Alright, let’s get down to it.
Will Cooling, from The Nexus wrote in with this:
Its Will Cooling of The Nexus, just writing to say I love the column and also just to suggest a couple of comics you may want to try. I guess techincally all of these would be down as “horror comics” but on the whole they’re not scary at all so its best just to approach them as occult comics:
Angelfire by daedalus publishing (http://www.daedalus-uk.com/). A brilliant indie Graphic Novel about a guy who recovering from an OD goes to a Scottish castle his late family owned…very powerful, with lots of religious imagery and a great ending. Can’t really comment on the art because I got a preview copy but from what I’ve seen its excellent.
Devilchild 1 and 2 by Andrew Winter (http://www.devil-child.co.uk/main.htm) Two British bookform anthologies with the major story being (another) telling of the coming of the antichrist. Some good stuff even if the art is very mimalist so its something you’ll either love or hate. It has quite an original and interesting take on hell and demonic politics with the plot developments in Vol II promising fireworks come this year’s third volume. Some of the backup stories are great too.
Necronauts published by 2000AD (go to http://www.2000adonline.com) by Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving. Terrific story about a group of turn of the century er people (inc. Lovecraft and Houldni) going to the other plane of existence. Brilliant monochrome by the best horror comic book artist as well!
If you want to see a really brillaint horror series try and track down in 2000AD issues My Name Is Death. Its quite a short story but it’s a pursuit horror take on a character known as Judge Death; a law officer who decided that as all crime is committed by the living then life itself should be a crime. With the help of witches known as The Sisters of Death he and three associates became undead killing machines and after killing everyone on they’re on planet are now trying to do the same to Judge Dredd’s world. Death has appeared in a number of other stories collected in Judge Dredd vs Judge Death by Brian Bolland and Necropolis and whilst they’re great stories they aren’t really horror stories.
Staying on a 2000AD note keep an eye out for forthcoming collections of Caballistics Inc. and Carver Hale both of which are very British horror stories with Caballistics Inc. promising to be a classic series. Caballistics Inc. is basically a British X-Files but sounds an awful lot better than that with great diverse characters and a genuine horror feel. Can’t remember what Carver Hale was about since its years sine I read it but it was quite good and its written by Mike Carey whose a well regarded horror writer for DC Comics (Hellblazer and Lucifer).
Requirem by Pat Mills and Oliver Ledroit-fantastic series of graphic novels concerning a dead Nazi’s journey through hell as a vampire with goregous painted art. Unless you can read French then you’ll have to track down the relevant issues of ahem adult fantasy magazine Heavy Metal (http://www.heavymetal.com/).
Also IDW (http://store.idwpublishing.com/index.php?osCsid=95f60895bdf8d43ebebace0fbe79fb8
0&manufacturers_id=51&osCsid=95f60895bdf8d43ebebace0fbe79fb80) are currently doing a 4part prestige format adaptation of R. Matheson’s Hell House by Iain Edginton and Simon Fraser that looks very interesting with some great art.
Hope they’re of interest to you and if poss. could you put this letter in a future column to bring these collections to the attention of your readers.
Thanks for the selection Will. I personally am not too big a fan of horror comics. But what I did enjoy were DC’s Hellblazer, Eclipso, Marvel’s Hellraiser and NightBreed comics from their defunct Epic line, and also Alan Moore’s Yuggoth Creatures. I find comics to be a pretty bad medium for Terror/Horror comics if only because of the art. Things are so much scarier when they are left up to the imagination/you never see what they look like. Kliq member Liquidcross is a big 2000AD fan, and I used to enjoy Judge Dredd back in the day as well
Never been a fan of Heavy Metal or anyone adapting books to comic form.
Ted Polak writes in with
I’m a reader of your LJ, and sometimes you read mine.
Please go to my LJ and click on the link about the Les Miserables
If it suits you, please plug it in your LJ or on IP or something,
because I would really like the entire world to know that there is a
game, a FIGHTING game, about Les Miserables.
I plugged it in my LJ, but I figure this is a worthy place for it as well.
Here is an actual news story on the game, while is a bunch of whiny holier than thou fighting game geeks whining about it. Finally this letter allows me to make old Retrograding fanatics hush up for a bit as a link to a classic issue of that right here, where I discuss classical pieces of literature that need to be made into video games.
Okay, cheap plugs for my readers done. Let’s get into this week’s writing.
The Vampire of Croglin Grange
A few readers have asked me to write in and tell another story about a documented actual vampire sighting after my column on Highgate Cemetery. This is quite possibly England’s most famous vampire tale and it was first recorded in written format by Augustus Hare in his book, Memorials of a Quiet Life, which was written in 1871, and later reprinted in his SIX VOLUME autobiography, The Story of My Life in 1896-1900.
Before telling this story, I must explain that Hare was famous for writing travel and guide books for Eurasia. He was akin to Fodor or Frommer or the like. He was well respected for being honest and never embellishing any details, and he was also a stalwart clergyman. So when this story was printed, no one, not even the church, had any reason to disbelieve it.
Hare was known to have at least one encounter with the supernatural. Shortly after he moved into his rectory, he entered his study one night to encounter an old woman sitting in his armchair. The woman appeared to be real, but Hare knew she could not be, as there were no women in the rectory and none for quite some distance away. And so he sat down in the chair, and she vanished. Hare chalked it up to indigestion.
The next day he encountered her in the hallway. Hare ran up to her, and again she vanished. After a third encounter with this apparition, Hare questioned his sister and asked her to write to the two sisters of the clergymen who resided as this rectory before him. He learned from the sisters that what he was seeing was the ghost of their mother. She came to the rectory to visit them in death during their stay at the rectory. They had hoped once they had left, the ghost would pass on as well, but apparently not. However, the specter was never seen by Augustus Hare again.
Hare was skeptical about all supernatural occurrences, but kept an open mind, for as a clergymen, he knew there were many things man could not explain. That is why when a man named Captain Fisher told him the story of the Croglin Grange vampire, he recorded it word for word as it was told to him.
Of course being a folklorist, I should tell you by the time Hare heard the tale, it was most likely quite embellished from the actual happenings. If this was a typical Urban Legend, this would have happened to a friend of a friend of a friend, but the teller would swear it was all true. But Fisher swore this happened to people who rented from his very family, and so it puts a different spin of the tale. But it still fits the classic motif.
Before I relate Hare and Fisher’s own tale written 135 years ago (And hey, like YOU’D own the book or be able to find it, right? :-P), I should give you some background information.
This tale takes place in Cumberland (now called Cumbria today) in England. It is up by the Scottish Border, and after I relay this tale of “real” vampirism to you, we shall take a look at aspects of the tale that some use to prove it happened, while others use to prove it is a hoax.
Fisher may sound like a very plebeian name, but this family is of very ancient lineage, and for many hundreds of years they have possessed a very curious place in Cumberland, which bears the weird name of Croglin Grange. The great characteristic of the house is that never at any one period of its very long existence has it been more than one story high, but it has a terrace from which large grounds sweep away towards the church in the hollow, and a fine distant view.
When, in the lapse of years, the Fishers outgrew Croglin grange in family and fortune, they were wise enough not to destroy the long-standing characteristic of the place by adding another story to the house, but they went away to the south, to reside at Thorncombe near Guildford, and they left Croglin Grange.
They were extremely fortunate in their tenants, two brothers and a sister. They heard their praises from all quarters. To their poorer neighbours they were all that is most kind and beneficent, and their neighbours of a higher class spoke of them as a most welcome addition to the little society of the neighbourhood. On their parts, the tenants were greatly delighted with their new residence. The arrangement of the house, which would have been a trial to many, was not so to them. In every respect Croglin Grange was exactly suited to them.
The winter was spent most happily by the new inmates of Croglin grange, who shared in all the little social pleasures of the district, and made themselves very popular. In the following summer, there was one day which was dreadfully annihilatingly hot. The brothers lay under the trees with their books, for it was too hot for any active occupation. The sister sat in the verandah and worked, or tried to work, for, in the intense sultriness of that summer day, work was next to impossible. They dined early, and after dinner they still sat out in the verandah, enjoying the cool air which came with evening; and they watched the sun set, and the moon rise over the belt of trees which separated the grounds from the churchyard, seeing it mount the heavens till the whole lawn was bathed in silver light, across which the long shadows of the shrubbery fell as if embossed, so vivid and distinct were they.
When they separated for the night, all retiring to their rooms on the ground floor (for, as I said, there was no upstairs in that house), the sister felt that the heat was still so great that she could not sleep, and having fastened her window, she did not close the shutters —in that very quiet place it was not necessary—and, propped against the pillows she watched the wonderful, the marvelous two lights, two lights which flickered in and out in the belt of trees which separated the lawn from the churchyard, and as her gaze became fixed upon them, she saw them emerge, fixed in a dark substance, a definite ghastly something, which seemed every moment to become nearer, increasing in size and substance as it approached. Every now and then it was lost for a moment in the long shadows which stretched across the lawn from the trees, and then it emerged larger than ever, and was still coming on—on. As she watched it, the most uncontrollable horror seized her. She longed to get away, but the door was close to the window and the door was locked on the inside, and while she was unlocking it she must be for an instant nearer to it. She longed to scream, but her voice seemed paralysed, her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth.
Suddenly—she could never explain why afterwards—the terrible object seemed to turn to one side, seemed to be going round the house, not to be coming to her at all, and immediately she jumped out of bed and rushed to the door, but as she was unlocking it, she heard scratch, scratch, scratch upon the window, and saw a hideous brown face with flaming eyes glaring in at her. She rushed back to the bed, but the creature continues to scratch, scratch, scratch upon the window. She felt a sort of mental comfort in the knowledge that the window was securely fastened on the inside. Suddenly the scratching sound ceased, and a kind of pecking noise took its place. Then, in her agony, she become aware that the creature was unpicking the lead. The noise continued, and a diamond pane of glass fell into the room. Then a long bony finger of the creature came in and turned the handle of the window, and the window opened, and the creature came in; and it came across the room, and her terror was so great that she could not scream, and it came up to the bed, and it twisted its long bony fingers into her hair, and it dragged her head over the side of the bed and—it bit her violently in the throat.
As it bit her, her voice was released, and she screamed with all her might and main. Her brother rushed out of their rooms, but the door was locked from the inside. A moment was lost while they got a poker and broke it open. Then the creature had already escaped through the window, and the sister, bleeding violently from a wound in the throat, was lying unconscious over the side of the bed. One brother pursued the creature, which fled before him through the moonlight with gigantic strides, and eventually seemed to disappear over the wall into the churchyard. Then he rejoined his brother by his sister’s bedside. She was dreadfully hurt, and her wound was a very definite one, but she was of strong disposition, not either given to romance or superstition, and when she came to herself she said, “What has happened is most extraordinary and I am very much hurt. It seems inexplicable, but of course there is an explanation, and we must wait for it. It will turn out that a lunatic has escaped from some asylum and found his way here.” The wound healed, but the doctor who was sent to her would not believe she could bear so terrible a shock so easily, and insisted that she must have change, mental and physical; so her brothers took her to Switzerland.
Being a sensible girl, when she went abroad, she threw herself at once into the interests of the country she was in. She dried plants, she made sketches, she went up mountains, and, as autumn came on, she was the person who urged that they should return to Croglin Grange. “We have taken it,” she said, “for seven years, and we have only been there one; and we shall always find it difficult to let a house which is only one story high, so we had better return there; lunatics do not escape every day.” As she urged it, her brothers wished nothing better, and the family returned to Cumberland. From there being no upstairs in the house, it was impossible to make any great changes to their arrangements. The sister occupied the same room, but it is unnecessary to say she always closed her shutters, which, however, as in many houses, always left one top pane of the window uncovered. The brothers moved, and occupied a room together exactly opposite that of their sister, and they always kept loaded pistols in their room.
The winter passed most peacefully and happily. In the following March, the sisters was suddenly awakened by a sound she remembered only too well—scratch, scratch, scratch atop the window, and looking up, she saw, climbed to the topmost pane of the window, the same hideous brown shriveled face, with glaring eyes, looking in at her. This time she screamed as loud as she could. Her brothers rushed out of their room with pistols, and out the front door. The creature was already scudding away across the lawn. One of the brothers fired and hit it in the leg, but still with the other leg it continued to make way, scrambled over the wall into the churchyard, and seemed to disappear into a vault which belonged to a family long extinct.
The next day the brothers summoned all the tenants of Croglin Grange, and in their presence the vault was opened. A horrible scene revealed itself. The vault was full of coffins; they had been broken open, and their contents, horribly mangled and distorted, were scattered over the floor. One coffin alone remained intact. Of that the lid had been lifted, but still lay loose upon the coffin. They raised it, and there, brown, withered, shriveled, mummified, but quite entire, was the same hideous figures which had looked in at the windows of Croglin Grange, with the marks of a recent pistol shot in the leg; and they did the only thing that can lay a vampire—they burnt it.
And so ends the tale of the vampire of Croglin Grange. This vampire tale is still believed to be true and told quite often in Cumbria in these modern times. However in 1924, a man named Charles Harper challenged the story Hare told, claiming it to be a hoax. Through his travels through Cumbria, he could not find a Croglin Grange anywhere. However, there were two other locations, one called Croglin High Hall and one called Croglin Low Hall. Harper could find no church, with the closest being a mile away, and there was no vault corresponding to the description in the tale.
However, another twist was added when in the 1930’s F. Clive-Ross visited the region and found proof of the events. Croglin Grange was Croglin Low Hall, a farm south of the Scottish border near Corby Castle, and that is still stood as part on an ancient countryside that was settled long before the Romans arrives in Britannia. A tree lined drive leads to an arch that leads to a yard surrounded by farm building on all sides. A white door is there, decorated with wards of all kinds to protect the building from evil spirits. And the complex itself, is still only one floor high. And there, in Croglin Low Hall, is a room with a bricked up window; a window with a direct line of sight to where a chapel and churchyard once stood until it was torn down, but the foundation stones still remained visible until the latter half of the twentieth century.
The churchyard however had no tombs, but Clive-Ross and others who believed the tale said this was most likely an embellishment that occurred as the tale was told and retold.
In 1968, Psychic Debunker Scott Rogo decided to challenge Clive-Ross’ claims. He said he felt the vampire of Croglin Grange resembled the titular character from the Varney the Vampyre Penny Dreadful series originally published in 1847. He believed the tale was based off of the Varney stories and dismissed the whole thing as a Hoax.
Not to be outdone, the now elderly Clive-Ross challenged Rogo’s claims, and upon researching Hart’s life, he found a most interesting detail: that the story of the Croglin Grange vampire did not happen in the 1870’s, but in fact happened in the 1860’s, a full century earlier than believed. So was in fact, Varney based of the Croglin Grange vampire, or was there in fact once a man or creature that convinced the residents of this area that there was an undead stirgoi lurking in the Cumbria region of yesteryear? It’s far too old to know now. And regardless of whether it is true or not, the vampire of Croglin Grange must be filed under legend as nothing can be verified. There is only circumstantial evidence and conjecture left to the tale. In the end, it comes down simply to what reality you wish to believe in.
The Croglin Grange vampire holds so many bits of folklore and Urban Legends that make it such a classic for vampirologists. You have the damsel in distress. The hideous supernatural being from beyond the grave, the tell-tale wound that exposes a corpse as the vampire (this aspect could also be used with a lycanthrope of some nature), and the eventual destruction of the vampire. Truly a great tale that will continue to endure the centuries.
Things you will see by me this week other than Nyogtha:
Chicago Enforcer Review
Be happy video game fans! It may not be Retrograding, but it’s something!
Now to plug a dozen other people…
Microsoft has issued a recall on faulty power cords. Read this immediately if you have an Xbox.
A new Tribunal up!
Whoo! Justice League writer J.M. DeMatteis does an interview with IP!
Why is there a comic written by the Matrix brothers called Doc Frankenstein?
Hey Mike, I rather enjoyed SAW. And you messed up your average score. With the numbers you gave it, it should have an overall Pulse rating of 6.5, not 5.5. Just saying. ;-)
But why in god’s name are they making a sequel to that film?
Out of all the Alan Ross Justice league figures, I only like the Black Canary one.
In music always read, Gloomchen and Fernandez
Eric, I pity you for watching any show that actively pushing Jeff Jerrett where it’s not a sick twisted joke.
It may surprise you to hear this Gordi, but I think the three best ring psychologists I’ve ever seen are: Masahiro Chono, Stan “The Lariat” Hansen, and the Road Warriors circa their AWA days. Maybe put the Miracle Violence Combination in their as an honourable mention.
Well I got back from DracBall, and came home to a snow emergency here in the Twin Cities. I debated between either doing something vampiric in nature for cooking, or something for cold winter eve. In the end, I opted to mix the two together by choosing a warm soup, with lots of garlic.
Soupe a’ l’Oignon Gratine’e
Ah, French Onion Soup. So simple, yet so soothing, especially after a cold winter’s day involving wacky winter shenanigans. It’s a simple bistro fare food in France, and here in the US, its popularity rises every year. This meal is a great light lunch or supper, and also works as a starter.
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 large onions (about 1.5 lbs), thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
one-half tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp flour
one half cup dry white wine
8 cups beef or chicken broth
2 tbsp brandy
6-8 slices thick French bread, toasted with one garlic clove
12 ounces Swiss cheese, grated.
1. In a large heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole dish, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 10-12 minutes until they are softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, sugar, and thyme and continue cooking over medium heat for 30-35 minutes until the onions are well browned, stirring frequently.
2. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until well blended, Stir in the white wine and broth and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Stir in the brandy, if using.
3. Preheat the broiler. Rub each slice of toasted French bread with the garlic clove. Place 6 or 8 ovenproof soup bowls on a baking tray and fill each three-quarters full with the onion soup.
4. Float a piece of toast in each bowl. Top with grated cheese, dividing it evenly, and broil about six inches from the heat for about 5 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble and melt.
And another week begins. Hopefully a morning shot of Nyogtha has helped you through your Monday morning blahs and at least ate 15 minutes of your time or so. See you next week, and remember to write in with any curiosities you would like me to answer.