Weird Story Plots

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Szerző: Howard Phillips Lovecraft • Év: 1933

Basic skeletons of certain standard classics analysed, with a view to ascertaining elements and situations most universally conducing to effectiveness.

 

Poe—Usher

Decaying family and house bound up together—perish at same moment. Atmosphere of menace and decay—premature burial of sister—fear and abnormal listening of brother—dramatic appearance of one thought dead—story quoted with hellish double meaning.

 

Ligeia

Persistent will to live. First wife (mysterious origin) takes possession of body of second after latter dies. Atmosphere—climax of recognition—changed body—taller—falling cerements reveal dark hair.

 

MS. Found in a Bottle

Ship in distress—run down by huge strange ship which looms above doomed vessel on a titanic wave, as on a pinnacle. Narrator flung in rigging of strange ship—finds crew aged, charts and instruments decayed and archaic, wood rotten and porous—like Spanish oak unnaturally distended. Crew do not see or notice narrator. Ship’s name—„Discovery”. Great age of crew impressive. Ship is swept into antarctic as by some evil fatality—sense of evil tremendous—and finally sucked into a monstrous amphitheatre, gulf, or whirlpool.

 

Oval Portrait

Painting in deserted castle appears alive. Wayfarer later learns it is of artist’s bride—who, neglected, died at its completion.

 

Valdemar

Dying man kept alive by hypnotism falls to instant and extreme decay 7 months later when hypnotism is removed.

 

Black Cat

Tortured animal proves torturer’s undoing by exposing crime (cf. Telltale Heart).

 

William Wilson

Boy at school has double—in name, aspect, age, voice, et cetera. Gives him good counsel (better self). In later life thwarts his crimes. W. kills double in duel, thenceforward becoming utter monster.

 

Berenice

After cloudy, morbid childhood narrator betrothed to cousin. Has abnormal fondness for her teeth. After her apparent death he rifles tomb (in unconscious madness) and wrests teeth from body—which was still alive. He is told of his horror later—and finds teeth of his sister in box.

 

Metzengerstein

Atmosphere of horror. Metempsychosis suggested. Feud of houses M and B. Old prophecy „a lofty name shall . . . fall when, as rider over horse, mortality of M. shall triumph over immortality of B.”

Count B—old man fond of horses. Baron M—young, wild.

Burns beloved stables of B—old B. perishes trying to save horses, but new horse—huge—is found amidst flames. Not recognised as B.’s tho’ branded B. M. rides it violently. As it was found, there disappeared from M’s tapestry a pictured horse of B.’s ancestor. At length M’s palace takes fire as M is madly riding new horse in forest. Horse runs away and bears him to death amidst flames—smoke assuming form of gigantic horse. Preternatural light about. Idea that horse was old B. himself.

 

Machen—Great God Pan

In occult way, woman sees Pan and bears daughter. Child reared in seclusion—hellish anecdotes—grows up—drives men to suicide and havock—finally exposed and put to death. Brooding atmosphere—intertwined with hints of Britanno-Roman antiquity.

 

White People

Small girl introduced to hellish witch cult by nurse. Later sees sinister things iii landscape and babbles of strange names. Finally comes on a statue in wood which brings horror and suicide. Atmosphere.

 

Black Seal

Little people under Welsh hills beget strange horrors on mortals. Prof. Gregg hires idiot boy of such a paternity. Witnesses horror in library—epileptic seizure with strange odours and evidence of unnatural presences. Leaves note and goes into hills to face terrible discovery. Later his effects are found wrapt in parchment bearing the cryptic characters of the seal and inscription. Prof. G. notes likeness of symbols on Babylonish seal and Welsh inscription.

 

White Powder

Youth takes drug by mistake—Vinum Sabbati—brings hideous secret transformation—absent from house often—attends terrible revels—black spot on hand—spreads—shuts self in room—horror at window—dripping on ceiling below—killing of final liquescent horror.

 

Terror

Beasts revolt against man.

 

Blackwood—Willows

Lonely Danube island haunted by Outside presences. They want a victim—nocturnal manifestations—other victim found.

 

Listener

Awful psychic residuum creeps around old house where leper died.

 

Ancient Sorceries

Traveller stops at strange French village—odd atmosphere—where inhabitants have secret undercurrent of interests. He sleeps deeply at night. Odd cat atmosphere everywhere. Town seems to „get” him. Daughter of inn folk captivates him and urges his initiation in cult—”the old, old life” to which all (even he) have belonged. He refuses. At last the Sabbat night. He feels tendency to go on all fours. Everyone sets out for Sabbat leaving town deserted. He finds them in open going up lonely hill—they anoint with Sabbat ointment—he almost joins, but stumbles and is delayed. Leaves. Think town’s outline looks like a cat. Finds time awry. Has stayed a week, yet it is only 2 days later. It is later found that he dreamed all (note details), but 2 witches had been burned in 1700 exactly on the site of the inn where traveller stayed.

 

Nemesis of Fire

Unnatural heat exists around old country house. Owner’s brother mysteriously dead 20 yrs before—burned. Druid grove and standing stones nearby. Luminous shapes and hissing noted or rumoured here. Birds and animals avoid. Dogs chase invisible thing. Things often scorched—smoke seen—grass circles burned—an invisible fire-nucleus pursues people—steaming as it crosses water. Elemental waked with fresh blood—hounds bay—fearsome black shape appears—seems to have Egyptian influence.

It is found that the dead brother 20 years before had taken an important mummy from Egypt. This had been its guardian. It had followed and remained. The mummy (which dead brother had tried to bury ceremoniously to lay curse) is found, and induces odd momentary visions in finders. Old lady—sister—restores scarabaeus which she has taken from mummy. This restores balance and lays elemental.

 

Secret Worship

Man visits the monastic school in Germany which he attended as a boy. Sinister woodland setting. Finds it changed. Brothers act in sinister way. Are about to sacrifice him to devil—then all vanishes in thin air as John Silence (who has followed him) rescues him. It seems that the brothers went over to devil worship years before, and that the building had long been burned down by the neighbours. Brothers all dead—these were ghosts.

 

De la Mare—Seaton’s Aunt

Very subtle. Youth’s aunt has sinister influence. He grows feeble—his engagement frustrated by death—vide text.

 

Mr. Kempe

Near a fabulously ancient chapel on a perilous sea cliff dwells a strange hermit—an ex-cleric in search of proof of the human soul’s existence. Has become sinister and unused to mankind. Man explores cliff—great peril of falling—weird atmosphere-round sealed chapel—finds hermit—talks—finally sees hideous photographs of men maimed by falling from cliff—escapes in terror and hears hermit crying as he flees.

 

All-Hallows

Ancient cathedral on seacoast. Traveller arrives at sunset. Strange atmosphere. Verger disturbed. Curious vibratory presences and shadows in night. Takes visitor over edifice under weird conditions to confirm horror. Masonry is gradually becoming firmer—as if restored by some miraculous power. Atmosphere of evil. Are hideous things besieging this lonely place and restoring it for their own use? Rector was suddenly stricken with idiocy some time before.

 

M. R. James—Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook

A 17th century cleric, because of sins (probably sacrilege), has an hideous daemon attached to him. He draws it in a group. Two centuries later a collector visits the cathedral of that cleric and hears a thin evil laugh. Later the sexton sells him a scrapbook of old missal and psalter leaves, collected by the bygone cleric and containing the drawing. Fear is subtly expressed by all. The thing appears to purchaser in his hotel room. It is attached to picture. He destroys picture and orders masses said for the old cleric’s soul. Outstanding point—daemon attached to old book.

 

Lost Hearts

Old man studies deeply into rites of later pagans—has collection of odd pagan objects and a small temple at his country seat. Has twice „charitably” taken in children without relatives, but they seem to have run away. Adopts small boy cousin. Boy dreams he sees small figure in leaden bathtub beyond locked door of disused bathroom. Later slits found in his nightshirt above heart. Butler now fancies he has heard voice in wine-cellar. Vernal equinox and full moon come. Crucial time in magical lore. Old man asks boy to visit him for important matter at 11 p.m., telling no one else in house’ hold. Boy sees odd (magical) preparations going on. At 10 p.m. by moonlight he sees out window figures of boy and girl. Latter is like figure in bath. Former frightens him more. Girl’s hand over heart. Boy has gaping wound where heart ought to be.

At 11 goes to see cousin as agreed—no answer to knock. Enters study and finds cousin dead—rage, fright, and pain on face. In left side a wound baring heart. Long knife on table unused. Wildcat?

MS. on table explains. Old man sought magical powers by consuming hearts of 3 children—taken from living body. Has killed two—was about to complete quota when something happened. Expected to be troubled by ghosts.

 

The Mezzotint

Museum curator gets from a dealer a picture of an old manor house, and finds that it changes as viewed at different times. A hooded figure is creeping up the lawn toward the house. Later finds it gone but window open. Still later it appears again as a sort of robed skeleton bearing off a child. Later figure is gone. Afterward identity of house ascertained (from difficult torn inscription), and it is found last heir disappeared in 1802. Father was gifted amateur engraver. Found dead on 3d anniversary of son’s disappearance—just after completing engraving of house. He used to be hard on poachers, and had one very proud and well-descended one hanged for shooting a keeper. It was thought some friend of dead poacher kidnapped heir. . . .

Picture never changed again—secret having been deciphered.

 

The Ash-Tree

A witch, who gathered twigs from an ash by the window of a squire, is executed on his evidence. She curses him on the gallows—”There will be ghosts at the hall”. He is found dead later—after observing some small animal running up and down the great tree. Cause obscure—but small punctures on chest. For a generation no one uses room, and no deaths occur—but there is a mortality amongst local animals. Then grandson sleeps in room and dies. A cat sees something of interest in the tree—explores, and comes out frantically crying. Four huge spiders later found in tree, which is burned. Beneath it a hollow—and the bones and hair of a long-buried old woman. The witch’s body, incidentally, had been found missing from its grave when church was enlarged. Latest victim had ordered burning of empty coffin.

 

Number 13

Very ancient inn in Viborg, Jutland. One of few houses that survived fire of 1726. No room #13 listed—as often in Denmark to avoid superstitious aversion. Guest in #14 goes downstairs and back for coat in evening, and notes a door labelled #13—tries it by mistake and hears an occupant within. As he drowses off to sleep he feels a vague change in the proportions of his room—but lays it to imagination. Guest is antiquarian researching on church history of Denmark. Next day prosecutes his researches, and learns that a tenant in a house owned by the last Catholic bishop of Viborg was accused of black magic. The location of this house is doubtful—modern scholars have tried in vain to place it on maps. That night guest again sees door of Room 13, and hears footsteps and voices—excited—inside. Own room seems oddly smaller—and when he tries to find his Portmanteau on the side toward #13 it is apparently missing. Windows are toward a dead wall across the street, on which the shadows of occupants of hotel rooms are cast—his own, that of man in #11, and that of occupant of #13—tall, thin, with draped head. Flickering red light seems to be reflected from room. Retires.

Next morning finds portmanteau where it was at first, and notes that room seems larger. Oddly, there seems to be an extra window toward #13—for he left a cigarette stub on the window he looked out, and it is now the middle instead of right-hand one as he had thought. As he goes out, he sees that Room 14 is next his. No #13 is visible. Bewilderment.

Continues researches, and finds references to bishop’s magician tenant incomplete. It is stated that he was „suddenly removed”. That night landlord denies that inn has any Room 13. Guest invites him to call in his room later—and returns without looking for #13. Own room seems smaller. Looking out window toward dead wall, sees shadow of a silently dancing man in next room. Knows that tenant of 14 is staid lawyer. At this point landlord calls—and seems struck with something unusual in room. Horrible song now proceeds from next room. They think it lawyer in 14—but just then the lawyer himself knocks and enters angrily—thinking they are making the noise. More bewilderment. What is singing? Cat? Something stuck in chimney? ... Singing gives place to laughing. All now see something is oddly amiss. Going out in corridor, they see light under next door. It is numbered 13. They try it. Landlord goes to fetch a strong servant to force it. Suddenly an arm comes forth to snatch at watchers. Ragged yellowish linen sleeve—long grey hairs. Retreats, door shuts. A low laugh within. Landlord now returns with 2 strong men and crowbars. They refuse to meddle, but are finally persuaded. As they strike the door vanishes—giving place to a blank plaster wall. Just then a cock crows. Dawn. It now appears that #12 and #14 have more windows than they have at night.

Later floor of #12—in area supposedly covered by ghostly #13—is torn up in a search. Copper box found—containing vellum document. Very hard to decipher. In fact, impossible. Inference that it was contract of sale of wizard to Satan, and that the inn was really the house of the old bishop’s magician tenant.

 

Count Magnus

Curious traveller exploring Sweden. Investigates papers of ancient family at their manor house, but stays at inn. Old church nearby—with family mausoleum on eastern end. No access to m. from ch. Finds family papers interesting. Refer to ancestor—Count M.—who put down a peasant revolt and was hard on poachers. Local tradition adverse to Count M. Said to be cruel—and to have made the Black Pilgrimage, bringing someone or something back. Reticence regarding nature of Blk. Plg. Reference to it in Count M’s papers—statement that he who goes to Chorazin and salutes the prince (of the air?) shall obtain long life, blood of enemies, and a faithful messenger. Finds alchemical books among Count’s effects.

While passing church and locked mausoleum, utters whimsical wish to see Count M.—aloud. Hears metallic clang (in locked mausoleum)—but fancies a caretaker in church has dropt something.

Now extorts story from landlord at inn. It seems that Count M. had an influence after his death. His park was unguarded—but evilly famous. Once 2 men poached in it at night ... and their frightful screams were heard, followed by a stranger’s loud laugh and the clanging of a great door’s shutting. Next day the men are found. One is living—but mad. He pushes something imaginary away. Dies soon—still pushing. Other is dead—face sucked away. This story impresses traveller. Next day he gets deacon to shew him interior of locked mausoleum. Notes where key is hung in church—planning later private visit. Among the sarcophagi is that of Count M—the only one without a cross. Effigy on lid—and band with designs suggestive of exploits—battles, an execution, etc. One scene very inexplicable—man fleeing, pursued by nameless and monstrous object. Hooded—tentacled—short. Meanwhile another cloaked man looks on with keen interest. A queer view! Traveller notes the 3 padlocks of Count M’s sarcophagus. One is unfastened and fallen to pavement.

Later he revisits mausoleum to copy epitaphs. Freakishly—and half involuntarily—he chants an invocation to Count M. When in mausoleum finds that 2 padlocks instead of one are unfastened and on the floor.

On last night of his sojourn he visits mausoleum to bid Count M—who interests him oddly—a whimsical farewell. As he stands over the sarcophagus saying he would like to see Count M., the 3d and last padlock falls at his feet.

Then the hinges of the great copper sarcophagus creak, and the lid begins to rise very slowly. He runs—and as he leaves the mausoleum is unable to turn the key in the lock. Feels hideous apprehensions as he leaves Sweden. On the boat is perplexed about number of passengers. Only 26 at meals, but at other times 28 seem to be about. One cloaked and broad-hatted, and other short and hooded. Back in England he sees the two debatable figures at a crossroad. Horse shies violently. Takes lodgings in a small town, and writes jottings indicative of expected pursuit. Fear and doubt... Later found horribly dead. Juror faints at inquest. No solution. House empty afterward. Later demolished, and unfortunate traveller’s MSS. found in cupboard.

 

Whistle and I’ll Come to You

Professor goes to seaside for vacation. Sea is encroaching on coast. Has been asked by an archaeologist to look for site of an ancient Templars’ preceptory—which must be on beach now, perhaps encroached upon by sea. Finds stony fragments overgrown with turf—evidently site sought. Finds a small artificial cavity in old masonry—and within it a strange old metal tube. As he leaves ruins he seems to note a vague distant figure following him. That evening he examines tube and finds it a whistle. (Someone is on shore outside his window.) There is an inscription in Latin—partly obscure, partly saying „Who is this who is coming?”

He blows—and note has an eerie quality of infinite distance ... also tending to form brain-picture of wide, dark expanse at night, wind blowing, and lone figure. A sudden surge of wind—and a white bird’s wing glistens outside window. On second blowing no picture ensues—but a tremendous gust of wind occurs. Gust subsides, but wind cries oddly.

That night he hears someone tossing in bed. There is a spare bed in his room. He does not sleep—but sees odd mental pictures—a long stretch of shore on a late winter evening—slight cold rain—man appears running, finally crouches down exhausted. Pursuer appears—pale fluttering object—queer speed and motions. Makes for crouching man, but professor cannot bear to look further. Opens eyes and lights candle. Mo-dons seem to scare something—perhaps rats—for a scurrying is heard.

Next day is told by maid that both of his beds have been slept in. Some mistake, no doubt. Man speaks of wind of night before—says it is of the sort rustics believe is whistled for. Soon afterward sees a frightened boy who has seen something horrible waving at him from his hotel window. Investigating, finds spare bed disturbed.

That night, in the moonlight, he sees a figure sitting upright in the spare bed. It moves and checks his egress from the room. Finally he sees it clearly. It is made of bedclothes, and has a face of crumpled linen—a horrible one. Friend hears his cry—bursts into room—and thing collapses to floor as inanimate bedclothes. Next day whistle is thrown into sea.

That was all.

 

Treasure of Abbot Thomas

In an old book it is stated that Abbot T. of Steinfeld Abbey, Germany, left a great golden treasure hidden somewhere. He gave cryptic hints about directions for finding—and died suddenly in 1529.

Modern antiquary solves directions through stained glass windows—installed by Abbot T. Goes abroad with valet.

Later valet sends to England for his master’s rector, saying antiquary has had a bad shock at Steinfeld and is confined to bed. Rector goes and finds antiquary badly shaken. Antiquary requests him to do a favour the next day—to replace something somewhere, with assistance of valet. Says it is perfectly safe in the daytime. Valet will tell what is necessary. That night rector thinks he hears a fumbling around the lower part of his locked door. In morning he and valet perform desired service—replacing a stone over a hole in side of old courtyard well—down 38 steps—and the antiquary is at once relieved. He is able to start home, and in the evening, en route, tells his story. He had solved the obscure directions which read in part „10,000 pieces of gold are laid up in the well—in the court of the abbot’s house of Steinfeld by me, Thomas, who have set a guardian over them. Let him beware who touches them.” It was known that Abbot T. had restored the abbot’s house and dug a well in the court, adorning it with choice marble carvings.

On reaching Steinfeld he had found abbey and well—noting projecting blocks forming steps down well. Arranged to get treasure at night, when unobserved. Full moon. Descending, found marked stone in side. Removed it. Black hole with foul air beyond. Bags seen inside. Put arm in to feel—touched something curved, damp, and leathery (bag?), and drew it out toward him. It puts its arms around his neck. Had a sort of face. Several tentacles. Antiquary screams and is pulled up by valet. Thing drops back to step in front of hole. Valet had at first been down with master; but looking up, thought he saw an old man against the sky—laughing. Had gone up to investigate, but found no one. Then heard master cry, and pulled him up by rope that had been attached.

Antiquary and servant had got back to the inn, but thought there were faint voices in dark hours—and smell of mould. Fades at dawn. Felt that a night-thing was abroad, but would retire if stone of aperture were replaced. Hence had rector and valet replace it—he could not, and could not send servant alone, for it took 2 men to manage job—there being irons and wedges to fix. Had mud smeared over surface to conceal movable stone.

Rector, in doing job, notices carving on well-head which had eluded antiquary. It is a hideous grotesque figure—vaguely like a toad—with the motto

„Depositum custodi”

„Keep that which is committed to thee.”

 

School Story

Strange new master comes to school. Highland boy unconsciously and undesignedly brings up image of a well among 4 yews. Later a paper saying „If you don’t come to me, I’ll come to you” in an unknown red hand is handed in at an exercise. Master vastly perturbed. Finally the Highlander sees a strange, wet figure by moonlight—outside the master’s window beckoning. Next day master is gone—never seen again. He was much travelled and wore a peculiar watch chain. Years later someone finds bones in old well—thin skeleton clutching another. The other has the odd charm on as person. Draw own conclusions.

 

Tractate Middoth

Ghost attached to a book. Eccentric scholar conceals will in library book. Orders self buried dressed and at table in tomb. Apparition (in present costume, and covered with tomb cobwebs) comes to anyone who consults book with a view to destruction of will. (More effective if less prosaic motivation existed.) Finally kills man about to destroy will.

 

Casting the Runes

A magician may saddle a victim with a horrible and murderous companion through the personal service (by handing) of a paper with certain cabbalistic symbols. The victim’s only salvation is to serve it personally back to the one from whom he received it. Revenge plot—evil alchemist „casts the runes” on those who give his books bad reviews or prevent him from reading papers at the phil. soc. Finally turning of tables.

 

Barchester Cathedral

Clergyman kills his predecessor in archdeaconry by causing him to trip on stairs with loose carpet. No one knows of this but maidservant with whom he was in collusion. He is later much interested in three curiously carved figures on the prayer-desk of the archdeacon’s stall at his cathedral. A cat, a nameless daemon, and a nameless muffled death-figure. Said to be carved by a local artist named Austin from a great tree called the Hanging Oak, which had known Druidic worship and had also been a gallows. In time the cleric has a horrible impression of life in these effigies as he fingers them during the course of his duties. He also hears whispers about the murder, and seems to notice a strange cat about the house. Very uneasy. Servant who loosened carpet and helped murder is blackmailing him. Has a cousin stay with him—but the cat is seen again—also a muffled figure mistaken for a maid. Finally his own stair carpet is loosened mysteriously and he falls to his death—his body being likewise hellishly clawed and mangled by something. Investigators later trace history of odd carvings after their removal during refitting of church. They were picked up in a woodyard and given to children, but a paper that dropped from a hollow one is curious: It is verse, and predicts an evil fate for any blood-guilty person who touches the carving. The prophecy was dreamed on February 26, 1699 by Austin the carver. Predicts „fetching” on windy February night. The cleric died—horribly—on Feby. 26, 1818. Hollow figure destroyed because of horror.

 

Martin’s Close

Young squire stabs and drowns a poor halfwit serving wench whose attentions annoy him. Crime unsuspected. Later evidence that wench is still about the place—sings; dress seen caught in closet door. When she appears trapped in closet, only a small apelike object runs out. Squire is frightened at hearing of wench’s continued presence, for he (alone) knows she is dead. Ghost leads to discovery of body in pond with squire’s missing knife—for which he has been secretly looking. He is convicted—and the wench’s horrible form is seen near him at times until his execution.

 

Episode of Cathedral History

In 1840, as Southminster Cathedral is restored to Gothick design, a pulpit is demolished—exposing an ancient tomb whose occupant cannot be identified. Immediately a wave of illness sets in, and there are tales of a little red-eyed ape-like shape that steals out of the cathedral at night, visits various houses in turn, and returns at dawn. Lady sitting on tomb has piece eaten out of dress. Dogs are afraid at night. About this time a hideous nocturnal wailing develops—curious, unhuman—”The Southminster Crying”. Attempts to patch a large crack in the mysterious tomb are futile. Plaster is queerly „blown out”. A choir-boy thinks he sees „something shiny” behind the crack, and pokes in a roll of music to investigate. Something catches it at other end. When it is pulled out, the end is found torn off and the edge is smeared with a black sticky substance.

At length the Dean, Canon, and others take action concerning the tomb. They pry it open with a crowbar—and as they do so a paralysing but unaccountable crash occurs. In the tomb are found a fragment of a dress and some torn music paper. Tomb slab now restored and plastered in. Only one man saw what caused the crash—an apelike thing, which left the church by the north door. Metal cross now on tomb, with inscription from Isaiah—

„Ibi cubavit Lamia.”

 

View from a Hill

Old watchmaker finds occult secrets. Exhumes bones of dead men on Gallows Hill and makes masks and lenses capable of revealing bygone objects. Boils bones and fills field-glass lens with solution. Becomes famous as a discoverer of local archaeological antiquities. Had a viewing-mask made out of the front of a skull. Finally borne off one Midsummer-Eve by invisible ghosts of those whose bones he had desecrated. Seen struggling with invisible things—as if dragged along—and body later found with broken neck betwixt foundation stones of ancient gallows. Story opens later, with his evil field-glass used by others. It shews vanished towers on ruined churches, a gallows and clearing on the now wooded hill, and everything of a bygone sort. Ruined when taken into church—hinting devil-pact. When broken, an evil-smelling ichor discovered betwixt lenses. Infamous.

 

Warning to the Curious

Legend of an old Saxon crown buried on E. coast of England (originally one of 3) to keep off invaders. A certain old family was its guardian, but is now extinct. The last member was vastly worried because he could find no successor as guardian.

Young archaeologist comes across legend, traces burial-place, and exhumes crown. From that moment feels never alone. An unplaceable, half-seen man is always near him—just at the edge of vision. Others also have seen this man. He is frightened—calls on friends for help and re-buries crown—but doom nevertheless overtakes him. He is lured out on the beach in the mist by an unknown figure, which he follows. Pursuing friends see footprints—his, and those of bare, bony feet. Near a ruin he is found dead by violence. No one else there. What did he face at last? Sea washes away footprints.

 

Dunsany—The House of the Sphinx

Man comes to house of Sphinx. Finds occupants in terror of something coming from hideous encircling wood because of a deed . . . which lies on the floor covered with a cloak. Attendants try to strengthen and bar doors, etc. Sphinx is apathetic and resigned. Things approach from the forest, screaming and laughing. Traveller finds door rotten. Escapes from upper door that leads to branches of tree. Does not know fate of Sphinx.

 

E. F. Benson—Negotium Perambulans

In an especially isolated Cornish fishing village—Poleam—the people have a strange Calvinistic theology and seem to share some ancient local rite or secret. In the church are 4 strange carved panels on the altar-rails—angel of annunciation, angel of resurrection, Witch of Endor, and a curious local scene—priest defying a nameless slug-like monster at Polearn churchyard’s lich-gate by holding up a cross. The local vicar preaches of nameless presences ready to pounce on sinners, and points to carved monster as typical one. Below it is quotation from the 91st Psalm—”Negotium perambulans in tenebris”. When the vicar preaches of this thing, the congregation exchange knowing nods. They recall an old legend faintly perpetuated—one knowing one bit, another another. According to legend, an older church had once existed near present one. Later owner of land tore it down and used stones for house of his own, keeping altar to dine and play dice on. As he grew old, he became afraid of something after dark. One winter night a gale sprang up and he was heard screaming. Servants found him dying—blood streaming from throat, and drained and withered very oddly. As they enter, a huge black shadow seems to leave him—crawling across floor and up wall and vanishing through window abutting on sea. As he dies he screams „Negotium perambulans in tenebris!”

Later house falls to ruin but is rebuilt by a drunkard. This man in a drunken fit breaks into the church and smashes the carving of the Thing to atoms after hearing about it. Fears darkness, and keeps lights burning all the time. Later broken panel found miraculously mended. That night man runs down dark road screaming „Light! Light!” Found dead and sucked dry on the shore. Years later an artist moves into house. In time he becomes coarsened—fat, shambling, Silenus-faced—and keeps lights going all night. Has taken to drink, and a sinister, hellish quality has crept into his pictures. One October evening a great blackness of cloud comes over the west. Artist finds house dark—hastens to strike light. Before he can, a Thing slithers toward him—seen by a man who is with him. A gigantic slug, with no head but a glowering orifice. Rears itself to strike—fastens on artist—frightful screams—Visitor grapples, attempting rescue, but hands sink in. Thing is like mud. Gurgling and sucking noises. Thing glides out window. When lamp is lit artist is dead. Sucked dry. A mere rind of skin over bones.

 

R. W. Chambers—Yellow Sign

Artist while painting in Wash. Sq. N.Y. glances out of window to churchyard. Sees strange, corpsy-looking watchman. Shivers. Is impressed. Painting goes awry—flesh looks gangrenous and decayed. Model sees watchman out window. He is image of one she had dreamed of—as driving a hearse in which artist was (seen from window). Next day artist hears that church has been sold. A bellboy who had a scuffle with watchman tells horrible story—one of the man’s fingers came off in his hand. Soon artist has hideous dream like model’s . . . . of being in coffin in hearse and hearing window opened. Looking out, sees model in window. Then hearse is driven into black lane and stops. Driver—the sinister watchman—looks at artist. Artist wakes.

Later—as artist is returning home at dawn—watchman accosts him with thick words. Hellish voice of decay. „Have you found the Yellow Sign?” Next day model gives artist an odd clasp with an unknown symbol—which she found in the street on the day she first had hellish dream. Later artist finds the monstrous book—”The King in Yellow”—unaccountably in his library. Despite warning, artist and model both read hideous volume and receive the shocking knowledge it imparts. They want to throw away the Yellow Sign, but cannot. Finally they hear crunching of wheels. The hearse is coming. The watchman enters. They cannot bolt him out. W. tears Yellow Sign from coat of artist. Model drops dead. Hideous scream. . . . People enter. Two dead, artist dying. One of the dead—the watchman—must have been dead for months.

 

Irvin S. Cobb—Fishhead

Mongrel negro in cabin on shore of deserted lake makes friends with huge hideous catfishes—which he resembles. Two brothers murder him at lake edge, and fall in water as something from beneath capsizes their boat. Catfish attack. Next day all 3 bodies found in lake—nigger’s unharmed—those of assassins hideously mauled.

 

Hanns Heinz Ewers—The Spider

Room in hotel where many men have hanged themselves at the window—spiders being found near body in each case. Young student goes to live there to investigate. h captivated by sight in window of house across street—apparently young woman spinning at an archaic wheel. Loses interest in other things—but notes an incident outside window . . . a female spider devours a male. Plays a whimsical game with neighbour in opposite window—imitating motions. Moves become almost simultaneous—as if telepathic. This game in time becomes an obsession—student is psychologically compelled to pursue it. Fear ensues. Visions of those hanged, and self among them. Finds that figure across street really dictates all the moves of game. Compelled by spectacle of neighbour doing something, cuts telephone wire which connected him with police headquarters. Then she goes through motions of hanging herself with cord at window—he does same, leaving interrupted written record. At the last he feels a strange rapture, but fears a horrible revelation. . . .

Found hanged by police. Fear on face. Bitten, between lips, is huge spider whose odd markings resemble dress of neighbour described in victim’s record. Police read record and search opposite house. The apartment of the window has been vacant for months.

 

W. Elwyn Backus—Phantom Bus

Youth’s fiancee killed in bus accident. Had told him she would return for him if she died first. Year later he notes a strange and sinister bus which precedes his regular bus to town. Dreams about it. It has a strange sickly odour when boarded, and passengers seem asleep. His fiancee is aboard, and suddenly screams. Though bus is a rattle. trap, it seems to glide smoothly. Wakes in terror. Dream repeated—first did not carry action so far. Tries to board bus in actuality, but always oversleeps. Once when he does not oversleep it fails to appear. Later dream—action repeated and carried further. Crash with truck impends—driver’s face seen fully at last—half is missing. . . .

Youth’s body found hideously mangled in bed. Had screamed in the night.

An old bus—not in service—is found next morning on road twisted and splintered. No one can explain how it got there. Signs of death—but no body.

 

Conrad Aiken—Mr. Arcularis

After a perilous operation man finds self on ocean liner. Body said to be in hold below. Man has dreams and sleepwalking—finds self repeatedly headed for some-where—presumably the hold where body is. Actually, he is still in hospital under ether. He dreams all this and dies.

 

Paul Suter—Beyond the Door

Scientist repulses young woman in house in love with him. She kills self. He fears accusation of murder and buries body in disused well in cellar. Things happen. He finds draughts in house. Ratty rustlings. Things clutch at heels. Pale fingers along floor. He is drawn irresistibly toward well. He thinks something sits on covering slab. Finally opens well when alone in house—but slab of stone (propped up) falls on him and paralyses him. Dies. Horror revealed by diary. Police find his victim’s body in well.

 

John Buchan—Green Wildebeest

Old Kaffir priest—blind hermit—lives in a strange grove on berg above native village in Transvaal. Controls all local water—which comes from strange spring (curb of hewn stone indicating unknown pre-negro antiquity) in wall-enclosed grove full of wild animals including an abnormal and gigantic green wildebeest. Impressive atmosphere. Natives hold priest and grove in vast awe—believe some tremendous force or entity is contained within the enclosure. Two copper prospectors stop at village. One—a youth—resents old priest’s control of water and beards him in his den—using whip, forcing his way into sacred enclosure, and shooting the strange green wildebeest therein. Fear seizes him, however (negro blood implied), and he runs away. After that the prospectors are fearfully shunned by all the natives. The elder and pure white one visits the old priest and pleads with him, but the priest sadly says that atonement—vengeance—must be done. He allows man to enter sacred enclosure, but adds that „What was there is there no more. It has gone to the fulfilling of the law.” The wildebeest is not seen. Later youth has brain fever, but manages to get home. He is haunted by the feeling that he has loosed something terrible on the world. He sets out to find and kill the wildebeest—or what it represents—and at last shoots at something. He thinks he has killed the terror, and fancies the track of the wildebeest is visible—but what he has done is to shoot and kill his travelling companion. Is hanged for murder. Later on the man who was with him on the first trip revisits the region of the blind priest and finds enclosure and village alike gone. There had been an all-obliterating landslide on the cliff or berg. No one there. But the convulsion has opened up new watercourse which replaces the strange spring or well. Ultimate explanations left to reader.

 

The Wind in the Portico

Odd region in Shropshire where ancient influences subtly linger. Landscape and nomenclature suggest dark strangeness. Shadowy rumours about a squire dwelling in ancient house fronting hollow and lake. Said to worship strange things. Classic temple with portico added to front of house, and a strange hot wind seems always to play about the portico. Inspires beholder with fear as sunset portentously strikes it. One does not wish to be overtaken there at night. Fear exists in all the servants about the place. Squire combines fear with morbid expectancy.

It seems that this squire has been a lifelong antiquary—specialising in Roman Britain. Has found a temple site in high woods on his domain—containing an altar of the local deity Vaunus—whose name figures oddly in local nomenclature. Site always supposed to be haunted. Besides altar, certain carvings and sacrificial implements found. Squire has built the temple at front of his house to accommodate the altar he has found. Says he heats it. Hence wind? Promises to shew visitor temple by day.

As time passes, fear gains on squire. Inquires about formula in Sidonius Apollinaris for rededicating pagan altar for Christian use.

A visitor in house one summer night feels nocturnal heat, hears rushing wind somewhere despite stillness of night, and glimpses a glow coming from temple. Thinks steam is on by mistake and investigates. Find cupboard of odd, spicy-smelling packages (which he has seen oddly delivered to house at night) labelled Pro servitio Vauni. Learns from butler (frightened) that there is no heating apparatus in house. Heat, wind, and glow abate and vanish after a time. Next day squire looks ill, but agrees to shew visitor around temple—in the bright sunshine. He says „there are times and seasons for the temple”. Visitor finds temple vaguely terrifying—as if nr. imprisoning place, cutting one off from world. Old carvings from ruined temple are set in place. They depict priests bearing branches—half-human faces exhibiting extreme pain . . . and hair tossed as if by violent wind. In a prominent place is head of strange male Gorgon—once coloured, with hair and beard green. Very horrible. Altar visible—marked APOLL. VAUN.—bears marks of recent flames.

Guest and host both nervous and anxious to leave. Unwholesomeness impresses guest, and he makes host promise to close temple and move to inn soon.

That evening host reported ill in bed. At night guest aroused by horrible cries of pain. Crackling of fire and sound of great wind raging, though night outside is still. Guest flees from house and passes temple facade. Temple is brighter than day with a roaring blast of fire. No flames, only a burning brightness. Tongue of fire shoots up from altar to roof and spreads there. In front of altar is squire—burned to a crisp—dead. Gorgon’s head glows like a sun in hell. Guest tries to enter, but is repelled by fire. Then fire strikes through great oak door into house proper. Guest plunges in lake to ease heat, then returns. Too late to help. All burns down—tho’ servants escape. Nothing found of squire. Nothing left of house except a few blackened pillars. Altar and sculptures so cracked and scarred that no museum wants them. Place never rebuilt—stands in ruins to this day.

 

Skule Skerry

The ancient Saga of Earl Skuli speaks of an Isle of Birds west of Una in the Nor, lands, where amazing numbers of birds congregate. Once a succession of Holy men lived on it in a cell. A chapel built and endowed by Earl Rognvald, came to an end in time of Malise of Strathearn. So says Adam of Bremen, who adds: „Insula Avium quae est ultima insula et proxima Abysso.”

Voyager—ornithologist—looks up isle („Skule Skerry”) as possible landing place in bird migrations. Views it from Una, finds something weird about it—as if it concealed something. Proxima Abysso... Finds it is regarded as uncanny by people of Una. „Naebody gang there.” It is 1/4 mile long, low, with one grassy knoll out of reach of highest tides. Remains of monkish cell visible. Despite warnings, visitor camps on Skerry with tent and supplies. Boatman hates to take him, and leaves him a pail of oily waste as a beacon to light if he wishes to come off. Also small dinghy to reach Una in. Visitor thinks of old legends that tell of the Finns—ghouls that live in the deeps of ocean and sometimes come to land in a seal’s skin to play havock with mortals. Visitor has trouble with storms and winds, and finally acquires a strange, weird sensation of loneliness—of being at the very edge of things and close to the Abyss that contains only death. It is very cold, and suddenly the vague sensations crystallise into utter terror. Visitor thinks of meaning of island—outpost—edge of world—folds and tucks in space—birds know such things—early church knew, and posted sentinels against daemons of darkness—what did those hermits sometimes see? Legends tell of Black Silkie, the Finn that haunts this isle.

In panic, Visitor lights the beacon to summon boat from Una. The flare gives things a new eeriness. Someone—some shape—comes suddenly out of the sea—drawing itself heavily on the beach, wallowing, and staring Visitor in face. Great dark head like bull’s—old face—wrinkled—enormous broken teeth—dripping beard—Visitor faints and hits head on stone.
Found 3 hrs. later by boatman. Taken to Una and later revived. Recovers from shock in a week. Learns that walrus has been found on beach, and hopes that this was what he saw.

 

Lot #249—By A. Conan Doyle

Unwholesome-looking student of Eastern languages in ancient tower room at Oxford. Has been to Egypt, where the natives shew him surprising deference. Room full of Egyptian curios. Vindictive, cruel, and sometimes tells grandiosely about commanding vast powers for good and evil. Buys an Egyptian mummy and performs incantations over it. Found twice fainted with fright. Neighbours report sound of walking in his room when he is absent. His enemies are strangely attacked by an ape-like thing. Neighbour hears steps when he is calling on him—he excuses self. Also—neighbour returning book sees mummy case empty, then feels something brush by him in hall, and later (door being open) sees mummy in case. This neighbour antagonises student and is pursued at night by a form unmistakably that of the mummy. Oxford now full of talk of an escaped ape. Neighbour takes law into own hands and forces student at pistol’s point to burn mummy and destroy papyrus of strange incantations. Student at once leaves the university and is last heard of in the Soudan.

 

Leonard Cline—The Dark Chamber

Man conceived the idea of recapturing every moment of his life—believing the records of memory, and even of hereditary memory, to be graven indelibly upon his brain. Makes exhaustive notes on his own past—keeps files of data, and employs research workers to recover objects and data, and take pictures of scenes, connected with his bygone hours. Employs odours, drugs, and music to open obscure memory-channels and revivify bygone hours. Much of this past-glimpsing comes in dreams. Finally the element of hereditary memory comes uppermost. He dreams of primal pre-human days as a reptile in the carboniferous age. His dog becomes afraid of him, and a primal, animal odour encompasses him. He grows vacant and abstracted, as if absent. Drugs and music are used to the limit to induce these shocking resurgences of remote hereditary memory. He seems to have some single grandiose plan of wresting profound and ultimate secrets from infinity. At last he grows sub-human and goes ragged and filthy, and finally naked. Takes to the woods—his great dog having previously fled him in terror and laired in a neighbouring ruin. Howls beneath windows at night. Finally found in a thicket, reeking with an indescribable stench and mangled to death. Beside him is his great dog, also dead and mangled. They have killed each other.

Story has added elements concerning man’s sinister household. Very potent atmosphere.

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Robert E. Howard:
Red Thunder

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Legolvasottabb

Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Cthulhu hívása

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Olvasás

Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Őrület hegyei, Az; Hallucináció hegységei, A

Egy déli sarki kutatócsoport, köztük a narrátor, William Dyer a Miskatonic Egyetemről az Antarktiszra indul 1930/31 telén. A fagyott környezetben 14, a hideg által konzerválódott idegen lényre bukkannak. Miután a kutatók több csoportra oszlanak, és az egyikről nem érkezik hír, a megmaradt tagok felkeresik az eltűntek táborát, ahol szétmarcangolt emberi és állati maradványokat találnak - néhány idegen létformának pedig mindössze hűlt helyét... Legnagyobb döbbenetükre azonban a kutatás során feltárul előttük egy évmilliókkal régebben épített, hatalmas kőváros, amely a Nagy Öregek egykori lakóhelye lehetett. A kisregényt szokás Poe Arthur Gordon Pym című kisregényének folytatásaként tekinteni, az enigmatikus és meg nem magyarázott jelentésű kiáltás, a "Tekeli-li!" miatt. Eredetileg a Weird Talesbe szánta Lovecraft, de a szerkesztő túl hosszúnak találta, ezért öt éven át hevert a kisregény felhasználatlanul a fiókban. Az Astounding végül jelentősen megváltoztatva közölte a művet, több bekezdést (nagyjából ezer szót) kihagyott, a teljes, javított verzió először 1985-ben látott napvilágot.

Olvasás

Abraham Merritt:
Moon Pool, The

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