Sunday, 30 August 2009
A good dramatisation of E.F. Benson's ghost story - which is one of his best - can be heard here in the old series Fear on Four.
Friday, 28 August 2009
This is a cross-posting (not an angry posting) with my other blog, because it fits into both. Sarah Millican is a brilliant Tyneside comedian who - at the current Edinburgh Festival Fringe - read her short story about a lonely hairdresser to a live audience. It's poignant and witty, packed with observational humour of the best sort. Anyone who thinks women can't be funny should listen to this. Plenty of men laughing, methinks. NB it's only available for a few days. Listen soon, my humournauts.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
The Mysteries of Nightmare Abbey
But that's the fun of it all. This booklet was written for a steampunk event* and has the genuine touch of alternative or alternate history. The first poem, 'Queen V's Rocket', concerns the eponymous spaceship blasting off from Rockall. Glad to see it was built (in part) on Tyneside. From this thundering start the Cardinal takes us on a steam funicular ride through a variety of scenes and characters that are almost - but not quite - ripped bodily from the pages of history and/or Victorian literature.
Hard to pick a favourite. The mourning poems 'Whitby Jet' and 'Lilies for your Grave' are terse compared to effusive 'round the houses' late Romantic verse, but still capture a Tennysonian sense of loss. Altogether more playful is 'Vampire Wine', a Byronic little piece about naughty East European plants. If I had to choose a favourite it would be 'Isabella's Herb Shop'. Anyone who knows Keats' account of the Pot of Basil will get the joke about 'Canopic pots... two feet across'.
I can't leave this topic without mentioning another Peacock book, Melincourt. It features an intelligent orang-utan called Sir Oran Haut-Ton, and was a satire (arguably) on the theories of Lord Monboddo. This pre-Darwinian thinker was convinced that we were primates, and that all human beings are in fact born with tails. Why do we never see these tails? Monboddo had an answer to this one - midwives obviously cut the tails off at birth.
'I want my tail back.' If ever there was a slogan waiting for a protest movement to come along and join it, that's it.
* The Asylum is the event, it takes place on the weekend of Sept 11th to 13th. The Mysteries of Nightmare Abbey was written as a giveaway at this 'convivial'. But you could might obtain a copy by sending an SAE to
Peterborough PE2 5RB
Monday, 24 August 2009
Japanese Ghost Paintings
If you, like me, are a fan of Japanese supernatural movies such as Kwaidan and Kuroneko, you'll like the ghost pictures of Kyosai. Spooky is the word. I found them at the excellent Japanese culture blog Pink Tentacle.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
The Amorous Ghost
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Novocastria! Jewel of the North
In the second picture, taken at Old Eldon Square, the large bearded chap is Mike 'Smiler' Calvert, who co-hosted the Newcastle Black Pilgrimage. On the far right, Helen's husband Mark. Note how it's almost impossible to get people to look at the camera, because Newcastle Is So Very Interesting!
I'm going straight to Hell
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Little Goth Girl
Just finished looking after members of A Ghostly Company, the supernatural fiction society. My friend Mike and I ushered nine people around Newcastle and Tynemouth without anyone getting killed, possessed, kidnapped or even lost. Along the way much ale was quaffed, though most of it not by me, and many pictures were taken. Weather variable, but bonhomie not impaired. I'm soaking my feet in a large bowl of warm water as I type this. Blimey.
And that's just the half of it. Last weekend I was in London - Southwark, in fact. There I encountered various folk, including Mike Chislett. Jim and Todd will be pleased to hear that I did retrieve two copies of A Game of Ghosts, so expect those very soon, chaps.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
The Catacombs of Fear!!!!
Bwahahahahah! Welcome to my Catacombs of Fear! I've always wanted to say that. And what a cracking title for a collection of spooky tales. It sounds like one of those anthology films Amicus did in the early Seventies. Some old josser would be sitting on a bench in a churchyard, fumbling in his corduroys, and a succession of hapless twits would sit down next to him to have a smoke or do the Times' crossword, whereupon said mystic old geezer would take out a deck of Tarot cards and engage them in a spot of prognostication. Cue bucket of fake blood and much screaming.
But that's not what John L. Probert's new book is like. Well, I don't think so. It's a collection of tales with the linking theme of a cathedral; characters include:
'The beautiful girl whose looks are maintained by acts of violence...
The crippled ballerina desperate for new legs...
The television producer who discovers that murder improves his ratings...'
Yes, sounds like the genuine article. Check it out here.
The Book Seer
One Eye Grey
Oddly enough, as I was setting out to Newcastle Central Station for a trip to London last Friday, I received the latest copy of One Eye Grey. Entitled 'The Last of the Chelsea Smilers', it consists of more macabre and downright weird tales of London. How much of a coincidence was that?!? Not much, really, but I'm easily impressed.
Anyway, it's a good collection. I read much of it on the train down and found myself enjoying stories that informed me what a preternaturally ghastly metropolis I had decided to spend a weekend in. The Chelsea Smilers of the title are particularly effective nasties in a story by OEG editor Chris Roberts. Like many of the beings in the stories they are the stuff of urban legend. Other highlights include Martine Jones' 'Erase Book', with its sinister electronic puzzling antics, and 'Walking on Water' by Benedict J. Jones. The latter has a good X-Files vibe.
But it's all good - the OEG gang continue to live up to the high standards they've set for themselves. To produce a Penny Dreadful for our times is not easy. It's good to see so many writers taking on supernatural themes. I was slightly disappointed to read that this is the only issue of 2009, but it is bumperesque in size and they are apparently planning online doings that may even include moving pictures of some kind. Fancy.
Oh, and they've got a really ace theme tune! I wish I had a theme tune, it's so classy. You can hear it and generally find out more about OEG here.
Oh, yes, I enjoyed my time in London, thank you for asking. It was very hot, but being northern (and therefore Real People) I am dead hard and didn't collapse. Except in pubs.
Sorry to fans of Peterborough's leading poet, Cardinal Cox, who sent me his latest effusion more than a week ago. It's not supernatural as such, but has a kind of steampunk Gothic vibe, you dig? It's entitled The Shaver Mysteries, an episode in counterculture/pulp fiction history I'd forgotten. If you'd like to know more about Shaver and his crazy notions, the BBC (of all institutions) has something here. (If Shaver were around now he'd probably accue the BBC of being under dero control.) If you'd like to know more about Cardinal Cox and his emanations, find out more here.
Here's a bit from the new collection:
The freak show's fallen on hard times
It's the carnival's disgrace
Even the bearded lady has
Taken to hiding her face
The Siamese twins have been divorced
Indian rubber man's lost his stretch
Tattooe'd lady's disappeared
Booth boxer's just a wretch
The living skeleton's developed a taste
For the richest chocolate log
We're still featuring Henry, though
The famous dog-faced dog
Friday, 7 August 2009
There's This Other Blog...
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Cold to the Touch
I recently took delivery of Simon Strantzas' new collection, Cold to the Touch. So far it's pretty darn good, though I'm not sure how I'm going to review it.
Enigmatic stories that don't easily fit into any category (except for 'horror', which is a misnomer) aren't easy to write about. I suppose I could do some sort of puppet show... Or maybe semaphore signals? Oh well, the point is I'm wallowing in the misery of it all and enjoying the way Simon dishes out great dollops of misery and disaster to all and sundry characters. Even when somebody perfectly harmless has the good fortune to get laid it doesn't end well. Such is life.
I suppose I could describe this as 'the new realism'. One interesting thing about almost all horror writing (and most other genre fiction) is how rarely authors experiment with prose style, structure etcetera.
Future critics may remark on this conservatism and conclude that it provides a basic substratum of reassurance, so that nothing that happens in the stories is too disorientating. Other critics may say something else. That's critics for you.
The Ghostly Lighthouse Keeper
Now this is just confusalatory. Somebody thinks a lighthouse is haunted. Good! Carry on. But wait - somebody now wants to put a statue of the ghost on the lighthouse so it will become a sort of tourist attraction.
How offensive is this to the original, real ghost? It's like leaving a message on someone's answerphone saying: 'Well, Tracy, you were obviously too busy to come to the pub last night, so we've bought an inflatable replica of you with a built-in tape recorder that recites inanities about reality TV shows and lady complaints, so we need never be without your contribution to our social lives ever again.'
I really regret doing that. She never spoke to me again. But let's get back to the lighthouse...
The lighthouse's owners, Talacre Beach Caravan Sales Ltd, have submitted an application to Flintshire County Council for permission to erect a "2m stainless steel human sculpture affixed to the external balcony and railing of Talacre Lighthouse".
That's not a ghost! It sounds more like a killer cyborg from the future, when the world is chock-full of explosions and partial nudity. It bears no resemblance to the actual ghost, said to be 'a man wearing an old-fashioned keeper's coat'. I mean, really. And why a statue at all? If Wookey Hole can hire a witch, why can't these skinflints hire a resting actor to wander about in oilskins emitting the odd groan? He could carry a lamp up and down that spiral staircase at night.
More info on these ghosties here. Talacre will have to go it some to match the reputation of another lighthouse, however. While not strictly haunted, the lighthouse on Flannan Isle isn't a place I'd happily spend a holiday. Oo-er.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Listen to a Great Old One
Apparently a few years agents of the US government recorded a message from Great Cthulhu. Well, something like that. It's called The Bloop, and is one of those Mysteries of the Deep we all enjoy telling small children about in the dark, on a beach, by a dying campfire. Heh heh.
Zombie Boot Camp
I'll bet they were all dead tired at the end of this lot, tee-hee. Apparently in Japan they have a sort of zombie theme park. Well, of course they do. This is the country that gave us Hello Kitty, one of the scariest of cults. Pure evil.
The video has no subtitles, but you don't really need them. 'You 'orrible little zombie! I'll make you wish you'd never been... er, killed. D'you think you're going to get to chew on terrified co-eds with that kind of attitude? Dis-graceful!'<
If I have one criticism of Sgt Major Zombie, he doesn't lead them in a merry song as they jog along the beach. One of those US Army-type chanting efforts...
Japanese zombies on patrol
Eat your brains in a nice spring roll!
The picture above is from a book of photographs of a British army training area in Germany. Red Land, Blue Land refers to the standard NAT...