H. R. Wakefield - The Clock Strikes Twelve (Ballantine, 1961)
Introduction: Why I Write Ghost Stories
Into Outer Darkness The Alley Jay Walkers Ingredient X "I Recognized The Voice" Farewell Performance In Collaboration Lucky's Grove Happy Ending? The First Sheaf Used Car Death Of A Poacher
Into Outer Darkness: Sussex. Four tenants have left Whitling Manor in quick succession and Alec Propert is disgusted that his nest-egg is losing him all that lovely rent while it remains vacant. Propert is aware that the old place has long had a reputation of being haunted, vague stories of a fellow being walled up alive during the Civil War, and persuades his clairvoyant friend Richard Lytton to investigate. Lytton is reluctant to do so, having recently had a premonition of his own death, but allows himself to be talked into it ...
Lucky's Grove: Christmas Day, 1938, and "the cream of North Berkshire society" descend on the Braxton's snowbound Abindale Hall. Unfortunately, Mr. Braxton's land agent, Curtis, has retrieved their splendid tree from the locally shunned Lucky's Grove. The larch in question, furious at being uprooted and festooned in Disney characters, wreaks spectacular Norse God-assisted vengeance, and deforming the snowman is the least of it. It all makes for an interesting holiday and gives the survivors much to ponder.
Farewell Performance: Theatrical agent Jack Granger is concerned that his star turn, ventriloquist Gustave Nimbo, is to play the Wolverham Empire within hours of learning of his wife's death. His fears are well founded: Nimbo goes into meltdown mid-act as his dummy, Nobby, denounces him as a murderer.
Also features a brief turn by blue comic 'Ruddles Rowlock, the Ace of Chumps'.
Death Of A Poacher: "The great beast rolled over, writhing and snarling, and then out from its body came a huge negro and the beast seemed to roll away around his feet."
Sir Willoughby hasn't been the same man since he returned from Africa where he was involved in a terrifying incident which culminated in his shooting dead a were-hyena, much to the consternation of the Masai people who consider the animal sacred. Their curse follows him back home to Sussex and slowly destroys him.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty. - Christine Campbell Thomson
A very battered copy of that same Ballantine edition has been in my possession since the late 60s. I can recall giving myself the heebie jeebies on reading it late at night. Not many books have given me the genuine heebie jeebies.
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