October 18, 2022 · 9:50 pm
INVADERS FROM THE DARK (1925) – Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this horror story written by Fanny Greye Bragg aka “Greye La Spina” for her skill at weaving. Invaders from the Dark was first published in the iconic pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1925, then republished in revised form in 1960.
Regular readers may remember my review of the 1918 novel The Ghost Garden, in which a female ghost and a witch fight over a mortal man they both love. This 1925 tale features a similar love triangle among supernatural figures.
In 1920s New York City, Portia Delore marries a magic practitioner named Howard Differdale, but Differdale’s sorcery forbids the pair from consummating their marriage. Portia learns a great deal of magic from her spouse, but a lady has desires, and after Howard’s death (dare I say “Howard’s End?”) Portia’s are aimed at handsome Owen Edwardes.
She has competition from Russian Princess Irma Andreyevna Tchernova, a werewolf by choice. The ladies woo Owen, with Princess Tchernova even trying to lure the real estate man into becoming a werewolf himself via mystical plants and spells. The princess takes to preying on children and cops. Continue reading →
October 13, 2022 · 12:01 am
Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at Eight Neglected Monsters for Halloween Season was a big hit with readers, so here are more.
First Appearance: The Monks of Monk Hall (1844-1845)
Cryptid Category: Malformed Human
Lore: This deformed and depraved man-monster grew up in Monk Hall as the son of one of the Hall’s members and one of the prostitutes enslaved there. He was squat, incredibly strong and grotesquely ugly with one large gaping eye and one small, withered, empty eye socket on his face.
Devil-Bug – the only name he had ever known – worked as a combination doorman, bouncer and executioner in the vile mansion called Monk Hall in Philadelphia. He killed on command and secreted the corpses deep in the sub-basements of the sinister mansion.
The unwholesome figure slept in a chilly dank room with the body of one of his victims lying next to him. Devil-Bug even used coffins – both occupied and unoccupied – as furniture in his room. Continue reading →
October 6, 2022 · 7:15 pm
Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this 19th Century short story about an Egyptian mummy.
MR. GRUBBE’S NIGHT WITH MEMNON (1843) – Written by Albert Smith and republished in 1857, this tale centered around one Mister Withers Grubbe, an elderly inhabitant of the western part of London. Grubbe is an enthusiast when it comes to ancient history among other topics and visits a London Museum to see their new exhibit of Egyptian antiquities.
After spending time marveling at assorted statues of various sizes and a mummy identified as Memnon, Withers finds a quiet corner to sit down for a rest. He falls asleep and when he wakes up, he discovers it is long past closing time and somehow he was overlooked when the museum was locking up.
Our main character tries all the doors and finds himself trapped until the next morning in the Egyptian wing. Grubbe is uneasy at the thought of spending the night among the ancient Egyptian relics and before long he realizes his uneasiness is more than merited. Continue reading →
October 3, 2022 · 6:45 pm
Halloween Month rolls along with another seasonal post from Balladeer’s Blog. This one covers eight supernatural figures from obscure 1800s tales in the horror counterparts to my Ancient Science Fiction posts.
First Appearance: The Squaw Hollow Sensation (1879)
Cryptid Category: Aztec mummy
Lore: Around the year 800 AD an Aztec scholar named Sethos drank the Draught of the Everlasting Covenant and went into a state of suspended animation. In 1879 mining operations uncovered the tomb where he was hidden away.
A scientist of the era mastered the technique of reviving Sethos and successfully restored him to full life. Sethos’ body was hideously mummified but intact except for a gaping hole in his skull in the middle of his forehead from the experiment to revive him. Continue reading →
November 17, 2021 · 12:00 am
Gaston Leroux’s The Machine to Kill was written in NINETEEN TWENTY-FOUR. Many book sites list it as 1935, but that was just the year it was finally translated into English.
Personally I would use the title The Clockwork Dead Man or The Clockwork Killer because for modern readers The Machine to Kill sounds like a traditional science fiction tale about technology run amok.
In reality this neglected Gaston Leroux novel is a horror/sci fi hybrid about an android/ cyborg mix whose mechanized body has been outfitted with the brain, eyes and nervous system of a guillotined murderer. The robotic man – called Gabriel – was created by Dr Jacques Cotentin, who needed an absolutely fresh brain, hence having to settle for a just-executed criminal. Continue reading →
October 31, 2021 · 12:00 am
THE GHOST PIRATES (1909) – HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Balladeer’s Blog wraps up another Halloween Month with a look at this novella written by William Hope Hodgson. Just a few years ago my review of Hodgson’s 1908 The House on the Borderland closed out October here. That excellent novel was a forerunner of Lovecraftian cosmic horror combined with traditional haunted house elements.
The Ghost Pirates, published a year later, combined haunted ship tales with ghost stories and themes of the living dead emerging from the sea to swell their own ranks with more doomed men. In addition there is some nice theorizing about the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead.
The story begins in turn of the century San Francisco, as a seasoned sailor named Jessop signs onto an outgoing ship called the Mortzestus. When it had arrived in San Francisco all but one member of the officers and crew fled the vessel, refusing to return and even forsaking the pay they would have received for sailing the ship back to its home port in Great Britain.
That sole member of the original crew, Williams, tells Jessop and other new crew members about the ship being haunted and worse, but Jessop, like the other replacement hires, dismisses such claims. Williams seems a bit unnerved and maybe even unhinged by whatever happened on the original journey to San Francisco. He is bitterly obsessed with completing the round trip and collecting his pay despite horrific incidents that he is obviously hiding. Continue reading →
October 28, 2021 · 12:47 am
Halloween Month is racing toward its end so here’s another seasonal post. It’s a review of the first three volumes of Graveyard Shift, the “monsters as superheroes” series by Jon Malin, Mark Poulton and Aaron Alfeche.
GRAVEYARD SHIFT Volume 1 (2019)
Professor Blood, the Monster, the Bride, Monster Girl, Sea Urchin and Ghost in the Machine. I’d call this team the greatest heroes alive … except they’re all dead. This initial Graveyard Shift installment was a critical and financial triumph, blending horror, science fiction, superheroics and OUTSTANDING artwork into one of the most acclaimed independent comics ever. (Yes, these sequential art visionaries left the creative suffocation at the Big Two publishers to pursue their own projects.)
Each volume is the length of almost 3 regular comic books. The unfolding story in Graveyard Shift also pays homage to many horror classics through the names of several characters and organizations.
Atlantis Corporation, a subaquatic base for scientific research run by a man named Abraham Van Helsing is pursuing many projects for its charming but nefarious founder. One of those projects is an enormous spaceship that is being readied to transport thousands of scientists and colonists into space to explore distant planets.
Another undertaking (as it were) is Project Wormwood, which involves Regen Chambers to restore life to newly slain soldiers in order to form an unbeatable army, and Mind Wipe technology to reprogram the revived dead to know nothing but their new existence as servitors of whatever nation buys them (but really as servitors of Van Helsing himself). Continue reading →
October 25, 2021 · 10:29 pm
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 →
October 19, 2021 · 7:47 am
Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with two more overlooked tales.
YEGOR’S PORTRAIT (1897) – Written by George Hepworth. A well to do Russian named Yegor was killed in a horse riding accident. A portrait of the man haunts those who remember him. By night the Yegor of the portrait emerges from the work of art.
Stephan, Yegor’s cousin and closest friend in life befriends the apparition from the painting. As the pair spend a night drinking and gambling together, Yegor admits to Stephan that the reason his essence is bound to the material world is because he left behind him an illegitimate child with no financial support. Continue reading →
October 5, 2021 · 12:00 am
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 →