrives in human form to claim the witch’s soul.  Continue reading

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THE WERWOLVES (1898): HALLOWEEN STORY

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this look at  Canadian werewolf lore.

the werwolvesTHE WERWOLVES (sic) (1898) – Written by Honore Beaugrand, this story features fairly unique werewolf lore. The tale is not structured in a traditional way but instead expands upon accounts of lycanthropy in campfire tales as if they really, truly happened.

A modern comparison might be with those far-fetched tales of the supernatural from supermarket tabloids or online Creepypastas. The pretense of reality adds to the fun.

Set in the very early 1700s The Werwolves treats readers to a pack of Iroquois lycanthropes rampaging around Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. These werewolves are much more intelligent and gregarious than many other such monsters.

They operate in a pack to steal away victims and even dance around a fire in their wolfmen forms howling and chanting before devouring their victims.

These Canadian variations also look much different than readers might expect: they have the heads of wolves and the tails of wolves but the rest of their bodies remain human after their nocturnal transformation.  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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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

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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

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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

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