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A Halloween 2016 Treat!

30 Oct

October 29 2016

Halloween! 

Witches and Ghouls! Vampires and werewolves! And worst of all, Trump and Hillary! GAH!

But let’s make Halloween great again. This year, I have for you a special treat from a pair of great artists. Mike Mongello has already graced this site with his wonderful illustrations, and tonight’s piece shows he just keeps getting better.

I’ve also shone the spotlight on Matt Cowan and his lists of great horror tales before, though he hardly needs me to publicize him. He’s an award-winning author and I’ll tell you more about him later.

Here’s Mike’s original piece, created especially for Halloween 2016.

monge-halloween-pumpkinhead

I love it. This really captures a sense of creepiness. That grin and those teeth tell me that this isn’t just a guy in a mask, this is a Halloween nightmare. And the ax? I don’t think he’s on his way to chop down a cherry tree.

How did this come to be? Here’s a peek at an early sketch.

monge-halloween

Great as always!

You can find Mike Mongello online at www.MichaelMongello.com.
You can also find him on Facebook right here
Look for him at a comic con near you!

Matt has provided us with a list of Ten Classic Horror Stories for Halloween and as usual, I’m put to shame about how few of them I’ve read. Also as usual, there are a few authors on the list that are new to me. My reading list keeps growing and growing and growing…

TEN CLASSIC HORROR STORIES FOR HALLOWEEN

Every year over at Horror Delve I put together a list of spooky tales to help set the mood for the Halloween season. Given the honor of guest posting here at BMJ2K, I’ve chosen 10 of my all time favorites from those lists.

  1. “The Haunters and The Haunted” or “The House and The Brain” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1859) – After hearing a notoriously haunted house is available to let, a fearless man, excited to experience and find an explanation for the haunting, goes there to check it out with a trusted servant and dog. The descriptions of the bizarre manifestations in the house are superb and make this one of the best haunted house stories ever written. I’ll say that I’ve read both the more standard, edited version and its original version, which contains a plodding, wordy latter third of the story that attempts to explain the haunting. I feel this is a prime example of how less is often more.
  2. “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B. Edwards (1864) – A headstrong soldier, anxious to return home to see his wife, takes a ride inside an old stagecoach filled with disturbing passengers. The beginning of this tale meanders a bit, but the chilling end is worth the wait.
  3. “Number 13” by M.R. James (1904) – A man staying in room 12 of a hotel begins to realize another room takes the space between his and room 14 at times during the night. There was no room numbered 13 due to superstition. In the mysterious extra chamber, from which an eerie red glow emanates, he hears strange talking and sees disturbing shadows. This is a favorite of mine. The bizarre things attached to this spectral room point to a diabolical, demonic entity taking up residence in the extra-dimensional room.
  4. “How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery” E.F. Benson (1912) – Church-Peveril is a large manor house so full of spectral emanations the family and staff have become accustom to them. There is one manifestation they must take steps to avoid, however. Long ago, an evil man strangled two young twins who were the rightful successors to the estate and cast them into the vast fireplace in the gallery hall. Since then, anyone remaining in the hall after sunset encounters the pitiable twins and suffer a horrible death soon afterward. Benson masterfully relates the terror of being caught after sunset in the dreaded gallery, and the scene where a woman experiences a nightmare on a green couch is so weird and unsettling, it will stay with me always.
  5. “The Beast With Five Fingers” W.F. Harvey (1919) – Adrian Borlsover was a kind, well-liked man, who although blind, was unusually adept with his hands. Two years before his death he developed the psychic ability of automatic writing, where a disembodied presence took control of his hand to write while he slept. After Adrian dies, his nephew Eustace Borlsover receives a box containing one of his severed hands with a letter from those in charge of Adrian’s burial claiming they received a letter reversing his desire to be cremated, instead asking to be embalmed with the hand cut off and sent to Eustace. The hand has a life of its own, able to scuttle about, climb things, write messages and even kill. This is a great story about a possessed hand that is cunning, elusive, and evil.
  6. “The Night-Wire” by H.F. Arnold (1926) – An uncannily adept radio operator types out reports of emergencies that come in from across the world. One evening he begins to receive transmissions from a town he and his coworker have ever heard of named Xebico which is being overwhelmed by an intense fog that coincides with strange colored skies. As the fog spreads, screams are heard coming from it. A local priest claims the fog originated from a nearby graveyard. Things grow more dire with each report.
  7. Ghost Hunt” by W.F. Harvey (1938) – A radio host broadcasts a live ghost hunt in a house in London where there has been “no less than thirty suicides”. Most have run from the house at night to throw themselves off the cliff and into the nearby river. The radio broadcaster is joined by a paranormal investigator. The investigation proves all-too successful in this chilling story. It was masterfully adapted for the radio program Suspense in 1949 (Relic Radio has a download of it here:http://www.relicradio.com/otr/2011/02/h292-ghost-hunt-by-suspense/ ).
  8. “The Calamander Chest” by Joseph Payne Brennan (1954) – A man finds a large calamander chest cheaply priced. He buys it and takes it home. Over time he begins to see a long white finger protrude from the lid to tap and scratch at the chest with its hideous black fingernail. It vanishes whenever the man approaches, and the box is empty when he checks it. His attempts to get rid of the chest repeatedly fail for seemingly natural reasons. Things ramp up when he starts to dream of the finger beckoning him closer to the chest.
  9. “The Pennine Tower Restaurant” by Simon Kurt Unsworth (2010)– An unusual architectural tower has a bizarre and dangerous history. All the deaths, disappearances, and ethereal glimpses attached to the structure are documented here. This riveting tale, presented as fact, comes complete with detailed, collaborating footnotes.
  10. “At Lorn Hall” by Ramsey Campbell (2012) – Seeking to escape a rain storm, a man enters a rundown manor where he finds a set of headphones. He puts them on and proceeds to embark on tour of the house “guided” by the recorded voice of its old master whose image is depicted in the hanging portraits of every room. His eerie comments makes the trespasser think someone else may be inside the house with him just out of view. I loved this story! Great atmosphere that keeps you unsettled throughout.

Thanks Matt!

Matt Cowan’s love for the horror genre stretches back beyond his earliest childhood memories. At a young age he stopped having nightmares when he began enjoying them too much. His primary literary influences are Ramsey Campbell, M.R. James, and Algernon Blackwood. In addition to writing fiction, Matt also writes about some of the legendary names in the field at his Horror Delve blog (horrordelve.com). He lives with his wife Lynne in Indianapolis, Indiana where he’s currently working on more stories.

Publishing Credits:

“The Collective of Blaque Reach” was originally published in 2008 by Dead Letter Press as the bonus story chap book for the BOUND FOR EVIL: CURIOUS TALES OF BOOKS GONE BAD anthology. It was also featured on The Tales To Terrify Podcast in 2013 (read on episode #90).

He’s had stories in INDIANA HORROR ANTHOLOGY’s 2011 and 2012, INDIANA SCIENCE FICTION 2011, and INDIANA CRIME REVIEW 2013 from James Ward Kirk Fiction.

“Numen” won an Editor’s Choice Award for the CELLAR DOORS: WORDS OF BEAUTY, TALES OF TERROR anthology in 2013 from James Ward Kirk Fiction.

“Christmas Wine” appeared in the O LITTLE TOWN OF DEATHLEHEM from Grinning Skull Press in 2013.

A shorter version of “Here He Comes A Wandering” was originally read on The Pod Of Horror Podcast (Episode #58) as the winning entry in their Christmas Horror Story Contest that year (2009).

You can find much more of Matt Cowan online at horrordelve.com.
Click here for his Amazon author’s page.

 

Thanks Matt and Mike!

 

The Second Lives of Count Dracula

27 Oct

October 27, 2016

Lee Halloween

I love Hammer films, especially their Dracula series. Christopher Lee is perfect as The Count. He’s regal but animalistic. He’s noble but savage. He has a commanding presence and the aura of someone that not only will you obey, but someone you would never consider not obeying, even at the cost of your life. As it usually is.

The films are moody and atmospheric and even the lesser films are creepy and gothic. Lee played Dracula in seven of the nine Dracula films Hammer produced. Despite the title, Brides of Dracula did not feature Dracula, and I am not counting 1974’s The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires as Dracula was little more than a cameo.

Dracula is the Lord of the Vampires, king of the undead, and the greatest vampire scourge on Earth, according to the films. He’s been around for generations and shows no sign of stopping. The problem is, that despite the menace he projects and the reputation he possess, he doesn’t do much. Count Dracula spends his time on film on petty and minor pursuits, usually being his own worst enemy, and starting with the second film, unable to survive more than a few days before being destroyed again. He’s a bit of a failure who just gets by on his name and reputation. His best days are long behind him.

Film 1: The Horror of Dracula (1958)
This is an excellent version of the Stoker book, easily my favorite, and much better than the Francis Ford Coppola version. Dracula terrorizes the countryside, making victims of whoever is foolish enough to be unprotected at night, and is feared far and wide.

But look closely and you’ll see that he’s a hermit who never leaves his castle. Yes, he feeds at night, but returns alone. He has three vampire “brides,” but shows very little interest in creating more vampires. He lives alone and stays alone. Coffin, kill, coffin. Professor Van Helsing calls him a worldwide menace who could use his powers to take over the world, but he shows no inclination to do so. Yes, he is the scourge of Transylvania, but he’s really just a local menace, and if he didn’t need fresh blood he’s probably just stay in his empty castle all the time. He has books and other diversions in his home but shows no signs of using them. Even his move to London is out of laziness- the city is more crowded and victims will be easier to find.

dracula_prince_of_darkness_1968Film 2: Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
It has been 10 years since Dracula has been destroyed but the local villagers still live in fear. They won’t even go to church since the shadow of Dracula’s castle falls on it.

Dracula is resurrected by a previously unseen servant. He kills a traveler and mixes his blood with the Count’s ashes, bringing him back from the dead. After a ten year absence, Dracula feeds on another traveler, then instead of resuming his haunts decides to be petty and stalk the remaining travelers who escaped him. After failing to do much of anything, and failing at killing the travelers, Dracula is again destroyed (trapped under ice in running water) after only a day.

Film 3: Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
After a year entombed, Dracula is freed from the ice when blood from a priest’s wound seeps through a crack in the ice and touches his lips. Dracula returns to his castle and finds that a large cross has been placed over the doors. Instead of simply having his hypnotized servant remove the cross and return to his old ways, he spends the majority of the film hiding in the back room of an old bakery plotting the death of a young barmaid, niece of the Monsignor who placed the cross. After another day, maybe two, he is impaled on the giant cross.

At this point in the film series, Dracula has been resurrected twice, spent his time on petty and pointless revenge, and “lived” for a total of no more than three days since the end of the first film. He’s spent time hiding in a wagon outside a monastery and in a dirty basement room instead of his castle.

poster-dracula-has-risen-from-the-grave-teaser

Film 4: Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
At some point, possibly weeks after the last film, Dracula is brought back by a satanic ritual and immediately vows to kill the people who killed the man who resurrected him, despite not knowing the man. Again, he shows no interest in returning to his castle and instead his petty desire for revenge, which frankly should be beneath him, directly leads to his being turned back to dust at film’s end.

Film 5: Scars of Dracula (1970)
After an undetermined amount of time, Dracula returns from the dead when a bat regurgitates blood into his ashes, which have been inexplicably returned to his castle since the last film.

This film breaks the pattern of the last films and is closer to the first. Dracula has servants, creates more vampire brides, and, most tellingly, slaughters an entire village. This is the Dracula that had only been hinted at in the previous films. This Dracula is nearly invincible and no human agency can stop him. He is only destroyed when he is hit by a bolt of lightning.

Unfortunately, Hammer decided to move the franchise into modern times, taking the Count totally out of his Gothic element.

Film 6: Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
Film 7: The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
These films take Dracula out his usual setting but surround him with satanic cultists, which finally brings Dracula in line with his description as being an enemy of the world. Dracula takes on new identities, somewhat integrates himself into society, and generally acts more like a cult leader than a monster. However, this being the 1970’s that fits in with the era’s horror mold.

There was one final Dracula film. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, which is mainly a kung-fu film bookended by short Dracula sequences. Why does Dracula move to Asia? Laziness. Things were getting too rough in England for him. So I guess this film was a throwback to the old lazy Dracula in the first movie.

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