The Hound by H P Lovecraft

  
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Listen for free to H P Lovecraft’s The Hound on the Classic Ghost Stories Podcast.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft

HP Lovecraft was perhaps the most influential writer of horror and weird tales of his generation. That may not have been evident during his life or even for a while after his death, but his work continues to be made into movies The Colour Out of Space was recently released, starring Nicholas Cage which is a based on Lovecraft’s weird tale of the same name.

Lovecraft was born in 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island and died in the same city in 1937 aged only 46 of untreated stomach cancer.

His family was originally wealthy but the fortune was tied to his grandfather and after his death, the money dried up. He was almost a pauper at the time of his death.

Lovecraft’s father was a travelling salesman but it appears that his mother’s family had the money , 

In 1913 he began to get involved in pulp fiction and most of his stories were published in pulp magazines. He was a mentor to younger writers and perhaps the thing which ensured his later fame was his encouraging of other writers to develop his Mythos

It appears that Lovecraft suffered from mental illness during most of his life, most probably depression. 

Lovecraft was very conservative and an Anglophile in his writing. He did not like Americanisms and he uses some deliberately British stylings in his writing.

The Hound

The Hound is Lovecraft’s most clearly Gothic tale, and that’s saying something. When he talks of his hero’s taste for the macabre, we can’t help but feel that Lovecraft is speaking through him. The Hound is like a story by Edgar Allen Poe channeled through Lovecraft’s pen. He never uses a normal word when he can use an outlandish one, and where one adjective would do, he piles on three or four and makes sure they are outlandish and obscure. This makes his style relatively easy to parody with its unspeakable cults and squamous monstrosities not to mention countless eldritch blasphemies on every page.

The story is pretty simple. It concerns two post Baudelaire decadents going grave robbing for kicks. As often happens in Lovecraft’s stories they find an ancient arcane item (a McGuffin in screenwriting terms) and as is often the case it is made of jade. Somehow them moving the token gets the hound to haunt them all the way back to their horrible house in England and when our man ventures back to Holland to put it back (though it is robbed from him before he can do so), there he finds the monstrous hound waiting for him. Or at least that is the sense I made of it, with the addition of a good number of oversized vampire bats for good measure.

In any case, a fun gothic romp, overdone and vulgar no doubt, but great fun to read out.

Music

Beginning music ‘Some Come Back’ is by the marvellous Heartwood Institute . The end music is by MYUU Bad Encounter

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The Catacombs

  
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This is another of mine from the Horror Stories From Halloween. In it I get to do American, Australian and French accents…

You can judge my success.

It’s the second story done with sound effects. The underlying music is gifted to me by Dvoynik, alias Michael Romeo.

Check out his Soundcloud here

You can get the Horror Stories For Halloween here

Sound effects are from Freesound.

Samples are from Ghosthack.

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The Room In The Tower by E F Benson

  
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I loves this story, but with some caveats. I would have cut some bits out if I’d been his editor, but the nightmare becoming real motif, is a good one. I’ve used it myself after reading this, and a weird thing that was told to me once…

The sound is a bit dodgy as it was done on my old microphone. Hope it’s acceptable.

Please share on Social Media. Ta. Tony. Tan toc.

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Edward Frederic Benson was born in 1867 at Wellington College in Berkshire, England and died in 1940 in London of throat cancer aged 73. 

Benson’s father was E W Benson who was Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest office in the Anglican Church and the Anglican version of the Pope! His father had been bishop of Truro in Cornwall and Benson sets some of his horror stories in Cornwall.

Benson’s elder brother wrote the words for that famous English patriotic song: Land of Hope and Glory. 

He went to the private Marlborough School and then studied at King’s College in Cambridge. After he graduated in 1892, he went to Athens where he worked for the British School of Archaeology and then in Egypt also engaged in the promotion of archaeology. His elder sister Maggie was an Egyptologist.

He was also a good figure skater, and represented England.

In 1883, he published his first novel which was very successful. He was most famous for his Mapp and Lucia satirical novels. 

As well as his Mapp and Lucia novels and his ghost stories, Benson wrote biographies, including of Charlotte Bronte.

Benson was upper class and wealthy and also a confirmed bachelor, meaning he was gay, though not publicly in those days. In his diary he noted he fell in love with Vincent Yorke, a famous cricketer, who apparently did not return his affections. He shared a villa in Capri, Italy for while with another John Ellingham Brooks a pianist who moved to Capri apparently fearing prosecution for being gay.

His lifestyle of leisure; of country house parties and taking shooting lodges in the Scottish Highlands forms the background for many of his stories.

Benson is a good writer of ghost stories and this one, The Room in the Tower, is particularly unnerving. The scene is set by the story of a recurring nightmare, followed by an apparently innocuous invitation to a weekend at a country house, where element after element matches his nightmare, down to repeated phrases. 

The tower, where he is set to sleep, is apparently haunted by a vampire; Mrs Stone.

The story has an air of real experience about it and I wonder whether Benson himself had a recurring nightmare, or poached the idea from the real experience of a friend. I was told a similar story by a young woman I met and this dream, and Benson’s story The Room in The Tower were the inspiration for my own story: He Waits

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Music is by the marvellous Heartwood Institute

Bewitched by Edith Wharton

  
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Edith Wharton, nee Jones, (born New York 1862, died aged 75 in France) was a famous American novelist. Her nickname interestingly was Pussy Jones. She was very high society and was a debutante and socialite. She was also a very good writer.

Wharton wrote best-sellers such as The Age of Innocence, which won the 1921 Pulitzer prize, and Ethan Frome. She also wrote short stories, and among those short stories were several ghost stories.

I think the first scene shows Wharton's mastery of her art. She introduces the three ordinary, taciturn men who are summoned without knowing why to the house of stern mrs Rutledge. She sets the scene: it's an isolated, rural area with primitive customs. Even more isolated at this time of the year because of the snow. Then she introduces the issue of her husband dilly-dallying with a revenant to much consternation and anger. The first scene ends with the dramatic entry of Mr Rutledge, who has precious little to say for himself. The characters are so well drawn and we end with a promise.

The themes of rural isolation and old customs held by primitive folk is echoed throughout the later weird literature with Lovecraft making judicious use of it in the same New England, and then the Folk Horror films of the 1970s do the same in rural Old England (and Scotland for The Wicker Man). We see the same theme of rurality and superstitious ancient customs in this year's folk horror movie Midsommar, set in Sweden.

And then the party breaks up. By chance they go to the scene of the haunting earlier than planned. There, Brand shoots someone in the ruined house (another trope). They've seen footprints on the snow both too light to be human and the snow too cold to be borne by a living person, so that seems to set up the ghost as real. But who does Brand shoot?

Then the ghost's sister dies. Did Brand shoot his own daughter? If he did, then this is no ghost story, but presumably the Rutledge's knew the difference between the dead and living daughter? Unless old Saul Rutledge is just an old dog and knows fine well that the flesh he's enjoying is warm and alive but it suits him to portray it as a haunting...

I don't know. After the funeral, Mrs Rutledge's plain ordinary words seal the community as a coming back to their plan old ordinary ways, the "forbidden things" as the Deacon repeats, put away (but not forgotten)

Next week, I think I'm going to do Lovecraft's Dagon, though I am being pulled towards Le Fanu's Carmilla, which is quite long and would need a couple of episodes.

We shall see.

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Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You by M R James

  
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I am embarking on uploading the old episodes to Substack. But there are a lot of them, and I sometimes forget which ones I’ve done…. I don’t think I’ve uploaded this one before. This was Episode 3 or so.

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M R James is known as the father of the English ghost story. He wasn’t the first to write ghost stories, but he was the finest of his generation whose work continues to be published and re-presented as TV shows and radio plays.

He was born in 1862 at Goodnestone in Kent. His father was a clergyman and was rector of Livermere in Suffolk. East Anglia features as the setting of many of M R James’s stories. 

James’s ‘proper job’ was as an academic and he had a distinguished academic career at King’s College in Cambridge where he became dead in 1889 and finally provost in 1905. He was awarded a doctorate in literature by Cambridge in 1895 and honorary doctorates by Trinity College Dublin and St. Andrews University in Scotland.

He moved to become provost of the famous Eton College, supplier of many prime ministers of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in 1918. He was a trustee of the British Museum from 1925.

In 1893, James began his tradition of reading ghost stories at Christmas by candlelight to a hushed circle of his colleagues and friends. His geographical background in East Anglia is evident in many of his stories, as well as his bicycling trips to Europe. Many of his heroes are fumbling academics and Latin and old manuscripts and church architecture also features strongly.

He clearly had a knowledge of the occult and demonology, though he was not known to be a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, as were other writers of ghost stories such as Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen. 

Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You, My Lad! Is the title of a poem by the Scottish poet Robbie Burns, and James borrowed this title though Burn’s story concerns a jilted lover. 

Perhaps he borrowed it because the central item in the story is the ancient whistle found in the sand covered ruins of the old abbey, which when blown, seems to summon the spirit that haunts the narrator.

The Latin inscription: Quis est qui venit? Means ‘Who is this who comes?’ The other inscription around the plus sign, or cross, is a puzzle of a Latin proverb: Fur Flabis Flebis which means, ‘Thief, if you blow; you will weep.” And in one sense, though a finder, our man is a thief, and when he blows, he certainly does weep.

It is the sheer weirdness of the ghost that is unnerving, and James is the master of this disturbing oddness which is not quite the same as Lovecraft’s Cosmic Horror in his weird tales or later Robert Aickman’s unnerving unnaturalness in his ghost stories.

The closest parallel I find to James’s inexplicable and disturbing weirdness is in David Lynch’s movies, particularly Inland Empire and the Third Season of Twin Peaks.

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Music

Music is by the marvellous Heartwood Institute

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