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.
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.
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
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
HPLHS Radio Theatre 3-disc adventure, based on and alluding to various stories by HP Lovecraft but featuring characters created by Andrew Leman, Sean Branney, and friends back in their game-playing days.
Nathaniel Ward (Leman)
Millionaire playboy adventurer Charlie Tower (Branney)
Charlie brings along his latest girlfriend, a smart-talking brassy dame named Jenny Alexander (voiced by Sarah Van der Pol — I picture Jenny as something like a pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck).
begins in Boston with three missing children. Charlie and Jenny and Nathaniel Ward end up at the house of an elderly spinster who apparently lives alone. but among her weekly delivery of groceries are always seven whole stewing chickens. That’s a lot of chicken for one person. Her late brother, Dr., a maidservant who tried on a pair of mysterious and strange-looking glasses through which she not only saw something that terrified her–but something saw her as well. Like the unfortunate Mary at the beginning of Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, this young woman’s encounter with the terrible …read more
“Palmer is evil incarnate! He’s going to go all the way to the White House, to the Oval Office!”
Not one of my favorites, but I suppose it was inevitable in the immediate post-Watergate era.
In brief, a Chicago politician (Tom Skerrit) has sold his soul to the Devil. (I know, I know — Just the one?) To facilitate his meteoric rise from obscurity to the Senate, and perhaps beyond, Bob Palmer gets rid of all who oppose him by killing them off in horrific and somewhat flamboyant ways. Occasionally, he accomplishes these matters personally in the form of a big woofums doggie, which is kind of cute when it’s not snarling ferociously.
Carl Kolchak gets in Palmer’s way while waiting for an elevator at a high-rise building. The elevator is coming down much too fast, since Palmer and his about-to-be-late campaign manager are inside, along with a number of other unfortunate people. Carl hears their screams as the elevator drops and, after it crashes into the basement, rushes downstairs to get a photo.
In addition to all the now-dead people in the elevator, there is also the doggie wearing a pentagram on a chain around its neck. No sign of Palmer. …read more
I’ve always been fond of this episode, in spite of its flaws. It shows a certain originality in merging the phenomena of spontaneous human combustion with the ages-old myths and legends of the double spirit, fetch, or doppelganger; the only similar supernatural story I’ve seen occurred in the Dark Shadows Phoenix plotline. I mentioned this episode when I reviewed that and wondered if both might’ve been written by the same person (they weren’t).
It’s a bad idea to cut off a hearse en route to a funeral. That’s the lesson famed Chicago Symphony conductor Ryder Bond (Fred Beir) will learn after he does precisely this to avoid being late for a rehearsal at the very beginning of the episode. The spirit of the deceased man, a convicted arsonist and cheap hood with thwarted musical ambitions by the name of Frankie Markoff, decides that the life Bond is living is much better than the one he recently departed from in a hail of mob bullets. He sets about taking over Bond’s life.
To do this, the spirit of Markoff takes on the appearance of Ryder Bond, then gets rid of Bond’s closest acquaintances–presumably because these are the people most likely to …read more
Lizzie Borden took an axe Gave her father 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, Gave her mother 41.
Now that that’s out of the way, I must point out that most of the details in this famous poem are wrong.
Abby Borden was killed at least an hour before her husband, not long after 9:30 on the morning of August 4, 1892; she was last seen alive going up to the guest room of her home in Fall River, Massachusetts, to put fresh pillowcases on the bed. Her husband Andrew was murdered around 11:00 that same morning. Although both were struck multiple times with an axe or hatchet, the number of blows in each case was much less than 40/1.
And even though general opinion over the last century is that Lizzie Borden is the most likely person to have killed her stepmother and father, she was acquitted at her trial.
The Legend of Lizzie Borden was a made-for-TV movie that first aired ABC early in 1975 as a vehicle for Elizabeth Montgomery. In the years following Bewitched, Montgomery chose to play a series of serious and critically acclaimed roles in controversial dramas–in this case, America’s most well-known probable axe murderer.*
“He’s got pluck.
“Yeah, pluck, like a chicken.
“What’s your name, son?
“Smith he lied.
“Smith…Chicken Smith. Well boys, we got us a blacksmith, a silversmith, and a gunsmith. And now we got us a chickensmith. Haw Haw
“The origin myth, preserved in the notes, apparently taken while playing poker at the Rusty Pick Saloon, by Penwick Gathright, founder, editor, and publisher of the Silvercliff Bugle. Never developed into an article so far as anyone is able to ascertain. Odd, given Gathright’s later fascination with the exploits of the notorious badman.”
When I was 15, I was hit by a car while crossing the street on my way home from school. I spent several weeks in a cast and weeks more recovering afterwards, and which gave me a lot of time to read. My mother gave me a large paper shopping bag filled with romance novels, bought for a dime a piece at a garage sale. I read them all during those months after the accident, and even at that young age formed a general impression of romantic fiction that hasn’t changed much since. Most of these novels can be placed in one of three categories:
The ones that want to be Pride and Prejudice. Usually set in Regency England.
The ones that want to be Gone With the Wind, especially the part where Rhett carried Scarlett up the stairs. Often set against the sweeping backdrop of some major historical event. Bodices will get ripped.
The ones that want to be Jane Eyre. May or not be historical, featuring a naive young woman who comes to a big and gloomy old house owned by a brooding older man with dark secrets. If the book cover features a woman in a white dress running away …read more
Last week, I went shopping on Amazon to see how many other Dark Shadows audio dramas were available, following Return to Collinwood. Quite a lot of them, as it turns out. They come in two types: 1. Audio plays performed like old-fashioned radio programs with a cast of actors from the original show in their old roles or new ones; 2. Dramatic readings of Dark-Shadows-based stories done by one, maybe two, of the actors. I picked out one of each.
Curse of the Pharaoh is a dramatic reading, done by Nancy Barrett, who played Carolyn Stoddard, and Marie Wallace, who played Evil Eve and Mad Jenny.
Why this one? From the description on the back of the CD box:
“Finding Nefarin-Ka’s tomb was only the beginning… I made the most important discovery in archeological history.”
Dr. Gretchen Warwick, famed Egyptologist … comes to Collin- wood, searching for the answers to life in the hereafter. At first, Carolyn cannot comprehend why an expert in ancient, mystical lore would desire her help, but to her horror, discovers that she is indeed the key to a dark, dangerous world on the other side of death….
Imprisoned with the Pharaohs (a.k.a. Under the Pyramids) was H.P. Lovecraft’s first collaboration with Harry Houdini; the serialized story was ghost-written for Weird Tales magazine in 1924 as a first-person account of an experience the great escape artist is supposed to have had one night while touring Egypt.
The Dark Adventure Radio Theatre version is fairly faithful to Houdini’s adventure, but adds some elements that seem to me to improve the story. First, a reason is given for the events that take place. Second, additional characters are introduced to give Houdini someone to interact with.
In the original story, Houdini often refers to “we” and “us” as he describes his travels in Egypt, but it often isn’t clear who is with him on his tour. Is it his wife? Other tourists in their party? Some Egyptian guys? Here, “we” is primarily Bess Houdini, Harry’s wife, voiced by Leslie Baldwin and given a distinct voice of her own.
The other new character is an HPLHS creation who shows up in a lot of these Dark Adventure Radio Theatre adaptations, and whom I’m always happy to see more of: Miskatonic University professor of archaeology, Nathanial Ward (Andrew …read more
It was dusk by the time Freddie returned to Foxgrove Park. At this same hour yesterday, they’d found Toby dead. Instead of entering the house, he walked a little way down the drive toward the Vixen and let himself in through a latched iron gate in the garden wall. He wasn’t ready to face anybody yet.
The garden was quiet, seemingly abandoned, but as he wandered the shrubbery, he heard the sound of someone sobbing. Freddie traced the sound to the pavilion. The decorative lanterns that had been hung up around the lawn remained unlit, but there was enough light cast from the Vixen’s windows for him to see Amelia weeping in the bower they’d made for her.
She lifted her face from her handkerchief. “Freddie?”
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine… as well as can be expected. I had to get away. Everyone means well, but I can’t bear to hear one more person tell me how lucky I am to be free of Evvy. I don’t feel lucky! I’m sorry about the flowers,” she added nonsensically. “You worked so hard on this silly bower and now it’ll have to come down before they wilt and turn brown.”
Werewolf on a cruise ship (I know, I know, it’s serious)
There’s a lot I really like in this episode, and one thing that really lets it down. But we’ll save that for later.
After the usual introductory framing narration, which has Carl Kolchak sitting on a dock with the cruise ship he’s just disembarked from visible behind him, this week’s episode begins in snowy Chicago shortly before Christmas. The staff at INS is throwing a holiday party that doubles as a bon voyage for editor Tony Vincenzo, who is headed out for an all expenses paid working vacation aboard the passenger liner Hanover, a “floating anachronism” that’s been in service since the 1930s and has finally been run out of business by the jet age.
For those observing the evolution of the character Miss Emily, Ruth McDevitt appears briefly here for the first time as the INS staff “office mother”, but the name of her character isn’t Emily; it’s Edith Cowells.
Unfortunately for poor Tony, a phone call in the middle of the party puts an end to his vacation plans; accountants from the New York INS offices are coming to audit the Chicago office’s accounts and Tony has to …read more
You know my name. For the record.
Doctor Khatanbaatar Namnansüren. Aliases…
You know my aliases… Your mask. Speak clearly please. Aliases.
Cannonfire Khan. Nam the Cannonfire Man. Cannonfire Xan. Namnan Sussex. Doctor Eric Buck. Doctor Arne Scholes-Young. Doctor Leon Southset. Lord Conrad Sussex. Age.
100. I think. Perhaps 101. Education.
Informal. Place of birth.
I do not know the exact place of birth. Be as specific as you can.
Somewhere on the slopes of the Kharidal Soridag Range. Within forty kilometers of the Bolot village, or what used to be the Bolot village; my family members were tribespeople.
“As she looked into the dragon’s dark gold, black-streaked eyes, wise beyond mortal knowing, Mara heard a deep, melodious voice:
“‘Thou shalt not die here, brave Prince. Such courage and fortitude as art thine will be rewarded tenfold. Thou shalt receive a sign of thy fortune, a talisman of kings. The dragon betokens thy royal lineage. Its body possesseth great magics: The Dragon’s Tooth is a weapon surpassing all others, even the tooth of the lion. The Dragon’s Eye is prized beyond all gems. No steel may pierce the scales of its hide. No terror may quail the courage of its heart. Its blood healeth all wounds. Receivest thou these gifts, O Prince, for power lieth in their virtues. This token shalt thou bear upon thy shield. Thy foes shall flee in terror at its sight. All shall honor thy name, which hereafter shall be known as Sonnedragon. Takest thou the might of the dragon. It is thine.’
“As she lies wounded on the battlefield, Mara, warrior Prince of the Northlands, receives a vision: a dragon that promises her great gifts. With the sign of the dragon …read more
This episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre concludes with announcer Eskine Blackwell’s words:
“If we’ve taken more liberties with our story than usual, we hope that you and Mr. Lovecraft will forgive us. We thought it would be fun.”
Yes, dammit, that was fun! A lot of fun.
It’s not simply an adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s short story Dagon; it’s also a sequel to Shadow over Innsmouth, as well as fanfic from the guys at the H.P Lovecraft Historical Society using their own characters, and an homage to Orson Welles’ famous Halloween 1939 radio broadcast that panicked the country.
It’s October 1935, and this week’s Dark Adventure Radio Theatre begins as usual. But after an introductory word from the sponsor, the invigorating beverage Bub-L-Pep (“The L is for Lithium!”), the show is interrupted by a news bulletin: A ferry crossing the San Francisco Bay has sent out distress calls and the Coast Guard is rushing to its aid.
The regular program resumes. An actor (Matt Foyer) recites the opening paragraph from Dagon:
“I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the drug which alone makes life …read more
When Freddie left the Vixen, he headed toward Foxgrove along a path that skirted the outer garden wall. Inspector Deffords stood waiting for him. “I thought you’d gone.”
“I had some business with my men before they packed up, but I wanted to talk to you before I went into Foxborough.” He offered a cigarette and Freddie was grateful to take it; he hadn’t had one since before breakfast.
“I can’t say I’m surprised to find you in the middle of this,” Deffords told him. “Not after that business with Bertram Marsh, then the Putey girl who was mixed up with your cousin Wilfrid. Now a body turns up in your uncle’s back garden.”
“Do you mind that Uncle Percy’s engaged me?” asked Freddie.
“I won’t object. I can’t if Sir Percival insists and my superiors allow it–and they do. Even the higher-ups know to stay on the good side of the local nobs, and not just where murder’s concerned. As long as everybody important in Norfolk is an uncle of yours, I might as well make use of it. I know how your class closes ranks. Sir Percival’s family won’t tell me a thing, but they’ll tell you. You can ask them questions. …read more
“This vampire didn’t come from Transylvania. It came from Las Vegas!”
Although no one says so distinctly–probably for copyright reasons–this episode is a sequel to the original Night Stalker movie.
Catherine Rawlins, the eponymous vampire, is another victim of Janos Skorzeny, never found during the time he stalked Las Vegas. Now, she returns from her unmarked grave.
The story begins one night about three years after the events of The Night Stalker in the desert just outside Las Vegas. A lone driver takes a wrong turn and finds herself on a dead-end road that’s closed for repairs, then she a flat tire. She gets out to change it, cutting her hand in the process and dripping a small amount of blood on the ground just off the road near her car.
While she changes her tire, she doesn’t immediately notice an upheaval in the sandy ground behind her. Two slightly out-of-focus hands emerge from the earth.
Unexpectedly for the beginning of a Kolchak episode, the car’s driver doesn’t become the newly-risen vampire’s first victim. When she finally sees the hands reaching up out of the ground, she abandons her car and runs away screaming into the night. Civilization mustn’t be very far away. …read more
This isn’t one of my favorite episodes; I routinely skip over it on the DVD. But I’ll bet that Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, likes it more than I do. He’s always attributed the inspiration for his own show to his teenaged watching of the Kolchak series, and you can certainly see some inspiring points in this particular episode.
Carl Kolchak sits at his desk in the INS offices, speaking into his pocket tape recorder:
I knew this would be more than the biggest story of my career. It was the biggest story in the lives of everyone on this planet. I fought for the story, fought harder than ever before.
I wanted people to know, to be prepared–if you can be prepared for something like this…
As usual, Carl’s story of bizarre happenings in the Chicago area begins with of a murder–not a woman or a man this time, but a cheetah at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The big cat is attacked by some unseen menace in its cage one night (and I wonder what they were really doing to the poor thing to make it look so agitated).
When his editor Tony Vincenzo tells Carl about the cheetah being “missing” …read more
Since I got the entire Dark Shadows series on DVD for Christmas, I’m finally able to watch that missing section–episodes 71 through 105, about 7 weeks of airtime from the autumn of 1966.
Quick recap of the backstory: The body of Collinses’ cannery manager Bill Malloy washed up on the rocks below the cliffs of Collinwood, but the police believe that he was actually killed at a place a little farther up the coast called Lookout Point. His broken watch suggests that this happened at 10:45 pm, halfway between the last time he was seen alive at 10:30 by his housekeeper Mrs. Johnson, and the 11:00 meeting at the cannery, where Roger Collins, Burke Devlin, and Sam Evans were expecting him. Of course he never showed up.
Since Malloy intended to produce evidence that proved that Burke wasn’t driving the car during that drunken hit-and-run accident that sent him to prison …read more
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