Ghostly Art in pulps, comics and paperbacks…
Grim Rhymes and Scary Tales
by Sebastian Crow
Grim Rhymes and Scary Tales contains just what the title advertises. The tales are in some instances written with a poetic cadence, and the rhymes often tell a tale more straightforward than your usual poetry.
In Coffin Sam we are introduced to an interesting character, Samuel Coffin. He is a bone man, one that collects and repurposes bones both animal and human. Despite his morbid trade, he considers himself a cut above his brethren, as he travels the countryside in his horse drawn wagon collecting the best bones from every village. He meets some interesting characters in his travels, especially on the night in question when he picks up a set of perfect skeletons from frequent trading acquaintance, Maggie. These bones have a lot to say about their death and their probable future. Yes, Sam can hear their gripes. They convince ol’ Sam to bring them up the road to the druid ruins so they can avenge for their deaths. It’s a fabulous horror tale with genuine interesting characterization and an engaging plot. One of my fave lines from the tale is “Lies pass his lips as easily as dung from a horse’s ass.”
Company Men sets up an apocalyptic future with poetic descriptions. It’s a world where an incurable outbreak leads to these massive body burning factories and we follow the short but poignant tale through the eyes of one of the plant workers.
The Legend of the Crying Woman leads into the story, Cry Baby, which is genuinely scary if you read them back to back. It drives home the local legend angle with great tension and atmosphere. Loving the Dead begins so disgusting and horrible; I had to catch the vomit at the back of my throat after the first few paragraphs. Of all the vile, repugnant, disparaging words I’ve ever read, this is by far the most disgusting… Of course, I had to keep reading.
In The Worm of Mysteries, we get a full blown Lovecraftian tale set in modern times. The Watcher in the Dark was even more Lovecraftian as Crow’s writing style adapts to Lovecraft’s, permeating the Elderitch Tale with a verbose texture as yet unforeseen, describing a hideous coming of ill-gotten fate. (See what I did there?). It gets even better for the Lovecraft fan as Procession of the Dhole tells about the aftermath of the Lovecraftian apocalypse as the Great Old Ones reclaim their dominance in this little corner of the Universe and the remnants of mankind struggle to eke out an existence.
Sebastian sure knows how to weave a creepy yarn. One aspect I like about the book is the amount of diversity in the stories. Some are tightly wound tales with deep character voice, some are set in days gone by, others are modern tales of a grand scale in nature. Added to the melee are short and entertaining rhymes that add disquiet to the collection. It’s a fun read with quality horror stories that will charm as well as thrill you.
Available on Amazon.com kindle or paperback
Crimson Peak (2015)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Crimson Peak is an adult fairy tale. It is populated with an innocent dreamer, an evil sister-in-law, a castle, a romance/love affair, and a hero. Oh, and it has a few ghosts. If you’re expecting a straight up horror film you will most likely be disappointed. It has aspects of horror, a mystery and a psychological thriller, but if you think of it as anything different than a fairy tale, you will probably not enjoy the film.
The first 40 minutes is a high drama and a murder mystery. It sets up the second half of the film. It successfully captures the upper echelon society of NY in the early 1900’s in mood and atmosphere. I suppose some viewers will find this boring. However, I, having firmly grasped the notion that I have been born in the wrong time period, love the atmosphere of other eras and I find the film’s dramatic events endearing to my sensibilities. The three main actors, Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain, turn out genuinely striking performances and it was just fun to watch them adapt to the people they portrayed.
The plot points are somewhat predictable as all gothic stories follow a similar pattern. The film is beautifully dark with deep, rich colors and slow languid camera movement, creating an appealing visual palette. Although the ghosts are CG enhanced, they work well in the lush and vibrant colors of the film. The impeccable costume of the period also sells the story and adds to the visual splendor of the film. Rounding out the high production values was a powerful classical soundtrack by composer Fernando Velázquez. I liked this film and felt heartache for the tragedy that the film presents. Like all fairy tales the calamities mirror real life and I felt the weight of missteps a person can take in life.
A gothic fairy tale of high quality with adult themes and a suspenseful ending.
I give it a solid 4.0 ghastly, ghostly, nasties out of 5 on the haunted horrors of the fairy tale castle scale.
Jessica Chastain learned the piano for the movie and performed all songs in the movie by herself. She had previously learned the bass guitar for Mama (2013), where Guillermo del Toro was the producer.
Visually, Guillermo del Toro wanted the film to look like a Mario Bava Technicolor movie.
I have a brand new short-story accepted into the Ghosts: Redemption Anthology, the follow-up to the highly successful Ghosts: Revenge Anthology of 2015.
My story, “Gray is a Life” will be in the new collection of horror tales coming out very shortly.
In the meanwhile, you can get the first book of the series, Ghosts: Revenge for FREE on Amazon Kindle if you act now!
It’s only available for 3 days!!
4/7 – 4/9
Anthology of ghost stories from JWK Fiction which includes my story, The Obsidian Box.
plus many other fantastic stories concerning angry spirits by some fantastic authors!
get it for free now:
Creature Features revisited
A look back at the golden age of sci-fi and horror, the 1950‘s/60‘s. Our subject today…
Ghosts and Angry Spirits
The Screaming Skull (1958)
The Haunting (1963)
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
13 Ghosts (1960)
The Screaming Skull (1958)
The film starts with a dire warning from the film studio. Taking a page from William Castle they offer to pay for funeral expenses to anyone who dies of heart failure do to fright from watching the film, The Screaming Skull. Then music starts, a familiar composition to horror fans, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique which can more recently be heard in the intro to The Shining. It sets a somber tone and mood for the film. A recently married couple move into the estate mansion that the husband shared with his first wife. She had died unexpectedly a few years ago. But the shadow of the fist wife looms as the new wife hears screams in the middle of the night and is haunted by the vision of a skull. The film gets off to a slow start and the pacing doesn’t improve much until the last 20 minutes. The film tries to provide thrills, but never rises to a level above nostalgic. I imagine in the 1950s the image of a skull might be shocking, the skull image had not yet permeated the culture and was still viewed as a bad omen. Needless to say, after watching the film my wife had no reason to put in a claim for my funerary expenses.
The Haunting (1963)
This film begins with a narrative describing the decades of tragedy that has befallen the Hill House. A professor investigating the paranormal invites several people to stay a week at the home. This includes Eleanor, a woman who has lived a sheltered, closed-in life and welcomes a reason to leave her old life behind, even if it’s just for a week. The rest of the film we can hear Eleanor’s thoughts as she talks herself through creepy incidents happening throughout the house. This is the film that provides ghostly chills by never actually showing a visual ghost or spirit. There’s loud banging on the walls, twisting of doorknobs, and wails, screams, and groans, all unnerving to Eleanor and the other guests at Hill House. Many of these simple techniques are used to great success in modern films, The Conjuring and Insidious. The acting in this film is top notch providing a degree of respect to the genre at the time. Despite the slow start and older style, this is still one of my favorite haunted house movies and a textbook example of building psychological suspense in horror.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
The film starts with narration explaining the party thrown by millionaire, Frederick Loren. Although it is a no-no by today’s standards, this offers an hospitable charm, as if you’re being invited into the fold of knowledge, and welcomed into the house. It doesn’t take long for the action to begin as doors slam by themselves, and a swinging chandelier crashes to the ground. Frederick and his wife, Annabelle, speak to each other with cordial contempt. One or both will be dead before morning’s light. The film contains one of the creepiest old ladies you will ever see in film. The story is interesting and fast paced and if you like old films this can easily hold your attention today with the many plot twists and wonderful performances. It’s a pleasure to watch Vincent Price in anything he does. In classic William Castle style, there’s a scene where a full skeleton rushes the screen. At the time of the films theatrical run, theater’s were rigged with a full sized skeleton prop on wires that would continue the journey from the screen, right into the theater and zoom overhead down the center aisle. The screams this must’ve caused in theater houses in 1959!
13 Ghosts (1960)
The marvelous intro, a count off of ghostly images representing the spirits we will see in the film, is a real attention grabber. But that’s not all William Castle has in store. How would you like a film that you can’t see the ghosts unless you put on the special ghost detecting glasses. Now, not only can you see them clearly, but they are in 3D. The Zorba family inherits a home from their distant uncle. The uncle has been known to dabble in the occult and is rumored to have even collected ghosts. The family confirms this early in their stay when a few questions on an Ouja board ends with the spirits attempting to harm the children. Margaret Hamilton plays a grumpy house maid. The children refer to her as ‘the witch’ (with a secret eye wink to the audience.) It’s a very active haunted house film and I imagine the effects were quite creepy at the time of its release. It’s nostalgia to watch today but a decent story makes it enjoyable. stars, Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Martin Milner, Donald Woods.
The Screaming Skull
House on Haunted Hill
I’m pleased to announce that my latest short story is part of the JWK Fiction Anthology, GHOSTS: Revenge
Tales of angry ghosts, vengeful people, scary places and local haunts to chill the spine and spread fear. Over 40 stories, 330 pages of terror, today’s upcoming horror authors come together to offer their take on what it might be like to be a ghost, an angry ghost, the kind of ghost not soon forgotten.
My story is called The Obsidian Box, a tale of NY mobsters, a vengeful spirit, a dominating wife and her undisciplined son.
If you like ghost stories, want your ghostly fix, and feel the need to get your creep on…there’s plenty of horror fiction here to last you many a night.
Currently available on: Amazon Kindle
Paperback coming soon, I’ll keep you posted.
edited by James Ward Kirk
underlined names provide links to authors
Mary Genevieve Fortier
James S. Dorr
Ken L. Jones
Rie Sheridan Rose
Neal F. Litherland
Alex S. Johnson
J. C. Michael
David Schütz II
Lori R. Lopez
Tracy L. Carbone
and Michael Thomas-Knight
Cover Artwork by Stephen Cooney
Cover design John D. Stanton
Inside art illustrations: Gidion Van de Swaluw
This is a different approach to the familiar haunted house movie. In this film of opposites, the living are haunting the dead (kind of). Young teen, Lisa finds herself stuck in a groundhog day scenario, where she wakes up every morning and the same events are repeating. The rest of her family, mom, dad, brother, have no clue, repeating the same words and taking the same actions. Something has awakened Lisa’s senses and she has now become aware. She senses another young female, with similar likes and interests and feels the need to make contact, using a Ouija Board in the attic. Eventually she feels the presence of many entities in the home each trapped in their own loop with no knowledge of the others. However, there’s an additional, much darker presence in the house that needs them to stay ‘asleep’ and unaware of each other.
Some viewers may take issue with the fact that, if they are dead, then why are they scared, and why don‘t they just run through the walls, away from the bad man. I think the film showed that there are aspects to fear, even in death, and that since they are stuck in the home, believing they are alive; they are bound by the realism they have created. This issue is going to depend on your suspension of disbelief, which I had no problem with, once I accepted the parameters.
While not really scary, it is still an interesting story with some tense moments. All the parts were well-acted and it was good to see Abigail Breslin, from the movie Signs, grown up and in another film. I kept expecting her to say, “There’s a monster in my room, can I have a glass of water?” Stephen McHattie plays the sinister spirit role quite well and I hope to see him in more films of the genre. I think there is an untapped talent in him that would excel as the horror genre, bad guy.
Worth the once through for an interesting story, entertaining discovery, and a well-paced plot.
I’ll give it 3.7 ghostly ghouls out of 5 for sinister sepulchral secrets revealed.