Wednesday, 25 November 2015

GREAT GHOSTS OF THE SHELVES #23 - Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies

Something of a different GGS this time round folks. Many months ago, I was very honoured to be asked to contribute to a new book on folk horror by the very talented Mr Andy Paciorek (whose marvelous uncanny art and books can be found here. And hence I penned an extensive essay looking at the folk horror elements in the ghost stories of MR James, unearthing the role of folklore and landscape in his tales. 

Now what is folk horror? Well, I think the book's contents listed below will give you a fair idea of what lies in this particular subgenre, but as a quick thumbnail guide think movies like The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan's Claw, Witchfinder General, cult TV shows like Children of the Stones, and the more unsettling tales I regularly investigate in Folklore on Friday. The tome weights in at a massive 500 pages, illustrated throughout with artwork by Alan Lee, Paul Rumsey, Julia Jeffrey, Morgaine Art, GB. Jones and Andy Paciorek. Featuring essays and interviews by many great cinematic, musical, artistic and literary talents, Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies is the most comprehensive and engaging exploration to date of the subgenre of Folk Horror and its associated fields in cinema, television, music, art, culture and folklore. 

Available now HERE

The full contents are -

• Foreword, Disclaimer & Acknowledgements
• Folk Horror: From the Forests, Fields and Furrows; An Introduction by Andy Paciorek
• Subtle Magic and the Thrill of The Wicker Man by Sharron Kraus
• An Interview with Kim Newman
• Public Information Films: Play Safe by Grey Malkin
• An Interview with Philip Pullman
• Hysteria and Curses in Nigel Kneale’s Baby (Beasts) by Adam Scovell
• An Interview with Paul Rumsey
• The Green Children of the Woolpits by Karl Shuker
• Sacred Demons: The Dramatic Art of David Rudkin by John Coulthart
• The Last Broadcast by Rich Blackett
• Folklore and the River: A Reflection on Davis Grubb’s The Night of the Hunter by Stephen Canner
• Quatermass II (Nigel Kneale): The Fears of the Outsider Within the Landscape by Adam Scovell
• An Interview with Gary Lachman
• Weird Americana by Andy Paciorek
• An Interview with Julia Jeffrey
• The Wanderings of Melmoth by Jim Peters
• The Traditional Jack in the Green by Chris Walton
• Ghosts, Landscape and Science by Nick Brown
• An Interview with Dr Bob Curran
• The Music of The Cremator and Morgiana by Grey Malkin
• One Small Step for Man: Hunting the Nephilim by Cobweb Mehers
• A Paean to Peter Vaughan by Andy Paciorek
• Other Thoughts, Other Voices: Cults, Hive Minds and a New Philosophy of Horror in the Work of John Wyndham by Dan Hunt
• The Haunted Landscape of Brian Eno: Ambient 4: On Land by Adam Scovell
• Srpski Vampir by Lauri Löytökoski
• The Primrose Sloop of War by Chris Bond
• Phantasms of the Floating World: Tales of Ghostly Japan by Andy Paciorek
• The Folk Horror of Doctor Who by Adam Scovell
• Colin Wilson: Reflections on an Outsider by Gary Lachman
• Morgaine Art by Karen Hilder
• An Interview with Andrew McGuigan: Cumbrian Cthulhu
• Paul Ferris: Witchfinder General Soundtrack Review by Grey Malkin
• An Interview with Thomas Ligotti by Neddal Ayad
• “Just That Little Bit Dark, Haunting and Dramatic”: An Introduction to The Hare and the Moon by Jim Peters & Grey Malkin
• An Interview with Dr Simon Young – The Fairy Investigation Society
• Nordic Twilight: Scandinavian Horror by Andy Paciorek
• “See Ye Not That Bonny Road?”: Places, Haunts and Haunted Places in British Traditional Song by Clare Button
• Kill Lists: The occult, paganism and sacrifice in cinema as an analogy for political upheaval in the 1970s and the 2010s by Aaron Jolly
• MR James: The Presence of More Formidable Visitants by Jim Moon
• An Interview With Drew Mulholland
• Albion’s Children: The Golden Age of British Supernatural Youth Drama by Andy Paciorek
• The Sacred Theatre of Summerisle by John Harrigan
• All you Ever Knew About Vampires Is Wrong: A Transcript of a Fortean Meeting Talk by Tina Rath
• An Interview with Robin Hardy
• The Haunted Fields of England: Diabolical Landscapes and the Genii Locorum by Phil Legard
• Sauna: Abjection and Redemption in the Liminal Spaces by Madeleine Ledespencer
• Hell’s Angel Blake – An Annotated Guide to a Coven at Bix by Andy Sharp
• The Old Hag Phenomenon by Jasmine Gould
• The Olde World Mythology Behind Saurimonde by Scarlett Amaris & Melissa St Hilaire
• Unearthing Forgotten Horrors by Darren Charles
• An Arthurian Antichrist: Alternate Readings of Kill List by Andy Paciorek
• Darkness, Beauty, Fear and Wonder: Exploring the Grotesque and Fantastical World of Czech Folk Horror by Kat Ellinger
• Folk Horror and the Virtual Demiurge – Making False Trails – How Lies Can Be Used to Create New Folklore by Chris Lambert
• Women of Power and Justice: Witches in Folk Horror Movies by Judika Illes
• An Interview With Alan Lee

100% of all profits from sales of the book will be charitably donated to environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by The Wildlife Trusts. We would encourage whenever possible for FHR books to be bought directly from Lulu (as linked) as all of the profits will go to charity whereas if bought via Amazon or other sellers they take a big chunk for themselves. Also Lulu is a safe efficient site and service, that offers discount codes fairly regularly which offer savings for the buyer but retain the full charitable donation.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

HYPNOGORIA 22 - Sapphire and Steel

This week Mr Jim Moon turns back time, and takes a look back at the classic SF horror series Sapphire and Steel. Created by PJ Hammond and starring genre icons David McCallum and Joanna Lumely, this strange series thrilled, puzzled and frightening many a viewer back the early '80s and still haunts the dreams of many today...

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Sapphire and Steel

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Friday, 20 November 2015


The Changeling by Henry Fuseli

Across the world, one of the most common beliefs is that we share this world with other races. Many cultures tells of these others, and the tales about them are strikingly similar. They are closely tied to the natural world and are mostly invisible to us. They are somewhat capricious, sometimes kinds other times malevolent, and they appear to hail from some kind of parallel plane, another world that is connected to ours through certain portals; often certain hills, caves, and forests, and sometimes even individual trees and stones. We are of course talking about the faery folk, and many different types of these supernatural beings are said to predatory; alleged to kill and even devour us mortal folk. However a more general trait that seems to be a popular pastime for many species of faery across the world, even the ones usually less inclined to grind our bones to make their bread,  is their love of spiriting people away to their own world. 

However while there are many tales of trips to fairyland, elfhame and other places the strangers inhabit, more troubling are the legends of the changelings. From the icy Scandinavia to sun-baked Africa, there are sinister stories of children not just being abducted, but switched with strange impostors. Parents would find their baby child had been replaced by odd beings who were almost but not quite human. Often changelings are described as being ugly and wizened, while others appeared normal but demonstrated weird abilities such as being able to stretch their limbs at will. However strange appearances aside it was their behaviour that marked them out - changelings were said to be either extremely badly behaved - constantly crying and prone to violence, or at the other end of the spectrum strangely docile, often mute and seemingly unable to comprehend anything about the human world they had been left in. Another common characteristic to changelings was an insatiable hunger - a changeling could eat a family out of house and home, a troubling prospect as some changelings were believed to never grow up, constantly needing care and food, while others were said to be extremely long lived, possibly even immortal, being a burden on whole generations of families.

There were several theories about why changelings were left. In the case of changelings that were said to be wizened and sickly, it was said that these creatures were actually ancient, elderly faeries, left by their compatriots to enjoy the love and comforts of a human family in their dotage. Other changelings were so infirm that they soon sickened or died, leading to folk beliefs that the impostor had been nothing more than a magical fake, such as piece of rotting wood crudely enchanted to mimic a human child. And why did the faeries steal children? Well, some traditions held that the faery folk were an old, dying race who sought new blood to strengthen their numbers. However other traditions had darker ideas - the human children were to be used as servants and slaves in their other world. Worse still, some traditions held that the faeries owed a tithe of souls to Hell, and hence they stole human children to pay the debt to the Pit. On a similar note, some folk beliefs held that changelings were mere sent to vex mankind, and in tales of particularly violent or troublesome changelings, they were said to have been left by witches or the Devil himself to increase the sum of human misery.

The Changeling by Arthur Rackham

Now, like many folk traditions, there is more than a grain of truth in these old tales, and a reason that stories of changelings are so prevalent in so many cultures across the globe. The sad fact is that changelings did indeed exist, however they were not faery cuckoos, but rather children with disabilities and diseases. One does not have to read too deeply between the lines to realise that these elf children were in fact nothing more but human babes suffering with a variety of debilitating conditions. While many illnesses and diseases could be recognized in the pre-modern era, other conditions such as gradual degenerative ailments or being born with mental conditions such as autism or schizophrenia were poorly understood. It is a natural reaction for people to seek explanations and answers, and hence in cases where what had been a seemingly healthy baby was suddenly sickly, behaving strangely, or developing in what seemed a weird fashion, supernatural forces were the only explanation available. It is very telling that beliefs in changelings begin to wane when better medical knowledge becomes available.

From the wide range of preventative rituals and charms in folklore, it was clear that finding oneself the parent of a changeling was a real and widespread fear in ages past. Various methods existed that would protect the child from being snatched by the faeries, and hanging some kind of protective charm over the crib was perhaps the common. In some regions, this would be a plant or herb with magical properties - such mistletoe or a sprig of rowan. The faeries were widely believed to have an aversion to iron, and this was also utilized, by hanging a pair of scissors or a horseshoe over the cradle. However should such measures have failed there were several possible course of action to get your child back.

Now there were many regional cures, often involving some local place, such as bathing the child in the nearby holy wells, visiting a shrine or taking it to standing stones. But there are three main ways of dealing with a changeling that occur time and time again in many different countries and cultures. The first is basically to abuse the child, often beating it with sticks, with the idea being that the changeling's real parent - the faeries or the Devil - would promptly appear and give back your own child to prevent further cruelty to their own. In a similar fashion, placing the changeling either in a fire or a hot oven would cause the malign being to take its leave, often said to fly off up the chimney, and your own offspring would be returned. Sadly however these two methods rarely resulted in happy endings, and indeed in the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to find parents and guardians appearing in court on charges of cruelty, neglect, and murder of their own children who they believed to be changelings.

However thankfully there was a third method of dealing with a changeling which while probably ineffective in the real world, at least did not involve cruelty to the suspect child. And what's more, it is somewhat amusing - indeed it is the basis for many of the more entertain changeling folk tales. This third method was based around the premise of tricking the changeling into revealing its true nature, and once its cover were blown, the faeries had to return the real child. And weirdly enough there was an exact way to do this which is recounted in many different countries. Basically in full view of the changeling child one had to cook using eggs - but these was not merely whipping up a quick omelette, rather you had to brewing beer or make stew using the egg shells as tiny containers. This culinary performance was said to be sufficiently surreal and bizarre to make the changeling reveal its true nature,with old folk tales holding that the creature would suddenly sit up, exclaim that it had never seen anything like it in its long and strange life - often the exclamation followed this pattern as related by the Brothers Grimm -
Now I am as old 

As the Wester Wood, 
But have never seen anyone cooking in shells!
from Children's and Household Tales (1812)

And then, having revealed itself as an impostor the changeling would vanish - or again fly off up the chimney - and the stolen child would be magically returned. Quite why this egg based method is so widespread is something of a mystery. Possibly there is a forgotten symbolic significance to eggs in this context - and certainly they seem appropriate given that one can draw parallels between the concept of changelings and the behaviour of birds like the cuckoo which leaves its eggs in other birds' nest to raise as their own. However I would like to think that if this performance art cookery was actually ever carried out to cure a changeling in the real world, then perhaps the oddness of the act caused the troubled child to smile or laugh, providing a valuable point of connection between parent and child, and making them realise that while their offspring may be different they were in fact human after all.

Titania's Changeling by John Anster Fitzgerald

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #11 - Devil Priest Pack Part XI

Yes, it's time once more to delve into the toybox of yesteryear, and have another pair of terrors from the original Horror Top Trumps. First up, we have this beaming down... 

Now then, here we have an genuine rarity! For despite looking up assorted alien invaders down the decades, I have yet to find a decent match for this chap! The lightning flash on his tunic certainly suggests an origin in the 1950s  but so far no matching monsters, Martian or otherwise, have yet been found. Some have suggested it is based on the titular Creature of Destruction (1967) but I remain to be convinced of anything other than a very flimsy passing resemblance. Most likely I think if the Martian Warrior has a definite origin, then it's a panel of an old and obscure comic book. In the mean time, keep watching the skies!

Now our next card is a similar cause of some confusion! Enter Mistress Vampire!

Now then most commentators have swung the direction of the legendary Ingrid Pitt - and let's be honest who can blame them! For Indeed Ingrid Pitt played some of the sexiest vampires ever to grace the screen, and it is hard not to think of her whenever female bloodsuckers are mentioned. However trawling through the assorted stills of her undead appearances in the Hammer classics Countess Dracula (1971) and The Vampire Lovers (1970), there isn't really a good match for the Mistress Vampire. Instead the closest we come is the following famous picture from her guest appearance in the celebrated Amicus anthology flick The House That Dripped Blood (1971).

However noting that this still only bears a slight resemblance to the card, another popular guess hails from the same era of Brit horror - another Hammer flick and a sequel to The Vampire Lovers - Lust for a Vampire (1971). Here's Yutte Stensgaard as Mircalla Herritzen the reincarnated/resurrected Carmilla Karnstein that la Pitt played in the earlier movie. 

Now if you can tear you eyes away from Yutte - c'mon you can do it! - yet another Hammer horror has been mooted as a source for Mistress Vampire. This time it's Lalla Ward, who would become more famous a few years later as the second Romana in Doctor Who. Here she is in Hammer's off-beat undead tale Vampire Circus (1972) 

Definitely closer, I think you will agree! However I think there is actually a better fit - and it is from The Vampire Lovers but surprisingly not Ingrid Pitt's Carmilla. Rather it's that character's previous incarnation who we see menacing Douglas Wilmer in the prologue, played by Kirsten Betts (later Kirsten Lindholm)

Yes, here I believe we have the winner, despite some (ahem) stiff competition from other memorable ladies from the early '70s blood and boobs era of classic Brit horror!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

TOMEGORIA 11 - The Devil You Know

In this show, Odile and Jim take a return trip to the fiction of Mr Mike Carey, and delve into the dark mysteries revealed in the first book in his Felix Castor series, The Devil You Know



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Friday, 13 November 2015

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Headless Hobgoblin of Neasham

From its source in the mountains and forests of the Pennines, the River Tees has many twists and turns as it makes it way to the sea, with dozens of little villages and towns dotted along its banks. Unsurprisingly as folks have lived by its sides for centuries, the ancient waterway has a huge wealth of its own legends and folklore. Previously in this series of little articles we have made mention of Peg Powler, a predatory horror that lived in its depths in Darlington, and of the presentation of a dragon slaying falchion to each new Bishop of Durham at a bridge over its waters in Croft. However just a little further down its course from Croft, comes one of the strangest tales. 

Literally just over the bridge at Croft, where Lewis Carroll grew up, is the little town of Hurworth. And as the Tees leaves the picturesque town an old road follows its course for a few miles east to the village of Neasham. The village is more than a thousand years old and in days gone by the little road between Neasham and Hurworth was home to a most peculiar menace. Now many rivers and bodies of water have some local legend attached to them, most usually stories of monstrous beings that love to drown those who stray too near to their edges. In the United Kingdom, these often take the form of horrible aquatic hags such as Jenny Greenteeth, who delight in drowning children in particular. And in the nearby Darlington, the Tees was said to be home to Peg Powler, and the foam generated at the churning river bends and turns was known locally as "Peg's suds", a sign that the feared river witch had been doing her washing thereabouts.   

Now it was said something of a similar ilk haunted the edges of the Tees on the little road from Neasham to Hurworth. Like many such water spirits, it was said to lure unsuspecting travelers off the road into the treacherous waters of the Tees. However this particular being was reported to appear in a most unsettling shape, a disturbing and unlikely form that led to this local monster becoming known as Hob Headless. And for many years, the Headless Hobgoblin of Neasham was blamed for assorted disappearances, deaths and drownings on that stretch of the river. 

However while other dwellers from the depths often lingered on in the folk memory, with tales being told of them into the 20th century and even still repeated today, the Headless Hob's reign of terror did actually come to a definite end. Apparently on New Year's Eve 1772, a bricklayer from nearby Darlington, named Robert Luck was making his way home along the road by the river where Headless Hob hunted. Now from the date we might very well assume that Mr Luck may well have had a few drinks that night, and possibly that might be the key to his eventual fate. However whatever exactly happened that night, certainly young Robert ironically was short of luck, for he was never to return home. 

Naturally his disappearance was blamed on the predations of the Headless Hobgoblin. Now according to local tradition, most folks were kept safe from the monster's clutches by the fact that the Hob could not cross a little tributary of the Tees, the Kent, and hence was prevented from menacing folks in the village. However the people of Neasham decided that enough was now enough and called for a priest to come and exorcise the malevolent sprite. Apparently the ritual was a success and the strange being was imprisoned, for as Mr William Henderson relates - 
He has been exorcised, however, and laid under a large stone formerly on the roadside, for ninety-nine years and a day. Should any luckless person sit on that stone, he would be unable to quit it for ever
from Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders (1879) 

The claim that the stone had the power to magically glue anyone sat upon it, as been seen as an act of revenge by Hob Headless trapped beneath it. But I think we may safely surmise that it was probably a prescription publicised to prevent any folks from tampering with it and accidentally unleashing the Headless Hob once more. However as Mr Robert Woodhouse records in Haunted Darlington, in the 19th century the large boulder was indeed disturbed in order to modernise that particular stretch of road. But thankfully there were no further reports of Headless Hob returning. 

Perhaps the new road  was safer, and less prone to slippery puddles or flash floods that could sweep unwary folks into the Tees. Or maybe the exorcism held past the alleged ninety-nine years and day time limit. Or maybe, just maybe, the Hob was never entombed beneath the stone in the first place, and had actually just fled in search of new places to haunt. For there are reports of other headless apparitions menacing folk on an another isolated path by a waterway near Darlington... But that's a tale for another day...

Sunday, 8 November 2015

MICROGORIA 21 - Usborne Supernatural Guides Mysterious Powers and Strange Forces

In this episode Mr Jim Moon turns his attention to the final tome in the Usborne Supernatural Guides series from the late 1970s - Mysterious Powers & Strange Forces, and explores the likes of ESP, astral travel and pyramid power!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Mysterious Powers & Strange Forces

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