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.



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:


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:


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


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 Werewolf of Paris ~ Guy Endore (The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult ~ Volume 2 (Sphere, 1974))

So, Dennis Wheatley gave us Dracula as his opening gambit for the series; a bold move starting off with the most famous Vampire novel of all time. How could he follow that for the second book in his Library of the Occult, you may ask? By giving us the most famous Werewolf novel of all time, that’s how.

Endore’s 1933 novel is a fascinating thing; part Gothic romance; part horror; part historical fiction; it successfully intertwines factual events and people with the fictional protagonists to give us a bleak metaphorical discourse on the nature of humanity.

As you can see from the back cover blurb, this is being sold as a rather tawdry affair. It was very loosely adapted to film twice, by Hammer in 1961 and by Tyburn in 1975, both times being given the standard ‘creature feature’ treatment, which is a shame as this novel really is a long way from that.

The Werewolf of Paris, Guy Endore

Like all good Gothic novels Endore begins with a framing device to set the stage; this takes the form of a young American man living in contemporary Paris while diligently working towards his Ph.D. This unnamed young man is visited by Eliane, a friend from America, who convinces him to take her on a debauched tour of the Parisian nightlife. Here the central theme of duality which runs through the novel is introduced, he is reading Lucretius’ Epicurean text ‘De Rerum Natura’, she is reading the 1920’s sensational flapper novel ‘Flaming Youth’. He is sobre and serious, she is wild and intoxicated. He is guided by rationality, she is guided by instinct. He is decidedly human, she is rather wolfish.

It’s during this brief introductory chapter that our narrator discovers an old manuscript in a pile of litter. The manuscript turns out to be a report, written by Aymar Galliez, in defense of one Sergeant Bertrand Galliez for a court-martial dated 1871. Fascinated by this text, our narrator forms the body of our novel from his fleshed out investigations into the case.

The opening sequence of the main body of the novel gives us two castles, one on either side of a river, the great families of which are at constant war with each other. Now, there’s an image for the constant theme of duality. It’s about the battle between science and superstition, cruelty and kindness, savagery and civilisation, the rich and the poor. It’s to this violent world that is born Bertrand, the bastard son of an innocent 14 year old serving girl and the brutal priest who raped her during a thunderstorm. Of course, Endore has young Bertrand as the linch-pin of the novel; a character which, being both man and wolf, exists in a constant liminal state between these extremes.

We follow Bertrand and his adoptive uncle, Aymar, through that mid-19th century period of massive Gallic political turmoil. Beginning with Aymar’s injury in the brief 1848 revolution, through the Franco-Prussian war to the rise and fall of the Paris Commune, culminating in the terrors of the Bloody Week.

This is a true horror novel, in all senses. Endore appears to know his subjects well; the atrocities we become witness to during the battles for Paris, the battles between the new and old orders, are truly horrific and horrifically true. The wholesale slaughter, the executions, the paranoia led proletariat, the baying mobs, neighbours turning against neighbours, the wealthy corruptibles using the situation to their own advantage. The 20,000 or so people brutally killed during and following The Bloody Week. This is where the horror is and Endore, famously being a politically aware author, pulls no punches in depicting it.

Although this is a tale about a werewolf, the activites of the cursed Bertrand pale into insignificance when compared to the horrors surrounding him in a Paris at war with itself. In fact, the relationship between Bertrand and his lover Sophie, although marred by physicality, acts as a point of purity and sanity in an otherwise broken world. Bertrand’s wolfish behaviour is merely an instinctive need to feed, he becomes an innocent within the artifice of the political machinations surrounding him.

Ultimately, in the extraordinary bleakness of this novel, all pretence of duality is lost. Whether considered good or evil, a follower of science or superstition, rich or poor; we are all as one at heart. As soon as the thin veneer of civilisation has crumbled, we are all vicious beasts ready to rend and tear one another. We all have a vestigial beast within us.

We are all werewolves.

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 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 Horror Horn, 1974, Panther, (E. F. Benson)

Edward Frederick Benson, it’s usually stated in mini-biographies that E. F. Benson is best known for his satirical comedies of manners, the Mapp and Lucia novels. But, of course, to the likes of you and I Benson is best known as that much anthologised author of weird fiction, a name mentioned in the same breath as contemporaries James, Machen, Blackwood, etc. etc.

Published by Panther in 1974, ‘The Horror Horn’ was the first time Benson’s tales had been printed in a collection in over 40 years and we have the poet and novelist Alexis Lykiard to thank for bringing these stories together. I believe Lykiard was in the Panther stable himself at the time, having had a couple of novels published by them and, being a fan of Benson, he approached Panther with the idea of bringing a selection of Benson’s tales together. Happily for us, and as we know, Panther were already publishing many collections of early 20th Century horror authors at the time, so they agreed. And The Horror Horn was born, a fine selection of thirteen E. F. Benson tales spanning thirty years or so of his career, selected and introduced by Alexis Lykiard and, to top it all off, cover art by the wonderful Bruce Pennington (who else? It is Panther and it is the early ‘70s)

horror horn

It’s always a pleasure to find a Benson short story in an anthology but, as with most authors, you can never really immerse yourself in the mind-set of the author in a single story; for that you need a collection. And what a mind-set we’re immersed in when we read a Benson collection!

Shall we take a minute to talk about his background first of all? Perhaps it may put his themes into some sort of perspective.

T h e  F a t h e r

Benson’s father was Edward White Benson. Rather a brilliant man by all accounts, he started his career as a schoolmaster at Rugby, became headmaster at the newly established Wellington College, and ended up as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Quite a career path. He’s also credited with planting the seed of a ghost story into the head of family friend Henry James which went on to become The Turn of the Screw. However, his home life was quite a different story. His wife and children considered him a depressive, stern, intolerant bully. The 21 year old Edward White Benson hints in his diary that he may have homosexual tendencies but supposes that he must marry at some point so, as he gets on well with her, he decides to marry his 2nd cousin, the 11 year old Mary “Minnie” Sidgwick. He becomes engaged to her the following year, when she is 12, and marries her a few years later when she is 18 years of age.

T h e  M o t h e r

Let’s move on to “Minnie” now. A young girl with her life mapped out for her with a marriage to her respectable older cousin. But this is a woman who Gladstone was to call “The cleverest woman in Europe”, she was certainly not going to be the type to perform the act of the dutiful and loyal Victorian wife. Throughout their married life, and after her husband died, Minnie had many, many affairs with other women. Some of these ‘Schwarmerei’, as she called them, were long term, including the ones with a thoroughly modern young composer by the name of Ethel Smyth; and Lucy Tait, the daughter of a previous Archbishop of Canterbury. Mary Benson was a complex and fascinating character and the centre of Rodney Bolt’s noted biography with the wonderful title of ‘As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil’.

Although the married life of Edward White Benson and Mary Sidgwick was obviously a troubled one, they did manage to create six children, five of which survived into adulthood. Here they are:

C h i l d  1 :

Arthur Christopher Benson, schoolmaster at Eton, lecturer at Cambridge, respected poet, essayist and short story writer (along with his brother E. F., he penned a decent ghost story). Most famously, he wrote the lyrics to Land of Hope and Glory. A troubled man who is thought to have inherited bipolar disorder from his father, he remained unmarried and child-free.

C h i l d  2 :

Mary Eleanor “Nellie” Benson, devoted her short life to helping to educate young, poverty stricken girls in London. Remember the young composer Nellie’s mother was in love with, Ethel Smyth? Nellie seems to have shared her mother’s love for Ms. Smyth, leading to a complicated love triangle. Nellie died of diphtheria aged 27, she remained unmarried and child-free.

C h i l d  3 :

Margaret “Maggie” Benson, author, archaeologist (along with her lifelong companion, Janet Gourlay) and one of the first women admitted to Oxford University. Also thought to have inherited bipolar disorder from her father. During a particularly troubled period, Maggie fell in love with her mother’s lover, Lucy Tait, and in a single night tried and failed to commit suicide and then attempted to murder her mother. She was then taken to the psychiatric hospital The Priory, where she spent the rest of her days. She remained unmarried and child-free.

C h i l d  4 :

Edward Frederick Benson. At last we arrive at E.F. himself, famed and prolific author and notable figure skater. He seems to be the most stable of the Benson clan and lived to a ripe old age before dying of throat cancer in 1940. He remained unmarried and child-free.

C h i l d  5 :

Robert Hugh Benson, another very well respected author of his day. He followed his father’s footsteps into the church to become an Anglican priest but later converted to Catholicism. Obviously, being a good Catholic priest, he remained unmarried and child-free.

And there we have the Benson family. Quite a bunch. Highly educated and prolific authors, every man jack of them. What would you expect from being brought up in an environment where you weren’t allowed breakfast until you’d asked for it in rhyming couplets?

So, back to the book in question then. Here’s the:


Introduction by Alexis Lykiard
The Room in the Tower
Gavon’s Eve
The Thing in the Hall
The House with the Brick-Kiln
The Horror Horn
Negotium Perambulans
Mrs. Amworth
The Face
‘And no bird sings’
The Bed by the Window
The Sanctuary


Lykiard offers us a selection which spans Benson’s writing career. The first five stories are from his 1912 collection ‘The Room in the Tower’, the following three are from 1923’s ‘Visible and Invisible’, the next two are from 1928’s ‘Spook Stories’, and the final three from his 1934 collection ‘More Spook Stories’.

It’s interesting to see how Benson’s writing style changed over the years. The early tales are written very much in the Victorian style, all long sentences with a very liberal use of the comma. Nothing wrong with that of course, in a skilled hand it can create a very elegant and stately feel. Reading these though, they do seem a tad on the clumsy side with the comma usage sending the prose off on tangential rambles. However, by the time we reach the later stories towards the end of the collection he’s writing with a far more assured pen and we’re treated to some finely crafted short stories.

So, what of the nightmares of Benson? What are the horrors that pervade his pages? His favoured format is a 1st person narrative and the narrator is, more often than not, a thoroughly decent, well-to-do, bachelor, sort of a chap. The horrors come from outside in an attempt to harm the ordered society of the well-mannered. Whether this is a matter of fear on Benson’s part or of wish-fulfilment I don’t know, but he did like to satirise upper-middle class society in his Mapp and Lucia novels so perhaps it’s a little of both. This encroachment doesn’t just come from his horrors, it can be found all through his work, such as the introduction to Mrs. Amworth where the setting is the idyllically quaint village of Maxley, where the heather-clad downs carry warm, scented breezes to the tranquil innocence of the village. However:

The general peace is sadly broken on Saturdays and Sundays, for we lie on one of the main roads between London and Brighton and our quiet street becomes a race-course for flying motor-cars and bicycles.

A notice just outside the village begging them to go slowly only seems to encourage them to accelerate their speed, for the road lies open and straight, and there is really no reason why they should do otherwise. By way of protest, therefore, the ladies of Maxley cover their noses and mouths with their handkerchiefs as they see a motor-car approaching, though, as the street is asphalted, they need not really take these precautions against dust. But late on Sunday night the horde of scorchers has passed, and we settle down again to five days of cheerful and leisurely seclusion.


This was first published in 1923, a world still in the shadow of the very real horrors of The Great War and the Spanish Flu pandemic. Everyone was recoiling from the previous few years, there were those who tried to cling to traditionalism and there were those who embraced modernism, both sides of the coin wrapped up in a neat paragraph.

In the aftermath of The Great War there was also a marked rise in the popularity of spiritualism and psychical research, contemporary mores which Benson regularly addresses with both suspicion and admiration. Benson’s maternal Uncle, the philosopher Henry Sidgwick, was one of the founders and first president of the Society for Psychical Research and his maternal Aunt, Eleanor Sidgwick, became president in 1908. So, Benson had strong links with the SPR and mentions them often in his stories, if a character is not an active member of the society then they invariably have an interest in the spiritual realms. As opposed to an average M. R. James tale, where the central character begins as a cynic and undergoes a conversion (such as ‘Oh, Whistle…’), an E. F. Benson character will be more likely to begin the story as a believer (or at least be open-minded) and have those beliefs confirmed.

The branch of psychic ability which Benson seems to have the most interest in is that of the prophetic dream. Dreams appear, in one way or another, in seven of the thirteen tales in this collection. This tone is set from the very beginning as the opening story, The Room in the Tower, famously introduces itself with a five hundred word discourse on the nature of dreams. Of course, a cynic may suggest that the device is used a little too often by Benson; ensuring the plotline is developed by giving the protagonist a ‘forewarned is forearmed’ status with such a simple construct as a prophetic dream could conceivably be considered as a little lazy. But, I would never say such a thing, it’s obviously a subject close to the author’s heart.

And talking of subjects close to the author’s heart, let’s move on to the horrors which Benson has these brave chaps defending the ordered world against.

In two of the stories we have female vampires, both mature women who invariably suck the life from young men.

We have a lost tribe of savage, mountain-dwelling primitives who rape both their male and female victims.

Most peculiar of all is Benson’s seeming obsession with oversized worm-like creatures. We have them writhing on a four-poster bed:

…covered with great caterpillars, a foot or more in length, which crawled over it. They were faintly luminous, and it was the light from them that showed me the room. Instead of the sucker-feet of ordinary caterpillars they had rows of pincers like crabs, and they moved by grasping what they lay on with their pincers, and then sliding their bodies forward. In colour these dreadful insects were yellowish-grey, and they were covered with irregular lumps and swellings. There must have been hundreds of them, for they formed a sort of writhing, crawling pyramid on the bed. Occasionally one fell off on to the floor, with a soft fleshy thud…


We also have an instance of a grey worm falling onto someone’s shirt-front, seemingly from nowhere and with very little relevance to the story.

But strangest of all is the recurring creature which appears in several of Benson’s tales. It’s usually described as an elemental and it’s rather a Lovecraftian beast; in fact, Benson gets a mention in Lovecraft’s essay ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’ which gives particular mention to one of the finest in this collection, ‘Negotium Perambulans’. This ‘elemental’ is large and slug-like; it is sparsely haired and rears up when aroused; it is foul smelling and mostly comes out in the dark; it is as thick as a man’s thigh and has a bluntly pointed end with a single orifice; and instead of blood it contains a pale, viscous fluid. Although we do not know where this creature comes from it appears to act as servant to a greater intelligence and has the ability to turn a chap’s mind to brutal and nefarious thoughts; eventually, it will suck the life from whoever it haunts, draining them of bodily fluids and leaving only a limp and flaccid skin behind.

Add to this the final story about a distant family member and his clan indulging in some strange religious practices and we have enough to make any Freudian psychoanalyst think they’ve hit the mother-lode with Benson.

And on that note I’ll leave you with a quote from Benson’s tale ‘The Face’:

Psychologists taught that these early impressions fester or poison the mind like some hidden abscess.

Who Fears the Devil? Star Books 1975 (Manly Wade Wellman)

Who fears the Devil? says Jane unto Jim,
Who fears the Devil? says Jim unto Joan,
Who fears the Devil? says Jane unto John –
Not I! Not I! says John all alone.

~from a game song, once popular with Southern children

This is the epigraph to Manly Wade Wellman’s first collection of short stories concerning his enigmatic protagonist John (sometimes known as Silver John or John the Balladeer), a wandering, folk-singing, backwoodsman, folklorist kind of a guy who travels the Appalachians battling evil with his silver-stringed guitar.

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that the premise sounds a bit daft, a bit like one of those American serials they used to show on ITV of a Saturday evening where the lone hero wanders from town to town getting himself into all sorts of scrapes and never finding peace. Think The Incredible Hulk, Highway to Heaven or The Littlest Hobo……..NO, stop it! Don’t think of those, this is much better!

Wellman was a long time, and very popular, contributor to genre magazines Weird Tales, Astounding Stories etc. etc. In the 1950s he moved from New York (where he wrote his fictional hero John Thunstone, a Manhattan playboy occultist) to the small town of Pine Bluff in North Carolina. Having a lifelong interest in the esoteric and folk magic, here he immersed himself in southern history, folklore and folksong to create the stories about John.

The stories in this collection all appeared in magazines during the ‘50s and were first published as a collection in 1963 by Arkham House. The first paperback edition came from Star Books in 1975. Let’s have a look at the cover shall we?
I’ve no idea who created the artwork for this (…if anyone does know then I’d love to hear from you). Just look at that demonic figure trapped behind the guitar strings! Do you recognise him?

who fears the devil cover

Go on, look a bit closer.

Anything yet?

It is, or course, a blatant copy of Christopher Lee’s character Edward Blake from ‘I, Monster’, the 1971 Amicus loose adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde. Here he is:

I, monster 1i, monster 2

Anyway, down to the contents. The eleven stories proper are each prefaced by an atmospheric little half page italicised vignette.

John’s My Name
O Ugly Bird!

Why They’re Named That
One Other

Then I Wasn’t Alone
Shiver in the Pines

You Know the Tale of Hoph
Old Devlins Was A-Waiting

Find the Place Yourself
The Desrick on Yandro

The Stars Down There
Vandy, Vandy

Blue Monkey
Dumb Supper

I Can’t Claim That
The Little Black Train

Who Else Could I Count On
Walk Like a Mountain

None Wiser for the Trip
On the Hills and Everywhere

Nary Spell
Nine Yards of Other Cloth

Most of these stories are written in first person from John’s perspective, so they’re full of a warm Appalachian dialect. Wellman judges the use of language well, never overdoing it to the point of parody. He creates a subtle and believable world for John to traverse; strange and dreamlike it is a world of tall mountains, bottomless pools and dark pinewoods; it is filled with hoodoo men, witches and double-dealers. The landscape is a dangerous place of ‘scarced-out’ animals with folknames, like The Toller, The Flat, The Skim and The Behinder (so called because it always gets people from behind and, as such, no one has ever seen it (‘cepting John, of course)).

Wellman subtly mixes fact with his fiction to lend a plausibility to the fantastic. John sings real songs and Wellman includes snippets of lyrics to add depth and atmosphere, including the wonderful ‘In the Pines’ (here’s the famous version from Leadbelly):

Historical figures exist alongside fictional ones, such as in the Hatfield and McCoy feud sequence in ‘Old Devlins was A-Waiting’. In this story Wellman also introduces us to ‘real’ magical practices with the inclusion of a ritual with the Sator Square. The magic in this world is primitive sympathetic folk magic and the shamanistic feel is mirrored in the natural world vividly described, even the creatures are described in terms of natural objects. When we first see the monster known as One Other his “…shoulder was like a cypress root humping out of the water, the head was like a dark pumpkin”. The monsters were there before humans so, in effect, they are a part of nature and, as many folk tales stem from warnings about the natural world, this is quite fitting.

When it comes to the human characters John meets through these tales Wellman paints the world in black and white. All the good men are honest, hard-working, poor-but-contented types and we know the bad men as their inner traits are exposed by their physical ugliness. The women are either pretty innocents waiting to be rescued from the bad men or glamorous femme fatales waiting to entrap the good men. There’s no room for ambiguity with his characterisation but Wellman does have a wonderful knack of describing each new player with a Chandleresque precision. A favourite of mine is from The Desrick on Yandro:

“His buckskin hair was combed across his head to baffle folks he wasn’t getting bald. His round, pink face wasn’t soft, and his big, smiling teeth reminded you there was a bony skull under that meat. His pale eyes, like two gravel bits, prodded me and made me remember I needed a haircut and a shine.”

For all the curses, monsters and supernatural terror in Wellman’s tales the biggest evil of all is money, or at least a love of money. The villains are invariably wealthier than their victims and the only real use for a silver coin in this world is to ward off evil. And if you see a feller that’s flashy enough to be carrying gold well, gentlemen, you can bet he’ll have them hellhounds a-snapping at his heels.

And to finish with a song, Wellman dedicated his book to his friend the folksinger and folklorist, Bascom Lamar Lunsford (among others) and even referred to him by name in Old Devlins was A-Waiting. Here he is performing Dogget’s Gap. Look at this scene and imagine a tall stranger with a silver strung guitar slung on his back walking out of the woods and joining the song and you’ve got the start of a Who Fears the Devil story right there:


There’s a fair bit of old-time religion in these pages, as you’d expect from good old god-fearin’ folk, but the penultimate tale ‘On the Hills and Everywhere’ is an awful, saccharine parable and  how it got past a submissions editor I just can’t imagine.

Told in the Dark – A Book of Uncanny Stories, Pan 1950 (ed. Herbert van Thal)

told in the dark cover



If you’re visiting this blog then it’s odds on that you already know about the Pan Books of Horror Stories, of course you do – we all know them, we all love them. They’re the cornerstone of the horror anthology world.

What do you mean, you don’t?

Ok then, they were a series of horror anthologies which ran between 1959 and 1989 edited by the great Herbert van Thal from the first edition in 1959 until his death in 1983. Clarence Paget took over the helm for the last few stragglers until they were put to rest on their 30th issue due to a general lack of interest, drop in quality and, let’s face it, short stories (especially horror short stories) just weren’t very fashionable any more.

It seems fitting to start the blog with Pan’s forerunner of the series. Told in the Dark – A Book of Uncanny Stories was published in 1950 and was created by Pan’s expert on Victorian literature and editor of their ‘English Novelists’ series, the same Herbert van Thal.

The cover illustration is by Hungarian born Val Biro who sadly died earlier this year.

And while we’re on the subject of illustrations and Pan books, y’know the Pan logo? The silhouetted Pan playing his pipe (in the image above)? That was designed by Mervyn Peake of Gormenghast fame, that was.

The contents are mostly Victorian and Edwardian classics and it’s perhaps easy to think of the selection as quite safe choices, they were all used again and again in various anthologies over the next couple of decades, but you have to remember that we’re still in the relatively early days of the paperback book here so they would have been quite new to most readers.



  • Mrs. Molesworth – The Shadow In The Moonlight
  • Phyllis Bentley – Beckermonds
  • Elizabeth Braddon – The Mystery At Fernwood
  • E. F. Benson – The Thing In The Hall
  • Wilkie Collins – The Dead hand
  • Marjorie Bowen – The Prescription
  • Catherine Crowe – The Italian’s Story
  • Ann Bridge – The Accident
  • Charles Dickens – The Signal-man
  • Mrs. Riddell – Old Mrs. Jones
  • Sir Hugh Walpole – The Silver Mask