Sunday, 19 August 2018

HYPNOGORIA - The Nameless Horror of Berkeley Square Part I


In this episode, Mr Jim Moon begins an in-depth investigation into one of the most notorious hauntings of Victorian London - the strange case of the Nameless Horror of Berkeley Square. In this first part, we will hear the macabre tales told about this most horrific and violent haunting and try and trace the stories to their original sources.



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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT - Ghoulish Giveaways!


Welcome once again dear fiends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Last week we were celebrating the weird and wonderful world of Horror Bags, a range of macabre snacks made by Smiths Crisps back in the mid 1970s.  Now although this line of spooky snacks only lasted a handful of years - launching in 1974, but not surviving to the 1980s - while they were on the shelves, they were hugely popular. And a sign of how well-loved they were is the plethora of related tat they spawned.

Promotional items have long formed part of the marketing of many foods, in particular those that are aimed at children. The classic template has remained unchanged for decades - collected so many tokens or wrappers and send them off to get a free gift. Well, they say free, but in reality there was often a token amount of money involved too i.e. send off ten wrappers and a cheque or postal order for £1.99 to get your free Marketing Tat-o-tron! Anyhow, this kind of give-away offer was very popular back in the 1970s, a time when shopping by mail was exciting and rare, rather than the default as it is now. And while these items were often of the funny for five minutes type and were destined to end up in the bin very quickly, back then it was massively exciting to get something through the post, particularly you couldn't get anywhere else. Indeed, one of the most powerful tag-lines wielded by marketing departments in the 1970s was "not available in any shop!". Team up that line with a time limit, such as"send in before..."  or "only available until...", and you had a powerful formula for boosting your sales, and perhaps harvesting some additional pocket money too. It worked time and time again, even though it often took a ruddy age for the goodies to actually arrive - for "Please allow 28 days for delivery" was the dreaded line of small print in such offers.

Now this kind of promotional giveaway was a common feature with breakfast cereals aimed at kids, something that continues to this very day. However even in the golden age of collect and send in offers, for other food related brands such as sweets and crisps, they were more occasional. Usually they turned up when a new line was launched - with adverts on the telly sometimes, but more often in the pages of popular comics - or when a new flavour or variant was added to the range. Therefore the nature and frequency of such promotions was a very good gauge of how much traction assorted brands actually had. A send-in giveaway that would net you some merch that tied-in to some popular TV or film, or famous pop star or sportsman, showed that the brand was big enough in the playground to be seen as an effective form of marketing. However a product doing collect-and-send-ins for tat featuring its own brand showed that it was an even strong line. It was big enough not to need to hitch its wagon to other properties in the mediasphere, big enough to star in its own promotions as it were. 

Now Horror Bags started off in the usual fashion, with the earliest packets of Fangs and Bones running an offer for a free Dracula mask in late 1974. However this item was just the first of a long line of ghoulish goodies that took an maddening 28 days for delivery. And over the years, Horror Bags did a massive amount of these giveaways - at least 15 by my count (and a few more may well have slipped under our nostalgia radar too). And given that they were only really on the shelves for around four years, it would appear that not only were they constantly running these giveaways, but also (according to my back of beermat mathematics) they were running these offers pretty much quarterly! What's more, all these giveaways were for Horror Bags related merch, with not one being done as a tie-in to some other popular property du jour! And that may well be some sort of record! Indeed, the only brand that seemed to run as many send-in-giveways was Trebor's Double Agents... but that's a story for another day! 

However all of this does leave us with a trickier question - why did Horror Bags disappear if they were so successful?  Well, it would seem that they were killed off to make way for a new rising star in the crisp world. For in 1977, Smiths decided to launch another horror themed snack - Monster Munch. And while Horror Bags gained a new flavour (and shape) in the form of Bats in 1978, at some point in the late 1970s it was decided that the line had had its day, and all future spooky snackery would be Monster Munch shaped. Possibly this was one of the many ripples in the great dank pond of pop culture caused by George Lucas dropping in a large rock named Star Wars.

For while spooky stuff had been very popular with kids in the 1970s, now the future looked scifi flavoured and possibly it was felt that as the fluffy creatures fronting Monster Munch weren't steeped in the macabre and the gothic, they could pass of the kind of weird aliens that populated the Cantina Bar. Indeed, if memory serves, the early telly ads for Monster Munch implied they lived on a planet of puppet monsters. But whatever the reason, Horror Bags disappeared from the shelves, while Monster Munch continues to thrive to this very day.

But even the mighty Monster Munch did have quite as many giveaways in its early years as did its elder brother Horror Bags! And next time, we will be presenting the fun and freaky items that sending off empty packets of Fangs, Bones, Claws, Ribs, and Bats could net you!  

Sunday, 12 August 2018

MICROGORIA 59 - Calibre


In this episode Mr Jim Moon takes a look at a new movie just out on Netflix - Calibre, a suspenseful tale set in the highlands of Scotland.  

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - MICROGORIA 59 - Calibre



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Sunday, 5 August 2018

MICROGORIA 58 - Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse


In this mini-episode Mr Jim Moon takes a look at a horror comedy  he found on Netflix - Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015). Can this zom com live up to classic like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland? Get your neckerchief and woggle and come to camp to find out!


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Thursday, 2 August 2018

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - Moon Lore


As last week we had what astronomers claim will be the longest lunar eclipse this century, we took a look at what traditional folklore had to say on the subject and came up rather short. For contrary to numerous claims that eclipses provoked fear and terror in our ancestors, it rather seems the case that eclipses were very well understood, and hence as a recognised natural phenomena there is little true folklore about them. However humanity has always been somewhat enchanted by the moon and while there is little lore on lunar eclipses, there is a wide range of folk beliefs concerning the moon. 

Now firstly we must remember that as the moon has a regular cycle of waxing and waning, keeping track of the lunar phases formed the basis for many different calendars and methods of long range time-keeping. However another important aspect of our relationship with the moon is its effect on bodies of water. As earlier societies all had to live near water in one form or another, the role of the moon in changing tides was very well understood. Furthermore despite biology and medicine being in their infancy, it was very well recognised that fluid made up most of what we are, and despite that old saying which states that blood is thicker than water, it was recognised that we were indeed mostly water. Hence it was a short but logical leap to assume that the moon perhaps had a similar tidal effect on living beings. 

In the classical world we find this theory outlined in Pliny's epic work Natural History, written in AD 77. Our learned sage wrote -  
We may certainly conjecture, that the moon is not unjustly regarded as the star of our life. This it is that replenishes the earth, when she approaches it, she fills all bodies, while, when she recedes, she empties them. From this cause it is that shell-fish grow with her increase... also, that the blood of man is increased or diminished in proportion to the quantity of her light.
Skipping forward a few centuries, in medieval times we find that the practise of bleeding people to cure disease - with the idea being to literally let out the bad blood - was if you will pardon the pun, a cutting edge medical treatment. And the influence of the moon upon the supposed inner tides of the body was still considered an important factor. In AD 731, the Venerable Bede noted that -
Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, said that it was very dangerous to bleed at a time when the light of the moon and the pull of the tide was increasing
the Venerable Bede in Historia Ecclesiatica V III 

However we also discover that the power of moon was thought to extend to more than just the blood. Now of course we are all familiar with the folk belief that the moon influences the insane - indeed it is the origin of our word "lunatic". But the moon was thought to have some very far reaching effects indeed. For example, it was thought what phase the moon was in when a child was born would affect its future growth. In his epic tome The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), Reginald Scot wrote -
One borne in the spring of the moone, shalbe healthie; in that time of the wane, when the moone is utterlie decaied, the child then born cannot live
Likewise it was widely thought that it was hazardous to begin weaning a child off its mother's milk while the moon was waning. This piece of lunar folklore, in which the later lunar phases were considered deleterious to health and growth, also lingered for many centuries. And these ideas persisted even into the 19th century. In his 1878 volume English Folk-Lore, T. F. Thiselton Dyer notes - 
In Cornwall, when a child is born in the interval between an old moon and the first appearance of the new one, it is said that it will never live to reach puberty. Hence the saying 'No moon, no man'
Naturally similar beliefs existed around the planting and harvesting of crops. However somewhat stranger is a piece of lunar folk wisdom found in a popular weather-forecasting and agricultural handbook, The Husband-man's Practise. For in an edition published in 1673, it is advised in the month of November to 

Kill swine in or near the full of the Moon, and the flesh will the better prove in boyling. 

And while the moon influencing how your bacon and ham cooks may sound bizarre to us now, this belief evidently proved popular for several centuries. For Robert Forby in his book The Vocabulary of East Anglia, published in 1830 records that - 
A very general precaution, to ill hogs in the increase of the moon; because it is 'an admitted fact', that pork, killed in the wane of the moon, shrinks in boiling
I have no idea whether the pork industry still holds to this concept, although one would guess not in these more enlightened times. However maye there is something in it... for it certainly it could explain the variable quality of the bacon in my local supermarket, particularly when large tasty rashers dwindle to half their size in the frying pan! 



Wednesday, 1 August 2018

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT - Bags of Horror!


Welcome once again dear fiends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Tat! Come in, come in! That's right, just step over those dropped aitches! Now then guys and ghouls, in recent trips exploring the crapalcade of dodgy delights in the 'Orrible 'Ouse, we've been looking at some of the stranger and spookier ice lollies produced in the 1970s. And as we remarked at the time, the '70s saw a real boom in scary stuff aimed at kids, with Count Dracula happily hawking blood-red lollies to the ankle-biters! However it wasn't just ice cold snacks that could chill the blood of a hungry 1970s kid. Vampirism is, as we all know, a highly contagious disease, and true to form, it had soon infected other munchable goodies! 

Now one of the oldest makers of crunchy delights, was Smiths Crisps, established by Frank Smith and Jim Viney in a garage in Cricklewood not long after the First World War. Early on, Smith bought out Viney's shares in the business, and in the 1930s had even established itself in Australia too. Now their stock-in trade was crisps (that means chips to most of you outside the UK) and other crunchy snacks. Now for decades the crisp market was largely dominated by different companies jockeying for position by releasing, and indeed in some cases inflicting, allegedly exciting new flavours on an unsuspecting public. However despite short-lived flavours such as tomato ketchup, Bovril or even hedgehog (yes, that did happen) being unleashed you couldn't really beat the old favourites such as ready salted, salt and vinegar, and cheese and onion. But in the 1970s, crisp making technology entered an exciting new era when machines were devised that could mould pulped potato and maize into any shape you desired.

And hence we had a new wave of savoury snacks that made the traditional vaguely round and crinkled crisp look rather boring! There were now crisps in the shapes of hoops, squares, balls and tubes, all of which were happily scoffed by a greedy public. And more exotic shapes were to follow - crisps shaped like tanks, spaceships and even zodiac signs! Now to be honest, such high concept snacks only really looked like a child's crayon drawing of the object they were meant to resemble, but at the time we didn't really care. For the novelty of the very concept of munching on an edible tank, for a time at least, outgunned the deficiency of the often lumpy shapes formed by the moulding and frying process. And hence, once that novelty was exhausted, the brand often quietly disappeared...


However if you could match an appealing marketing angle to a decent snack shape, you could perhaps create a classic snack. Now Smiths had indeed messed about with a variety of novelty shaped snacks before they struck gold. Possibly noting the rip-roaring success of the Dracula themed lolly produced Lyons Maids, in 1975 they made a bid to bring edible horror to the crisp market. Now in the lesser hands, this concept of going monster could well have fizzled out like so many other novelty shaped snacks. However Smiths were thinking not only big but clever too. To begin with, they picked concepts that could be turned into shapes that would not end up an abstract blob after frying, and actually still look like what they were supposed too. Secondly they had the smart idea of not just doing one new brand but building an entire range. And indeed, that brand would would go on to be become a legend!

Launching in late 1974, Smiths unleashed Horror Bags upon the world. Featuring a comedy vampire as their mascot, Horror Bags came initially in two delightfully ghoulish flavours, and - now pay attention for this was the really clever bit - each flavour came in a different macabre shape! Firstly there were Fangs, which were as I'm sure you have all guessed, maize moulded into the shape of vampiric teeth and flavoured cheese and onion. And the real genius of this design was that you could pop these crisps into your gob just like the plastic fangs you got from joke shops - yes, a snack AND a vampire dress-up prop too! But if cheese and onion wasn't your thing, there were Bones! These snacks really did look like little bones in a bag and provided spooky salt and vinegar flavoured fun, although sadly you could not assemble your own snack-sized skeleton from them.


Horror bags were an instant success, and so Smiths expanded the range. Soon Fangs and Bones were joined by Ribs ("Vampire Vinegar Flavour") and Claws (bacon flavour). And in 1978 Bats flapped into the Horror Bags family, which were advertised as being "batburger" flavour which I recall tasted suspiciously beefy.

But not everyone was happy. In typically hysterical style, tabloid newspapers were soon trying to whip up a storm of controversy over these already much-loved crisps, claiming it was a disgrace that what they termed "X certificate" snacks were being sold to children. (The X certificate was the film classification for movies suitable only for 18 year olds and over, and hence the usual certificate horror movies got). In true gutter journalism fashion they even managed to find an expert to back up their manufactured outrage. They reported that a Dr James Willis, a psychiatric consultant at Guy's Hospital, had said that "using unpleasant stimuli as a selling line could disturb a child in the same way that a vulnerable youngster can be disturbed by early exposure to sexual things". Of course, whether the good Dr Willis had really taken a strong stand against Horror Bags or had been merely asked a vague but leading  hypothetical question in order to produce a quote for a story in a newspaper with only the vaguest associations with actual news, or indeed the truth, I will leave for you to decide.

Thankfully however this hate campaign against Horror Bags didn't really gain much traction. Most parents thought that the idea that crisps, even spooky shaped ones, could be harmful was frankly a load of old bollocks. Smiths themselves were a tad more diplomatic, issuing a statement that basically stated the real truth, which was "it's good for children to be on fun terms with things that frighten them". The tabloids dropped the matter swiftly and Horror Bags made a turnover of £4 million quid that year. thanks for the free advertising suckers!

Andspeaking of advertising,  here's the TV ad announcing a new abominable addition to the line!


The Horror Bags Vampire - who was actually meant to be Dracula himself - was played there by Frank Thornton, better known as Captain Peacock in long running BBC sitcom Are You Being Served. Now there were a whole series TV ads for Horror Bags, and many more running in the pages of UK comics. And one of the things that make Horror Bags so fondly remembered was the long line of mail order give-aways and offers Smiths produced to help promote the brand. And next time we will be taking a look at some of these gleefully ghoulish giveaways and learning how Horror Bags gained a stable mate who would provide to be their nemesis!


Friday, 27 July 2018

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 48 - Wailing Well by MR James


On the 27th of July 1927, MR James read one of his last tales, Wailing Well, at a camp in Dorset held by the Eton Boy Scouts. And so, 91 years to the day, Mr Jim Moon invites you to take a place round the campfire and hear this classic chiller!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD  Wailing Well by MR James



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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - Blood Moon Doom

Two Men Contemplating The Moon is by Caspar David Friedrich

On Friday 27th July 2019, there will be a spectacular lunar eclipse, which according to astronomers, will the longest eclipse of the 21st century, lasting a total of one hour forty-three minutes. Now as some of you may already know, a lunar eclipse is somewhat different from their better known solar cousins, and rather than the moon going black, they have the effect of turning our moon as ruddy red colour. This occurs because although the moon is completely behind the earth, our planet's atmosphere still allows some light from the sun through and making the moon glow an eerie red colour. 

These days it is seemingly traditional now that countless newspapers, magazines and websites will report the news of a forth-coming lunar eclipse with the added salacious spin. And that is that according to some fringe thinks and self-proclaimed mystic experts, that the appearance of this so called "blood moon" is a sign that the End Times are upon us. Now of course, lunar eclipses are relatively common - often there are two a year - and seemingly there's always some nutter somewhere willing to proclaim to the press that the latest one is a sign of a coming apocalypse. 


Now the basis for these predictions of on-coming doom are nearly always based on a handful of Bible verses. In the good book, the moon turning to blood is mentioned three times. Firstly in the Old Testament, the Book of Joel, gives us an outline of the Day of Judgement, with chapter 2, verse 31 telling us -
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.
This prophecy is echoes again, this time in the New Testament, with Acts chapter  2, verse 20, telling us -
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come
And finally in the prophetic Book of the Revelation, the final book of the Bible, in chapter 6 we have a highly detailed vision of the Apocalypse, expanding on the outline given in Joel, and we are informed that as the world ends -
the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood
And so given the prominence and influence of Christianity in the Western World for many centuries, it would seem reasonable to assume that there would a great deal of folklore pertaining to lunar eclipses, in particular to when the Moon turns a blood red colour. However surprisingly, while there are many customs and superstitions associated with the moon, there is very little folklore relating to eclipses. And so it would seem that all these Doomsday predictions relating to lunar eclipses and the so called "blood moons" are actually a rather recent phenomena. In fact, according the Oxford English Dictionary, which traces the origins of words and phrases, the first reference to the phrase "blood moon" only appears in 1871. And what is more, it does not appear in a work of prophecy, but rather it turns up in a novel, Joshua Marvel by Benjamin Farjeon. The revenant line is - 
Blood-moons, and such a wealth of stars in the heavens, and such feather-fringed azure clouds as made the heart beat to think of them.
Furthermore the phrase's next appearance as noted in the OED, is in another novel, this time an American book entitled Black Hand by W. C. Blakeman, published in 1908 -
On the evening of the fete a fiery meteor swept the heavens from the pillars of Hercules to the Winter Palace and a great blood-moon stood over Paris.
Once again the phrase is being used in a somewhat poetic sense and there's no real indication that either Farjeon or Blakeman are actually referring to lunar eclipses at all. In fact, in these instances and others that appear later in the 20th century, I suspect the phrase "blood moon" is not referring to the shadowed moon of an eclipse, but rather other times when the moon sometimes appears red, orange or even pink. And these lunar colour changes often occur when the moon is faintly visible in the sky around sunset, or is low on the horizon. For example, harvest moons - traditionally the last full moon before the Autumn equinox, but often a name given to any full moon in late summer - are frequently red or orange due to the moon's position above the horizon at that time of year. 

A very red harvest moon - no eclipse needed! 

And all the above rather explains the absence of blood moon folklore. To begin with it would appear that the linking of the red moon of a lunar eclipse and the phrase "blood moon" is relatively recent, and seemingly is an invention of modern times. Furthermore when we examine Biblical passages the three oft-quoted lines come from, the absence of any doomy lore associated with lunar eclipses would indicate that our forebears in centuries passed quite clearly read their Bible a good deal more carefully than certain modern folks. For all three verses quoted above about the moon turning to blood are excerpts of longer prophecies. And in every case, the moon turning to blood is not given as a sign or harbinger of the End Times, rather it is something that will occur as part of the Apocalypse. To put into a modern idiom, it's a scene in the main movie not the trailer.

For example, as I remarked above, the Book of Joel and the Book of  Revelations gives us detailed timelines of the Apocalypse, and in both the moon turning to blood occurs fairly late on in the Apocalypse itself, in both cases after the infamous Four Horsemen have ridden out. Also the moon turning to blood is only a significant symptom of the Apocalypse happening if the sun has already gone dark too. Hence people in ages past were not unduly concerned by the moon appearing red, as these events lacked the relevant supporting signs and wonders, and indeed given the Horsemen are supposed to have ridden out by then, the appropriate carnage and devastation, to make it a signifier of the End of Days. 

Now currently there is a somewhat prevalent view that we are somehow superior to our ancestors. The view basically is that we have science and iPhones and therefore all very clever people, while people in ages past were just superstitions morons. However while it is true that we do have marvellous technologies and have made great advances in the field of science, this view of our forebears proves that despite most of us being au fait with Instagram and Xboxes, most people actually know next to nothing of real history.  For the truth is many societies down the ages have paid close attention to the phases of the moon, and eclipses were well understood even in the ancient world. Assyrians, Mayans, ancient Egyptians all had eclipses figured out, and the ancient Greeks even had a computer made of gears for calculating when they occured. While we measure years by the sun and are more concerned with minutes and hours, in centuries past when we lived in agricultural societies, it was far more important to know exactly what time of year it was. And in the longer term, documenting and calculating when rare astronomical events (such as eclipses) occurred, formed the basis for many calendar systems. For while these events may have been infrequent, they were absolutely regular, and hence were the foundations of accurate long range time-keeping. And even in the more recent past, almanacs used by farmers regularly featured when eclipses and other celestial events would happen as an extension of these ancient methods of time-keeping using the heavens. 


More importantly for this discussion, as our forebears paid more attention to the moon and the natural world, they were well aware that the moon can frequent appear a variety of different hues. And while they may not have understood the astrophysics behind it, they still recognised that an eclipse was a natural, and therefore fairly unremarkable, occurrence. The idea that our forebears were superstitions idiots who thought the world was ending with every eclipse is a nonsense. Hence there is no great body of folklore relating to eclipses. Ironically is it actually us, in our age of genetics, computers and technology who are lapping up nonsense about blood moons signifying the End of the Days. 

Sunday, 22 July 2018

HYPNOGORIA 95 - Rituals Unlimited: The Novels of Adam Nevill Part II


In the second part of our voyage through the books of British horror star Adam Nevill, we take another look at The Ritual (2011), explore the cult crimes in Last Days (2012) and discover what lurks in The House of Small Shadows (2013). 



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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT - Taste the Lolly of Dracula!


Hello dear fiends and welcome once again to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! In our past few trips in the chilly archives of the 'Orrible Old 'Ouse we've been looking a the weird world of 1970s ice lollies. Last week we saw how one of the twin titans of the British ice lolly market had struck gold with some spooky themed offerings, in particular the Haunted House lolly. But what were arch rivals Walls up to? Well, naturally they had something to also bring an extra chill to the freezer cabinet...

Now kids have always loved monsters and spooky stuff, but in the 1970s there seemed to be a multitude of scary things for kids (as documented in the marvelous book Scarred For Life that I reviewed here). Now Lyons Maid tapped into this horror boom firstly this the Jelly Terror and Haunted Houses lollies, and later with the Daleks Death Ray, Dinosaurs and King Kong lollies. And so they had pretty much covered all the usual scary fare bases - monsters, ghosts, aliens, and robots. However Walls did manage to fight back by resurrecting from the grave one of the most famous monsters of all-time - Count Dracula!  


Now back in the early '1970s, the immortal vampire was riding high in pop culture. His then current cinematic biographers Hammer, had recently rebooted their movie series by bringing the Count to the present day in Dracula AD 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), while Marvel Comics had done something similar in 1972 too with their monthly title Tomb of Dracula. And in 1974, this particular comic was to be reprinted in Britain as a weekly title called Dracula Lives by Marvel UK, something I'm sure was on the radar of the marketing department of Walls, for one of the prime places they advertised lollies was in the pages of comics. 

So then, as no one technically owned the rights to the character of the Count, Walls were free to raise the old vampire from his grave once more to sell ice lollies. Retailing at 3p, Count Dracula's Deadly Secret (later shortened to just Count Dracula's Secret) was a lolly of "midnight black" according to the advertising blurb, which entombed blood red jelly and an ice cream centre. Quite what was so secret about it, no one is entirely sure - was it that the Count was secretly an ice cream man? Sadly we will probably never know... However this enigma didn't hurt the sales of the lolly at all, for Count Dracula's Deadly Secret was a huge hit and haunted the chiller cabinets for many years. 


While most of the lollies we have discussed ultimately only lasted a summer or two, in 1976 Count Dracula's Deadly Secret was still going strong, and even got a new gimmick to keep the kids interested. Now while most lollies came on the traditional wooden stake, sorry, I mean wooden stick, over the years there were several experiments with plastic sticks moulded into assorted novel shapes. Hence in 1976, Count Dracula's Deadly Secret was now boasting it came on a Trace-A-Face stick - essentially a plastic stick that had shapes cut into to it to make a stencil. The shapes in question were assorted eyes, mouths and noses so kids could make their own monster mugshots in a crude identikit fashion. Now to be honest, looking back the shapes weren't either very detailed or particularly scary, looking more like a moron's idea of Egyptian hieroglyphics than terrifying facial features from beyond the grave. But back in the day, it all seemed terrible exciting, especially as the adverts proclaimed that the Trace-A-Face stick were in limited supply. 


Meanwhile in the wider world of pop culture we had the BBC producing a memorable version of Bram Stoker's horror classic entitled Count Dracula for Christmas 1977, while in 1979 John Badham's all-star version of Dracula, with Frank Lagella as the Count and Sir Lawrence Olivier as Van Helsing, flapped onto the big screen. And also on the small screen, in 1980 Hanna-Barbera introduced us to a modern relative of the Count in The Drak Pack. And so with the Count being still big business, in 1981 Walls released a second version of their long-standing favourite.



Taking advantage of new breakthroughs in lolly technology, the new Walls Dracula was an ice lolly actually moulded into the shape of the Count himself! Although it now it came only with one flavour, strawberry, this new vampiric snack did carry on the noble tradition that had been begun with Count Dracula's Deadly Secret of staining your lips red. Sadly however this icy incarnation of the Count did not last so long. 


However, as we all know, you can't keep a good man down, for in recent years Count Dracula has been spotted once again in freezers, now with a new cartoony look. In 2013, Unilever who now own Walls, responded to popular demand and resurrected Count Dracula's Deadly Secret, although now just under the banner of "Dracula Lollies". Yes, the Count will always rise up from the grave, and apparently that's true even in the world of ice lollies too...



Tuesday, 17 July 2018

HYPNOGORIA 95 - Rituals Unlimited: The Novels of Adam Nevill Part I


In the first of a new mini-series, we explore the novels of Britain's new master of horror, Adam Nevill. In this episode, we take a look at his debut book Banquet for the Damned (2004) and his second novel Apartment 16 (2010). Both reviews are spoiler-free.

After listening, do go and visit his own website - www.adamlgnevill.com

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Rituals Unlimited: The Novels of Adam Nevill Part I


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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT - The Blob from the Haunted House


Welcome once again my dears to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Incredibly in this septic isle it is actually still summer - yes, I know, a summer that has lasted more than a fortnight! Unprecedented! Well, possibly not, but certainly for such a heatwave one probably has to go back to the 1970s, which coincidentally, is exactly what we are doing once again this week! Don't fret though, while there may be lions, and tigers and flares (oh my!),  there will at least be ice cream! 

Now ice cream itself goes back to the Ancient Greeks, and the ice lolly has been knocking about since the 1920s. However it wasn't until the 1960s that the great icy snack wars began, and these frozen treats were marketed in a host of flavours, with a legion of gimmicks (as we have previously charted in these dubious missives). Now in previously weeks we have looked at how in the early 1970s, lolly makers had hit on the idea of creating characters and mascots that tied to distinct themes to flog their wares to kids. However also around this time, the very way these chilly snacks were being made was changing. And although lollies were in rude health at the time, with a market supporting dozens of competing items, all the same, to paraphrase Oscar Goldman, they could rebuilt them, they had the technology, and they could make them better than they were! Better, stronger, and even more gimmicky! 

Now makers of lollies had been fusing different flavours together, and even making lollies in different shapes for quite a while. A recent breakthrough had been creating lollies with an ice cream centre and this would lead to the next leap forward - lollies made completely of ice cream and moulded in amusing shapes! An early hit in this new breed of lolly was the Brr Blobs from Lyons Maid. As the name suggests, the technology wasn't really up to creating a terribly exciting shape other than a roguely humanoid blob with an in-set smiley face, and they only came in ice cream flavour, but they were excitingly different.


More ambitious moulded lollies were to come however, with Lyons Maid launching Dinosaurs in 1974. Priced 8p, these were formed from two pieces of ice cream, one chocolate and one vanilla, and as you might have guessed, were moulded into the shape of a mighty prehistorical saurian. Ok, the moulding wasn't exactly super-detailed, and in fairness they looked more like generic lizardy shapes, as seen by Mr Magoo sans spectacles. But on the upside, the wrappers came with exciting dino-facts on the back, making an attractive series to scoff and collect.


Arch rivals Walls it seems came late to the moulded ice cream lolly game. Possibly the technology wasn't quite good yet, for even Lyons Maid don't appear to have attempted another shaped ice cream lolly in the rest of the '70s. However when Walls did venture into the moulded ice cream arena, they did knock it out of the park. Launching in early 1980s, the Funny Feet lolly was a deceptively simple and silly idea - an ice cream lolly shaped like a cartoon foot. And this combination of flavour and absurdity proved to be extremely popular, and when all other lollies aimed at kids had passed away, Funny Feet still endured.

However back in the 1970s, another ice cream lolly is perhaps the most fondly remembered. In July 1973, Lyons Maid launched a lolly destined to live long in the freezer and indeed in our hearts. It didn't have a fancy moulded shape, although it did come with badges. But this lolly did have another trick up its monstrous sleeve. For this lolly was the fondly remembered and much missed Haunted House!  


Now flavour-wise, Haunted House was nothing to write home about - it was just basically milky ice cream frozen onto a stick. But what made this lolly somewhat legendary was the fact each one had a picture of some horror stenciled on the ice cream in edible inks! Drawn in pink, orange, red, green and blue, there were different pictures on the lollies, with the marketing hook being that you wouldn't know which one was on until you unpeeled the wrapper. The full range was as follows - a ghost, a skellington, some bats, a spider in a web, Frankenstein's monster, a witch and something resembling a close relative of the Jelly Terror! Oh yes, Haunted House delivered a lot of fun for the 4p asking price!

And indeed, while its launch mates such as Captain Cody, Freakout and Freckles were forgotten in a summer or two, Haunted House still lived on, and indeed the memory of its simple but spooky fun is still cherished to this day. However Walls had noticed that the kids loved a monster too, and they would produce a rival icy horror... a lolly that came with a stick through its heart...


Sunday, 8 July 2018

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 57 - The Story of the Spaniards Hammersmith by E and H Heron


In this episode, we meet one of the very first occult detectives - Mr Flaxman Low, whose exploits were chronicled by E & H Heron at the close of the 19th century. In this first case, we encounter a chilling tale of a most unusual haunted house in the heart of London...

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  The Story of the Spaniards Hammersmith by E and H Heron



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Thursday, 5 July 2018

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT - Captain Rainbow vs the Green Demon!


Welcome once again dear fiends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Well, the temperatures are still rising, wearing shorts has become a full-time occupation, and the fridge can't make ice fast enough... I really must repair that stuck thermostat in here! Anyhow, it's rather warm and sunny outside too, and during this heatwave we've been exploring the world of the vintage ice lolly. Now then, last time we went back the early 1970s and discovered how leading British lolly merchants Lyons Maid struck gold, or at least a rich vein of pocket money, by inventing assorted cartoony characters for their lollies.

Breaking with the tradition that the name told you the flavour, lollies launched in 1973 such as Captain Cody, Jelly Terror and Freckles sold mostly on the little characters on the wrappers. And after the initial wave, more were to follow. Clearly Lyons Maid were onto to something as other companies began to following their footsteps. One of their big rivals had been Midland Counties, an ice cream maker who had been going since 1898, but in the early '70s got taken over by Lyons Maid. However the company continued to compete with its new owners in the chiller cabinets for several years after. But of course, Lyons Maid's real rivals, Walls, were picking up on the character concept too. Unsurprisingly perhaps, both companies too launched a range of lollies based on home-spun characters.


Now Midland Counties clearly had clocked that the youth market liked their music, and hence we had two lollies aimed at the Top of the Pops crowd, with Pop Stick appearing to be the lolly for '70s teenboppers everywhere. This move that was countered by Walls with the Superstar lolly, which seems to be aimed at the older crowd with a more glam rock feel to it. Likewise Billion Dollar Lolly and Cavalier seemed to be competing on an aspirational tip - with the former appealing to basic notions of wealth, with its gangster-like American tycoon being almost a satire on vulgar commercialism. Whereas the Cavalier proudly recall our own history, appealing to romantic notions of aristocracy. Although quite what pineapple has to do with the Royalist cause I'm not sure. Possibly the pineapple  still had a lingering reputation as something exotic and for rich folks back in the early '70s.

Lyons Maid's Red Devil got not just one but two competitors, in the shape of the Green Demon from Midland Counties and the Little Imp from Walls. Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! And further characters were to follow too in the next few years. Midland Counties' Chocopotamus continued a long line of food products having animal mascots, although it has to be said few were as nattily dressed and quite as prone to outbreaks of jazz hands. Certainly he made Jelly Jumbo from Walls look positively dour. But on the other non-jazz hand, the Ice Warrior lolly took the cheeky move of nicking the name of one of the telly Timelord's recurring foes and creating a new monster around it. Perhaps they aiming to take a slice from the Doctor Who market so successfully exploited by Walls' Daleks Death Ray. Certainly Midland Counties had form for this type of caper - they had launched a lolly called Rocket which was a carbon copy of Walls' Skyray. Although in fairness, Lyons Maid also did a Skyray-alike called Zoom. The Great Ice Lolly Wars were often fought dirty...


Meanwhile back at Lyons Maid HQ, in 1975 they were refining the concept, and they were clearly now looking things that appealed directly to kids. Now in 1974, ITV had decided to air the third season of the 1960s Batman TV series - which so far had not been aired at all in the UK - and the result was a new wave of Bat-mania. Also after a humble beginning in 1972, by the mid-70s Marvel UK was in full flow, reprinting the adventures of Spiderman, the Hulk and the Avengers on a weekly basis. Therefore it was perhaps unsurprising that one of the first new lollies for 1975 had a superhero theme. This icy treat was called Captain Rainbow, and yes, I appreciate how camp he sounds now. Launching in March 1975, for the price of 6p the Captain offered lemonade and strawberry ice, with banana kreem and a choc dip. Sadly the Captain didn't fly for long, whether this was down to having an unusual cocktail of flavours or being three colours short of spectrum we do not know... 

Also big in Britain in the early 1970s were a legion of imported US cop shows, such as Cannon and McCloud, with Kojak in particular (which began aired in the UK in 1974) becoming a hit with the kids due to his penchant of eating lollies (but sadly just the regular non-iced versions) and being bald. And so, deftly spotting a bandwagon gathering speed, in September 1975 Lyons Maid launched Crime Squad, half blackcurrant and half mixed fruits flavour ice on the usual stick. Crime Squad also had an added gimmick too. Now back then nearly all lollies came on wooden sticks, and often had jokes printed on them. However Crime Squad had a rare plastic stick which had a stencil on it which revealed a secret code. Which was just as well, as survivors from the '70s report that flavour of the lolly itself was less than impressive. Arch rival Walls did something similar but instead tried to tap into the hip world of international espionage with the Superspy lolly. Whether the juices in it were shaken or stirred, history does not record, but declassified documents suggest it didn't have a fancy code breaking stick gimmick. 
However plastic sticks were not the only advances being made in cold snack technology, and new gimmicks and branding concepts were just around the corner. A particularly spooky corner in fact, as kids love nothing better than monsters do they?

NEXT TIME - Taste the lolly of Dracula!