R. Chetwynd-Hayes - Phantoms and Fiends: Edited by Stephen Jones (Robert Hale, 2000)
Charles Grant - Foreword: Finding the Signal
Moving Day - The Third Book of After Midnight Stories, ed. Amy Myers, 1987 She Walks On Dry Land - Haunted Shores, ed. Peter C. Smith, 1980 The Bodmin Terror Cornish Tales of Terror, ed. R. Chetwynd-Hayes, 1970 A Chill To The Sunlight - A Chill To The Sunlight, ed. Rick Ferreira, 1978 The Catomado - Frighteners, ed. Mary Danby, 1974 Regression - The Fourth Book of After Midnight Stories, ed. Amy Myers, 1988 Matthew and Luke - Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories #11, ed. R. Chetwynd-Hayes, 1975 Growth - Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories #15, ed. Mary Danby, 1982 Born This Night The Sad Ghost - Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories #14, ed. R. Chetwynd-Hayes, 1978 The Thing - Pan Book of Horror Stories #7, ed. Herbert van Thal, 1966 The Underground - After Midnight Stories, ed. Amy Myers, 1985 Shipwreck - Tales of Terror from Outer Space, ed. R. Chetwynd-Hayes, 1975 Strange People - The Fifth Book of After Midnight Stories, ed. Amy Myers, 1991 Fog Ghost - Gaslight & Ghosts, eds. Stephen Jones & Jo Fletcher, 1988 The Frankenstein Syndrome - Dark Voices 4, eds.David Sutton & Stephen Jones, 1992 My Dear Wife - Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories #13, ed. R. Chetwynd-Hayes, 1977 A Sin of Omission Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories #10, ed. Mary Danby, 1977 Feet of Clay Non-Paying Passengers - Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories #10, ed. R. Chetwynd-Hayes, 1974 It Came to Dinner - Pan Book of Horror Stories #14, ed. Herbert van Thal, 1973
Afterword: On Writing and Wraiths
This latest volume from 'Britain's Prince of chill' contains twenty-one never-before-collected stories of horror, science fiction and the supernatural from the past four decades, including two brand-new tales published here for the first time.
In these masterful tales of horror and humour you will discover such macabre and menacing characters as a trio of weird sisters who refuse to let the dead rest in peace; a stranded couple who encounter the last of Cornwall's legendary giants; a murderous husband whose wife refuses to die; a young man who is haunted by his ghostly doppleganger; a woman who is pursued by a lonely phantom; a mad genius who creates a terrifying new form of life; a man tormented by both his dead wife and his new lover, and an isolated family who feed upon human flesh.
With an original foreword by best-selling X Files novelist Charles Grant and an afterword by the author himself, this is a book that is guaranteed to raise a shudder and a shiver amongst the most hardened horror fan.
It Came To Dinner: East Anglian fenland. Herbert, a tramp, comes in a house in a state of disrepair and, thinking it deserted, decides to spend the night there. He is wrong in his assumption that the old place is empty, but Stafford Carruthers will not hear of it him leaving and instead invites him to spend the night there with Lady Carruthers, daughter Helen, and their butler, Marvin. Herbert soon notices that the Carruthers' enjoy their food - mostly meat dishes - to the point of gluttony, but he really starts feeling uneasy with the arrival at table - unannounced - of Sir Gore Carruthers ...
The Frankenstein Syndrome: "Don't let it attach itself to ... anything that protrudes". RCH was dismissive of his story It Came To Dinner on the grounds of it being (in his opinion) too violent and gory, having been pretty much written to order for Pan Horror #14. Seems to me that The Frankenstein Syndrome was his attempt at a Dark Voices story, hence the lashings of mutilation - you don't get instances of "a lot of blood and torn gristle between his legs" in an Chetwynd-Hayes story as a rule.
This one begins in the usual jokey vein with well-to-do young oddball Morris Smith announcing to his devoted girlfriend Mary-Jane Jenkins that he is going to create a new life-form. Before long, he's bred a maggot-like entity which feeds on semen and meat and can drain the warmth from any human it encounters. The head maggot is the length and shape of a python and tends to leap from the floor and get its mouth around any "protuberances", and there are also several miniature versions of him slithering about the lab. Yes, it is surprisingly gross when you think of who penned it.
Regression: David Masters decides to end his life. While waiting for his overdose to kick in, he wonders: "If I had a choice of a hereafter, which one would I choose?" Ruling out Heaven, Hell and the ghost world, he decides he'd like to return to the time when he was happiest. When he regains consciousness, he is back at his old school desk in 1936. To his horror, he realises that within a week his father will die under the wheels of a runaway lorry. Perhaps, though, he's been given a second chance to prevent the tragedy?
Non-Paying Passengers : Commuter nightmare. Percy Fortesque is stalked by the ghost of his despised late wife, Doris, and later, his in-laws, who are doomed to haunt the London Underground for all eternity. Percy has recently survived a brush with death and they're intent to see that he's not so lucky a second time. Another of R.C.H.'s meditations on the joys of wedlock: "Why did I marry you? Didn't you ever ask yourself that question once in all those years? I'll tell you. I thought that anyone so unattractive - I could use the word ugly - would always be grateful. I overlooked the undeniable fact that women only look into rose-tinted mirrors ... Get back to hell, you ugly old cow." Also features a cameo from The Elemental, The Chair and The Holstein Horror's Madam Orloff, Medium Extraordinaire.
R.C.H. writes of this one in Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories #10: "what can I say? It's true - every word of it. Honestly. If you don't believe me, stand on Platform 16 at Waterloo Station during the evening rush hour and look out for the - more than one - odd passenger that climbs aboard the five-forty-five for Shepperton. You'll be surprised - to say the least."
Growth: Inquisitive Henry Broadfield visits Clapham-based trance medium Mrs. Helen Watkins whose speciality is producing ectoplasm which assumes the shape of a dear departed. Henry unwisely nicks off a chunk of the stuff while Mrs. Watkins is under and feeds it worms. Its appetite is insatiable. Another namecheck for Conrad Von Holstein's Unnatural Enmities and Mrs. Watson might as well be Madam Orloff for all the difference in their characters.
The Bodmin Terror: Artist James is warned by his doctor that he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown and must avoid stress at all costs. Being married to Lydia, James knows just how tall an order that is, but decides to take them both away on holiday to Cornwall. En route to the Lizard, the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, sending Lydia into a spasm of rage. An extraordinarily sprightly crone ambles out of the mist and leads them back to her home which turns out to be a foul-smelling cave. But her Good Samaritan act is just that: she's intent on serving up Lydia to Dunmore, the last of the Ice Age giants.
The Thing:A dressy West End bar, a favourite with theatre goers, and there's RCH, dapper in his roll-neck jersey and corduroy trousers to impress upon the world that he is a writer and therefore, different. While he's indulging in his regular scotch binge - he shouts up six shots at a time to save his and the barman's legs - he's joined by a prostitute and, figuratively speaking, proceeds to bore the arse off her, having no inclination to become her client. In walks Rodney, a young man who affects a thingyney accent to sound like a pop singer, and the girl is terrified. RCH is more unsettled by the gloating phantom that dogs the youth's every step and is clearly directing his actions. Rodney pulls out a gun.
The Catamodo: " ... to the ordinary person, it's a bit off-putting to know we cannot be hurt if we fall ever so far, or if something ever so heavy falls on us. They get very narky when they realise we don't grow old, too ... we sort of curl up and fade away at the age of a hundred and four."
Martin certainly is among those who find it "off-putting" when wife Myra confesses to being a Catamodo. He's after her insurance money and has already made several attempts on her life. Finally he decides to dismember her and bury the severed portions in a variety of locations. Those familiar with Robert Bloch's Frozen Fear will know that this doesn't necessarily have the desired effect ....
Shipwreck: Starts well as a spaceship falls to earth, bringing with it Sarcan, a translucent blue formless mass who can drain every living thing of its essence and assume its identity. After experimenting with a tree and a hare, Sarcan encounters his first human being, South Londoner Sydney J. Beecham who is motorcycling home to wife Sylvia and her domineering mother, Mrs. Hatfield. Up until now, it's been very enjoyable in a 'fifties, The Blob-like way, but once he's introduced the women, RCH gets stuck in another of his "aren't mother-in-laws interfering old battle-axes?" ruts and the story fizzles out.
She Walks On Dry Land: "Let a stranger spend but one night within the boundaries of this village, then, sir - she comes up from the sea and walks on dry land."
So warns Elder Josiah Woodward in this companion piece to Markland The Hunter and he knows what he's talking about. RCH and brevity were estranged for years but there's not a word wasted in She Walks On Dry Land and the story is all the better for it. Set in Denham, East Anglia in 1810, it sees Charles Devereaux, Fourth Earl of Montcalm, blow in at The Limping Sailor with his manservant Patrick and demand rooms for the night. This upsets the locals, for reasons already specified, although the drowned girl is only a threat to outsiders. Should such a one see her face, than they run screaming to the sea and drown themselves. Charles is too stubborn to listen.
A Sin Of Omission: Putney. Mr. Faversham, 52, impossible wife, etc., is mithered by a middle aged man in a cloth cap who wants to borrow a fiver. When the stranger continues to pester with menaces - I know where you live: I only borrow from those as can afford it: "Ain't you a Christian, Guv?" - Mr. Faversham decides discretion is the better form of valour and legs it, with the beggar in hot pursuit until ... he keels over on the pavement. The wretch gasps for his digitalis pills, but Mr. Faversham slips away and leaves him to it. Later, he learns from the local newspaper that when Dr. Withers examined the body he was perplexed as to how the tattoo of the black snake coiled around the dead man's torso has disappeared ....
My Dear Wife: Henry's eye for young women he's not especially fond of drives wife Georgina to despair, not least because his main motivation for straying is the delight he takes in her torment. It doesn't matter how many times she leaves him for the last time, they both know she'll return. As will his latest plaything, Sheila. As will every woman who falls for him.
Slightly unusual in that, although Henry is probably a mouthpiece for the author, for once the sympathy is almost entirely with the female characters. It's another of his contributions to the Fontana Ghost series for which he seems to have reserved some of his darker stories.
Matthew And Luke: High-flying office worker Matthew Bayswater almost drowns in a swimming accident. Fortunately a passer by is on hand to give him mouth to mouth resuscitation, but the seven minutes he spent 'dead' are all it takes for his doppelganger to get up and haunting. 'Luke' is the spectre of Matthew's dual self. As Matt went on to make something of his life, Matt screwed his up and finally committed suicide. The jokey tone - yet another know-it-all mother-in-law - takes an abrupt turn for the depressing in the final pages and a spook in swimming trunks is something of a novelty.
Fog Ghost: "A face carved from thick yellow fog.
Nothing had been omitted. Loose skin that formed deep, dust-filled crevices, deep sunk small eyes, jutting chin - and the terrible expression of longing - an unsated desire that would be never be satisfied."
The narrator, a wealthy but sickly young man, falls ill while walking in a thick pea souper. He's taken into the hovel of a crazed, filthy old woman. When the fog lifts she begs him to stay with her - she even makes declarations of love. He finally makes his excuses, learning later that his unwanted admirer died within the hour and was deposited in a paupers grave.
It's not as if he doesn't have problems closer to home, either. unbeknown to him, his servants - the seemingly sweet Madelaine and her bitter uncle George - are set to inherit his fortune and are planning his accidental death. As George prepares to land the fatal blow, help comes from an expected quarter. Book two more paddedcells in the local asylum.
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