This be the verse: 14 ~ Nine Poems for a God – John Sibley

Today’s poem, or series of poems, comes from a book I picked up from a junk shop a few months back;  a collection of poems by John Sibley, called The Death of William Rufus. This was published in 1946 by the notorious small press, The Fortune Press.

The Fortune Press was founded in 1924 by Reginald Caton. It seems that Caton had no qualms about publishing copyrighted works through his own press, which led to Francis Meynell of Nonesuch Press calling Caton a “Thief and a pirate”.

Caton courted further controversy by using The Fortune Press to publish homoerotic fiction, which led to him being prosecuted on obscenity charges in 1934. After this he concentrated more on publishing poetry and went on to publish Dylan Thomas and Philip Larkin (in 1966 Larkin is said to have described Caton as “…a bum-hunting relic of the 1920s”).

As we can see from this series of poems, which contain some rather choice and fruity passages, Caton may have been continuing to publish works on his favoured theme by masking them in metaphors.

And if you would like to have your own poetry featured here in The Churchyard then feel free to get in touch. Details can be found . . . HERE.

 

john sibley poemsjohn sibley poemsjohn sibley poemsjohn sibley poemsjohn sibley poems

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 5

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 5)

Well, here we are. We’ve arrived at the last post of the Amicus Cravatalogue, wherein we’ve looked at every single cravat in the series of portmanteau horror films produced by Amicus in the 1960s and 1970s.

For those Johnny- come-latelies amongst you, here are some links to the earlier episodes:

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

PART 4

We’ve reached 1974 now and the final film in the series, the magnificent From Beyond the Grave. Sadly, 1974 was a grim year of political uncertainties in Britain. The first post-war recession hit, the three day week was introduced, there was an escalation of the Irish ‘Troubles’. There just didn’t seem to be any room for the humble yet extravagant fashion accessory in this world, the cravat was finally being sidelined.

Still, keep a stiff upper lip, on we go.

The linking story here is that of an antique shop called Temptations Limited run by who else but Peter Cushing (quite fitting that he should be the linking pyschopomp character in the first and last films of the series). People visit and procure certain objets d’art from the shop and once taken home these items hold a supernatural sway over their new owners. Interestingly, they up the morality tale odds in this final film as those with good intentions fare better than those with bad.

The first tale has a cravatted David Warner purchasing a mirror for his swanky apartment:

david warner 2

Whilst hosting a party his guests suggest holding that most ’70s of party pass-times, a seance. We just know this isn’t going to end well, don’t we? And indeed it doesn’t, after the seance a mysterious figure materialises to Warner in the mirror and begins to take control of him with murderous intent – the bizarre form of Marcel Steiner in 19th century attire, complete with a black silk cravat:

marcel steiner 2

The second tale concerns a frustrated middle-management chap (Ian Bannen) with a complete lack of control over his life who poses as a war hero to a down-at-heels ex-soldier scratching a living as a match seller (Donald Pleasence). No cravats here I’m afraid, but it does boast a wonderfully pyschotic performance from Donald’s real-life daughter, Angela Pleasence. The film is worth the entrance fee to experience Ms. Pleasance’s singing alone.

The third story gives us Ian Carmichael unwittingly taking an elemental spirit home with him after purchasing a silver snuff box. I know what you’re all thinking…”Ian Carmichael, surely he’ll be wearing a cravat?”…but, alas, no. He’s merely a sensibly dressed businessman in a suit and tie in this one.

In the final story Ian Ogilvy purchases an elaborately carved wooden door which he thinks will look splendid on his stationery cupboard. Unfortunately, Ogilvy is unaware that the door once belonged to a  17th century occultist (played by Jack Watson), which gives us the only glimpse in the Amicus series of an early lace cravat, as was the style in the Restoration period:

jack watson

In between the stories Cushing’s antique shop is being cased by an open-collared ruffian with felonious intent. But what of Cushing himself? Unfortunately no cravat, he opts for a bow tie and scarf combination in this one. But it’s Peter Cushing, he still cuts a dash whatever his choice of neckwear. I leave you with the final scene of the final film in the cravat rich series of Amicus portmanteau horror films:

peter cushing

 . . . A f t e r w o r d

Of course, although Amicus were arguably most famous for their portmanteau horror films they made other films, and not just horror, before, during and after the series.

I feel I should give a very brief mention to their two post-portmanteau horror films here.

The first is Madhouse which features the splendid pairing of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, both renowned gentlemen of the cravat, although only Cushing can be seen in one here:

peter cushing

And the other, released in the same year, was The Beast Must Die. This was the funkiest werewolf tale ever told with its Shaft style electric wah-wah guitar soundtrack. Truth be told, I watched it again recently fully expecting there to be a glut of cravats but unfortunately it’s all flouncy shirts unbuttoned to the navel and hairy chests. The only cravat we get is one sneaked onto set by Peter Cushing (…of course), and then we only see the briefest glimpse of it peeping out from the neck of his extravagantly patterned pullover:

peter cushing

And that’s the end of our sojourn into the the world of horror portmanteau cravats. Let us put Amicus to bed now, tuck it up in its ’70s candlewick bedspread and say ” Goodnight, sleep well……..if you can!

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 4

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 4)

Ok, so we’re at the penultimate film in the series of portmanteau horror films produced by Amicus in the 1960s and 1970s.

If you’ve missed the others they can be found at these links:

PART 1 (Dr Terror’s House of Horrors & Torture Garden)

PART 2 (The House That Dripped Blood)

PART 3 (Asylum & Tales From the Crypt)

We all thought that the fashion for the cravat was sliding into a decline in Part 3, didn’t we? There were slim pickings indeed in Asylum and Tales From The Crypt, but let’s move on from the bleakness of 1972 and into the bright future of 1973, let’s move into The Vault of Horror!

The framing story here involves a group of strangers who find that the lift they are all in unexpectedly takes them down to a sub-basement. This sub-basement is done up to the nines with a plush, gentlemen’s club decor and a table for five set with brandy and soda. Of course, this being an Amicus film, the five strangers sit down and tell each other their recurring nightmares.

In the first story Daniel Massey hires a private detective to track down his sister for him. Now then, something quite portentous happens here. The detective shows up at Massey’s apartment, a big bearded chap in a leather jacket, possibly a bit of a thug, but he’s wearing a delicate peach coloured chiffon cravat with silver edging.

Here he is:

unknown private detective 2

Daniel Massey has nefarious deeds afoot so he decides to kill the detective. This is where it gets interesting for the cravat-conscious, Massey in an open necked shirt strangles the cravat wearing detective with a necktie.

unknown private detective

unknown private detective 3

As we’re nearing the end of the heyday of the cravat, it’s all rather prophetic. Open necked shirt, tie and cravat all in a battle to the death like a perverse game of stone, paper, scissors. No? Perhaps it’s just me then.

*ahem* …anyway, in this tale we also have Roy Evans in a sort of cravat, although he may just be sneaking off with someone’s pillowcase:

roy evans

On with tale number two, Terry Thomas is the star so of course there’s going to be cravats. Here he plays an obsessively tidy husband whose wife doesn’t meet up to his demanding expectations. Terry Thomas often wears cravats in his films, doesn’t he? Exactly the sort you would expect to wear one? Sadly though, he never really suited the damn things. Why he couldn’t pull it off, I don’t know. Demeanor? Neck proportions?  Who knows? But, as much as I love him, Terry Thomas wears a cravat with all the elegance of a neck-brace.

terry thomas 3

terry thomas 2

Note also, the silver edging on that green cravat. I wonder if he’s been shopping in the same place as Daniel Massey’s detective?

The third story gives us the great Curd Jürgens as a stage magician looking for new tricks in India. Curd looks every bit the 1970’s westerner on his travels in the Orient with the standard uniform of linen suit and cravat. A classic look.

curt jurgens 1

Tale number four, a story of fraudulent deaths and exhumations, would be cravat free if it wasn’t for the appearance of Arthur Mullard, of all people, as a surly gravedigger.

arthur mullard

Which brings us to the final segment of this film, a tale of high art, voodoo and Tom Baker. There’s not a great deal of cravat action in this one. We get an extremely brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, view of Maurice Kauffman doing his best to copy Curd Jürgens styling of linen suit and cravat combo.

maurice kaufmann

And we have John Witty with his nasty encounter with a guillotine (one should never wear loose fitting neck attire when operating dangerous machinery).

john witty 2

I know it goes against the grain a little and we don’t usually talk about the cravat’s anorexic cousin, the necktie, but a special mention and possibly even a round of applause should really go to Tom Baker’s tie in this one. Just look at it and take in its breathtaking magnificence! I don’t think even the great man himself can quite believe it.

tom baker tie

And that bring us to the end of another post. We’re nearing the finale now, just one more Amicus portmanteau film to go. See you next time From Beyond The Grave.

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 3

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 3)

And so we arrive at the third part of our little odyssey. Remember when we first started back in the 1960s with Dr Terror and the Torture Garden? That was fun, wasn’t it? Picking out those few cravats amongst the more fashionable skinny ties?

No? Ok, here it is:

PART 1

And then we went onto the second part with 1971 and The House That Dripped Blood and the extravagance of cravats that we encountered there:

PART 2

Well, to be honest it gets a little embarrassing here. We’ve reached 1972 and it’s the turn of the film Asylum. I think they must have blown the cravat budget on The House That Dripped Blood because they’re very thin on the ground in this Asylum. We’ve entered the age of the kipper tie and not even Peter Cushing can save us now, here he is in a rather plain navy broad-bladed necktie:

peter cushing

In fact, there is only a single cravat in the entire film, worn by Richard Todd:

richard todd

And that’s if for Asylum. A single cravat! It’s madness, I tell you. Madness!

In the same year Amicus gave us Tales From The Crypt and it must have been due to the great cravat drought of 1972 or something because, again, they’ve virtually disappeared.

Just look at all the stars in their utilitarian neckwear looking like butter wouldn’t melt:

tales from the crypt

Even Peter Cushing has been reduced to the status of a kindly binman with a bare collar (…all joking aside though, it’s a sterling performance from Cushing in this one):

peter cushing

At one point, he does seem to remember past glories with a napkin tucked into his collar, but it’s really not the same:

peter cushing 2

But then, just when you think it’s all over, we get close to the end of the final segment and, you have to be quick to catch it, but we get two cravats in a single scene. Nigel Patrick in the foreground wearing a rather limp affair, not much better than Cushing’s napkin, and the old blind chap right at the back.

nigel patrick

Well, I’m afraid that’s it for 1972. All I can do is offer my sincere apologies for today’s rather bleak installment. Join me next time for the final two films in the series and a promise of a more substantial cravat count.

This be the verse: 13 ~ A Carcass – Charles Baudelaire

We couldn’t have a series of poems from the darker side of the spectrum without this particular poet, could we?

Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you the Don of Decadence; the Grand-Père of the Grotesque; the Sire of Splenetics. Yes, it’s Monsieur Fleur du Mal, himself ~ Charles Baudelaire!

And if you would like to have your own poetry featured here in The Churchyard then feel free to get in touch. Details can be found . . . HERE.

 

13-carcass-baudelaire

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 2

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 2)

If you’ve accidentally stumbled across part 2 of the series then please go to the back of the class and study part 1. It can be found here:

PART 1

So then, as you can see, we dealt with the 1960s in the first post. This brings us slap bang into the cravat revival period of 1971.

3 ~ The House That Dripped Blood

Unlike the other Amicus portmanteau films, there is no central villain of the piece. The four tales revolve around the various inhabitants of a lodge house which is up for rent by A.J. Stoker & Co. (we don’t have to think too hard for that allusion).

As you will see, the cravats fly free in this film!

In the first segment, Denholm Elliott takes up residence as horror author Charles Hillyer. As he spends all of his time in the house he can afford to take it easy and dress in a casual manner. And nothing says lounging at home like a cravat:

denholm elliott

The second segment is a joy for the cravatier. It stars that unabashed cravatophile, Peter Cushing. No one carries off a cravat like Cushing! And no old knot will do for his characteristic silk, he threads his through a gold ring to hold it in place.

Here’s Peter wistfully flicking through old photographs of his lost love, in his cravat:

peter cushing 1

peter cushing 2

And here he is looking thoughtfully out across a river:

peter cushing 3

And browsing the antique shops in a small Surrey market town:

peter cushing 4

peter cushing 6

And, of course, Peter is very happy to welcome other cravat wearing guests to his house. Look! Here comes Josh Ackland with a less formal styling:

peter cushing and joss ackland

But imagine the embarrassment of entering the Waxwork Museum in the small Surrey market town to find the proprietor (Wolfe Morris) emulating your style of cravat fastening!

wolfe morris

This would be enough to give any chap a fit of pique.

peter cushing 9

Now then, I think I can say the following sentence without any fear of contradiction. This film stands alone in featuring a fight to the death between two middle aged chaps, wearing cravats secured with a ring, in a Waxworks Museum, with medieval weaponry, in a small Surrey market town:

Capture

As this segment closes, another unsuspecting visitor arrives at the Waxwork Museum…and the proprietor covets his cravat:

unknown

In the third segment, Christopher Lee rather lets the side down. We don’t often see Lee in a cravat at the best of times and in this film he’s playing a widower, so a sombre black tie is his neckwear of choice:

christopher lee

But Jon Pertwee more than makes up for previous cravatlessness with his turn in the final segment. Interestingly, this part was supposed to have been played by Vincent Price, but he was tied into a contract with another studio so we have Jon Pertwee instead. Sort of a Vincent Price light. Still, Say what you like about Pertwee, he can certainly pull off a cravat, especially when accompanied by  Ingrid Pitt:

jon pertwee

jon pertwee 2

Even when out cloak shopping on a foggy night:

jon pertwee 4

And, of course, who else would sell him a cloak? Why, it’s a cravatted Geoffrey Bayldon, later to play The Crowman against Pertwee’s Gummidge:

geoffrey bayldon

Even the supporting actors in this segment don’t miss out on the cravat wearing.

Bernard Hopkins in a fetching orange and green number:

bernard hopkins

And even a young Jonathan Lynn gives it a go:

jonathan lynn

And that’s it for this time, cravatiers. The House That Dripped Blood must be in the running for the most cravat saturated film of all time (not counting those period pieces set pre-20th century, that’d be cheating).

Join me next time as we continue our journey further into the 1970s with a visit to the Asylum!

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 1

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 1)

For the uninitiated, Amicus was a British film production company which began life in 1962 and ended in 1977. Those fifteen short years took in the best parts of the ’60s & ’70s.

The company was run by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg and, being inspired by the 1945 Ealing horror film Dead of Night, they produced several of their own films in the same style. It was these ‘portmanteau’ films that they became most famous for.

What interests us here though, apart from how utterly brilliant the films are, is the preponderance of cravats we see through the seven films. Ok, their appearances start off slowly but they build to quite the crescendo in the early ’70s…as we shall see.

This is Part 1, in which we shall examine the first two films.

1 ~ Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

We’re in 1965, the era of the sharp Italian suit and the slim tie, as can be seen by this photograph of the main characters in the train carriage in which the linking story takes place. Note Roy Castle as the fashionable young jazz trumpeter, there’s a man with no interest in a cravat:

group

However, we do still have the occasional glimpse of a cravat.

Peter Cushing for example, as the eponymous villain of the piece, dons a very Baudelairian cravat in black silk (…what else would you really expect someone called Dr. Schreck to wear?)

peter cushing baudelarian

We then have a bit part cravat on Peter Madden as a rather surly manservant. Quite a drab affair befitting a man of his status. I think we’re seeing a theme here, that the cravat is befitting of the lower classes and the untoward; not the neckwear of a hero.

peter madden 2

And finally for this film, we do have one of the heroes briefly attempt a cravat. But only briefly, and safely tucked away in a darkened room. But we applaud Alan Freeman for his bravery (though the bespectacled chap doesn’t seem too impressed).

alan freeman

2 ~ Torture Garden

Next, we spring forward to 1967 for Amicus Productions second film in the series. Again, we have rather scant pickings here and, again, it’s the villain of the piece with the cravat. This time it’s Burgess Meredith as another doctor (though I’m not sure either of them were medically trained), Dr. Diabolo.

Dr. Diabolo is a seedy little sideshow owner and it’s in his Torture Garden where the stories take place. Seedy he may be but he does offer us two different cravats:

burgess meredith 1

burgess meredith 2

And that’s about it for cravats in this one, except for the last story in which the wonderful Peter Cushing more than makes up for it as this dapper collector of all things Edgar Allan Poe:

peter cushing

Tune in next time, cravatiers, to see Amicus really go to town with their neckwear.

This be the verse: 12 ~ Summer of ’76 – John C. Nash

One of my own today; this was previously published in DANSE MACABRE and an anthology called CORPSE ROADS.

This one has a rather peculiar and somewhat disturbing back-story. In the summer of ’76 I was seven years old. A girl lived a few streets away from me, her name was Susan Giles, I didn’t really know her as she was two or three years older than me and lived in the slightly posher houses which bordered our council estate. Obviously, being very young at the time, the actual events are just on the edge of my memory and a little sketchy as the event unfolded to me from the overheard conversations of adults and the chattering gossip of the other children in the area.

But, the basic facts are that Susan Giles was walking to a friend’s fancy-dress birthday party dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. She never arrived at the party as a man named Michael Ireland dragged her into one of the garages that lined a nearby alleyway. When Susan Giles’ body was found in the garage she had been abused, she had bite marks on her body and an attempt had been made to set her on fire.

Obviously this had a profound effect me at that age, being the first time that I can remember the monsters crawling out from the pages of the books.

And if you would like to have your own poetry featured here in The Churchyard then feel free to get in touch. Details can be found . . . HERE.

john c nash, poem, summer of 76

 

This be the verse: 11 ~ Helen Ivory

There are a handful of books on my poetry shelves which I often pick out and browse through. These tend to be ones that inspire me, ones that seem to tap into differing sides of my own personal mythology; these include Simic’s translations of Vasko Popa; John Burnside; Billy Chyldish; and Helen Ivory.

So, today I’m delighted to include two poems from Helen Ivory’s 2010 collection, The Breakfast Machine. What appeals to me most about this collection is how Ivory twists the world a fraction of a degree so that we look at it with a skewed perspective; it’s reminiscent of Czech Surrealism where the folkloric becomes everyday and the inanimate becomes animate.

You can read more about Helen Ivory at her own website HERE

If you enjoy these two poems and want to read more then you can purchase the whole collection at BLOODAXE BOOKS

And if you would like to have your own poetry featured here in The Churchyard then feel free to get in touch. Details can be found . . . HERE.

Helen Ivory, Poem, Staircase Game, Breakfast MachineHelen Ivory, Poem, Unbidden, Breakfast Machine

Carnacki the Ghost-Finder ~ William Hope Hodgson (The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult ~ Volume 5 (Sphere, 1974))

And so we’re onto number five of the Dennis Wheatley Library of The Occult series, William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost-Finder.

william hope hodgson, carnacki the ghost finder

If anyone had asked me, not that anyone ever has, if I liked the Carnacki tales I would most definitely have replied in the affirmative. I picked up one of the Sphere copies with a Terry Oakes illustration when I was in my early-teens and very much enjoyed it. Now, thirty five years or so later, I’ve re-read it for the purposes of this blog and, I have to say, I’m really not as enamoured with it as I expected.william hope hodgson, carnacki the ghost finder

I love the idea of the enigmatic occult detective as much as the next weirdo person; if you’re reading this blog then you probably have an interest in old horror fiction so you’ve probably, at some point in your impressionable youth, harboured a secret fantasy about being an occult detective ~ whether it’s Blackwood’s mystical cipher, John Silence; Quinn’s  Jules de Grandin; Wellman’s Appallachian folklorist, Silver John; Crowley’s slightly creepy Simon Iff; Moore’s/Delano’s more modern take, John Constantine; or any of the myriad of others who inhabit the genre; we all have a favourite.

Hodgson wrote nine Carnacki tales, all of which are included in this collection. They have a somewhat formulaic approach to them; each having the rather basic framing device of the Edwardian gent, Carnacki, inviting his four friends to his London address at 472 Cheyne Walk so that he can regale them with the story of his latest adventure. The four friends are Dodgson (!), Arkright, Jessop and Taylor. We know nothing of these four guests as Carnacki refuses to engage in any conversation other than the telling of the story at hand. And this is where the main problem lies with these tales, the refusal of any conversation means that we get no sense of characterisation from the four visitors which renders them superfluous; they only exist as a clumsy ‘in’ to the story. Once in a while they do get to speak, but only as a Q&A session at the conclusion so that Carnacki can explain the things that Hodgson missed out of the story.

Lovecraft included Hodgson in his essay ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’ and infers that, although Hodgson’s imagining of unknown horrors cannot be faulted, his prose style often lets him down. And I cannot help but agree with this.

But, for all its faults, the Carnacki collection does have a few points of interest.

Amongst a handful of other fictional works mentioned, we have an early example of a fictional grimoire in the Sigsand Manuscript. Carnacki constantly refers to this 14th century work in his investigations and we have various excerpts included. Here’s a complete run of those excerpts:

On the marking of the Pentagram:

“Thee mounts wych are thee Five Hills of safetie. To lack is to gyve pow’r to thee daemon; and surlie to fayvor the Evill Thynge.”

“Theyre must noe light come from within the barryier.”

“Thyr be noe sayfetie to be gained bye gayrds of holieness when the monyster hath pow’r to speak throe woode and stoene.”

This type of being can:

“forme wythine the pentycle,”

Although the unknown last line of the Saaamaaa Ritual will protect for no  more than:

“maybe five beats of the harte.”

 

A still-born child is:

“snayched bacyk bye thee Haggs.”

 

On the use of colour in psychic defense:

“Avoid diversities of colour; nor stand ye within the barrier of the colour lights; for in colour hath Satan a delight. Nor can he abide in the Deep if ye adventure against him armed with red purple. So be warned. Neither forget that in blue, which is God’s colour in the Heavens. ye have safety.”

 

“In blood there is the Voice which calleth through all space. Ye Monsters in ye Deep hear, and hearing, they lust. Likewise hath it a greater power to reclaim backward ye soul that doth wander foolish adrift from ye body in which it doth have natural abiding. But woe unto him that doth spill ye blood in ye deadly hour; for there will be surely Monsters that shall hear ye blood cry.”

 

“Ye Hogg which ye almighty alone hath power upon. If in sleep or in ye hour of danger ye hear the voice of ye Hogg, cease ye to meddle. For ye Hogg doth be of ye outer Monstrous Ones, nor shall any human come nigh him nor continue meddling when ye hear his voice, for in ye earlier life upon the world did the Hogge have power, and shall again in ye end. And in that ye Hogge had once a power upon ye earth, so doth he crave sore to come again. And dreadful shall be ye harm to ye soul if ye continue to meddle, and let ye beast come nigh. And I say unto all, if ye have brought this dire danger upon ye, have memory of ye cross, for all sign hath ye Hogge a horror.”

 

We can recognise amongst this cod Middle English text several similarities to the Lovecraftian mythos with its references to ancient and malignant beings just a hair’s breadth away from our own world. We could be forgiven for thinking that Lovecraft was indeed influenced by Hodgson’s work, but it seems that he did not discover his work until quite late on in his own career. As Lovecraft put it himself:

“Few can equal him (Hodgson) in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities . . .”

 

Continuing into Hodgson’s Carnacki mythos, the Sigsand Manuscript also describes beings known as Saiitii and, what appears to be a lesser form, Aeiirii; no other information is given about these beings other than the names and the fact that they can manifest in our world. These, along with the protective ritual Carnacki usually employs, the Saaamaaa Ritual, may seem familiar to readers of Dennis Wheatley.

We know that Wheatley was a huge fan of Hodgson’s work and he owned a complete set of the author’s first editions. As he states in his introduction to this volume, he intended to include all of Hodgson’s novels and short story collections in the Library of The Occult series. However, as the series only ran to forty five volumes, we only have two of Hodgson’s; this Carnacki collection and his 1909 novel, The Ghost Pirates.

Wheatley also payed homage to Hodgson in his novel The Devil Rides Out. We all know the famous scene where de Richleau and his companions have protected themselves from psychic attack within the chalked Pentagram and the demonic presences manifest around them. Here is a line from Wheatley:

“De Richleau knew that it was a Saiitii manifestation of the most powerful and dangerous kind.”

. . . and from Hodgson:

“Yes, unless it should prove to be one of the cases of the more terrible Saiitii Manifestations, we were almost certain of safety, so long as we kept to our order within the Pentacle.”

There are many articles on the internet which state that Wheatley has de Richleau use Hodgson’s Saamaaa ritual during this scene in The Devil Rides Out. However, this is not the case (and the perils of copy and paste essay writing!). Although obviously influenced by Hodgson, Wheatley changes the name slightly and has de Richleau use the Sussamma Ritual. Here’s Wheatley:

“The Duke used his final resources, and did a thing which shall never be done except in the direst emergency when the soul is in peril of destruction. In a clear sharp voice he pronounced the last two lines of the dread Sussamma Ritual.”

. . . and Hodgson:

“There is, of course, the possibility of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual being uttered but it is too uncertain to count upon and the danger is too hideous and even then it has no power to protect for more than “maybe five beats of the harte” as the Sigsand has it.”

~

So there we have it, William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki stories; a series of formulaic tales with a writing style which can be described, at best, as adequate; zero characterisation; plots that gnaw away at the ropes which suspend your disbelief; and a mild obsession for equating esotericism with an over-use of vowels.

Having said that, the Carnacki tales have proved to be massively influential . . . somehow.

If you haven’t read them yet then should you read them?

Of course you should! They are a hugely important part of 20th Century occult fiction.