Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by HP Lovecraft Chapter IV


Our hero wishes to leave the benighted town and return to the sanity of Arkham... But other forces in the town have other plans for him...



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Sunday, 16 September 2018

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by HP Lovecraft Chapter III


In this chapter our hero hears strange and troubling tales of Innsmouth's shadowed history...

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Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by HP Lovecraft Chapter II


In the second chapter, our hero reaches the legend-haunted seaport of  Innsmouth...




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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT - Horror Bags Giveaways Galore (Part III)

Welcome once again dear fiends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Over the last few weeks we have been exploring the spooky world of Horror Bags, the snacks that went crunch in the night! This range of crisps from the mid 1970s carved out a place in our hearts, but also an eerie empire of their own monstrous merchandise! And in this visit to the archives of the 'Orrible Ouse we are going to take a look at the bestest items Dracula ever offered!

As we have already seen, Horror Bags seemingly always had some mail-order offer going, which followed the then traditional format of collect so many empty bags, plus sometimes a small sum of pocket money, to get the latest proffered ghoulish goodies. However a few packets and a handful of loose change went a long way back in the 1970s... or possibly the ghouls in charge of the Horror Bags merch has miscalculated the exchange rate between the UK and Transylvania. Anyhow, whichever way it was, there was some top-notch tat up for grabs for very little indeed.


And it should also be noted that the gruesome gifts offered by Horror Bags were especially created for the range - it was all bespoke stuff, no shifting of cheaply acquired leftover stock here! A perfect example is the Serpents and Stairs game. Now this marvellously macabre board game, which could be yours for just three empty bags and 30p, was obviously just a horror-themed version of that old family favourite, Snakes And Ladders. But what a gloriously ghoulish redesign it was! Not bad at all for a third of a quid and some litter!


However other giveaways were even more elaborate. The Fiendish Faces kit was a wonderfully simple idea that offered hours of eerie entertainment and imaginative play. Basically the kit consisted of a cadaverous but blank face and a large bag of assorted eyes, noses, eyebrows, lips and fangs. And the idea was that you could create your gruesome ghouls by combining different fearsome features. As I said, a simple concept but one that delivered hours of fiendish fun. And I should know, for although I  never got my grubby little mitts on this particular giveaway, I did have Remus playlist that was very similar - however thanks to the said playkit being too obscure to date, I can't say who borrowed the concept off who.


But perhaps the best ghastly gift offered by Horror Bags was the Identi-Kit game - again yours for just a few wrappers and thirty of your earth pence. And unlike the previous two ghoulish giveaways, this appeared to be a wholly original game. In it were six familiar fiends - the Wolfman, a Skeleton, Dracula, Dracula's Bride, the Mummy, and Frankenstein's Monster. However each of them had sadly suffered a horrific fate - they had been chopped into six pieces. So then, each player got a gravestone to make a tomb, and all the monster body part cards were shuffled into a deck. On your go, you drew a card and tried and reassemble one of the monsters on your tomb... Something that was not quite as easy as it sounded in play.


Again, the concept was a simple one but beautifully executed, and it was a great looking little game that had straightforward rules, challenging gameplay and a great theme and atmosphere. Things that was often very lacking in other board games that cost much much more... Yes, Tank Command I am looking at you! In fact, it a shame that Drac and co., or at least the suits at Smiths hadn't taken the bolder move and had all these marvellous games available in the shops. For with great games like these sold for real pocket money prices, Horror Bags could certainly have given the big boys at Ideal, Denys Fisher and MB a run for their money.

Indeed it is still somewhat surprising to me that given the popularity of the range, Horror Bags were somewhat abruptly phased out. And while their successor to the snacks crown is still around today, even the mighty Monster Munch never boasted such a marvellous array of macabre merchandise and mail-order magic. But you never know, some one might one day resurrect the brand. Let's face it, there a whole range of snacks with the marketing and merch already planned out just waiting to return to the shelves. Plus of course, traditionally Dracula never stays dead in his coffin too long...



Sunday, 2 September 2018

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by HP Lovecraft Chapter I


The first chapter of HP Lovecraft's classic novella

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GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 49 - The Shadow Over Innsmouth by HP Lovecraft


We are about to embark on the most ambitious reading Mr Jim Moon has so far attempted - the classic novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth by HP Lovecraft. In this episode we introduce the tale which will follow in five chapters over the next month!

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Friday, 31 August 2018

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - Dying for a Sit Down


Last week we learnt the strange tale of the cursed bottles in a pub in Alnwick, however they are not the only seemingly innocent but actually very sinister items to be found lurking in a British bar-room. Take for example the Busby Stoop Inn  in North Yorkshire, a pub whose very name is steeped in death!

In 1702, Thomas Busby murdered his father-in-law Daniel Auty. However this was no ordinary family squabble, for Busby and Auty ran a small criminal empire between them, whose main operation was coining - that is the forging of currency. They were based in the small North Yorkshire village of Kirby Wiske, and it said they had disagreed over Busby's relationship with Auty's daughter. He was arrested, tried and condemned to death by hanging. After his execution his corpse was suspended in chains from a gibbet erected at the lonely crossroads at the Sandhutton crossroads. This notorious criminal and his execution were long remembered. In 1859, the English antiquarian and poet, Yorkshire historian, William Grainge wrote:
The bones of the poor wretch who had committed murder were hung to fester in the sunshine and blow in the tempest until they fell piecemeal to earth and tradition yet tells tales of night wanderers being terrified when passing this dreaded spot.
Now by the crossroads, which now forms a junction of the A61 and A167, was an inn. According to one version of the legend, it was here that Busby was arrested, while another variant proposed that he was taken into the inn for a final drink before his execution. It has long been said that Busby's ghost haunts the place. However there is a more famous, and more sinister, legend. For it is said that Busby had sat in a particular chair in that inn and consequently a terrible curse was laid upon it. In the version where Busby was allowed a final tipple, legend claims he proclaimed "May sudden death come to anyone who dare sit in my chair". And indeed it is said that anyone who sits in this particular chair will suffer the same fate as Busby i.e. a sudden and untimely death shortly afterwards. The legend of the death chair became so famous that the pub eventually took the name The Busby Stoop Inn - a stoop being the post the gibbet hung from.


And indeed the chair appears to have been rather lethal. For there are many tales told about those who have dared to sit in the chair and paid a terrible price. In 1894, a chimney sweep who sat in the chair was said to have been found the following morning hanging beside Busby's gibbet post. During the Second World War, it was claimed that Canadian men from the nearby Skipton-on-Swale dared each other to sit on the chair, and those that did never returned from the missions they were sent on. 

In 1967, two Royal Air Force pilots sat in the chair, and then when driving home from the pub, crashed into a tree and were killed. A handful of years later, a builder was dared to to sit in the infamous chair, and just hours later, he fell to his death from a roof. Around the same time it is claimed that a cleaner had accidentally sat down upon the cursed chair after stumbling into it while mopping the floor. This time death came in the form of a brain tumour.

Eventually in 1978, the current landlord Tony Earnshaw decided enough was enough and moved the chair out of the public's way and placed it in the cellar. However a delivery man was curious as to why a chair was among the beer barrels and sat in it. He was killed minutes later in a crash a few miles down the road. And so the chair was donated to the Thirsk Museum where it remains to this very day. But the chair is now suspended from the ceiling to prevent any more incautious folks from trying to sit in it. 

However experts have cast doubt on the legend of the chair, for when it was examined by historian Dr Adam Bowett, he found something peculiar about it. Apparently its spindles were machine-turned, whereas in the 17th century, chair spindles were made usually with a pole lathe. Therefore he concluded the chair was probably made after 1840, at least 138 years after Busby's death. However as the stories related above all come from after 1840, while we could discount a link to Thomas Busby, we perhaps should not be so quick to discount the curse. Certainly no one has proposed taking the chair gone again so folks can sit in it again. Perhaps it is best to err on the side of caution...