Dracula ~ Bram Stoker (The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult ~ Volume 1 (Sphere, 1974))

As I’ve said in previous posts, I started collecting these old horror paperbacks when I was a boy in the late 1970s. I was well aware of Dennis Wheatley at this time as I had his book ‘The Devil and All His Works’ on a semi-permanent loan from our local library (remember that wonderfully atmospheric Goya cover of the Devil in his guise as a Black Goat dancing in the middle of a witches’ Sabbath?). I also had several of Wheatley’s paperback novels as they were so plentiful at the jumble sales and junk shops I purchased my books from with my meagre pocket money.

Far more difficult to acquire at the time were the mysterious series of books under the title of Dennis Wheatley’s Library of the Occult, these were the ones that set my imagination racing. These were books I would only catch rare glimpses of, and I only managed to nab a few of them in my younger days, but they did always contain a list of other books in the series. All those wonderful titles and each with an introduction from Wheatley himself. I was convinced that if I managed to find and read the entire series I could indeed become a master of occult forces. However, knowing what I was like as a 10 year old, it was probably for the best that the whole series, and thus the mastery of Magick, eluded me.

Over the years I have continued to collect them and I thought it was about time I included the whole series of 45 books here in the Churchyard. One book at a time, of course.

As can be seen in the wonderful image below of the promotional pamphlet for the series, 400 books were in consideration for the ‘Library’ and it was intended to continue into the 1980s. Sadly, Wheatley passed away in 1977, so we have just the 45 books published between 1974 and 1976. Still a wonderful legacy though.

Many thanks to Charles Beck who runs the wonderful resource for all things Dennis Wheatley at www.denniswheatley.info for the loan of this image.

Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult

So, starting at Volume 1 in the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult, we have that classic of vampire literature, Dracula. Do I need to say that it’s by Bram Stoker?

There’s really not much that I can say about this novel that hasn’t been said a hundred times before, which is why I’m conveniently using it for the introduction post to the series.

What does strike me about this novel is that I can’t think of a novel prior to this one which is built around a small band of adventurers, each with their own particular skill set. This is something we’re very used to today, it’s a staple of films and tv series (just look at that other great work of vampire fiction ‘Buffy’), but was there anything similar before Dracula? Obviously we have individuals or pairings, like Holmes and Watson for instance, but were there any other small bands of disparate characters coming together to battle the forces of evil before Stoker? Obviously we have older tales such as those of Robin Hood or the Arthurian cycle but I’m struggling to think of any ‘modern’ novels. I’m sure there must have been, but none spring to mind at the moment.

So, here it is . . . Dracula. If you’re reading this blog and there is any chance that you haven’t read it, perhaps you think you already know the story as it’s so famous so why bother, then just read it. It certainly wasn’t the first vampire tale ever written, it’s perhaps not even the best vampire tale ever written, but it was undoubtedly the most influential vampire tale ever written and a splendid piece of Victorian Gothic to boot!


The Hell of Mirrors, 1965, Four Square (ed. Peter Haining)

After getting all new-fangled in my last post I thought I’d retreat back to my comfort zone again. We know we’re in a safe pair of hands with Peter Haining so let’s go with the young Mr. Haining’s second anthology The Hell of Mirrors (no, that’s not a misprint but more of that later).

Four Square books had some great cover designs and this one’s no exception. I particularly like that title bar, which was so good they printed it on the back cover too.

hell of mirrors

As Haining states in his brief introduction, this anthology contains stories covering two centuries and five countries.


The Werewolf – Frederick Marryat

Ligeia – Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe

Young Goodman Brown – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Schalken the Painter – J. S. Le Fanu

The Middle Toe of the Right Foot – Ambrose Bierce

The Damned Thing – Ambrose Bierce

The Squaw – Bram Stoker

Who Knows? – Guy de Maupassant

The Drowned Man – Guy de Maupassant

The Caterpillar – Edogawa Rampo

The Hell of Mirrors – Edogawa Rampo

The Knocking in the Castle – Henry Slesar

The Fanatic – Arthur Porges


Lets skim through the contents then. Among others, Haining  gives us a duo of de Maupassants, a brace of Bierces and a pair of Poes, but what we really want to be talking about here are the two tales from Edogawa Rampo.

Edogawa Rampo is the nom-de-plume of the Japanese author and translator, Tarō Hirai (1894-1965). He’s still not that well known in the West but he’s considered a master of the genre in his own country. Being a huge fan of Western horror and mystery fiction, particularly the works of Edgar Allan Poe, he took the decision to write under the name of Edogawa Rampo as a Japanese rendering of Poe’s name (…go on, say Edogawa Rampo in a Japanese accent and see how it sounds, you know you want to!).

Aside from his horror tales he also wrote Detective fiction, creating the first popular Japanese detective, Kogoro Akechi. Rampo was also a fan and translator of Arthur Conan Doyle and his detective is based upon Sherlock Holmes.

But we’re concentrating on his horror tales. They were first translated into English in the mid-1950s under a collection called, keeping to the Poe theme, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination. The two stories we have here are from that collection and I believe this is the first time Rampo was anthologised in the West. Interestingly, he died in 1965, the same year as this publication so whether it was something to do with publication rights opening up or not, I don’t know.

Rampo’s tales are among the creepiest and memorable I have read. There’s something quite wonderfully distasteful about them. Thematically, these works fall into the category which gained popularity in 1920’s Japan, ‘Ero guro nansensu’. This is another Japanese rendering of English words, Erotic Grotesque Nonsense. As you can imagine one of the main themes is sexual abnormality.

The first tale, The Caterpillar, concerns a military veteran invalided out of the army due to the severity of his injuries. He has lost both arms and both legs, his face is completely disfigured, he has no hearing and cannot speak. He is the caterpillar of the title. His wife looks after him in a lonely house in the grounds of her husband’s commanding officer’s mansion. No one visits and the unkempt gardens are overgrown and full of snakes and abandoned wells. The story deals with the wife’s loneliness, fantasies, guilt and mental decline. This story was banned in Japan in the run-up to WW2 as it was thought it to cast the Japanese military in a poor light.

The second tale, from which the anthology takes its title, is The Hell of Mirrors. Rampo seems to have somewhat of an obsession with lenses, mirrors and optics as they feature in many of his earlier stories. Let’s hope he was never quite as obsessed as the protagonist of this story whom we follow from childhood and witness as his insanity grows along with his obsession. His experiments become more and more outrageous; starting from the building of his first telescope which, of course, he uses to spy through his neighbour’s windows, we’re taken on a wild and psychedelic journey through his deviances which, of course, end in disaster.

Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate, Star, 1975 (ed. Christopher Lee and Michel Parry)

It’s easy to dismiss these celebrity linked anthologies as populist tat cashing in on a star turn to shift a few units, but it would be a shame to overlook them as this one’s a corker and worth the cover price just for Christopher Lee’s introduction alone.

Lee tells us that he (probably more than ably assisted by Michel Parry, a famed horror anthologist himself) chose the stories in this collection as they all have “…the personal appeal of reminding me of some aspect or another of my career as an actor.”

What follows in his introduction is the most brilliant series of name-drops you’re likely to read and best read with Lee’s sonorous tones in mind:

Take for instance, The Spider by Fritz Lieber, an author I had the pleasure of meeting in Hollywood.


…The Man with the Golden Gun in which I played Scaramanga. The creator of 007 was, of course, the late Ian Fleming and one of the stories which I have selected was written by Ian’s brother, Peter. Incidentally, it is not generally known that I was distantly related to both Ian and Peter, they were my step-cousins.


Curiously enough, I once actually met Conrad Veidt  when I was a young boy. Apparently he was a keen golfer (like me) and I was introduced to him on a golf-course back in 1938 or 1939.



christopher lee's x certificate



Introduction – Christopher Lee

The Spider – Fritz Leiber

I, The Vampire – Henry Kuttner

Talent – Robert Bloch

Amber Print – Basil Copper

The Gorgon – Clark Ashton Smith

The Kill – Peter Fleming

Blood Son – Richard Matheson

The Black Stone – Robert E. Howard

The Monster-Maker – W. C. Morrow

The Judge’s House – Bram Stoker


The Spider – Fritz Leiber

This story, which is possibly a comment against the juvenilisation of the genre, begins with a trio of people on a city street on a winter’s night. We do not know who they are, Leiber enigmatically refers to them as The Beautiful People. We have The Old Man with a hawk like face, grey hair and a black overcoat with an astrakhan collar; The Other Man with his collar pulled up, his brimmed hat pulled down, dark glasses, thick gloves and a strange accent; The Woman has a ‘slim queenliness’ in her black evening gown and velvet cloak.

Lee suggests in his introduction that these three are Dracula, The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein but I see no real evidence for this. They certainly represent the classic anti-heroes of horror fiction but I think Leiber is too classy a writer to sully his work, by specifying these characters he would risk reducing them to two dimensional clichés.

The reason these three are hanging about on a street corner is the unlikely named Gibby Monzer. Gibby is a cynic, a skeptic, a believer in science. He makes his money from producing comic strips mocking the characters from classic horror, portraying them as “louts, lugs, zanies, morons and stumblebums”. The Beautiful People have decided to pay Gibby a visit, or rather they decide to send an emissary, while he relaxes in his apartment.


I, The Vampire – Henry Kuttner

Kuttner was part of the Weird Tales set in the 30s and 40s and also involved with the “Lovecraft Circle”, along with his wife and fellow genre author C.L. Moore (with whom he co-wrote many stories under the shared pen-name of Lewis Padgett). Incredibly influential, he is cited as an inspiration to many later greats, including Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson (Matheson even dedicated I Am Legend to him).

Written in 1937, this is one of his earlier tales, the story of a Vampire in modern day Hollywood. It’s also an early example of what has become a staple of the genre, the ‘sympathetic’ vampire. Here, Kuttner takes the glitz and glamour of the film studios of 1930s Hollywood and deftly transforms them into the setting for a classic gothic tragedy.

“I went out on the porch and leaned against a pillar, sipping a cocktail and looking down at the lights of Hollywood. Hardy’s place was on the summit of a hill overlooking the film capital, near Falcon Lair, Valentino’s famous turreted castle. I shivered a little. Fog was sweeping in from Santa Monica, blotting out the lights to the west.”

Talent – Robert Bloch

Robert Bloch is probably best known as the author the novel Psycho, on which Hitchcock based the film of the same name. Another exceptionally prolific author writing countless novels, short stories and screenplays (many of the wonderful Amicus portmanteau films of the ‘60s and ‘70s were adapted by him from his own stories). This is a typically darkly humorous piece from Bloch written in a reportage style about a foundling child who discovers a talent for imitation after the orphanage decide to hold a weekly film night. It all starts innocently enough with a Marx brothers film, but as the child discovers more and more genre films the story takes a turn towards the sinister.

Amber Print – Basil Copper

There’s a hint of Richard Marsh’s Victorian series of classic short stories ‘Curios’ about Copper’s contribution, in that it concerns a pair of mildly eccentric bachelor collectors. But whereas Marsh’s duo collect a variety of esoteric antiquities, Copper’s pair of bachelors hold more select collections. Mr Carter and Mr Blenkinsop collect rare film reels. In this tale Mr. Blenkinsop acquires an exceptionally rare and previously unheard of print of Robert Weine’s legendary 1920 film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The pair’s initial excitement soon wears off when they discover that the protagonists of the film, Caligari and Cesare, do not necessarily seem content to stay on the screen. Copper writes this story with an obvious love for the film and makes for a fitting homage.

The Gorgon – Clark Ashton Smith

I was quite excited to read on the acknowledgements page that this story was from 1923 which would place it in Smith’s early poetic phase. However, it reads like a much later piece and, with a little research, I found that it’s actually from 1932, which makes much more sense. Smith was another, and arguably the most influential, member of the Lovecraft circle and, being written in that wonderfully typical verbose style, The Gorgon bears testament to this. Rather than being set in one of Smith’s ‘fantastic’ lands this tale unfolds in the foggy streets of contemporary London…well, mostly! Being a Clark Ashton Smith story we’re in a dreamlike, hallucinatory state where time and place have little meaning, words like ‘where’ and ‘when’ do not refer to the fundamental truths we’re used to, they tend to bend and morph into one another.

The Kill – Peter Fleming

This is an interesting one. I first encountered it in the first Pan Book of Horror Stories and I’ve never forgotten it. The introduction is well observed with a beautiful and cynically cold writing style (which, to give a more contemporary reference point, is reminiscent of Will Self’s style). It seems to be setting up a perfect short story which could be, to give another reference, quite Chekhovian in that it’s a theatrical, single scene, one act, two-hander. However, it devolves into a story within a story which one of the two characters narrates to the other and this secondary tale takes precedence. I can’t help feeling that Fleming missed a trick in not developing the initial setting to run alongside the secondary but he chose the linear method of introduction – narration – denouement, but he was a young writer at the beginning of his career at the time so perhaps we can forgive him that. It’s such a shame that Peter Fleming (older brother of Ian) was such an explorer and adventurer and dedicated most of his time to travel writing rather than developing his skills with fiction. Anyway, here’s the corker of opening scene-setter:

the kill fleming

Blood Son – Richard Matheson

In the introduction to this story Lee suggests Matheson is “…without any doubt, one of the greatest writers in this marvellous field of fantasy and the macabre and grotesque”. He’s right about that. Sadly, Matheson died last year but left behind him a legacy of novels, short stories and screenplays. In Blood Son, Matheson gives us a fresh twist on the vampire story (as he did with I am Legend, probably his most famous novel). It concerns a disturbed boy, Jules, who from birth had a vacuous stare and was silent. He didn’t speak until he was five years old when his first word was “death”. From that point Jules started to develop a large vocabulary, the young neologist enjoyed creating portmanteau words such as “…nightouch” and “…killove”. And at the age of twelve when Jules sees the film version of Dracula and subsequently reads the Stoker novel (again and again and again) he becomes obsessed with idea of becoming a vampire, much to the concern of everyone around him.

The Black Stone – Robert E. Howard

Being the author of the Conan series, among others, Robert E. Howard was better known as a progenitor of the Sword & Sorcery genre. For such a short life (he committed suicide at the age of thirty) he was remarkably prolific. He held a long time epistolary relationship with H.P. Lovecraft and is considered yet another member of the Lovecraft circle; this influence can be seen in The Black Stone, being a first person narration concerning an investigation into an ancient monolith which stands in a pine forest on a Hungarian mountainside and the Midsummer pagan rites witnessed there. Howard introduces us to a new tome of Yogsothery, Nameless Cults by Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt. He also alludes to a mad poet by the name of Justin Geoffrey.

The Monster Maker – W.C. Morrow

Morrow offers us a tale of a surgeon who has a sideline in assisting young men to end their lives. They visit him in his large, dilapidated and dismal house in an unfashionable part of town and, at their request, he dispatches them quickly, cleanly and quietly. Or does he? If he does then why does the surgeon’s wife wonder why he always insists on eating in his private room? And why does he take more food than any one man could possible eat?……….and they say torture porn is a modern invention!

The Judge’s House – Bram Stoker

This a much anthologised story, it’s Bram Stoker…of course it’s much anthologised! If it wasn’t this one then it would have been The Squaw or Dracula’s Guest. As you would expect, it’s a wonderfully atmospheric piece in that late Victorian / Edwardian dark gothic kind of a way. It concerns a young scholar who decides to get away from it all to study for his upcoming examinations. He rents a dishevelled Jacobean manor house which has stood empty and rat-infested since the last owner, an infamous judge known for the number of death-sentences he pronounced, died. As is so often the case in these tales of the supernatural, even the logical mind of a young and cynical scholar can easily be overwhelmed by dark forces, especially when the aforementioned scholar discovers that the bell rope in the living room was custom made for the judge from the rope his executioner used to hang his victims.