Brad Moon Rising: A Long Evening With Lost Souls

I See The Brad Moon Arising
I See Trouble On The Rise…

“The door was opening again. The seer does not like to dwell upon what he saw entering the room… The sound of cries – faint, as if coming out of a vast distance – but, even so, infinitely appalling, reached the ear…” – M.R. James. 

Good evening, dearest Oneironauts!

Gracious, there are fewer of you than ever this year…

Very well, we have reached another All Hallows’ Eve – there is more to fear than carved pumpkins, my dear…

In this faire land o’ olde Albion, there dwells an abundance of apparitions to chill anyone’s blood: 

From the gaunt cavaliers who pass through solid walls

To the ladies in white who glide through opulent halls; 

From the sprites and wights o’ wooded dells 

To the ragged children who fell into long-forgotten wells…   

You join me at Pluckley, in Southern England, reputed to be the most haunted village in the country. At the last count there were thir13en ghosts, but recently, locals have reported a few new apparitions. 

We shall begin the tour at the top end of town.

Park Wood used to be an extensive forest, stretching off to the north. A colonel hanged himself here, but before the area was cut back to become grazing land, he could still be seen from time to time, wandering among the trees…

The area has become better known as the Screaming Woods – no doubt other restless spirits lurk therein… 

Continue down the road until we reach Dicky Buss’s Lane. Shortly after the First World War, a schoolmaster – who, perhaps, could no longer take the torment of lingering shellshock – hanged himself from a laurel tree that once stood in the road.

What a mournful place – it’s best not to linger here lest we catch sight of that phantom master swinging in the breeze…

 

Still she stands aglow before me,
Pale and tender, warm and rare.
Still, she runs through meadows laughing,
Locked in memory, slumber’s snare.

Why I come here every season,
driven by the ghost of dread,
I cannot in truth you answer,
‘Less ’tis guilt I’m blindly led” – Bruce Jones.  

A short distance to the east, we arrive at the Church of St Nicholas.

Ghosts normally haunt the place of death. A graveyard seems the natural place to expect supernatural activity, but this is not the case. Generally. 

This parish, however, offers the exception. There she is! We can catch a glimpse of the Red Lady; the beautiful Lady Dering carries a red rose as she drifts majestically amongst the tombstones, wearing the same sumptuous gown as on that day so grim. Her body was placed in seven lead coffins, one inside the other, then put into an oak casket and laid in a vault under the church. 

But to rest? 

Surely you jest!

For nine centuries ‘pon this ground she has shone.

Certainly she will remain, long after the church has gone!

Some distance down the southern road, at a house called Greystones, the grounds are frequented by a phantom monk; and yet further down this very road, stands a house known as Rose Court. 

It is four o’ the clock in the afternoon; the Lady of Rose Court appears, sitting by the bay window – she looks so forlorn. She died many years ago – at 4pm – by drinking the juices of crushed poisonous berries, looking out of that window, towards Greystones; not surprising, then, to discover that she can often be seen with the monk.

It is so quiet here in this thrice-cursed hamlet, on this day of all days.

Eerily quiet. 

Too quiet.

Only the ghastly sound of my heavy boots trudging down this country lane breaks the unnatural silence.

Nobody comes out to meet and greet me. 

Nobody dares…

“My life’s turning pages, I see a promised day
Watchmen never age here, they just sleep in vain
Drowning people stare here, they don’t care to call
I rebury the pages, Cthulhu calls

You’ll see, you’ll see her when she starts to form
You’ll see, you’ll see her when she starts to call” – Carl McCoy. 

Near a house called the The Pinnock lie the ruins of an old mill. The black form of a miller’s ghost has been seen, but only during thunderstorms. 

The clock lopes to half past five.

Night descends much earlier now that Winter has arrived…

The clouds above look as menacing as e’er,

Yet it seems we’ll be spared any autumnal downpour, let alone any peal o’ thunder.  

So no phantom miller will pay 

Us a visit this day. 

Further down the southern lane on the way to Maltman’s Hill, the hoofquake of four phantom horses and the clatter of the coach it draws can only be heard on the darkest of nights. 

A short stroll westwards to the outskirts of the village, and we arrive at a crossroads, named – appropriately enough – Fright Corner.  

Take a closer look.

Under the crossroads sign sits “Maggie,” the little old gypsy woman, wrapped in a tattered shawl and smoking a pipe. Burned to death – presumably for witchcraft – and yet she remains on this spot, staring at me intensely, flashing her toothless grin; honestly, it’s at times like these when yours truly wishes he was NOT so ridiculously good-looking…

Just yards away – my least favourite ghost story – a notorious dandy highwayman was ambushed by a local mob, run through with a sword, and speared to the hollow oak tree that still dominates this spot. The grisly scene is re-enacted on the last day of every month. Every year. Every century… 

His name?

Oh, YOU KNOW his name. All too well. 

What can we say about him? 

Bold and badass, dashing and devil-may-care – sound familiar…? 

Things that go bumptious in the night…?

An unnatural chill sweeps through Fright Corner. Way above, e’er-billowing clouds scud past the brilliant half moon. Returning my gaze to the road, Maggie has already vanished; she remembers what transpires anon…

Always on time – ne’er fail – these wretched coves!

The gang of dark shapes emerge from the field yonder – each misbegotten soul brandishing his own blade, devilish hearts brimming with the fury of murderous intent.  

For this is the spot where Kismet decreed,

That the worst shall come to pass by such a frightful deed.  

For this is where I met my end. In deceit and gore, 

Countless times before… …

“Silently we went round and round,
And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
And Terror crept behind” – Oscar Wilde.

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H. P. Lovecraft And The Cthulhu Influences On Modern SF And Horror

Where Space Ends, Hell Begins… 

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“Lovecraft creates dark and sometimes horrific scenarios which, in their tense and gothic style, can seem like the visions of a madman. The formless entity dominates his work, an impalpable threat which lies beneath everything he wrote…” –  The SF Source Book. 

With Halloween just about a fortnight away, the focus shifts inevitably from SF to horror. One fine way to execute a clean transition between the two is to select one of the main masters of the macabre: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) who – through his twisted scribblings – managed to encompass both genres. Surely, you may think, his distorted visions were too dark and twisted to nestle satisfactorily within the boundaries of SF?

Nevertheless, there are good reasons for Lovecraft’s work to be included unquestionably into the realm of science fiction. Primarily, a considerable proportion of those “unspeakable entities” that languished amidst “his cluttered prose” were not so much demons but aliens. Moreover, he was one of the first authors to write and describe alien beings. Outside of the Cthulhu Mythos, he certainly wrote more genuine science fiction. 

The most striking examples include: In the Walls Of Eryx, set on Venus, reimagined as a jungle planet; and tales of unorthodox scientific experiments: From Beyond (made into a movie in 1986) and Cool Air (which deserves big screen treatment). A significant proportion of his short stories were published in Weird Tales, a predominantly SF magazine of the 1920s and 30s; The Shadow Out Of Time was first published in the June 1936 issue of Astounding Stories, then the most prestigious science fiction magazine available. 

Despite undesirable accusations of muddled prose and complicated storytelling, Lovecraft remains one of my favourite 20th century authors. Ironically, his complicated style is distinctive and had such a profound effect on me, helping to conjure some of my own fictional nightmares.

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“[Universal] were blown away by the visual presentation, they openly admitted to loving the screenplay, saying it was dead on… I do not want ‘Mountains’  to be bloody, I do not want it to be crass, but I do want it to be as intense as possible” – Guillermo del Toro. 

Guillermo del Toro is one of the most talented film-makers working today. It is no secret that, just a few years ago, the Spanish director should have made his own grandiose cinematic version of Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness.

In this novella (first published in 1931 and serialized in Astounding Stories in 1936), the geologist William Dyer – a professor from Miskatonic University – “writes to disclose hitherto unknown and closely kept secrets in the hope that he can deter a planned and much publicized scientific expedition to Antarctica.” Allegedly, his previous expedition unearthed “fantastic and horrific ruins (including strange fossils of unheard-of creatures and carved stones tens of millions of years old)” and “a dangerous secret of the City of the Old Ones that lay beyond a range of mountains taller than the Himalayas.” 

Problem is, this encouraging project has been festering in development-hell for far too long. No matter how awesome his pre-production designs were – they invariably are – the prospect of a Producer tag for James Cameron and top-billing for Tom Cruise (?!) were too off-putting. Apparently he was just one week away from commencing production of At The Mountains in 2011 when Universal pulled the plug “due to budget issues.”  

However, del Toro would not be perturbed for long; he resurrected his dormant plans for his Lovecraft project in 2013.

“I’m going to try it one more time,” he said in one recent interview. “Once more into the dark abyss. We’re going to do a big presentation of the project again… and see if any [studio’s] interested.”

(Unfortunately)… “Tom [Cruise] is still attachedHe’s been such a great ally of the project.” 

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“In the coldest regions of space, the monstrous entities Ogdru Jahad – the Seven Gods of Chaos – slumber in their crystal prison, waiting to reclaim Earth… and burn the heavens” – De Vermis Mysteriis, Page 87. 

A quick glance at modern strands of science fiction and horror – be it literature, movies or comics – it doesn’t take long to find the influence of the Cthulhu Mythos. 

The most notable is the Hellboy comic, created by Mike Mignola in 1993. Developed into one of the stranger – and better – of the recent crop of comic book movies, directed by (what a surprise) Guillermo del Toro in 2004, the titular hell-spawned hero (played by the ever-reliable Ron Perlman) has to battle with not only Rasputin the “Mad Monk,” but the Ogdru Jahad, the most blatant nod to Lovecraft you’ll get in a mainstream comic book movie.

Lovecraft’s work may not seem best suited to the medium of comics, but in the ever-capable talented hands of the artistic genius: Berni(e) Wrightson, it works wonders. A number of Lovecraft’s stories were adapted brilliantly by Wrightson and published in Creepy Magazine during the ’70s.

In 1971, he did a splendid job on the aforementioned Cool Air, which came into my collection a decade later when Eclipse Comics compiled Wrightson’s best horror strips (in added colour!) in Berni Wrightson: Master Of The Macabre.

This – the third page – is a fine example of Wrightson’s style:  

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The seventh and final page is a creepy classic single splash and will be saved for a forthcoming Post!

Have just discovered this (below) online; how long will it take to track this particular issue down? 

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A portrait of H. P. Lovecraft by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy.
A portrait of H. P. Lovecraft by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy.

And, come on, if we’re going to end this Post with Hellboy gifs, might as well have the one with that dastardly mute puppet, the “freak in the gas mask”: Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (“Hitler’s top assassin and Head of the Nazi Cthulhu Society”) performing his ubercool blade-twirling trick inside Manhattan’s Metropolitan Art Museum.  

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“What horrible will could keep such a creature as this alive?” – Professor Trevor Broom.