Gypsy Mob : Episode 13/ A Cocktail for Tony

Bianca was wrapped in a heavy mass, her eyes staring without seeing over a heaving shoulder. Sounds filtered into her brain, the sounds of sobbing and meaningless words. Time and time again, she heard her name, first in a womans voice, over and over. Then, a mans voice, whispering her name in a breathy, disbelieving way. The voices seemed to ring a bell, but she could not attach any importance to them. She drifted off into the darkness, neither knowing nor caring if she would ever come out of it, aware only that she had made it home. Not that it mattered.

When her eyes next opened, she was lying in a soft bed and a cool cloth was bathing her face. Remembering the last time she was laying on a bed and what happened, she snapped fully awake, her heart hammering. The cloth jerked away from her face as the shadowy figure sitting beside her gave a start. Bianca began scrabbling at the sides of the bed, forgetting she had only one hand with which to grip. She bumped the wall beside the bed and white-hot fire shot up her arm from where her hand had lived for her whole life. She gave a little scream and moaned as cruel electricity seemed to sizzle up and down her arm.

There were words coming through the pain. She heard her name again in that female voice that rang a bell, louder this time.

Bianca, Bianca, shhyoure homeyoure safe

Home. She seemed to recall having made it back there before the world went black. This bed was far too soft to be the one at the Gypsy encampment. There had been no cool cloth bathing her forehead there; the only bathing of any sort she had experienced in that tent had been between clients and she had done it to herself, not paying any particular attention to anything above the waist. The smell was different here. Her brain tried to register it and slowly it leaked through to her consciousness.

The smell was her.

Her things, her room, her house, her mother.

Home.

Mommy! Bianca screamed, throwing herself into her mothers arms. Mommy, mommy, mommy Her stump bumped into her mothers back, leaving a red stain. Her cries of pain mingled with her tears of happiness and relief.

Lucia wrapped her arms around her daughter, holding her close, tears of her own coursing down her cheeks. She stroked the bedraggled hair as the girl clutched at her, seeming to never let her go.

Hush now, Bi, she said, her voice shaking. Youre home now, youre safeshhh

Over her crooning, she could hear the approach of Gilettis vehicle as it turned down the drive and approached the house. The engine sound died and a car door slammed. From down the hallway, she heard the sound of the front door banging open. Bianca heard it too and froze against her mother, silent tears streaming down her face as she shook with the effort of containing her sobs.

Its all right, Bi, Lucia said, attempting to disentangle her daughter. Its just your father.

Biancas eyes were still wide as she looked up at her mother. I dont think its him anymore she managed to choke out.

Footsteps sounded down the hallway, steady and purposeful. Lucia told herself she was being silly, that Biancas hysteria had just infected her. Why would she be feeling this sense of dread at the sound of her husbands approach?

The footsteps stopped at Biancas door. There was a moment of silence where all that could be heard was the breathing in the bedroom, Biancas short shaky gasps and Lucias, growing more uneasy. Then the door crashed open.

The silhouette of Don Giletti framed in the doorway with a machine gun in his arms froze them both for only half a second. Lucia had been married to the Don long enough to be able to read the look in his eyes. It galvanized her to her feet, just as the barrel of the gun swung around and began to fire.

The bullets ripped into Lucias body, spinning her around as the muzzle blasts lit up the dark room in a hellish strobe. Gilettis face was illuminated, its blankness terrifying Bianca as much as the sight of her mother being torn to pieces by automatic weapon fire. There was nothing of the man who had roared with laughter as he carried her around the mansion piggyback as a child. This man had dead eyes, showing no emotion as he continued to pump rounds into the shredded piece of meat that had once been his wife. Bianca cowered in the corner of the bed farthest from the door, attempting to make herself as small as possible, her ears ringing from the gunfire, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.

Suddenly, it stopped. Her belabored eardrums could barely make out the sound of a metallic clicking coming from the gun her father held. Opening one eye the barest amount, she saw him staring blankly at what used to be her mother. Gunsmoke filled the room. His finger tightened again on the trigger, creating that clicking sound. Mercifully, the gun was empty. It clattered to the floor, coming to rest with the muzzle facing Lucias obliterated face.

Oh, mommy!

Giletti shifted his dead gaze to his daughter cowering on the bed, seeming to regard her thoughtfully. Her lips moved, producing a tiny squeak that her ears could scarcely register.

Daddy, please

He unbuttoned his sport coat and reached inside, toward his left armpit. Bianca had seen her daddy around the mansion enough times in just his shirtsleeves to know what lived under his left arm in a shoulder holster. She began to push with her legs, trying to get farther away from him as her voice mewled protestations. Daddy, no, please no daddy

Giletti unfastened the holster snap and pulled out his handgun.

No, Daddy, dont

He clicked the safety off and racked the slide.

Daddy, please

He leveled it at Biancas face.

Daddy PLEASE! she screamed.

There was a moment where she thought she had gotten through to him.

Oh, thank you, God, thank you for

Then there was one more explosion, and all that Bianca Giletti had ever been or hoped to be was splattered across the wall above her bed.

Tony the Nose drove up to the mansions driveway and parked beside the bosss car. Its door was hanging open and it was parked at an angle at odds with the neat parking job usually done. Tony regarded this as well as the keys hanging in the ignition for a moment before getting out and walking to the front door, which was ajar. His big feet made the tiniest of crunches on the gravel drive, belying his massive bulk. Reaching the doorway, he smelled the acrid stink of gunsmoke. Pulling out his own sidearm, he held it down by his thigh, pointed at the ground, his finger on the trigger. Entering the mansion, he hugged the wall as he made his way silently down the hallway toward the room Bianca occupied. There were feet protruding from the doorway, clad in shoes favored by the boss. They were still, their toes facing down. Their owner was lying face down in the doorway, his upper half inside the room. Gunsmoke drifted lazily out of the room. Tony holstered his weapon and walked up to the doorway, no longer making any effort to conceal his approach. It didnt matter anymore.

Bianca was leaning against the wall, what remained of her head cocked forward, her chin on her chest, her skull an open, empty bowl, still dripping. The wall behind her was riddled with bullet holes and chunky red and grayish-white material was oozing down the wall from a large splash mark. Tonys eyes traveled slowly from this grisly sight to the body on the ground in front of the bed which bore only a slight resemblance to the bosss wife. A large pool of blood was forming around her, and Tony was glad he wouldnt have to bother cleaning that one up. Blood soaking into a carpet was a bitch. The third figure in the room was the boss, his head blown open on one side, a spray of brain matter coating the wall to his left, his gun still clenched in his hand.

Tony looked at the sad tableau for a few moments before turning and going down the hall to the bosss study. Opening the door, he went to the safe and punched in the code on its keypad. Don Giletti would have been furious if he knew that Tony was aware of the safes combination, but Don Giletti would not be feeling any way about anything, ever again. Twisting the handle, Tony opened the safe and, pushing aside the box of fine cigars Giletti favored, began pocketing the stacks of cash. He filled all the pockets in his suit coat and pants pockets with bundles of bills, indulging in only a moments regret that he didnt have larger pockets to accommodate more of them. That was all right though; his years of unwavering loyalty to the Giletti family had made him a very rich man. This was just a bonus.

Turning from the safe, he picked up the cigar Giletti had sitting on his desk. Producing a lighter, he set the tip aflame before the tobacco began to smolder gently, its scent mixing with the gunsmoke that had begun to filter through the house in a very pleasant manner. Tony thought that if they could manufacture a cigar that smelled like that, he would actually start smoking them. As it was, he puffed just long enough to ensure the ember was well lit and would not go out before placing it carefully on the windowsill so the ember was touching the gauzy curtains Lucia Giletti had selected for all the rooms in the mansion. They began to smolder, their own smoke adding to the haze and making the smell much less pleasant. That was all right though; he wouldnt be here much longer.

Going to his own quarters, he gathered what few items of value he possessed and deposited them in a leather valise. Pulling one of the curtains down from the windows, he ripped a long shred off of it. Opening a bottle of the rum he favored, he stuffed the shred of curtain into its neck. Pulling a few inches out of the bottle, he stepped back into the hallway. The flames had caught in the curtains and he could hear the crackle and roar of a bonfire coming from the bosss study. Holding his breath, Tony stepped into the office for the last time, just long enough to touch the wick of the Molotov cocktail he had made to one of the flames licking its way eagerly around the walls of the office.

Holding the flaming bottle away from his face, he strode down the hallway towards the main door, hurtling it into Biancas room with an almost contemptuous flick of his wrist. The bottle exploded against the far wall, sending flaming liquid splattering all over the room.

Immediately the flames took hold of the fabric in the room. Wall hangings, curtains, bedding and clothing caught fire as though they had been waiting for the opportunity. With the fire in the office now roaring and advancing down the hallway, Tony retreated to the front door, locking it behind him as he slammed it. Smoke belched out of the windows as he tossed the valise into what was now his car. Turning the key and dropping the shift lever into drive, he paused for just a moment, looking at the mansion one last time. He let out what might have been a sigh.

Squealing the car around in a circle, he pointed its nose up the driveway. Toward the future.

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Thirty-Five: The Darkness in the Pines

 

The Darkness in the Pines by Harlan Graves is a creature-feature novella about a grieving Vietnam veteran named Howard Ward. Released in May, the story is Book 1 of 3 in a series titled The Beast of Fallow Pines. The Fallow Pines is a mysterious place with a history of missing lumberjacks and miners from the 1900s.

The first sentence – “Howard Ward had seen some shit” – is a perfect opener because it implies Howard is about to see more that he hadn’t seen before. And boy, does he ever.

Howard is an aging former soldier who lives in an isolated cabin amid a primeval forest known as Fallow Pines. Still bitter about the tragic death of his wife, Howard lives a loner’s survivalist life.

The story begins with Howard’s discovery of a decapitated bear soon followed by chickens with their heads torn off, then the inevitable footprint we suspect is Bigfoot’s.

The author Graves incorporates Howard’s Vietnam experience through past memories and dreams without killing the suspense in the present. Graves’ writing conveys the foreboding sense of walking through the woods alone, using the snap of a twig or the silence to effectively heighten the tension.

“The wind hissed through the pines, the branches rasping like dry bones. It carried with it the faint scent of decay.”

Howard’s first encounter with the Beast is watching “a huge black shape” drag away one of his deer kills.

When Howard visits a surplus store to buy a bear trap, the proprietor Tom warns him.

“Careful up there, Howard,” Tom said. “I overheard on my scanner just a week ago how a camper out Fallow Creek way was mauled in his sleeping bag. … Bear ate him like a burrito.”

Of course, Howard is stubborn, at one point telling the darkness, “These are MY woods.”

However, Bigfoot disagrees.

The Darkness in the Pines delivers not one but two epic one-on-one battles between Howard and the Beast. Howard seems to channel Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 1987 film Predator, using his soldier skills to try and kill the Beast.

The three titles in The Beast of Fallow Pines series have generated more than 220 reviews on Amazon averaging 4.2 stars out of 5. I enjoyed Book 1 enough to read the rest of the series. I think fans of cryptid horror will enjoy it, too.

NEXT UP: Chapter Thirty-Six: The Beast of Fallow Pines. I review the 2021 novella by Harlan Graves.

Book Review: Vacuity and Other Tales

Hello Addicts,

This month, I had the distinct pleasure of reading the 3rd annual horror anthology from Tell-Tale Publishing, “Vacuity and Other Tales.” This collection of short stories run the gamut of scary stories and does so very successfully. I found all of the stories fun and exciting, with enough variety to give a palate-cleansing from the more blood-chilling stories at the right moments.

The book begins with the most intriguing story of the collection, “Vacuity.” Julie Duplantier is a young schizophrenic woman whose mental voices take great pleasure in the slow, methodical ways she tortures and murders others. We also see things from the point of view of her doctor, Christian Andreu. His solution is to perform a risky surgery that will silence the voices forever, which he is successful in doing. What everyone realizes, much too late, is that the voices kept something much worse at bay. If you like your stories drenched in blood, this one is for you.

There are stories of missed love during the Crusades, government-sponsored experiments on vampires, a modern take on Hansel and Gretel, and a curse that nearly brings about the pumpkin apocalypse. There is a little bit of everything for everyone in this book. I especially recommend this collection for those cold and stormy nights ahead.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review: Followers by Christina Berglin

Review by: B. Nguyen-Calkins

Internet privacy is a scary concept. Anybody, with enough effort, could find your name, photos of you, and even past locations you’ve visited. If somebody wanted to, I’m sure it’d be easy to… you can fill in the blank with any horrifying end. Stalking, online harassment, or worse. Why are we online at all?! 

Followers expresses the benefits of online friendships and social media. When Sydney, a horror movie enthusiastic and reviewer, is isolated and hit with constant passive-aggressive comments from her personal acquaintances, she instead goes online where people may appreciate the details of the genre (however shallow they may be). She kindles relationships online that have meaning to her personal life. And, ultimately, she sees her blog as an escape from her dead-end job. 

With the benefits of an online life comes risk. Are those often-shallow interactions even reading her work? Do those relationships have any substance? Will she ever make a living as a reviewer? Can Sydney live with the constant horror that runs beneath the surface of her everyday online interactions? And what if those interactions meddle within her personal life? The buildup brewed constantly as I found myself questioning each of the people in her life. This justified paranoia ends up hitting Sydney in the face as she struggles with the balance of digital and personal.

The novel works as a contemporary horror piece on multiple levels. Horror fans will look out for references to the genre as a mental trivia. My personal favorite was when characters review independent horror films at a festival. Holistically, the book is also meta-horror. One element of examining the genre explores the guilt of the “final girl,” especially in a progressively worsened situation. Who could be hurt because she posted clickbait photos for her online blog? How much information is too much to reveal to a virtual stranger? Can Sydney handle the repercussions of a demented stalker?

Strap yourself in and be sure to finish the book, because it truly thrives when Sydney finds herself in her own Scream. Sure, the book is initially carried by its prose and its likable (and unlikeable) characters. Christina Bergling sprinkles some interesting prose inside some dialogue and monologues and plays with some of the reader’s pent-up tension. But while the beginning may seem like a story on another shelf, the story’s resolution rightfully places it as a suspenseful, introspective horror. Followers is a worthwhile read, especially for fans of horror cinema. Its tension builds continuously throughout the story, and it extends today’s horror of digital social lives. The story is finished with some jaw-dropping scenes that seemingly come out of nowhere. It felt like Bergling was biding her time to lull the readers in while she waited for the opportune moment to strike.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Achoura

 

Plotline: Four childhood friends are reunited when one of them surfaces after twenty years, forcing them to confront a creature straight out of a spine-chilling Moroccan legend.

Who would like it: Urban Legends, international films, family horror, creature features, unpredictable endings

High Points: This movie is super good without being downright terrorizing. This would be the perfect movie for a teenaged slumber party

Complaints:

Overall: I loved it, it stressed me out! lol

Stars: 4

Where I watched it: VOD

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Free Fiction : El Dorado by Tawana Watson

I didn’t sleep well last night.  I have so much on my mind that turning off my thoughts was impossible, so another sleepless night. 

I can’t believe how bad my insomnia has gotten over the past few weeks and there is not a medication that my doctor has given me that works, it seems sleep for me is a distant memory.  I turn and look at my clock that is sitting on my bedside table, I have to squint to see the time, just like I feared it was time to get up.

Every day is the same thing. I get up, get dressed for work, and leave the house forgetting my breakfast.  However, today, as I drove down the street something inside me, told me that today was not going to be a typical day.

I got to the office with two minutes to spare, I sat at my desk in my small cubicle, and as my computer powered on the word El Dorado appeared on the screen.  I stood up and quickly looked around at my coworkers as they did their morning routine and nothing seemed out of place so I sat back in my seat.  

The word El Dorado glared back at me, so I started pressing keys to try to remove it from the screen but nothing worked. It just stayed there.  After unsuccessfully trying to remove the word with my keyboard skills, I ducked down under my desk and unplugged my computer.  The computer turned off and after I counted 20 I plugged the computer backup and turned it back on.  Unplugging it did the trick and I got to work on my everyday task list.

My day was dull and boring, I thought as I sat at the traffic light heading home. My whole life is dull and boring I thought as the light turned green and I continued on my way.  As I pulled into my yard I noticed a package at my front door, it was strange because I was not expecting anything. So before pulling completely into my yard I put my car in park, got out, and went to retrieve the package.  As I bent down to pick the package up I noticed in red bold letters someone wrote across the top of the package the word El Dorado.

Once in my house, I dropped everything except the package at the back door.  I went into the dining room, sitting the package on the table before going back into the kitchen to get a knife so that I could open it.  At first, I had a strong urge not to open the package, to just throw it away but curiosity got the best of me.  I took the knife and opened the package. 

The only thing I found was a folded piece of paper.  I  took the paper and opened it.  What was written on it gave me chills, it read;

Once you start this journey you can never turn back. There’s much more to life than the things you can see, and to have a glorious life all you have to do is find El Dorado

There are those words again; El Dorado. 

I dropped the paper and before it hit the floor it was consumed with fire.  I stood there in awe for a second or two but then shook it off and remembered I haven’t slept and I could be in the middle of a dream.  So I pulled myself together and continued with my evening.

I turned my bed down and prepared myself for another sleepless night. My cell phone which I left downstairs began to ring. I hesitated about going downstairs to get it but every time it stopped ringing, it would start again so I went to get it.  

When I reached my phone, I saw that the caller id didn’t show a valid number but a weird number of all 6s.  I pushed the talk button, holding the phone to my ear, and before I said hello I heard a voice  in a low whisper say, 

“You can’t turn back, you have to find El Dorado.” 

I dropped the phone and as the phone hit the floor it started ringing again. I cautiously picked the phone back up and held it so gently, taking the phone into the kitchen, then putting the phone in the sink. As I ran water on it, the ringing faded until it completely stopped. 

I started back to my room and as I went up the stairs I had a sense that I was no longer alone. As I reached my room, I saw a sight that I didn’t expect. 

There I was laying in the bed, and my wrist had been cut. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at and as I stood there trying to figure out what was going on, a hand touched my shoulder and a voice said in a whisper, 

“It’s time. I am here to take you to  El Dorado.”

Nightmare Fuel: Tagus, ND

 

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tagus

Hello Addicts,

Earlier this season, I told you about a haunted location right here in North Dakota, White Lady Lane in Walhalla. This week, I want to tell you about another haunted spot in the Peace Garden State rumored to be one of the many Gateways to Hell. Join me on a Nightmare Fueled trip to Tagus, ND.

North Dakota has its fair share of ghost towns. One such town is Tagus, located forty miles west of one of the larger cities in the state — Minot. Founded in 1900, Tagus hit its peak population of 140 in 1940 but has since declined to only a handful of people living there and no open businesses. In 2001, the sole remaining church burned down, possibly due to vandalism. A plaque stands where the building once stood.

It is inside this church that the rumored gateway is. According to the stories, the church was home to Satanic rituals and sacrifices, both human and animal. The stories chronicle bestiality, cannibalism, an upside-down cross on the door, and a stairway that led to the bowels of Hell itself. After the fire, the stairs became filled with dirt to hide their location, but if you stand quietly in the right spot, you can still hear the screams of pain from the tortured souls. Other stories document hellhounds lying in wait to tear your heart out, a phantom train running through town, and a glowing tombstone. The town’s abandoned homes are not spared from the legends either, with people reporting weeping, wailing, and the cry of an infant off in the distance.

All of this sounds like it comes from horror movies or the scariest of books. There may be something to the stories, or they could be urban legends shared to scare around a campfire. Based on pictures of the town, there is a creepy vibe given off. If and when I can make a trip to Tagus, I will certainly share anything that happens there. Until then, the legends of the town will have to tide us over.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

Free Fiction : It Came To The Window by J.S. O’Connor

“I’ve seen it, Jim. I swear to God, I’ve seen it. Get me a drink to settle my nerves. I would prefer whiskey, but I’ll settle for anything strong and keep them coming. What’s that? I don’t know what ‘it’ was or is, but I’ve seen it just outside my window and I don’t think this is the first time it came to the house, but this is the first time I saw it. Another please, no ice this time and I’ll tell you the story. 

“It was nearly a week back when I first saw the tracks walking my property after work. I guess you could describe them as a large chicken with talons the size of a pocketknife. They were up near the tree line in some mud. Didn’t think anything of it. See a lot of tracks living that close to the woods. I believe that was a Monday. Tuesday the tracks were by the garage, but I still didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I heard it. That’s when I thought something strange was happening.  

“Give me another Jim. Nothing like a good whiskey to settle the nerves. I’ll tell you what I heard. 

“It must have been Wednesday night. It was a hard day of work up at the factory and when I got home, I soon found myself at the bottom of a bottle. I’m not proud to say, but the bottom of the bottle is where I find myself most nights. Well for the last two years … but I don’t need to tell you that story. I reckon the entire town knows about it. But it’s the truth. Sitting by the fire in my chair, I remember it being pretty cold and I fell asleep. Don’t know what time Kirby started barking, must have been close to eleven-thirty or midnight and the dog is just sitting there going crazy at the screen door. 

“Got to admit something Jim, I had a funny feeling that night but I played it off that I had too much to drink. I got up from my chair and stumbled to the back door. That damn dog shot off into the night barking. Didn’t think nothing of the dog running off, it’s what he does, and he comes back when he’s good and ready. But that’s when I heard it. I swear, Jim, I don’t know how to describe it. But I heard it. Now I know what you’re thinking, but I have heard every animal from those woods. The sound echoed through the darkness. It’s been three days and I still haven’t seen Kirby. Didn’t sleep the rest of the night. Just sat by the fire with my rifle. 

“Next morning before work I went looking for Kirby. Nothing. No trace. It was like the damn dog just disappeared. No dog tracks. No weird chicken tracks. It was like the night before never happened. When I got home, I picked up where I left off looking for that dog. Still nothing. Didn’t sleep that night and had no bottle and no strange sounds. Everything was silent. 

“Sorry  I’m shaking. No more Jim I think that was my last tonight. Four is enough. 

“Last night was when I saw it. It was at my window, Jim. I sit here not wanting to believe it myself. I had my bottle and my rifle, and I sat myself by the fire. The night was getting late, and my eyes were getting heavy. I must admit that the whiskey kept me from sleep’s grasp and that’s when I saw it. It was looking through my window. Its eyes were a pale blue, I don’t know how else to describe them. Its face was a light grey, but it had no mouth or nose it was just blank. 

“I jumped from my chair, the bottle broke on the floor, and I fired at it. My aim was off and the glass shattered just above its head. But I scared it off, and I ran towards the window. I could see it clearly even though it was pitch black. It ran on all fours like some damn animal, but it wasn’t no animal. Its body was the same color, that light grey, but the body looked more human than the face. I watched it until it got to the tree line and there it stopped and looked back at me.  

“You must think I’m crazy for telling you this and if you don’t, then what I’ll say next will make you think I’m crazy. It spoke to me. How? I don’t know the thing had no mouth, but I heard it. Or maybe it was all in my head, but I heard the word inside enter my brain. I don’t know what it means and I don’t think I do. Then it disappeared off into the woods, and I didn’t stay long either. Got in the truck and drove away, stayed the rest of the night at the motel – most of today too, now that I think about it. Been thinking long and hard about what it told me last night and I got me a feeling that when I get home it will be waiting for me inside my home. 

“Here’s the money for the drinks, Jim. Thanks for listening to an old drunk ramble. Be seeing you soon, maybe.”  

Gypsy Mob :Episode 12/ Conflagration

Zara had left the Italian bitch in her tent, securely tied, only to step outside the tent to see a conflagration in progress. Wide-eyed, she watched flames lick up the base of the nearest tent until it was engulfed in flames, a process which took only seconds. For a moment, she was paralyzed, watching her family’s property go up in smoke. Only for a moment, though, then her paralysis broke and she looked around to see the rest of her clan reacting similarly. 

WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” she screamed, her hoarse voice scaling down a few notches as her vocal cords ruptured further. “PUT THEM OUT!”

Galvanized into action by her cries, the surrounding Gypsies scattered, running for water, for dirt, for anything they could think of. Such a thing had never been visited upon their camp, and they were largely running in circles in a blind panic. One of the huge Gypsies regained his head first and began organizing a bucket line to the rusty pump situated in the field nearby where they had pitched their tents. By then, the flames had reached high enough on most tents that any firefighting activities were largely symbolic. 

It was as the first few buckets were thrown on the fires that the explosions ripped through the night, sounding to Zara like a string of firecrackers on steroids, as though the crackers had been replaced by dynamite and the fuses shortened to nothing. Indeed, that is what she thought was occurring until she saw some of her clan jerk upright in mid-run and fall to the ground, red mist spraying from multiple wounds in their bodies.  

“GET DOWN!” she bellowed, blood spraying from her throat as she lapsed into a bout of coughing which brought her to her knees just as a hail of bullets passed over her. One of the Gypsies right in front of her was not so lucky, blood and brain matter from his ruptured skull splattering all over her. The rest of her clan hit the ground as bullets whizzed overhead. 

“Keep going!” she roared between coughs as the bullets ceased for the moment, waving her arm in the direction of the pump. “Keep buckets going or we are doomed!” Her throat felt as though it were on fire as well but she continued screaming. “The buckets! Now! NOW!!”

The silhouettes of the clan began creeping from their prone positions, to the pump and back toward the fires, struggling to keep a low profile while carrying buckets of water. Over the next few minutes, the lack of gunfire made some of them raise their heads and stop crouching as they scurried to and fro, before machine gunfire lit up the night, this time coming from the middle of the camp. Many of the Gypsies dropped to the ground, riddled with bullets, but this time Zara could see the source of the chaos. A large man with a huge gun strode up the midway, raking everything that moved with fire, the explosions from the barrel lighting up the night and providing her a clear target. 

With rage burning in her, Zara waited until the next pause in fire before striding into the midway, her hand raised in the direction of the gunman. He was faced away from her, the muzzle of his huge gun turned to one side as he hunted for more targets. 

“PIG!” she screamed. As he began turning in her direction, she raised a ragged fingernail to her arm and slashed it open, blood dripping to the dirt as she locked eyes with him, bringing him to a halt. Speaking in ancient Rom, she spoke words she had long known but never said, words that she had been warned never to speak, words she had feared but always longed to recite. The words which would turn a man’s rage and hatred inward and destroy himself. 

The gunman’s eyes grew glassy and the barrel of his gun dropped toward the ground, his eyes never leaving hers. She finished speaking and waved her bloody arm, red flecks flying in his direction. Without another word or shot fired, the gunman turned and retreated down the midway, his steps purposeful, machine gun held at his side, facing down. As he left, the energy went out of her and she crumpled to the ground, breathing heavily as her family’s tents burned around her. 

Tony the Nose had worked his way around the outskirts of the Gypsy camp, setting fire to the tents doused by the Giletti brothers and spreading gasoline to those they had not yet reached by the time the gunfire began. Recognizing the sound of the light machine gun, he could tell that Don Giletti had at last freed the weapon from its mount in the mansion’s gun room and had come for the Gypsies. Falling to the ground, Tony worked his way outside of the gun’s radius of fire, outside the tents that were being shredded by the gun’s bullets. The screams and constant fire did not bother him in the slightest. He had brought about far worse in his time as the Don’s enforcer. 

When the gunfire ceased, Tony waited until he was sure that the gun had gone silent. From his prone position, he could see the bulky figure with the gun walking slowly out of the Gypsy’s camp, back to the vehicle Tony had spent countless hours maintaining and upgrading at the Don’s request. When the silhouette had rejoined the vehicle and sped away, Tony regained his feet, listening to the cries from within the Gypsy camp as he walked toward the nearest tent that had been doused with gasoline and had not yet caught fire. Pulling a lighter from his pocket, he scratched the flint. Flame leaped to the mouth of the lighter and he held it to the base of the tent. The flame licked for a second before igniting the gasoline fumes and licking around the tent with startling speed. Not hesitating, Tony moved to the next tent, and the next, circling the camp until all the tents were once more ablaze. What little progress the Gypsies had made fighting the fires the Gilettis had set earlier was immediately eclipsed. Occupied as they were by their wounded and the carnage visited upon them by Don Giletti’s lesser henchmen, these new flames had surrounded them and were burning inward toward the center of the camp before its inhabitants were able to do more than register their existence. 

From beneath his tuxedo coat, Tony produced an enormous weapon, capable of raining destruction paralleled by the machine gun brought by the Don. Unlike the Don, Tony did not walk down the center of the midway, presenting a clear target. He moved around the flaming tents, waiting for a clean shot at the Gypsies he could see silhouetted by the flames. A quick burst of extremely accurate fire sent the nearest knot of Gypsies to the ground, screaming. By the time any of the survivors reached the corpses and began looking for the source of the shots, Tony had already moved halfway around the circumference of the camp and was dealing death to the newest targets which presented themselves. 

He continued in this fashion until he had circled the burning camp twice without spying anything alive at which to shoot. Following Don Giletti’s footsteps, he strode up the remains of the midway, kicking aside bodies that stood in his way until he reached what had once been the Pleasure Tent. All around him, flames reached high into the sky, licking at the stars as the tents burned to the ground. There he found Zara, her throat ruptured by one of his bullets, attempting to staunch the flow of blood as she painfully pushed herself away from his approach. 

She tried to speak, raising the hand which was not pressed to her throat as blood poured from her open mouth. “You…from…hell,” she rasped, her once light voice now reduced to a liquid gargle.

Tony raised a mammoth foot and kicked her in the head, knocking her to the ground. Before she could stir again, the barrel of his weapon had obliterated her skull in a spray of blood and brain. 

Wiping the matter from his face, Tony strode from the camp, his skin stinging from the heat. As he stood by his vehicle and surveyed the camp, he could not see anything that was not aflame. Pulling another gas can from the trunk of the car, he cracked the vent and the nozzle before spinning like a shot-putter and throwing the can into the center of the conflagration. Upon hitting the ground, gas sprayed in all directions, further enraging the flames which had already taken hold. A miniature mushroom cloud rose from the impact point, the flames eagerly spreading to nearby tents and working their way outward, helped by the night’s breeze.

Without another look, Tony seated himself behind the wheel of his car and drove away from the burning Gypsy camp, headed for the Giletti mansion. 

Historian of Horror : The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

Except for those living under a rock somewhere, everyone has at least heard of the Big Two comic book companies, if only peripherally. Marvel, with its Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest of the Avengers, and DC, with its Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and their associated Justice Leaguers. In those halcyon days of my misspent youth in the 1960s, during what comics fans now refer to as the Silver Age of Comics, there were several other purveyors of four-color delights of equal importance to me and my peers, publishers long vanished and forgotten by all but the most die-hard connoisseurs of the medium. There was the American Comics Group, publisher of the very first horror comic in the late 1940s, Adventures into the Unknown, and of the most powerful comic book character ever created, the redoubtable Herbie Popnecker. There was Charlton, home to a cluster of third-tier super-heroes and several not-altogether-terrible horror comics. Archie was still putting out the occasional super-hero comics starring the Mighty Crusaders, comprised of characters left over from their Golden Age titles of the 1940s, along with the supernatural adventures of Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch. Dell had a few speculative fiction titles coming out, as well as the first comic book to acknowledge the developing war in Southeast Asia that would soon divide the country. Etc., etc., etc.

My favorite, however, was Gold Key, especially their horror titles – Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, Ripley’s Believe it or Not True Ghost Stories. They also had the monopoly – inherited from Dell Comics in 1962 – on Disney and Warner Brothers cartoon characters and the various Tarzan titles, as well as television adaptations, including The Munsters, Bewitched, Dark Shadows, and Scooby-Doo. And Turok, Son of Stone, great fun with Native Americans vs. dinosaurs in a lost valley.

What a wonderful time it was to be a kid – and all for twelve cents a copy! I don’t even want to know what a comic book would cost these days.

Gold Key was the comic imprint of K.K. Publications, located in the exotically named Poughkeepsie, New York. K.K., in turn, as I only discovered years later, was owned by Western Publishing. Hence, the title of this piece. Although Western survived as a corporate entity until 2001, it had even by then long since been reduced by the vicissitudes of time and the vagaries of the publishing world to but a shadow of its former glory. At least, in so far as this child of the ‘Sixties is concerned. Its last surviving brand, the Little Golden Books, has been taken over by Penguin Random House. Gold Key itself went belly up in 1984.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Late in the story of Gold Key, its titles began to appear under an alternative imprint, Whitman. Whitman is actually still around, but only puts out coin and stamp collecting materials. In its heyday, though, under the steady guidance of Western Publishing, Whitman was a major disseminator of multi-media publications. Big Little Books, small, boxy things about popular movie, radio, and comic strip characters, with alternative pages of simple drawings and simpler text, for example. Some of these are worth a fortune today. I have one of the early Lone Ranger editions I got for the relatively low price of $35 some years ago. Yeah, go ahead. Put a hand on it. You’re apt to draw back a nub.

Popular culture characters also appeared in a series of standard-sized hardbound books, also primitively illustrated. I have several based on comic strips that only lack dust jackets to be worthy of funding my retirement, Blondie and Red Ryder among them. There was also a series of mysteries featuring popular female movie stars of the time, including Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, Shirley Temple, even Gene Tierney, and Dorothy Lamour. And so on.

But all that was well before my time. In my decade, the 1960s, Whitman revived the Big Little Books with fewer pages and more contemporary characters such as the Man from U.N.C.L.E, Major Matt Mason, and the Fantastic Four. They also put out a couple of horror anthologies I still own, books that have gone a long way towards shaping my interest in all things spooky.

Those titles, Tales to Tremble By and More Tales to Tremble By, both edited by Stephen P. Sutton, came out in 1966 and 1968, respectively. I acquired the second one first, in 1968, around my tenth birthday, under circumstances of which I have no recollection. The first one, according to a note I obligingly scribbled inside the front cover at the time for the benefit of my future self, I bought in Texas. That would be over the Thanksgiving holiday of 1969, when my Uncle Allen married my Aunt Jeannie in Plainview, not far from the New Mexico border. That was at the time the longest trip I had ever been on. I’ve since gone farther than that. Don’t recall picking up anything as cool as Tales to Tremble By in St. Petersburg, Russia, though. I did get my wife a replica Fabergé egg for her birthday. She seemed to like it.

Anyhow, the books. By sometime in the 1950s, Whitman had done way with paper dust jackets and started putting out their books with laminated painted covers. I have a couple of Tarzans from that period. The practice continued for the rest of the company’s run. For all I know, their numismatic stuff comes the same way. Not being a numismatist, I have no idea. I only collect coins up until the point that it’s time to convert them into folding green to be spent upon trivialities like food, clothing, and shelter. And books. Lots and lots of books.

More Tales to Tremble By was not the first scary anthology I had read. My elementary school library had a volume of short stories I’d devoured at least a year before. All I remember of it was that it was a hardback book and old even then, probably from the 1930s or 1940s. Alas, the school has long since been sold off by the City of Nashville and absorbed into the David Lipscomb University system. I drive by every so often and experience sadness. 

I miss that book.

Anyhow. THIS book. The table of contents is like a Hall of Fame of short horror tales and writers of the same. To whit — 

“The Red Lodge” by H. Russell Wakefield.

Sredni Vashtar” by Saki (H.H. Munro)

Thurnley Abbey” by Perceval Landon

God Grante That She Lye Still” by Lady Cynthia Asquith

The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hodgson

The Extra Passenger” by August Derleth

Casting the Runes” by M.R. James

The Book” by Margaret Irwin

 

“Casting the Runes”, by the way, was the basis for one of the greatest horror films of all time, 1957’s Curse of the Demon (entitled Night of the Demon in England). 

Every yarn here is a certified classic. The other one, the book from Texas, is likewise:

The Hand”, Guy de Maupassant

The Middle Toe of the Right Foot”, Ambrose Bierce

No. 1 Branch Line, The Signalman” (AKA “The Signal-Man”), Charles Dickens

Adventure of the German Student”, Washington Irving

“The Sutor of Selkirk”, Anonymous

The Upper Berth”, F. Marion Crawford

The Judge’s House”, Bram Stoker

Names to conjure with, surely. I anticipate that I shall devote a future column to each of the authors listed here in the future. Except of course for that Anonymous fellow. Can’t find a blessed thing about him. But the others, for sure.

I hope I live that long, anyhow.

There was at least one more horror anthology from Whitman, Ten Tales Calculated to Give You Shudders, edited by Ross R. Olney. It came out in 1972. My copy was originally owned by someone named Cindy, who seemed to enjoy writing her name out as it appears half a dozen times in various places. She also claimed to have been in love with Huey. I think I acquired it in an antique store when I was in college, but I’m not positive. Great stories in it, as well:

Sweets to the Sweet”, by Robert Bloch

The Waxwork”, by A.M. Burrage

Used Car”, by H. Russell Wakefield

The Inexperienced Ghost”, by H.G. Wells

The Whistling Room”, by William Hope Hodgson

The Last Drive”, by Carl Jacobi

The Monkey’s Paw”, by W.W. Jacobs

“Second Night Out”, by Frank Belknap Long

The Hills Beyond Furcy, by Robert G. Anderson

Floral Tribute”, by Robert Bloch. HIM again.

It’s a good book. I enjoy it. But, you know, it’s just not the same as the others. Not a treasured artifact of my childhood. I guess some things just remain more precious because of the context of their acquisition.

Anyhow. If it hasn’t happened before now, I encourage the populace to track down and read these tales. They are among the foundation stones of our genre, historically important, and wonderfully entertaining. Go, seek. You’ll be glad you did.

And so, until next time, mavens of the macabre…

Be afraid. 

Be very afraid.

Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose by Maxwell I. Gold

Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose by Maxwell I. Gold

Reviewed by A.P. Hawkins

Oblivion calls.

The sound of Näigöths’ leathery wings fills the skies over ruined cities. Nature is corrupted, trees turned to pillars of metal and plastic. Humanity has deteriorated to a mere shade of its former greatness, entranced by lies and unaware of the oncoming storm. They bow to new gods, Cyber Gods of their own making, who offer nothing but empty promises and ravenous hunger.

In Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose, takes readers on a deliciously horrifying journey through wildly imagined apocalyptic landscapes. With each piece, he paints a picture more wild and weird than the last. The vivid imagery all but leaps off the page, pulling the reader further into the mad, broken world Gold has built. 

Many of the pieces in Oblivion in Flux are loosely connected, weaving a thin thread of story as the narrator struggles to escape humanity’s own creation and remain free in the face of cyber horrors and fates worse than death. Repeated words and phrases at the opening and close of many pieces contribute to the overall feeling of madness and horror and make the reader feel as though they, too, might succumb.

Other pieces feel more separate, unconnected to the story running along in the background. But the themes, of decadence crumbling into decay, of humanity, blinded to the destruction it brings upon itself, come through very strong throughout the collection.

Of all the pieces in this collection, REVES DES CYBERDIEUX: A NATION IN THREE ACTS stood out as particularly powerful and timely. Though occasionally heavy-handed, the picture it paints of bloated politicians fawned over by hypnotized sycophants is extremely accurate and provocative.

Oblivion in Flux is an imaginative and gripping indictment of our time, where the metals and plastics and technologies of our society, our Cyber Gods, have turned, mouths agape, to devour us whole. Gold’s collection of cyber prose is a must-read for anyone who enjoys weird horror.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : In Chasms Deep

 

In Chasms Deep

Greetings HorrorAddicts! I hope these musings find you dim, dismal, and dissolute. Not really. I hope you and yours are doing well and that your life has returned to some sense of normalcy. But since we are going to be discussing black metal today, I thought I’d get you into the right headspace. For those of you, like me, who are new to the subgenre, black metal is characterized by screaming vocals, atmospheric sounds that don’t necessarily follow a typical song structure and pagan and/or satanic themes. The subgenre has received criticism due to the actions of some members of the community, but as with all music, it is unfair to judge all participants by the actions of the few. Metal music has healing properties and many of us turn to metal of all types to get us through the difficult times in our lives. 

In Chasms Deep is a one-man black metal project from the United States who has been making music since 2011. Their latest release, The Wind and Her Lament, draws the listener into a melodic journey from the beginning track. The pieces flow from hauntingly inviting to explosive rainbows of sonic power. The album draws on the four elements to give the listener an immersive experience. Tracks like “A Suicide in Paradise” build from melancholy piano to dream-like guitar sequence to thundering, furious shredding before sinking back into pensive strumming and those haunting piano notes once more. It’s probably my favorite track on the album. “Abyssgazer” piqued my interest with the organ parts in the beginning as well. 

If you’re new to black metal, I’d recommend giving The Wind and Her Lament a listen. The artist has created a landscape of beauty in darkness, which is a place many of us HorrorAddicts love to dwell. I’ll definitely be checking out some of their earlier work on Spotify. 

How about you? Have any black metal recommendations? As a bona fide metalhead, I’m always down to check out new music, so send me an email, rlmerrillauthor at gmail dot com or leave a comment. Thanks for joining me on this musical journey. Stay Tuned for more Musical Musings…

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Sunod

 

Plotline: As the medical expenses for her daughter stack up, a mother takes a demanding call center job where the building’s sinister secrets begin to haunt her.

Who would like it: Possession movies, women-driven plots, international films, twist endings

High Points: One of my favorite scenes is watching a woman performing with the power of a mother’s love

Complaints: I don’t have any

Overall: I LOVED this movie

Stars: 4 and 1/2

Where I watched it: VOD

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

THE BIGFOOT FILES\Chapter Thirty-Three: Bigfoot: A Short Story

In D.L. Finn’s Bigfoot: A Short Story, a man’s life forever changes when he stumbles upon an obscure blog while searching for his recently retired friend, Bob and Bob’s wife Elly. The blog features a bizarre interview with Bob who reveals a conspiracy to kill Bigfoot.

The man reading the blog is Steve, whose wife Sandy wants him to find the new address for Bob and Elly. The couple retired and suddenly moved to Florida without so much as a goodbye or forwarding address. As Steve reads the blog, the story develops a distinct “X-Files” vibe complete with cryptid encounters, UFO sightings, and government conspiracies.

Finn effectively uses the blog in her 2018 short story to challenge Steve’s and the reader’s ability to discern fact from fiction. As the story elevates from a crazy Bigfoot tale into revealing a universal threat to humanity, Steve makes a life-changing decision for him and his wife based on a photograph and a gut feeling.

In an era of fake news and online hoaxes, Bigfoot: A Short Story makes you wonder what you would do in Steve’s situation. I doubt I could do what he did in the end, but after reading Finn’s story, I’d definitely think about it.

NEXT UP: Chapter Thirty-Four: Exists. I review the 2014 horror film directed by Eduardo Sánchez.

Historian of Horror : You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dawg…

You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dawg…

I’m pretty much positive that the first film adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles that I ever saw was the 1959 Hammer version starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. According to the database, I assembled several years ago from the television schedules in the Nashville newspaper for those years during which I developed my love of all things horrifying, I must have seen it on September 25, 1965, at 4:00 P.M. That was when the afternoon movie aired by our local CBS station, The Big Show, was on the air. I was in second grade at the time, attending a school close enough to have gotten home from by then, so it fits. None of the other showings I found were possible candidates. I would have either been on my way home from school during a period when it was a much longer trip, or the movie was shown much too late at night for me to have stayed up for at the tender age I was when it was broadcast. Ergo, not only did I see it when I was seven years old, I didn’t watch it again until I was much older. And yet, that viewing is firmly etched into my brain. I remember every detail clearly as if I saw it for the first time just a few years ago. We had only recently gotten our first color TV set, and I recall being fascinated by the vibrant hues of the process Hammer used in their productions.

Funny, isn’t it, how something we experience so young can have such a profound effect on our lives in later years? I had no idea who Sherlock Holmes was in 1965. I didn’t have a clue what a baronet was. I’m not entirely certain I was clear on what a hound was, and yet…

A baronet, by the way, is what Sir Henry Baskerville was. It’s a sort of hereditary knighthood, passed from father to son, or to the eldest male heir, with an attending estate thrown in. Baskerville Hall, in this situation. Baronets are not nobles. They are landed gentry, the highest level of commoner, just below a baron in the English social hierarchy. In case you were wondering. 

Anyhow. It wasn’t long before I began exercising my newly gained literacy by tracking down the novel on which the film was based. I was a precocious child, given to reading beyond my years. By the end of the decade, I’d read all the Holmes tales, along with most of the major classics of horror and a great deal of world literature. It was not unusual for me to blaze through one long or two short books a day, and still have time to play with my friends and accumulate a host of scraped knees and bunged up elbows riding my Spyder-style bicycle recklessly and with wild abandon down the hill in front of our house to the wooden ramp waiting at the bottom, launching myself into the Venrick’s front yard to fetch up in a tangle of limbs and metal tubing, then back up the hill to do it all again.

God, to have a fraction of that energy back now! And the resilience to withstand the gallons of Bactine my mother was obliged to apply to my myriad minor injuries. 

So, the Hound. The book is nominally a mystery, but I’ve never seen a movie version that couldn’t be properly classified as a horror film. The Hound itself is a monster if there ever was one, a gigantic beast that kills either through fear or by the vigorous application of its fangs upon fragile and succulent body parts. Inspired by centuries of English folklore, it is a primal, supernatural force, despite being nothing more than a dressed-up mastiff. 

Well, let me tell you about mastiffs. I had a friend some years ago who raised that particular breed of dog. I once saw one pull a tree it had been tied to out of the ground. A smallish tree, true, but not a sapling. Maybe six inches in diameter at the base of the trunk. A tree. Out of the ground. This is not a puny animal. It was a terrifying beast, even with its owner nearby to keep it calm. 

That’s one of several reasons why I prefer cats. I never want to own a pet that I cannot beat in a fair fight. 

I count a dozen film versions of the story in my collection, including at least one silent, three German adaptations, and one in Russian. That is by no means an exhaustive list. My sources list over thirty film and television adaptations, parodies, pastiches, and reimaginings in several languages including Bengali, Ukrainian and Italian, since 1914. It might be the most filmed mystery novel of all time. Ergo, I hope the populace is at least somewhat familiar with the plot.

If not, here it is, in a nutshell: Holmes is charged with the protection of Sir Henry Baskerville, newly arrived from overseas. Sir Henry has inherited the family estate upon the death of his Uncle Charles, who was frightened to death, apparently by the family curse. Sooner or later, the Hound always gets the baronet, and the line passes on to the next heir. Holmes sends Dr. Watson down to Devonshire with Sir Henry while he finishes up some business in London. As it turns out, there is another heir envious of the title who has arranged to have his big, mean dog kill Sir Charles and try to kill Sir Henry. Holmes arrives in time to stop the plot, and the bad guy is swallowed up in the Great Grimpen Mire that surrounds the Baskerville estate. The End.

The book was written in 1901, during the Great Hiatus, that period when the world thought that the Great Detective’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed him off forever. Originally serialized in The Strand Magazine before its 1902 hardback publication, The Hound of the Baskervilles was a sort of nostalgic look back at the period before Holmes and Professor Moriarty threw each other off the rocky ledge into the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland in “The Final Problem”, published in 1893. The novel’s success convinced Doyle to bring Holmes back in 1903 in the short story, “The Adventure of the Empty House”, and things continued on as before until Doyle’s passing in 1930. The stories themselves were firmly set in the Victorian Era, however, with Holmes retiring not long after Her Little Majesty’s death in 1901 to raise bees in Sussex.

The film versions are consistently set within the canonical time period. The best one is probably the 1939 version, starring Basil Rathbone in the first of his fourteen movies as Holmes. This one and the first sequel, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, were made at 20th Century Fox. Rathbone took the series to Universal, and a contemporary wartime setting, for twelve more pictures with varying degrees of success. Still, he is firmly entrenched as the definitive Holmes for many fans of the character. 

Cushing himself reprised his performance for a BBC Holmes series in 1968. The deerstalker cap has been worn on the Devonshire moor by Stewart Granger, Ian Richardson, Jeremy Brett, Matt Frewer and Richard Roxburgh, and even comedian Peter Cook and the former Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker. The tale has been adapted to the stage and numerous radio broadcasts, including one 1941 American performance with Rathbone in the lead role, as well as a 1977 episode of that last great hurrah of old-time radio horrors, The CBS Radio Mystery Theatre. There was a Classics Illustrated comic book edition, and Marvel Comics adapted the tale in the black-and-white magazine Marvel Preview #5 in 1975, among many other comic versions. Variations have been done on both the BBC’s Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and CBS’s Elementary with Johnny Lee Miller. It’s a tale no one inspired by the Great Detective can leave alone, and that suits me fine. Of all the canonical Holmes tales, it is the one closest to my heart, for it has within its telling a true monster, even if the solution is a bit Scooby-Dooish. I’m looking forward to seeing what form the next adaptation of the grand old story takes. And the one after that. They’re bound to be interesting and should be appropriately terrifying. One hopes.

And so, until next time, my dear epicures of eeriness…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Gypsy Mob : Episode 10 / Homecoming

How long she walked, she could not tell. Cradling what was left of her arm, she staggered onward, the blood seeping from her stump slowly turning the rags of her remaining clothing red. The stars shone brightly overhead, twinkling with apathy at her plight. At one point the sky lit up as fragments of disintegrating spacecraft streaked overhead. She did not notice but continued onward, her subconscious mind directing her. 

When she finally beheld the lights of the mansion in which she had lived all her life, she stopped, swaying, gazing stupidly at it, her mind struggling to comprehend what she was seeing. Gradually, it dawned on her that it was home. She had made it. She was safe. 

Willing her limbs to continue moving, she fixed her eyes on the lights surrounding the porch and the walkway leading up to the front door. They did not seem to grow closer, but finally, she could see she was making progress in their direction. It felt as though she were on a treadmill, the road moving beneath her as she walked in place, leaving the mansion as far away as ever, gaining only one step every hour or two. She could do nothing more than continue, for she knew if she stopped, she would not start again. She would die here. 

At long last, somehow, the front door appeared before her. She stared at the doorknob for a few moments before reaching up with her bloody hand to twist the knob. It moved a fractional amount before stopping firmly. She was locked out. All she had learned about how to sneak in and out of the house without anybody knowing had been blasted from her mind and all she could do was stand there stupidly for several minutes before it occurred to her to press the doorbell. 

From within the house, she could hear a buzzing. Some part of her brain registered it as the sound of someone at the door to her house and that someone should answer it, before realizing it was her. She was making the noise by pressing the button. This cycle of realization repeated as she stood there, her finger pressed to the doorbell, eyes fixed on the button. Someone’s at the door, she thought. Someone’s at the door. Someone’s at…

The door opened. 

The woman who opened it was very familiar. It seemed she had seen the woman before, many times, but she could not think where. Her mind already stretched to the breaking point, grappled for the answer. It was her… her…

Her what?

BIANCA!” Lucia screamed, her jaw dropping and involuntarily stepping backward away from the filthy bloody figure that her daughter had become. 

Mother. 

The word came to Bianca’s mind just as it gave up and she sank to the ground, unconscious. 

BIANCA!” Lucia’s shriek cut through the mansion. Giletti, who had been dozing behind his desk with a lit cigar, came awake like a tiger, going in all directions at once before he got his bearings. His wife’s second shriek came down the mansion’s hallway into his office as cleanly as a telegram and he roused his bulk from the chair, dropping his cigar in the ashtray and reflexively grabbing the pistol he kept beneath his desk. Lurching to the door, he threw it open and lumbered down the hallway as rapidly as he could. Already he could see his wife kneeling on the floor, cradling a bundle of filthy rags to her. As Giletti approached, the bundle of rags took shape and formed itself into a person. As he grew closer still, they became—

“Bianca,” Giletti whispered, growing closer. “What—”

His voice died in his throat as his eyes looked over what had just days ago been his spunky, vivacious daughter. They lingered at her face which had been coated in blood and dirt, her hair matted almost beyond recognition. They traveled down the bloody rags swaddling her until they stopped and fixated at where her hand had been. 

Lucia’s wailing as she held Bianca to her barely reached Giletti’s ears. All he heard was the rush of blood running to his head. He had lost henchmen aplenty in his time as the head of the Giletti family. But his daughter used and mutilated as she was, he could not comprehend. 

Turning, Giletti strode back to his office, the cries of his wife ringing in his ears. Booting the door open, he went to the west wall, which was made up of a massive bookshelf. Pulling a large green tome off the shelf, he threw it into a corner with a burst of rage and waited, breathing heavily, as the heavy wall of books swung slowly outward. Behind the bookshelf was a small room, its walls of pegboard, adorned with guns of every size, shape, and caliber. Giletti stepped into the room and reached up high for the weapon he had never used, the weapon he had always wanted to use and had always hoped never to use. There had never been a better time though, and as he pulled the heavy machine gun from its pegs and cradled it in his arms, he could almost hear the screams of the Gypsies as he worked the action. 

From a locker on the sidewall, he pulled a massive belt of ammunition, throwing it over his shoulder. Weighted by the heavy gun, he staggered down the hallway, past his unconscious daughter and wailing wife. Throwing the door open, he made his way to his primary vehicle, a supercharged Jaguar with over 200 horses under the hood. Dropping the ponderous gun on the passenger seat, he slammed the door and rounded the hood, throwing his bulk into the driver’s seat. Twisting the key in the ignition, the horses screamed to life. Without giving them an opportunity to warm up, he threw the car into gear and its engine roared as he floored the accelerator, peeling out of his driveway for the Gypsy camp. 

The glow from the Gypsy’s encampment reached high into the sky and Giletti saw it long before he arrived. Though he had not been informed of the exact plans of his minions, he knew it at once for what it was, having ordered the burning of numerous rivals in his past. As he screeched to a stop in the parking lot, deserted but for the empty cars of his henchmen, he was awarded a grim satisfaction as he saw many of the tents in the encampment were ablaze with flames reaching for the sky, long fingers stretching for the stars. 

Shutting off the engine, Giletti heaved his ponderance from the driver’s seat, pulling from the passenger’s seat the heavy machine gun and ammunition belt which he slung over his shoulder in imitation of the gunners in the war movies he watched regularly. He could smell the stench of gasoline and burning canvas, sweet in his nostrils as he moved to the outskirts of the camp. Squinting past the bright orange light of the flames, he could see dark silhouettes darting between the tents as the Gypsies fought the fire which had descended upon them. Situating himself for maximum visibility on a hill surrounding the tents, Giletti opened fire. 

Book Review : Of Men and Monsters by Tom Deady

 

Review by Matt Marovich

CW: Child and Domestic Abuse 

To be perfectly honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

That’s not to say that I had low or bad expectations for Of Men and Monsters by Tom Deady, quite the opposite, but that I found myself very quickly pulled into this story in a way that was quite surprising.

Taking place in 1975, Of Men and Monsters is the story of two brothers, older brother Matt and Ryan, and their mother. They have recently moved to a coastal New England town named Bayport, although a potentially better way to describe it would be “fled”. We quickly learn that the trio have recently escaped the predations of their abusive father and husband, a violent drunk who started beating his wife before expanding his terrible attentions to his two sons as they grew older. Once he began abusing Ryan, their mother packed their belongings and left as quickly as they could.

In Bayport, life for the three of them begins to have a sense of normalcy and peace. Matt quickly meets a girl named Kelly that he becomes smitten with, while Ryan meets Kelly’s cousin Leah. Their mom gets a job waiting tables at the local diner, and soon enough they fall into a steady routine. A routine that is, unfortunately, shattered when they receive an unexpected phone call and learn that their father is hunting them.

One of the things I enjoyed a lot about this book is the characters. The story is told from Ryan’s perspective but we spend plenty of time with Matt and his mom, seen through Ryan’s eyes. All of the characters are believable, especially Ryan whose perspective, thoughts, and reactions are incredibly realistic. I was almost immediately drawn into the book because of this, having to provide very little suspension of disbelief to get into Ryan as a person. Matt and Ryan have a loving relationship, even if Matt occasionally treats his brother with the frustration or mild disdain that only an older, barely teenage sibling can have.

All throughout the brothers’ summer, enjoying the time they can even as they fear the approaching monster of their father, the story has another thread in the form of an actual monster. While exploring their new home, Ryan discovers a cache of old comic books in the attic, one of which has an advert for Sea Monsters (not Sea Monkeys), which he stealthily sends away for. When they arrive and he begins to grow them, Ryan and Matt quickly learn that the ad’s claim of the creatures being “monsters” wasn’t false advertising.

It’s these three threads woven together that make this story so strong in my opinion. The normalcy of the brothers’ life feels realistic like I could totally see anyone growing up in Bayport having the life they create for themselves, and it’s that normalcy that helps make the other two threads horrific. With the approaching father, it’s the growing dread that comes with each passing day, that he might be closer to finding them, that this new existence of theirs may prove to be as fragile as a soap bubble. With the actual monster, each time we see it the thing has grown, changed, and it doesn’t take much to feel like the brothers are soon in over their heads. The presence of something so unnatural is heightened and emphasized by the rest of their lives, 

I won’t go into the plot any further, you can probably guess how it’s going to go, but even if the final resolutions of the story arcs are somewhat predictable, it’s still enjoyable due to the characters we interact with. Of Men and Monsters is a short read, only eighty-one pages on my Book app with current settings, and I definitely recommend it if you’re into novellas/novelettes. 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Palace of Tears


Review of Palace of Tears

Greetings HorrorAddicts. 

It’s getting close, my lovelies. How soon do you pull out your Halloween decorations? When do you start the scary movie marathons and pull out your frightening reads? We’ve got some melancholy darlings in review this time around as well as some Ro’s Recs.

This edition of Merrill’s Musical Musings is going to take you to a dark and dream-like state, with a little romance added in for flavor. The duo known as Palace of Tears has a very interesting backstory that includes a shared love of goth/dark music genres and performing arts. There was a move, followed by some Mardi Gras debauchery, and then the Great Pause, which has affected all of us in different ways. The album Of Ruination rose from these circumstances and listeners will definitely experience the wide array of emotions the artists experienced during these dark and anxious times. 

The tracks are all quite hypnotic. Some tracks are soothing, and others ride that edge of disturbing, adding a slight unease to your mood. The title track “Of Ruination” slices into you with distorted guitars then soothes the wound with ethereal vocals. Standout tracks that really show the artists’ range include “Cold Dead Skin” and “Masque L’Intrigue.” The production value was fantastic as well. Check out Palace of Tears and add them to your spooky, gloomy playlists. 

This month in Ro’s Recs, you should definitely check out Ice Nine Kills’ video for “Hip To Be Scared” and Twelve Foot Ninja’s “Long Way Home” for some horror-inspired music videos. And if you aren’t following Vision Video on Instagram, you’re missing all the Goth Dad jokes you can possibly stand! Let me know what you think.

I’d love to hear from you. What are you most looking forward to? Hit me up in the comments or at rlmerrillauthor@ gmail.com Thanks for checking in and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings.

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R.L. Merrill writes stories full of hope, love, and rock ‘n’ roll with a twist of spooky and creepy. You can find Ro on all the socials @rlmerrillauthor and for more about her books, check out www.rlmerrillauthor.com

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Candyman (Prerelease Private Screening 1st thoughts)

 
 

 

Plotline: In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, Anthony and his partner move into a loft in the now gentrified Cabrini. A chance encounter with an old-timer exposes Anthony to the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to use these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, he unknowingly opens a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence.

Who would like it: Fans of the Candyman franchise.

High Points: What I love most that even though this are slasher kill scenes, the killings take a back seat to the story.

Complaints: Absolutely nothing!

Overall: This is one of the most amazing horror movies that I’ve see in the past 5 years

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Private screening

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Nightmare Fuel: Peggy The Doll

Hello Addicts,

A staple of most childhoods is the doll. Whether they are action figures, Barbie, or whatever you called them, practically all of us played with a doll in some fashion growing up. As Hollywood and paranormal shows have shown us, spirits can inhabit them. More often than not, they can be less than pleasant or downright evil. Many believe that dolls are not just toys but also used in education, rituals, and messengers or effigies of gods and goddesses. Some believe that the creation of dolls was to house spirits of the dead. Such is the case with Peggy the Doll.

Peggy is a three-foot cutie with blonde hair and blue eyes. It looks like the typical child’s companion, but that only seems to hide the ghostly abilities attributed to her. A previous owner reported being unable to sleep after purchasing the doll. She lived alone but heard footsteps around the house and the clicking of the bathroom light turning off and on at night. It spooked her to the point of wrapping the doll in a rug and placing her in a shed. From there, the doll, who was unnamed at the time, passed on to paranormal investigator Jayne Harris.

Within days of taking the doll home, Jayne began feeling fatigued, to the point of being unable to get out of bed. When she allowed a friend to take the doll away for a couple of days, she began feeling like her old self again. The strangeness became more evident after she posted a picture of the still-unnamed doll to her Facebook page without any details. Overnight, people sent messages detailing strange things that happened after just seeing the picture. The complaints included headaches, chest pains, lightbulbs burning out, footsteps, and dogs spinning in circles and barking. One message came from a psychic medium, who claimed that the spirit inhabiting the doll was a restless and frustrated woman named Peggy.

Currently, Peggy has a room in the Zak Bagans Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, NV, where cameras watch her 24/7. Before being allowed to see her, visitors sign a waiver in case of any strange occurrences that may follow.

Whether Peggy actually can affect the people in the ways described is left up to the individual. As for me, she has inspired a short story of my own involving a haunted doll. I hope to visit the museum someday and get to meet her face to face.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

FRIGHT TRAIN : An anthology of spooky tales set around the railways

FRIGHT TRAIN

An anthology of spooky tales set around the railways reviewed by Renata Parvey

Editors: Switch House Gang

“Anyone who has ever been awakened late at night by a distant train whistle knows there is no lonelier sound. It is a mournful howl from a soulless traveler on a night journey to destinations unknown.”

Halloween arrived early this year with a spooky collection of tales based on the railways. Editors Charles R. Rutledge and Tony Tremblay came up with the concept of horror stories set around trains, and were rewarded with an assortment of stories ranging from Victorian-era ghostly yarns to contemporary thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction, ranging from creepy and humorous to atmospheric and downright gory. Fright Train comprises a mixture of contemporary authors with classic writers and a plethora of suspenseful, horror, and chilling stories set on or around train journeys. I particularly liked the concept of train travel and picked up the collection curious to see how each writer interpreted the narrow theme. The anthology is a ticket in itself to travel to unknown lands with shady co-passengers in suspicious cabins. Switch House Gang has reserved a seat for the reader and the ride awaits!

The collection includes classics like Charles Dickens’ The Signalman and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost Special which have spooked us for over a century. And there are also newer stories about ghost trains, train accidents, missing trains, invisible rails, piercing whistles, vampire and zombie passengers, peculiar drivers, specials that give a whole new meaning to ‘special’, and a host of wonderful short stories that keep you on edge as you ride along with the characters. Themes include broken marriages, dead children, grieving parents, retrospecting the past, seeing the future, predicting alternative realities, journeys to and from hell.

It’s hard to pick a favorite because every story is outstanding in its own way and deserves its own review. They’re so different from each other, while simultaneously adhering to the narrow theme. The haunting tale of motherhood in Amanda DeWees’ A Traveler Between Eternities, as an unborn child takes a train ride; the dystopian rail route of Stephen Mark Rainey’s Country of the Snake; Errick Nunnally’s gore-fest Lust for Life that keeps you guessing till the end who the real killer is; past demons catching up with the present in James Moore’s The Midnight Train; the pandemic world of Scott Goudsward’s Plague Train; the haunted joyride of Elizabeth Massie’s Tunnel Vision; Jeff Strand’s Devil-powered Death Train of Doom that questions parental behavior and its influence on the actions of children; Tony Tremblay’s Pépère’s Halloween Train that focuses on the grandparent-grandchild relationship; Charles Rutledge’s twist on Dracula in The Habit of Long Years; Lee Murray’s cultural fest of Maori traditions and seers, spirit-guides and goddesses assisting a search-and-rescue in Weeping Waters; Mercedes Yardley’s The Rhythm of Grief that navigates the rail crossings between the living and the dead; Bracken MacLeod’s Weightless Before She Falls that distinguishes real monsters from imaginary ones, Christopher Golden’s All Aboard and its eerie 3:18 special. The contemporary writers even make up thirteen in number, to go with the horror theme of the book!

A special mention needs to be made of Lee Murray and Christopher Golden whose stories follow Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle respectively. Fright Train is a spectacular collection in itself, and to be placed next to classic writers is a formidable task. Murray and Golden are absolutely stellar with their standout creations, Weeping Waters and All Aboard. The sounds of the fantail and the shrill whistle of the 3:18 stay with you long after finishing the book.

Some quotes:

-The 3:18 was a ghost in and of itself, ridden by phantoms.

-The night air seemed to ripple, to have texture, just a hint of substance.

-Resentment and blame hung in the air like static building before a thunderstorm.

-An engine, a tender, two carriages, a van, five human beings – and all lost on a straight line of railway! Does a train vanish in broad daylight?

-The fog lay like a thick mist so that people appeared to be dissolving at the ankles.

-The sharp scream of the whistle slashed his eardrums.

-The desert sun pummeled his face like a hot iron fist.

-Does his intention define his evil nature, even if his actions harm nobody?

-You are trapped in the quandary of welcoming the tourist potential of Stoker’s work, but still wishing to change the national image of Romania.

-Pihanga’s tears rolled down the mountainside and onto the plateau.

-There were too many vampires on the train. Inspector Godina rolled his eyes at the motley assortment of Halloween revelers.

-That was the trouble with his gift – it was a feast or a famine – either everything spoke to you, or nothing at all.

-The slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine.

-The stars themselves were weeping, hurling themselves from the heavens.

-They fill their ears and minds and souls with noise, because it’s easier than listening to the quiet.

-This is a train for the dead, and you’re still very much alive.

-He wasn’t a cosmic spiderclown in the sewers. He was a real monster.

The old-world charm of the cover is extremely striking too – it reminds me of those classic spooky movies that showed so much in so little. Atmospheric horror at its best! A good time to revisit Horror Express (1972).

My rating: 5/5 

Historian of Horror : Whatever Happened to Baron von Emmelmann?

Whatever Happened to Baron von Emmelmann?

My devoted followers may recall that last time out, I briefly discussed the career of one Theodore Sturgeon, and his early story, “It”. The tale, which was published in the August 1940 issue of the fantasy and horror pulp magazine, Unknown, concerned the layers of naturally occurring compost that had formed around the lost skeleton of one Roger Kirk. Many years after Kirk’s passing, this was caused by some unknown mechanism the spontaneous generation of a sort of liveliness that resulted in death and destruction until the monster was dissolved in running water. A simple tale well told.

So, who the heck is Baron von Emmelmann?

For the answer to that question, we’ll need to fast forward a few years. The Golden Age of Comics was already in full flower by 1940, but it rapidly exploded into a riotous garden of four-color blooms once the United States joined the Second World War. Even before, as various patriotic-themed superheroes made their appearances even prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Captain America himself punched Adolf Hitler on the cover of the first issue of his own title in March of that year, and he wasn’t the first denizen of the new medium to take on the Nazi menace.

In the context of the times, comic book publishers proliferated, spewing out myriad characters ready, willing, and able to face the fascist threat and sell War Bonds, a large number of them heroic aviators. One of the smaller publishers, Hillman Publications, quickly assembled the first issue of an anthology title, Air Fighters Comics, that sold poorly. It was retooled a year later with an all-new line-up, including a young flyer with an almost sentient plane named Birdy. Airboy was so popular that the book was renamed after him a couple of years later, and ran until 1953.

In the eleven years between, a fair number of backup characters passed through the title’s pages, including a second-rate, gimmicky rip-off of Quality Publications aviation hero, Blackhawk. Sky Wolf hung around for a few years, and was featured in the Eclipse Comics’ Airboy revival of the 1980s. Honestly, though, his one real contribution to comic book history occurred in his second appearance, Air Fighters Comics volume 2, issue 3, with a cover date of December 1942.

In a brief flash-back to the First World War, German fighter pilot Baron Eric von Emmelmann was shot down over a swamp in Poland. His corpse festered and percolated there in the miasmic bog, accumulating layer upon layer of muck and mire. Eventually, the Heap emerged, like the creature in “It”, and began breaking things and mangling living beings. And, as in the Sturgeon tale, it resembled a huge, shambling mound with no discernable human features other than arms and legs.

Not long afterward von Emmelmann’s rebirth as the Heap, German pilot Colonel von Tundra was shot down over the same swamp. He survived and encountered the newly born muck-monster, who responded favorably to being yelled at in the native language of his former self. The Heap appeared in three more Sky Wolf stories as an ally of the Nazis before graduating to his own feature, beginning with Airboy Comics volume 3, number 9, October, 1946. By then, he was only vaguely aware of his origins, and less a villain and more of an elemental force for good. His adventures all over the world continued through the final issue in 1953. The character was parodied in an early issue of the Mad comic book, and revived briefly by Skywald Publications in the early 1970s, and a couple of times by Image in their Spawn comic book series. And of course, he was a prominent feature of the Eclipse run of Airboy previously mentioned.

Much more human-looking was DC Comics’ Solomon Grundy, who has never been anything but a villain, or at best an anti-hero. Originating as an opponent of the Golden Age Green Lantern in All-American Comics 61, October 1944, he has continued popping up in various titles and television shows, both animated and live-action, ever since. In his case, the swamp muck formed around the corpse of murder victim Cyrus Gold. 

The Golden age of Comics began to wind down at the end of World War II. Super-heroes gradually gave way to other genres, including war, western, crime, romance, funny animals, amusing teenagers, and horror. Captain America’s publisher, Timely Comics, morphed into Atlas, and like so many other houses concentrated on these new genres, with only a brief revival of its old heroes in the mid-fifties. After the institution of the Comics Code Authority in 1955, Atlas’s horror output was rendered as bland and toothless as all the other publishers, but unlike so many of them, the company survived. Barely.

As the decade wound down, the primary creative force at Atlas, Stan Lee, shifted his focus from ghosts, alien invaders and the like to gargantuan monsters, remnants of ancient times like Chinese dragon Fin Fang Foom, or colossal mummies, or giant statues animated by lightning strikes. One of these was “Monstrum! The Dweller in the Black Swamp”, from Tales to Astonish #11, September 1960. As was not unusual in a Stan Lee tale, Monstrum was more clumsy than malicious, being a refugee from a far planet whose spaceship was trapped in the Black Swamp. Rejected by the humans he sought assistance from, he returned to the swamp to await the evolution of a more compassionate population.

Fortunately for all concerned, not long afterward Lee revived the super-hero genre at his company, renamed it Marvel, and revolutionized the industry. Without the use of any more swamp critters, at least for a while.

The next significant muck monster made his appearance in DC’s horror title, House of Secrets, in issue 92, July 1971. Swamp Thing was created by writer Len Wien and legendary artist, the late and very much lamented, Berni Wrightson. Alex Olsen was an early 20th Century scientist developing a plant-growth formula. When his laboratory was sabotaged, Olsen got mixed up with the formula and the essence of the swamp in which he was located. He returned as the sentient but mute Swamp Thing to get his revenge. 

Under a new alter ego, Alex Holland, he was given a contemporary origin not long afterward in his own title that ran a mere dozen issues. A highly acclaimed series from writer Alan Moore followed in the 1980s, along with a pair of so-so theatrical films, two live-action TV shows and an animated TV mini-series.

Swamp Thing was no paragon of masculine pulchritude, but he was more-or-less sort of kind of human-shaped if you turned your head to one side and squinted. Marvel Comic’s Man-Thing was not. His original artist, Gray Morrow, returned to the source material, creating a shambling mound of insensate gunk and goo with a carrot-nose and beady eyes, much closer to the Heap than to his DC predecessors. First appearing in the black-and-white magazine format Savage Tales #1 in May of 1971, Man-Thing languished for a year before popping up again in a variety of Marvel super-hero titles. He attained his own series in January 1974. Man-Thing’s gimmick was that he was an empath. He responded well to the kindness of strangers, but not to their fear. His touch would burn anyone who was afraid of him, which fortunately turned out to usually be bad people. Man-Thing sold well enough that a second title was added, the unfortunately named Giant-Size Man-Thing. Go ahead, giggle. I won’t judge you. G-S M-T featured as a backup strip some of the earliest adventures of Howard the Duck, along with reprints from those old Atlas comics of the 1950s.

I honestly have no idea if Ted Sturgeon ever knew about the comic book characters that were inspired by his original creation. It never occurred to me to ask him, back in those halcyon days of my mis-spent youth. I’m sure he never received a dime in recompense from Hillman or DC or Marvel or any of the other comics publishers that made use of his concept. I’m not sure that would have bothered him. I hope not. My memories of Ted Sturgeon have no room for rancor, because I only remember him as genial and warm, and wickedly funny. Read, if you can find it, his 1972 short story, “Pruzy’s Pot”, about a living and very accommodating toilet. I heard him read that aloud in 1978, when he was the guest of honor at the Nashville science fiction convention for that year, Kubla Khan Ate. A room full of fen laughed uproariously at that one. There is a place for potty humor, indeed. It all winds up in the swamp, anyhow.

And so, until next time, connoisseurs of chills…

Be afraid. 

Be very afraid.

Gypsy Mob : Episode 10/ Stumped

Her life had always been blessed. Charmed. Being the daughter of a mafia Don had a number of perks. No one troubled her and for the most part, she troubled no one. Her biggest problem in life had been not always getting exactly what she wanted, and even that was easily remedied. A few tears and her father would either make it right for her himself or dispatch Tony to do so, one way or the other. 

When she was taken into the Pleasure Tent, she had raged and screamed, throwing a tantrum until a dark cloud descended over her. It reminded her for a moment of how she had felt when she had tried opium. Then the cloud became complete and she forgot she even had a past. This time there was no warm fuzzy sensation she associated with drugs. All that remained was her basic physical needs; that was all the Gypsy curse allowed to remain. 

The hours had bled together until they felt like days. She was a robotic sex doll, her muffled grunts blending with the slap of flesh and the cries from the far reaches of the Pleasure Tent. These sounds from the darkness were beyond her immediate sphere of existence, the sources of which she neither knew nor cared. Her life had narrowed to the action of spreading her legs for each new client, then rising once he had finished to clean herself robotically with the pail of water beside her mattress. Upon finishing, she lay back down on the mattress to await the next arrival. As the newest member of the Pleasure Tent’s catalog of entertainment, she was not kept waiting long. 

A part of her measured the time by the number of sweaty men who climbed on top of her, eschewing hours, minutes and seconds for this new reckoning. The rest of her could not have cared less about the passage of time, or was incapable of marking it. All she knew was to cleanse her nethers when the crushing weight atop her ceased its grunting and thrusting and climbed off of her. 

Then, blasting through the darkness came the pain. The agony screamed up her arm, snapping her back to reality. The world roared into focus once again, inundating her with memories of her life since coming to the Gypsies. Horror and disgust competed with her missing hand for the place at the forefront of her brain. As blood dripped from where her hand had always been, the memory of other fluids not her own dripping from her added to the coldness she felt. The terror bloomed, consuming her. Now, the fear of what was going to happen to her vied for space with the horrified realization of what had happened to her, what had been happening to her, what she had allowed to happen to her, and what she had ahead of her. Nothing was worse than the other; they were all a nightmare. 

But the pain at the end of her arm would not be silenced, nor pushed aside. In a way, she was grateful for it, for it pulled her out of the darkness and into the present once more. This was not a much better place to be, but it led to the future, to the unknown, rather than to the past. She knew all too well what awaited her there. All she could see of what lay ahead was that her old life was over. She had died, or been murdered, as soon as she set foot into the fortune teller’s tent. There was no returning to what she had been.

After the amputation and Bianca’s awakening, the Gypsies had moved her from the Pleasure Tent, along with the other sex slaves who still had value. Talking rapidly in their own language, they would look at Bianca from time to time and laugh. The Bitch who had amputated her hand came over to her.

“I t’ink we get more use out of you,” she said in her horribly raspy voice, and grinned. Bianca kept the blank look on her face as inwardly she shrieked in fear and rage. . Bianca’s blood was still splattered across the woman’s face and arms. With an absent-minded air, she licked it from her fingers as she looked at the doorway to the smaller tent to which Bianca and her wretched brethren had been taken. 

“We put you back to work tomorrow,” the woman said, turning to leave. “Tonight, I have important business. Sleep well.” 

She vanished out the door, her words echoing in Bianca’s head. Tomorrow, it would resume. She had to get away from here. 

“Hello?” she called, her voice tentative in the silent darkness. No one replied. The other slaves were locked in their own minds, their own clouds of impenetrable darkness, helpless to respond. Hot, furious tears coursed down Bianca’s face as she lifted her body and was immediately halted by the straps holding her limbs to the table. 

Except…

The strap around the wrist where her hand had been felt loose. If not loose, definitely not tight enough to present a problem to a tapered limb without the widening of a hand at its end. Just tight enough to…

She pulled, tears leaping to her eyes as she fought to remain silent, the freshly severed nerves at the end of her stump enthusiastically voicing protests as the strap bit at them. She pulled harder, her mouth open in a silent scream. She thought she could feel her wrist slipping through the strap, but, wary of her mind’s tricks, she closed it to the sensation and kept pulling. The nails on her remaining hand scratched the bed, cracking below the quick, sending needle-like stabs of pain up her other arm, until, with a suddenness that took her off guard, her wrist pulled free of the strap, flying over her body with the residual force. Holding her stump over her eyes she blinked, unable to believe that she was actually free. Without thinking, she went to undo the strap holding her hand, before realizing she had no way to manipulate the buckle without fingers. 

A low whine came from her throat and she pushed at the end of the strap with her stump, the rough leather digging into the fresh meat where her arm now ended. Bolts of agony lanced up her arm, blood renewing its flow sluggishly from the stump at the irritation. Nevertheless, she persisted. Her eyes beheld the strap moving slowly through the loop and she redoubled her efforts, the pain increasing exponentially as her eyes watered. With a final shove, the strap slid through the loop and flapped loose, held only by the pin of the buckle. Sobbing with pain and relief, she raised her body and, gripping the end of the strap with her teeth, she pulled it back, releasing the pin and her hand. 

Falling back on the mattress, she cradled her freshly bleeding stump with her intact arm, silent tears pouring down her face. Staring at the mildewed tent roof, she counted her breaths until she was able to think about something besides the agony coursing through her. By and by, it relented, slightly. Instead of pain, she now thought of survival. 

Sitting up, she fumbled painfully with the straps holding her legs down. Though more difficult with one hand, it was easier than using her stump, which she kept protectively tucked into her armpit, away from all harm. Once her legs were free, she swung them over the mattress and carefully rose to her feet. Her legs wobbled but supported her. She wondered how much blood she had lost, then immediately put it from her mind. It didn’t matter. Looking out the entrance to the tent, she could see the shadows of several Gypsies nearby. She cowered back against the wall of the tent, wondering how she would ever escape, before her overworked mind realized a simple fact. She was not in a prison cell of steel bars. She was in a tent, surrounded on all sides by fabric. 

Crouching, she lifted the tent wall behind her, wriggling underneath it while still keeping her stump carefully shielded. Within a moment, she was outside the tent, smelling the fresh air only slightly marred by evil. Looking around, she saw no one and made her way for the outskirts of the camp as fast as her legs would carry her. 

She missed Tony, her childhood protector, spreading gasoline, by seconds, as she limped out of the camp, bound for home. 

Book Review: Howls from Hell Anthology

Book Review: Howls from Hell review by Matt Marovich

No matter what the theme of the anthology, the one constant among such books is that an anthology is not going to completely be the thing for everyone, and Howls From Hell, A Horror Anthology (which I’ll just refer to as Howls from here on out) is no different. That said, I will say that I enjoyed most of the stories in Howls and even the ones I enjoyed less were still decent. 

Other than being generally “horror”, there’s no real standard theme to the stories in this anthology, all of which come from members of an online community called the HOWL (Horror-Obsessed Writing and Literature) Society. The stories cross the gambit from ones I would describe as more Weird fiction than Horror to body horror, monster horror, and slasher horror. There are strange occult stories that might fit in the Lovecraft Mythos or something similar and one of body-hopping police officers/crisis interventionists who possess people in order to solve problems. While I generally prefer anthologies organized around a more standardized topic, the lack thereof doesn’t detract from Howls and I think instead provides it a little bit of strength; where an anthology with a unifying theme might have a few weaker pieces that don’t quite match the rest of the stories, by not having such a thread to tie the stories together it allows Howls to offer a greater variety of experiences that might provide more of a palette to appeal to a greater audience.

The one thing that I will say about Howls is that there were some stories that didn’t quite strike me as “horror”. One such story is “Manufactured Gods”, a piece that struck me as more sci-fi than horror about future explorers of an ancient tomb who make a startling discovery. Another is the story I referenced above, “Possess and Serve” which seemed more like a police procedural or thriller than a true horror story. The first story in the anthology “A Casual Encounter”, which details the first-person perspective from a sex worker who is more than she seems, having an encounter with a john, really isn’t a story with a beginning, middle, and end or a plot with a conflict that is resolved; it feels like it should be a scene in a larger piece. Despite these opinions, these three stories were creatively written with vivid descriptions that captivated me and I enjoyed them quite a lot. 

If you are a fan of horror and anthologies I would recommend giving Howls from Hell, A Horror Anthology a try; it’s a quick read and with the variety of tales to provide I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Batavia

Greetings HorrorAddicts! This month’s review is a bit of a concept project and that got me thinking about some of my favorite concept albums. I’m excited to share them with you, but first, a little about Batavia. 

This husband and wife duo shares a love for punk and industrial music and has created a project that delves into both of these sounds to build a moody piece about the evil that humans do to one another. “Quite Mean Spirited” gets off to a rocky start, but by track three it had my attention. Track four, “Finis,” and especially five, “The Absinthian,” were solid performances, and I gained an appreciation for the piece and where they were headed. Inspired by a true story of violence out of 1930s Soviet Russia, Batavia explores loneliness and fear during a time when many folks are well-versed in those emotions. I admire their creativity and passion and will check out more of their work in the future. You can find more about Batavia on Bandcamp. 

Recently my musician pal Ted Levin released a series of videos featuring his original music set to horror imagery from the film Begotten (1989). It’s eerie, disturbing, and so very, very cool. He has a sound that harkens back to Pink Floyd with sprinkles of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden mixed in for extra flavor. Check out “Bound” and “Sky and the Sun” on YouTube for a creepy good time. 

Nothing is more fascinating to me as a music fan than when artists open up about their lives and let us into their world. One of my favorite examples of this is Alice Cooper’s From The Inside. The album explores his experience in a mental institution as a result of his alcoholism. It’s witty, funny, dark, and vulnerable, and it’s one of my all-time favorite albums. “How You Gonna See Me Now” is a brilliant song that touches me on a very personal level. 

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/7FFpqmbQxj3u4Q7aLGNox0

Another concept album that takes me back is Styx’s Paradise Theater. The double album cover shows the dilapidated theater on the inside and a brilliant shining version facing outward. I wanted to know all of the stories that went on there when I listened with my mom, dancing around the house and trying not to bump the record player (I always did).

 https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/6PhLTeuN0G894bdSBTCwUF

That’s it for this month’s Merrill’s Musical Musings. Be sure to hit me up on the socials or leave a comment and share with me your favorite concept albums. Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs… R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor

Historian of Horror : Why Adam Breckenridge is My New Hero

Why Adam Breckenridge is My New Hero

I presume that the populace is following with rapt attention the unfolding celebration here on HorrorAddicts.net of the advent of Adam Breckenridge’s new release, Deathly Fog. It looks really interesting, and I look forward to reading it as soon as Amazon deigns to complete my order for it. And of course, I wish Adam the very best of luck. I know that writing a coherent story is a major undertaking, having done that myself a fair number of times, and sincerely wish for him that he makes a lot more money from his efforts than I have from mine. Plus, there are less tangible benefits such as accolades, adulation, and the simple pride of accomplishment. But money is nice, as well. Samuel Johnson, after all, did once say that any writer who claimed to write for any reason other than money was either a liar or a fool. And the Good Doctor was rarely wrong, although his purported opinion of Shakespeare leaves something to be desired. 

I’m sure my devoted reader(s) are wondering why all that makes Adam my new hero, and that’s a fair question. I’ve witnessed a lot of debuts and acclaimed releases in my nearly sixty years of literacy, and while I would never want to minimize his achievement, I could see why folks might think my reaction was just a tad over the top. Even with his attained goal of having completed a short story a day for an entire year, which is pretty damned impressive, hero worship seems so much more than would reasonably be called for.

It’s because something that Adam said in the post of August 15th regarding the inspiration for his tale brought me around to the notion of composing this and at least one subsequent column. I have never written 366 stories in a year, and it’s extremely unlikely that I ever will. I maybe write a short story or two a year, along with the odd poem, and my career as a novelist appears to have stalled at two volumes. Frankly, this column I concoct for the edification and entertainment of the populace is the bulk of the writing I’m doing at the moment. It brings me great pleasure to do so, but like all my creative endeavors, I find that inspiration does not always spring full-grown like Athena from the head of Zeus. There are many times when I struggle to settle on a subject.

Those who have been kind enough to follow my progress in this space might have noticed that I look for a connection to my current topic from my own life experiences and cultural frame of reference. I’m always seeking out ways to humanize the inhumane by providing a context based on the things I’ve seen and done and the places I’ve been and the people I’ve encountered along the way. And there have been a lot of all those.

The reality is that there are so many stories to tell, it’s often difficult to settle on a single one every couple of weeks. As I type this, I am sitting in what was once one of my now-grown children’s bedrooms, filled floor to ceiling on all four walls and in back-to-back free-standing bookcases centered in the space behind my desk with books and magazines and toys and recordings and objets d’art and various and sundry other odds and ends, all of which have their own yarn to relate. And that’s just in my office. Throughout the fairly sizeable house my wife and I still occupy are numerous other artifacts from all over the planet, the detritus of a whole family tree of world travelers and doodad acquisitors. Every piece in that accumulation of relics has a story to tell here. 

And then there’s the better than six terabytes of stuff I have stored on two sizeable external hard drives. Two because those things don’t last forever, and backing up that much data every so often is de rigeur if one wants one’s career as your Historian of Horror to endure. You can thank me later for that foresight.

So, which one now? Which explication of the terrifying shall a personal anecdote or randomly noticed factoid or bit of cultural flotsam inspire for this particular exercise in the elucidation of the eerily ephemeral? Thanks to Adam, I have one ready, as of a few minutes after I read his post.

The fourth paragraph of which included a reference to ‘the old adage that ninety percent of everything is crap’, which has been known in science fiction fandom for sixty-five years now as Sturgeon’s Law. It even has its own Wiki page. I looked. It’s right here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_law

You see, I knew Theodore Sturgeon, a little. Not well; I doubt he would have remembered me for more than a few seconds at a time except as one of the myriad fen (there’s that word again!) who orbited around him at the several science fiction conventions we both attended in the 1970s. But he was always kind and gracious to me, as he was to all the fenfolk. He came to the cons, he hung out with us, he read his stories to us, he laughed and drank and dined with us, he signed anything we shoved under his nose to receive an autograph upon. And he let us call him Ted. 

Well, I called him Mr. Sturgeon, because I was young and awed by being in the presence of one of the best writers of the 20th Century, regardless of genre. And he would smile and nod and seem genuinely pleased to have me ask him to sign my copy of the September 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction that contained his first published story, “Ether Breather”.

If only I still had it. Alas, it vanished in the Great Sell-Off of 1989, when I was obliged by financial constraints to pay my mortgage and feed my children on the proceeds from the liquidation of huge chunks of my various collections.

Oh, well. God knows where I’d put it all, if I still had it.

Anyhow, thanks to Adam, what I do have is a tale to tell you. One regarding things you didn’t even know you needed or wanted to know about.

How delicious is that?

But wait, you say. Sturgeon was a science fiction writer, not a horror writer. Well, y’know, Oscar Wilde was mainly the playwright of comedies of manners like The Importance of Being Ernest or Lady Windermere’s Fan, despite scribing The Picture of Dorian Gray. Robert Louis Stephenson wrote mostly adventure tales for boys like Treasure Island, and yet he managed to churn out the delicious horrors of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And Henry James was a mainstream author who wrote one of the greatest ghost stories ever, The Turn of the Screw. Even Charles Dickens took time out from his massive doorstop expositions on social conditions in Victorian England to bestow upon us all the many spooks and spirits found within A Christmas Carol. So, it’s okay if Ted Sturgeon wrote a few scary pieces along with the futuristic stuff. He’s allowed.

In my brief segment of one of the recent podcast episodes, I mentioned that, of all the pulp magazines that proliferated in the first half of the 20th Century, the most important for our genre was Weird Tales. The second most important in terms of historical impact was undoubtedly Unknown, published by Street & Smith as a companion to their science fiction magazine, Astounding. Both were edited by John W. Campbell, who demanded a higher standard of quality and serious thought from his writers than was required by most pulp publications, including Weird Tales, which relied more on shock and gruesome sensationalism than Campbell wanted for his periodical. Street & Smith had deeper pockets than most other publishers, as well, so Campbell’s authors, a cadre which included Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. Van Vogt, and even L. Ron Hubbard, were better paid and more prestigiously regarded than those who found exposure in lesser venues. Had Unknown, which was retitled Unknown Worlds near the end of its all-too-brief run, survived the wartime paper rationing that restricted the output of even the largest pulp publisher of its day, it might have wound up being the premier source of horrific literature for the subsequent decades that Astounding, now called Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, has been for its genre, rather than Weird Tales.

Oh, well.

As I mentioned above, Sturgeon’s first story to appear in a pulp magazine was in Astounding in September of 1939. His next several were in Unknown. The first three were light fantasies. The fourth, though. Oh, boy. The fourth created an entire subgenre of swamp things and man-things and heaps and blobs and globs and all manner of frightening critters that emerged from bayous and marshes and peat bogs all over the world to terrorize mostly comic book audiences throughout the next several decades. And it has one of the best last lines in all of horror literature.

“It” was published in the August, 1940 issue of Unknown, and has been reprinted dozens of times since, in many languages. It is one of those elemental tales that was at the time so sui generis, and yet has been so inspirational that it is often overlooked as the original of the many horrors that followed its appearance. The early, one might almost say seminal scholar of speculative fiction, E.F. Bleiler, said of it in his 1983 book The Guide to Supernatural Fiction that it was ‘told with gusto… Obvious reminiscences of the Frankenstein monster and anticipations of the hordes of comic book Things that wander about destroying people.’. I think that was a tad dismissive for a work that has had so enormous an impact on subsequent developments in our favorite genre.  

All about which I shall expound at length in the next installment. So, join us in a fortnight for “Whatever Happened to Baron von Emmelmann?” Same bat-time, same bat-channel. And, as always, my fellow denizens of the darkness…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Spiral (Not that one)

 

Plotline: A same-sex couple moves to a small town to enjoy a better quality of life and raise their daughter with strong social values. But when neighbors throw a very strange party, nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood.

Who would like it: Fans of cults, secret societies, diversity, nail bitters, and religious horror

High Points: How the director used the current social climate to tell this movie and how he centered the only black character in the movie

Complaints: Absolutely nothing!

Overall: I LOVED this movie

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is red-ram.jpg

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Horror Manga You Should Read

I’ve written before about the rich history of horror in Asian cultures, and the world of manga is no exception. These graphic novels from Japan range across all genres, but horror manga are truly in a class by themselves. Incredible art, unique concepts, and an approach to horror where nothing is too extreme make horror manga a must-read for any horror addict.

Devil’s Line by Ryo Hanada

Vampires are real, but they aren’t the sexy demons of the night that we know from pop culture. Known as Devils, these creatures turn into vicious monsters that are incapable of stopping their blood lust. Some Devil’s try to live in peace with humans, but risk putting their loved ones in danger with their mere existence. Filled with twists, murders, and love, Devil’s Line is a great vampire manga without too much gore.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Uzumaki details the story of a town cursed by supernatural spirals. Increasingly bizarre and frightening events follow the characters as they try to escape their town and fates. If you want stunning art and a Lovecraftian storyline (without all the racism), check out Uzumaki.

Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki

Aliens come to Earth, burrowing into human brains to take over their bodies, then eating other humans for sustenance. A high school boy manages to prevent an alien from taking him over, causing the alien to inhabit just his arm. This series is big on body horror and explores heavy themes like humanity and morality.

Ajin: Demi-Human by Tsuina Miura (Story) and Gamon Sakurai (Art)

A small group of humans, the Ajin, are capable of incredible regenerative abilities, making them immortal. Others see them as monsters, but the government sees an opportunity. They use the Ajin for horrific experiments. When some of the Ajin escape, they are hell bent on revenge.

Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

After his date tries to eat him (literally), Ken Kaneki finds himself transformed into a Ghoul, a creature with super strength and healing that must feed on human flesh to survive. He must now navigate his new life while keeping his darker desires in check.

Have you read these? What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

Merrill’s Musical Musings

Merrill’s Musings – Funhouse Collective

Greetings HorrorAddicts. I hope this month’s Merrill’s Musings finds you happy, healthy, and ready to rock. I am a sucker for a great cover song, and Dutch artist Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone” is an excellent choice. This month we’re checking out Funhouse Collective’s creepy, sinister version of this classic hit. The Funhouse Collective is the brainchild of Johnathan Mooney who had gotten the inspiration to start this new endeavor as a “collective” of multiple musicians and artists to collaborate with on different sounds and songs. Gone is the 80s rock sound, and in its place, we’ve got an alternative take that makes for a decent homage. The spirit of the song remains in their delivery, which is a little uneven but is a fun reminder of the horror roots of the decade. All three versions of the song have a different take on the tune and a variety of beats and synthesizers are used in the artist’s arrangement. I appreciate the effort to bring a little dark nostalgia. Anything to take me back to the 80s for an audio visit is fine by me. This is the artists’ first collaboration, and I look forward to seeing them take some other old favorites for a spin.

What are some of your favorite 80s tracks? Or maybe you’ve got a great cover to share? Hit me up in the comments or on the socials @rlmerrillauthor and share your favorites! Here’s a playlist of some of my favorite covers done recently by current bands. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/404GT0TGFW2D8YBVABbR9t?si=8UrYSVO5QNWefE_4tfAT-A

Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

 

Historian of Horror : The Good Girl vs The Greatest Villain of Them all

The Good Girl Artist vs the Greatest Villain of Them All

Let’s look at the second half of that title first, shall we? Who is the greatest comic book villain of them all?

Lex Luthor? Not even close.

Thanos? Amateur.

Galactus? What a piker.

Darkseid? Can’t even remember which planet he left his Mother Boxes on.

Green Goblin? Red Skull? Purple Pantywaist?

Nope, nope and nope.

The greatest villain in the history of comic books was a Vienna-born American psychiatrist who studied under Sigmund Freud and specialized in the treatment and understanding of violent behavior. His name was Fredric Wertham, M.D.

Like most villains, he was the hero of his own narrative. And, truth be told, he was not otherwise a horrible person. He never slaughtered half the life in the universe. He didn’t eat inhabited planets or reduce them to cinders. He didn’t kill Spider-Man’s girlfriend. His research was even put before the Supreme Court as evidence in the Brown vs Board of Education case that overturned racial segregation in American public schools in 1954. No, all he did was virtually shut down an entertainment medium on the verge of expanding out of its cultural ghetto into near respectability. Would the Pulitzer committee have had to wait until 1992 to award the first and only prize to a graphic novel without his baleful influence? Maybe, but we’ll never know, will we?

Wertham never set out to destroy the comics industry. He simply wanted to stop juvenile delinquency, using the false notion that, because naughty kids read comic books in the 1940s and early 1950s, then obviously, quad erat demonstratum, comic books caused childhood misbehavior. Of course, he had to falsify his data (i.e., make it up out of thin air) to prove his point, given that virtually every child in America read comic books in the period before television absorbed American popular culture into its unblinking cyclopean eye. 

Along the way, he facilitated the forced shutdown of vast swaths of the comic book publishers of the time. The number of markets for comics creators dwindled from dozens to a handful. There were other factors, of course, and other decriers of the latest medium to draw the ire of concerned parents, but it was Wertham’s 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, that slew the so many of the giants of the field and made his name anathema to generations of comic book fans.

Notice I used ‘fans’, there. ‘Fen’ is only the plural of ‘fan’ in science fiction fandom, or was when I was active in both, way, way back in the Cultural Pleistocene Era. 

Anyhow.

Wertham didn’t manage to kill the industry off completely, nor was that his aim. He simply wanted parents to know what their children were reading, and give them tools to help them head off the behaviors he found so problematic. Like that has ever worked. Right, Tipper?

He didn’t even kill off the worst offenders among the super-heroes, Batman with his ‘homosexual’s dream’ relationship with Robin or the ‘lesbian ideal’, Wonder Woman. They, along with Superman, were too big to succumb to the general dying off of the rest of the super-hero genre. 

Wertham did, however, inflict a fatal blow to other genres, particularly crime and horror. A Comics Code Authority was cobbled together by the remaining publishers to address Wertham’s concerns, led by the president of Archie Comics, John L. Goldwater. Werewolves and vampires were banned, as were the very words ‘horror’ or ‘terror’ in the titles of the magazines. Refusal to conform would cost the recalcitrant publisher access to distribution, unless that publisher was the acknowledged curator of wholesome sequential art content, Dell Comics. Those specific restrictions alone wiped out entire companies, most particularly E.C., which had drawn the ire of the Code hierarchy with a merciless and nearly libelous lampooning of Goldwater’s main money-maker, Archie Andrews, in Mad #12. E.C. publisher William M. Gaines soon switched over from putting out titles like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Haunt of Fear to dumping all his yeggs into a single basket, a magazine format continuation of E.C.’s ground-breaking parody comic book, MAD, that was beyond the reach of the Comics Code Authority.

Didn’t see that one coming did you, Goldwater?

Among Wertham’s other targets for opprobrium were the ‘headlight’ comics, those that prominently featured female, er, prominences. One of the illustrations included in Seduction of the Innocent was a specific example of such, the cover of Fox Publications’ Phantom Lady #17 from 1948, an illustration in which the title character was bound with ropes to what looks like a dock piling in such a posture as to accentuate her, um, pulchritudinous assets. 

Oh, my.

The artist who drew that cover was the subject of the first part of the title above. Bet you were wondering when I’d get around to that. His name was Matt Baker, and he was the first significant African-American comic book artist. And from this point on, he is the focus of our tale, for he was the dominant, so to speak, ‘Good Girl Artist’ of his day.

That’s as in artist who drew girls good. The morality of the females involved was not necessarily their salient feature. Or features, as it were.

Anyhow.

Clarence Matthew Baker was born in Forsythe County, North Carolina, on December 10, 1921. His family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania circa 1924, where Matt graduated from high school in 1940 with the stated ambition of being an artist and photographer.

Due to a heart condition, possibly due to having had rheumatic fever as a child, Matt was not eligible for military service during World War II. He did some sort of job for the Navy Department until moving to Brooklyn in 1943 with his brother and working for the National War Labor Board while studying art at Cooper Union in New York. He stayed at that school for only one term before taking a job with the Iger Studio.

Jerry Iger had started a studio that supplied content for the burgeoning comic book markets with his partner Will Eisner, but when Eisner’s creation, The Spirit, gained lucrative newspaper syndication, Iger carried on without him. Through Iger, Baker churned out mass quantities of work for the aforementioned Fox, as well as Fiction House, St. John Publications and myriad smaller houses. He drew mostly jungle hero and heroine stories for Fox and Fiction House, even going so far as to create the first obviously black hero in a mainstream comic book. Voodah ran in Crown Comics, published by a very minor house called McCombs, for the magazine’s entire nineteen-issue run from 1945 to 1949. Alas, Voodah was only dark-skinned in the first few issues before he miraculously transformed into a garden-variety Caucasian jungle hero.

Baker’s work for St. John was mostly in the romance genre, a field in which he excelled. Few artists of his day drew women so beautifully. There are those who claim his attention to the details of feminine beauty was due to him being quite the ladies’ man. There are those who claim the opposite and even speculate on the nature of his relationship with Archer St. John, his primary publisher. Either way, he turned in some great comics stories in those days, along with the first graphic novel, It Rhymes with Lust, published in 1950 by St. John, and a short-lived syndicated newspaper comic strip, Flamingo.

Baker did do horror tales for St. John, as well as for other, lesser publishers. Alas, in the wake of Wertham’s attack on his medium, Baker lost his most reliable markets. Fox and Fiction House were defunct by 1955. St. John held on until 1958, but just barely. Baker spent the rest of the decade working for the less prestigious houses Charlton and Atlas, the latter being the forerunner of the modern-day Marvel Comics. The titles he contributed to for those houses are a litany of defanged spookiness – Out of This World, Tales of the Mysterious Traveler and Strange Suspense Stories for Charlton; Journey into Mystery, Tales to Astonish, and World of Fantasy for Atlas. None of them with the frissons he created in his earlier horror work, but they paid the bills for the remainder of his short life.

Baker passed away from his life-long heart condition on August 11, 1959, at the much too young age of thirty-eight. Had he survived another decade, he would likely have been a major player in Marvel’s ascendancy in the 1960s. But that was not to be.

I doubt that Wertham took note of Baker’s passing. He wrote more books, even managing one last dig at the baleful effect of comics on American youth in his 1968 tome, A Sign for Cain. His last book was a generally favorable examination of the phenomenon of fanzines, those amateur paeans to various fandoms that proliferated in the days before the internet made everyone a pundit on whatever topic took their fancy. Present company included. 

Wertham died in 1981, if not reviled by comics fans, at least regarded with ye olde legendary jaundiced eye. Comics writer Mark Evanier wrote a not entirely condemnatory article that was reprinted in his 2003 book, Wertham Was Right! I won’t go so far as to say that Wertham’s reputation was fully reformed by Evanier’s essay, but it does put his actions, however questionable, into a context that is more favorable than he enjoyed in earlier days.

Baker’s reputation, in the meantime, has remained high and even grown. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009, and numerous artists of the last several decades cite him as a major influence on their own work. Given the comparative legacies of the Good Girl Artist and the Greatest Villain of Them All, I’d settle for Baker’s over Wertham’s any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

In addition to my well-worn copy of Seduction of the Innocent and the Evanier volume mentioned above, I would like to commend to the populace two other essential works on the relevant history of the period covered herein. To whit, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America by David Hadju, and Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books by Ken Quattro. Both are available from Amazon.

And, so, until next time —

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Gypsy Mob : Episode 8/Play Me

Lucia Giletti was having a cigarette and a martini on the back patio, attempting to calm her mind as she waited for word of her daughter. She watched Tony finish hacking the last appendage off of the corpse of Ladez Hammalka, tossing it into the flaming incinerator before heaving the torso up and into the inferno. Taking a drag, she glanced up at the sound of the wireless doorbell chiming out over the background. Tony turned, making for the door as he wiped his hands on his suit but Lucia waved him off.

“Make sure that Gypsy burns to ash,” she said, draining her martini and setting it on the patio table. “I’ll see who’s at the door.”

Making her way through the mansion, she passed Giletti’s door, hearing the muffled yelling that was her husband’s phone voice coming from inside. Rolling her eyes, she took a drag of her cigarette as she reached the front door. Peering through the peephole, she saw nothing. Unlatching the lock, she opened the door.

A box, messily gift-wrapped, sat on the step. There was no card. Alarm bells tolled in the back of Lucia’s mind as she reached down to pick it up. The lid to the box was loose and she lifted it off. A nest of newspaper filled the box, but it was too heavy for that to be all it contained. Shutting the door behind her, she set the box on a table beside the door. Digging into the paper, her hand touched something smooth and round. Pushing the paper aside, she pulled a rewritable DVD from the box. On its gray surface, someone had scribbled PLAY ME in black marker. A frown creased her face as she set the disc down on the table and reached back into the box. Pushing through the paper, her hand touched something soft and wet. She upended the box on the table and amid the cascade of papers, something fell out and hit the table with a thump. As the wads of paper fell away, Lucia screamed.

Giletti finished a phone call with his accountant when he heard his wife’s screaming from the front hallway. Bolting from his desk as well as he could, he threw open the door to his study and saw her standing at the front entrance against the wall, her face white, her mouth open as an unholy scream emanated from it. As Giletti approached, he could see something on the table across the hallway from her in a litter of wadded paper. He drew nearer, and his breath caught as he saw the hand sitting on the table, the back emblazoned with a tattoo over which he and his daughter Bianca had fought endless battles when she came home with it. He could even hear his furious words to his daughter.

“You’re lucky I don’t cut that off, young lady!”

Lucia finally stopped screaming but her eyes were huge and her mouth hung open as though screaming silently. Giletti could not stop walking closer, hoping against hope that what he saw was not what was there. The closer he got, the more impossible it was to deny. Bianca’s hand lay on the table, mottled with blood vessels and turning gray.

“TONY!” Giletti’s roar cut through the mansion.

Tony appeared just as Lucia’s eyes rolled back in her head and her knees crumpled. With gargantuan steps, Tony reached her just in time to catch her before her head hit the floor, gently lowering her the rest of the way. His impassive eyes swept from her unconscious form to Giletti’s apoplectic face, to the source of their ire. Expressionless, he stepped forward and scooped the hand and DVD into the box. He glanced at Giletti, whose rage and horror seemed to have rendered him speechless. Silent as ever, Tony took the box and its contents to his quarters, leaving Giletti to deal with his comatose wife.

***

An hour later, Lucia had been revived and sedated. Now she reclined in a window seat overlooking the rear grounds, a cigarette forgotten in a shaking hand as she stared with vacant eyes at the immaculate lawn and garden. Giletti was back in his study, pretending to occupy himself with business affairs while his mind continued returning unbidden to his daughter’s decaying hand sitting on his entryway table.

A tentative knock at the study door made him jump. Cursing his frayed nerves and the Gypsies responsible.

“Enter!” Giletti barked.

Rocco and Brando opened the door and entered, looking grim.

“Yes, what now?” Giletti said, his voice rather higher-pitched than usual.

“Where is Lucia?” Brando asked, his own voice shaking.

“At the back window. Whaddaya want?” Giletti’s lighter chased the tip of a cigar around before the flame connected.

“Good,” Rocco said. He stepped forward, setting a laptop on Giletti’s desk. “She don’t need ta see this. Really, none of us do, but you’re her father, an—”

“For Christ’s sweet sake, Rocco, what do you want?Giletti sucked mightily at his cigar and the tremor in his hands died a little.

Dis is da DVD dat was in da box,” Rocco said, pressing a key on the laptop and turning it around to face Giletti.

Giletti’s eyes lowered to the screen. There was a jumble of motion and blurry figures before the camera auto-focused, bringing into sharp detail a figure laying on a table, naked. The camera panned up the naked body to Bianca’s face, slack and vacant. Her face filled the frame, her blackened eye captured in crystal clear HD before panning down her body to the stump where her hand had once lived. The ragged flesh was dangling under the wire still wrapped around her wrist, swollen and angry as darkening necrotic tissue crept up her arm.

The screen went blank and silent for a few beats, before suddenly cutting to a jumpy shot of a blood-stained floor. The camera jiggled before panning across the bloody floor to what appeared to be a human but with a face so red and mangled that it only resembled a human face. Laughter filled the soundtrack as a hand holding a box cutter reached down and started slashing at the neck of the figure. Gurgling screams emanated from the faceless man.

Giletti’s face was white, his cigar forgotten as the camera jerked away, focusing on a woman with her back to the camera, arms spread out as though being crucified. As she revolved on the spot, Giletti could see her face, but it wasn’t her face. It was Matteo’s severed face she wore like a mask, sticking her tongue through the flayed lips to waggle at the camera cheekily. Pulling the face mask off, Zara leered at the camera, blowing it a kiss before it panned down to the floor and went dark.

Rocco and Brando looked at Giletti with apprehension, their own brutal retributions at his orders paling in the wake of the savagery of the Gypsies. Don Giletti was frozen, his eyes fixed on the now black screen as the blood filled them. Jerking to his feet, Giletti roared “If dis is what dey want, then dis is what dey shall have. Take Tony an exterminate every one of them! Do not let any of em die widout suffering!”

As the Giletti car rolled to a stop at the darkened carnival, the smell of gasoline was strong, the fumes leaching through the trunk and into the cab. Even with all the windows open, Brando and Rocco were still feeling decidedly light-headed. Tony, behind the wheel, was as impassive as ever. Killing the engine, they sat there for a moment, letting their ears adjust to the sound.

It was nearly dead silence. The darkness of the night was broken only by a weak glow from the center of the carnival, the silence only split by the occasional human voice coming from the direction of the glow. Rocco and Brando looked at each other, their unease increased exponentially, having watched the video.

“Right, Tony,” Rocco said, his voice striving to sound tough. “Start spreading gas around th outskirts. We’ll take de other cans inside and spread it around as much as we can. Hopefully if we light it up from de perimeter, de whole fucking place will go up.”

Popping the trunk, Tony unfolded his long form from behind the wheel and grabbed one of the gas cans. He looked around a moment before nodding at Rocco and vanishing into the darkness.

Each grabbing another can, Rocco and Brando advanced on the entrance, nerves strung to the nth degree to where when Rocco stepped on a twig, they both jumped.

Creeping into the tents, they began sloshing the gas over the fabric at the base of the tents, conserving the liquid to ensure maximum saturation as they worked their way inward toward the glow. As they grew closer, they could see everything was dark and shut down except for the Pleasure Tent. Keeping out of sight of its entrance, they continued their work, unaware that eyes within the tent were tracking their every move.

Zara’s throat was sore, but her eyes were bright as she watched them from the shadows, seething with barely controlled rage. She watched them draw closer and an evil grin spread across her face. With a hoarse whisper, she beckoned to one of the Gypsies and whispered instructions. With a chuckle, they both faded back further into the tent, to await the arrival of the Giletti brothers.

From The Vault : Best Latinx Horror Movies

from Will “the Thrill” Viharo

Naschy and Franco made hundreds of films between them so this is only a small but representative sampling. Here are some of my favorites. Salud! THE BLIND DEAD quadrilogy directed by Amando de Ossorio

  1. Tombs of the Blind Dead
  2. Night of the Seagulls
  3. Return of the Blind Dead
  4. Tombs of the Blind Dead

Also by Amando de Ossorio:

  1. The Loreley’s Grasp
  2.  Night of the Sorcerers

Rino Di Silvestro:

Werewolf Woman Paul Naschy:

  1. Werewolf VS. The Vampire Woman (aka Werewolf Shadow)
  2. Curse of the Devil
  3. Dracula’s Great Love
  4. The Mummy’s Revenge
  5. Hunchback of the Morgue
  6. Vengence of the Zombies
  7. Horror Rises From the Tomb

Jess Franco:

  1. Vampyros Lesbos
  2.  She Killed in Ecstasy
  3. The Awful Dr. Orlof
  4. The Diabolical Dr. Z
  5. Succubus
  6. Venus in Furs
  7. A VirginAmong the Living Dead

Listical courtesy of Will “the Thrill” Viharo http://www.thrillville.net/

Book Review: “Ghost Magnet: Crime and Magic in the New Russia #1” by James Beach

Hello Addicts,

When you are on the run from the bad guys, you always try to stay one step ahead of them. It could be continuous running, maybe even hiding in places they never think of looking. What if you do all of that, but they find you no matter where you go? Better yet, what if their informants are impossible to escape because they are ghosts?

In Ghost Magnet: Crime and Magic in the New Russia #1 by James Beach, Aurelian is a thief on the run after a jewel heist went sideways. He is hiding out amongst drug addicts for the night while he waits for a boat to take him to Odessa, where he can get the means for a new start elsewhere. He discovers that the drug den belongs to a former coroner named Mikhail Coba. Rumored to have murdered his wife and children because they got in his way, Coba and his bodyguards are looking for someone or something. That makes Aurelian more nervous but not as frightened as when he sees the thugs inject an addict with something that changes the man before he points to his hiding spot. After a brief surprise attack, the young thief escapes and doesn’t stop until he’s lost his pursuers, or so he thinks. Within minutes he is captured, and that is when the strangeness and horror kick in.

Coba has a channeling medium in his employ, along with a drug that allows ghosts to possess people before eventually consuming their bodies in a gruesome fashion. The mobster shares that he is looking for a wicker basket, which the spirits have advised Aurelian knows its location. This wicker basket provides a vital clue to a long-dormant experiment Coba wants to restart for his purposes.

This novella offers lots of twists and turns and whose pacing fits well between action and rest periods. It is an exciting start to a series I highly look forward to reading more of in the future. It is perfect for an afternoon read when you don’t want to jump into a girthy story and will want more by the end.

Until next time addicts,

D.J.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Heks

 

Plotline: A grieving woman discovers that her mother’s murder has ties to a South African witch doctor’s curse.

Who would like it:

High Points:

Complaints: Too many to list.

Overall: IMO this movie isn’t very good, the plot is weak, there was no research on the subject matter, there is no back story or character development and it doesn’t make much sense.

Stars: 1

Where I watched it:

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Ro’ Recs : Vision Video’s Upcoming Album

Greetings and Salutations! I’ve got a great rec for you this month and it all started with a bloody video. Like most 80s kids, I loved my MTV…so much that I got a job just so I could convince my mom we needed cable and that I’d pay for it so I could watch videos 24-7. It really “chaps my hide” when I think about how good kids have it today with YouTube and the like putting all this great music at their fingertips, rather than having to keep their fingertips on the pause and record buttons of their tape decks. But I digress. 

I received an email with a link to Vision Video’s new clip for “Comfort In The Grave” and I clicked it while preparing for a day of educating America’s youth. And whoa. It was an imaginative short film with gore and a great soundtrack. Score! I hit the sender back and replied, “send me more,” and much to my delight, I received an early promo copy of the band’s upcoming album Inked In Red. Fellow former and current goth friends, when I tell you you’re gonna love it, I mean you’re gonna love it. 

With jangly guitars, bouncy bass lines, and silky synthesizers reminiscent of Joy Division, New Order, and The Smiths, Vision Video has created an album full of delicious tracks. The Athens, Georgia quartet delivers a solid album that HorrorAddicts will love, especially after watching the killer video for “Comfort In The Grave.” Keyboardist Emily Fredock does a fantastic job with this moody track, taking the listener with her on a homicidal journey. Vocals from frontman Dusty Gannon give me a modern Killers-esque vibe and the lyrics are inventive and poetic in a refreshing way. Tracks “Static Drone,” “Run,” and “In My Side” are some of my favorites on first listen, but all of the tracks have the potential for repeat plays. While heavy topics like trauma and terror are covered in the tunes, there’s also a danceability and hopefulness that makes this album special. It’s a rare band that can bring nostalgia along with that fresh feeling of finding a new favorite. 

Discovering new music and other expressions of art during the pandemic has been so important. We need art to keep us motivated and determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other, now more than ever. I’m so glad I found Vision Video in my inbox. I am looking forward to watching this band grow and expand their reach and I hope all of my HorrorAddicts.net pals will join me in celebrating the release of Inked in Red with them. Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs…

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

 

Nightmare Fuel: The Conjure Box

Hello Addicts,

There are plenty of different means of contacting those on the other side. There are ouija boards, spirit boards, tarot cards, tape recorders, and any number of other different ways used by mediums, psychics, and paranormal investigators. For this week’s Nightmare Fuel, I wanted to look into one of the more extreme methods: The Conjure Box.

Before I share any details on the box and the procedure, I must ask listeners and readers not to try this game unless you and your partner are strong-willed. It is said that people who enter the box change due to opening themselves to possible demon-like entities.

What you’ll need to build a Conjure Box are:

  1. Six metal sheets. Five should be no taller than the person who will enter the box with their hands raised, and the sixth should be slightly taller than the rest as it will be the lid.
  2. Six mirrors the same size as the metal sheets. All should be as flawless as possible.
  3. A battery-operated or crank-charging light source capable of emitting bright yellow or white light. Do not use a light requiring outlets since there can be no gaps in the box. Also, do not use candles for health safety reasons. (Carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide)
  4. Two or three alarm clocks, synchronized.
  5. Two ladders.
  6. Blankets.
  7. Water.
  8. First aid kit.

Construct the box so that the metal is on the outside and the mirrors attached inside facing each other. One ladder should remain outside the box, and the other placed inside when the witness enters or exits. There should be absolutely no outside light visible inside. Set all of the alarm clocks for ten minutes after the witness plans to enter the box. The witness should only take the light source, which should remain turned off until the lid is closed, and one alarm clock. Before closing up the box, the partner remaining outside needs to confirm they are ready to begin. If confirmation is not received, do not proceed.

After that, it is a waiting game for both people until either the witness signals they want out or once the alarm clock goes off. When either happens, the partner should open the box and lower the ladder for the witness to climb out. They should not remain in the box beyond ten minutes, no matter what is said. The blankets, water, and first aid administered if needed. It is important to only enter and exit by the lid and not dismantle the box until after the witness is outside of it.

If all of this seems too much or too silly to attempt, there is a smaller and safer version. The box construction is scaled-down and involves either metal or wood, with mirrors facing each other inside. However, instead of someone entering the box, you place a recording device inside before sealing it up for ten minutes. Demonic growls emanate from the speakers upon playback when there is no cause in the box. Either version of the game carries the danger of allowing something through, so always play with caution and respect.

Until next time Addicts,

D.J.

Historian of Horror: In Memoriam April ~ June, 2021

In Memoriam, April through June 2021

We are met again to celebrate those who made contributions to the horror genre and who passed

away during the second quarter of the year.

April

William “Biff” McGuire (October 25, 1926 – April 1, 2021) American actor in one episode of Kraft Theatre (season 6, episode 13, “A Christmas Carol”, aired December 24, 1952), four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents from 1956 to 1958, and The Werewolf of Washington  (1974). 

Mark Elliott (September 24, 1939 – April 3, 2021) American actor in Edge of Sanity (1989).

John Paragon (December 9, 1954 – April 3, 2021) American actor, appeared in the feature films Eating Raoul (1982), Pandemonium (1982), Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988), and Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001); and on television in Elvira’s Movie Macabre, Elvira’s MTV Halloween Party, The Elvira Show and 13 Nights of Elvira from 1981 to 2011.

Giuseppe Pinori (September 15, 1928 – April 3, 2021) Italian cinematographer on the 1984 giallo, Murderrock: Uccide a Passo di Danza (English title – Murder-Rock: Dancing Death), as well as the horror films Contamination (1980) and l’Apocalisse della Schimmie (2012).

Francisco Haghenbeck (1965 – April 4, 2021) Mexican comic book writer, novelist and screenwriter. His 2011 novel El Diablo me obligó was the basis for the Netflix supernatural television series Diablero

Zygmunt Malanowicz (4 February 1938 – 4 April 2021) Polish film actor, The Lure (2015).

Phil Eason (May 5, 1960 – April 5, 2012) British actor and puppeteer, Labyrinth (1986) and Little Shop of Horrors (1986).

Robert Fletcher (August 23, 1922 – April 5, 2021) American costume and set designer, The Scarecrow (TV movie, 1972) and Fright Night (1985)

Paul Ritter (5 March 1967 – 5 April 2021) English actor in Nostradamus (2006), Hannibal Rising (2007), The Limehouse Golem (2016) and all four episodes of the English television mini-series, Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories (2016). He also played Bram Stoker in one episode of the 2016 mini-series, Houdini and Doyle.

Grischa Huber (18 September 1944 – 6 April 2021) German actress, Vampira (1971).

Walter Olkewicz (November 14, 1948 – April 6, 2021) American character actor in Comedy of Horrors (1981) and the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” episode of Tall Tales & Legends (season 1, episode 1, aired September 25, 1985). He also had a recurring role as Jean-Michel Renault in the various incarnations of Twin Peaks (1990-2017).

James Hampton (July 9, 1936 – April 7, 2021) American actor who played the lycanthropic dad in Teen Wolf (1985) and Teen Wolf Too (1987), as well as the Teen Wolf television series (1986-1987).

Olga Pashkova (2 January 1966 – 7 April 2021) Russian actress, Burial of the Rats (1995).

Earl Simmons (AKA DMX, December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021) American rapper, songwriter, and actor in The Bleeding (2009).

Edwin L. Aguilar (August 16, 1974 – April 10, 2021) Salvadoran-born American animator on The Simpsons, including several of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.

Giannetto De Rossi (8 August 1942 – 11 April 2021) Italian makeup artist on Doctor Faustus (1967), Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974), Zombi 2 (1979), Cannibals in the Streets (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), King Kong Lives (1988), and Killer Crocodile (1989).

Enzo Sciotti (September 24, 1944 – April 11, 2021) Italian illustrator, noted for producing more than 3000 movie posters including those for the horror films The Beyond (1981), Manhattan Baby (1982), Demons (1985), Phenomena (1985), Neon Maniacs (1986), Girlfriend from Hell (1989), A Cat in the Brain (1990), and Two Evil Eyes (1990).

Zoran Simjanović (11 May 1946 – 11 April 2021) Serbian composer on film scores for Variola Vera (1982), Već viđeno (1987 AKA Reflections and Deja Vu) and Sabirni Centar (1989, The Meeting Point).

John C. Pelan (July 19, 1957 – April 12, 2021) American horror and science fiction author, editor and small-press publisher.

Siboney Lo (31 October 1978 – 13 April 2021) Chilean actress, Fragmentos Urbanos (2002), Get Pony Boy (2007), Hidden in the Woods (2012), and Road Kill (2014).

Amedeo Tommasi (1 December 1935 – 13 April 2021) Italian film music composer on the horror films Balsamus, l’uomo di Satana (1970), Thomas and the Bewitched (1970), Hanno cambiato facia (They Have Changed Their Face 1971), Off Season (1980), and Il signor Diavolo (2019); on two gialli, The House with Laughing Windows (1976) and Sleepless (2001); and on the giallo spoof, Tutti Defunti… Tranne i Morti (1977).

Patricio Castillo (December 29, 1939 – April 15, 2021) Chilean-born Mexican actor, Violencia a Sangre Fria (1989)

Ira Keeler (July 22, 1940 – April 15, 2021) British visual effects artist on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Jurassic Park (1993), Congo (1995), Mars Attacks (1996), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Men in Black (1997), The Mummy (1999), and Jurassic Park III (2001)

Helen McCrory (17 August 1968 – 16 April 2021) English actress, appeared in the feature films Interview with the Vampire (1994), The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (2015), and as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series. On television, she appeared in the 2007 British version of Frankenstein, “The Vampires of Venice” episode of Doctor Who (Season 5, Episode 6, aired May 8, 2010), and as Evelyn Poole (AKA Madame Kali) in the first two seasons of Penny Dreadful (2014-2015). On stage, she played Lady Macbeth in 1994 at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, for which she won the Richard Burton Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and starred in Medea at the Royal National Theatre, for which she won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award in 2015. Wonder how Edward Lionheart would have felt about that?

Abu Bakar Omar (1949 – April 16, 2021) Malaysian actor, Rahsia (1987).

Anthony Powell (2 June 1935 – 16 April 2021) Oscar, BAFTA and Tony Award-winning English costume designer on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and The Ninth Gate (1999).

Liam Scarlett (8 April 1986 – 16 April 2021) British choreographer who was associated with a number of ballet companies worldwide, including as artist-in-residence at The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, London. He choreographed several genre-related ballets, including Frankenstein, Queen of Spades, and Die Toteninsel.

Felix Silla (January 11, 1937 – April 16, 2021) Italian-born American film and television actor and stuntman, played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family series in the 1960s and in the 1977 television movie, Halloween with the New Addams Family. Also played the Polka Dotted Horse and other roles in H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1970) and the related 1970 film, Pufnstuf; a goblin in a 1967 episode of Bewitched and a troll in a 1971 episode of the same show; Colonel Poom on Lidsville (1971-1972); and Baby New Year in “The Diary” segment of the November 10, 1971 episode of Night Gallery (season 2, episode 8). He acted in the feature films She Freak (1967), Sssssss (1973), Demon Seed (1977), The Manitou (1978), The Brood (1979), The Dungeonmaster (1984), and House (1985), and the 1973 television movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. He performed stunts in Poltergeist (1982), The Monster Squad (1987) and Phantasm II (1988).

Jim Steinman (November 1, 1947 – April 19, 2021) American composer, songwriter, record producer and playwright. Wrote the music and lyrics for Meat Loaf’s debut album, Bat Out of Hell, as well as Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell; also wrote the music for the 1997 stage musical Tanz der Vampires, first performed in Vienna (hence the German title) which was based on the 1967 Roman Polanski film The Fearless Vampire Killers.

Monte Hellman (July 12, 1929 – April 20, 2021) American film director, producer, writer, and editor. Directed The Beast from Haunted Cave (1959); was location director on Roger Corman’s The Terror (1963), starring Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson; and wrote, directed, edited and had an uncredited cameo in the 1989 slasher film, Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!.

Wiesława Mazurkiewicz (25 March 1926 – 20 April 2021) Polish actress, Lokis. Rekopis profesora Wittembacha (Lokis, the Manuscript of Professor Wittembach, 1970).

Tempest Storm (born Annie Blanche Banks, February 29, 1928 – April 20, 2021), “The Queen of Exotic Dancers,” American burlesque star who was one of the most famous strippers of her generation. Her handful of movie appearances included Mundo Depravados (1967), written and directed by her husband, Herb Jeffries, who had his own unique film career as the pre-eminent African-American western movie star of the 1930s.

Charles Fries (September 30, 1928 – April 22, 2021) American film producer or executive producer on She Waits (1972), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Norliss Tapes (1973), The Vault of Horror (1973), Scream of the Wolf (1974), The Strange and Deadly Occurrence (1974), The Spell (1977), Halloween with the New Addams Family (1977), Night Cries (1978), The Initiation of Sarah (1978), Are You in the House Alone? (1978), Cat People (1982), Terror at London Bridge (1985), Flowers in the Attic (1987), Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1988), Deathstone (1990), Screamers (1995), The Initiation of Sarah (2006), Screamers: The Hunting (2009), Flowers in the Attic (2014), Petals on the Wind (2014), If There Be Thorns (2015), and Seeds of Yesterday (2015).

Amit Mistry (January 12, 1974 – April 23, 2021) Indian actor, Bhoot Police (2021).

Yves Rénier (29 September 1942 – 23 April 2021) French actor, director, screenwriter and voice actor. Appeared in the television mini-series Belphegor, or Phantom of the Louvre (1965). Dubbed the voice of James Woods in the French-language release of John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998).

Shunsuke Kikuchi (1 November 1931 – 24 April 2021) Japanese film and television music composer, Kaidan semushi otoko (House of Terrors, 1965), Kaitei daisensô (The Terror Beneath the Sea, 1966), Kaidan hebi-onna (Snake Woman’s Curse, 1968), Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968), Gamera vs Guiron (1969), Gamera vs Jiger (1970), Gamera vs Zigra (1971), and Gamera: Super Monster (1980).

Charles Beeson (10 May, 1957 – 26 April 2021) British television producer and director on the 2015 American mini-series The Whispers, and director on one episode of The Vampire Diaries (Season 2, Episode 7, “Masquerade”, aired October 28, 2010), five episodes of Fringe (2010-2012) and fourteen episodes of Supernatural from 2007 to 2020.

Johnny Crawford (March 26, 1946 – April 29, 2021) American actor, one of the original Mousketeers in the 1950s and prolific child star on American television into the 1960s. Best known for his role as the son of Chuck Connors in the classic western TV series, The Rifleman (1958-1963). He also, along with most of his fellow television adolescents of that era, placed a few bubblegummy songs in the Top 40, with “Cindy’s Birthday” making it all the way to the #8 position in 1962. Played one of the thirty-foot-tall juvenile delinquents terrorizing a small town in the utterly bonkers dark comedy, Village of the Giants (1965).

Billie Hayes (August 5, 1924 – April 29, 2021) American stage, film, television and voice actress, played Witchipoo on the children’s television series H.R. Pufnstuf (1969), The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1969) and the second season of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour in (1969); a similar character in one episode of Bewitched (Season 8, Episode 10, “Hansel and Gretel in Samantha-Land”, aired November 17, 1971); and Weenie the Genie on Lidsville (1971-1972). She also appeared in one episode of the Bewitched spin-off series, Tabitha (Season 1, Episode 6, “Mr. Nice Guy”, aired December 10, 1977). She did voice work for the animated television series Trollkins (1981), The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1984), The Real Ghostbusters (1986), Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1995), and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (2005), and the feature films The Black Cauldron (1985) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

S. G. Chelladurai (1937 – April 29, 2021) Indian actor, Airaa (2019).

Libertad Leblanc (February 24, 1938 – April 30, 2021) Argentine platinum blonde sex symbol, best known for her work in erotic films. She did make a couple of horror pictures, La Endemoniada (A Woman Possessed, 1968) in Mexico and the Spanish/Italian Cerco de Terror (Siege of Terror, 1971).

May

Tom Hickey (1944 – 1 May 2021) Irish actor, Gothic (1986) and High Spirits (1988).

Bikramjeet Kanwarpal (29 August 1968 – 01 May 2021) Indian actor, Mallika (2010), Dangerous Ishhq (Dangerous Love, 2012), Horror Story (2013), and Creature 3D (2014).

Willy Kurant (15 February 1934 – 1 May 2021) Belgian cinematographer, The Incredible Melting Man (1977) and Mama Dracula (1980).

Chuck Hicks (December 26, 1927 – May 4, 2021) American actor and stuntman, Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Shock Corridor (1963), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972), Beyond Evil (1980), The Ring (2002), Hood of Horror (2006), and Legion (2010). On television, he appeared in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Ten O’Clock Tiger”, season 7, Episode 26, aired April 3, 1962) and two of The Twilight Zone (“Steel”, Season 5, Episode 2, aired October 4, 1963, and “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”, Season 5, Episode 12, aired December 20, 1963).

Feđa Stojanović (31 January 1948 – 5 May 2021) Serbian actor, T.T. Syndrome (2002)

Guillermo Murray (15 June 1927 – 6 May 2021) Argentine-born Mexican actor, El Mundo de los Vampiros (1961), La Huella Macabra (1963), Los Murcialagos (1964), The Chinese Room (1968), and Six Tickets to Hell (1981).

Tawny Kitaen (August 5, 1961 – May 7, 2021) American actress, Witchboard (1986)

Jean-Claude Romer (19 January 1933 – 8 May 2021) French actor, Les week-ends maléfiques du Comte Zaroff (Seven Women for Satan, 1976), Cinemania (short film, as the Frankenstein Monster, 1978), Baby Blood (1990), Time Demon (1996), and Marquis de Slime (1997). Romer was also co-editor of the French science fiction, fantasy and horror film magazine, Midi-Minuit Fantastique (1962-1972). The first issue is available in the Internet Archives.

Neil Connery (1 January 1938 – 10 May 2021) Scottish actor and the younger brother of Sean Connery, The Body Stealers (1969).

Dennis Joseph (October 20, 1957 – May 10, 2021) Indian scriptwriter and director, Geethaanjali (2013).

Norman Lloyd (November 8, 1914 – May 11, 2021) American actor whom I was about convinced would live forever. Linked both to Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, he was a significant presence in every medium of American entertainment for most of a century. He appeared in the May 24, 1945 episode of the Suspense! radio show (“My Own Murderer”). His genre-related films included the 1951 remake of M with David Wayne in the role created twenty years earlier by Peter Lorre; Audrey Rose (1977); the TV mini-series The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978); Jaws of Satan (1981), Amityville Horror: The Evil Escapes (1989); and the 1995 TV remake of The Omen. On television, he directed, produced and/or acted in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as being executive producer on the 1968-1969 series Journey into the Unknown and producer on Tales of the Unexpected (1982-1985). He acted in one episode each of One Step Beyond (Season 2, Episode 1, “Delusion”, aired September 15, 1959), Night Gallery (Season 2, Episode 16, “A Feast of Blood”, aired January 12, 1972) and the Twilight Zone revival series (Season 1, Episode 24, “The Last Defender of Camelot”, aired April 11, 1986).

Jaime Garza (January 28, 1954 – May 14, 2021) Mexican actor, Dinastia Sangrienta (1988) and The Bloody Monks (1989).

Roy Scammell (28 July 1932 – 15 May 2021) British stuntman and stunt arranger, Circus of Fear (1966), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Horror Hospital (1973), Alien (1979), Venom (1981), and Seize the Night (2015).

René Cardona III (1962 – May 16, 2021) Mexican actor, director and screenwriter, The Bermuda Triangle (1978), Terror en las Barrios (1983), Cementario del Terror (1985), Vacaciones de Terror (1989), Alarido del Terror (1991), El Beso de la Muerte: Historias Espeluznantes (1991), Pesadilla Fatal (1991), Colmillos, el Hombre Lobo (1993), and El Asesino del Teatro (1996)

Nitish Veera (1976 – 17 May 2021) Indian actor, Airaa (2019) and Neeya 2 (2019). 

Vladimir Fyodorov (February 19, 1939 — May 18, 2021) Russian actor, Ruslan i Lyudmila (1972), Dikaya okhota korolya Stakha (Savage Hunt of King Stakh, 1980), and Lisova Pisnya. Mavka (1981). 

Charles Grodin (April 21, 1935 – May 18, 2021) Award-winning American actor, comedian, author, and television talk show host, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), King Kong (1976), and So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993).

David Anthony Kraft (May 31, 1952 – May 19, 2021) American comic book writer, publisher, and critic. Wrote the Man-Wolf feature in several Marvel comic book titles in the middle 1970s, including Creatures on the Loose and Marvel Premiere. Man-Wolf was the astronaut son of Spider-Man’s nemesis J. Jonah Jameson who developed lycanthropy after picking up a magical rock on the moon. 

Kraft also wrote stories for the Marvel publications Giant-Size Dracula, Haunt of Horror and Tales of the Zombie. He wrote Demon Hunter #1 for Atlas/Seaboard in 1975, and a Swamp Thing issue for DC Comics in 1976. Kraft founded Fictioneer Books in 1974. Its subsidiary imprint, Comics Interview, published the Southern Knights comic book during the 1980s. Southern Knights was a super-hero group, one member of which was a dragon who could assume human form. A friend of mine at the time illustrated the final issue. 

Romy Walthall (September 16, 1963 – May 19, 2021) American actress in the feature films Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988), The House of Usher (1989), and Howling: New Moon Rising (1995); and in one episode each of The X-Files (“Millennium”, Season 7, Episode 4, aired November 28, 1999) and The Nightmare Room (“Don’t Forget me”, Season 1, Episode 1, aired August 31, 2001)).

Robert Green Hall (27 November 1973 – May 24, 2021) American special makeup effects artist on the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and the feature films Vacancy (2007), Killer Pad (2008), The Crazies (2010), Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011), and Fear Clinic (2014). Also directed Laid to Rest (2009) and ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011).

Desiree Gould (March 27, 1945 – May 25, 2021) American actress, Sleepaway Camp (1983), Under Surveillance (2006), Caesar and Otto Meet Dracula’s Lawyer (2010), and Tales of Poe (2014).

Ben Kruger (25 March 1957 – 25 May 2021) South African actor, Snake Island (2002).

Carla Fracci (20 August 1936 – 27 May 2021) Italian ballet dancer, best known for the supernatural ballet Giselle

Robert Hogan (September 28, 1933 – May 27, 2021) Prolific American film and television actor in the feature films Westworld (1973), Species II (1998), and in one episode each of The Twilight Zone (“Spur of the Moment”, Season 5, Episode 21, aired February 21, 1964), Kraft Suspense Theatre (“The Wine Dark Sea”, Season 2, Episode 11, aired December 31, 1964), Night Gallery (“Brenda”, Season 2, Episode 7, aired November 3, 1971), and Tales of the Unexpected (“No Way Out”, Season 1, Episode 8, aired August 24, 1977).

Lorina Kamburova (February 1, 1991 – May 26, 2021) Bulgarian actress, Nightworld: Door of Hell (2017), Leatherface (2017), Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2017), and Doom: Annihilation (2019).

Paul Soles (August 11, 1930 – May 26, 2021) Canadian voice actor on the 1966 Saturday morning Japanese-produced American cartoon series King Kong. Yes, THAT King Kong. Big monkey King Kong. As a commenter on the show’s IMDb page pointed out, it wasn’t a particularly memorable series, but it had one of the catchiest theme songs on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. Not as great as the theme song from Underdog, but still pretty darn good. Soles also did voice work for several of the cartoon shows based on the Marvel Comics characters during the 1960s, including as the title character in Spider-Man, making him the first actor to ever play the web-slinger. It also had a great theme song. Yes, childrens, music was indeed better in the ‘60s, in every aspect of the popular culture.

Shane Briant (17 August 1946 – 27 May 2021) English actor, Demons of the Mind (1972), Straight on Till Morning (1972), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973), Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter (1974), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), Cassandra (1987), Out of the Body (1989), and Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein (2019).

David Butler (March 1, 1960 – May 27, 2021) South African actor, The Canterville Ghost (1983).

Marcell Jankovics (21 October 1941 – 29 May 2021) Hungarian animator, A Székely asszony és az ördög (The Transylvanian Woman and the Devil, 1985), one of a series of short animated films based on Hungarian folk tales.

Maurice Capovila (16 January 1936 – 29 May 2021) Brazilian film director and screenwriter. His 1970 dramatic film, The Prophet of Hunger, while not explicitly horror, may appeal to horror fans as it starred Jose Mojica Marins, better known as Coffin Joe, and had a rather surrealistic plot.

John Gregg (12 January 1939 – 29 May 2021) Australian actor in one episode of the British television series Dead of Night (“Two in the Morning”, Season 1, Episode 6, aired December 10, 1972), and one episode of the Australian supernatural comedy series, Spirited (“Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead”, Season 1, Episode 2, aired September 1, 2010).

Joe Lara (October 2, 1962 – May 29, 2021) American actor best known for playing Tarzan on television in the 1990s. Died in a plane crash in Percy Priest Lake, a few miles from where I live in Middle Tennessee. Appeared in the horror films Night Wars (1988) and The Presence (1992).

Gavin MacLeod (February 28, 1931 – May 29, 2021) American actor best known for playing Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) and Captain Stubing on The Love Boat (1977-1986). Appeared in one episode of The Munsters (Season 1, Episode 12, “The Sleeping Cutie”, aired December 10, 1964).

Arlene Golonka (January 23, 1936 – May 31, 2021) Ubiquitous American actress with an extensive career in television from the 1960s to the 1980s. Appeared in Skeletons (1997). Also did some voice work for the Saturday morning cartoon series, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, in 1973.

June

Violeta Vidaurre (12 September 1928 – 1 June 2021) Chilean actress with a long career in television and in the theater. She appeared as Ercilia Núñez in twenty-three episodes of the Chilean vampire telenovela, Conde Vrolok (2009-2010).

Michael Ray Escamilla (died June 3, 2021) American actor, The Orphan Killer (2011) and The Possession of Michael King (2014)

Damaris Hayman (16 June 1929 – 3 June 2021) English character actress who appeared in one storyline of Doctor Who during the tenure of Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor. She played Miss Hawthorne in all five episodes of “The Dæmons” in 1971.

Ernie Lively (January 29, 1947 – June 3, 2021) Prolific American character actor, Ghost Chase (AKA Hollywood-Monster, 1987), Shocker (1989), Sleepwalkers (1992), and one episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents revival series (“Four O’Clock”, based on the classic short story by Cornell Woolrich, Season 1, Episode 21, aired May 4. 1986).

N. Rangarajan (17 December 1930 – 3 June 2021) Indian film director, Kalyanaraman (1979).

Valeriy Sheptekita (December 20, 1940 – June 3, 2021) Ukrainian actor, Ivanko I Tsar Poganin (1984), 

Arlene Tolibas (1966 – June 3, 2021) Filipina actress in Regal Shocker: The Movie (1989), Tarot (2009), and one episode of the Filipino Tagalog-language TV series #ParangNormal Activity (“Yung may ghost na extra”, Season 1, Episode 5, aired August 8, 2015).

John Sacret Young (May 24, 1946 – June 3, 2021[1]) American screenwriter, The Possessed (1977).

Clarence Williams III (August 21, 1939 – June 4, 2021) American actor, appeared in the feature films Perfect Victims (1988), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Tales from the Hood (1995), Mindstorm (2001), and American Nightmares (2018). First made his mark on television as one of the leads of The Mod Squad (1968-1973) and worked extensively in the medium, including one episode of the BBC program Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries (“The Furnished Room”, Season 1, Episode 26, aired February 24, 1974), one of Tales from the Crypt (“Maniac at Large”, Season 4, Episode 10, aired August 19, 1992), and as FBI Agent Roger Hardy in two episodes of Twin Peaks (1990). 

Camilla Amado (7 August 1938 – 6 June 2021) Brazilian actress, Quem Tem Medo de Lobisomem? (Who’s Afraid of the Werewolf?, 1975).

Surekha (10 March 1955 – 6 June 2021) Indian actress, Aathma (1993).

Douglas S. Cramer (August 22, 1931 – June 7, 2021) American producer on the television movies The Cat Creature (1973), The Dead Don’t Die (1975), Snowbeast (1977), Cruise into Terror (1978), and Don’t Go to Sleep (1982). 

Laszlo George (May 30, 1931 – June 7, 2021) Canadian cinematographer, Something is Out There (1988), and two episodes of Reaper (“Rebellion”, Season 1, Episode 14, aired April 22, 2008 and “Coming to Grips”, Season 1, Episode 15, aired April 29, 2008).

Ben Roberts (1 July 1950 – 7 June 2021) British actor, Jane Eyre (2011).

Julio Calasso (1941 – June 11, 2012) Brazilian actor, Filme Demencia (1986) and Olhos de Vampa (1996).

Kay Hawtrey (November 8, 1926 – June 11, 2021) Canadian character actress, Funeral Home (1980), The Intruder (1981), Videodrome (1983), Haunted by Her Past (1987), Urban Legend (1998) and American Psycho II: All-American Girl (2002).

Dennis Berry (August 11, 1944 – June 12, 2021) American film director and actor. Directed La mort mystérieuse de Nina Chéreau (The Mysterious Death of Nina Chereau, 1988). Played a bit part in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the Poe-based anthology film, Histoires extraordinaires (Spirits of the Dead, 1968).

Ned Beatty (July 6, 1937 – June 13, 2021) Prolific American character actor, Deliverance (1972), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Haunting of Barney Palmer (1987), Purple People Eater (1988), The Unholy (1988), Repossessed (1990), one episode of Tales of the Unexpected (“The Final Chapter”, Season 1, Episode 1, aired February 2, 1977), and the pilot for the revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Incident in a Small Jail”, aired May 5, 1985). Perhaps best known to many for playing Lex Luthor’s dim-witted henchman Otis is the first two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve.

John Gabriel (May 25, 1931 – June 13, 2021) American actor, Fantasies (1982).

David Lightfoot (1959/1960 – 13 June 2021) Australian film producer, Wolf Creek (2005) and Rogue (2007)

Lisa Banes (July 9, 1955 – June 14, 2021) American actress, Dragonfly (2002) and Them (2021).

Dinah Shearing (12 February 1926 – 14 June 2021) Australian actress, appeared on stage in Medee, Macbeth and Bell, Book and Candle, and in a 1960 production of Macbeth for Australian television.

Robert Desroches (14 July 1929 – 15 June 2021) Canadian actor, Friday the 13th: The Series (“The Prophecies: Part 1”, Season 3, Episode 1, and “The Prophecies: Part 2”, Season 3, Episode 2, both aired October 7, 1989).

Sanchari Vijay (July 18, 1983 – June 15, 2021) Indian actor, Riktha (2017).

Lily Weiding (22 October 1924 – 15 June 2021) Danish actress, The Green Butchers (2003).

Frank Bonner (February 28, 1942 – June 16, 2021) American actor, best known for playing sleazy sales manager Herb Tarlek on the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. He apparently also thought turkeys could fly. Appeared in the 1970 horror film, Equinox, which also featured Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine editor Forrest J. Ackerman and horror, science-fiction and fantasy writer, and sometime actor, Fritz Leiber, Jr. 

Chandrashekhar (7 July 1922 – 16 June 2021) Indian actor, Maa (1991).

Linda Touby (1942 – June 17, 2021) American artist, widow of legendary illustrator Basil Gogos, as well as custodian of his estate. Gogos painted numerous covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine.

Joanne Linville (January 15, 1928 – June 20, 2021) Prolific American television actress, appeared in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“The Safe Place”, Season 3, Episode 36, aired June 8, 1958), two of One Step Beyond (“The Dead Part of the House”, Season 1, Episode 9, aired March 17, 1959 and “Moment of Hate”, Season 3, Episode 6, aired October 25, 1960), one of The Twilight Zone (“The Passersby”, Season 3, Episode 4, Aired October 6, 1961), and the 1989 television movie, From the Dead of Night.

Nina Divíšková (12 July 1936 – 21 June 2021) Czech actress, The Great Unknown (1970), Morgiana (1972), and Wolf’s Hole (1987).

Robert Sacchi (March 27, 1932 – June 23, 2021) American character actor best known for his uncanny resemblance to legendary Hollywood tough guy star Humphrey Bogart. He exploited that similarity to play the inspector in The French Sex Murders (1972). As he also sounded like Bogie, he was the voice of Lou Spinelli in one episode of Tales from the Crypt (“You, Murderer”, Season 6, Episode 15, aired January 25, 1995). The story was shot from Spinelli’s point of view, but whenever he was seen in mirrors or other reflective surfaces, his appearance consisted of images of Bogart recycled from old films noir.

Med Reventberg (7 June 1948 – 24 June 2021) Swedish actress, Porträttet (1999), based on the short horror story “The Portrait” by Nikolai Gogol.

John Erman (August 3, 1935 – June 25, 2021) American television and film director, directed one episode of The Outer Limits (“Nightmare”, Season 1, Episode 10, aired December 2, 1963) and eight episodes of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir from 1968 to 1970.

Hans Holtegaard (August 5, 1952 – June 26, 2021) Danish actor, The Substitute (2007).

John Langley (June 1, 1943 – June 26, 2021) American television and film director, writer, and producer best known for creating the series Cops (1989). He co-wrote the screenplay for Deadly Sins (1995) and was executive producer on Vampire Clan (2002).

Stuart Damon (February 5, 1937 – June 29, 2021) American actor best known for his thirty-six-year run on the soap opera General Hospital. I first came across him on the late-sixties BBC series, The Champions, which was sort of like the contemporary BBC show The Avengers, but with super-powered leads. He appeared in one episode of the British TV series Thriller (“Nightmare for a Nightingale”, Season 6, Episode 3, aired October 2, 1975), and the 1982 television horror movie, Fantasies.

Graham Rouse (1934 – June 29, 2021) Australian actor, appeared in one episode of the Australian horror television series Things That Go Bump in the Night (“I See a Dark Stranger”, Season 1, Episode 3, aired March 13, 1974).

 

Free Fiction Week: The Invitation by Alice Paige

The Invitation by Alice Paige

The dinner table is set. The two face each other, both smiling sharp smiles highlighted in red lipstick. A smile is a weapon. Both women knew this from childhood. It’s a kind of truth men aren’t aware of. They see the smile, but not the tongue curtained behind the teeth. 

The two women, both with too pale skin, lean forward in their wicker chairs. The blood-red dresses they wear shine and shimmer in the candlelight cast from a ring of quickly melting candles rimming the room. No light shines from the table. There is no room on the table for light as this is where the corpse lies flat on its back, dressed in a black see-through shroud. The corpse’s face is gaunt and grey, desiccated. The old corpse is set out, as if for a funeral viewing. What is a viewing if not invitation to grieve? 

“But this is no funeral,” one of the women says, or perhaps, both the women say at once. They glance towards the single curtained window in the room. 

Outside, the snow falls. It is not a kind snow; it is a hungry snow that drinks sound from the air. The abandoned London streets are swallowed in a blanket of white. This snow mutes sound and is an offering of violence. A silencing. The streets are abandoned, a feat in the heart of London with its sickly, sprawling populace. 

The two women smirk as they stand from the table. Slowly, they walk across the room, bare feet slapping against the dark, wooden floor, the candlelight flickering between their toes. Quickly they move from candle to candle burning clippings of the corpse’s hair. 

“In case you are wondering,” one of the women begins, “this is for you. A welcoming,” the other woman finishes. Each candle flairs as hair burns and smokes. The room is a mix of sick sweetness. There is the potent stench of corpse flesh and burnt hair, but the candles provide a stark, contrasting smell of sweet honey. 

The room fills with a startling sound like rubber bands snapping. The corpse on the table spasms again and again under its shroud as the final clippings of curled, grey hair burn. The legs of the table hop and scrape against the floor.

The two women hurriedly walk to the curtained window together and throw the curtains back. Sickly, grey light spills into the room. The window faces out upon a small, abandoned city square. Both women grab the base of the large window and lift. Painfully chilled air rushes into the room. The sound outside is still muted but, just on the edge of audible perception, there is a labored breathing that seems to invade the room as the window opens. 

The two women walk back over to the table and place their hands atop the corpse. Their fingers slowly intertwine atop the soft, black fabric and their hands rise and fall with the corpse’s chest. The women’s skin goosebumps. They look at one another with cautioned excitement.

 “Are you ready?” they ask the empty room. It is unclear who or what they are speaking to. They wait a moment, and, despite the lack of answer, they seem satisfied. Slowly each woman leans backwards, fingers still locked, and they begin to chant. The two chant in unison at an alarming pace, their bright red lips quickly enunciate each word with a labored intensity. 

“It juts its fingers into the dirt, finds the face beneath, the orbital, the mandible, 

cracks the ossuary, slithers into this shattered church, makes a blasphemous home 

of once  priest, rips the faith root and stem, hungrily gorges on intently scarified 

meaning, is pulled, is plucked, is jutted like sharpened weapon, we call, we demand, 

we twinned sisters, given twinned names, we control the star pointed razor, 

the space beyond space, we space behind face, we who have pulled host from holy grave to give you shape once again demand you take shape once again.”

The twin voices drone on together, echoing off the bare, wooden walls and spill into the town square. 

And that’s when I feel it. A tug in my guts. Not that I have guts. 

It’s a strange sensation, to not have a sense of self until I suddenly have a sense of self. To be thrust into “I” once more. It’s as if I have been here the entire time, watching, but have only now just arrived. The two women fall into silence. I recognize them. We were friends once. Before. Before what? My mind feels like a waterfall climbing to be a river. Entropy turned on itself. A collecting.

My vision shifts as the room rotates, turning on its head. I feel my chest heave and my ribs crack. I cough because I can cough. 

“You’re here,” Emily says. She is the woman to the left of me. Her voice is slightly softer than her sister, Emilia. I could always tell the difference. 

I try to speak but my throat refuses to move. I am on my back. How did I get on my back? I was watching the room from above.

“You need to give it a moment. The body will be able to speak soon,” Emilia says. 

 I glance down to see the shroud covering the corpse’s body. No, not the corpse’s. Mine. My body. I inhabit the corpse. I can feel it around me like swimming in muck. Its skin is so tight. I try to move the tongue in its mouth and the tongue shifts slightly. Suddenly, I can taste. Its mouth, my mouth, tastes like ash and copper. Emily places a hand on my forehead. Her skin is so soft. So alive. 

“We told you nothing would keep us apart Dahlia,” Emily and Emilia say together. 

I scream in this body that is not mine. The corpse’s vocal cords hiss.


Alice Paige is a trans woman, poet, and essayist living in St. Paul, Mn. Her writing largely focuses on topics like mythology and queer love. Her work can be found at FreezeRay Poetry, Crabfat Magazine, Coffin Bell, VASTARIEN, Button Poetry, Luna Station Quarterly and Take A Stand, Art Against Hate: A Raven Chronicles Anthology. She is also a co-host for Outspoken, a Queer Open Mic.

 

https://www.instagram.com/alicegpaige/

Free Fiction Week: The Get Together by Prapti Gupta

THE GET TOGETHER by Praptui Gupta

“Mom are you ready?” I asked.

“Yes dear, let’s go” she replied.

Today my mom and I are very excited. Today we are going to meet with our father after a long time. I can’t really explain how happy and excited I am. After a lot of struggle and patience, we are getting to meet him. But the sad part is the meeting period is very short, just 10 minutes.

On our way, I was thinking what questions I will be asking him. There are so many but I can’t ask all of them. We reached the place after some time. Mr. Morgan was waiting for us. He was the medium through which we are going to talk with him. 

 He was seeing us in a very strange manner as if he hasn’t seen people like us before. Yes, I admit we are different because we are new to this place but yet we look like human beings. 

“Good morning Mrs. Evans, I was just waiting for you and your son,” he said to us.

“Is everything ready? We can’t wait to meet him; hope you can understand” my mom said to him.

“Yes. The whole process is to be of 20 minutes and you can talk to him for about 10 minutes, not more than that, otherwise, it can be risky for me” he said.

Though we were disappointed upon hearing the time limit, we nodded.

Then he took us inside a room. It was a dark room, in fact very dark.

Okay, let me clear the fact. We are going to do planchette. This is the only method and medium of our contact with him.

My mom and I haven’t talked with him since the day we two died in a road accident a year ago but my father survived!!!!

It’s really a special day for both of us. 

THE END


Prapti Gupta is an 18 year old writer from India.

 

To read more of her work: Wattpad

Free Fiction Week: The Smoky Mountain Monster by Terry Pierson

The Smoky Mountain Monster by Terry Pierson

The Smoky Mountains, full of shadowed silence and untouched grandeur, hum with stories and legends. There was a little log cabin in the woods that was said to have belonged to Davy Crockett. At night a deep mist would form over the leaf magenta grounds but no one was ever there to see it. A big rock rose like a monolith from a dirt patch where nothing else had grown for a long time. 

No one ever saw it.  A volcano could have splintered from the ground and moltend the forest while turning the sky to ash and it would be days before someone drove by an adjacent road and noticed. There was no one back here, the world had moved on and left this little stretch of existence to stagnate and freeze in time, with nothing to disrupt its trajectory. It slumbered. 

So it sat for decades, time unfolding with callous change all through the world. Yet these few acres of country stayed oblivious. Technology pushed, leaders grew and died, empires boomed and collapsed, but the few miles of trees around Limestone in southeast Tennessee rested in tranquility without any concern for what was happening beyond the borders. It felt at ease with its place in the world; a soft warm blanket for those who knew it. 

This seemed destined to continue until suddenly it didn’t. Some ambitious men decided to expand the real estate market further from the nearby market center.  In less than a year, something that had been the same for lifetimes, secluded and undisturbed, was abruptly and violently uprooted, dug, plowed, shoveled, ripped, paved, molded, and shaped to be an entirely new area of the world fit for civilization and pleasant circumstances. The land did not agree and moaned its disapproval. 

Families moved in fast and it wasn’t long before the surrounding area was filled with gas stations and school buildings and soccer fields and fast food establishments. Year after year marched forward and before long the place the area had been for so long was forgotten, washed away in a tide of habitation. The development was a success but the earth did not reserve its protest.

The land grew haunted, wrecked by spirits and atrocities. Nothing else was allowed to inhabit this space. The very fiber of existence twisted in repulsion at its new form. There was something that revolted against what destiny was dictating. The new orchestra of everyday life – with all of its humanity and confinement – chafed against the fiber of all that had come before. 

It was calm at first, residential troubles and local folklore. There was a haunted house or vengeful spirit. An entire barn of animals all perished overnight with no discernible cause. Some thought the lake was cursed. A family of five died in a fiery car crash on an unmarked road. A deranged man from a nearby slaughterhouse assaulted an elderly woman in her home. There was something damned in the space itself and it would endlessly produce whatever menace fit the void. 

Generations disappeared down the family conveyor belt and the daily troubles of the place turned to twilight. Rumors of a ritualistic cult rooted in the community took hold. A flesh-eater preyed on the town. Some unknown beast, described in wild testimonies and interviews as a horned slug the size of a dog, turned the area into a tourist spot. 

The 21st century had begun to wane when the fissure finally erupted. A great mass swelled in the land; bony, titanic shoulders lifted the earth into an illusion of mountains where there had been none. In the very spot where Davy Crockett’s log cabin had sat the ground split and a tremor propelled through the surrounding countryside. A creature, unlike anything, ever rose to the sky, carrying the homes and barns and utility poles up to the clouds. All of that cursed land was swept up in an instant and crumbled to pieces on the back of the mile-high gargantuan. It fell back to the land and crashed like haunted meteorites cratering in the surface. 

The mammoth could not be. Its presence stained and contaminated the dimension of humanity. No reason or spirituality could support its nature. The thing was an intruder that trekked its cosmic mud across the carpet of conceived existence.

The impossible monstrosity evaporated to space in a fantastic fog. Time and gravity warped around it in a spectacular display of color that broadcast against the Smoky Mountain landscape. Geography twisted on itself in impossible spirals. Deep recesses swallowed rolling mounds. The seams of reality frayed and stretched as the entity joined the stars. The monster was never there, it couldn’t be. Everyone already remembered the Tennessee canyons as all the land had ever been. 


 

Terry Pierson creates creepy content as Something Spooky on social media. His signature style blends campfire story spirit and prestige horror sensibility.

https://amzn.to/3rHGom7

Free Fiction Week : I Am Afraid…by RAJALAXMI BEHERA

I AM AFRAID ……. by RAJALAXMI BEHERA

I opened my door, it was dark outside,

I turned on the lights to quit my fright.

The lights glimmered directly on my face,

I rubbed my eyes, my neck did ache.

 

I was tired of the day, I sat on the couch,

Something hit me, I cried out “OUCH!!!”

 

I moved a little, I hardly turned back,

There was a book on the floor, perhaps it fell from the rack.

 

I felt uncomfortable, I went for a shower,

My heart was filled with an unknown terror.

 

And I could hear some strange sound,

But the sounds stopped when I turned around. 

 

 There was a scratch mark on my mirror,

I was shocked, those marks were everywhere.

 

I exclaimed – “  What the hell is happening to me ? “

The next very second, the marks were nowhere to see.

 

I thought I was hallucinating out of my fatigue,

But it could be that there might have been some rogue,

Who might have entered my house to rob,

But I just fearfully thought to stop.

 

My mind was whirling due to all stress,

My eyes fell on the pocket of my dress.

 

There was a note, I read it, it was written – “ GOODBYE “

I did not know who put it there and why.

 

Then came to my sight, my perfume potion,

I could see, in the clear surface, my own reflection.

 

I could see a figure coming towards me,

On the surface of the potion, I could see.

 

Then all at once, I was struck by something heavy,

I turned back, only a MAN IN BLACK I could see…….

ONLY A MAN IN BLACK I COULD SEE…….

ONLY A MAN IN BLACK I COULD SEE…….


 

 

RAJALAXMI BEHERA is a student and writer of poems and short stories

To find more of her work: www.rajalaxmi2365.blogspot.com

Free Fiction Week:The Tomb of the Red King by Hank Belbin

In the Tomb of the Red King by Hank Belbin

The sarcophagus screeched open. Wafts of ancient dust spewed from the yawning blackness within.  Something else came rushing out too. Francis Aberdeen felt its dark presence as soon as he’d pried the lid from the thing. He had felt it as clear as he felt the ripping winds battering the Cornish coastline above the cave. He felt it like he felt the salty spray of the sea as he descended the cliffs to the entrance of the tomb itself. Something evil and old. Something dark. 

So bizarre to find such a coffin in Cornwall. Such practises were seldom discovered this far north of the equator. But there it was, just like the stranger had said it would be. After hours of crawling on his hands and knees through narrow tunnels by candlelight, Francis finally came into a vast domed chamber with a single white light beaming down onto a stone tableau ahead. The tableau was a  huge scalene triangle of ebony stone that raised up in the centre of the cavernous gloomy crypt. The triangle was surmounted with graphite plumbago shards that all pointed northward like rows of serrated teeth on a great dragon. Along the rim were esoteric carvings, hieroglyphics, and other depictions of demonic entities upward reaching to the coffin’s lid—none of which Francis could understand. It was beyond being prehistoric. Judging by the stratum of rock, Francis put the crypt’s age at somehow being of the late Cretaceous period. The walls of the tomb sloped down and back,  headlong into pitch-black nothingness. Around the sarcophagus itself were dusty old black jars containing a fetid red liquid that smelt like rotten meat. Everything in the chamber pointed towards mummification. But there was no body in the sarcophagus. The room was far too old for that.  Francis paused as he considered what to do next, his heart beating hard in his chest. Thick grey mud from the climb down into the tomb clung to his clothing like a cold blanket. His hands shook, and he felt the chill in his bones.  

Although he was positive he was alone, he distinctly felt the air grow tighter the instant he had unwittingly opened the coffin. A gnawing tingling sensation rose from the base of his spine and up into his neck, and it whispered to him softly that he had made a grave error. He knew it too.  Reckless pride and the desire to discover something unknown had blinded his pragmatism. And now the casket in the dark was open. What have I done? Francis cautiously leaned over the edge and gazed down into it. As he did, he felt the lingering thought that something was alive in there. Its aura impossibly glaring back at him from the abyss somehow. He didn’t know how to describe it with mortal words, but he was steadfast that he felt this lean and hungry stare of a spectre looking back at him from down there, in the pit of the coffin that seemed to stretch inward for eternity.  Something had been waiting for this. 

As he stood over the open chest, the damp air descended languidly all around him, laden with primal particles of disease and unknown threats that had seldom felt any other air for aeons. The darkness drew nearer, clutching up from the corners of the forlorn tomb with wide-open talons of shadows. All that was old and mystical was awake once more. All that once was—would now be again. In a flash, his mistakes came tumbling down to him. How could I have been so foolish? 

Days of hiking, hours of precarious scrabbling down the cliffs, even more, indeterminate time going lower into the caves had brought him to this moment, and in one nauseating instant, he regretted all of it. Some things are better left unknown, he thought to himself. How could he have been so careless? Why had he come into this tenebrous little hole in the earth? In the pit of his stomach, he already knew why. 

A tip-off from a dark-eyed stranger in the local tavern had sent him on this quest, bringing him here;  that was what started it. His shadow had crawled across the table as he approached. The hooded stranger had sat himself down opposite Francis in the meager tavern, offered to buy him an ale,  asked him if he was an archeologist; then proceeded to tell the most vivid tale of a seldom-talked about tomb near the tavern that supposedly held one of the last old spirits of the world. A spirit of great decadence. Beside the twinkle of the candle on the table, Francis could’ve sworn deeply that the stranger’s eyes were glowing faintly red—like the blood-thirsty anticipation of some starved hyena.  

But that wasn’t what brought him down into the cave. The real reason why he’d brought himself to the tomb was he had to see for himself if the fable was indeed true. He wanted to discover it for himself, to brand his own mark upon its finding. And with all the deathly stillness of the tomb around him, he had discovered it. Some unexplainable presence was there in the tomb, next to him,  over him, in him. Something unseen. But something that reared up and climbed inside his mind. It clung to him like cold tar. Whispers of all things primordial and malevolent swam through his thoughts—ancient days of death and blood.  

It wanted to be found, the force murmured to him. Of course, it did. It was all so clear now. The expedition was far too easy, the navigation of the unknown tunnels leading down to the stygian crypt even more so. The map was precise, the weather conditions favourable. All that was needed was for him to undertake the route. All it needed was a vessel. All of it made sense to Francis why.  He felt strangely heavy at the revelation. As if cast-iron weights had been suddenly tied around his shoulders.  

The hooded stranger from the tavern whispered one name to him before he departed. Izuzu. The  King in Red. Francis only knew of the title in passing. The King in Red was an old mystic fable that had only been passed down through subdued whisperings and superstitions in various isolated  Cornish villages such as Boscastle. In the tales, it was always associated with death and disease. A  great horned figure who loped between the shadows and spaces. He who controlled life. Something that betwixt all things that are and all things that never will be. Wherever it would roam, decaying slow death would follow. Its cape soaked in the crimson from the blood of the fallen wherever it had trodden. Legend has it that he was entombed in an impenetrable block of ice by the Old One for his amoral acts upon all things living. If he were to be released once more, he would bring with him the black clouds of death to all things. 

In one sickening realisation, Francis knew why the stranger in the tavern had told him about it. He knew Francis was a greenhorn archaeologist. He knew the young clear-skinned boy could not resist the opportunity to make a name for himself. He knew Francis, the naive 20-year-old, would take the bait. He wanted Francis to open it for him. And Francis did. Without hesitation, Francis Aberdeen of Leicester University had unwittingly unleashed all the eternal gloom of Izuzu, the King in Red, unto the world. What would become of the earth next he would never see. Because in the Red King’s steed, Francis would be trapped in the crypt forever. The darkness closed in. The candle flickered nervously then went out. The crypt sealed once more. He tried to scream, but it was cut short.  

_______________________________________________________________________________

I am a semi-professional writer who has published one novel and several short horror stories. I currently write screenplays and offer script treatments also. I am based in the UK and specialise in gothic and folklore horror set in the United Kingdom.

 

http://www.hankbelbin.co.uk

Free Fiction Week: The Blood of the Guilty by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

The blood of the guilty by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

When people complete their revenge the blood just runs in circles but, when Danya Tebens did it, it rained from the sky.

The sword, twisted and rusty, was creating a trembling path in the ground. The tremulous steps of the woman made her moves slow in the land full of bumps. Sacred stones around her, mortuary monoliths of the ones that had fallen before her, empty ground for the ones that will fall after her. All dead despite the blood, the ichor of life, poured grotesquely over them.

Her sight was lost, full of gore. The red crimson blood that fell from the sky was creating puddles of misery. The red scarlet blood that covered her weapon and her ragged armor, blood thrown by something that shouldn’t be able to bleed. The dark blood from her many lethal wounds.

She fell on her knees in front of one of the many tombs. Probably, the most important tomb in the history of dead people. Only a few words carved.

Belen Tebens. Loved son. Gone too early.

Something fell from the sky. Something thick and monstrous. A gigantic feral arm, full of shattered armor. Chains falling from the sky, colored in red godly blood. The vermilion storm was getting worse, the clouds darker, the wind fiercer, the sun barely showed a pair of ruby agonizing light arms that were fading in plain sight. The world itself was howling in agony.

“What have you done?” screamed a terrified voice of some poor fool at her back.

She hesitated a bit. Her mouth was dry, pasty, the acrid taste of her own guts in her mouth. She felt heavy, dizzy. Far away, the ground was pouring black dross. Part of the sliced skull of something that shouldn’t be able to die fell to the ground.

“I found the guilty” she answered in a reedy voice. “We had a few words.”

Then, she fell to the ground, her world quickly becoming black as the world of the living was becoming red with godly blood.

______________________________________________________________________________

My name is Carlos, I’m a Spanish fantasy and horror writer with two published novels ( Salvación condenada and Peregrinos de Kataik) and a participation in the anthologies Dentro de un agujero de gusano, Mitos y Leyendas and Devoradoras. I’m editor of the website Dentro del Monolito. I had written for magazines, such as Morningside and Exocerebros. I also have content around cinema, with the podcast Pistoleros de Gilead and the blog La Horroteca de Darko. Furthermore, I also organize talks and workshops around cinema and literature in various libraries.

https://darkosaurvlogs.wixsite.com/carlosruizescritor

Free Fiction Week: Once Bitten Twice Shy by Dan A. Cardoza

Once Bitten Twice Shy by Dan A. Cardoza

If you have been diagnosed as having Zika, a strain of the Bubonic Plague, like the one they’d discovered at Kiva Beach in Lake Tahoe, or a malady analogous to Lyme disease, chances are you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, a flea, or a tic. 

Once bitten, twice shy. But at least the odds of recovery favor you. 

A bite, a nip, or an insecticide-resistant tooth is not required for a few idiosyncratic diseases. Unfortunately, Reno won’t give you any odds on your survival.

Melvin Beckham had something worse than cabin fever. He could have died had he not bailed out of his companies Zoom meeting hell. He’d scheduled a short holiday. Hiding from COVID in his house had brought him within an eyelash width of insanity. 

He’d planned the short trip months ago, booking the lakeside view through his timeshare. It wasn’t Europe or Tahiti, but it was something, the twelfth-story view facing the gorgeous Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side. There had been a lot of vacancies. He’d assumed folks were still scared of catching death from traveling. 

Beckham paid big money for his illegal injection, though he hadn’t been a Vaxhole about it. He’d refrained from bragging to his colleagues and the one or two friends he didn’t have. There had been none of his usual insecure boastings after he’d received the two Pfizer doses. He’d kept how much he’d paid a colossal secret in a small black hole in his mind. It wasn’t easy. Beckham was a narcissist. 

Beckham reasoned he was relatively young, thirty-two, and had suffered enough confinement. After all, his dating app had lapsed, and he’d dumped a shitload of Canadian blue pills down the toilet bowl. Enough Viagra, he mused about his giving each fall salmon in the American River a tiny hard-on. 

Cash talks, M.D.’s listen, R.N.’s understand. They all have families to feed. After all, money, not love, is the universal language of record he was certain. 

He’d arrived at the condo complex, with its columns of balcony patios, late Monday. 

The first few nights, Beckham felt warm, slept naked. He’d kept the patio door open. Who or what was about to complain, he’d convinced himself? 

Fish a mile deep in the lake, he giggled? Beckham determined that the Lake’s Coho Salmon were welcome to stare at his blurry, pale sexy ass all week if they had a mind to. 

Wednesday had been sailing into the stiff winds of his first week. It was early evening. Beckham had felt a little uncomfortable. His appetite had been waning. Uber Eats had delivered supper again via Robbie, the lobby clerk. Robbie was the best. He was new at the timeshare, a 49’er gold nugget that had dropped out of somewhere above. Beckham thought him a saint. 

Earlier in the day, Raleys, the local supermarket chain, had delivered Beckham’s subsistence balance for the entire week. Jesus, he’d stuffed the jowls of the fridge. 

Beckham’s judgment had been a little clouded. He’d binge purchased. Inside the fridge, he’d prepared for fall’s hibernation, tee-bones, celery, a couple of six-packs of silly water, butter lettuce, a bag of bagels, and some top roman, mainly for quick lunches, and carrots, bags of carrots, and a large beet. 

Several cans of mixed soup rounded out his impulsive hoard in the cupboard above the dishwasher. The dishwasher had been the machine that washed his dirty laundry the night before. It was a simple mistake, he’d thought.

Beckham couldn’t make himself sleep Thursday night. He’d gotten hot and sweaty again, become a little depressed watching the local news go on and on about the summer’s algae bloom and COVID. He’d retired early. Too many invasive species, viruses, and germs these days, he’d concluded. 

Beckham had woken around at 3:30 A.M. It was early Friday morning, according to his digital bedside clock on the nightstand at home. The old-school hands were running backward. He’d gotten disoriented.

Friday night’s insomnia punished him like a seasoned dominatrix, slapped his cheeks so red they burned. Beckham couldn’t keep his left eye from twitching. He’d taken a long hot shower. After, he soaked in a warm bath, passed out. After a couple of hours, he’d woken from a sound sleep. He’d pruned himself up pretty good, but all that wrinkly water had damned sure cured his crazy belly scratching. 

After, he nibbled carrots and watched a few Oprah Winfrey reruns. Beckham needed all the carrots he could ingest. His sight was dimming, and the world around him too. Soon, he wouldn’t be able to keep anything inside to save his life.

By the following Monday evening, Beckham had nearly lost his voice. He’d been out on the balcony, doing jumping jack calisthenics. All he could recall was that he’d given the neighboring balcony guests the finger as they shouted for him to put his clothes on. He’d cussed them back. Beckham didn’t have any clothing. He’d thrown all the linen, his shorts, and three Hawaiian shirts, as well as his new sandals, over the railing. 

Later, after the beautiful western sunset had darkened the sky, and long after the other guests had stopped complaining, Beckham fell into a deep sleep on the patio lounge.

As Beckham dreamed, his dreams grew wrestles, European electro tech. His delusions had begun as a backdrop of warehouse music. He would truly miss his music one day soon.

The vocals were from an old playlist, his favorite, Sad Transmission. The song was by one of his favorite Indie Bands, the Raveonettes. The Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo had been thrumming over his body’s entire electromagnetic nervous system. Slowly, the beautiful sound, effortlessly, had taken over his being. Beckham gladly let go. 

Beckham’s mind had been turned into a radioactive Chernobyl Meltdown Farris Wheel, whirling away with his ability to reason in minuscule megabits. He’d felt as if he were his timeshares antenna. Beckham had slept until around seven AM the next morning.

Ding-dong–Beckham stumbled toward the bell at the room’s door. First, he’d covered himself with a nautical motif shower curtain. 

The peep-hole said It was the new lobby clerk, Robbie. He was acting as a special delivery courier. Beckham unlocked the door and let Robbie in.

“Robbie, right, that’s what your name tag read in the lobby when I arrived? Thanks for shooting up here in the elevator so quickly, by the way.” 

“Yes sir, Robert, ah, Sherman at your service, sir.”

Beckham wasn’t thinking. He’d grabbed Robbie’s clammy right hand and shook it. It flopped around in his palm, a damp fish dying on land. Robbie had placed his left hand deep in the mucky bottom of his left pocket.

“What say we book another week, Robbie Sherman? Howza bout it?”

“Sir, kind sir, terrific, I’ll make another bundle of invoices and text you a copy.” Robbie noticed that Mr. Beckham was drooling if only a little. 

“You can do that?” Beckham asked. He sort of knew he could. 

Robbie moved his thumb slowly, deliberately. He looked down on what Beckham had assumed was a nervous thumb on an iPhone keyboard. 

Beckham’s cell phone tinged against his loin. It felt like Phantom Limb Syndrome. When he’d arrived, Robbie had agreed to lock it in the lobby’s safe.

Beckham had said, “Let’s bury the fucking thing in the safe so deep I’ll be forced to get some real rest and be able to entertain myself!”

Robbie had agreed with a grin, “Good choice, sir, we’ve done that before.”

Beckham had winked.

There appeared a flashing yellow light on the room’s landline telephone messaging button. 

“Sir?” Robbie asked permission. Beckham nodded yes. Robbie held the phone next to Beckham’s blooming cauliflower ear. Beckham hadn’t wanted to let on that everything he lifted weighed as much as a rusty, sunken ship anchor. 

It was Robbie or someone who sounded a lot like Robbie. It was a message from the lobby, “Kind sir, as requested, I have sent you and an updated invoice straight to your iPhone for good keeping.”

“Ah, Robbie, I thought you were quick, but Jesus Kee-Kee-Christ?”

“Fast?” puzzled Robbie. Robbie bobbled his head, “Not really sir, is there anything else we can do to make you comfortable, bottled water, sir?”

Beckham wagged his head yes, but lied. He’d gotten so used to taking in his life. “Wait,” he’d said. Beckham struggled to the fridge. He snatched the bottle. And then Beckham slowly returned to engage Robbie at the other end of the room. 

Robbie observed Beckham’s shuffling as slow as blackstrap molasses off the side of a yam. 

“Robbie, take this complimentary bottled water. It’s making me hydrophobic just to look at it?”

Robbie cracked up. He moved his thumb over his iPhone again, texting the lower lobby, “Hold the complimentary water; please, Mr. Beckham is no longer thirsty, LMAO!”

Beckham had thought Robbie brilliant, his thumb an electronic bow over a Silicon Valley violin. 

“Will there be anything else, kind sir?” Robbie had politely inquired.

“No, hell and no,” Beckham slurred. “Oh, just the timeshare password. I intend to do some righteous online gaming.”

Robbie removed a pen from his pressed pant’s back pocket. He imagined himself a New York City Bell-Hop in the age of the Roaring Twenties. Everything had felt similar. He was in room twelve hundred at the Algonquin Hotel. Somehow, he watched himself from above as he scribbled the note. After, he’d placed the note on the room’s desktop. The message was intended for his famous guest, Ms. Greta Garbo. 

“There, sir,” Robbie said. Beckham thanked him for the code he’d placed on the desk. 

“How about we stop slipping the complimentary U.S. Today papers under the door each early morning, sir? It looks as though the newspapers are piling up?”

“Robbie, no, no, I may be vacationing…” Beckham paused, rubbed his lower lip. It had been bleeding again. He continued, “I may be vacationing, but just having them thatched there, in that damned pile makes me feel that I’m still tethered to reality if just a little.”

“I see Mr. Beckham, sir. We shall continue then.”

“Robbie?” asked Beckham, “aren’t you going to do your movie magic over the phone again?”

For the first time, Robbie looked dead serious. “Sir, kind sir, there are some things around here we do the old school way. Like you, kind sir, we need to hook ourselves to some sort of reality, even if it’s as simplistic as attaching a monofilament trout fishing line to a rusty hook.”

Beckham guffawed so violently, he gassed himself, blew a snot-bubble. He would have maintained his usual grin, except the left side of his face had been sagging. 

Robbie watched over Beckham. Robbie’s anatomy was as still as onyx marble. He perused over Beckham as David might have watched over Michelangelo.

Beckham composed himself and dragged his right foot along as he let Robbie out. He thanked Robbie kindly. With great effort, he poked a five-dollar bill in Robbie’s shirt pocket. Beckham had thought his effort worth a million bucks. 

Beckham chained the deadbolt shut, but methodically, so Robbie could sense how much he trusted him. Robbie walked casually down the long dark corridor and disappeared into the vault of an elevator. 

Another knock, the hallway had been emptied, the lights had dimmed.

As the sun heated the living room, Beckham found himself in the Mojave Desert. He’d thought it the holy land, not a river, a creek, or a dribble for the rest of his life.

Beckham searched his way into the bathroom. He opened the stainless steel medicine cabinet. His ham sandwich and a Fuji apple were missing. He slammed the cabinet doors. He hadn’t been hungry anyway.

Later that evening, the T.V. remote had broken. The God-damned garage door wouldn’t open. “Hell, it’s only three years old. I just changed the batteries two weeks ago, maybe three,” Beckham yelled at the big screen T.V. as if it had mule ears. 

It had to be three weeks. That’s when he and his neighbor Harry couldn’t turn on Dancing with the Stars for the longest time. 

Harry had gotten under his skin that night. Beckham having enough of his neighbor’s antics, had escorted the twentieth-century charmer to the front door. It was about 10:23 P.M.

Beckham was a flexible man and a chill sort of guy, but not after all that shadow dancing shit by Harry. And after, Harry had commenced calling himself Fred Astaire and meant it. 

Harry Clingman had been sent to the hospital shortly after Beckham had left for Lake Tahoe. Beckham had lied to his friend Harry that night. He’d said he was heading south, maybe L.A. By the time they’d attempted to reach Beckham, Beckham was an afterthought. But really, it hadn’t mattered. Beckham’s phone had been placed in solitary confinement in Robbie’s lobby iron vault. 

Sometime during the second week of Beckham’s short stay, he’d morphed into a newt. You know the slimy lizard types that live in creeks, behind rocks, and under the mosey bottom of lakes and rivers?

Thankfully there wasn’t much carpeting in Beckham’s unit. It made for easier wriggling. 

Beckham had seen and heard the coolest hallucinations. He’d turned paranoid as the result of the high fever. Those damned fish had been stocking him. 

His brand new manic reality had cost him most of his 401-K on South Lake Tahoe’s virtual slots and craps tables. Beckham’s laptop gaming appl had asked him for everything “Just pick a pretty color and turn, turn, turn that damned Russian Roulette Machine, Mr. Beckham?” 

On the last day of his intended short stay, Beckham’s strength had failed him. 

A final invoice had been slipped under the room’s door, along with another copy of USA Today. The newspaper pile had become a thatch of pitchforked paper alfalfa.

His painful progress was serpentine and exhausting as he wrangled toward the door. That day he used his belly ribs to crawl. He crawled to the horizontal crack of light under the door that had shown into his darkened room. To Beckham, the light represented life itself.

Beckham’s breathing had grown deep and laborious. His crape paper lungs had withered into an accordion that wheezed a dry melody. He listed, rolled on his back as if he were a shipwreck. He struggled to wrap his upper torso in newsprint to absorb his lake of sweat. 

Beckham’s paralysis had taken over after only a few wraps of newspaper. 

It had come toward him swiftly, his complete paralysis, as if a fast-moving locomotive off the slopes of the Heavenly Valley Ski Run, now a dry strip of broken granite. He’d been tied to the tracks. Whatever he’d caught, it was intent on running over his humanity. 

Buried deep in the mesh of his newspaper was an important article. The article was dark print, over a yellowing recycled paper backdrop, a story in itself.

USA Today–Sacramento Area Man Dies from inhaling rabies virus–Mr. Harry M. Clingman, a long-time resident of Placer County, has died from the rabies virus. Rabies lyssavirus, formerly Rabies virus (RABV), is a neurotropic virus that causes certain death if untreated. 

Placer County health authorities have asked anyone who has been in contact with Mr. Clingman to call (530) 889-7274 immediately. Several friends and family members exposed to Mr.Clingman have been given the first dose of the four required injections. 

A forensic autopsy has concluded that Mr. Clingman hadn’t been bit by any animal. However, of the six bat boxes removed from the family’s two-story cedar-shingled home. Two of the bats tested positive for the rabies virus and had to be destroyed. 

Years earlier, a Wyoming resident had awoken during the night, with a fluttering feeling on her neck. She flicked off the annoyance and discovered it was a bat. In horror, she elbowed her husband, who woke, captured the bat, and set it free outdoors. Three weeks later, the woman died. A pathologist could not find any bites or scratch marks during the autopsy has concluded that it is scientifically possible to contract rabies without a skin abrasion–The Centers for Disease and Control.

Beckham lay motionless. Fear and anxiety had nearly completed their running of all the red lights in the corrosive intersections of his synapse. He’d become a hebephrenic blob stuck in a block of concrete. His mind had been tortured into a Vitamix blender, unwittingly pureeing his thoughts into some sort of cilantro salad dressing.

Beckham suffered horrifically, the balance of the day and evening. He died the following early morning, about the time bats return to caves. 

           In the Lobby, Robbie listened to Beckham’s phone as it rattled and buzzed in the safe. To him, it was the phantom limb syndrome that Beckham’s ghost had been feeling.

           Robbie spoke kindly across the lobby’s white marbled counter, “Hello Ms. Harris, I’m Robbie. I intend to make your short visit a most wonderful stay.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Black Petals, Across the Margins, Bull, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books/Magazine, Door=Jar, Dream Noir, Entropy, Flash Bang Mystery, Gravel, Literary Heist, Mystery Tribune, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Overstock, Spelk, Variant, Visitant, Your Impossible Voice, The 5-2. Dan has also been nominated by Coffin Bell for the Best of the Net Anthology, 2021, and best micro-fiction by Tiny Molecules.

To find more about Dan’s work @cardozabig

Free Fiction Week: July 11 to 17, 2021

 

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present for your reading pleasure, an entire week of Free Fiction!

Enjoy seven different authors as they bring you tales of tomb raiders, dark assailants,  environmental carnage, strange visitors, rising from the dead, bloody war, and disease.

And be sure to encourage the writers by following links to their work and by leaving encouraging comments! And remember~ Stay Spooky!

 

 

Free Fiction : RELEASING ANGER by Alan Moskowitz

RELEASING ANGER~Written by Alan Moskowitz

Willem looked up with trepidation as the Father swept into the ornate office and took his place behind the worn oak desk, a tight smile on his weathered face.  Willem forced his body to remain still and upright in spite of the nervous energy flowing through him, urging him to leave, to run away.  To make matters worse the Elder ignored Willem as he fussed with the papers, notes and unopened envelopes strewn across the desk.  A bead of sweat rolled down Willem’s face, but he dared not raise his hand to it.

 “Wipe it,” the old man’s voice cracked.  Willem quickly brushed the offending drops away.  The Elder’s mouth twisted into what passed for a smile. “No call for nervousness Son, that is unless you’re not ready for this final meeting.”

Willem remained silent.  Father snapped, “You may talk.”

“I have studied the Book, Father.  I have prayed with the Flock.  I have fasted for a month.  I have stood vigils in the freezing cold, seeking donations, and I have raised many funds for the Holy See.”

“Yes, yes, I know all that. You would not be here otherwise.  Willem, are you still angry?  Do you still hate?  Is there still, after all your training and sacrifice, is there a part of you that hurts that drives you to self-harm?  Think on these things, use what you have learned from the teachings of our Lord, and answer me truly. ” He picked up an ornate letter opener and slit open one of the envelopes on his desk.  He unfolded the paper within and set to reading it, ignoring Willem in the process.

Willem’s lips moved in prayer as he sought that place inside of himself that knows his true self.   He had hated his parents.  Does he still?  They did their best, they said, in spite of his issues.  Their best consisted of locking him in a closet for behaving like a “demon child” as his mother put it; getting “the belt” across his back for a variety of transgressions from breaking a dish to wetting the bed to being a coward, a loser, and “a no-good waste of sperm.” His so-called normal siblings hopped on that bandwagon and teased and tortured him unmercifully until at sixteen, he ran away.  No one searched for him.

Pain, massive pain, mental and physical traveled with him into the streets, where his life only became worse.  He sought refuge in the alleyways and fetid tents of the homeless and useless, an outcast and a pariah.  First, he blamed himself.  But the continued abuse turned that self-loathing into seething anger, a burning hatred for his family and for all those who still spit on him, kicked him and laughed.  It was only a matter of time before he exploded. 

And one night a young woman walked slowly by his filthy hovel and glanced in at him; one more so-called human being dismissing him.  Not this time, he murmured.  He crept after her, bent on doing her harm, making her pay for his lifetime of hurt.  He came up behind her, hands reaching out to strangle her when she suddenly turned and met his red-rimmed gaze.   Her eyes told him that she knew his pain.  And then she smiled at him, pulled him to her, and told him he was wanted and loved.   

She brought him to the Flock and the Father.  He was nurtured with kindness and love and shown that he didn’t need to carry all that pain, hate, and misery.  That The Lord of us all would show him The Way to a better life, through kindness, forgiveness, and passing the word to others. And it was so.  After a year of study, love, and sacrifice and he was complete.

  The Father’s voice broke through his reverie, “Well, my son, as our Lord has said, ‘now or never.’ He chuckled, a thick deep raspy noise, with not a hint of humor.

Willem’s eyes opened wide and bright, the excitement of knowing he would be granted his place in Flock.   “I am ready to forgive all who have harmed me, Father.  I will do our Master’s work for the rest of my life and pray He will welcome me into his arms.” 

The old man stood, that crooked smile curling his lips as he held out his hand to the boy.  “Welcome Son, I see great deeds are to be done.” 

 Willem stood and gripped the Father’s leathery hand in his. “Thank you, Father.”

‘Now go, begin the work, we are eager for you to do the Flock proud.”  Willem bowed once, turned, and left the sacred office.

Willem stood for almost a minute just staring at the familiar door before he pressed the bell.  He twitched at hearing the familiar ring.   Part of him wished no one would answer, but he quashed that idea and stood fast, his duty clear.

The door opened and his mother stood before him, her mouth opened in shock, “Willem?  What is this?  What are you doing here?” 

“I forgive you, Mother.”

She scowled, “for what?”

“The Lord of us all forgives you too.”

“You went and joined a cult?  My God, you’re still an idiot.”

“Not your God, My Lord.  He has cleansed me, taken my pain, so I can forgive you.” 

“Isn’t that nice; tell your Lord I said thanks for nothing,” she muttered, the familiar sarcasm dripping from her mouth.

Willem brought the razor-sharp letter opener out from behind his back and drove it between the two upper left ribs as taught, twisting it as it reached into his mother’s heart.  His mother’s shocked look, fade with her life force as she dropped to the floor.   Willem pulled the opener free, stared down at his mother’s face contorted with pain and confusion.  “Our Lord forgives too, but He does not forget.”

He stepped over her body and went inside, wondering who else was home.


 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screen and TV writer living in Colorado enjoying creating genre fiction.

 

To find more of his work see: mosko13@aol.com

Nightmare Fuel: White Lady Lane In Walhalla, ND

Hello Addicts,

As you are all aware, you can find “lady in white” ghost stories anywhere and everywhere you look. This week, I thought I might share one from my current home state of North Dakota. In Walhalla, ND, there is a tale of a woman in a white flannel nightgown walking the dusty road long after her death. Join me on a trip down White Lady Lane.

white lady lane

Anna Story was a fifteen-year-old girl living with her mother and two brothers, aged 8 and 11, in a little shack by a railroad track near Leyden, ND. According to the official story, Anna drew the attention of Sam Kalil, a peddler of pots, pans, and other household items. Her mother, not keen on the older man’s affection for her daughter, managed to make a deal with him. She offered her daughter’s hand in marriage when she turned sixteen if he allowed her to take whatever she wanted from his wagon. Sam agreed and allowed her access to all his wagon carried.

When Sam returned a year later to claim his bride, Mrs. Story refused to honor her part of the bargain and showed him the door instead of her daughter. Angry at being denied his promised bride, Sam drew his gun and shot Anna in the chest. Mrs. Story was shot in the jaw as she attempted to protect her daughter. Anna’s brothers escaped through a window and ran for help. Sam, fully realizing the gravity of what he’d done, pointed the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, it failed to fire, so he resorted to using his pocket knife to try and slit his own throat. This attempt also failed as the blade was not sharp to cut deep into the flesh. He surrendered to authorities without a fight when they arrived.

Mrs. Story’s jaw was broken from the bullet and still had a dent after it healed. Sam Kalil was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in Bismarck State Prison. At the age of seventy-one, Sam was released from prison into the care of relatives in neighboring Minnesota after serving only ten years. Anna’s body lay dead and buried but perhaps not her spirit. Every Halloween, she is reported to walk through a muddy bog named Eddie’s Bridge in the same white nightgown she died in, searching for something she has yet to find.

Although the details of the murder reported in the newspapers of the time match this version of the story, it has not stopped other legends of Anna from being created. One has her becoming pregnant out of wedlock, forced to marry Sam, and then hanging herself when she lost the baby. Another has Sam taking advantage of her on the same road she now haunts.

I will admit, I have only recently been made aware of this tragic tale but am making plans on taking a drive down White Lady Lane one Halloween soon. I don’t know whether I’ll see Anna, but I hope to. If so, I’ll be sure to let you know so you might plan a trip of your own.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

Odds and Dead Ends :The Weeping Angels and the Terror of Temporal Displacement

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective point of view, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobby… timey-wimey… stuff…”’ –The Doctor, Doctor Who S3 E10, ‘Blink’.

After apparently coming across the statue of a weeping angel in a graveyard, and seeing it chained up, writer Steven Moffat went away and crafted one of modern Doctor Who’s greatest episodes, and established a threat which would bleed through from the show into popular culture. In the episode ‘Blink’, a race of aliens called The Weeping Angels have zapped the time-traveling Doctor back into the past. Communicating via a video tape recorded decades in the past, The Doctor enlists the help of Sally Sparrow, who must face down the Angels and return his time machine, the Tardis, to him. But with the Weeping Angels, when you’re looking at them, they’re a statue. And you can’t kill a statue. But they’re incredibly fast, and as soon as you look away… as soon as you even blink…

            The Weeping Angels have a range of terrifying points to them. Their speed, their appearance, and their ability to turn off lights by pointing at them makes them a walking jump-scare, and most episodes to feature them have used this jump-scare mechanism in some way. But one of their other points, their method of killing, is of particular note. As is said in the episode, they’re the ‘“only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely. No mess, no fuss, they just zap you into the past and let you live to death. Rest of your life used up and blown away in the blink of an eye.”’ This, in itself, is terrifying on a fundamental level to our traditional notion of experience, as I will now attempt to explain.

            Warning: some of this can get a bit abstract, but bear with me.

            As in the quote from the episode at the beginning of this article, people assume that time moves in a strict movement, everything in a nice, neatline. But this is, of course, simply something that humans have come up with in order to try and comprehend everything happening around us. As Kenneth Denigh notes in Three Concepts of Time, ‘Time is not ‘out there’ as a substantial thing like a river in flow; it is rather an abstract entity, a construction.’ (p.3). Essentially, there is no time; there’s just stuff that happens and we’ve come up with an idea called ‘time’ in order to make sense of it all, to string it together in an understandable pattern. Remember that the idea of everyone being in the same specific time zone (at least in Britain), was to enable the trains to run correctly; before that, everyone had a different time in different parts of the country. I’m assuming the same came in eventually for worldwide, for similar reasons.

            And when we do all this construction to our understanding of time, we also give it a direction, because as human beings we can understand directions. We understand the relationship between two different tangible objects, and so we liken the relationship between events in the same way. In his book Space and Place, Yi Fu Tuan discusses this by saying that for us, we normally conceptualise all this by bringing in the idea of ‘forward’. ‘The future is ahead and “up”. The past is behind and “below”’.

            What all this means, roughly speaking, is that people have ascribed arbitrary references to direction in order to understand everything. There is no ‘past’ realistically speaking, but we have come up with the concept of it, and discuss it as being ‘behind us’ to help us process it. When we think about something coming ‘up’, we have it to look ‘forward to’.

            All of this comes with extra baggage. Concepts of direction also come coupled with social and cultural understandings. Everyone wants to be at the ‘top’, because we’ve said that ‘top’ means best, whether that’s the top of the standings in a tournament, on the top floor of a company building, or coming out ‘on top’ of something difficult. The direction is arbitrary, as there is no ‘top’, but over the years social etiquette has come to associate ‘up’ with ‘good’. There’s a reason why the typical description of a hierarchical system has the most powerful at the top of the pyramid. Why do we ascribe Heaven as being ‘above us’, whether in the Christian belief system or in others, such as Olympus being on top of a mountain, ‘up’ in the clouds? And of course, the reverse is true as well. We can be ‘down in the gutters’, at the ‘bottom’ of the pile; Hell/Hades, etc are ‘below’ the ground. You can see how this goes on. I believe Noël Carroll touches on this in his book The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart, by relating cultural repulsion of excrement because it comes from, literally, ‘behind’ us, but it’s been a while since I read the book, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m getting mixed up with another author on that front. Still, I think the point remains. Behind is bad.

            So we, therefore, head into ‘Blink’ with an ingrained cultural understanding that the past, that behind where we are currently, is not as good as where we are, and even that is not as good as what will come, what we head ‘forwards’ towards. This is even in a show with time travel as the norm. And then we are presented with a terrifying monster in the shape of a traditional Christian angel (note the association with Heaven/Up/Forward), who, in the literal blinking of an eye, can send us back into the past. Not only that, these creatures feast on the energy we would have expended had we lived on in that time. Their whole power is their ability to disrupt our culturally ingrained, traditional notion of linear time, sending us into a worse temporal ‘behind’, without the chance to change it, and feast upon the ‘good’ which traditionally is associated with the ‘forward’ future.

            There’s no doubting that the Angels are terrifying even without the time-zapping part to them. Sharp teeth, claws extended, appearing from nowhere when we but blink; it’s the stuff of nightmares. But I think that this temporal dislocation might be one of their most terrifying features. That they exist to disrupt how we as people essentially view and understand reality, and use this as a method of sentencing us to a kind of death, is truly horrifying.

 

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Historian of Horror : You Had To Be Then

You Had to Be Then

The one Nashville science fiction convention in the second half of the 1970s I couldn’t attend was the 1977 Kublai Khan. None other than the redoubtable and controversial Harlan Ellison was the guest of honor that year. I had just started a job at Opryland, the theme park that is now a mall and a convention hotel and a testament to the excesses of modern American life. Instead of interacting with one of the great writers of the 20th Century, I spent that weekend washing and drying and dry-cleaning and pressing and hanging up the costumes for all the shows performed in the park. 

Oh, well.

Like most of my fellow fen in that deep and abyss of time that was my misspent youth, I had fairly strong opinions about Harlan Ellison. I loved his work and still do. I’d seen him on television several times, so I knew he had little inclination to couch his own opinions in tactful language. And he did have opinions, many of them. I tended to agree with most of them, so missing out on the chance to meet him and hear him speak was yet another one of those regrets I mentioned a couple of columns ago.

Oh, well.

I’d first encountered his writings in the late 1960s, back when he was one of the brash young things pushing science fiction to emerge from the genre ghetto it had existed in for so many decades and evolve into a real live literary form worthy of respect from academia and Hollywood alike as well as being one able to generate lots more money than was being paid to its practitioners in them thar days.

He was part of the New Wave that had started in England during Michael Moorcock’s tenure as editor of New Worlds magazine that was dedicated to taking speculative fiction (as Ellison called what he did rather than the stale old term ‘science fiction that the non-cognoscenti thought meant cheesy special effects and monster costumes with the zippers clearly visible in the back) in new directions.

It was real people doing real things; in space, in laboratories, even in bedrooms. Because real people, you know, have sex. And poop, so, yeah, let’s think about how a being from Alpha Centauri might arrange his bathroom. That’s part of it, although nowhere near all. But you kind of see what some of the ideas floating around were like in those days. Real people, or real BEMs (Bug-Eyed Monsters), doing what they will probably actually be doing in the future, explained in language that was more sophisticated and poetic than the simplistic pulpy sensationalism of days of yore. Or something like that.

It was the 60s. As the title of this piece points out, you had to be then.

In 1967, Ellison edited a ground-breaking anthology of New Wave stories called Dangerous Visions. He got more than thirty of his fellows in the field whom he had not managed to completely alienate to write the best stories of their lives, the ones they’d always wanted to write, but never felt would get bought by the publishers of that time. The tales that were too avant-garde, too controversial, too dirty for the fiction markets of the day. 

And so, they did, those thirty-plus legendary scriveners. And it was an era-defining success. Fritz Leiber, Jr. (whose novel Conjure Wife will receive some attention in a future column – stay tuned!) won both a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for his novelette, “Gonna Roll the Bones”, beating out Philip K. Dick’s “Faith of Our Fathers” for the Hugo. Philip Jose Farmer took the Hugo’s novella category for “Riders of the Purple Wage”, and Samuel R. Delany won the same award for his short story, “Aye, and Gomorrah…” That’s pretty much a sweep for a single anthology. Ellison was also honored at the 26th World SF Convention in Berkeley, California (of course) for his efforts. 

Now, those of you denizens of darkness out there who only know of Robert Bloch as having written the book Alfred Hitchcock based his most famous movie on might be surprised to learn that the author of Psycho also wrote science fiction. In fact, he won the 1959 short story Hugo Award for “That Hell-Bound Train”, so of course, he was invited to contribute to Dangerous Visions

And boy, did he deliver. He delivered so well that Ellison was inspired to write a sequel to “A Toy for Juliette” that he called with his typical carefully considered restraint “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World”. But it’s the Bloch tale that concerns us in this space, in this moment, as we’re thinking about time travel this week. 

Simply stated, in “A Toy for Juliette”, a man in the distant future has been fetching people from the past for his bored, jaded, spoiled rotten and thoroughly homicidal daughter to play with. One day, he decides she needs a real challenge, so the toy he brings to her is…

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

Oh, go ahead and look. You know you want to.

Jack the Ripper.

Yep. That Jack. 

The Ripper. The Whitechapel Horror. 

Hoo, boy.

Dismemberments ensue.

No wonder he was never caught, huh?

Is it science fiction? Well, yes.

Is it horror? Very much so. Did I happen to mention dismemberment?

Is it time travel? You bet. So, it fits with our theme, n’est pas?

If Ellison didn’t suspect Bloch might go that route, he probably ought to have. Bloch had already written one of the most important Jack tales of the 1940s, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”, which by 1967 had been adapted to both radio and television. Bloch was more than due to revisit his old friend anyhow, and Ellison gave him the perfect showcase for it.

According to its Amazon page, Dangerous Visions does appear to still be in print, if not available from your local second-hand bookstore, if there is such a thing near you. There was a follow-up anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions, which is available as an ebook from Amazon. I found no dead tree editions for sale except in the used book markets. It had forty-six stories from forty-six different writers. 

There was to be a third volume, The Last Dangerous Visions, but Ellison was never able to get it into print before he passed away in 2018. Some of the purported 150 stories he contracted for it by 1979 were eventually placed elsewhere. Some were withdrawn. In 2020, the executor of Ellison’s estate, Michael Straczynski, announced that he intended to go ahead with publication of whatever is left of Ellison’s original compilation. 

I worry, though, that there will turn out to be a consensus that the moment might have passed, that those visions are no longer particularly dangerous. That the tales Ellison gathered together over forty years ago are nowadays pretty much in the mainstream of the genre at best, dated at worst, and that despite all the efforts of the New Wave writers the genre they strove to bring legitimacy to is still called science fiction and still thought of by the illiterati as ‘that Buck Rogers stuff.

Oh, well. 

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

The more it changes, the more it stays the same. 

I haven’t provided my fellow horror addicts a lagniappe in a while. You know, that little something extra, like the thirteenth doughnut in a dozen that nobody gives out anymore, or the free lifetime tire rotations you get when you buy four new Michelins. It’s well past time you had une lagniappe, and I think I’ve got a doozy for you.

Way back in the early years of the millennium, I placed a cluster of short stories in several long-out-of-print anthologies published by Rage Machine Books. Rage Machine is an imprint run by a gentleman and a scholar by the name of G.W. Thomas. He has spent a couple of decades doing yeoman labours in the field of the history and study of the supernatural detective story, which was the focus of most my own work in those days, as well as of the Rage Machine anthologies in which the majority of my yarns appeared. G.W. also had an email thingie you could sign up for to receive daily “flashshots”, very short tales of one hundred words or less. I placed eight or nine ultra-short stories in that venue, one of which is right here:

God Bless Us, Every One

Thanks to Scrooge’s change of heart, Tiny Tim lived, and he grew strong. Forty-five years after the events of that memorable Christmas Eve, the man who had been Tiny Tim stood in a dingy, blood-spattered room in Whitechapel, hacking away at the corpse of Mary Kelly, muttering under his breath, “God bless us, every one… God bless us, every one… God bless us…”

Sixty-three words, not counting the title. Not the shortest one I did; a gruesome little piece called “Oops!” clocked in at a mere thirty-two words. I did try to expand “God Bless Us, Every One” into a longer yarn later on, but never could get it right. The concept cried out for a flash tale of sixty-three words, and no more.

Oh, well.

Anyhow, G.W.’s website and associated blog contain a wealth of information on some aspects of the history of our genre that I have not yet examined, and are well worth the time anyone interested in our shared cultural heritage might be inclined to invest in them. I commend them to you. They can be located here:

http://darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org/

Go thou and be enlightened, as well as entertained. It’s good stuff.

And so, until next time, fellow fiends…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Gypsy Mob : Episode 6 / Negotiation

Giletti sat in his study, his latest cigar smoldering in the ashtray. He watched the ribbons of smoke curling up to the ceiling, grinding his teeth in frustration. He was not accustomed to his directives meeting with resistance. Reaching for the cigar, he clamped his teeth around it, drawing smoke into his lungs and holding it there until little sparks burst in his vision and he let out the air in a puff of smoke. 

The door to his study swung open and his wife Lucia entered, bringing with her the scent of flowers. “Are they coming?”

“They better,” Giletti said, stubbing the cigar out and immediately lighting another. “If they don’ return wid de Gypsy leader, more heads will roll.”

At the other end of the mansion, brakes squeaked as the Giletti car pulled to a stop. Rocco and Brando got out of the front seats, opening the rear door for Ladez. Tony shoved him out, knocking him to the ground before hiking him to his feet. 

“Right dis way, gramps,” said Rocco, gesturing to the door with a bow. “The boss can’t wait to make your acquaintance.” 

Looking up into Tony’s blank and menacing face, Ladez swallowed the retort rising to his lips, looking at the silent infant still cradled in one of Tony’s huge hands. Since its skull had been compressed, the child had made no sound and scarcely moved. Fearful of provoking the giant further, Ladez said nothing and made for the mansion. Silently, Brando, Rocco and Tony fell into step on either side, flanking him. 

Ladez was furious and afraid but could not help admiring the opulence of the mansion as he was escorted through it. The wide-open spaces were filled with silence, broken only by the clacking of shoes and rustle of fabric as they made their way to Giletti’s study. The wall was heavy with paintings in ornate frames, sculptures stood on plinths in various corners and the soft light seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. At the end of a long hallway, a tall door stood open. Reaching it, Rocco rapped twice on it and pushed it open. 

The man sitting behind the giant desk was exactly what Ladez would expect a mob boss to look like. He was balding, heavy, immaculately dressed in a gray suit that would have bought an entire Ferris wheel. A fat cigar jutted from his stubby fingers, filling the room with a sweet-smelling smoke. The woman standing beside the man was tall and willowy, her dress hugging her curves just enough to accentuate them without showing them off. Her long dark hair fell below her shoulders and her eyes dripped disdain and hatred as they met his. The Don’s eyes were blank, but Ladez could see the wheels turning behind them. 

“I am Don Giletti,” the seated man said. “What do they call you, Gypsy?”

“Ladez Hammalka. I dere leader.” Ladez gestured to the infant in Tony’s arms. “That my youngest son.”

“How unfortunate for him,” Lucia sneered. Giletti gave her an amused glance. Ladez felt his face grow hot. 

“Why I here? Why you harm a child to get me here?”

“Because, you too have an innocent child ‘eld prisoner. Dis is to give you an idea of how it feels.” Giletti sucked on his cigar, blowing a large cloud of smoke in Ladez’s direction. “Return her to me and cease your trafficking operation. Dis is our territory.”

“Never,” snapped Ladez. “I not born with silver spoon in mouth; de girls will never go out of style and my family must eat.”

“Your family, yes,” Giletti said. “Quite a number to provide for. Nearly one hundred wretched souls, if what I hear is correct.” He looked at Lucia, who was drumming her nails on the desk. “In de interests of moving on wid our lives, I am prepared to offer you a generous sum in exchange for your cessation and departure.”

Lucia walked forward, pulling a check from her cleavage and forcing it into Ladez’s hand. He looked at it, registering the number of zeros before his pride crumpled it up and tossed it in her face. 

“You no buy us off like so many others,” Ladez said. “Our way is our way and has always been. We rely on our own since I led them, and we will always.”

Lucia gave him a look of contempt before returning to the desk. Giletti looked tired. “Dis is your final word?”

“Ya,” said Ladez, drawing himself up to his full height. 

Sighing, Giletti gestured. Tony stepped in front of Ladez and wrapped a hand around the child’s skull once again. Ladez started forward before being hit in the legs by what felt like an iron pipe. Falling to the ground, he looked up in time to see Tony’s long nails stab through the infant’s soft skull, drops of dark red blood dripping down the tiny body and pooling on the floor. The child made a soft sound, twitching its little arms, before lapsing back into stillness. .

Ladez felt hot tears dripping down his face as he watched, unable to move, unable to tear his gaze away. Lucia was breathing hard, licking her lips as Rocco and Brando laughed. Giletti was expressionless, watching Ladez’s face. 

“Is dis what you wanted? Do you feel you are doing right by your people by resisting me?”

Ladez struggled to speak as he watched his son’s life blood pooling on the tile. Finally, he managed to choke out, “You win. We go.”

Giletti’s face broke into a wide grin. “It’s too late for that, Gypsy.” He motioned to Rocco. Ladez was about to speak when the iron pipe smashed into his skull, sending him to the floor as darkness exploded over him. 

Lucia seized the pipe from Rocco and, raising it high, brought it down on Ladez’s skull again, and again. And again. Shrieking incoherently with laughter, she continued until the man’s head no longer resembled anything living. Coming back to herself, she dropped the pipe on his body, breathing heavily. 

“Get dis mess out of here before it stains de tile,” Giletti said, lighting a fresh cigar. “Oh, and Tony, get rid of dat fucking thing.” 

Nodding, the giant took what was once the youngest member of an ancient Gypsy bloodline into the grounds behind the mansion, where they kept the incinerator.