Category Archives: Wapshott Whatnot

Bad Medicine: The Picture in the House

By Kathryn L Ramage

The 12th plate from Regnum Congo

“The book fell open, almost of its own accord and as if from frequent consultation at this place, to the repellent twelfth plate shewing a butcher’s shop amongst the Anzique cannibals. My sense of restlessness returned, though I did not exhibit it. The especially bizarre thing was that the artist had made his Africans look like white men—the limbs and quarters hanging about the walls of the shop were ghastly, while the butcher with his axe was hideously incongruous.”

From HP Lovecraft’s The Picture in the House

This third and final segment of the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre audio drama has been stretched to fit into the “Bad Medicine” category. There is no doctor in the original story, and the physician added to this version seems more helpful than prone to horrific experimentation. But it is a spirited adaptation of an early Lovecraft story that’s never been one of my favorites.

A hapless bicyclist is forced to take shelter in what he takes to be an abandoned house during a violent rainstorm. But the house isn’t empty; its inhabitant is a loathsome old man who has become obsessed by an illustration of cannibals in Filippo Pigafetta’s Regnum Congo (which is …read more

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Bad Medicine: The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

By Kathryn L Ramage

Hypnotism booklet cover

The second episode in this Dark Adventure Radio Theatre anthology is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, in which a doctor uses Mesmeric control over a dying subject to keep him in a sustained trance state–for months after death.

The episode is also kind of a DART rerun. A downloadable MP3 version of this audio drama was made available last fall, and I reviewed it then.

I’m not going to cover the unchanged parts of this episode again, but I’m going to note the differences.

As in the earlier version, the story has been transplanted to the 1930s, but the framing story with the radio interviewer is gone. Instead, Dr. Michael Quinlan (still Sean Branney) is facing an emergency hearing of the New York State Medical Board to review “purported breaches in ethical conduct” related to the experiment with the late M. Valdemar. The Board will decide whether or not to revoke Quinlan’s license based on its findings.

Dr. Quinlan has come prepared to account for himself; he offers the notes of the medical student Lionel (Jacob Andrew Lyle), who first accompanied him to attend Valdemar’s death-bed, as evidence. This leads into the first …read more

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Bad Medicine: Cool Air

By Kathryn L Ramage

Sonia's notes

This special anthology episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre features three separate stories of “horrific healing” and medical science gone mad, two from H.P. Lovecraft and one from Edgar Allan Poe. I’m going to take them one by one.

The first is Cool Air, a Lovecraft story set in New York City during the 1920s. It’s about a Spanish doctor with an odd medical condition that requires him to keep his room very cold. You can read it online at http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/ca.aspx

The principal change in this audio adaptation is the sex of the first-person narrator. In Lovecraft’s story, he is unnamed and refers to himself as a “well-bred man”; here, she is a writer of pulp fiction named Sonia (after Lovecraft’s own wife, with whom he lived in Brooklyn for a couple of years in the 1920s).

When we meet Sonia Rudd (Sarah van der Pol), she and her husband Edwin (Andrew Leman) have fallen on hard times. She is nursing her feverish and desperately ill son; dialog indicates that the couple has already lost at least one other child and it doesn’t look like there’s much hope for this little boy. Sonia insists on keeping the room stiflingly warm. The …read more

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Dark Shadows: The Rage Beneath

By Kathryn L Ramage

The Rage Beneath

This audio drama begins with Maggie Evans speaking, “I remember when it all started. Quentin Collins… came home, and brought the darkness with him.”

Her voice is interspersed with those of other characters–Quentin’s, Angelique’s–but the focus of the story’s introduction remains with Maggie as she summarizes the events of previous audio-plays in the Legend Reborn series, alluding to the “The Lost,” “Charlotte Howells,” and “the Professor and his army” (which settles my question of when the Christmas Presence occurs).

“But the day I’ll always remember,” Maggie concludes, “is the day the Collins family perished.”

She isn’t referring to the Collinses who disappeared mysteriously before this series began, but to those two who are still around: Quentin and Barnabas.

The story proper begins one evening in Collinsport just as it’s beginning to rain, with Quentin meeting up with Susan Griffin (who was one of the Lost souls in House of Despair, but she’s all better now). He offers to walk to the Blue Whale with her, even though he knows her husband Ed, the bartender, despises him; he doesn’t care.

While they are walking, the pair hears what sounds like masculine laughter and gruff voices singing the words of an old sea-chantey, …read more

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The Testimony of Randolph Carter

By Kathryn L Ramage

Carter and Warren on the Gainesville pike

“I will not deny, though my memory is uncertain and indistinct, that this witness of yours may have seen us together as he says, on the Gainesville pike, walking toward Big Cypress Swamp, at half past eleven on that awful night. That we bore electric lanterns, spades, and a curious coil of wire with attached instruments, I will even affirm; for these things all played a part in the single hideous scene which remains burned into my shaken recollection. But of what followed, and of the reason I was found alone and dazed on the edge of the swamp next morning, I must insist that I know nothing save what I have told you over and over again.”

From The Statement of Randolph Carter

This is one of H. P. Lovecraft’s early macabre works, written in 1919. It’s a simple, very short story about two men who visit an abandoned cemetery to open up a crypt in the middle of the night. One goes down inside the crypt for reasons he has not made entirely clear to his companion, who remains above ground. The two continue to communicate via telephone equipment they’ve brought with them, and the man on the surface hears …read more

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Storylandia 24, “Chassy” Now on Sale!

By Ginger Mayerson

Where to buy: Amazon (eligible for free shipping) and Kindle.

Sample pages

Where to buy: Amazon (eligible for free shipping) and Kindle.

Chassy

“‘My Lord, they’re too close!’ A lady stood by herself at the stern of the SS Normandie looking at the ocean liner’s wake. The breeze coming off the Hudson River ruffled her long dark skirt and carried her anxious admonition across the promenade deck. A strand of blonde hair escaped her scarlet beret and waved against her cheek.

“Bridge Appleton, twelve years old, looked up from his book and stared at the lady’s silhouette, framed by the receding New York skyline as the Normandie made its way down the river toward Rockaway Point.”

Where to buy: Amazon (eligible for free shipping) and Kindle.

Help the Wapshott Press publish books that should be published! The Wapshott Press, publisher of Storylandia, is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Tax deductible donations can be made here: Wapshott Press Donations and thank you so much for your support! (PS. Paypal takes zero commissions from your donation to the Wapshott Press.)

…read more

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Film Review: The Shuttered Room

By Kathryn L Ramage

The Shuttered Room

August Derleth is a somewhat ambiguous figure in the personal history of HP Lovecraft and his work. On the one hand, Derleth is the reason most people today are at all familiar with Lovecraft. If it weren’t for his Arkham House press keeping Lovecraft’s stories in print, they might otherwise have been lost to pulp horror obscurity. On the other hand, Derleth not only kept Lovecraft’s finished work alive, but contributed posthumous “collaborations” to what he called the Cthulhu Mythos, built on notes or fragments of story ideas Lovecraft left behind… and Derleth wasn’t the writer that Lovecraft was.

He’s not actually a bad writer–he could do some nicely creepy things with the lonely woods and lakes of Wisconsin–but he also had the nerdish need to categorize and rank his monsters. Even in his best stories, someone will pull out a checklist to try and identify the particular Elder God that’s causing all the trouble so it can be dealt with correctly. If nothing else, Derleth’s scope of vision is more narrowly focused than Lovecraft’s and his cosmic horrors aren’t indescribable beings barely comprehensible to the humans who encounter them, but tend to be a tad more localized.

The Shuttered Room is …read more

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Blu-ray Review: The Mummy

By Kathryn L Ramage

Boris Karloff as The Mummy

Ancient Egypt has been on my mind for some time. It was the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre audioplay of Imprisoned with the Pharaohs that I reviewed last spring that made me think about going someday. Curse of the Pharaoh followed, as well as two different versions of Death on the Nile, and various Mummy movies from Hammer and Universal. Eventually, I worked my way back to original film–Universal’s The Mummy from 1932, starring Boris Karloff.

This movie was filmed in California with stock footage of the Valley of the Kings and back-screen projections of contemporary Cairo, but very few movies from the early sound era ever filmed on location. Its sets and settings are steeped with imagery and lore from ancient Egypt, though a lot of it is historically confused or fiction created specifically for this story–but one also expects a certain amount of mystical fabrication from a movie about a mummy that’s come back to life. What’s most interesting to me, however, is how little of this movie’s manufactured lore and story template are reused in the numerous sequels and remakes over the 85 years since it was made.

The Mummy begins with the British Museum …read more

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Dark Shadows: The Christmas Presence

By Kathryn L Ramage

Christmas Presence

“Quentin Collins cordially invites you to spend Christmas in his company. On behalf of all those present here at Collinwood… I bid you welcome.”

It’s not the listeners of this audioplay Quentin extends this invitation to in his opening monologue–although, of course, we can feel free to drop in at Collinwood for the holidays too. The people he’s reaching out to, through means both commonplace and esoteric, are “those loyal to the Collins family” in Collinsport as well as “the missing members of our family” in hopes that they might be “reunited in the coming days.”

Quentin’s feeling sentimental as he plans an old-fashioned Christmas celebration, and the other inhabitants of Collinwood try to get into the holiday spirit to go along with him. Maggie Evans has come to cook the dinner and tries to get Barnabas (now voiced by Andrew Collins) to kiss her under the mistletoe. But even though he’s in a new body, Barnabas is still a vampire, and vampires don’t kiss; they just give hickeys. Angelique decorates a Christmas tree, and amuses herself with taunting Willie Loomis about how the townsfolk will come to blame him for the disappearance of their children.

A number of Collinsport children have been …read more

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CD Review: Rats in the Walls

By Kathryn L Ramage

Exham Priory: 1261 -1923

“Our host spun quite a ghost story. M.R. James couldn’t do better.”

The Rats in the Walls is my favorite HP Lovecraft story. It’s a wonderful, deeply disturbing tale of a wealthy American named Delapore who restores his ancestral home in England. The sound of spectral rats (which only he and his pet cats can hear) lead him to an ancient stone altar in the sub-cellar of the old priory and a tunnel hidden beneath it; there, he discovers not only the secret that led his ancestor to flee Exham Priory in the early 1600s, but remnants of unspeakable horrors perpetrated by a cult that went on for millennia on that same site, a cult in which his family were only the most recent members.

What I like most about this story isn’t the trappings of old-fashioned gothic horror implicit in the ruins of the priory, nor the eons-old cannibal cult–though both certainly have their charms. It’s that it plays upon the same theme as the Nigel Kneale stories I most enjoy, Quatermass and the Pit, and The Stone Tape: the history of the Bad Place goes back and back through centuries to the earliest days of humanity… and perhaps …read more

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Audio Review: The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

By Kathryn L Ramage

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s Dark Adventure Radio Theatre does a story by Edgar Allan Poe for a change. This audio drama is not on CD, but offered as a free downloadable MP3 file along with the “cover” art and a PDF of the liner notes.

From these liner notes, I learned that when this story was published in 1845, it was viewed as a real medical case:

“… perhaps because it has the word “Facts” in its title — it was taken as a piece of non-fiction. Many people believed “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” was a true account of the disturbing power of mesmerism. Poe enjoyed the confusion for a while, but eventually confessed in various letters that it was pure fiction.”*

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar is a story in which mesmerism is used to “stave off” death and “the boundaries of science and medicine journey to an unthinkable extreme.”

You can read Poe’s original story online at https://poestories.com/read/facts.

The audio play starts with a broadcast baseball game between the NY Yankees and Detroit Tigers being called on account of rain in the middle of the third inning, leaving an unprepared local radio station …read more

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Storylandia 23, “Ariel Views,” by Fred Russell, now on sale!

By Ginger Mayerson

Where to buy: Amazon (eligible for free shipping) and Kindle.

Sample pages

Where to buy: Amazon (eligible for free shipping) and Kindle.

Ariel Views

DAILY LIFE IN ANCIENT AMERICA

(From a Report to the Intergalactic Exploration Society)

The planet Earth, as we all know, is the third body in the so-called solar system of the galaxy referred to by its former inhabitants as the Milky Way. That there are similar systems throughout this galaxy is common knowledge. The current report sums up the fifth season of excavations on this dead planet, confining itself to the region known in local parlance as “America,” or, in other sources, “the United States of America.” And while the primitive beings who populated this region are no different in essential features from those who inhabited other regions of the planet, our finds have made it possible to speculate more boldly about a number of questions that have occupied researchers for eons. These concern, first and foremost: 1) the age-old question of a possible evolutionary link between these beings and ourselves, as farfetched as such a link has always seemed, given the enormous distance and span of time that separate us; 2) the …read more

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DVD Review: The Changeling

By Kathryn L Ramage

Ghostly wheelchair

I remember seeing commercials when this movie came out in 1980. The featured image was of an empty wheelchair chasing someone down through a house, which my friends and I thought very funny and not at all scary.

This is a pity, since The Changeling is for the most part an effective, classic ghost story with a touch of post-Watergate conspiracy thrown in.

The movie starts with a happy family. A husband and wife (George C. Scott and Jean Marsh, who once played that less-happy couple, Edward Fairfax Rochester and Bertha Mason) and their little girl are pushing a paneled station wagon up a snowy country road in upstate New York. In spite of the car’s breakdown in the middle of nowhere, everyone is laughing and joking.

When they reach a turn-off with one of those large wooden signs indicating the entrance to a State Park, the husband crosses the road to a phone booth on the other side to call for assistance. The wife and daughter engage in a playful snowball fight between the car and the sign.

Another car comes up the snow-covered road in one direction. A big truck appears in the other. The second car skids, and the truck …read more

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DVD Review: Die, Monster Die

By Kathryn L Ramage

Cursed is the ground where the Dark Forces live, new and strangely bodied... He who tampers there will be destroyed.

After the success of Roger Corman’s cycle of films based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, AIP naturally wanted to produce more like them, but they soon had to turn to other sources. There simply aren’t that many Poe short stories easily adapted to the screen, and fewer still that could be stretched into full-length movies. Once they’d used up their best candidates, including a comedic spoof in The Raven and an anthology of short stories in Tales of Terror, AIP turned to HP Lovecraft. In the early 1960s, Lovecraft hadn’t yet gained his fame, while Poe was well-known as America’s leading writer of the macabre, so they used the former writer’s story ideas, dressed up in trappings of the latter.

I call such movies Poe’d-up Lovecraft.

Die, Monster, Die isn’t the earliest example, nor the best, but it’s on the flip-side of The Dunwich Horror and it’s got Boris Karloff in it in one of his last films.

Those familiar with Lovecraft’s work will eventually recognize this film’s story as a loose adaptation of The Colour Out of Space. Viewers unfamiliar with Lovecraft might take it for a modernized version of AIP’s own House of Usher; both films begin …read more

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Dark Shadows: The Book of Temptations

By Kathryn L Ramage

The Book of Temptations

This Dark Shadows audio drama on CD picks up where The House of Despair leaves off: Quentin Collins has returned to Collinsport to find his family home haunted and abandoned, and his family mysteriously gone; he’s summoned up Angelique, who in turn has resurrected Barnabas Collins in a new body (to match his new voice).

While this long-lived and supernatural trio are up at Collinwood trying to figure out what happened to the rest of the Collinses, Maggie Evans, now proprietor of the Collinsport Inn, looks after traumatized Willie Loomis.

Willie had a rough time up at Collinwood due to his own part in driving out the evil entity that occupied the house. For one reason or another, it became necessary for the newly restored Barnabas to bite him again, so Willie’s back where he was as far as playing Renfield.

Not that Maggie knows this. She’s forgotten that she ever knew Barnabas was a vampire, and certainly doesn’t know that he’s alive again.

Willie has said something to the effect that “he wants me back” at Collinwood. Maggie assumes that “he” refers to Quentin and heads up to the house to find out what happened to Willie there and why …read more

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Dark Shadows: House of Despair

By Kathryn L Ramage

The House of Despair

I hadn’t realized when I bought this Dark Shadows audio drama on CD that parts of it would already be known to me. When I listened to it for the first time, familiar phrases jumped out:

“My name is Quentin Collins. I come from an old family–and old families have long-held secrets…”

“I’d forgotten what a strange town this is…”

“…poor people, barely people at all. They seem empty.”

I’d heard these lines spoken multiple times in an ad that appears at the very end of each of the Dark Shadows: The Beginning DVDs, long before I’d seen Quentin Collins on the show or grew to recognize Angelique’s evil laugh. Intriguing as the ad might be, however, these phrases never really gave me an idea of what the story behind them was about.

The House of Despair takes place a few years after the end of the series–how many years, I’m not certain. Quentin Collins (David Selby) returns home from his world travels. Even before he gets there, the conductor on the train has some information for this passenger with a ticket to Collinsport. It’s a place with a reputation. “Bad things happen” there; “murder and sin are all they know”. The “Collins family …read more

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Kolchak: The Energy Eater

By Kathryn L Ramage

Matchemonedo

In spite of the not terribly descriptive title, this is an episode I’m fond of. It features one of those extremely low-budget invisible monsters–but it’s a interesting invisible monster, when the viewer does sort of see it.

The episode begins with Carl Kolchak writing, and narrating, from a hospital bed, about the construction of Chicago’s new Lakefront Hospital. The dedication ceremony to open the place officially and show off the up-to-date medical equipment was a major press event, but once we go to flashback we see that Carl attends only grudgingly. This isn’t the kind of news story he’s interested in.

He rejects the standard press packet–and is very condescending to the young woman who offers it to him (“That’s very good. You remembered that all by yourself?”)–and gets sulky when he misses the opportunity to get a drink before the hospital administrators make their speeches.

Then the lights flicker; that rouses Carl’s curiosity. The building is brand new, so why is it having electrical problems already?

Unbeknownst to Carl (at that time, but since it features in his voice-over narrative, we can be sure that he learned all about it later), a man has just been electrocuted in the basement. There’s …read more

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A Tour of the Borden House

By Kathryn L Ramage

The Borden house

A couple of weeks ago, I was staying in Providence, Rhode Island. Fall River, Massachusetts, is only about 10 miles away. Since I’d written a review of The Legend of Lizzie Borden this past spring and felt I was pretty well read up on the case, I had to go and see the site of the murders for myself. So on that Saturday morning, I took the short drive over to Fall River and located the Borden house on Second St.

The house is about the only thing in the neighborhood that remains the same as it was in 1892. The neighboring homes of the Churchills, the Kellys, and the Bowens are long gone, replaced by new and larger buildings.

I knew that the present owners ran the house as a bed and breakfast and also held tours on an hourly basis.

I arrived too late for the first tour of the day and had to wait for next one. Tickets can be purchased inside the barn at the back–the barn where Lizzie Borden claimed she was eating pears and looking for lead for sinkers during the time her father was murdered. It’s now the gift shop.

Apart from the modern plumbing …read more

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Now on Sale! Storylandia 22: Albey Damned

By Ginger Mayerson

Where to buy: online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.

Sample pages

Where to buy: online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.

Albie Dammned

Young Willie runs away from his abusive life in rural Nebraska to join the Albey Brothers Traveling Circus. A good-natured soul, he is eventually put in charge of a carnival freak show. There Willie becomes acquainted with society’s “outcasts”—living, breathing, feeling people with oddities and deformities whom he is expected to put on display. One day, Junior, a young lad who possesses almost-demonic features, is brought to the circus. He becomes Willie’s ward. As their friendship deepens, Willie must face the biggest decision of his life. In the process, he learns what it truly means to be human.

Where to buy: online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.

The Wapshott Press, publisher of Storylandia, is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Tax deductible donations can be made here: https://www.paypal.me/TheWapshottPress and thank you so much for your support!

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CD Review: The Haunter of the Dark

By Kathryn L Ramage

Newspaper article about riots over the church

Robert Bloch was a teenager when he wrote a fan letter to author H.P. Lovecraft in the 1930s. It was the beginning of a friendship-in-correspondence that lasted through the rest of Lovecraft’s life and launched Bloch on his own writing career.

This friendship also led Lovecraft to dedicate his last complete short story, The Haunter of the Dark, to Bloch, in response to a story young Bloch wrote about someone rather like him; the protagonist is named after Bloch, with his last name anglicized to Blake.

The Haunter of the Dark, set in Lovecraft’s own home town of Providence, Rhode Island, features a writer and painter of the macabre from the Midwest who is drawn to explore an ominous-looking, abandoned church on Federal Hill. Inside the church, Robert Blake discovers evidence of a cult that practiced occult ceremonies there in the late 18o0s, including a strangely angled, shining stone in a metal box. Gazing into this stone, he inadvertently rouses something that had been quiescent since the cult was driven out of the church by local Italian immigrants, something that can’t bear light and can only move in darkness, something that now turns its attention to him. It ends for Blake as …read more

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Kolchak: The Spanish Moss Murders

By Kathryn L Ramage

Kolchak and some Spanish Moss

Many years ago, a friend and I were driving to Atlanta for a library conference; our route took us across the northeastern corner of Alabama during a moonlit night. When we stopped for gas, she excitedly pointed out some nearby trees draped with what looked like straggling clumps of green-gray yarn that someone had attempted to knit into scarves then tossed over the branches when the results turned out badly, but were actually the outgrowths of a parasitical plant.

“Look,” she said, “it’s that stuff you see growing on trees in movies about the South.”

That stuff would be Spanish moss, and it does look rather spooky in the right kind of dramatic light even on a tree… and even more so when it’s all over Richard Kiel.

The Spanish Moss Murders sounds like the title for an Ellery Queen mystery novel, but it happens to be one of the best Kolchak episodes. It’s got a lot of humor, featuring a number of interesting and amusing characters in small roles, plus a monster that isn’t one of the commonplace vampires or werewolves.

This monster is a fabled creature from the swamps of Louisiana, used by generations of parents to frighten children into …read more

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