Sunday 31 October 2010

Fangs for the Memory - Ghostly pictures

This picture was taken by the husband of the woman in the picture on a sunny afternoon with ordinary print film. They had just moved into their new home in Chicago, Illinois. In the window to the left of them clearly shows a older woman with her hair put up in a bun and a bulldog next to her. There was no one in the house at the time of the picture taking. 

This second photograph was by Jackie Rhame of Florian, Alabama during a visit to a Six Flags Great America Amusement Park in Arlington, Texas. It clearly shows a semi-transparent figure of a little boy in the grass dressed in a red sweater with a white collar or shirt. The camera was a C- 126 and it was misting rain and humid outside. She was simply taking a picture of the Texas Giant.

And finally this remarkable image first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times (12-21-03) and was apparently captured with a closed-circuit security camera at Hampton Court Palace in London, England. The palace was built in 1525 on the River Thames 10 miles west of central London and was one the the places that King Henry VIII lived. Jane Seymour, his third wife, died there giving birth to a son, and her ghost is said to walk through one of the cobbled courtyards carrying a candle. No one seems to know what this ghostly figure represents but according to security, it sure looks like a ghost.


The video nasty scare was something dreamt up by Fleet Street during a time when the street was still synonymous with newspapers and the editors needed something to get outraged about. Things kicked off in 1982 when Vipco took out a series of full page ads to publicise forthcoming video release, Driller Killer and may complaints were sent to the advertising authoritie which brough moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse into the fray. Later Go Video anonymously contacted Mary Whitehouse to complain about their own forthcoming film, Cannibal Holocaust - no publicity if bad publicity you see. And soon The Daily Mail started a campaign against the violent video films that the paper claimed were being watched by children as young as eight.

The exposure of nasties to children began to be blamed for the increase in violent crime amongst youths and all manner of social ills. The growing media frenzy only served to increase the demand for such material among adolescents. At the suggestion of National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, the Conservative MP Graham Bright introduced a Private members Bill to the House of Commons in 1983. This was passed as the Video Recordings act 1984 which came into effect on 1 September 1985.

Under the 1984 Act, the British Board of Film Censors was renamed the British Board of Film Classification and became responsible for the certification of both cinema and video releases. All video releases after 1 September 1985 had to comply with the Act and be submitted for classification by the BBFC. Films released on video before that date had to be re-submitted for classification within the following three years. The increased possibility of videos falling into the hands of children required that film classification for video be a separate process from cinema classification. Films that had passed uncut for cinema release were often cut for video. The supply of unclassified videos became a criminal offense, as did supplying 15 and 18 certificate videos to under-aged people. As well as the low-budget horror films the Act was originally intended to curb, a number of high profile films which had passed cinema certification fell foul of the Act. This resulted in films like The Exorcist and Straw Dogs being banned after they failed to receive certificates.

Earlier in 1983 a list of so called video nasties was drawn up by the department of public prosecutions. The list was modified monthly as prosecutions failed or were dropped. In total, 72 separate films appeared on the list at one time or another. Thirty-nine films were successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act but some of these films have been subsequently cut and then approved for release by the BBFC. The remaining 35 were either not prosecuted or had unsuccessful order to help the public to avoid the films. It was hoped the public would avoid the films on the list, but it had the opposite effect and film fans were eager to see what all the fuss was about. This resulted in a lot of tacky low budget crap that would have been otherwise ignored received a large audience.


Although commonly thought of as part of the DPP list, the following two titles never actually appeared on any government list:
  • Shogun Assassin (re-released uncut in 1999)
  • Xtro (Released uncut in 1987, re-classified 15 in 2007; Xtro was a common title seized during police raids in the North of England prior to the official list being published.)
Last House on Dead End Street, also known as The Fun House, was confused with Tobe Hooper's similarly titled film The Funhouse and avoided being placed on the list.


That man Brazil sure gets about - he dropped The Archive an email to make readers aware of the Halloween centric guest post by Rizzy Rodham over at his own site, You would say that wouldn't you.

Check this great ghostly tale out, folks. In the words of a fat Northern comic, "It's a cracker!"


There's a special Halloween treat on Beat to a Pulp - that is a new story from western great, Chap O'Keefe. It was originally titled Night Howl it was written as a comic strip for Charlton Comics back in the 70's. The story was bought and paid for but never used as the comic folded shortly afterwards. However Chap had adapted the original script and turned it into a short story.

Chap tells us - "The Charlton scripts I wrote and that did appear were carried in Ghostly Tales, Scary Tales, Baron Weirwulf's Haunted Library  and The Many Ghosts of Dr Graves. I had the pleasure of seeing them "brought to life" by Steve Ditko (of Spiderman fame) and Tom Sutton.  But by the time I caught up with Charlton, the ghost comics were on their way out. To cut costs, Charlton switched from publishing "All New" stories to a reprint policy. As a result, some of the scripts I wrote never appeared. Others I've seen more than once, since they were syndicated and I picked them up in Aussie printings."

It's currently over at Beat to a Pulp and the Archive urges you to read it.

FANGS FOR THE MEMORY - Guest Blogger: Ben Willans

Ben Willians was one of the first friends I ever made on-line - we virtually met because we had a shared passion for The Beatles and one day in conversation I mentioned liking Doctor Who when I was a kid and Ben then revealed himself to be a huge fan of Doctor Who.

Despite being half my age and not even being born during  the original run of Doctor Who, Ben is a font of knowledge on all things Doctor Who and Sci-Fi.And so here he tells us why Doctor Who is suitable for Halloween viewing.

Find Ben's own blog HERE

Over to Ben

Doctor Who and Halloween go together like Cheese and Crackers, Jelly and Ice Cream and Fish and Chips.  Or so you would think.  After all, Doctor Who is primarily thought of as a Science Fiction/Fantasy show designed to scare children.  So I really thought it would be a complete doddle to do a piece for Gary about Doctor Who and Halloween.

The problem is that Doctor Who and Halloween really don't go together as well as you would assume.  When most shows do a Halloween story there is a distinct change of pace.  The most extreme example is probably the annual Simpson's tree house of horror.  But really the "Halloween Episode" is a staple of US tv.  This is where we hit the first problem.  Halloween as we think of it these days is basically an American import to the UK (Yes I am aware of its much older tradition on these shores).  Doctor Who is essentially British and tends to retain a tradition of Humanist rationalism within the implausible concept of the show itself.

Finding an obviously fitting Halloween story for Doctor Who is therefore not that easy.  You can't simply look to a "scary" or "holiday special" in the same way that you can for many a US show.  Of course there are many scary or creepy moments in the show's history.  But if scary or creepy is the basis for the link I may as well say the era begining in 1963 and ending in 2010 to date!

The most superficially obvious crossover into Halloween territory actually occurs in the Hartnell era in the story The Chase.  During one episode of that story the Tardis crew, in homage to the old Universal horror films, find themselves trapped in a haunted house complete with bats, skeletons, Dracula and Frankenstein. The Doctor must have been feeling particularly senile that week and/or smoking some really good shit as he theorises that they must have landed in a land where nightmares are real.  Needless to say this was not the case and they were actually in a glorified amusement.

I am tempted to think that The Powers That Be made a vow never to tread into this territory again because there really are slim pickings for any Halloween link until the Tom Baker era.  The best examples I can think of are the alleged Pat Troughton "Classic" The Tomb of the Cybermen and the "We'll all pretend its a classic even though we all know its not" Jon Pertwee story "The Daemons".  Better writers that I have already made a compelling case for the Cybermen as being modern day re-interpretations of the Vampire Mythos, but in Tomb they are better seen as Mummys locked in a pyramid.  The story doesn't have a remotely Halloweeny feel, but it works as a 60s take on the Universal horror films.  Quiet why the Doctor decides to help revive and then re-entomb the Cybermen remains a complete mystery to me.  The Daemons is notable for being the first Doctor Who story to do "The Devil" and "Evil Vicar" and probably the first attempt at deliberately ripping off the Hammer Horror house style.

It is only with the Tom Baker era that the show ever consistently goes Halloween.  Indeed the first three years of Baker's era, headed by producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes, is replete with homages to the Universal Pics and the Hammer Horror pics.  For the most part this is where you will get your Halloween Who fix.  The two standout stories are The Pyramids of Mars and The Brain of Morbius.

The Pyramids of Mars is one of the very best stories who ever did but also stands as spooky atmospheric tale complete with Mummys, ancient egyptian gods and creepy sound track.  This story is filled with a sense of jeopardy and may well have more classic moments than any other individual story.  It certainly has its share of stylish death scenes.

A couple of stories later we have The Brain or Morbius which is a solid take on the Frankestein story set for the most part in a creepy castle in a desolate wilderness. I find it a tad too derivative to be a classic, but its certainly atmospheric and is never less than entertaining.

The Hinchliffe/Holmes team was replaced by producer Graham Williams and several script editors, the most notable being Douglas Adams.  These teams were more interested in paying homage to classic literary texts than feature films.  So it is not until the final Tom Baker series under producer John Nathan Turner that we get another Halloween Who.  The story is State of Decay a reworked version of a story the Hinchcliffe/Holmes team were unable to use.  State of Decay is an absolute triumph of style and mood over substance.  There really isn't enough plot to keep the story going over 4 episodes, but you don't care.  The tale of a primitive planet ruled over by three Vampire Lords is more mysterious and moody than it has any right to be.  The ultimate baddy "The Great Vampire" can only be dispatched by a bloody great spaceship going through his heart. 

Thereafter there are meagre pickings.  The Davison era was a mish-mash of 80s style Hard SF and Fairy Tales, Colin Bakers tenure was a cannibalisation of the shows on history.  McCoy's was a huge creative resurgence, but owes far more the 80s comics than anything else.

Happily the 2005 relaunch takes a new approach to these matters, happy to co-opt existing archetypes for the benefit of casual viewers rather than re-interpreting them as the classic series did.  The show almost immediately presents us with a ghost story in the Unquiet Dead.  This story has all that you would want, Ghosts, aliens, Charles Dickens, corpses rising from the dead and seances. Its fantastically well presented and would have been a classic of the 80s.  I don't find it stands up to the rest of the Eccelston era, but I am apparently in the minority on that one.  Again its a question of degree and its never less than entertaining. 

One series later we have Tooth and Claw a Wearwolf story set in Victorian times (indeed featuring the Queen herself).  This one is an out an out classic to my mind and proof that you don't always need to be re-inventing the wheel to get a good story.  This one throws in all the normal cliches, but does so in a highly effective manner. The Wearwolf itself is creepy as all hell when in human form and the CG version is very effective for a UK TV budget, indeed it puts plenty of US TV and Movie CG monsters to shame.  The best moments though are were you can only hear the Wearwolf creeping around the characters.  There are also Kung-Fu cultist monks so there added value for you.

Next up we have The Impossible Planet/The Satan pit.  Set Forty Thousand years or so on a base orbiting a black hole, this would not immediately bring to mind Halloween.  On the other hand the baddy is the Devil and it has a guy walking around in a vaccuum with weird writing on him.  The story owes as much to previous Who history and Lovecraft as it does to the Devil mythos and scores very highly on the creepy as all hell factor.

The last foray of the tenth Doctor into Halloween territory is The Shakespeare Code.  A hugely enjoyable romp featuring actual witches on broomsticks using voodoo on their victims.  A good time for one and all.  The nearest the eleventh Doctor has come under the era of the Moff is Vampires of Venice which harkens back to the Hinchcliffe/Holmes obsession with Hammer Horror.  Unfortunately this one is literally a damp squib featuring as it does fish disguised as Vampires.

Time, space and memory prohibit me from delving too deeply into the books, audios and comics. I am aware of the novel Forever Autumn, but not having had the chance to read it I can't comment.  I would however be remiss if I did not give a shout out to the comic strip "The Way of All Flesh" and the audio story "Master".  The Way of All Flesh is an Eighth Doctor tale set during the Day of the Dead and is the nearest thing to a Doctor Who story taking place during a Halloween celebration (yes I am aware of the differences, but on the comic strip page it really doesn't matter too much).  Master is the definitive (to date) Doctor Who haunted house story.  It makes excellent use of the often morally ambiguous seventh Doctor and it almost certainly an inspiration for the Doctor/Master backstory presented in the new RTD years.  Aside from the ghostly goings on the main baddy in the story is Death herself so your note going to get much more supernatural than that!

Saturday 30 October 2010

Fangs for the memory - THE 80'S - A DECADE OF HORROR

During the 80's I seemed to read nothing but horror fiction - it was a boom time for the genre. In the US Stephen King was outselling everyone and over in the UK, James Herbert was topping the best-seller lists. Direct to paperback horror novels were everywhere Guy N. Smith, Shaun Hutson, Gary Brander, Graham Masterton.

It was a great time to be a horror reader - in the newsagents there were magazines like the excellent, Fear which as well as offering all the latest horror news also published short fiction and encouraged its readers to try and become the new Stephen King. Fear was an excellent magazine and back in the day I never missed a issue, I bought its entire run. The magazine looked at horror in an intelligent way and as well as the latest gore books it also covered the classics such as Poe and Lovecraft. The magazine had a spin off fiction magazine called Frighteners but the first issue had to be pulled off the shelves because of a gory cover illustrating a Graham Masterton story. The story Eric the Pie, has become infamous and many claim it went a step too far and was responsible for the demise of the magazine. Those with a strong stomach can read the story as a PDF from the author's website HERE. Be warned the story is rather gruesome - it comes from respected author Graham Masterton, author of The Manitou and the author told an interviewer in 1996 that, 'On reflection I think it went too far.'

Having to pull the magazine after customer complaints dealt publisher, Newsfield a massive blow. Frighteners would go to another two issues and Fear vanished with issue no 33. There's an interesting article on the demise of Fear and the Frighteners story HERE.

The closure of Fear really pissed me off - I had a short story, Cissy's Heebie Jeebies lined up for the mag - I really wanted to get some fiction in Fear. Ahh well, I eventually placed the story with small press publication, Peeping Tom where it was well received. During this period there was a vibrant small press with publications like Skeleton Crew, Samhain and Peeping Tom keeping the torch burning for horror fans. And there were still several newstand horror magazines, The Dark Side and Shivers being the most well known, but for me none filled the void left by the demise of Fear.

I wrote for several of the small press magazines as well as interviewing writer, Peter James and being delighted when I managed to sell the piece to the well respected and long running, (still running) Interzone. My own horror novel, entitled Misty remains however in the loft, unloved and unpublished. And to be honest unpublishable.

Horror books though, for the moment, remained numerous in the shops - there were all manner of creature on the prowl. James Herbert may have started it with The Rats but since then we had Slugs, Crabs, Cats, Locusts,bats, snakes and more than the odd slime beast. There were vampires, ghouls and werewolves running wild.

There were some great new talents being published around that period, some who have lasted, some who have not - Steve Harris scored high with a string of chillers starting with Adventureland, Mark Morris wowed us all with his novel Toady and these days writes, among other things, Dr Who novels for the BBC, Michael Slade (actually a team of American lawyers) grossed us out with The Ghoul and Clive Barker burst onto the scene with his innovative Books of Blood.

There was a period when the genre was getting unexpected critical respect. Stephen King analysed the genre in his Danse Macabre and respected critic and writer, Douglas E. Winter put together the excellent Prime Evil anthology.

New subgenres sprung up - Splatterpunk which was horror's answer to the Cyberpunk movement and didn't really mean much - if a book was overly gruesome it was labelled as Splatterpunk. Brian Lumley set about successfully reinventing Lovecraft with his Necroscope books.

So what killed Horror - overkill. The market became saturated and not only with books but slasher movies, each less inventive than the last. The Jason's, the Freddy's and the Michael's ruled the celluloid roost. The Nightmare on Elm Street saga was particularly successful with Freddy becoming something of a superstar and even getting his own spin off TV series.

These days the horror genre is still there but like, the western, it is in a state of recovery - Stephen King no longer writes out and out horror, slasher movies generally go straight to DVD and horror is no longer a certain thing in marketing terms. But have no doubt one day horror will remove the stake from it's festering heart and return to once again torment the popular culture.

FANGS FOR THE MEMORY - Shaun Hutson interview


 Shaun Hutson has always bucked the system - he's still doing it. After being expelled from school he fell into a number of jobs, none he could hold for too long - shop assistant, cinema usher and a barman. Indeed if he hadn't taken the plunge and become a full time author in 1983 then Shaun would probably still be on that treadmill of job after job. He's writtern in every genre imaginable westerns, war, crime and he's still bucking the system and where most of his contemporaries from the horror boom period of the 80's have vanished he's still here, alive and kicking and selling books.

Biographical details are scarce but there is some information on Shaun's official website.

According to Shaun's website.

He is a reformed alcoholic with diagnosed psychotic tendencies, is very unsociable and likes to shoot pistols for a hobby, he has appeared on stage with his rock band idols, Iron Maiden on numerous occasions, has received death threats in relation with his work, supports Liverpool and never misses a home game and a quote on one of his books once said, he (Shaun) has done for literature what Hitler did for Poland.

Before starting the interview Shaun was pleased to see I am published by Robert Hale and informed me that he started out with Hale many years ago.

I used to be published Robert Hale (I’m sure I mentioned it). I did eleven war novels for them when I first started writing and will always have a soft spot for them as they published my first ever novel BLOOD AND HONOUR. Anyway, enough of that, on to your questions… "


TA: I've often heard you called the sickest writer on the planet. How does this make you feel?

SH: I have no objection at all to being called the sickest writer on the planet, just as I never objected to the other nicknames like The Godfather of Gore, the Shakespeare of Gore and stuff like that. I suppose it’s better to be remembered as something. It depends on your definition of sick really. Writing horror all these years I suppose I’d have been more pissed off if people had labelled me “a really nice writer”. So, feel free to call me sick.

TA: You're sick - seriously you have survived the horror boom years of the 80's when so many of the other once familiar names have vanished. Why is this do you think?

SH: It’s just a pity those horror boom years ever went away. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll keep saying it but I think horror is a dead genre (it certainly is as far as publishers are concerned). Stuff like Twilight has been successful but it all seems to be vampires and werewolves. The shelves are covered with shit that looks like it was inspired by the Underworld films which were bad enough anyway. There’s no traditional horror being published anymore, not by big publishers anyway. They’re all too busy with crime and serial killers. It’s almost as if they’re saying “see we were right all those years ago to turn our noses up at horror.” Bastards. I haven’t a clue why I survived and some other authors fell by the wayside. Probably because my fan base is so loyal. My readers are different. A cut above the rest and they’ve always supported me no matter what I’ve done and I’m grateful for that.

TA: In recent years you seem to have branched out into crime. Do you prefer writing crime or horror?

SH: Lots of people have told me I’ve been writing crime but I can’t say as I’ve noticed. I just write my new book every year, I never think which category it’s going to fall into. I write about what interests me at the time, what grabs me as a writer. I never think about current trends or stuff like that. I just do what I want to do and hope that people will like it. That’s what I’ve always done. If I had any sense I’d be trying to write fucking detective novels or books about forensics and serial killers because that’s all publishers seem to want but I’ve never made that cross over into the thriller genre because bookshops are too intent on putting authors into their ready made categories. The book business is so regimented as far as defining authors goes. Once you write two books in one genre that’s you stuck there for all time in the eyes of the book business.

TA: One of your most successful books, Slugs was turned into a movie. It was dire and I'v
e heard you've disowned it. Why?

I don’t think I ever disowned SLUGS the movie but I always made sure that people knew I had fuck all to do with it. The thing is, when you sell film rights you know that what turns up on the screen is going to be nothing like what you originally wrote (unless you’re fucking J.K. Rowling) so you just accept it. Or you should. It makes me sick when I hear authors moaning about how bad adaptations of their books are. I just think, they paid you shit loads for the rights, shut the fuck up and enjoy it. Having said that, the company that made SLUGS didn’t even pay me enough to soften the blow but what can you do?

TA: During the Eighties you cut quite a flamboyant image for a writer, what with appearing on stage with rock icons, Iron Maiden. Are you still Maiden's biggest fan?

SH: I’m pretty sure that Iron Maiden have got lots of fans more devoted than me. I love their music though. I have since their very first album and getting the chance to meet them and work with them on and off over the years has been wonderful. We’re all about the same age and they’ve managed to survive all the trends that have come and gone, just doing what is so recognisably their style and I’d like to think that there are similarities between the two of us (apart from the fact that they’re multi-millionaires…) in as much as they’ve remained faithful to their audience and never sold out.

TA: When I was in my late teens, the Eighties again, shops were full to the rafters with horror novels but these days the genre is far less visible. Where do you see the future for horror?

SH: I’m not sure the horror genre has got a future to be honest. Not with big mainstream publishers. It’s weird because there are so many horror films at the cinema and yet, for the only time in my life as a writer, that trend hasn’t been adopted by the publishing business. Horror films appear by the dozen every year and yet the publishers still cut back on their horror and bookshops stock less and less of it. It’s very depressing. They obviously need more shelf space for all the crime novels and the truck loads of ghost written fucking celebrity books that now pollute our bookshops. When Jordan can have the number one selling novel and Chris Moyles autobiography is a best seller then you know how deep in the shit the book business is. And how bad a state society in general is in for that matter…but anyway…

TA: Writers you yourself admire?

SH: I don’t read fiction so I can’t really say. Well, not new fiction anyway. If I read new books then it’s non fiction but as for fiction, other than Thomas Harris, I can’t be bothered (as he only writes one every seven years it’s not too much of a stretch). I’ve just re-read LEGION by William Peter Blatty who was a wonderful writer and I’m reading a novel by Jim Thompson at the moment (written in about 1954, I think). I read Raymond Chandler sometimes and occasionally some older short stories but other than that I don’t read fiction unless it’s something that really leaps out at me, like something I notice in the review pages of the paper (I started reading a book called The Chatelet Apprentice around Christmas but never finished it) I never, if I can help it, go in bookshops either so most of the stuff that’s on my shelves is about seven or eight years old.

TA: Future projects?

SH:I’ve got a book out in the autumn called LAST RITES and I’m working on another one at the moment but I’m not settled on the title yet. That’ll be out next autumn. Other than that, I’ve got stuff lying around with publishers under pseudonyms but whether anything ever comes of it remains to be seen. I’m not holding my breath.

TA: SlugS is a totally gross out novel, great fun and at the time it was published we had already been terrorised by rats, crabs, cats and seemingly every creature under the sun. What made you chose to write about slugs?

SH:To be honest, it wasn’t me who chose to write about Slugs. I wanted to do it about leeches (because of the vampire possibility too) and my agent of the time who’d read a novel I wrote called Deathday that featured a giant slug said why not do a novel all about slugs. I couldn’t see the mileage in it until I started researching and, happily, as usual he was proved right and I was wrong. The slugs novels were great fun to write and Slugs will always be very dear to my heart because it is the novel I’ll always be remembered for. I could win the Booker Prize (well, not really, I’m joking but you know what I mean) and I’d still be known at the bloke who wrote slugs but like I said before, it’s nice to be remembered for something. I’ve got nothing against them in real life by the way but I do find them pretty revolting. But so do lots of people. Maybe that was why the book worked.

TA: And finally will the mutated slugs ever return?

SH: I can’t imagine there’ll ever be another Slugs book. Not unless we could all get in a time machine and go back to the 80’s (not a bad idea…). It was always intended as a trilogy…(sorry..) but I can’t see the third one ever being done now, certainly not with the demise of the horror genre in general but I must admit, it would be nice to do it. I think I’ve still got the plot lying around somewhere….Or maybe I will get around to doing that one about leeches eventually…Actually, I wrote a scene in my new novel the other day about a guy having a nightmare about slugs…maybe it was an omen….

FANGS FOR THE MEMORY - Cissie's Heebie Jeebies

This story, Cissie's Heebie Jeebies was written late in 1994 and was first published in issue 15 of Peeping Tom magazine, since then it's made a digital debut on the excellent Twist of Noir webzine and now I present it here on The Tainted Archive as part of our Halloween weekend. It's one of the few horror stories I've written, for another visit a Twist of Noir and read The Way to a Man's Heart.

Cissie's Heebie Jeebies by Gary Dobbs
July 1994

Cissy struggled out of bed. She wasn’t sure which creaked the loudest; the aged mattress or her ancient back. Nether were up to much, she thought and smiled to herself. She grabbed her teeth from the jar besides the bed and popped them into her mouth. Her face immediately filled out, her cheekbones becoming less prominent, her chin much more rounded.

‘Another day,’ Cissy chuckled. ‘Won’t be many more.’

Cissy had taken to talking to herself many years ago. At first, she had been self-conscious and would cast a head over her shoulder, as if someone were there watching and listening, but now it had become second nature. Cissy Jones was her own best companion – her only companion.

She dressed quickly so the cold air would not linger on her skin and chill through to her bones, and went down to the kitchen to get the kettle brewing. A day started without tea is a day of woe; her mother had been fond of saying. Cissy smiled at the memory of her mother, long dead now, more than seventy years gone to ground.

‘You’ll be joining her soon, Cissy gull. Mark my words you will.’

She made her tea, thick like tar, and took it through to the living room. She sat down and switched on the electric fire the Social Services had provided and heat instantly filled the room. She relaxed; eyes looking at the soft orange glow but focused on the past. There was such a lot of it to see. More each day.

Cissy had been born on the first day of a century that was fast drawing to a close. She had come into this world during one of the harshest winter the area had known. Of course, Cissy didn’t remember it herself but her mother had often told her about it. All in all 1900 was a year that boasted of firsts – first flight of the Zeppelin, first Browning revolver produced and of course Cissy Jones had drawn her first breath.

1900 – 94 years ago, closer to 95. It was still relatively recent and yet as distant as Christ’s birth, ancient Rome and the birth of Mankind itself. None could ever be touched again. They were gone and gone is gone. There are no degrees of distance concerning time, Cissy had learnt. A minute ago was no closer than an hour, a year, a century even. All were gone forever and gone was very much gone.

‘Awck, at Cissy gull. You’re becoming morbid.’

For a moment there was silence and then Cissy answered herself. ‘That’s as maybe but morbidity is all I’ve got left.’

Cissy felt one of her regular bursts of pain, a severe burning in her chest, and she buckled up as he coughed a globule of phlegm into her handkerchief. At one time she had been able to hawk the vile stuff up into the fire, watching it hiss on the coals and it withered into a blackened reminder of her pain. But now she had to catch it and toss it into the bin. Couldn’t cough lumps onto the electric fire.

Cissy knew the ferocity of her coughing meant that she was going to die soon and she feared that more than anything. She was 94 years old and riddled with the cancer – the end was approaching fast. She did not want to die, though and had not accepted the inevitable. Death would force her to confront her heebie-jeebies, and she had such a lot of those waiting to torment her.

‘No, Cissy gull. Best not think of such things. It’ll do no good to dwell on things.’

Cissy rolled and lit a cigarette. The doctor had warned her that the habit would kill her sooner rather than later, but she was still realistic enough to know that tobacco abstinence would not stave off death’s icy grip. It was coming, almost had her. She could feel the cold grip of eternity upon the back of her neck.

Cissy smoked and tried to think of better times but her heebie-jeebies came to taunt her.

In the afternoon, after watching her favourite daytime soap opera, Cissy went outside to the yard. It was a wonderful day, of the variety she would have called, "a real cracker" when she was still young enough to care about such things. The village of Gilfach Goch in the valley below basked in the heat, the red roofs of the houses shimmered in fiery contrast to the blue skies.

Cissy wondered what the inhabitants of those brick boxes to combat the heat. Rabbit hutches, that was what her mother had called the houses that sprung up around the once thriving coal industry. She looked back at her own farmhouse. It may be a little ramshackle and the farmlands were no longer working, most of the arable plots having been swallowed up by the other farms, but it was still home. She had been born there, was determined not to die there.

In all her 94 years Cissy had never left Gilfach Goch. The nearest town was Blackmill and that was reached by going over the long bridge that spanned the River Ogwr. Of course this wasn’t the original bridge, it had been rebuilt when the old wooden structure succumbed to age, but it still served the same purpose it always had.

Cissy though had never crossed that bridge, never ventured out of Gilfach Goch.

That fact had played on her mind a lot lately, and she had come to the conclusion that if she could cross the divide that separated communities she would be able to leave her heebie jeebies behind. It was as if Gilfach Goch was a prison, and the bridge had become symbolic of the trials that had shaped her life. It was there, taunting her for her inability to take its freedom road.

But she feared that bridge. Crossing it would force her to confront her heebie jeebies. Of course, Cissy knew that was nonsense but the bridge seemed unconquerable within her mind. It had taken on the physical form of her fears. Her heebie jeebies.

Cissy had such a lot of those.

‘Come on gull, don’t be scaring yourself.’

She went back inside and fell asleep in the armchair besides the fire. She slept a lot lately, perhaps in preparation for the big sleep.


Good old Cissy – that’s what the locals called her. Eccentric old Cissy, a little bit dotty but she’d never harm a fly. Good old harmless Cissy. But they didn’t know about her heebie jeebies, and indeed they would never have believed the old woman’s dark secrets had she told them herself.

Such a lot of heebie jeebies.

There were minor heebie jeebies such as the fact that Cissy had once stolen eggs from Mort the Shop during the Thirties, and that she had slept with her father for years before and after the heart attack claimed her mother. There were minor heebie jeebies, on the scale of heebie jeebies they barely registered, and when placed next to heebie jeebie number one, the mother of all heebie jeebies, they were nothing.

Cissy’s eyes tightened to slits as she remembered that day back in 1918. She had been a young girl then, full of the joys of youth. She had been partaking in a vigorous bout of lovemaking with a local lad, Smithy he was called, when her retarded sibling, better known as Billy Bob had happened along.

‘I can see his cocky,’ Billy Bob had shouted, terrifying Smithy. ‘And your titties. I see your titties, Cissy. I’m telling,’ his face had been a split melon as he smiled.

It was all too much for Smithy and he yanked his breeches up and had it away sharpish, running past Billy Bob with the look of sheer terror in his eyes. Whilst Billy Bob may have been carrying less than a full load upstairs, he made up for his lack of mental skills in stature. He cut an huge, ogre-like figure, but Cissy wasn’t afraid of the boy father often called, ‘shit for brains.’

‘I see your titties, Cissy,’ Billy Bob was delighted. His face looked like it did on harvest day when Harris the Grocer gave him an apple or orange. ‘Can I have another look. I’m telling lessing you give me another look.

It was then that Cissy did it. Without thinking, in anger, driven by instinct, she grabbed a spade, swung it wide, and brought it down on Billy Bobs head. His head split open and briefly he looked at her, surprise in his eyes, but then he collapsed as blood and gore burst from his head.

That was Cissy’s biggest heebie jeebie. She had murdered her brother, hadn’t mean to, not really, but dead was dead. Her father had come into the barn at that moment. He looked first at his dead son, and then at his daughter who was still holding the murder weapon. Cissy had expected him to beat her within an inch of her life and then drag her off to the police houses, but instead he took her in her arms and hugged her tightly, all the while whispering soothing words.

That night father had buried the boy beneath the old oak tree on the rise above the farmhouse. Later Cissy would hear him telling friends that Billy Bob had gone off to live with relatives in London. Mother covered up too, but the guilt brought on the heart trouble that eventually killed her. And for years following that incident in the barn Cissy found herself giving her nubile young body to her father whenever he wanted it. Once she had gotten pregnant, but a bottle of strong spirits and a scolding hot bath had finished that.

‘Damn the heebie jeebies,’ Cissy said. ‘They’s nothing see. Jus’ memories is all.’

The evening, Cissy watched her usual television: Coronation Street, Brookside and an episode of Frank Parade Investigates. That took her up to ten, well past her usual bedtime and she was suffering for it. She felt dog tired, drained and moody.

She went to the kitchen and put the, still warm, kettle onto boil. A day that ends without tea is a bad day indeed, her mother used to say. As she waited for the kettle to boil, Cissy watched the steam rising from the spout. It curled upwards, making patterns in the air. At first they were indistinct, more imagination than substance, but then Cissy saw Billy Bob’s face appear within the steam.

‘I see your titties, Cissy,’ the steam brother said. ‘And his cocky. Ah, look at his cocky.’

Cissy pounced at the kettle and switched it off. Billy Bob’s image was sucked back into the spout like a genie to a lamp. She looked around the room and then at the puddle on the floor. Her bladder had given away again, something it was doing more and more lately, and as she looked at the pool of urine her father’s face started to form in its surface.

‘Don’t you worry Cissy. I’ll keep your secrets, just between us,’ it said, the word bubbling within the piss and sending out ripples like an echo. ‘You mustn’t tell that Daddy comes into your room, Cissy. But you like it. I can tell you like it.’

‘Heebie jeebies,’ Cissy screamed and ran her foot through the urine, smearing her father’s image. ‘Heebie jeebies, nothing more.’

But the heebie jeebies persisted, and Cissy knew that she had to get out of the house, had to get away. They were here to stay, somehow she knew that and what’s more, she knew that to do. She went to the hall and grabbed her coat, and then went outside. Once on the porch she buckled over and coughed a globule of phlegm onto the yard.

‘Heebie jeebies,’ Cissy gasped. ‘They’re here for good now, gull. They’ve come to take you. It’s time, gull. You know what that means.’

She did indeed. It meant that death was even closer. The pain had intensified lately, and she was finding blood in the sheets of a morning. Her bladder had become a random animal, shedding its load without warning, and her lungs felt as if they were constructed out of glass-paper. She had no real quality of life and she found that there was nothing more to fear from death. She welcomed it but she would be damned if she’d take her heebie jeebies to the grave with her.

She had to banish those ghosts. And that meant crossing the divide, leaving Gilfach Goch and curling up her toes in Blackmill, away from her sins and fears. That way, she was sure, would release her from the nightmares of the past.

The heebie jeebies, Cissy had concluded, were a part of Gilfach Goch. They were as much a part of the area as the coal scarred mountains. The trouble was that crossing that bridge – a mere quarter of a mile – had become an insurmountable challenge to Cissy. The divide seemed to repel as garlic would a vampire. There was no sense in it. It just happened.

‘Rubbish, Cissy gull. You’ve got to cross that bridge and you’ve got to do it tonight. Don’t be a victim to your past, forever. Do it, now.’

Gilfach Goch, that silent brooding village, stood like a lecherous whore laughing at the people who made their homes within its cancerous womb. Gilfach Goch was not so much a place as an entity formed out of tainted land. No one lived here. They existed.

Cissy was surprised at the articulate thought and she shook it off and headed for the great bridge.


When she had been a slip of a girl, Cissy had been able to run the half-mile from the farmhouse to the bridge, but now she couldn’t even walk the distance without stopping. And stop she did, several times, before she found herself standing on the road before the bridge.

She looked at the bridge but didn’t see it as it was. Rather, she saw it as it had once been: constructed solely from wood with huge supports so that it could support the industrial trucks that once rolled in and out of Gilfach Goch, carrying the coal that fed, clothed and ultimately poisoned the area. Now though, it was all steel girders and concrete, its surface smooth with cat’s eye running down the middle. It didn’t even look like a bridge these days, but a road magically suspended over the river.

Cissy took a step onto the bridge and a mild electrical jolt seemed to run up her leg. Immediately she saw the image of Billy Bob floating in the air before her.

‘You can’t leave us, Cissy,’ Billy Bob told her. ‘You can’t go on. You must stay with us until the end. And it won’t be long, will it? Look at you; you’re riddled with cancer. You titties are flat and deflated like punctured tyres on your stupid stomach.’

‘Get away,’ Cissy ordered. She placed her other foot upon the bridge. She was now out of Gilfach Goch, standing on the divide between communities. She took another step, now gone further than ever before. Cissy smiled. She was going to die, there was no question about that. But she was leaving her heebie jeebies behind. They were not coming to the grave with her.

Then Cissy saw her mother standing before her. Mother had always been thin, cadaverously so, but now she was so much worse. Her skin was drawn in and hanging on her bones.

‘Go back, Cissy,’ the ghost shouted. ‘You’ve got to answer for your sins. You didn’t just kill Billy Bob, but me, too.

‘No.’ Cissy placed her hands over her ears, but the words were not aural and they appeared fully formed within her mind.

‘You killed me, too,’ the ghost persisted. ‘Not directly but it was the grief over Billy Bob that claimed me. And you’ve laid down with your father. You’re an evil girl, Cissy. You can have no redemption.’

‘I’m crossing,’ Cissy howled with determination and walked straight through her mother. ‘I’m going.’

But crossing was the hardest thing she had ever done. It wasn’t just the visions that tried to drive her back, but her own inner fears. It was as if she were suffering from agoraphobia and Gilfach Goch was more than a village, it was her home, her safety.

‘Come and hold my cock,’ a vision of her father, naked, and aged somewhere around his mid-Forties appeared on the air. His penis was erect and as Cissy looked at it, its single eye winked at her. ‘Come and hold it, Cissy. I’ve kept your secret. You owe me.’

‘Owe,’ Cissy screamed, tears running from her aged eyes. ‘I owe you nothing. I’ve paid in spades. If it weren’t for you and your stinking perversions I’d have married. I’d have made a life for myself.’

And now the three of them were there, floating on the air, and they had been joined by Mort the Grocer.

‘Where’s me eggs?’ Mort asked. ‘Thief! Robber! She stole my eggs, everybody.’

‘Bitch.’ They all screamed as one. ‘Bitch. Bitch. Bitchbitchbitch.’ The word became one long verbal snake.

Cissy kept walking, putting one step before the other. Her chest felt as if it was on fire, but she wouldn’t allow herself the luxury of coughing. She had to keep moving, reach the other side.

‘Walk,’ she told herself. ‘Walk, one foot and then another. Walk.’

Until, she had finally done it.

The heebie jeebies vanished, leaving the faint trace of ozone behind.

Cissy sat by the side of the road and looked at the village of Gilfach Goch in the distance, the lights of the houses twinkling like satanic eyes in the velvet night. And she felt better than she had in a very long time. It was Gilfach Goch that had sown her cancer and polluted her blood, but she had escaped its grasp. She was still going to die but it would be on her own terms.

It started to rain. At first, soft droplets, but then it became a torrent and each side of the road was torn up. Cissy smiled. She would be dead by morning if she stayed out in this rain.

She didn’t care.

Cissy laid herself down on the cold ground and closed her eyes. Now she was ready to meet her maker and face whatever judgement should befall her. But she was thankful that Gilfach Goch would have no say in the matter.

Cissy relaxed.

Cissy slept.

Cissy died.


The western, the genre of choice for the truly cool, need not be left out of the Archive's spooky little Halloween weekend - there have been many oaters with a supernatural element - and it's not only Jonah Hex but think more mainstream offerings like High Plains Drifter, The White Buffalo and Pale Rider.

At first glance the western and the horror genres may seem far apart but scratch a little deeper and the viewer will discover there are scores of grim prairie tales out there. And it's not only the horror genre but its bastard sibling science fiction has also taken the trail out west - remember Westworld in which Chris from the Magnificent Seven became an android gunslinger!

There are modern examples of writers known primarily for their westerns crossing over - Lance Howard for instance who produces thrilling westerns for Robert Hale's Black Horse imprint is also Howard Hopkins purveyor of fine horror tales. And another Black Horse resident, Chap O'Keefe has a short story coming up on Beat to a Pulp this weekend that crosses genres - but more on that later.

Horror icon, Stephen King's Dark Tower series can also be seen as a western of sorts - the man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.

Without a doubt the master of the horror/western hybrid is writer Joe R Lansdale whose unique scribblings have wandered into mostly every genre known to man or beast.

There is a useful list of horror tinged westerns on Wiki and this can be found HERE

I'll leave you all to ponder with this hilarious scene from Billy the Kid V Dracula in which fang face gets pistol whipped.

Friday 29 October 2010

Fangs for the memory - The entire history of horror cinema in one post


Horror has been around since the dawn of cinema - in 1910 the Edison Company produced a version of Frankenstein. Der Golem was also concerned with the creation of life and this time from a German studio. As was Nosferatu (1922) which is perhaps one of the best remembered silent horror movies.

However it was the coming of sound that brought in the Golden Age of horror films. King Kong in 1933 showed what could now be done with the wonders of the motion picture camera. The 30's and 40's were indeed a special period with Universal's mostly excellent series of creature features keeping fright fans happy. There are several all time classics among the many films the studio produced, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman to name but three.

The 50's was the age of paranoia and horror cinema reflected this - creatures were no longer spawned by the occult but by this new radiation and the Communist threat came from outer space. Where previously monsters had a supernatural origin now they came from beyond our galaxy and science fiction and horror merged. British studio Hammer did however continue to make money with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and other monsters of the golden period. Interestingly Hammer also produced sci-fi/horror hybrids with the Quatermas films.

The 60's was a far more cynical time in terms of horror - Hitchcock gave us environmental horror with the Birds, Rosemary's Baby brought the supernatural into the real world. Roger Corman was the king of the low budget horror flick and produced a string of Poe adoptions usually with Vincent Price. British shockers, Hammer were at this time in their most inventive period and 1966's Plague of the Zombies in a classic.

The 70' s saw taste go out of the window and demons come back into the room. The Exorcist heralded a slew of demonic films - The Omen being only one series of movies. Speilberg took horror to the seaside and invented the event movie with Jaws. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) practically invented the slasher genre. And the Italians were reinventing the horror movie, as they had with the western, and selling it back to us.

The 80's was a period of technical highs and repetition - many classics came from this period - Evil Dead, The Thing, The Elm Street Series. There were more serial killers at work in the cinema during this period than ever before and horror film sequels became the order of the day.

The 90's - post-modern time, folks.
Scream parodied everything else and then itself. Seven dressed itself up in class so as not to appear like a horror film. Frankenstein and Dracula became respectable in the hands of Francis Ford Coppola and Kenneth Branagh - shit De'niro even took over the old Karloff (Karloff was better, though.) role and Gary Oldman made a cool Dracula but again Lugosi was better.


They sure don't make em like they used to - The Wolf Man (1941) may seem creaky when viewed today but that's nothing to do with age. The film was always like that. The days when Chaney prowled the screen under Jack Pierce's make-up, terrifying audiences have long gone, and the modern viewer has seen so much blood and gore, not to mention CGI monsters, that it's difficult to ever imagine this movie being scary.

Though if you can put yourself in a certain frame of mind the film is terrific entertainment and at only 1 hour, seven minutes it delivers its story in a fast and furious rate.

Filmed on a Universal back-lot that is supposed to be Wales, the film is mostly studio bound - atmospheric mist is used to mask several sins but for all that the film still works and offers horror entertainment that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, and besides these old monsters are far better than all the modern serial killers or teenage vampires.

"Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the moon is full and bright."

Lon Chaney Jnr plays the part of Larry Talbot, the doomed American educated Welshman who is bitten by a werewolf and then carries the curse himself. The actor manages to create enough sympathy within the doomed character to get the viewer rooting for him, even if at the same time we are eager for his next wolf  transformation. The make-up was done by the legendary Jack Pierce.

The make-up was based on Pierce's earlier creator for Henry Hull in the film, Werewolf of London, but this time the artist, for he truly was an artist, improved on his earlier creation and the look of Chaney's Wolf Man is awesome - virtually every werewolf make-up since has been in some way influenced by his creation here. And it's not only films that have felt the films influence but folklore too and many of the aspects of Curt Soidmak's script are mistaken for genuine folklore.

There are several different DVD editions available but by far the best is the set that was released under the Universals Original Monsters series. The film is in a double pack with earlier werewolf movie, Werewolf of London and there are some great extra features. There is a Monsters by Moonlight documentary hosted by John Landis, a commentary, an archive feature artwork, stills and lobby cards and the original theatrical trailer.

The second movie in the set, Werewolf of London holds the distinction of being the first sound film made based on the werewolf legend. The howling wolves heard in the film were actual animals recorded in Canada and then mixed in with actor, Henry Hull's voice to make the sound all the more convincing. It's not remembered as fondly as Wolf Man which is a shame because it is a great film that had the bad luck of being obliterated by a definitive werewolf film following so soon afterwards from the same studio.

Chaney went on the play the Wolf Man several more times, even meeting with other popular Universal monsters such as Dracula and Frankenstein's monster in what were the celebrity death matches of their day. But never did he better his first film as The Wolf Man.

Excellent stuff.

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