Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Heaven Maker & Other Gruesome Tales (2012)

Craig Herbertson's first story was published in The 29th Pan Book of Horror Stories. It’s now become legend how Craig didn’t learn of the story’s publication for years because Editor Clarence Paget forgot to tell him, then in 1999 Craig discovered the story on the internet.

Now, from Parallel Universe Publications, a publishing house owned by another of those original Pan authors, David A Riley, comes Craig Herbertson’s new collection The Heaven Maker and Other Gruesome Tales.

In his foreword, Craig writes “Horror is best sustained in quick bursts; it’s exciting but also tactile, visceral, disgusting, often amusing, mostly horrible and sometimes nauseating.”
The first stories in this collection might go some way to explaining how Craig became what he is today. New Teacher, he writes, is “based largely on my experiences of school in the 1970’s. Not so much a horror story but a grim depiction of the times.” This one introduces a ghastly group of teachers gathered in the smokers’ staff room, just around the corner from Room Three where, as luck would have it, new teacher Mr Nugent is attempting to teach music to a Year 1 class. The teachers are discussing the likelihood of Nugent lasting the term, when Miss Hawthorne arrives to question the ghastly din emanating from the room, and asks who exactly is taking the class while Nugent is sick? This story’s gruesome ending will gladden the hearts of any victims of political correctness who long for a return to simpler times. 

Synchronicity is another story of Bellport High, set at a reunion at a restaurant which raises inevitable but better-forgotten memories and stories, mainly of sadistic bullying and generally thuggish behaviour which anywhere other than in an English school would have had the miscreants packed off to Borstal. Two of the worst offenders, former maths teacher Weasel and orphaned student Gray “shared a table with us like camp commandants partying with their prisoners.”
        Peters raises the subject of synchronicity. Time has healed most old wounds, with the notable exception of Mulholland’s eye, lost as a result of one of Grey’s nasty tricks. And possibly the evening might have passed into the murk of history if the tortured and humiliated Angel had not been present and had not provided his unforgettable illustration of synchronicity.  This story received an honourable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year.
The torture of small boys with canes and leather belts is not unusual at Bellport High,  but in The Art of Confiscation English teacher MacVicars, a man of considerable intellect, prefers to express himself more subtly; his chosen forms of torment are intended to warp a victim’s mind rather than his body.  When he collides with Farantino the boy drops the book he’s carrying, whose lurid cover reveals it as the third volume from a well-known series of horror anthologies, an object of MacVicars’ contempt. But when MacVicars decides to make a target of the thoroughly evil boy genius that is Farantino, he finds he’s biting off more than he can chew. So far this is my favourite of the Bellport High stories.

Farantino turns up a second time in Soup. By this time his genius has expressed itself through entrepreneurship combined with criminal enterprise which has built a financial empire worth millions, while a delight in culinary arts has gained him a worldwide reputation as a chef - with a particular fondness for soup. When a group of masters and former students from Bellport High is invited to Farantino’s chateau home, they are given a tour which includes the dank subterranean chambers still furnished with ghastly instruments of torture.
        "Look carefully on that instrument. Imagine the broken shambles of a human being strapped upon that wheel, writhing in the splintered chamber of its own bones; a huge rag doll, screaming, slimed with blood and gore. And there, the cauldrons with which the Percano cook their victims – a process lasting three days, three days of excruciating agony.”
        Described by Demonik, administrator of Vault of Evil as “Quite possibly the most beautifully written example of cannibal torture porn I’ve ever read.” This one’s straight from the original Pan mother-lode.

The Janus Door
“…I am sure I saw through the ragged struts of my window a vision of blinding light from the doorway beyond.
        What I am less sure about is the figures: Strange, ethereal silhouettes like crucified saints crowding the door frame; tormented angels grasping outwards, begging me to enter.
        From the moment that the unnamed narrator first passes through the door into his new flat it is clear that this is no ordinary residence. The previous tenant had some weird obsession with architecture, and evidence of this still clutters the spare room in the shape of scattered sheaves of papers and electrical components of obscure and strange device. Gates and doors, literal and abstract, were frequently the subject of the unknown researcher. Further research reveals that the apartment block was the work of an architect named Hosanna who had committed suicide when funding for her project was withdrawn before its completion. Doorways to other dimensions are not unusual in tales of imagination, and this story seems to come somewhere between The Dreams in the Witch House and Our Lady of Darkness.
        I was baffled to see that this story had no previous publication acknowledgement. I remember reading it in the Filthy Workshop and would have used it in FC magazine, but I’d thought it was snapped up by another publication. I also remember feeling weirdly affected by the story, and hesitating to re-read it. I wasn’t sure how I’d like it this time round. I shouldn’t have worried; it’s brilliant.

It is not always wise to cheat on one’s crippled wife when there is still the remotest chance that modern surgery might restore her to full health. And when she has the inherited resources of the Spanish Inquisition at her disposal with an outlook on life probably a little less sunny than that of Lucrezia Borgia, when this is the case a man should seriously consider faithfulness as an option.
            Fortunately for us, Eduardo doesn’t, so when he wakes in The Waiting Game it’s to find himself bound to his lover Maria by a fine chain, which has been passed through his septum and then hers, with only a gauzy curtain separating them. The two are imprisoned in a deep cell beneath the chateau, which frankly resembles Poe’s torture chamber in The Pit and the Pendulum.
            “Taste and smell had always been so important. Now they were utterly subordinate to sound. Audition had told him that he was propped in some kind of high chair and that the wind blew through hidden recesses below. From this single lonely sense, his fevered mind constructed a vast sprawl of underground chambers leading into hopeless oblivion.
            “It had taken him almost an hour to mentally construct the immediate scene. A large cell. Eduardo and Maria propped up on two facing chairs. The chairs raised on platforms above a pit. A walkway to allow access. Some of this was assumption but the iron chain piercing his septum was an unavoidable reality.
            Their jailer is Eduardo’s wife, the cheated Catherine; and the revenge she has planned is as vicious as anything dreamed by Poe.

Moving along, we get to a story which shows Craig at his meanest and funniest.  Gertrude is a story of a schoolgirl who was a bit of a silly cow until the day she committed suicide in the Bellport High toilets and then is reincarnated as a… cow. If I say this one is funny, I should add that you’ll best appreciate it if you have a very well-developed sense of black, sick and twisted humour.

Another short one is Spanish Suite, concerning Paul Brown, a travelling rep for Cameron’s Sweets who’s been sent to tour the Continent with the intention of extending old man Cameron’s boiled sweet empire across Europe. “…it’s Spain that counts,” Cameron tells him. “And these Catalan’s can be very stiff. I’m absolutely depending on you to crack Spain.” When Paul reaches Spain, he finds it a more difficult nut to crack than he’d expected. Breaking his journey at a small town one night, he gets chatting with a waiter. The waiter’s brother-in-law is the town’s mayor, whose health has been failing since his beautiful young wife had run away with a lover. Disgraced, the woman’s family have disowned her and now the waiter thinks she has probably joined the prostitutes who sell their bodies by the roadside. The two men separate after getting very drunk, but next day Paul receives a letter from his drinking companion which renders him almost ecstatic when he learns of the breakthrough that he needs. The letter also tells him he’ll have to wait for more details as the mayor has died in the night and his friend must attend the funeral tomorrow. It is on the road out of town, near the grave yard, that Paul encounters the girl. Ironic and ghoulish, the Spanish setting contrasts nicely with the horror here.

A Game of Billiards is another of Mulholland’s tales, this time a bit of a ripping yarn, but not one you ever found in Boys Annual, set in First World War India where the unpleasant Captain Petronius is cutting a ruthless path to the top... though possibly not in the field of indoor sports. This is a story of rivalry between Captain Boyd and the repellent Petronius, both of whom fall in love with the same woman. As you know, these things seldom work out happily. In fact the conclusion is quite brutal and grim

Mulholland is not just a character grown out of the Bellport school stories but Craig’s narrator, his guide to the story, an earth to channel the source material. In Not Waving Lotte reveals to Mulholland how she remembers her childhood holiday with a boy called Rin in a small French village in the perfect summer of 1973 in the house rented by her parents, Le Manoir, a rambling building perfect for children, cluttered with books (which her mother observes cynically were probably never read, being intended only for show) and the discovery of a case full of ‘real’ books, detective thrillers, which meet with her mother’s approval. The top floor of the house is uninhabited, and there is of course one door which is locked, no key to be found. This is a strikingly mature story; at risk of sounding too fey, it’s bewitching, full of colour and light, and brilliantly told. It’s also quite horrible and, as with many of these stories, will stay with you some time after reading.
“Couldn’t he see the navigator was full of electronic maps? Who could be lost in a virtual universe?”

The Navigator poses the question: If life is a journey then can a car trip be analogous to Dermott and Jane’s marriage? As the countryside gets less and less familiar, the smug feminine voice of the GPS begins to grate on Dermott’s nerves, and he’s convinced he knows a better route. Why do they design these systems with female voices anyway? It’s just asking for trouble when a bloke’s behind the wheel.
But Anne doesn’t need a GPS as she cycles home after her massage session, in Steel Works. The massage has left her feeling relaxed but with senses heightened and all a-tingle. Her surroundings take on an almost hallucinatory quality. But why does the familiar site of the old steel works, belching smoke and shattering the night with flickering light, fill her with such disquiet? And why does she seem compelled to approach it? This brilliant little gem of a story poses more questions than it answers. Are we reading about a mind shattered by abuse or does something even more monstrous lie in wait for her? This one reminded me by turns of the writing of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman and, days after reading, it remains disturbingly fresh in memory.
The Heaven Maker first appeared in 1988 in The 29th Pan Book of Horror Stories. It’s now become legend how Craig didn’t learn of the story’s publication for years because Editor Clarence Paget forgot to tell him, then in 1999 discovered the story on the internet. When I finally got to read the story I approached it with caution, knowing the reputation the series had for going off the boil towards the end. But I knew Craig’s writing. His story Strange Fruit, borrowing the title of Billy Holiday’s song about race hatred in America’s Deep South to head a tale of warped genetic engineering, slavery, bigotry and child murder, had appeared in Filthy Creations 2, and I’d read his novel The Seventh Silence, edited by Storm Constantine, about a school stranger by far than Bellport High – and in places nastier, too. The Heaven Maker gets off to a start which is grim even by the standards of the Pan horrors. Morden is in a hospital ward being interviewed by a doctor. His daughter Cathy’s corpse lies in a nearby bed, kept in a simulation of life by surrounding machines, for the sake, Doctor Baptiste explains, of the unborn baby which is still living in her womb. His son John’s body is being brought up from the morgue for Morden to identify. John had attempted to rescue Cathy after the car crash had plunged her into an icy river, but both had been swept under, and John had been clinically dead for three hours before their bodies were recovered. Morden identifies the body of his son and is about to leave the ward when, quite shockingly, the corpse returns to life, sits up and begins to scream. This of course is only the start of a story which is quite long but grips and compels the reader to the end.

The Anningley Sundial: "As he turned from the door a rather peculiar thing happened. He had left the mezzotint face up on his deal table during the transaction. Perhaps it was simply a trick of the lights but it seemed for a second that something ran swiftly across its surface. Nobody is really fond of insects on their table and Mulholland was hardly an exception; but his impression when he reflected on it was that the thing he had seen was not after all an insect but something that bore an uncanny resemblance to a tiny shambling figure; a figure of disturbing appearance that one might observe in a series of frames in a creaky old silent film."
        “M R James was always a favourite,” writes Craig, “and I sent Mulholland scurrying after him in 2011…”
        Now personally, I’ve quite a strong resistance to stories in the M R James style. I must stress that it’s a personal thing; sometimes for my own amusement as I read these stories I imagine bands of rioting football fans rampaging through all those cosy studies, throwing dusty bottles of port into glass-fronted bookcases and scattering glowing coals from the grate across priceless Turkish carpets, trashing, smashing and generally not being nice to everything that clutters up the story. Truth is, this sequel to The Mezzotint isn’t half bad. Every time I decided I was going to pan it, I found I was stumbling into another passage like this one: “In the instant where the snow sprayed to left and right Norton’s moving hand gave an illusory movement to the carved surface of the podium. What he saw was a large Pholcus phalangioides, known by children the world over as the ‘daddy-long-legs spider’. As a child he had never been terribly frightened of this ungainly creature with its long fragile legs. As an adult he had become aware that this was the spider that ate other spiders. Not a pleasant thought; and in that second the grotesque thing had seemed to move. In the half shadow Mulholland leapt back and then almost in reaction, craned his head forward and saw how much he was mistaken. “He saw before him, the surface of a sundial; the ‘spider’ merely the long radial lines and crabbed markings of the hours.”
        The writing in this story is frequently so exquisite that it leaves me with my personal prejudices in a bit of an awkward place. So what would you say? Leave the writing to speak for itself, I guess.

Leibnitz’s Last Puzzle
This story expertly combines the traditional smoking-room horror tale with a mind-bending mathematical puzzle, which, if solved, could unleash a demonic force. Norton and Lubeker are two university pals who invite scandal when they abandon their work – a ‘significant’ mathematical treatise – and take off into the Yorkshire Wolds on a camping trip. For a time they seem to have disappeared off the face of the Earth; but then Mulholland receives a letter from Norton inviting him to join them.
            He finds Norton amid a collection of esoteric books on subjects ranging from maths to occultism; and there is a strange device made of mirrors whose purpose he can’t divine. He also sees a letter which could only have been written by the scholar and alchemist Leibnitz. This letter alone could establish the students’ reputations.
            It turns out that the two have found a curious structure, apparently a Masonic temple, situated on the two sides of a ravine. And this is where Mulholland finds Lubeker, with what appears to be a bizarrely incomplete human corpse. Somehow Leibnitz has stumbled on an equation that opens a door into another dimension, and passing through it has rendered him an exploded thing, horribly incomplete.
“You might have seen those anatomical drawings in the medical books or perhaps that dreadful body sculpture that was paraded around Europe. Try to imagine that. Add what you see under a very good microscope, an eclipse and lots of moving mayflies trapped in a glass. Laugh if you like, I can get no closer to an explanation of that dreadful thing.”

Working from Leibnitz’s letters, Lubeker has now become completely obsessed with solving the puzzle, even though solving it might lead to disaster.
            I found it quite a demanding story. Herbertson’s piecing together of history with whole cloth is brilliant; I did exchange messages with him shortly after the story appeared in Charles Black’s Book of Horror as I wasn’t sure how much was imagination, how much based on fact. Too much time has passed since then, and I suspect that that brief correspondence disappeared with the death of my last computer. Thinking of the dread effect Craig’s replies had upon the working of my brain at the time, I think it’s probably better for all of us that they’re not resurrected.
            The mood of the traditional smoking room tale is perfectly judged here, and this is an excellent story.

Three more shorter ones…

The Glowing Goblins inhabit the cupboard under the stairs where young Colin is locked in by his parents as punishment. Slightly surreal and with a suggestion of a remembered childhood nightmare, this one appeared over twenty years ago in Nik Morton’s Auguries #16. Gifts appeared last year in the Big Vault Advent Calendar, so could be remembered by Vault members, though this was my first sight of it. Craig says that he took eight minutes to write this short piece about a sinister Santa and his worrying cargo of presents.
            Big Cup, Wee Cup: Milne cannot understand why Mulholland has not attended the Graal symposium, “the single most important meeting in the last century of the Order.” What could be more important? He’s even more astonished when Mulholland says the sacred relic has been melted down, and what’s more, he seems quite happy about it! Craig writes of this one: “Sorry, I couldn’t resist this.” It definitely made me smile.

Farantino does turn up one more time in this book but not in any active role as a guest at The Tasting, which gets my own vote as one of the best stories in this book. The Tasting is a revenge story which combines a love of the Highlands and Scotch whisky. Here, a select few are gathered at a party held by the wealthy Bannerman at his hotel north east of Fort William. Bannerman’s restaurant is a well-kept secret, exclusive, though not to impoverished locals who might be passing. An old grudge once existed between two of the diners, Campbell and Macdonald. Years before, Macdonald had been engaged to the magnificent red-headed Jeanie Brown, who had jilted him to run off with the best man – and Macdonald’s best friend – Campbell, on the eve of the wedding. Friendship between the two men had changed overnight to almost murderous rivalry. A year later, Campbell had announced his forthcoming wedding to Jeanie, but once again the wedding had to be abandoned when it’s learned that Jeanie has wandered off into the snow and become lost. Campbell and Macdonald become reunited through their search for the missing bride, but Jeanie Brown’s body is never found.
            Now, once a year, the two men meet and share a bottle of Macdonald’s own privately distilled whisky, a whisky believed to be of unsurpassed quality though never tasted by any others, in a toast to the memory of the fiery red-head.   
            This year, thirty years after Jeanie’s death, Macdonald announces that finally he is ready to reveal the location of his secret distillery. There is of course a catch. Those who want to see the distillery must climb the Craich Falls with him the next day, a climb which had almost resulted in Campbell’s death thirty years before.
            This is a lengthy and sprawling story, with characters introduced to add colour along with apparently incidental detail of local hunting and climbing traditions, but as the story moves along it gathers momentum and continues to build suspense towards the end – which, after a tense climbing sequence, is unpleasant enough to disappoint no-one.

The book is introduced by Award-winning children’s author Janis Mackay, who admits to once paying Craig thruppence (at the age of five) for a glimpse of him in his vest (or so Craig tells her), and possibly helped provide the genesis for the Bellport High school stories when they discussed teachers in later years.

The cover photo shows an acrylic, collage and mixed media sculpture by Brian Keeley BA (Hons), MA. Sure as hell looks like someone I know, anyway, and the first Plasticine cover pic I’ve seen since… actually it's the first I've seen since John W Campbell's The Thing and Other Stories. But I think this is me out of here.

Nice one Mr Herbertson.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Heavenmaker and Other Gruesome Tales by Craig Herbertson (2012)

The first book published by Parallel Universe Publications is The Heaven Maker & Other Gruesome Tales by Craig Herbertson. I don't think it will do any harm to mention that Craig Herbertson was one of the contributors to the original and legendary Pan Books of Horror, and so was David A Riley who, with Linden Riley, own Parallel Universe Publications.

Within the UK you can buy a copy by either writing direct to Riley Books, 130 Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, Accrington, Lancashire, BB5 3DR), by email ( or by sending a Paypal payment to It is also available on (direct link).
Cover art by Brian Keeley

Price is £20.00 plus 2.95 p&p. Overseas rates will be added soon. Buyers can also contact Craig's brother, Scott, in particular for signed copies. Scott's email address is His address is Scott Herbertson, 12 Avenue South, Surbiton, Surrey, KT5 8PJ.

 The book has a foreword by Janis Mackay and an introduction by Craig.

Queries about buying copies of the book should be sent either to or to Riley Books, 130 Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, Accrington, Lancashire, BB5 3DR, UK.

The full list of contents is: Timeless Love (originally published in Big Vault Advent Calendar 2011) Synchronicity (originally published in Filthy Creations #2) The Glowing Goblins, (originally published in Auguries #16) New Teacher (originally published in The Seventh Black Book of Horror) The Janus Door, The Heaven Maker (originally published in The 29th Pan Book of Horror Stories) The Waiting Game (originally published in Back from the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories) The Art of Confiscation, Gertrude, Not Waving, Spanish Suite (originally published in The Sixth Black Book of Horror) The Anninglay Sundial, Soup (originally published in The Fourth Black Book of Horror) A Game of Billiards (originally published in Tales from the Smoking Room) The Navigator (originally published in Big Vault Advent Calendar 2011) The Tasting, Steel Works, Liebniz's Last Puzzle (originally published in The Fifth Black Book of Horror) Big Cup, Wee Cup, Gifts (originally published in Big Vault Advent Calendar 2011)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Filthy Creations 6 and The Thinking Man's Crumpet 4

Filthy Creations 6 and The Thinking Man's Crumpet 4

Special Offer! These magazines are £2.25 each, but order both for only £3.50

Filthy Creations 6

Filthy Creations 6, Summer 2010, ed. by Rog Pile

Filthy Creations 6 proudly presents the first episode in a major new serialisation: Sendings by David A Riley.

Also beginning this issue, the serialisation of Craig Herbertson's The Death Tableau.

Both David A Riley and Craig Herbertson had their first stories appear in the now-lendary Pan Books of Horror. Both novels will be serialised in their entirity, and this will be their first appearance in print.

Dedicated to D F Lewis, this issue also contains:

The Devil At Your Heels by Robert Mammone
Easy Money by Penni McLaren Walker
Rage and The Fat Shrike by D F Lewis
Bad Manners by Colin Leslie
There's a Riot Going On by Franklin Marsh
Grey by Charles Black
Crocodile Tears by James Stanger
A Solace of Winter Rain by Stephen Bacon
Night Tide by Rog Pile

With five mono illustrations plus a colour cover drawn by Rog Pile.

Filthy Creations 6 costs £2.25 including p&p (click below)

The Thinking Man's Crumpet 4 ed. by Coral King

The Thinking Man's Crumpet 4, Summer 2010, ed. by Coral King

Superb new fiction!

Interrogation by Anna Stephens
Till When? by David Thorpe
Inner Demons by Anthony Watson
The End of a Strange Affair by Peter Tennant
The Hot Gates by Reg Jones

Artwork by Alex Poole and Rog Pile

The Thinking Man's Crumpet 4 costs £2.25 including p&p. Click below to buy.


Special Offer! Get both magazines for £3.50 (Click below)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cone Zero: Nemonymous 8 edited by D F Lewis (2008)

Cone Zero: Nemonymous 8 edited by D F Lewis

Megazanthus Press 2008

"The names of the authors who created the short fiction within this book are shown below but not in the same order as the titles in the contents list"

Neil James Hudson
Colleen Anderson
Jeff Holland
John Grant
A J Kirby
Eric Schaller
Kek W
S D Tullis
Stephen Bacon
Sean Parker
Dominy Clements
Bob Lock
Grant Wamak
David M Fitzpatrick

The Fathomless World: “They’d told him his head was in the clouds: that’s why he was taller than anyone else”.

The Gawkers are observers, and The Tall Man, an artist; this being so, one might have thought that their coexistence would be mutually rewarding. But the Gawkers might not have even noticed The Tall Man if he hadn’t cut a branch from the tree and begun carving it. By doing this, they told him, he had stopped something from forming into something else. And now he must pay for that crime.

He is banished to wander for all time in the Fathomless Building.

This story begins like a simple fantasy-SF tale or parable; and as The Tall Man lives out his punishment and somehow transcends it, the story takes on fairy tale qualities. It will probably remain in mind for a long time.

The Point of Oswald Masters: Oswald Masters’ latest art gallery ‘installation’ is a series of five cones of decreasing dimensions. But Oswald is furious when his work is first exhibited. It seems the exhibit is incomplete. There should be a sixth cone of zero height, zero diameter and zero volume…

Without this last cone, which Oswald considers the most perfect, the exhibit is meaningless; any attempt to review the work will entirely miss the point.

The search begins for this perfect cone of zero proportions, and an amusing idea is projected into realms of inspired lunacy and satire. Every unkind thought you’ve ever had about pretentious artists asking good money to look at heaps of bricks surface as Oswald and his long-suffering agent pursue the missing cone zero. A genuinely involving and funny story that actually had me laughing out loud.

Cone Zero: The first of four stories here to share its title with that of the anthology. The narrator visits his friends, the identical Ian and Steve, and begins a journey into a mind-bending drug-induced nightmare suggesting scenes from Withnail and I on a bad trip, the humour less forgiving.

Someone – or several people – leave identically misspelled, threatening messages on the door, the toilet resembles part of another much older building, and the stereo plays music from hell, while the girl with the green hair looks decidedly unwell. A look behind the curtains into someone’s private hell, this one is uncompromising and unrelenting.

Cone Zero: The second story to share the anthology’s title is one of the best Nemonymous stories that I’ve read yet; in fact I think it would grace any anthology it appeared in. Wise has had an accident and has sustained a head injury. This wouldn’t be good news at any time, but it’s particularly unfortunate here as this story is set in a grim alternate world where medicine and surgery have been outlawed, crimes punishable by death, and even the patients, the victims, are considered culpable.

Wise wakes up in what seems to be a secret hospital staffed by volunteers, aware that even if he recovers, there will be no return to his family and previous life.

As the story progresses, he begins to have doubts about the volunteers caring for him, and even about the other patients in the ward. Is it possible they’re watching him, waiting for him to make a move?

When he does move, the story takes a turn into even more bizarre regions, involving a ‘Slow War’ and the rewriting of history. The writing here is good, touched with brilliance, and there’s a brutal double-murder which will have any thriller-reader tightening his grip on the pages. If there’s satirical comment here, I’ll leave others to explore it; simply taken as a bizarre piece of SF, this one should repay most readers cost of admission.

Click on the picture above or this link to order the book.

More to come...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Thinking Man's Crumpet 2, edited by Caroline Callaghan and Coral King.

This is the cover for issue 2 of The Thinking Man's Crumpet, drawn by Rog Pile and Coral King, from an original idea by Coral King. :)

Seem to be a lot of creepy crawly things around here lately, which does my arachnophobia no good at all... :-/

The Thinking Man's Crumpet Magazine

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Black Book of Horror - Charles Black (editor) Mortbury Press 2007

The Black Book of Horror - Charles Black (editor) Mortbury Press 2007

CROWS - Frank Nicholas
REGINA vs. ZOSKIA - Mark Samuels
POWER - Steve Goodwin
CORDS - Rog. Pile
SIZE MATTERS - John L. Probert
SPARE RIB: A ROMANCE - John Kenneth Dunham
LOCK-IN - David A. Riley
"SHALT THOU KNOW MY NAME?" - Daniel McGachey

Cover by Paul Mudie ISBN 978-0-9556061-0-6

Crows by Frank Nicholas: Ronson's parents have been killed in a car crash and now that his uncle and aunt are also dead, Corbiewood Lodge is his. It's a grim old pile in the heart of the country, hidden away behind trees and massive, chained iron gates. The atmosphere builds impressively as he approaches the house, surrounded by corroding statues in the mist.

There are also questions to intrigue us, such as what happened to the driver who walked away unscathed from the crash which killed Ronson's parents? Who is the mysterious Mr Saville and how does he fix Ronson's problems? And why does the house show no signs of vandalism by children or occupation by derelicts?

As Ronson explores the house, he remembers childhood nightmares about the birds which flock in the trees around the Lodge and in its deserted upper rooms. His aunt had told him once that she and his uncle had sworn to protect the birds. The crows had lined the trees like mourners on the day of his grandmother's funeral, when he'd seen black feathers sticking in the earth of the freshly-dug grave.

After reading this story, I started looking around on the net for information about Frank Nicholas. This story is accomplished and sustains its eerie mood well, right up to a nasty – and very imaginative – end. It seemed there had to be more information about him out there. I couldn't find anything. Charles Black tells me that "I think Frank N's only previous published writing credit was about Scottish literature in a guidebook." I'd certainly like to see more of this writer's work, and if it's his first published story, then Charles is to be congratulated at finding an exciting new talent.

Franklin Marsh wrote: Crows is an excellent mood piece. Our main character visits his aunt's house, which he has been bequeathed. Wandering around the spooky interior, frightening childhood memories push their unwelcome attentions on him, as he nears the source of the horror. A disgusting Pan ending.

Coral King wrote: The collection opens with Crows, a marvellously well crafted haunted house tale by Frank Nicholas. Atmospheric and suspenseful, the tension heightening by such seamless increments as to leave the reader positively breathless. A fantastic beginning.

Regina vs. Zoskia by Mark Samuels: I've only read three of Mark Samuels' stories so far, more's the pity, but I've already begun to appreciate the careful way that he sets up familiar and believable, even prosaic settings and characters, before nudging the picture he's created maddeningly askew. So in Vrolyk a couple sit talking in a late night coffee bar and seem to have nothing to do with the insane and brilliant graffiti scrawled on the walls of the surrounding city streets. Then the picture is tilted and the streets become those of some early German surrealist film. But who is Caligari and who Cesare?

In Regina vs. Zoskia, Dunn is a young solicitor who is instructed by his boss Jackson to take on a case which promises to run interminably, and which Jackson expects to "finish him off". He drives Dunn out of the city to a place formerly used as an insane asylum. Its Director is the enigmatic Dr Zoskia. Jackson explains how the firm had become involved.

"When the inmates decided they no longer wished to be classed as insane. They've been challenging the legal basis on which the definition rests for the last forty-odd years."

The description of the former asylum and its occupants, filthy, the place littered with broken medical equipment, is disturbing and fascinating. At one point, the suggestion that Dunn might have either heard or imagined a peculiarly off-key remark adds to the air of disquiet. But I really don't want to give too much away here.

Franklin Marsh wrote:Regina vs Zoskia - Ever thought the legal profession mad? Here's proof! A jobbing would-be solicitor is given the chance to take on his firm's most important and lucrative case - but at a very heavy price. The description of the Zoskia establishment is brilliant - and the Doctor's introduction wonderfully bizarre. A sudden transition early on threw me, but the denouement prolongs the agony...

Craig Herbertson wrote:[As a favourite] I might go for "Regina vs. Zoskia" which seems Ballardian in its style but more menacing.

More to come... Buy the book at Mortbury Press

Monday, June 18, 2007

Noctem Aeternus

Noctem Aeternus is a FREE quarterly PDF magazine where the reader will find science fiction, fantasy, western, or even mystery stories…but all tales will have an element of horror. The first issue (January 2008) will include a short story and interview from master storyteller Ramsey Campbell. Cherie Priest, Charles Coleman Finlay, Tim Waggoner, and Michael Laimo will have stories as well.

Interviews with filmmaker/musician Rob Zombie and featured artist Kuang Hong will also be found. Paula Guran, Michael Knost, and Jude-Marie Green will offer quarterly columns about the horror genre, reviews, etc.

Help us keep the magazine FREE...sign up today!

Sign up

The 2nd BHF Book of Horror Stories edited by Christopher Wood

Cover Painting by Paul Mudie

BHF Books, 2007

Edited by Christopher Wood

In the Pipeline by Paul Newman
Show Home by Paul Adams
Romero and Juliette by Gareth Hopkins
The Blood Field by Derek Johnston
The Morris Men by Franklin Marsh
It is Written by Matt Finucane
Home Truth by Christopher L Jones
Roast Beef by Martin J Parsons
Almost Love by Rog Pile
Clean Living by Clare Hill
Still Life by Paul Newman
Separation by Charles Black
You can't sing, you can't dance, you look'll go a long way by Christopher Wood
A Little Dead Man on Clockchanges Road by Wayne Mook
When Hell Freezes Over by Neil Christopher
The Passage by Mark Ferguson
Appeal by Gareth A Williams
Obeahman by Maya McLaughlin
A (Something) in Wardour Street by Franklin Marsh
Jacob Raffles by James Stanger
The Inn by S F Stewart
Cattle by Richard Cosgrove
The Darklands Hall Legacy by Franklin Marsh
Cerberus Rising by Neil Christopher
Crowd Scene by James Brough
Portrait of a Young Woman by Carole Hall
The Oxford Vampire by Thirteen Ravens
The Sea Witch by Mike Ward
Children of the Summer's End by Sam Dawson
The Shadow in the Stacks by Daniel McGachey
Understanding by Jason P Burden

Verse: Tschaichowsky's Lonely Sympathy by Nadia Mook
Out Beyond the Clearing by Matthew Entwistle
Tey by Matthew Entwistle
The Necromancer by Matthew Entwistle
A (Helpful) Warning to the Curious by Mattew Entwhistle

Extract from forthcoming novel: Dead Weight by E H Bourne

The Inn by S F Stewart: Stewart effectively creates a sense of place and mood as his weary traveller breaks his stagecoach journey to spend the night at an inn "of horrid aspect. It stood quite alone, in great fields of darkness not yet scarred by roads or paths..." He is disturbed by the glimpse of a white face at an upper window. But soon he is in his room preparing for bed. He is not long alone...

Separation by Charles Black: The narrator of Charles Black's wicked little vignette is possibly taking his wife's suggestion of a trial separation a little too much to heart. I can't give away any more of this one, but it's one of Charles's best and how Charles dreamed it up is an interesting tale in itself (the behind the scenes stuff that I don't pass on is sometimes as good as the stories!)

Jacob Raffles by James Stanger: In the future "England had become a waste ground of social cripples and desperate solutions" where the narrator of the story lies in a cell, his punishment to hang from one of the trees in one of the country's battle-torn fields to "give back something to the world."

When the hangman appears, he introduces himself as Jacob Raffles and opening a suitcase shows the prisoner the tools of his trade: "He turns his attention to the face-shaped object in the suitcase and proceeds to unravel the silver ribbon. Gently he unwraps. It is a mask revealed before me with a gaping mouth of vine and leaves nourishing the cavity. The hollowed-out eyes are surrounded by thick and ripe foliage. They wrap themselves around the eyeholes like photosynthetic tendrils."

With this one, James Stanger presents a story of death in a bleak, apocalyptic future then reveals the story to be a strange fable where change and hope are possible. This author's Pith was one of the surprises to find its way into Filthy Creations 2.

The Shadow in the Stacks by Daniel McGachey: St Montague's is "one of our older and more forgotten colleges." Perdew is a young and enthusiastic librarian, but when Lawrence wants to find some old and obscure texts, he's puzzled by Perdew's reluctance to look in the cellars. At length Lawrence gets a strange story from him about some antique volumes found while rebuilding work was being carried out on the older parts of the library. The volumes had been curiously bound in a substance which even old Harkwell the bookbinder had been unable to identify, and shortly after their discovery a grotesque red form had been seen in the library.

"The impression that I had was of something crawling just out of sight, into the darkness. Something that was red and peculiarly glistening. Red and wet, like something that you might see in a butcher's display..."

I thought when I started reading this one that it would turn out to be a Lovecraft pastiche; but Daniel McGachey's story is closer in style and spirit to something by M R James, and there's a small tip of the head to Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book (if I remember right). I'd previously heard this one through a radio download, but although the broadcast was well-produced, I think it works much better on the page where details don't get missed through lack of broadcast clarity.

There are a lot more of these to go, and besides Paul Mudie's brilliant cover painting and some sketches, there are photos and illustrations by Lawrence Bailey, Paula Fay, Egerton and Christopher Wood (who has also revealed himself as a pretty impressive artist at the BHF site and contributes a story which will get written-up for the next of these posts). Plus the book contains a few pages of ghoulish poems and a preview of the first chapter of a novel planned for publication later this year.

Get the book here: The 2nd BHF Book of Horror Stories

Rog Pile

More from The 2nd BHF Book of Horror Stories edited by Christopher Wood

In the Pipeline by Paul Newman: Jess returns to the scene of his childhood adventures – and fears. The pipeline under the children's playground was The Dare. Jess's friend Richard had entered it long ago. Great status awaited those who braved its terrors to emerge on the other side of the ring road. But the pipe line is the lair of the Trash Man, and Richard had not come out. The inspiration for this story is obvious, but Paul Newman puts his own stamp on it, and his Trash Man is a grim creation.

Romero and Juliette by Gareth Hopkins: Research scientist George Romero is a dull and grey man, and aside from his research, the only two things of any interest about him are his pet frog Perseus and his seduction of the sexy Juliette (or perhaps she seduced him, which would be equally interesting and incomprehensible). His work interests him, involving watching rats race around mazes under the influence of new barbiturates until their hearts burst. Then comes the day when he absent-mindedly drops some of the mystery serum into Perseus's food. What happens then reminds me of the chapter where Philip Wylie's scientist in Gladiator feeds a trial serum to his pet kitten. This very black zombie comedy comes close to being a contender for Best New Horror. Really.

The Blood Field by Derek Johnston: Two walkers following the public footpaths in north Norfolk lose their bearings and find themselves in the middle of a large grassy area. The rustling and movement of the grass is weirdly hypnotic and soon Martin begins wondering if they have walked through here before – are they walking in circles? All they can see is the tall grass thrashing in the wind - but what wind? This one would provide a perfect plot for someone making a short film subject.

The Morris Men by Franklin Marsh: Billy is getting tired of the Little Dampton Carnival, the usual stalls and squalling kids, when "Ten scarecrows walked into view. Big but somehow decaying men." So begins this story which Franklin has probably grown tired of hearing cited as his best. Normality viewed through a distorting mirror, his usual humour kept well under control, this one's a winner with not a wrong word in it - it also reminds me oddly of Ramsey Campbell's writing.

The Stone Fountain by Billy Turner: "For many years Frank had wondered what it would be like to stare into the eyes of a killer, and now he knew. As far as he could tell, his eyes were no different to anyone else's...

You can : get the book here

Cover Painting by Paul Mudie

You can : get the book here

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Have You Seen Madeleine McCann?

Just received this round-robin message and photo through email from my Dutch friend. I don't watch much News, so I checked it out first.

"Please read this message and pass it on!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"As you are aware my niece is still missing and I am asking everyone I know to send this as a chain letter i.e. you send it to everyone you know and ask them to do the same, as the story is only being covered in Britain, Eire and Portugal. We don't believe that she is in Portugal anymore and need to get her picture and the story across Europe as quickly as possible. Suggestions are? welcome.

Phil McCann"

According to this page, she's been missing since 3rd May, National Missing Persons Helpline

Message posted by Rog' Pile (Calenture/Filthy Creations) who is just passing on the message.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

School: The Seventh Silence by Craig Herbertson

School: the Seventh Silence
an extract from the novel
by Craig Herbertson
Jean Deforte has found a caterpillar. But lost his little sister.

It's a difficult year. Father is dying and mother has sent him to an English school. Nobody likes Jean because he is half French. The girls are laughing. The teachers are on his back. The bullies are waiting in the hallways. Unluckily for Jean there are worse things than bullies: there are vacant black holes in the corners of his mind. There are darker things that would gladly fill them.

Jean is about to discover that his school is more foreign than he could possibly imagine.

Behind the stockroom door there are other classrooms. Classrooms where paper planes carry passengers, statues cry, board games cost your life, books ask you questions. There are endless dusty corridors, back ways, cellars and chimney flues, hidden rooms, and garrets and just occasionally you might find a pupil running for his life. Better join him.

Jean knows his little sister is here. But is she hiding or helping? Is she alive or dead? In point of fact is Jean alive or dead? It's a question that the enigmatic Moonster might answer. But he is trying to get out, not in.

Jean's quest to find her becomes a personal journey. A Journey to the door of the Seventh Silence.

A rite of passage, a symbolic journey through Hades, the struggle between good and evil, the adventure of appearance and reality? There is something here of Dante, Peake, Carroll. Add a little Kafka, Philip K Dick and Conrad and you will have guessed that this is not a book for children - unless like Jean they are very brave.

Mike Glyer, multiple Hugo-winning fan writer and Worldcon chair: "Brilliant."

Mike Don of Dreamberry Wine: "A cracker."

To Jean's surprise, Moonster took off all his clothes and grabbed hold of one of the ceiling ropes. With a wild whoop, he flung himself outwards from the building. For a second, Jean thought Moonster had gone mad and was attempting suicide. Moonster swung out in the rain, his thin, muscular body lit as if with innumerable magnesium sparkles as the water droplets dashed off it. He caught another rope that Jean now saw suspended from a gantry above the garret. Now with each swing, Moonster waltzed further into the abyss and then spun back into the room; and then, like the pendulum of some unbelievable clock, he swung back and forward, to and fro, in wild, ululating joy. He seemed at once both a human boy and a sparkling, amazing water creature, suspended in the biggest open-air bath in the universe.

For a few seconds, Jean could only glare at this sight, his throat dry with fear and his belly gnawing with expectation. Then, overcome with a sheer and fierce joy, he threw off his own clothes, grabbed a rope, and impelled himself out into the dizzying space. In an instant, he felt the weight of a million raindrops bouncing off his body. There was an empty shock as he spun back into the garret, and then the infinite joy of repeating it over and over again: sliding into the rain like a ghost with Moonster. It was as if they were flicking backward and forward in time. It seemed as if they maintained this hypnotic rhythm for hours. Sometimes, they would swing in tandem as though they were riding parallel rocking horses on a roundabout, sometimes they were like two halves of a weather clock, telling fair weather or foul, and then again they spun like reckless dancers around a maypole, entwining in each other's rope. Sometimes, they would cling together, spinning around and around like twin gymnasts.

Jean could not see the abyss below because of the violent rain. But there was one occasion when a sudden bolt of lightning struck a lightning rod somewhere to the west. In that instant, the whole immense arena woke up. It was as though an immense camera flashlight had suddenly revealed an ancient roman amphitheatre. But Jean felt no fear. Even when his hand slipped on the wet rope and he slid one-handed to the knot, he remained unafraid. The abyss was there, he sensed it, but the burgeoning air seemed somehow even safer than the lighted garret.

Eventually, of their own momentum, the ropes came to a standstill outside the room, and there was only the sound of the driven air. Jean and Moonster hung motionless for a while. Then Moonster dropped to the floor of the room and Jean followed him. They both laughed until their bellies ached, staring at their naked and drenched bodies until they could not even stand up. They had to lie down for a while, until Moonster managed to conquer the laughter and the exhaustion. Finally, he got to his feet. Somehow, he produced two Persian towels and then made some tea.

They climbed into the hammocks, and lay there for a long time, swinging idly like two sailors in a becalmed ship. They sipped tea and ate biscuits in the quiet of the storm.

After a while, Moonster broke the silence. 'You asked about the corridor,' he said.

'The cold,' Jean replied.

'Yes. That is the same monster that the Head allowed into English.'

'But what kind of monster is it?' asked Jean.


© Craig Herbertson 2006, 2007.
School: the Seventh Silence is published by Immanion Press.

Now available at Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Peter Lorre in The Beast With Five Fingers (1946)

Peter Lorre in The Beast With Five Fingers - click on the picture to view a 12-photo slide show on another page.

I don't know about you, but I get pretty bored waiting for slideshows to load - not everyone has broadband - so if you want to see the slideshow of 12 photos from the film, you can click on the picture above and view it on an independent web page. But if you don't want to view it, here's just one of the photos. Peter Lorre - great actor. And here in a role which he made his own as the mad man haunted by The Beast With Five Fingers.

Down at Anthology Hell a recent topic was William Fryer Harvey's classic horror short story, on which this film was based.

I looked in Google Images for stills from the film, but could only find two photos and some posters. Which wasn't good enough. So I decided to make my own. These pictures come from a tape I made from the BBC's screening of the film back in the mid-Seventies. I recently recorded it onto DVD and used KM Player to get these screen grabs.

With thanks to Demonik, moderator of Vault of Evil -Anthology Hell for advice about KM Player when all other screen grabbers had proved useless.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Filthy Creations Magazine is HERE!!!

Cover for Filthy Creations 1 by Ade Salmon and Rog Pile

You probably don't want to wait ages for a slideshow to load (which slows up everything else at the same time) - so if you want to see the slideshow of all the drawings and more from Filthy Creations 1 you can click on the pictures above or below view it on an independent web page.

The picture below is the version that wasn't used for Victoria J Dixon's Martyr's Window. The one above shows the cover drawing by Ade Salmon and me, minus its text.

Maryr's Window by Victoria J Dixon drawn by Rog Pile for Filthy Creations Magazine

Filthy Creations is a magazine of original horror fiction and art, spawned by the infamous VAULT OF EVIL - ANTHOLOGY HELL. The illustrations shown here are by Chrissie Demant, with magical cover art colouring by comic artist Adrian Salmon, who drew the Terry Sharp graphic novel The Faceless, mentioned on this blog; also sketches here by me, Rog' Pile. The fiction is by Charles Black, Victoria J Dixon, Stephen Goodwin, Franklin Marsh and myself. The magazine is edited by Steve Goodwin and with guest editorial by Vault of Evil's very own moderator and 'genius loci' Demonik.

To obtain a copy, please send a cheque for £2.50 (including P&P), made out to R Pile at the address below (I'm working on an Amazon link, honest...):

46 Trenoweth Estate
North Country
TR16 4AH

Or you can email me by clicking this link: Filthy Creations

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Barbara Steele - The Ultimate Horror Queen

Barbara Steele in Black Sunday

Horror is strange, as subjective a thing as humour or music. But when someone gets it right, it becomes an inspired thing. People say that Tod Browning saw beauty in horror. Mario Bava's La Maschera del demonio (also known as Black Sunday) was based upon Nicholai Gogol's short story, reworking the folk tale The Viy. And Bava was fortunate in having the most remarkable actress in Britain's almost unnaturally beautiful Barbara Steele to play the role of the witch Katia Vajda.

If Barbara Steele was not an actress of ability and presence, and Bava's film had not exuded mood and atmosphere, probably it would have disappeared after a time - it has to be admitted that the story lacks a little in pace, and perhaps the script didn't translate too well from the Italian. But the film had horror, opening with Steele's witch having a mask nailed to her face before being burned alive, and the atmosphere has rarely been equalled, with a mist-shrouded graveyard and a castle riddled with secret passages.

And most of all, it had Barbara Steele, who without question became instantly the Queen of all Scream Queens. One tagline read:

"STARE INTO THESE EYES... discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY... it will paralyze you with fright!

And no one ever had eyes that could fascinate like those of Barbara Steele.

And - which is perhaps more important - few others share her affinity with gothic horror and the power women's sexuality plays in it.

Roger B Pile

Visit Barbara Steele's MySpace blog.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Graphic Novel

The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story© Copyright 2005 Robert Tinnell and Adrian Salmon

Click here to view a 20 page preview, one page at a time or as a Flash movie!

He's willing to go to Hell - so you won't have to!


By day, Terry Sharp is a hard-living, skirt-chasing, celebrated director of classic horror films. But by night, the horror turns real - Terry has discovered a shadowy group of Satanists hell-bent on taking control of the British government. This knowledge has made him a marked man. Black magic or bullets - the Faceless conspirators don't particularly care which - as long as the end result is Terry's death.

Too bad for them, Terry Sharp isn't ready to die just yet - not without taking a whole lot of bad guys with him.

THE FACELESS now scheduled to be in stores
September 28th!

The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story available for Preorder June '05


Order today from or from New England Comics!

The Faceless at Amazon

I think these drawings suggest a bit of Hergé, as well as the usual DC and Marvel influence. Whatever or whoever inspired Adrian Salmon, it has to be something good, because I like the slightly retro feel these graphics have. This book looks exciting and moody, and I'm ordering mine!

Roger B Pile

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Victims by SU SO (from Skywald's Scream, 1974)

ugh! *bloody silly children*

I’m told that I’ve been guilty of good taste, recently, so in case this was catching, I decided the world should be reminded of The Victims. Drawn by SU SO, for Sywald’s Scream magazine, the frames shown here appeared in the August and September 1974 issues, providing proof if any were needed that the ‘70’s was indeed the decade good taste forgot.

The story featured two young ladies being put through episode after episode, in which they faced perils worse than any Pauline ever dreamed of. Who the victims were, or how their ordeal began, I don’t know. But previous to their being grabbed by this giant squid, the two young ladies had been captured by a crew of rotting zombie pirates; later, they were to find themselves imprisoned beneath the waves by a Nazi dwarf submarine captain at the helm of his giant squid robot.

But you probably guessed that.

And getting back to the accusation of ‘good taste’?

Well, I was working on a web page intended to provide an extra portal for Gruesome Cargoes from my other site. I showed the page - which is still unfinished - to site administrator Demonik, whose comment was that it was... ‘very tasteful’.

Hmph! Talk about damning with faint praise! No one ever accused Christine Campbell Thomson or Herbert van Thal of being tasteful!

I also heard from Charles Black, whose collection of horror stories, entitled Black Ceremonies, is to be published by Wicked Karnival and Grafika Press in 2007.

Finally, saving the best until last, I’ve also heard from Magnetic Mary! Yes, a birthday card from her dropped through my letterbox! You see, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that really counts. The card was a little late, but Mary says that she would find it easier to remember my birthday if I would just grow up…


First Dem' and now Mary. They're ganging up on me! :(

So I need to cultivate tastelessness, dust off my old fiction, and be a little more mature.

All right, a lot more mature.

Just don’t hold your breath! :D

****blub****** gurgle*******

For completists who would like to view the frames as they appeared on the complete comic pages, you can view the first page here, and the second page here.

Find out will the Victims learn that "Death by drowning is perhaps an easier, kinder, faster death than death by utter suffocation"? They sure knew how to write this stuff!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Googled! - A Sinister Search

Today my site stats showed that someone had found this site by typing these searchwords into Google: vault, cellar, inquisition and hospital.

Hmm, and I thought I was weird!

In fact there is one reference to the inquisition here in Dem's synopsis of August Derleth's The Coffin of Lissa; and for good measure, the searcher might have found torture, if not specifically the inquisition, in my account of a seriously unpleasant dream I had, called The Torture Chamber (and I should add, if you're squeamish, don't go to that page, it's kinda yukky).

You don't have to look far to find 'vaults' here, of course. But 'hospital' is a little puzzling...

But what a sinister combination of words to type into a search engine. And it makes me wonder what sort of little site I've created here if those words find it!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Guest at the Haunted Dolls' House

The First Pan Book of Horror Stories

For some days I've been completing a new page in my main site including synopses of stories from The First Pan Book of Horror Stories, a fantastic treasure house of horror. The page just needs linking from the titles page now.

Another page needed correction. When I first put the review of Stephen King's short story The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson in my other site, I wrote that this story was taken from The Tommyknockers, but in fact I was wrong. Recently I found a private message in the guestbook. The message explains that:

'"Becka P." precedes The Tommyknockers and ran on its own in Rolling Stone in the '80s, where the editor encountered it. It's long ago and I'm not an SK scholar --- Stephen King reworked it into the novel later.'

Shudder does give a 1986 previous printing date for the story (no mention of Rolling Stone in my copy); The Tommyknockers came out in 1988. I should have noticed that. My apologies for the error, and thank you for the information!

The story tells how 'Becka Paulson starts getting messages from Jesus, in the shape of the 3D plastic picture of Jesus, on top of her TV set. One difference from the story's later appearance in the novel is the way 'Becka's revelations are initiated; there are no Tommyknockers here, just an accidental bullet in the head. Quietly hysterical stuff.

Meanwhile, the apparently tireless Dem' has been posting links to the Dolls House wherever he's used my review stuff in Gruesome Cargoes. Bless!

Lastly, I added a link to Dark Echo. Incredibly, this brilliant site was one of the first places to link to A Haunted Dolls House. I really had no idea who I was asking a link of. The shame! When they did it, I had a bloody animated bat gif flying on the first page! Happy Days!

Bite me!

I'll regret doing this tomorrow, I'll be hiding my head in a bag! :D

Friday, April 14, 2006


Chained!   Click to find more like this at A Haunted Dolls House.

The irony about the galleries that I put up on the net a few years back, was that I was so obsessed with learning how to site-build, I didn't use much judgement over the pictures I uploaded. But I don't suppose anyone really noticed.

Anyway, I'll point the picture link at one of the galleries - not sure which, yet!

'Chained?' Well, I did a few pictures of girl soldiers a while back; and there's a mildly fetishistic element about this one, I suppose. But it's late, and it's time I updated this blog again, so here it is. Hope you like it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Some Not At Night Teasers

Deciding that I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, I decided to grab some more of Demonik's synopses, this time from Vault of Evil. If he hadn't created this site, I would. I'm jealous of it, I admit. Without more ado then, I present:

Demonik's Not At Night Teasers

Don't you just love these covers!

'Nice snake, come to daddy... ' Still Not at Night at The Vault of Evil, Paperback Anthology Hell

... or, a few reasons why I love this stuff ...

Take it away, Dem',

"Michael Annesly - Rats: A Berkely barn is besieged by million upon million of them. The occupants, Sir Edward Fanshawe and his camping party, including a young mother and child, are soon fighting a losing battle in the dark. "Oh God, I'm up to my waist in rats. I'm being eaten alive!"

Guy Preston - The Inn: Frank Metheun, stranded on the mist shrouded Cumberland moors, chances upon an early theme pub with an extremely off-putting sign:
"This was in the nature of a coffin supported by six headless bearers goose-stepping towards a white headstone. Underneath ... with grim irony, the legend 'Ye Journey's End'".

Somewhat reluctantly, he decides to put up there for the night. At first, his main cause of concern is that the landlord is eyeless and reminds him of a slug, but there's also a beautiful girl hanging around and at least she must be harmless ...

On retiring to his room, he decides against taking a bath when he notices it is still "thick and slippery" with the blood of the previous guest. As darkness descends, the Landlord and his dishy daughter pay him a visit ...

One of my all time favourites of the "Not at Nights", and the climactic pursuit across the rooftop is genuinely exciting.

August Derleth - The Coffin Of Lissa: Gruesome tale of torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. The narrator is placed in the titular contraption. Rats gnaw his hands. The lid slowly descends ...

Bassett Morgan - The Devils Of Po Sung: New Guinea. Captain MacTeague falls foul of a sadistic Chinese, Po Sung who (as usual) snuffs out his rivals by transplanting their brains into orang-utangs, crocodiles and co. It's unlikely MacTeague would have survived had he not rescued a native girl from a whipping when she was still human. Po Sung meets a suitably ghastly doom when his apes mutiny, and his assistants are stuffed into the bulbs of the obligatory vampire plants. They just don't write them like this any more.

Amelia Reynolds Long - The Thought Monster: A 'mental vampire', thought into existence by doomed scientist Dr. Walgate. It feeds upon the minds of its victims, whom it scares to death. Somebody saw enough worth in this ludicrous story to film it as B-classic "Fiend Without A Face."

Zita Inez Ponder - His Wife: Hampstead, turn of the century. The narrator, down on his luck, meets a kindly stranger who offers him shelter on a bitter February night. "Shelter" is a strange basement room that smells like a graveyard. When the homeless man remarks that he is a joiner, his host is delighted. Perhaps he could make him a box to "keep my wife's things together in?" Having prepared supper, the Good Samaritain introduces the lovely lady.

F. J. Stamper - Ti Michel: Porte Liberte. The death-bed confession of a liquor merchant who explains why he only serves the despised Gerdammes from the left hand barrel. Three years earlier, he'd returned home to find one of their number ravishing his daughter. Having bashed Corporal Bousset's brains out with a claw-hammer, the publican needed somewhere to conceal the body.

Oswell Blakestone - The Crack: The narrator has hideous dreams involving a weird antique dealer and his horrific statuettes of animals writhing in torment. It transpires that, at an unspecified date, such events did take place when Chiffonier, the propritor of 'Ye Olde Yew Tree Antique Shoppe', was "detected in a particularly repellent crime" and absconded, leaving a pig, mutilated and masked to resemble himself (!) to be hung in his place.

Three years pass before the narrator encounters the reincarnation of Chiffonier, a stage illusionist. During his performance, the magician suffers a brain siezure, runs one female assistant through with swords and sets about sawing a second in half."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Gruesome Cargoes

Be a devil, Visit Gruesome Cargoes today!!!

Bassett Morgan's Laocoon: "I believe it was a mistake to feed him flesh. Better to have left him to find sea food only ...."

Professor Denham, noted back home for his brain transplants on rats and an unshakable belief that sea-monsters exist, invites Willoughby out to Papau to assist him in his research. From the moment the boat docks, Willoughby realises something's up: the houseboy, Wi Wo, is clearly terrified, and he can't find hide or hair of Cheung Ching, Denham's devoted assistant.

It transpires that Cheung Ching, having contracted leprosy, begged the prof. to insert his brain into that of the giant sea-serpent so he can continue with the research. Denham reluctantly performs the operation, but lately the Laocoon in the creature seems to have established dominance over Cheung Ching: it has become surly, taken a "sweetie" and gobbles down his hens and chickens by the bucket-load. There's only one thing for it: Willoughby will have to transplant Denham's brain into another Laocoon ..."

The above was not my synopsis, but that of Demonic, long-suffering webmaster of Vault of Evil - Paperback Anthology Hell, which I find completely addictive, and now Gruesome Cargoes, a similar forum dedicated to his pet obsession, Christine Campell Thomson's amazing and truly wonderful Not At Night series (Britain's answer to Weird Tales, if you didn't know). I have very similar literary tastes, and was delighted to find Dem's spirited synopsis of Bassett Morgan's Laocoon, a story I have a particular fondness for - one you have to read to believe. :D

Way to go, Dem'!

Look, you just know that with cover art like that, the stories have got to be great!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Cat With the Skeleton Tail

Emily the Queen

This is my cat Emily, in the flat where we used to live.

Recently she lost the tip of her tail in a disagreement with someone she met.

The first I noticed of it was a piece of black fur on the upstairs landing. Disturbingly, it was attached to a piece of skin. I couldn't figure out where it had come from. It was days before I realised that there was something quite odd about the tip of her tail. Nothing to see, but it felt strangely boney...

Well, I don't need go on. And she seems perfectly happy still, I'm relieved to say!

Maybe it'll teach her not to go starting so many fights!

Well, probably not, but I can hope.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Obsessions, fixations...

Macha's Acorn Crop - unfinished, I'm working on it!

Now that I've got your attention...

I simply cannot understand people who say they’re bored. They make me angry.

I start my day at 5:30 a.m., but I still can’t find time each day to attend to all my obsessions. And as someone who has an unhealthy fixation with death, and an unrealistic wish to live forever, I crash into bed each evening exhausted, straining to stay awake while I read another book – because reading every good book ever written is just one more obsession.

I did find one alternative to reading recently at Audio Books For Free, which really does provide free downloads (that is, if you can tolerate the poorer quality sound of the free downloads – if you want better, you have to pay them). So for a time that option allowed me to indulge my obsession for fiction aurally, while I did other things. But of course, it’s not the same as actively reading.

I already doubt the wisdom of putting my old dreams on the net. I dislike adding footnotes saying ‘Of course, it was a dream, I’m not really like that’, because (a) I like to think that people are intelligent enough to figure out the truth for themselves, and (b) the whole point of dreams is to bring to our attention those things we’re not consciously aware of, and sometimes they suck!

I was looking at my Spanish friend’s blog just now; her openness and obvious lust for life are probably her most endearing qualities, and make for a great blog. I'm never sure if it's going to make me laugh or break my heart. And this morning I learned that a mutual friend’s worst fears have been realized as surgery has confirmed that the cancer has returned to her mother’s belly.

Sometimes life sucks. And you find yourself thinking maybe you should take up praying, because, after all, just maybe there's something in it. Maybe it helps anyway.

There is so much to do, and that's what love of life is all about. Drawings, photos, music to make and listen to; gardens to plant (I bought a small tree this week, a ‘twisted hazel’). There are stories and letters to be written, pictures to paint, websites to build. And who really gives a damn if a dream gives away a little more than we are comfortable facing up to.

‘And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’

Yes, it’s time for another picture. This one needs finishing, too. I keep telling myself there’ll be time. Trouble is, I don't believe it.

Lamia (3)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Another Crucifixion Sketch

I once drew two pen-and-ink crucifixion sketches. Both were drawn from a 'god's-eye-view'.

The one that I can't find showed the victim's face turned up, glaring with a horrid resentment and malevolence at heaven. I can't find it because it disturbed me so much at the time that I hid it away.

I hid it too well.

I keep searching.

Just another crucifixion sketch

Waking the Giant

My last post was more of a whimper than a moan. Do I owe apologies for that? Only to me. I suppose I could make excuses, like 'Maybe I wasn't talking about boredom, rather depression, and you know my serotonin supply just wasn't reaching my brain (a regular thing)'. But what the hell, it's another day and I'm getting back to the grind again, and I figure it really is time I got my house sorted and got back to the drawing board. Literally, perhaps.

I was talking about sleeping giants in the last post. Giants of the unconscious, unfulfilled potential. Occasionally we fulfil that potential. Here's a giant I drew a long time ago. I was into comics big time then. Anyway, now a smaller version of it's become a home-made, home-burned CD compilation cover. I like to draw. It's a kind of meditation. Meditation is just 'being'. And it reminds me I'm alive. I should do more of it.

Living is cool.

OK, just let me finish the laundry. Then I'll see what I can do. Meanwhile, here he is.