Monday, 30 August 2010

Monstrous Monday

Noticing volume 16 of Pearson's Magazine was being offered on eBay, I immediately put a bid in for it and then moved on to volume 17, which had been sitting there for a while on a Buy-it-Now-or-Best-Offer job, so asked for a bit off it and got that, too. There were still a few days to go on 16 (I won it last night for £20), so 17 turned up first. After tearing the packaging apart in a frenzy - as I always do when one of these bound volumes arrives in the post - I opened it randomly, and what do I see? This! A bloke being chased by a horde of gigantic rats! Oh god, I love this stuff. Turned out to be an instalment of Food of the Gods by H G Wells. The serialisation begins in vol 16, and ends in 17, so I shall look forward to reading it in its original parts (I seem to remember starting it as a kid of about 12 but giving up on it).

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Two more Twenties ads

To make up for my posting lapse here are a couple of colourful ads from 1928 editions of the Strand Magazine. Through the summer months in the Twenties Bird's seemed to always take the back page spot, with Bovril taking it over in the autumn and winter (but not necessarily the prime Christmas position, which as likely as not would be had by the now-defunct Super-Kreem Toffees). These two appeared in September and November. What amuses me about the Bird's advert is that I'm willing to bet the 'Cheerio! Jolly old etc' tagline was just as naff to the youngsters it was aimed at as any attempted youth-speak by corporate advertisers is today. 'Oh crikey, mummy, simply nobody says "Cheerio" these days, that's so 1926,' you can almsot hear the young deb say. 'Dude, I mean, totally.' Well, maybe not that.

Spooky Matinee

OK, this is shameful, isn't it? I seem to be having a bit of a wank holiday weekend, doing sod all so have shamelessly combined Saturday Matinee with Spooky Sunday with a couple of daft B-movie ghosts. From now on if I miss a day, I'll just miss a day and stop maing lame apologies for it. Anyway, here is Terror in the Haunted House (1961) also known - I learn from IMDB - as My World Dies Screaming. Oh and look, it's made in 'Psycho-Rama' (what a great name for a band!), which apparently meant they shoved in odd frames of scary imagery, like a bloke with a rat in his mouth, and messages like 'Scream Now!'. All very William Castle, but not.

Then we have Lucky Ghost (1942), later renamed Lady Luck and featuring the extraordinary Mantan Moreland and an 'all-colored cast'. I'd like to see more of Morland. I saw him in another cheap horror-comedy flick from the same period called I think King of the Zombies; he gets third billing, effortlessly steals every scene he's in and takes the piss out of the white 'stars' in a way I wouldn't have thought possible in the 40s. He was a bit of a geezer, I thought, and I'd like to learn more about him. I must see if there's a biography.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Clovelly and slovenly

I should have added that I've just finished uploading my photos from Devon (and from the East of England) onto Flickr ( James took loads, too, including this one of me, pissed on the balcony outside my room. The hotel in Clovelly is separated into two buildings either side of the narrow cobbled street and by chance our rooms faced each other. Needless to say the hurling of drunken insults immediately ensued when, retiring on our first night, we discovered this.

Found Friday

Isn't this great? I spotted it while wandering round the small north Devon town of Hartland while I was in the area for Weird Weekend earlier this month. It's a ceramic Tardis - a small post-box maybe (perhaps it's bigger on the inside than on the outside)? Anyway, it looked cool bertween these two Tardis-coloured doors.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wordy Thursday

I have absolutely no idea what this is. Honestly. I have no idea where I was going with it, or anything. It was under the headline 'Bleep.' Go figure, as the Americans say.

The car-sized, disc-shaped object gleamed dully in the early morning light. Dr Montgomery ducked under the yellow tape and entered the area beyond the cordon. As he approached the disc across the field, his cautious steps, outstretched hands, hunched body and set jaw betrayed his thoughts: This could be it. This could be the one. Perhaps this time it isn’t a hoax.

Behind him and around him, the hushed muttering that had emanated from the circle of soldiers, scientists and junior ministers since he had arrived stuttered to a halt. They’re thinking the same as me, he thought, all of them. How quiet it is.

Just then the object let out a deafening, piercing squeal and the crowd yelped in alarm. Montgomery threw himself flat onto the dew-sodden grass. Jesus Jesus bloody fucking Christ!

‘I’m all right. I’m all right,’ he announced out loud.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Weird Wednesday

I bought that book of Satyrical Drawings of Martin van Maele (see a previous Weird Wednesday) but alas they turned out to be all his erotic drawings; the 'satyrical' presumably being there in an attempt to give the publication some legitimacy. But there are a dozen illustrations maybe that aren't in Taschen's Erotica Universalis, including this one which I've chosen partly because it is pretty weird and also because I can just about get away with it on this blog (the one of the suicide hanging himself by his nob would have been too strong 'meat', I feel!).

Monday, 23 August 2010

Monstrous Monday

Illustration of big hairy giants for a whimsical short story by all-but-forgotten but once very popular author Cutcliffe Hyne about a fisheries civil servant who gets kidnapped by a big, burly mermaid and taken to an undersea kingdom in the Far North of the British Isles. From the December 1928 edition of The Strand.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Spooky Sunday

Sorry chaps, this'll have to do for Spooky Sunday - sneak peak of the next issue of PM (52), out at the end of the week.

Sunday Matinee

Good heavens, I am really getting out of my routine. So as a belated Saturday Matinee a couple of posters to help you keep the sabbath in a clean and wholesome manner. They are promoting an early anti-drugs movie of the Reefer Madness type. The Pace That Kills dates from 1935 and I'm guesing that 'dope' in this instance refers to cocaine, which was the trendy drug of choice among affluent delinquents of the 1930s (cf Agatha Christie's Peril at End House, 1932, in which muderous young socialites are bonded by their shared coke habit).

[I've just seen another poster for this intriguing film, and yes it's definitely coaine their bashing on about].

Friday, 20 August 2010

Found Friday

I love this post card. It's copyrighted 1997, from the days when Who was still off the air and waiting to be reinvented. I went to a Dr Who convention in Chester about that time with my BBC chum Alan (we got in free, hurrah!), so I'm guessing I picked it up then. On the reverse it says 'Monoliths - No. 8 in a series of 12' and is copyrighted to IB Productions. I had a couple of others, one of the Tardis in a snowy landscape, the other also surrounded by standing stones, but as an aerial photo. I imagine they are knocking about the house somewhere, too, gathering a fine layer of dust just like this one. I assume they're clever Photoshopped-type affairs; I can't imagine they had a full-scale model Tardis to drag about - jolly clever though, eh? I'm fairly sure this is the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, but there's no information about the locality on the card.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Clinic - I'm Aware

I said I thought it would be fun to have atune a day rather than one limited to Tuesday, so what better to kick off than a video starring puppets designed by Peter Fowler (of Super Furries covers fame), designed by the delectable Felt Mistress?

Wordy Thursday

Second part of the opening chapter of the second Professor Gothick book, continued from last week's Wordy Thursday.

‘Oh gawd,’ he said, ‘I’m lying on a coffin!’

At that moment thunder and lightning crashed together in the heavens, and Jackson saw then what had caught his eye moments before. It was a brass nameplate set into the lid of the coffin. There was a strange name engraved on it. One word: ‘Batula’. But Skipper Jackson could not read and he was interested only in the fact that the nameplate was of brass and the coffin carved from expensive mahogany. All thoughts of rum had left his head.

‘There’s someone of quality lying in this,’ he thought. ‘Someone worth a posh casket. A fine lady p’raps. Still wearin’ ’er best gems.’

Jewellery, that was what was in Jackson’s head now. He had felt a momentary thrill of superstitious fear when he first saw what he had fallen upon, but Jackson had seen too much death while at sea to feel squeamish about a corpse. In fact, one of his first jobs as a sailor lad had been sewing into a canvas bag the body of a crewman who had fallen from the rigging before it was dumped in the ocean. He’d had to do that job on many occasions since – life on the old sailing vessels had been an uncertain one at best. Greed conquered any other scruples Jackson might have had and his only concern now was how to open the coffin. He wished then he hadn’t thrown away his umbrella, it might have served as a lever. A few moments scrabbling about, however, turned up a very flat stone, almost sharp at the edges. That would do!

Jackson prised the stone under the lid of the coffin and leant his weight upon it. An encouraging cracking came from the wood but then the stone slipped from his hand. The old sailor swore like only an old sailor can, and tried again. The screws fastening down the lid were good screws, and he failed a second time. Next he tried using another rock to bash against the flat stone, improvising a hammer and chisel affair. In this way he managed to split one of the screws and he had another go at using the flat stone like a lever.

This time the coffin lid gave way a good few inches, and Jackson got his hands under it and heaved. With a loud crack, the wood split from its brass screws and the lid was flung onto the pebbles. But Jackson cried out in pain. One of the split screws had caught his left hand and gashed it badly. Its palm and fingers were wet with blood.

‘I’ll be damned!’ he cursed. But there were more pressing matters than a hurt hand. He peered into the coffin. It was difficult to see in the dark but he was able to work out at least that the person inside it was not the ‘fine lady’ he had hoped it would be, but a gentleman.

‘C’mon,’ said Jackson, ‘where’s the lightning when yer need it?’

He didn’t have to wait long. Ribbon lightning snaked across the sky and for a few seconds Jackson was able to get a good look at his prize. A long, refined and very white face lay framed against rich crimson silk. Slender white hands with long tapering fingers were folded on its breast. On one of these fingers was a thick gold ring set with a blood red stone. That certainly caught Jackson’s eye. He was also struck with how shabbily the body had been dressed. Despite the richness of the casket and the obvious value of the gold ring, the body inside might as well have been that of a tramp. A knee-length brown coat fastened with a dozen buttons, some of which were missing, coarse trousers and a pair of clumpy old boots were its only attire. Jackson shrugged at the mystery, however. It was of no great interest – not compared to the ring.

In the impenetrable darkness which followed the lightning, he fumbled in the coffin. The hands felt startlingly cold against Jackson’s, even though his were almost blue from the rain and the bitter wind. They also felt very soft. He grabbed the ring and tugged and pulled and twisted it. It wouldn’t come off. He tugged and pulled and twisted it again. It wouldn’t come off.

‘Devil take me! Why haven’t I a knife?’ he complained.

The flat stone which had been so useful in opening the coffin was too blunt to cut off a finger. Then a happy thought struck Jackson. It would be fine for smashing out a few teeth. Rich people usually had gold fillings. Even a small amount of gold would be a fortune to destitute Skipper Jackson. The old man pushed his left hand between the cold, dead lips of the corpse. The teeth, he noticed, felt surprisingly long. And sharp. In the dark, he was unable to see how his blood had stained the corpse’s lips, nor how it had reddened the blue, dead tongue. He waited for another bolt of lightning to show him which teeth contained the little shiny nuggets of gold. It soon came. Crack! Thunder crashed about. The lightning flashed. A great blaze of sudden light.

Jackson peered down at the dead white face of the corpse. He could see no gold. What he saw was the corpse’s eyes. They were open. They glared into his own. They shone with an evil light, with intelligence and rage. And then the teeth – the too long, too sharp teeth – sank down upon his hand and Skipper Jackson screamed with agony and terror as his hot red blood gushed into the mouth of the corpse.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Weird Wednesday

Three fuzzy snaps from the Centre for Fortean Zoology's Weird Weekend held last weekend in the community centre of the North Devon village of Woolfardisworthy (Woolsery for short). Under the logo we have Jon Downes, the director of the organisation - surely just the geezer to hunt man-beasts worldwide - and below him zoological director Richard Freeman with his even furrier friend Orang Pendek. Weird stuff to be sure.
Pretty cool, though. Got to meet fortean supremo Andy Roberts who, incredibly, turns out to have moved about five miles away from me a few years ago; re-met Mike Dash, the former Fortean Times publisher who once offered me a job as a sub-editor on that esteemed journal; the Danish cryptozoologist Lars Thomas; and lots of other interesting chaps. Thanks to Lars' research, they are now convinced that a leopard or two prowls in the woods around the village. The 'Tasmanian tiger' skin he examined turned out to belong to a small African antelope, though. Can't win 'em all. I have high hopes that Mike and Andy will both be writing for Paranormal Magazine in the near future.
Read more about the CFZ at

Friday, 13 August 2010

Found Friday

Removing the last few sheets of printer paper in my drawer I found this artifact from the days of running my shop, The Emporium. The rather spiffing image is by Jonathan, of course, and in full colour was used for the signboard. What this is doing here, printed in a kind of fawn-grey colour, I don't know. Maybe it was originally intended for fliers.

I'm off to the Centre for Fortean Zoology's Weird Weekend in Devon in an hour, so no more entries till Tuesday. Much weirdness to report on Weird Wednesday, no doubt!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Wordy Thursday

I said I'd post the first chapter of the second Professor Gothick novel up her (very much a work in progress) because Robin was enthusiastic about it. It's much longer than I expected, though, so here is just the opning bit.

The black sky cracked open and spat fire at the sea. The storm was at its height. Thunder crashed down from the boiling clouds and the waves crashing on the harbour wall thundered back. Hours before, the fishing boats in Boggartsey harbour had been dragged as far up the quayside as it was possible to drag them, but white surf now splashed over and around them and they rocked and bobbed as if they were upon the open ocean. Rain lashed the roofs of the little town and its flooded streets gurgled and shimmered silver in the light of a racing moon. The church bell chimed twelve, each feeble note lost among the din of the storm. Hardly a light was to be seen; Boggartsey was black and silent. Its houses seemed to huddle together for warmth and company and none of their occupants were to be seen out of doors.

But there was one man who braved the storm. Old Skipper Jackson crept his way along the glistening wall of the harbour. To protect himself from the wind and the rain and the regular drenchings of the breakers, he had wrapped himself in layer upon layer of black and shiny oilskin and he resembled an enormous, creeping beetle, his arms outstretched to help him keep his balance on the slippery rocks. Only the fluttering wisps of a raggedy grey beard and the blue tip of a dribbling nose were visible of the man himself. He was keen not to be recognised, for the business he was about was one of theft – or salvage, as he preferred to call it.

Skipper Jackson had once been a sailor, though never a captain, as he liked to pretend. Seaside towns like Boggartsey attracted old sailors like Jackson, down and outs with no home and no future. Fishermen were kinder to them than ‘land-lubbers’ and the few skills they had learnt, such as gutting fish or tending nets, could sometimes earn them a bob or two. Jackson had been sleeping under an upturned boat on the drier side of the harbour wall when the storm had broke and the oilskins he now wore had been acting as his sheets and blankets just a few minutes before. Jackson knew that storms like this could spew all sorts of useful things up onto the beach, items that had been dumped or lost overboard from ships far out to sea and which may have been bobbing about in the ocean for months. Anything could be worth selling but what he really hoped for was some ‘grog’. An unopened bottle of rum, or brandy, or whisky – what a find that would be!

Lightning suddenly burst like a flashbulb upon the scene and Skipper Jackson saw that the beach was littered with boxes and crates. There were dozens of them, some smashed and spilling their contents on the rocks, many more unopened and just waiting for him to open and help himself. He swore delightedly, but thunder drowned it out. He danced a little jig upon a rock, and nearly fell over. Then he made his way down to his treasure, glorying in the fact that only he knew it was here and that he could pick and choose what to plunder.

‘There’s been a wreck, that’s what it is,’ he muttered. ‘All the crew dead, most like. Poor loves. But it’s an ill wind that blows nobody some good ... and it’s blowin’ me some good this night.’

At that moment, the ‘ill wind’ nearly blew him off his feet, but Jackson was undaunted. Gurgling and wheezing with glee, he began to pick his way among the flotsam and jetsam of the washed up cargo. Most of it was unexciting stuff, such as bags of nails and cans of soup (Jackson didn’t own a can-opener), but he knew that even these would be sellable to somebody. He laughed outright when he stumbled against one smashed crate and found that it contained a stock of umbrellas. He tried to open one for a bit of fun but it proved impossible in the raging gale, so he soon cast it aside. Then he began to search in earnest for what he really wanted.

‘Brandy...’ he muttered. ‘Rum...’ And it became a sort of chant: ‘Rum, rum, rum-tum-tiddly-grog.’

But then another flash of lightning made Jackson stop in his tracks. Something lying a few yards away had flashed back, something bright and metallic. Intrigued, he made his way towards it. The darkness and the blinding rain made this very difficult, however. It was one thing lurching from big box or crate to its neighbour, but trying to find something specific among all the rocks and rubbish at midnight and in the middle of a storm was quite another. He stumbled along, groping the air again like a giant insect, and then tripped on something and fell flat on his face. He had fallen onto a wooden box lying on the beach. It was only about a foot high. The wood was smooth, polished, and as Jackson’s hands groped along its edges so that he could raise himself up again, he realised that the box had a distinctive shape.

‘Oh gawd,’ he said, ‘I’m lying on a coffin!’

Weird Wednesday

A tad late but it's deadline week, so there. I've just used this somewhat tacky pic in the second part of the history of the Devil article by Dr Leo Ruickbie, which will appear in Paranormal Mag issue 52. It looks like it was drawn in the 1970s or something but in fact dates from 1911. It is by Martin van Maele, one of several illustrations to La Sorciere by Jules Michelet. I can find only one book of Van Maele's artworks generally available, and that for £30 second-hand. I'm familiar with the artist's erotic art, because it appeared in Taschen's bawdy magnum opus Erotica Universalis, so I'm hoping The Satyrical Drawings Of... will feature a wider selection, including more from La Sorciere (although it looks like all his stuff is fairly saucy).

Monday, 9 August 2010

Monstrous Monday

Look at this bizarre post card my friend Anne sent me from Brittany. I like the fact it's in sepia. Perhaps there really were extreme escargot sliming about ravaging Breton blokes' 'potager' 60 years ago - how do I know different?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Spooky Sunday

As well as Steve and Fall fan Louise, I spent a couple of days with my friend Tim and his family over in Lincolnshire. On the Sunday we went to the bucket-and-spade resort of Huntstanton just over the border into Norfolk and en route, at my request, called in at Castle Rising. Every castle in Britain has a haunted reputation but Castle Rising is one of the better known.
We didn't go inside the castle, although one day I hope to do so, since I understand it is very well preserved (though a ruin) and ornately decorated. But it's impressive enough from the outside, standing as it does inside massive earthworks, an idea of the scale of which you can get from the picture. Built in the 12th century, it later became the prison of Queen Isobella, 'the she-wolf of France', who together with her lover Mortimer arranged the horrible assassination of her husband Edward II. When her son grew old enough, he staged a coup, executed Mortimer and had his mother locked up here. Apparently, she went mad with rage and grief and frustrated ambition and her ghost is said to go screaming round the ruins after dark.
Or at least, that's the legend. Richard Jones, author of Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland (2008) states that the execution of Mortimer and the imprisonment of Isabella by Edward III is a myth. Indeed, according to Jones, Isabella lived at Castle Rising in splendour and was free to go where she pleased. Perhaps the story grew up around the cult of Edward II's martyrdom: people just didn't like to think she'd got away with it. Jones does confirm, however, that visitors 'have been shocked by the sound of hysterical cackling near the top floor' and that residents of the nearby village have had their nights disturbed by 'ghostly screams and maniacal laughter coming from the castle'.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Saturday Matinee

Rather late posting these for a matinee, but hey they're both horrors, so probably just as well. Two Mario Brava films, whose English titles have been presented as Black Sabbath (Karloff) and Black Sunday (Steele). A poster outside a cinema for the former gave Black Sabbath their name. I've had it in my Tesco rental list for about three years, but I've still not seen it. I'm guessing they've lost the Bava box set. Oh well, great artwork whatever.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Wordy Thursday

Another extract from my unpublished kids book The Accursed - the final showdown begins!


‘I’d rather hoped we might have avoided bloodshed,’ murmured Professor Gothick mildly.
But Mephisto Carnacki wasn’t listening. He flung his arms wide, scything the air with his staff, and he bellowed out one word, the dread name of: ‘KALI!’

‘Kali!’ immediately responded the Thugee, hemming in the Professor and me on the deck of The Medusa. They took up the name in a chant – ‘Kali, Kali, Kali’ – over and over, increasing in both fervour and volume as my father continued to bellow: ‘Kali! Most exalted Goddess of Death. The Most Cruel and the Just. Kali, the Destroyer! I summon thee now. I summon thee to accept the gift that was pledged.’

The little High Priest, who still stood apart, raised aloft the Moonstone and it burst into light, sending crackling waves of energy around the deck and the rigging of the ship. My father stood aside, revealing behind him the doorway which led down to the hold of the Medusa.

‘Kali! Kali, I offer thee sacrifice,’ cried my father and the dark doorway became illuminated, glowing like the Moonstone, as spiders of light crackled around it.

‘Kali... Kali... Kali...’ chanted the Thugee. Professor Gothick placed his hand upon my shoulder and whispered into my ear: ‘Be brave, my boy. Have courage – trust in me!’

Abruptly he was grabbed by two Thugs, who yanked him away, and then another grabbed me, forcing my hands behind my back, clamping my arms in a fierce grip.

‘Professor!’ I cried, but Professor Gothick shook his head and turned his eyes back to the doorway, his face set in a grim mask. The eyes of his captors, too, were fixed on the door, as were the eyes of every other Thug on the ship. So, I turned back and faced it myself. The opening now pulsated with light, throbbing hypnotically, in time to the ceaseless chants of the Thugee. Seemingly from nowhere great clouds of incense blew up, the colour of storm clouds and thick with a sweet but nauseating aroma. So thick was it that I could taste it, bitter on my tongue. And in that instant, the light went out – and the chants of the Thugee ceased.

All was still and silent. Expectant. I peered through the blue cloud of incense and into the depths of the now darkened hold. Back out of the darkness gleamed two red eyes. Then a hand appeared. It reached out and gripped the door frame. Long, black fingernails dug into the wood. Then another hand emerged and clutched the door frame opposite. And then another hand appeared. And then another.

I felt a thrill of horror and shot a frightened glance at Professor Gothick. He was glaring at Mephisto Carnacki with an expression of disgust.

‘I thought as much!’ he spat.

And then It came out of the hold. It was like a human spider. Eight arms it had, wreathing around it like snakes, and it was covered all over in a thick grey hide like an elephant’s. It’s body was that of a woman, but it had the face of a demon. A huge, crimson tongue protruded from between its blackened lips and elongated, bloodshot eyes flicked around the deck, at Professor Gothick, at my father and at each of the Thugee. Then they focussed on me.

The obscene tongue undulated, as if it was tasting the air, and the creature grinned at me, its red eyes boring into mine. From out of the tight-fitting, blood-stained sari it wore, one of its claw-like hands drew out a white silk scarf and another of the seven caught its other end and snapped it tight. Then the creature began to advance across the deck, its two feet shuffling in a sinister, dancing motion, its eyes full of murderous intent.

The Thugee immediately set up again their chant of ‘Kali! Kali! Kali!’ and my own captor began to tremble with a feverish ecstasy as he gripped me even tighter. I felt powerless, hypnotised by the eyes of Kali, as a bird is said to be hypnotised by the eyes of a snake before it is devoured.

I could not move.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Weird Wednesday

A few images from the London Police News circa 1870, compiled by Leonard De Vries into his wonderful book 'Orrible Murder (1974). I read a copy in Mold library yonks ago and recently found it again in a second-hand bookshop for a pound. 'Elephant Teasing' isn't an expresion you read nowadays. You may need to click on the pix to enlarge them, but theiy're all clearly captioned (except maybe 'Death From Swallowing a Mouse'). There's no point giving further details - just enjoy their gruseome, gothic weirdness.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Falltar

Been away for a few days to stay with a few old - if they'll pardon the expression - friends, including Steve and Louise, who still live in Leicester, where we all went to uni. Louise, who is originally from Chorley (and saw lots of Joy Division as well as New Order's first ever gig) is a big Fall fan. Steve told me she had an 'altar' dedicated to the band in their bedroom. I immediately christened it 'the Falltar' and was determined to photograph it, for Jim's sake, mainly. There's a lot of rare stuff there, most of which Lou bought as it was coming out. I have fond memories of the Fiery Jack single you can see peeping out, which we used to play over and over. (Crikey, I'm not even 'forty-fiiiii-iiiive' any more!).

Incidentally, if you happen to read this, Jim, Ste and Lou say you're welcome to stay with them if you want to go down to Leicester for the free Fall gig in the Park in a couple of weekends time!