Friday, 31 March 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Secret Life of Statues

The Red Lion of  Sturminster Newton

In recent weeks we've been investigating the odd behaviour of assorted stone monuments. And aside from various standing stones and megaliths being prone to start mucking about when no one is watching - revolving, walking and even going swimming - we have also found that these seemingly supernatural powers of animation and movement extend to more recent man-made stoneworks such as statues as well. And while there is a massive historical and cultural gulf between a modern piece of public art and an ancient dolmen erected in the earliest years of human civilisation, it would seem that they often share the same folkloric tradition of moving themselves about by magic. 

Firstly we have a great many statues that like to go for a wander on the quiet. A statue at Lacock Abbey is said to animate and go for a stroll at the stroke of midnight, while in the heart of London, at St Queen Anne Gate, the stone version of the aforementioned monarch takes an annual constitutional around the neighbourhood on the 1st of August every year. At Burroughs Green in Cambridgeshire, once a year on the night of the 30th of April, a pair of statues on the school door are said to get off their perches and dance on the village green. While on a more eerie note, St Lawrence's Churchyard, in Darlaston, it is said the figure of a child on a monument to a deceased mother and infant has been seen wandering off on its own through the graves. And there are many more examples too, many of which display the two distinct patterns that we have already encountered with moving megaliths - either animating on the stroke of midnight or upon a specific date.

Much like their ancient relatives, the standing stones, a surprising number of statues and stonework figures seem to enjoy popping off for a drink. A sculpture known locally as Stone Moses at Weekly in Northamptonshire, is said to animate on the stroke of midnight and make its way down to the River Ise for a drink. Outside the Red Lion pub in the village of Sturminster Newton, in Dorset, is a stone effigy of the titular beast, which according to the locals, climbs down from its plinth at the stroke of midnight to take a drink from the old water pump by the town bridge. Once again this is a surprisingly widespread tradition, with all manner of statues of people and animals leaving their plinths, pedestals and perches to nip off for a drop or two. Even some weathervanes are said to indulge in this behaviour too, However my favourite tale of this type concerns the brilliantly named folly, Jack the Treacle Eater Tower at Barwick, Yeovil. Thought to have been built around the 1820s, this eccentric structure is a huge arch of rough stone that supports a spire-like tower, topped with a statue of Hermes. Supposedly it commemorates a faithful messenger boy named Jack who would run errands between Barwick and London with only a pot of treacle for sustenance. According to legend, at midnight the statue climbs down to either take a drink from the nearby lake, or according to some go hunting for any left-over treacle!

Jack The Treacle Eater

We tend to think of folklore as stories that are old or antique, but age seems to be no barrier in this tradition of stories. For example, Leeds Town Hall is guarded by stone lions sculpted by William Keyworth, and despite being erected in 1867, there are local legends that these stone beasts leave their plinths and prowl around at night. Even more recently, the city of Nottingham gained a new Council House in 1929. Erected at Old Market Square, the impressive building is guarded by art deco stone lions created by local sculptor Joseph Else. However despite being an 20th century addition to the civic landscape, these stone beasts already have their own folklore - it is said that they will roar when a virgin passes by them!  And despite this seeming to be somewhat bizarre behaviour, even in the world of living statuary, they are not the only stonework to do this. For it is also said that the red lion statue outside the Cameron's Lion brewery in Hartlepool does the same thing. 

So then what are we to make of all this? Well, as is often the case with mysterious phenomena, it is probably a mistake to look for one catch-all explanation. However we can identify some common threads running throughout the folklore of statues and standing stones. Firstly the last two mentioned examples give us a clue to the origin of some of these strange tales of stones with a life of their own. Those stone lions which roar at passing virgins I rather suspect are an oblique form of local joke - the punchline of which either the listener must deduce for themselves, or was too smutty for polite folklorists to record. The gag is that thanks to the morals (or lack of) in the local populace, no one has ever heard the stone beasts roar! And while the roaring lion stories may be a little nudge-nudge wink-wink, it is not unreasonable to assume that many other tales of living statues are similar tall tales told to amuse. The British sense of humour famously has a surreal streak, and spinning implausible tales of the athletic prowess of objects such as large lumps of stone that are clearly very immobile fits very well with our love of the silly and the absurd.

For example, a common feature is that these stones move if they hear the chimes of twelve, and here the joke is that stones of course can never hear anything! Some legends appear to be more explicit on this front, for example the Cheesewring performs its revolutions if it hears a cock crow (as detailed here) but as it is located in the middle of a moor, there are no farms anywhere nearby, and hence there are no cockrels to hear crowing. Likewise the standing stone in Pyrford (see here) is said to revolve when the church clock chimes twelve, except the church has neither clock nor chimes!

However as  I said, we should not make the mistake of looking for a one-size-fits-all origin for these tales. Certainly in this series we have discussed several stones who have appeared to have gained generic tales of movement, and judging by the surprising amount of very recent folklore surrounding statues it would appear that these stone stories are still spreading even in the modern age. But I suspect some sorts of stories are older than others. In the course of this little series of little articles we have encounters several stones that are said to be immovable in some way or another, whether being impossible to shift in the first place, or possessing the ability to return from wherever they are moved to. Now these kinds of stories I suspect come from an older, darker tradition - for like many other folk-tales, these stories are meant as prescriptions or warnings, a colourful (and hence memorable) way to spreading the message that certain sites or objects are out of bounds and not to be messed about with. The legend of the rampaging Wimblestone is an excellent example of this - not only will the stone attack anyone who attempts to move it. But also the old tales acknowledge and re-empt an important assumption: that as the Wimblestone is a remnant of an ancient site, there must be treasure there. In addressing what might be a common motive for wanting to disturb the stone, the legends make it clear that the effort is not worth the risk, and it would be very foolish to try. After all, not messing about with very old things or places is a common warning found in many branches of folklore.

the stone lions of Nottingham

Considering that over the centuries many ancient sites were lost, as fields were ploughed up and the stones broken and moved, this particular strand of stone lore may well have evolved out of early concerns about  preserving our past. And while our forebears may not have had any idea of exactly how ancient some sites were, being old and mysterious was enough to give them local and historic importance, and so warning stories grew up around them. On a related note, I wonder if the various tales about moving statues are an echo or a remnant of this tradition; perhaps a milder, and in some cases, light-hearted way of discouraging boisterous youths from climbing on them and deterring would-be vandals.

Of course, there is always the human tendency to anthropomorphise anything around us. And given that our statutes often resemble ourselves or familiar animals, it is not surprising that people down the ages have entertained each other with stories that these objects that remind us of living things have secret lives of their own. And while it is more of a stretch to imagine the same imaginative process at work with some of the standing stones we have talked about in this series, it does seem possible that once again folks have been entertain by imagining these old monuments come to life at certain magical times.

Something that is nigh on impossible to discover, but would shed a good deal of light on the matter, would be know how seriously folks in past ages took these stories. Were they ever seriously believed? Or were they always just a surreal bit of whimsy and told with a tongue in the cheek? However whatever the origins of these tales, the fact that such stories are still springing up around modern statues shows that such tales still clearly hold a deep appeal for us. And given that these strange tales of stone-lore have not only survived but have continued to thrive into modern times, I suspect it is a story tradition that will continue for many years yet to come... 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #11 - Even More Death & Horror

Hello dear guys and ghouls! Welcome back to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Come in, sit down, and make yourself comfy! For I've got the battered old gramophone out again and some prime platters to spin for you! 

Now then, on our last visit to the 'Orrible Old 'Ouse, we learned about the infamous Volume 13 of the BBC Sound Effects record series - Sounds of Death & Horror. An infamous disc that brought us a host of memorable tracks with titles such as "Head Chopped Off" and "Heavy Breathing (Female)". And despite the somewhat predictably outcry from self-appointed moral guardians, the LP was a huge success. and the BBC were soon looking to give the kids what they wanted - another volume of gruesome and gory sounds! 

So then, a year after the first album's release, 1978 saw the Sound Effects series of LPs reach Volume 21, and this addition to the series was to be another black disc of violent vinyl! For this LP was Sound Effects No. 21 More Death & Horror! Once again helmed by the Radiophonic Workshop's Mike Harding, and this time aided and abetted by Peter Harwood, this putrescent platter served 21 tracks of madness, mutilation and mayhem! And once again it came in a brilliantly lurid sleeve designed Mr Andrew Prewitt

Now unlike its predecessor, this reprehensible record wasn't arranged into handy sections. Rather this lurid long player just jetted one long torrent of terror at the listener! There were 26 tracks in all, and here's the full run-down of those golden greats!
  1. Death Of The Fly
  2. Vampire Feeding
  3. Death By Harikiri
  4. Sweeney Todd The Barber
  5. Wind Through Crack In Door
  6. Wind In The Trees
  7. Synthesised Wind (Electronic)
  8. Sea Monster
  9. Sharpening The Knife
  10. Falling Scream
  11. Premature Burial
  12. Wild Dogs
  13. The Iron Maiden
  14. Death In The Swamp
  15. The Sewer Rats
  16. The Poisoned Drink
  17. The Rack
  18. Midnight Strangler
  19. Assorted Gun Shots
  20. At The Dentist
  21. Time Bomb
  22. Death By Electrocution
  23. Gouging Eyeballs
  24. Russian Roulette
  25. Death By Garrotting
  26. Suicide by Gas 

Now if I had a criticism, I would say that personally I'd have been inclined to tweak the running order so that "Synthesised Wind (Electronic)" would have been followed by "Suicide by Gas", purely for comedy reasons. However the inclusion of the track "At the Dentist" does rather suggest the makers did indeed had a dark sense of humour., albeit one not as childish as mine. Anywho, if you wish to hear the killer cuts above, here they are courtesy of some thieving git on Tube of You... 

However that's not the end of this grisly saga! For there was a third LP in the series! Well, three is the charm as they say. Released a few years later in 1982, Even More Death & Horror BBC Sound Effects Vol. 27 hit the record stores to serve up one final deadly disc of doom and destruction. 

Now of all the LPs in Sound Effects horror trilogy, this platter is now the rarest. And it was also the shortest, clocking in at a mere 27 minutes. However what a mad half hour it was! And while it may have been the briefest outing in the world of lurid listening, certainly it featured perhaps the most imaginative and darkly hilarious tracklisting yet!

1 Intentional Death
Staking A Vampire - Three Mallet Blows
Two Throat Cuts Or Two Throats Cut
The Gas Chamber - The Cyanide Tablets Drop Into The Acid Releasing The Deadly Fumes
Wrists Cut - The Blood Drips Into The Bucket
Assorted Stabbing
Drilling Into The Head - Enough Said
Body Put Into The Acid Bath
Self Immolation
Silencer (Pistol) - Vocal/Synth/Mechanical
Electric Fire Thrown Into The Bath
Boiling Oil - Poured Off The Castle Wall

2 Torture
Tongue Pulled Out
Fingernails Pulled Out - Assorted
Fingers Chopped Off (5)
Trial By Ordeal - A "Medievil" Practice Where The Accused Would Pick A Ring Out Of A Deep Pot Of Boiling Water - If The Resulting Burns Healed Up Quickly The He/She Was Innocent - Some Chance!
Whipping - A Touch Of The Lash Keeps You On Your Toes (Or Knees)
Torture Lab - A.D. 2500

3 Accidental (?) Death
Lift Falling (With Passengers)
Female Falling From A Height (Ladies First)
Male Falling From A Height

4 Reaction (To The Sounds You've Just Heard)
Viz: Involuntary Regurgitation

5 Nasty Animals And Birds
Werewolf - The Transformation From Human To Beast
Giant Killer Bees - No Honey From These
Sleeping Dragon - Don't Waken It Up
Dragon - On The Move Through The Bushes - With Occasional Flaming Bad Breath
Dragon Kill - The Death Of The Monster
Pterodactyl Flying - With Squawks
Vultures Feeding - If You Lie Around Long Enough, They'll Clean You Out
Piranha Fish Feeding - Don't Go For A Swim
In The Snake Pit - They Hiss With Forked Tongues
"The Birds" Attack A Feed - On What You May Ask
Triffids - (i) Sting (ii) "Talking"

And so then, while this may be the shortest outing in the series, and its sleeve art seems somewhat lacking compared to the phantasmagoria of the previous two volumes, even the harshest critic would be forced to admit that they really out-did themselves with the track listing for this one! Every opportunity for a ghoulish gag is taken! It's all killer and no filler! A very fitting end to the series I feel.

However there is a postscript to this tale. For some five or six years later, nearly a decade after the first LP's release, in a few issues of the blood-drenched Fangoria magazine, the following advertisement appeared under the heading "Sound o' Splatter"... They just don't write ad copy like this anymore... 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

HYPNOGORIA 53 - Zombi Zombi Part X: Reanimating the Dead

In this episode, Mr Jim Moon explores the original dawn of the dead... when the zombie first shambled from folklore into horror fiction. Hence we are taking a look the first zombie tales that appeared in the 1930s, including HP Lovecraft's early classic Herbert West: Reanimator

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part X: Reanimating the Dead

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Friday, 24 March 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - Man-size in Marble

Over the past few months we have been exploring the curious lore surrounding assorted ancient monuments that holds that at certain times, they move, rotate, walk, wander off for a drink, and even go for a swim. Along the way, we have frequently encountered theories that these strange old tales are perhaps rooted in the now lost and forgotten rites of our pagan ancestors; the legend of a standing stone that is said to dance or move around is a folk mis-remembering times when the locals would dance or move around the specially erected rock and so forth. However, we have frequently found that this magical power of animation seems to extend to assorted stones and monuments that have a far more recent origin. 

In the last instalment, while talking of stones that in a most surreal fashion that pop off for a drink or to take a dip, I could not help but be reminded of a book I read as a child - The Enchanted Castle (1907) by E Nesbit. Now in this classic children's novel, we learn that the statues in the garden of Yalding Castle enjoy a secret life of their own at night - 
Something white moved under a weeping willow; white hands parted the long, rustling leaves. A white figure came out, a creature with horns and goat's legs and the head and arms of a boy. And Gerald was not afraid. That was the most wonderful thing of all, though he would never have owned it. The white thing stretched its limbs, rolled on the grass, righted itself and frisked away across the lawn. Still something white gleamed under the willow; three steps nearer and Gerald saw that it was the pedestal of a statue empty.
"They come alive," he said; and another white shape came out of the Temple of Flora and disappeared in the laurels. "The statues come alive."
One of the castle's stone exhibits, a sculpture of a prehistoric saurian, also comes to life, and even goes for a swim in the lake, much like the standing stones we discussed last time.

At first, given that this is a magical tale for children, it would be easy to dismiss this coincidence as a mere piece of whimsy. However I then also recalled another tale by Nesbit, one that I heartily recommend not reading to the little ones! For E Nesbit also penned a great many tales for grown-ups, including a host of top notch macabre tales, and one of the most celebrated is a short story entitled Man-size in Marble. In that story, (which you can hear me read here) a young couple move to a country cottage where all is pleasant and idyllic, except for a curious local legend concerning some effigies in the the local church...
"They do say, as on All Saints' Eve them two bodies sits up on their slabs, and gets off of them, and then walks down the aisle, in their marble"--(another good phrase, Mrs. Dorman)--"and as the church clock strikes eleven they walks out of the church door, and over the graves, and along the bier-balk, and if it's a wet night there's the marks of their feet in the morning."
Now while the animated statuary in The Enchanted Castle sounds like imaginative fun for young minds, the account of stalking statues in Man-size in Marble very much has the ring of authentic folklore about it, in particular the detail that they animate annually on a certain night of the year. Was there perhaps a real legend that Nesbit had heard which had provided the inspiration for this classic horror tale? 

My first port of call was the excellent Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore (2000) by Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud, and there was indeed a dedicated entry on statues. And aside from noting a widespread tradition of touching various statues for luck, we also have this - 
The other recurrent piece of folklore about a statue is the assertion that it gets down from its pedestal and walks about, or sits down for a rest, whenever it hears midnight strike; the lions at the door of Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge either roar or drink from the gutter
So then, it was indeed very likely that Nesbit's tale was informed by real folklore. And what's more, it did not take me long to find a possible candidate. At the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Ingham, Norfolk are the tombs of two knights, Sir Oliver de Ingham and Sir Roger de Bois. And according to local legend on the night of the 1st of August, ever year the stone effigies get down from their tombs and take a stroll down to the nearby Stalham Broad. In a highly dubious account related by Chas Sampson in Ghosts of the Broads (Jarrold 1976), it is alleged that when they reach the water's edge, the stone knights engaged in battle with the shade of a foreign knight.

However given that the same account claims that investigators not only witnessed all these strange events, but also photographed the now empty tomb plinths, and even took movie footage of the stone effigies lumbering away, we should perhaps take the claims of a battle with a chap wield a scimitar with a pinch of salt or two. One cannot help wondering whether the entire .Ingham story was completely fabricated to fill out a book of spooky Norfolk tales - something which I fear is quite likely as the volume was clearly aimed at tourists. But even if  that were case, the tale would appear to have been inspired in turn by actual folklore. For as I was to discover, there is no shortage of stories about statues that come to life...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #10 - Sounds of Death & Horror

Now then last time in the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat, we had wheeled out the ancient gramophone (ask your parents kids!) and had a delve into the wonderful world of BBC Sound Effects records. We reminisced about the classic first platter of SF sounds conjured by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop BBC Sound Effects Vol. 12 Out of This World, but this wasn't the only vinyl treat that is fondly remembered by genre fans. And the next addition to the series, appropriately enough Volume 13, was a disc that was to become infamous!  

For the next in the range, unleashed on record shops in 1977, was entitled Sound Effects Vol. 13 Death & Horror! The suitably gruesome cover art was created by Andrew Prewitt, who was actually the Head of Creative Services at BBC Records & Tapes, and by his own admission he went for the most lurid images he could possibly get away with back then. The record itself served up a whopping 91 different gruesome sound effects, with classic tracks such as "Red Hot Poker in Eye" and "Dr Jekyll's Laboratory". Weirdly enough none of these ever stormed the singles chart...

Much like its SF-themed predecessor, this infamous vinyl was divided up into handy themed sections. We open with Execution and Torture, featuring easy listening greats such as "Neck Twisted and Broken" and "Nails Hammered into Flesh", and then we move onto Monsters and Animals, which brings us soothing sounds such as "Mad Gorilla" and "Hellhound (Growling and Snarling)". Moving on, next we have some excellent chillout sounds for the busy maniac in the shape of Creaking Doors and Grave Digging, (featuring "Grave Digging (Stony Ground)" and "Grave Digging (Wet Ground)", while the following selection, Musical Effects and Footsteps delivers classics such as "Phantom of the Opera (Organ Sounds)" and "Ghostly Footsteps (With Chains)". The LP next brings assorted ululations for your delectation, with Vocal Effects and Heartbeats, offering smash hits like ("Three Men Screaming" and "One Long Scream (Female)". And finally this blood-drenched platter closes with Weather, Atmospheres and Bells (surely a band name waiting to happen), which serves up ambient classics such as "Midnight in the Graveyard" and "The Electronic Swamp". The full glorious track listing can seen below and be found here.

Helmed by Mike Harding (no, not the comedian/folk singer of the same name sadly), a veteran producer and engineer at both the Beeb and the Radiophonic Workshop, this LP seemed to cause something of a stir at the time. Mostly people thought it was hilarious that there was now an LP where you could hear classic cuts like "The Scaffold (Trap Opens, Body Falls" or "Sawing Leg Off", but of course there were a few who were predictably outraged and worried about the nation's yoof grooving to the sounds of "Branding Iron on Flesh". The dear old BBC itself however seemed delighted with the entire affair, and I vividly remember seeing assorted boffins turning up on several popular TV shows and demonstrating how they made all these delightfully ghoulish and gross sounds. 

Now a few of the tracks were real field recordings, although sadly "Dracula in Flight" wasn't actually taped in the wild. But the tracks showcasing the sounds of bats were recording of real creatures done by Eric Simms. However the bulk of the LP was down the ingenuity of the sound effects wizards, with the more gruesome sounds being mainly the sound of violence against vegetables. I remember being very impressed you could make such hideous noises with ordinary kitchen implements and the week's groceries. And if you want to see this kind of thing in action, you can see a whole variety of horror sound effects being created in the exact same way in the movie Berberian Sound Studio which I reviewed on my podcast a while ago (on this episode here). 

While this record does not work as well as a complete soundscape like the volume before Out of This World did, all the same it was a great favourite with monster obsessed kids everywhere, and many folks have fond memories of scaring themselves daft playing these tracks over and over again. Of course these days, copies of the original release are highly prized, and go for a pretty penny. However last year, it was re-issued by Demon Records, and on 180g blood splattered vinyl too! 

But back in the late '70s, the LP proved to be so popular, that the BBC would issue, not one, but two follow-up LPs. And next time dear fiends, we'll be giving them a spin to see what they contain. However in the meantime, here's the Monsters and Animals section from the original!  

Sunday, 19 March 2017

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 32 - Zombi Zombi Part IX - Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields

The Zombi Zombi series continues with a very special reading of the true origin of the walking dead. Mr Jim Moon presents the original account of zombieism "Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields" from William Seabrook's book The Magic Island. We go on to learn much more of voodoo, Haiti, its history and, of course, its zombies...

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part IX - Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #09 - Out of this World

Hello again dear friends, and welcome once again to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Now then last time our rooting about through the cobwebbed crates in here was inspired by my recollection of an ad in an ancient copy of Fangoria. Now while leafing through my boxes of old Fangos looking for the ad in question to scan, I chanced upon another little advertisement which prompted a whole new search through the dusty depths ofs the 'Orrible Old 'Ouse. 

As I've remarked before, and undoubtedly will remark again frequently in these articles, the pre-internet world now looks like a very strange place. For it was a place where if you missed a movie or a TV show, it was pretty gone forever. Now it is true that the dawning of the age of home video and cable TV did bring us endless repeats and boxed sets of video cassettes, but obviously these were just primitive, crude ancestors of the on-demand playground we now have, the all you can eat digital sweetshop that never closes. However for many decades, before VCRs and cable/satellite telly, there was another medium in which films and TV shows lived on, a strange netherworld where old favourites could be re-lived, well in part anyway. Welcome to the strange world of the tie-in record! Now to begin with there were releases of favourite theme tunes and soundtracks, and then assorted ill-judged stabs at the pop charts and tie-in novelty records. Sometimes you could even a purely audio version of a movie or show, admittedly often edited down and with inserted narration to make sense on non dialogue bits. And with the record industry enjoying its golden age in the 60s and 70s, it's not surprising that many broadcasters decided to cut out the middle man and began setting up their own record labels. 

Hence in 1967 the BBC began releasing all manner of assorted tie-in records as BBC Radio Enterprises. As the name suggests, in the early days it was drawing heavily on its extensive radio back catalog, with one of the earliest releases being a Goon Show LP.  The venture was great success, and by 1970 it had become the catchier sounding BBC Records, and the label would morphed once again in 1974 into BBC Records & Tapes when the new-fangled audio cassette took off. However aside from repackaging old shows in vinyl and cassette and releasing themes and music, something very odd happened. 

It was noted that the Beeb kept on getting requests from drama groups and amateur film-makers for sound effects. And well they might, for the BBC was famous for having its own dedicated sound division, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which had been founded in 1958 to conjuring up music, jingles and sound effects galore. Now often apparently the boffins at the Workshop would quite obligingly dash off a tape of the requested sound effects and mail it out, but then some bright spark had the idea of releasing whole LPs of sound effects, cutting out a lot of faffing around and making a few quid in the process!

And hence in 1969, the LP BBC Sound Effects No 1 was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Now evidently the platter sold well, despite having a somewhat specialised market, as further volumes soon hit the records stores. Now the early volumes were simply assortments of useful sound effects, but as the series progressed they began to specialise, with Volume 10 being titled Music and Sounds for Home Movies. And judging from the track-listing, the home movies in question weren't the sort you mucky sods are looking up online these days. With tracks entitled "The Aegean", "Spain" and "Effects (French cafe)" I'm guessing this LP was intended for use with cine films of people's holidays. Although I grant you that "Effects (Dutch Carnival With Chair Dance)" does sound like an euphemism, and "Cup Bells, Vase Drum" could be a misprint... But moving on! 

And the themed approach continued with the next release, for Volume 11 was entitled Off Beat Sounds - and from the collection of splashes, creaks, squeaks, and doooinnnnnnng! noises, I'm guessing this was designed for amateur comic capers... Although if you were to argue that most home-filmed smut would benefit from a swannee whistle or two, I wouldn't disagree... But the discussion of the acoustic choices in what they used to call "stag reels" aside, it's was with the release of the next volume that things got really exciting!  

For Volume 12 was called.... deep breath... BBC Sound Effects Vol. 12 Out of This World, Atmospheric Sounds and Effects from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Yes, hitting the record stores in 1976, and if I remember rightly often plugged by the voiceover bloke after the final credits for Doctor Who or Blakes 7 had rolled, now you could enjoy a trip to a "Sea of Mercury" or a "Venusian Space Lab" from comfort of your own Parker Knoll. However it wasn't all just "Laser Gun, Five Bursts" and  "Flying Saucer Take-off", for this double LP was was composed of four themed sections, each taking up a  separate side of vinyl. We began our audio odyssey with "Outer Space", and flipped the platter for "Magic and Fantasy". While on the second record we had "Suspense and the Supernatural" and "The Elements". The full tracklist can be found here and you can sample the auditory delights on this video just below!

Now the BBC Sound Effects series would return to the interstellar audio realms once again later on, with 1978's Vol. 19 being Dr Who Sound Effects (see here for details), and again in 1981 with Vol. 26 Sci-Fi Sound Effects (details here). However undoubtedly this first excursion into fantastical radiophonic ambience is still the classic. Firstly because the credited artists are the stuff of TV legend. And if you watch a lot of classic BBC shows, and not just their SF offerings by the way, names like Dick Mills and Roger Limb you'll recognise from countless credit sequences. However the second reason why it is so great is that is because it actually works rather well as a complete soundscape in itself, for as well as spacey sound effects there were little soundscapes of what we would now call ambient music or electronica. Indeed the likes of Radiophonic Workshop alumni such as Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson are now recognised as pioneers of electronic music making. And certainly plenty of musicians listened very closely to this LP, and it should be perhaps no surprise then that the sounds of this double album have been sampled countless times over the years.

In this regard, BBC Sound Effects Vol. 12 Out of This World, Atmospheric Sounds and Effects from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is a truly classic record in its own right. This was an LP that was snapped up by kids obsessed with spaceships, robots and monsters, kids who later would be messing about with samplers and sequences and inventing musical genres like acid house, techno, trance and ambient. Given its landmark status and influence, it's only right and proper that the album was re-released on CD in 1991 as Essential Science Fiction Sound Effects Vol. 2. and was re-released on vinyl LP in 2012 by AudioGo and Discovery Records. 

However this wasn't the only legendary sound effect LP produced by the BBC, for the next volume in the series would prove to be highly memorable to genre fans of a certain age, although perhaps for very different reasons...

Sunday, 12 March 2017

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 31 - Zombi Zombi Part VIII - Jumbee

In this special tie-in episode of From the Great Library of Dreams, we sample a tale of caribbean terror from Henry S Whitehead, the classic Jumbee, and learn more of the strange lore of the supernatural that lies within the origins of the zombie!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part VIII - Jumbee

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Friday, 10 March 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Thirsty Stones

The King's Men at the Rollright Stones

In this little series of articles we have been discussing the curious lore surrounding the standing stones and ancient monuments of the British Isles. So far we have investigated tales of rocks that revolve and rotate, megaliths that move about the countryside on their own, and last time, we discovered that allegedly some stones even come to life and dance. And when discussing the animated antics of the famous Rollright Stones, we discovered that local folklore claims they have another peculiar habit, that of sloping off in the dead of night to go for a drink. Now obviously the ancient stones are not sliding into the bar of the Red Lion in nearby Long Compton for a swift half - that would be patently ridiculous - however it is said that the Rollrights make their way down the hill to sip from a spring in nearby woodland. 

Most curious behaviour I'm sure you'll agree. However surprisingly the Rollright Stones are not the only ancient rocks with a taste for water, for it would seem that many British standing stones have something of thirst. To begin with we have another tale of that baddest of rock stars, the Wimblestone (see here for details of its other exploits). According to an old story recounted by R Tongue in Somerset Folklore (1965), the often highly mobile and aggressive Wimblestone was prone to pay a visit to another ancient monument, the Water Stone near Wrington. Now this actually an arrangement of stones that are all that remains of a neolithic burial chamber, and this dolmen seems to take its name from the fact that rain collects in one of the large slabs. According to Tongue's tale, after an altercation with a pesky human, the Wimblestone wandered over the Mendips to carp to the Water Stone about how stupid mortals are, and help itself to a drink of cooling rainwater. 

Other ancient rocks however are somewhat better behaved. At Enstone is another arrangement of stones, the remains of a chambered tomb, known as the Hoar Stone. According to a local legend, the three largest standing stones here are the remains of a man, his horse and his hound who were turned to stone. Unfortunately the story of why this petrification occured seems to be lost in the mists of time. However local lore holds that on Midsummer Eve - a favourite time for stones to go a-moving about on their own it seems - the largest stone, sometimes called 'the Old Soldier' slips off down to the village to take a drink from the stream there.

The Hoar Stone

Nipping off from a drink would appear to be a popular pastime among the remaining stones of ancient burial chambers. Arthur's Stone, another cromlech near Gower in Wales, aside from numerous connections to Arthurian legend, is said to stroll off for a crafty drink of water when no mortals are around. Furthermore it would seem that the stones of Wales are particularly thirsty. Near the village of Evenjobb in Powys, are four standing stones known simply as the Four Stones. And while one may decry the lack of imagination in their naming, their lore is certainly colourful enough with local tales alleging that at midnight the quartet make their way to Hindwell Pool for a refreshing drink. Also in Powys is Maen Llia, or Llia's Stone - and this menhir too is fond of drink, supposedly favouring a morning stroll at dawn to have sup from the River Nedd. While at Reynoldston, another Arthur's Stone is alleged to make an annual trip down to the sea to take a drink. 

For a few stones though, just popping off for a simple drink is not enough. Once again in Powys, Wales, one can find near Crickhowell, the Fish Stone, a tall menhir whose tapering form is somewhat piscine. However it is possible that its name does not merely derive from its shape, but from an old legend that claims on Midsummer Eve once again, the stone not only makes its way to the nearby River Usk but goes for a swim in the waters. Likewise the King Stone, near Hay-on-Wye, in Herefordshire, likes a dip too. Although rather than observing some date of mystical significance, the Fish Stone apparently only bobs off for a swim on very hot days.

Quite why so many ancient standing stones have an attraction to water is something of mystery. However it would appear that it is something that has spread to other items of stonework. For in Langton Herring in the fair county of Dorset, is an ancient cross. Now much weathered by the passing centuries, this is a wayside cross, a small monument erected in the medieval period, considerably later than the assorted stones we have been discussing. However, mere whippersnapper it may be, local lore claims that on New Year's Eve, the Langton Cross makes it way to the River Fleet to take a drink.

Now in this series of little articles, we have discovered that a great many ancient standing stones are claimed to move about of their own volition. Now, the Langton Cross looks rugged and weathered enough to be mistaken for a more ancient monolith, but discovering a relatively recent stone behaving in the same way got me wondering... And next time, we'll discover if there are other modern stones and monuments that are alleged to magically move too

The Langton Cross

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #08 - The Tatlight Zone

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of tat. A journey into a dubious land whose boundaries are that of the imagination of tired marketing executives. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible of Tat!
Yes, welcome once again dear friends to this marvellous repository of the weird, the wonderful and the wonky! Now then, on our initial tours of the collections of questionable ephemera here, we've had a gander at some items that were rather fondly remembered. However, now it's time to take the gloves off, and delve into some of the darker recesses of the 'Orrible 'Ouse, and sample something that is not so well loved. Or even well remembered... And quite possibly deservedly so! 

Now I must confess I never owned the item in question, but in my defence, from my researches into the matter, I'm not entirely sure anyone ever owned one of these! For it is not very often that one discovers some piece of tie-in tat that isn't listed multiple times on the likes of Ebay. But I am getting ahead of myself... Follow me, let's take a quick trip back to the Dark Ages. Well, the 1980s at least... 

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a world that didn't have the internet. Yes, I know, hard to believe, but it did happen. Anyhow, if you were a devotee of the weird and wonderful, the pre-web could be a somewhat sucky place. For in all probability the town where you lived didn't have a games shop, or a comic book store, and even if you wanted something relatively mundane, like the latest copy of House of Hammer, or Starlog, or Fangoria or Starburst, you had to traipse around many newsagents to find one. Now given this state of affairs, marvellous mags like the seminal journals I just mentioned were always full of ads from assorted mail order companies; places that would happily sell you tomes, comics, soundtrack LPs, models and all kinds of tie-in tat. Indeed, in future excursions in the 'Orrible 'Ouse we will no doubt be looking at some of these fabled items of tantalising mail order swag.

But the trouble was, back then mail order was a long slow process, and for most kids somewhat impractical. For it meant that parents had to be cajoled into parting with credit card numbers or cheques. And naturally most parents took a dim view of their offspring wanting the score to Cannibal Holocaust, a chestburster T shirt, or a life-size poster of Frankenstein's Monster. Plus quite often the mag you were perusing came from the other side of the Atlantic which meant coughing up more for the shipping than the original item. However despite much of the readership being kids without access to credit, or simply being in an entirely different country to the vendor, evidently these mail order outfits did well enough from this fan market over the years for some very strange things to be offered. 

And the one of oddest of all, I spotted in the pages of dear old Fango, way back in 1986. It was an ad that ran several times, and I have always wondered whether anyone bought one. Now this was a little item called The Zone Box, a bit of tie-in tat for the classic TV series The Twilight Zone. Now at that time, the show had just been revived the year before, in 1985, and of course Rod Sterling's original series was still running late at night on many TV stations round the world. However despite its status as a recognised bona fide titan of television, I am still to this day at a loss to explain quite why anyone would need this particular treasure. Here's the ad -

Yes, the Zone Box! Just a box that plays the intro to The Twilight Zone... Why? I ask! Why in the name of Shatner's Gremlin would you need this? I don't even think it has The Twilight Zone written on it anywhere (despite being officially licensed allegedly)! I mean, seriously, who need this thing?!? It's as much use of Burgess Meredith's specs at the end of Time Enough At Last!!! 

Alright, enough exclamations marks now... Perhaps more seriously for any maniac considering buying this outrageous bit of old tat, it doesn't even specify which version of the intro the Zone Box plays - for the original show actually had several different ones. But from the blurb, I'd guess it uses the best known narration and theme combo that opened episodes in seasons 2 and 3. But obviously, having never seen a Zone Box in the flesh, I have no idea... But given that there does not seem to be any floating around for sale on the internet I suspect no one else has either!   

However I did turn up a couple of pictures of this highly dubious item, which do reveal what no doubt many of you older readers have suspected - that it works with one of those old miniature plastic record players. For younger folks, in the days before microchips and assorted cyber-tat, if you had something that made a noise or "spoke", whether it be some doll or a Palitoy Talking Dalek, the sounds were produced by a small turntable which played a tiny plastic record. Yes, proper old skool! Usually they were battery powered, but some operated with a pull-cord to spin the Borrower sized platter. Obviously they weren't very loud, and the cheap plastic discs never sounded anywhere near as good as a proper size vinyl LP. Plus, being cheap plastic they often got scratched to buggery very quickly. So then, I think it's safe to assert that Rod Sterling's famous narration probably sounded less than majestic coming from the depths of The Zone Box. 

I vividly remembering wondering who in Hades would desire such a thing, and indeed who exactly so badly needed to read Rod's dulcet tones on such a regular basis. And looking at it now, I can only marvel at the misguiding thinking that led the makers to actually trademarking the name "The Zone Box" - for I honestly can't imagine a huge demand for this item even among the most dedicated Twilight Zone fans, nevermind a market for pirate knock-offs. And judging by this piece of terrible old tat being virtually unmentioned in the vast expanses of the modern internet, I can only assume that very few were ever sold. Ironically it is a tie-in item that seems to have vanished into the Twilight Zone itself! 

Having said that though, it probably now sells for an absolute fortune. Possibly for the price of a small house. And hence in a twist worthy of the great Rod Serling himself, I'm now regretting not getting one back in '86...

Sunday, 5 March 2017

HYPNOGORIA 52 - Zombi Zombi Part VII: Origins of the Zombie

In this episode, Mr Jim Moon resurrects his Zombi Zombi series, and this time we are going right back to the beginning! In this show we unearth the earliest accounts of the zombi, hearing strange tales of  haunted islands, voodoo rites, and discover something a little different to what you might be expecting!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part VII: Origins of the Zombie

Find all the podcasts in the HYPNOBOBS family here -

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Friday, 3 March 2017


In the last few little articles, we have been examining the strange lore of stones that move. We have had tales of revolving rocks and stories of meandering megaliths which go off for a wander at night. However compared to some legends, these stones that won't stand still seem positively sedate. For apparently a huge number of standing stones in the British Isles are somewhat on the energetic side on the quiet!

However this isn't perhaps that surprising given the number of ancient stones which were , according to legend at least, once living beings. A common trope in stone lore is that certain solitary megaliths or stone circles were once folks who were literally petrified. And perhaps the most famous example is the legend concerning the Rollright Stones. This celebrated array of ancient stones stands near the village of Long Compton, on the borders of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire, and comprises a single megalith dubbed The King Stone, a circle  known as the King's Men, and a dolmen called the Whispering Knights.

And of course there is an old tale to explain these names. Once upon a time,  a king had gathered together a powerful band of warriors in order to conquer all of England. However as he assembled  his troops, a witch appeared who cryptically pronounced - 
Seven long strides shalt thou take
And if Long Compton thou canst see,
King of England thou shalt be.
However our ambitious king wasn't going to let the words of some mad old crone deter him, and he replied in kind -
Stick, stock, stone
As King of England I shall be known.
However when he took the seventh stride towards Long Compton, the witch spoke up again, intoning these fateful words -
As Long Compton thou canst not see
King of England thou shalt not be.
Rise up stick and stand still stone
For King of England thou shalt be none;
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be
And I myself an eldern tree.
And so it was, and hence the Rollright Stones came into existence. And it is said that one day, the witch's spell will be broken and the ancient king will once again march to take the throne of England. Or at least, so the old story goes. Needless to say, archaeologists beg to differ, and offer a very different version of events. However according to local folklore, it would appear that the witch's spell is perhaps not as strong as it might be, for it is claimed that at midnight, the King's Men are restored to human form, and dance around in a circle. But apparently to see this sight will bring the observer either madness or death.

Now this legend first appeared in print in Camden in 1586, and several more versions soon appeared. As was often the case with 16th century publications such as ballad sheets and chapbooks, if one proved popular, further versions, often by pirate publishers cashing in, soon appeared, and frequently making the tale more elaborate with each retelling. Hence in later versions it is claimed that the witch was in fact the famous Yorkshire prophetess Mother Shipton.

However often these publications were printing up stories and songs that were already well-known. To draw a modern analogy, the then new medium of print was not unlike modern cinema, with publishers looking to adapt properties that were already popular, and hence well-loved tales and songs became books in the same way that modern Hollywood turns popular novels, comics and TV shows into (hopefully) blockbusting movies. Hence as it is very possible that this old legend was already well-known to the general public, we cannot say for certain how old the legend of the Rollright Stones actually is.

And British folklore has many more ancient stones that are said to dance too, although often their legends are less elaborate.  For example, the Nine Ladies of Stanton, near Bakewell are said to be the petrified forms of nine witches who were dancing on the Sabbath. And on nights of the full moon, they turn to human form once more and dance again, with a mysterious man in black, possibly the Devil himself, looking on. Like the Rollright Stones, there is a solitary megalith standing outside the circle, also called the King Stone, who legend claims was the fiddler for their revels.

In stories where folklore holds that standing stones were once living beings, it is perhaps not surprising that additional tales contend that at certain times, full moons, midnight or certain notable calendar days, the stones revert to their original forms and move about.  And naturally in many cases these tales obviously have an origin in the fact that it is not a huge leap of the imagination to see a ring of menhirs as crude statues of a circle of dancing folk, or an imposing menhir as a troll or witch turned to stone.

However while the human imagination's inclination to anthropomorphise any suggestive shapes may well account from many legends of ancient stones being petrified beings, other legends are less easy to rationalise. For example, there is another tale of the Rollright Stones, and this one claims that in the dead of night, the King's Men slip off down the hill to drink from a spring in a spinney near Long Compton, with the King Stone alway waiting until it hears the chimes of midnight before lumbering off to whet its whistle.

Now it would be easy to assume that this bonus legend is just a piece of whimsy that has attached itself to the existing lore. But in fact the Rollright Stones are not alone in exhibiting this most unusual behaviour, and next time we shall round up a legion of other stones that appear to have something of a thirst! 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #07 - Getting to the Charmed Circle

Welcome back to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Now then, where were we? Oh yes! I remember! I was going to  tell you why Which Witch AKA Haunted House AKA Ghost Castle (to name but a few) was such a brilliant game! Now where is the damn board? 

Now the first ace thing about this game was the fact it featured a three dimensional board. Now this was completely brilliant for several reasons. Firstly, it did what it said on the tin as they say in the adverts.  For there has always been games that sounded incredibly cool, often coming in fancy boxes with amazingly exciting cover art with explosions, and dinosaurs/robots/ pirates galore. However when you got them out the box, you discovered this was yet another exercise in rolling dice and moving dull counters around an arbitrary track - an activity that fell WAAAAAAY short of the exploding dino-pirate-bots fun promised on the box. However this long-lived board was different - you actually got to build a haunted house/ghost castle! And thanks to clever designs and great art on the board, it looked even better in real life than it did on the box! Result!

Better still though, it didn't take thirty years to set up. All the pieces slotted together quickly and easily, and in no time at all you were all set to race your chums round the spooky edifice. Yes, there was none of that taking about half an hour to set the game up for roughly two minutes of gaming fun... Yes, KerPlunk, I AM looking at you! Now, this was a game with exciting moving bits that did all kinds of thrilling things during game play, and unlike similar board games, in this one they all bloody well worked properly too! Yes, you may well hang your head in shame Mouse Trap!

the original Which Witch/Haunted House

So what about the actual game itself? Well at first glance, the game mechanics appear to be very simple - players race each other round the board to get to the end first. Indeed if we are looking for an ancestor for this game, its grandfather is surely that enduring classic Snakes and Ladders. For like that well-loved game of climbing and sliding, Which Witch/Haunted House/Ghost Castle made the race fun by including horrible hindrances and fiendish obstacles. And here is where the magic comes in...

Now the board is divided into four spaces, indeed in the older versions of the game, four rooms in the spooky old house. These were in the vintage incarnation labeled as the Broom Room, the Witchin' Kitchen, the Spell Cell and the Bat's Ballroom. From the 1975  onwards with the revamp New Haunted House, the game would ditch the first room and replace it with an outdoor scene where you had to make your way up to the ghostly castle/haunted house. And while the decors and some of the traps in the rooms would change over the years, in all versions in the final room is a staircase... a staircase to victory! Well, the Charmed Circle to end the witches' spells in the early versions, and the Coffin to close to end the hauntings in later ones at any rate. 

New look! New Haunted House (1975)! 

Of course to get to the end before your competitors was never simply a matter of rolling more on your turn. For as well as moving, you had to draw a card (in the earlier versions) or spin the Spider spinner (Ghost Castle onwards). Now the original deck of cards gave you three possibilities. The card Wanda the Witch Casts a Spell meant your player was transformed into a mouse and could not move, While drawing Glenda the Good Breaks the Spell meant that you were de-mouseyfied and could move again. Later versions, which ditched witches, had a tweak to this - instead of becoming mice, players were scared stiff - signified by a spooky frighted face that slotted over your player piece. 

But most ominously of all was Ghoulish Gertie Drops It Down the Chimney (a phrase that never failed to raise hilarity in our house). This meant you got to the Whammy Ball (in reality a large steel ball bearing) - or a later versions a glowing plastic skull - down the chimney. This ominous object would then rattle down through the core of the spooky edifice and drop out into one of the rooms to trigger a trap or simple to send your piece flying! If you were hit, you had to go back to the start of that particular room. Now as I said, the beauty of this game was that all the cunning traps actually worked rather well, and what's more you could never predict where the deadly missile was going actually to pop out. Hence there was always a chance you might scupper your own progress if your piece was on one of the danger spots in the track through the house.

The classic edition of Ghost Castle! 

Of course all of these elements added up to an extra bonus feature by accident. And that was if you didn't want to play the game, the game board doubled up as a rather fun haunted house playset for any action figures or toy soldiers you fancied pitting against ghosts or witches! Certainly several battalions of Airfix's finest fightin' folk met horrible deaths investigating a certain haunted house in my bedroom...

So then if you are a games designer looking to create something that will still be on the shelves in five decades time, bear in mind the following features. Make your game fun and quick to set up - this guarantees it will be played with frequently. Secondly make the rules simple and quick to learn - there's nothing worse that a cool looking game that requires a Masters degree in Law to interpret the rules. And finally, make it dynamic and as exciting as it sounds! In addition to these first two factors, which are very important in themselves, the crucial thing that this classic board demonstrates, and probably the main reason for its continuing longevity, is that it delivers what the box promises! Something we shall find severely lacking in some of the other toys and games lurking in the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat...

The current version from Goliath Games