House Of The Hatchet

Tandem Horror & Witchcraft paperbacks 1964-1975

A. N. L. Munby – The Alabaster Hand

Posted by demonik on August 18, 2007

A. N. L. Munby – The Alabaster Hand (Tandem, 1974: originally Dobson, 1949)


“Centuries-old houses, ancient leather volumes, illuminated manuscripts and long-revered traditions – these are the stuff of which the most fearsome tales can be woven. The stories in this book challenge comparisons with those of that master of the uncanny tale, the author of Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary, to whom they are dedicated”.

Tales for a winter evenings, when the  curtains are drawn, the wind-blown ivy taps against the glass, and a clammy fog swirls round the house …

Tales for a summer night when the moon casts strange shadows and the grass rustles as though someone were passing ….

Tales to read in a fire-lit library, where secret knowledge is lockedin dusty parchments …

Tales to remember in the Crypt of an ancient church or the dank chill of a graveyard .. .

Tales which will haunt you long after you have closed this book and turned out the light.

Herodes Redivivus
The Inscription
The Alabaster Hand
The Topley Place Sale
The Tudor Chimney
A Christmas Game
The White Sack
The Four-Poster
The Negro’s Head
The Tregganet Book Of Hours
An Encounter In The Mist
The Lectern
Number Seventy-Nine
The Devil’s Autograph

A Christmas Game: Dorchester, 1880’s. Father invites Fenton, an old school friend, to spend Christmas with his family after a chance meeting in Exeter. The man has an aversion to anybody mentioning his years as an administrator in New Zealand.

Despite this, things are fine until the family settle down to play ‘dead man’ (as made infamous by Ray Bradbury in The October Game) and Fenton is handed two squishy grapes in the dark. He screams and suffers a stroke. Shortly after, the narrator, a young medical student sees the ghost of a blind Aborigine stumbling about the yard and it’s obvious who he’s come for.

The Tregganet Book Of Hours: St. Denoil, Cornwall. How an illustration in a Calendar of Saints came to be defaced and replaced. It all goes back to the 15th century when Lord of the Manor and pirate Hector Tregganet cheated Thomas Prest (!) out of his land by circulating stories among the superstitious peasants that he practiced witchcraft. They duly torched Prest’s house with he and his wife trapped inside. Before he died, Prest pronounced a curse on Tregganet that he “would never be buried with his forefathers in the church of St. Fagan.” On his death in 1510, Tregganet’s coffin was indeed taken into the church, but ….

continues on The Alabaster Hand thread on the Vault forum

Posted in A. N. L. Munby, Single author collection | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – Cold Terror

Posted by demonik on August 18, 2007

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – Cold Terror (Tandem, 1973: Pyramid, 1975))


The Door
Never Take Drinks From A Strange Woman
Great-Grandad Walks Again
Who Is Mr. Smith?
Birds Of A Feather
The Ninth Removal
The Shadow
The Day Father Brought Something Home
In Media Res
The Fourth Side Of The Triangle
Coming Home
An Act Of Kindness
A Matter Of Life And Death
The Door: William and Rosemary Seaton, “two young, beautiful people as modern as Carnaby Street”, are happily going about their lives until William buys an antique door from the recently demolished Clavering Grange and fits it to his cupboard. William, an author, obsesses over his purchase to the detriment of everything else. Soon enough, in his waking nightmares he’s visiting the vast blue chamber it once opened upon and learns that the door was prepared by black magician Sir Michael Sinclair during the reign of Charles II and before long Sinclair is making regular incursions into the house. The door requires blood and Sir Michael has decided that Rosemary’s will keep it in operation as his portal on the world for some time to come …

One of several Chetwynd-Hayes stories featuring Kent’s much haunted Clavering Grange, this and An Act Of Kindness were filmed by Amicus for From Beyond The Grave.

An Act Of Kindness: Christopher Lowe makes a small donation to Underwood, a fellow ex-serviceman forced to begging and, flattered by the man’s servile attitude – “with your permission I’ll call you the major” – allows himself to be drawn deeper and deeper into the life of the matchstick seller and his pretty young daughter Emily who live above a Tobacconist Shop in Poplar. Between them, they draw his life story from him, all the fears and frustrations which he blames on his domineering wife, Mabel. After Emily seduces him (with Underwood’s full approval), promising him “I will do anything you ask me, anything at all”, she shows Christopher a black wax image of Mabel. Confused, he gives her the nod to drive a pin through it. He returns home to find his wife dead and his little boy in a state of some excitement.

“Mum … bath … scream … scream. Ran downstairs .. all wet. Black lady came out of the bathroom with long pin … tried to open the front door naked, tried to open the front door …”

As the child finishes its recital (there’s more of it than I’ve quoted), somebody climbs in the back window.

Excellent pay off line and a definite candidate for any RCH Best Of … collection.

The Ninth Removal: Darker than the usual with a neat sting in the tail. London. Brolley-wielding embittered spinster Miss Amelia Sidgwick, 52, does daily battle with rush hour commuters, snarling, lashing out at MEN who accidentally brush against her, fantasising about chastising short-skirted young women who flaunt themselves at same. Other than her late father, the only man she has any respect for is the Brigadier, her frightfully proper boss at the tea importing company where she is employed in the typing pool. All is well until the Brigadier breaks the evil news that there will be an addition to staff – Miss Anne Franklin.

Anne doesn’t stand a chance. Miss Amelia has her card marked as a “hussy” from the first, what with her long hair, excuse for a skirt, long legs and provocative wiggle, and is soon complaining to Sir.

“You do not see, sir. Blinded by your goodness, you do not see. She bares her flesh and parts her lips in the smile of a harlot. She mocks the godly, inflames mans lusts, paints her face and cannot type.”

The Brigadier makes all the right sympathetic noises. He bemoans the lax morals of the younger generation. He calls her his “strong right arm.” He asks her to infiltrate the enemy ranks, get to know them and report back to him. He asks her to send in Miss Franklin.

Imagine Miss Amelia’s joy when, one evening shortly afterward, having forgotten her umbrella she returns to the office to discover the old hypocrite having it off with her enemy! Back on the tube, a newspaper headline, screaming about the latest murder by a sex-killer, finally pushes her over the edge. She stalks Anne and nudges her under a train at Green Park tube station. Then she heads for the office with a brand new carving knife …

Great-Grandad Walks Again: A vampire with false teeth, one of whose arms is permanently set in a gesture akin to a fascist salute. Oh, and he sleeps in a bath-tub full of whiskey.

Grandma refuses to bury her dead husband so, rather than risk disinheritance, the rest of the family decide to pickle him. He rampages around the house at night, looking for someone to suck, but he’s been rendered helpless since his first attack when he left his dentures in Uncle George’s neck and wasn’t able to retrieve them. All ends happily when granddad lands the lead role in the movie [i]I was a Nazi Vampire.

“You’ll notice the neighbours all look a bit anaemic, which is to be expected, and there was no dialogue worth mentioning. Also, the leading lady screams a lot. That’s only to be expected, too.”

Neighbours: Curtain twitcher June Blandford drags her husband Cyril along to meet Gothic Road’s new residents, the Browns. The Browns are extra-terrestrials and they’re looking for host bodies. The Blandsfords will do nicely. I was going to say Invasion Of The Body-snatchers meets a comfy seventies middle-class sit-com like Terry & June, but that would be making the story seem far more interesting than it is.

Could be I’m reading too much into this, but I came away from this story thinking perhaps RCH had put plenty of himself into it.

Never Take Drinks From A Strange Lady: The hero, Peter Chalfinch is a bachelor at 52, a creature of habit who’s just lost his domineering mother and revels in his anonymity when he visits the pub on Boxing Day for his customary two hours. When he’s picked up by Mildred, an attractive widow twelve years his junior, he falls madly in love with her and races into marriage. Mildred moves into the house his mother left him, and their first night as man and wife fills him with dread.

“Peter gave the marriage bed an anxious glance and prayed he might live up to expectations. A prolonged bachelorhood spent mostly in a non-permissive age was not conducive to a passionate marriage, and he began to recall with some nostalgia the lonely evenings before the television set. A few necking sessions on the sitting room sofa were one thing, a bedroom orgy was another.”

Mildred proves to be something of a sexual juggernaut and he’s quite enjoying himself … until her late husband, Thomas, manifests as a giant black and white spider and takes over the bedroom duties. Mildred is, of course, utterly devious. She thinks Peter is a pathetic fool and only married him because she needed a body for Tom the stud to occupy.

Peter locks himself in the lavatory overnight and calls on “Mumsie” to help him as the six foot arachnid waits outside to claim him body and soul. Her ghost duly appears and contemptuously tells him to quit snivelling and be a man like his father for once in his life.

“What is a man? an animal on two legs with hair on its chin and beer in its belly? What must I do, Mumsie, seduce the barmaid and play football on Saturday afternoon?”

Mrs. Chalfinch’s face became a mask of hate. “Kick, spit, punch with your fists, leer, learn some dirty jokes. Be a man, my son.”

Peter has his Siege Of Trenchers Farm moment and opens the door, but even I’m not spoilsport enough to tell you who wins in case you ever want to read it yourself.

The Shadow: “Now listen, ducky. Listen good. Don’t go making nasty names. A dirty old sod who can’t keep his trousers buttoned up has no right to call anybody nasty names. You’ll pay up, ducky, and you’ll pay up respectable like. You’ll say, please, sir, please take my money, or, so help me, them photo’s will go the rounds.”

London, SW7. Having been photographed romping with “a blonde piece of nonsense”, Bruce Harley is blackmailed by the deliciously creepy Charles Garret and is obliged to beat his brains out with an umbrella. After rifling the dead man’s pockets, he dumps his body in the river and lets himself into Garret’s flat where he destroys the photographs, negatives and files pertaining to himself and several other victims. But that’s when things begin to get on top of him, and Bruce imagines himself to be persecuted by Garret’s shadow. Now he must train his own to better it in a fight. With this in mind, he orders a blow-up doll, dresses it up as the late blackmailer, drags it out onto the common and goads his shadow into attacking it …

The Day Father Brought Something Home: Seven year old Alexander is forever being scolded by his mother for “always talking about things that aren’t there” while his father prefers to think the boy just has a great imagination like himself. Alex is actually psychic, alert to all the ghosts about the house and he’s also away that his faithful mutt Tobias is only pretending to be a dog – in reality, he’s a dog in a man’s body. One day father comes home in a jittery mood, and Alexander is shocked to see that a fierce, bear-like creature has followed him through the door. His parents have a dreadful row about something. Soon it’s all over the neighborhood that a young woman has been murdered on the common by a sex maniac. The police conduct house to house enquiries and it’s soon apparent that they’re very interested in father’s statement….
One of Chetwynd-Hayes’ darkest and up there with the best of his work.

In Media Res: Richard John Masters dies at 55 … and wakes up reborn, a baby with all the memory and experience of his former life. If only he could communicate with his new mother! As she pushes him along the Kings Road in his pram, baby Richard catches the attention of his widow …
I’m not big on reincarnation stories so this was never going to appeal.

A Matter Of Life And Death: Charles, bored with his life after thirty years marriage, decides on May 26th as the date of his next death. He phones Wilkinson – who he’s not seen in all that time – to “take care of things for me”. When he’s had his self-induced fatal heart attack, Wilkinson duly visits his vault to do the necessary. It’s a routine they’ve been through countless times.

Posted in R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Single author collection | 1 Comment »

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – Terror By Night

Posted by demonik on August 18, 2007

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – Terror By Night (Tandem, 1974: Pyramid,1976 )


The Throwback
The Ghostly Earl
Where Yesterday?: A Modern Fairy Story
Lileas And The Water Horse
Under The Skin
Lord Dunwilliam And Cwn Annwn
The Echo
Bits And Pieces
The Monster

Definitely one of his better collections, though I could have cheerfully lived without Where Yesterday? which has the suspicious reek of filler about it, even though it probably isn’t.

The Throwback: Very reminiscent of the Ghoul story in The Monster Club. Young Gregory Ames suffers a burst tyre on his way to Midhampton. He calls at a decrepit Teas Shop run by Vi and Gasper, their first customer in two years. Their son, Jason, makes himself known and is soon annoying the Hell out of Gregory, especially when he writes off his bicycle by taking it scrambling in the wood. Furious, Gregory runs after him but Jason lures him into a man-trap and our hero is helpless but to be led back to the Tea Shop and kept under the supervision of the family until he recovers. This isn’t so bad at first as he has the feisty, beautiful daughter Shona looking after him, although her ready quips and downright rudeness are a bit of a pain. But when a snuffling, clawed beast tries to get at him in the night and it becomes apparent to him that Jason’s behaviour is ruled by the phases of the moon, he realises it is time to make a limp for it.

The Ghostly Earl: The 250 years dead Charles Henry Fitzroy Carruthers, Eighth Earl of Rillington, befriends little Clare, a precocious little girl whose parents have just inherited the castle. Financially distressed, they’re on the verge of selling the property to slimy Mr. Wilkinson unless they can come up with £35,000 in a hurry. The Earl recalls that his father hid a treasure chest in one of the secret rooms. Can he find it in time to prevent his beloved home from being converted into a ghastly theme pub?

Something of a favourite with compilers of ghost story anthologies for children.

Where Tomorrow?: Henry, 34 and terrified of growing old, frets that there is never any spare time … until, walking along Shaftsbury Avenue one day he meets an odd little man working on God’s behalf who offers him a swig from a bottle of the stuff. Be careful of what you wish for, etc.

Lileas And The Water Horse:“I will come for you and we will dream together beneath the loch.”

A man claiming to be the Water Horse of legend comes down from the moors to warn Reverend Angus Buchanan that the Devil is abroad and is heading for the village to claim the souls of the congregation. He must convince his flock to paint white crosses on their doors and shun all strangers. The Reverend wisely discards this obvious madman’s advice and throws him out, but not before that worthy has made a promise to his daughter, Lileas.

That night, a beggar-woman arrives at the Kirk seeking shelter …

But for the heroine’s change of name, this is the same as the Ghosts From The Mists Of Time story, Shona And The Water Horse

Under The Skin: Amicus filmed so many of Chetwynd-Hayes stories it’s hard to believe they overlooked this one which is screaming out for the Subotsky treatment. Carl Blackwood, veteran of nine Beast Man horror movies, is slowly taken over by his character both at home – where he turns on wife Miranda during an argument over their relative acting talents – and on set – where he mauls co-star Rhoda Warren, ripping gown and flesh with his plastic claws (the director has to promise her a part in his next feature, “a harmless sex extravaganza”, to prevent her pressing charges. After watching his body transform into the hunchbacked, hirsute Beast Man as he sleeps, Miranda finally snaps. Carl ‘phones the director to tell him he’ll never play his most famous role again. But it’s too late …

Lord Dunwilliam And The Cwy Annwn: The arrogant Lord Dunwilliam, adrift in a snowstorm, chances upon a solitary cottage where live Evan ap Evans and his beautiful daughter, Silah. Dunwilliam is used to getting what he wants when he wants it and he’s decided Silah is going to be his by any means necessary. Evans spins him some cock and bull story about the girl having a fearsome lover, Annwn the Wild Huntsman whose pack are Hell-hounds, but as if an educated man would believe that …

The Echo: Old friends Charles and Anne meet for the first time in six years and he as good as begs her to come back to his scruffy mansion. They’ve not seen much of each other since she married two decades back, and Charles can’t help but blurt out that he’s always loved her. Her admission that he was “in with a chance” if he’d only given her some inkling of his feelings at the time isn’t much of a consolation.
Anne agrees to visit him again and this time he really weirds her out with a guided tour of his ‘secret’ room which turns out to be a shrine to her. Thinking it’s what he wants and certainly needs, Anne attempts to seduce him, but he flies into a rage and accuses her of all sorts, none of them pleasant. She is an “impostor” and she will be punished! Wait until the real Anne finds out! So saying, he beckons his Goddess, and Anne is confronted by her mirror-image, a cruel, sexless version of herself manufactured from Charles’ obsession. And what’s that ghastly trophy dangling from her wrist?

More middle-aged, confirmed bachelor angst, this time with a Robert Bloch-ish feel to it, and another personal contender for a fantasy Best of RCH collection.

Bits And Pieces:Alfred Cavendish, on pain of being written out of his grandmother’s will, finally takes a wife at the age of 42. She is Sarah Butcher, a fifty-something of huge proportion and very special needs, although he only learns this on their wedding night. As they prepare for bed she lets slip that he is, in fact, her fourth husband, his predecessors all having died in the same manner: they each took a header through a seventh floor window. And then she performs her striptease, although he is required to do most of the work …

The Monster: Uncle Jake and Auntie Mabs have selflessly concealed Caroline from the outside world for sixteen years, but when they catch her spying on the half-naked boy next door, they realise they did wrong in not handing her over to be sacrificed to Jehovah the moment her parents died. For she is an abomination among men.

Mortified now that her ugliness has been pointed out to her, Caroline escapes and runs off into the night. The villagers surround her with flaming torches and Jehovah’s will is done. Anyone who’s read Nigel Kneale’s Oh, Mirror, Mirror and the like will see the twist coming a mile off, but those who are only familiar with RCH in his William Kimber years might be surprised that he was capable of writing so unremittingly grim a story.

Housebound: The ghost of bank-robber Charlie Wheatland was killed in a siege at the Coopers’ new house. Celia, fifty and fed up, develops the power to draw his ghost out of the woodwork. At first he appears as a black, vaguely human shape, but gradually Wheatland manifests in all his former glory and asks what she requires of him. Celia decides she wants him to murder Harold, her boring, selfish other half. “No, I cannot kill, only free your husband from his body. Order me to free your husband from his body.” Celia does, but what will become of Harold’s vacant body?

Posted in R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Single author collection | Leave a Comment »

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – The Unbidden

Posted by demonik on August 18, 2007

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – The Unbidden (Tandem, 1971: Pyramid, 1975)

Chetwynd-Hayes - Unbidden

No One Lived There
Why Don’t You Wash? Said The Girl With £100,000 And No Relatives
Don’t Go Up Them Stairs
The Gatecrasher
A Family Welcome
Crowning Glory
The Devilet
Come To Me My Flower
The Playmate
Pussy Cat – Pussy Cat
A Penny For A Pound
The Head Of The Firm
The Treasure Hunt
The Death Of Me
Tomorrow Is Judgement Day
The House

Apologies for all the Chetwynd-Hayes overkill of late, but his work – his ‘seventies stuff for Tandem and Fontana at least – holds an almost Wheatley-esque fascination for me.

RCH came to the horror game late. He was 52 when his first collection, The Unbidden was published in 1971 and made no bones about why he turned to horror: In those days all things supernatural and ghastly sold, and once he got going he was extraordinarily prolific.

His first professional sale was The Man From The Bomb to one of Badger Books’ offshoots from the lovable Supernatural Stories,Science Fiction #21 (Oct. 1959). He followed this with a novel, The Dark Man (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1964) and his first contribution to Herbert Van Thal’s Pan Book Of Horror Stories (The Thing, 1966). Van Thal became his agent and Chetwynd-Hayes went into overdrive. Prior to The Unbidden, he contributed the brilliant Looking For Something To Suck to Fontana Horror #4 (1969) and Housebound to Aiden & Nancy Chambers’ Ghosts (Topliner, 1969. Another of those collections for the younger audience that do the job for adults). The following year it was The Monster (Fontana Horror #5) and The Bodmin Terror, again for Fontana, in Cornish Tales Of Terror which he also edited.

No One Lived There: A traveller explores a deserted house in Devon. From a half-chewed manuscript scattered about the place, he learns that It’s occupants were German, occult dabblers, entirely out of sympathy with Hitler and that they seem to have abandoned the house in a hurry when the Nazi’s came to power. On the wall hangs a swastika (the non-tilted original) and gracing the mantelpiece, a framed photograph of a man and his son with a naked beauty stood proudly between them. As the traveller tries to make sense of it all, the rats drift in. One of them, he notes, has miniature female breasts not unlike those in the photograph. Cornered in a room with the rodent army chewing down the door, he spends his final moments writing about what he’s experienced.

Why Don’t You Wash? Said The Girl With £100,000 And No Relatives: Having skillfully manipulated Judy’s pools winnings into various stocks and bonds under his own control, Gilbert Makepiece suggests a nice holiday at Waddington. Evidently, she finds the prospect of seeing an old Water Mill enthralling, so off they go. After he’s drowned her, Gilbert does a little travelling in Europe before settling into his plush Curzon Street apartment. Judy catches up with him while he’s enjoying a soak in the bath.

Despite the grating title, this isn’t one of his “I’m zany, me!” efforts, though you don’t have long to wait for one to rear its hideous head …

Don’t Go Up Them Stairs: Lionel learns that his grandfather, mother and relatives are all members of a Satanic cult who make up seriously rubbish chants and keep a ghoul in the upstairs room. When one of them dies, they are fed to the creature in return for him confining himself upstairs. Lionel, being inquisitive, has to sneak up to see this fabulous, terrible creature. And now it has sniffed fresh young flesh, mouldering corpses have lost much of their appeal.

The Gatecrasher: Edward Charlton and his trendy friends hold an impromptu seance – and summon forth the spirit of Jack the Ripper. Saucy Jack soon has total dominion over Edward and together they prowl Soho, picking up working girls to butcher back at the flat off Edgware Road. When the downstairs neighbour grows suspicious that those stains on his ceiling are maybe not the result of spilt red wine after all, its time for the pair to part company.

One of the four RCH stories filmed for the Amicus anthology From Beyond The Grave

A Family Welcome: Rivals It Came To Dinner as his goriest creation. Madelaine poisons her husband, Sir Charles Walton, with arsenic, having married him for his money in the first place. His corpse is so terrifying that the undertaker is obliged to sew shut his eyes, pad the mouth with cotton and break his legs before he can be laid to rest in the family vault (“Here ye Walton’s Sleepe – God Grant They all Lye down”). Fat chance of that …

Crowning Glory: Gore, a gigolo who specialises in parting rich old ladies from their fortunes, tries it on with the Countess Helene Landi when, after weeks of plotting, he ambushes her in St. James’ Park. She is already wise to him, but moves him into a suite at the Carlton Ritz regardless and pays him a whacking £50 a day for his services and the privilege of calling him “Chu-chu”. He suffers this, even manages to grow fond of the old girl, but there’s something … strange about her. What’s with the ridiculous wig about, for starters? Why does she go into a fury if he touches her head? And why is her maid Greselda ever ready with a cut throat razor and a medical dish?

Come To Me My Flower: Given that RCH wrote well over a hundred short stories to my limited knowledge, it was always a safe bet that he’d come up with at least one demon flower story. Bloody good one, too.

“They were really exceptional in a repulsive sort of way. Beryl counted twelve blooms altogether, but there might have been some smaller ones nestling down between the sickly green foliage. A large pink flower that towered up over its fellows had ear shaped petals, while a green one … was a mass of green wormy spikes. Then there was a vivid mauve thing with coiled petals that looked unpleasantly like a technicoloured snake. And a brown one that might well have been taken for slices of raw liver skewered on chicken bones, and a pink-edged white petal horror, that was peeping over the vase edge, like some lost eye looking for a socket to occupy.”

Beryl is ill in bed so Neil brings her a bunch of flowers to cheer her up. He didn’t have to pay for them, the old hag with the basket gave him them for nothing. Via her nightmares, Beryl learns the names of these horrors: Gangarellas, Hellthimiums and Bad Intentions. As she weakens, the evil flowers get braver until finally they are ready to launch an attack …

The Devilet: Ronald Adams, another of the author’s middle-aged, middle-class, mollified bachelor types, buys a black egg from a second-hand trader along the Portobello Road. It hatches, out pops a miniature Devil complete with horns, beard and tail, which proceeds to eat all his groceries. As the Devilet can reproduce at will, the house is soon teeming with the little miscreants and Ronald is zipping back and forth from Sainsbury’s like nobody’s business. What will happen when the shop-bought food runs out?

The Head Of The Firm: Conrad Lewis, multi-millionaire, has only days to live, so when he learns that Prof. Borman has successfully performed a head transplant on a pig, he flies out to his Swiss clinic and makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Conrad’s head survives its removal, but there’s no healthy body to attach it to. When he learns of a boardroom coup that will see him ousted from the company on the preposterous grounds that he is, in effect, dead, Lewis is desperate enough to agree to Borman’s ‘half-man, half-farmyard animal’ proposal …

A Penny For A Pound: A neat variation on the psychic vampire theme.
Narcissistic long hair Craig Bramford is stalked by a ghastly, withered crone. Try as he might, he can’t avoid the old girl and, when he confides his problem to Diana, his big boobed, mini-skirted girlfriend, she vows to rid him of the “kinky old cow.” But after confronting her rival it is Diana who comes off worse, “accidentally” falling under a train at Sloane Square station.

Bramford realises that his admirer is in some way responsible and, perversely proud that somebody would be prepared to kill for him, takes her in to live with him. It transpires that, far from being a bag lady, she is the incredibly wealthy Contessa Donna Mondago and she’s been pursuing him because she wants to gift him her fortune as he’s beautiful and riches are “wasted on the old”. She neglects to tell Craig what she’ll be taking in return.

RCH dispenses with the jokes for this one’s duration and, as is so often the case when he plays it straight, comes up with a grimly effective shocker.

The Treasure Hunt: Psychiatrist Mr. Hunglebert Chiffinch assures George Hargraves that his son, Jason, to all outward appearances a moron, is actually a genius: all his brain needs is a little kick-start.

George hits on the idea of burying a wooden chest filled with sweets and 20p coins. It will be Jason’s if he can follow some simple clues as to its whereabouts. Jason soon gives up the stupid game but finally displays a fiendish ingenuity and previously unsuspected tenacity in torturing the secret out of his hapless father.

The Playmate: Initially, Richard and Pauline are delighted to acquire the old Victorian house, although she’s slightly irked that they can’t get any wallpaper to hang in the spare room which it seems, actively resists all attempts at refurbishment. And then there are the strange noises after dark.
Richard is away on business for three nights so Pauline, her nerves already frayed, takes his advice and buys a dog to keep her company. Comes the night when they witness a ghastly incident from the past and Pauline finally gets to meet the brutal, misshapen thing who is to take her as his latest playmate.

Pussycat – Pussycat: The severe Miss Chalfinch lives alone on the top floor in a room whose walls are plastered with photographs of cats, their facial expressions betraying varying degrees of hatred and fear. Her most recent feline, Erasmus, has just hit the afterlife after an altercation with a truck, but rather than displaying any sign of grief, she suddenly begins to act cordially toward young neighbour John Edwards, aspiring author, and systematically draws him into her world. The sheer conviction of the writing – he really does seem terrified of women – gives Pussycat – Pussycat a powerful bite.

The Death Of Me: For I desire to be negative. To be blotted out, to rest in the deep, deep pit of never was – never will be – must never be again.”

Stafford is dead, but he can’t move on until he can remember how he died. His widow Anne – who didn’t love him – and his burdensome aged mother, Mrs. Carruthers – who did – are currently helping Sergeant Johnson with his inquiries. Anne maintains his death was either suicide or an accident brought about by his own stupidity when he dropped the electric fire in the bath. She certainly didn’t murder him as she couldn’t muster the necessary effort to detest him that much. Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she? Bloody women! They’ll be the death of us all.

Actually, this time it’s a little more complicated than that.

Tomorrow Is Judgement Day: Speakers Corner. Joseph Roosevelt Jones, ‘Divinely appointed King of the World’ is convinced that a foul mouthed Angel has appeared to him, informing him that the world will end tomorrow. Harry Wheatland asks him back to his Park Lane flat for a beer. He thinks he knows who the “Angel” was when he was alive – a work colleague – and has reason to suspect Mr. Jones’ prophecy will come true.

The House: Anthony’s life has been a lonely, loveless drift, forever haunted by a vision of the soul mate he’s never met. When he moves into the house, he discovers the diary of Victoria Elizabeth Sinclair, and realises that this woman, born several decades before his birth, was his intended partner, just as she knew her lover had yet to be born. Gradually her presence reveals itself in one of RCH’s gentlest ghost stories.

For more comment on The Unbidden  from David Riley, Burl Veneer and others see Loughville.

Posted in R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Single author collection | Leave a Comment »