Happy Halloween 2018 from Balladeer’s Blog!
THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND (1908) – Written by William Hope Hodgson. This tale is a terrific but often overlooked forerunner of Lovecraftian horror blended with traditional haunted house elements. Throw in material that puts the reader in mind of Madame Blavatsky’s and Aleister Crowley’s horror fiction and it’s a magnificent story for Halloween.
Our tale is set in and around an isolated house in a desolate, eerie location in West Ireland. The main character is an elderly man who lives there with his sister. His sleep is tainted with disturbing dreams that become more like occult visions of barren but impossible landscapes. (Think “If M.C. Esher did landscaping.”)
In those visions his and his sister’s house is always in the middle of the terrifying geography. After these unsettling experiences on the astral plane the material version of those forces are unleashed in the real world by a minor earthquake near our main character’s house.
Swinish humanoids that resemble the illusory pig-faced monster in the movie Boardinghouse emerge from the new fissure and besiege the two terrified humans, Night of the Living Dead style. Continue reading
As always, October flies by too quickly. There are just a few days left in Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween. Here’s a shoutout to the title song from the infamously bad 1991 horror film HauntedWeen.
That movie is about a young kid driven insane by accidentally causing an impalement death. Long years later that now grown-up figure runs his family’s yearly spook-house for Halloween season. The catch is that after a few deaths that he demonstrates as fakes for the attendees he then begins really killing several helpless captives. The live audience cheers wildly, thinking it’s all just more fake blood and gore.
That inspired premise is squandered in a classically bad film that DOES boast a catchy theme song. And here it is:
Balladeer’s Blog celebrates Halloween all month long. For today here’s a look at an 1899 mummy tale.
PHAROS THE EGYPTIAN (1899) – Written by Guy Boothby, who was better known for his Doctor Nikola stories about an evil genius in the mold of Dr Mabuse and Fu Manchu.
Cyril Forrester, a successful British artist, is approached by an enigmatic and sinister-seeming old Egyptian named Pharos. This figure tells Cyril that a mummy he (Cyril) inherited from his Egyptologist father is the dead body of Pharos’ ancestor from over 3,000 years ago.
That ancestor was Ptahmes, whom we’re told served as a magician for the Pharaoh Ramses during the mythical Exodus. Pharos is angry over the desecration of his ancestor’s remains so Forrester obligingly returns the mummy to the old man.
And so begins a danger-filled supernatural adventure to return the mummy of Ptahmes to his tomb. Cyril is suckered along into following Pharos because he is attracted to – or as we’re supposed to pretend in fiction, he is “in love with” Valerie, a beautiful Hungarian violinist who is in thrall to the old Egyptian. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween hurtles toward its finale next Wednesday night. This time around I’ll examine the tale of Sean na Sagart aka John of the Priests, who should have been the lead character in several horror films by this point.
Sean was born John Mullowney around 1690 AD in Derrew, Ireland. By his teens he was living beyond his means, often drinking and carousing. He financed his hard-partying lifestyle through multiple crimes, with various accounts claiming he was a masked Highwayman or a burglar or even a rustler and horse-thief.
It IS certain he was arrested for stealing horses and was sentenced to death by hanging in Castlebar, Ireland. Recognizing what an amoral creature was before them, the authorities offered Sean a very dirty job in exchange for escaping death on the gallows – becoming a Priest Hunter/ Killer.
The Penal Act of 1709 had decreed that Catholic Priests plus higher and lower clergymen must take the Oath of Abjuration and recognize Great Britain’s Protestant Queen Anne as the supreme religious authority in England AND Ireland. Refusing to do so merited summary execution.
Thus began the career and dark legend of Sean na Sagart. Sean spent roughly the next 17 years hunting, capturing and killing renegade Catholic Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals.
Since Catholic schools were forbidden, outlaw Hedge School Teachers were also fair game. Sean’s bounty varied according to the rank of his clergy member victims. If he ever backed out of this career as a Priest Hunter it was back to the gallows for him.
WHY A HORROR STORY? For multiple reasons in a variety of storytelling approaches. First, if played strictly true-to-life it would make for a very ironic twist on the horror subgenre of Witchfinder General flicks, which always featured crazed, sadistic clergymen hunting and torturing confessions out of “witches.” And Continue reading
Halloween Month continues as Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at another tale of Gothic Horror which, like The Lost Stradivarius, centers around a violin player.
THE ENSOULED VIOLIN (1880) Written by Helena Blavatsky, aka Madame Blavatsky, famous for the Theosophy Movement and its premier work Isis Unveiled. Later she wrote The Secret Doctrine, another milestone theosophical opus.
This tale of Gothic Horror is set in the 1820s. The main character is a young violin virtuoso named Franz Stenio from Styria in Austria. Though studying the occult arts and alchemy while away at college his central passion had remained music.
Franz’s skill was extraordinary but eventually his widowed mother ran short of money, ending his studies. He left university and moved back home. Franz devoted his every waking moment to his violin and he refused even to go to church with his mother when she begged him.
The youth’s occult studies had filled him with contempt for Christianity and he preferred to think of himself as a pagan. Franz’s mother worried herself sick over the potential fate of her son’s soul and eventually she put such a strain on herself that she died. Some dark whispers hinted that her son had killed her. Continue reading
Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with my take on the top four (of ten) movies in the Hellraiser franchise.
HELLRAISER (1987) – “Jee-zuz WEPT!” Clive Barker helped translate his novel The Hellbound Heart to the big screen in this film. It’s incredibly rare for a novelist to get to DIRECT a movie version of one of his own works but Barker made the most of it.
Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) has exhausted sexual sensation with women, men, corpses and animals. Seeking new stimulation he solves LeMerchand’s Puzzle Box, a “Rubik’s Cube From Hell” which leaves him at the mercy of the demonic inter-dimensional sadomasochists called the Cenobites of the Order of the Gash.
Suffering unimaginable torments as the M in this S&M relationship, Frank struggles to escape the Cenobites for good, even if it means sacrificing his brother Larry plus Larry’s wife Julia (Clare Higgins) and daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence). Continue reading
Jeremy Brett in The Lost Stradivarius
THE LOST STRADIVARIUS (1895) by John Meade Falkner – More than a century before Anne Rice’s violin-oriented ghost story Violin came The Lost Stradivarius. Halloween month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a look at this neglected gem of horror fiction.
The main story is set in the 1840s. John Maltravers, a young man from the British gentry, is attending Magdalen College at Oxford University. Stumbling across an anonymous piece of lost music the talented Maltravers plays the piece on a violin.
This spontaneous recital summons up – among other horrors – the ghost of Adrian Temple, the violinist who composed the eerie piece of music when he was a student at Oxford in the 1750s. That ghost leads John to the hidden location of his (Temple’s) Stradivarius violin. Continue reading