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


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 96 - 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 at 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 marvellous book Scarred For Life that I reviewed here). Now Lyons Maid tapped into this horror boom firstly with 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 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 terribly exciting, especially as the adverts proclaimed that the Trace-A-Face sticks 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 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 -

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 previous 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 rebuild 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 roughly 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 the 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 something for other companies began to follow in 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 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 recalls 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 were aiming for a slice of 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 at 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 1970s 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! 

Sunday, 1 July 2018

MICROGORIA 58 - English Eerie

This week Mr Jim Moon explores the world of English Eerie, a new indie role playing game for one player from Trollish Delver Games. In this game, with a pen, a journal, and a deck of cards, you too can be part of an od school ghost story or trapped in a world of folk horror!

You can get English Eerie here 


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