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Bryan A. Netherwood – Uncanny

Posted by demonik on September 1, 2007

Bryan A. Netherwood (ed.) – Uncanny: Tales Of The Spectral And The Supernatural (Blackie, 1974)




Introduction – Bryan A. Netherwood

Edgar Allan Poe – Ms. Found In A Bottle
Arthur Machen – The White Powder
Bram Stoker – Dracula’s Guest
A. M. Burrage – Browdean Farm
H. G. Wells – The Stolen Body
M. R. James – The Residence At Whitminster
E. F. Benson – Monkeys
Sir Hugh Walpole – Tarnhelm, or The Death Of My Uncle Robert
Anonymous – The Man On The Stairs
H. Russell Wakefield – The First Sheaf
Gerald Kersh – The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy
John Pudney – Dunworthy 13
Elizabeth Jane Howard and Robert Aickman – Left Luggage
Guy de Maupassant – The Inn
Benjamin Barry – It Could Happen To Anyone
Elliott O’Donnell – The Pan Night Mystery
Denys Val Baker – The Anniversary
Richard Matheson – Big Surprise
H. P. Lovecraft – The Statement Of Randolph Carter
L. P. Hartley – Fall In At The Double

The other Netherwood collection, and although more modest than Medley Macabre in terms of size, this is another great collection. The Man On The Stairs is reputedly one of Montague Summers’ infrequent excursions into ‘fiction’ – although having read The Vampire In Europe I reckon he wrote little else – and The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy is maybe the finest of the ‘evil ventriloquist doll’ horrors. Lovecraft’s hystrionics are maybe funnier than he intended, but to my way of thinking, virtually everyone in here is on their game, the only one I didn’t rate being Conan-Doyle’s Terror Of Blue John Gap. I don’t know why, but … it annoyed me.

Elliott O’Donnell – The Pan Night Mystery: Windsor. A bunch of Chelsea art students celebrate Walpurgis night with a Pan festival in the woods. Ronald Kane – who is to play the nature God to pretty Daphne Grey’s Syrinx – invites our narrator along as he’s interested in the bizarre, but our man has an uneasy feeling. On the eve of the big night, Devlin dreams of a sinister figure extracting one of his front teeth because “it would have done you harm.” He shows him the tooth and, on it, the face of Kane! A premonition of death! It’s hardly reassuring when Devlin learns that the woods have a reputation for being haunted and that three young women have been murdered there in recent years. But it’s too late now. The shepherds and nymphs have gathered for the frolic, and here comes Pan.

Much as I enjoy his slightly clumsy contributions to the Creeps books, this is better, almost as entertaining as his “non-fiction”.

Gerald Kersh – The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy: Down on his luck, Echo the ventriloquist is lodging in Busto’s London lodging house. In his day Echo – together with Micky, his ghastly dummy – topped bills and commanded huge sums, but now his career – and health – are on the skids. The narrator tells Echo he’s the greatest ventriloquist he’s ever seen but the fallen star won’t hear of it. His father, Vox, was far better, and his own small talent is due to the old man bullying him day in day out until his mysterious plunge down a lift shaft. Now he merely torments him from beyond the grave.

A. M. Burrage – Browndean Farm: The narrator and author friend Rudge rent the old farmhouse for the inevitable ridiculously low price, later to learn that it has remained unoccupied since previous occupant Stanley Stryde was hung for murder. Stryde, the village Romeo, maintained his innocence to the last, claiming the dead girl took her own life and he’d only buried her out of fear that the police wouldn’t believe him. Popular local opinion has it that he was telling the truth. Now the eighth anniversary of the “murder” is approaching and a ghostly presence makes itself known at Browndean Farm.

L. P. Hartley – Fall In At The Double: Philip Osgood buys a house in the West Country at an outrageously low price on account of it’s hard to let status. During WWII it was occupied by the army and there was some nasty business involving the martinet of a Lieutenant-Colonel, Alexander McCreeth, who drowned in the river. Local gossip has it that he was done in by his own men. When Alfred, his impossibly cheerful manservant, reports being disturbed by banging noises in the night and repeated cries of “fall in at the double”, the narrator realises that the incident is to be reenacted. Fortunately, Alfred is on his game and caps his marvellous performance with a killer kiss off line.

Richard Matheson – Big Surprise: Old Mr. Hawkins is forever taking the kids aside on their way home from school and giving them directions as to where they should dig in Potter’s field if they want a “big surprise”. None of them ever takes him up on it until Ernie’s curiosity gets the better of him.

Denys Val Baker – The Anniversary: I’m sure I’ve seen a comic strip adaptation of this somewhere. Penzance: Holidaying in Cornwall, the narrator spends a delightful evening at The Silver Wings Club. He’s struck by the number of youngsters in uniform, and the music is a throwback to World War II.
the following day his friends are astonished to hear of his adventures as the Club has been a derelict ruin for years. Once popular with RAF pilots and WAAF’s, it was destroyed by German bombers following a raid on Plymouth.

Anonymous [Montague Summers] – The Man On The Stairs: I was going to begin this with something along the lines of “one of Summers’ rare forays into fiction”, but that would be madness: his forays into non-fiction are far thinner on the ground if you ask me and for once I am not alone in my opinion. Anyhow …

Cheriton Manor is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Black Dormer, the worst of an infamous family who carried on an incestuous affair with his sister before cutting her throat on the eve of her wedding. The murder was committed in a gloomy upstairs room and his spectre is said to brandish his weapon on the staircase at midnight: “sometimes the blade is clean, but if there is blood upon the sword those who see him will die within the year …”
Mr. Fawnshawe, the new owner, is sceptical to the point of angrily challenging his guests to show him this ghost and he’ll give them £100. Young Cyril Markham talks an actor friend into masquerading as Dormer with inevitable horrific results.

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