Weird and Occult Library # 3 (Gerald G. Swan)

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It’s been a real pleasure reading all three of these lost gems. That Gerald G. Swan decided to unearth his trove of unpublished manuscripts, acquired back in the 1940s, and publish them during the 1960-61 era, is phenomenal.

The contents for this issue:

(1-5) The Incredible Awakening by Norman C. Pallant
(5-15) Black-Man’s Magic by Frank C. Brooke
(15-25) Labyrinth of Zekor by S. G. J. Ouseley
(26-34) Silvester’s Oasis by Henry Rawle
(34) The Hill of Worms by A. S. Quilter Palmer(35-43) As White as Snow by Ian Mercer
(43-47) A Guest of Vanderdecken by Ernest L. McKeag
(48-52) The Last Word by A. E. Crawley
(52-57) The Yellow Mask by John Body
(57-62) Corner Cottage by A. M. Burridge (sic, Burrage)
(63-64) A Lot of Gammon (uncredited)

The first story is of a dreaming man slowly waking up. While the dreamer awakens, worlds within the realm of his mind come crashing down and entities vanish in the blink of an eye. The Incredible Awakening may represent our own existence being but a dream. It’s unclear, bizarre, and unusual, and I like it all the more!

The author, Norman C. Pallant, has written a handful of
other weird stories and science fiction tales.

In Black Man’s Magic, the story reads like something L. Patrick Greene might have written for his African adventure pulp stories. Captain Ferguson saves the life an African’s child, and in return, grants him a vision into the future, one to solve a crime, and the other, a noise from the wand of African man from earlier in the story, to save his life! Only he can hear the noise and save his life it does, for the villain pulls a gun. Following the rest of the vision, he goes directly to the hidden false identity gear, a stowed gun, and then, elsewhere, to stashed cash that nobody could possibly normally locate. This even baffles the local police. When asked how did he solve the mysterious crime, was it “black magic” he replies, that no, it was “black-man’s magic.”

Frank C. Brooke is no stranger to selling stories
to Gerald G. Swan. Typically he can be found as the
writer of juvenile stories for boys and girls.

Lybyrinth of Zekor…titles like that are always interesting. You KNOW you are about to read some weird and unusual story. At the least, the title infers something out of the ordinary. A vacationing couple are duped into hiring a local and visiting the sunken ruins of an immense building. While underground, they discover it is a lost cult, and other vacationers are lured below, capture and murdered. They escape and the lost city inexplicably explodes and sinks further, killing all inhabitants.

Ouseley has contributed other weird stories
to this genre field, with equal ability. Some are
of the purely outlandish variety but many simply
are concluded with irrational endings.

Silvester’s Oasis is typical deliriousness in a desert. While dehydrated and near death, he is rescued by a man of the desert whom takes him home and Silvester finds himself transported back through time, hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. He is mistaken for another person, and he becomes romantically involved with a lady, whom all males are forbidden to contact. Taken before the supreme ruler, he learns of his fate but times inexplicably change and he is back in the present. A weak conclusion that left me wondering why the author went to the trouble to write an otherwise interesting story.

Henry Rawle is no virgin to the weird genre.
Click on his name in the side-bar to read more about
from another of my earlier posts.

The Hill of Worms is a half-page vignette. Dead guy buried in cottage, murdered, year later comes back to haunt the murderer. The locals find him dead and in the corner, instead of a dead decomposed man, a dead adder.

Initially I thought As White as Snow was going to turn out to be a Romeo and Juliet spoof. Don’t ask me why; I simply believed that to be the case. It was, close enough. Our Romeo is romantically involved with working with the church when he is introduced to an intoxicating young beauty. They fall in love, kiss, then she breaks off mortified, and confesses that they can never be together. She has leprosy, and then runs off a cliff. Our Romeo is found at the drinking establishment, and our narrator runs to him to save their lives, after learning that the guy does NOT have leprosy. He learns of her demise too late, and is thankful that Romeo hasn’t done anything foolish. But, he has. The drink is drugged. He dies. So, a twist on an old story. While he isn’t named Romeo, she IS named Julia.

Despite fearing that A Guest of Vanderdecken would be typical fluff, I plunged into McKeag’s version of the ill-fated voyage of the Flying Dutchman. When a man is lost at sea and deliriously near death, a storm saves his life, providing much-needed drinkable water. Spying a ship, he and his small boat are pulled aboard and he is revived. On securing his health, he is mortified to find those on board are wearing antiquated outfits from hundreds years ago, and the ship of the ancient seafaring sort. But when he learns the identity of the ship’s captain, and that they are nearing the Cape, he loses his grip on sanity, realizing that if they get past the Cape, the ship and all her crew are doomed to repeat their adventure until the end of time, and that somehow, in this time loop, he has joined their crew! As the crew hurrahs! at passing the Cape, their bodies rapidly age and disintegrate, as does the ship. Just before it crumbles out of the present to rejoin the ghostly past, our narrator dives into his own boat and lands safely in the water, to be picked and saved.

Although the impression given was that all the stories
present are lost, unpublished stories, fact is, this story
actually was published, by Gerald G. Swan, in the
May 1949 issue of Cute Fun. Perhaps they needed
further filler material for this volume or lost their own
records indicating it had been published.

In The Last Word, an old man and nurse at an infirmary heatedly dislike one another. The “why” of it is entirely unclear. Perhaps it is purely a matter of personality. The old man one night is having an attack, and the nurse, happening to be on duty, takes her time in giving him his meds. Taking too long, he dies, but sets his sights on her, in death, to haunt her. Time passes…. His favorite wheel chair is constantly avoided. Anyone trying to use it leap out of it immediately, as if pushed, prodded, poked, etc. The wheelchair one night is found out of place and the head nurse reprimands the killer-nurse. She takes umbrage to the charge, and after it occurs again, begins to keep an hourly watch on that chair. It happens again. Finally on the third night, she tries to put it back, but finds the chair evading and pursuing her about the infirmary. Everyone is asleep, save for the narrator, whom watches as the chair steers her to the balcony and shoves her over the edge.

The Yellow Mask is given to have been the cause for many a strange death and insanity. A pair of men decided to investigate the ancient dilapidated remains of an opium establishment, where their buddy was last known to have visited, prior to succumbing to insanity. They find indeed that something sinister and supernatural is present.

John Body is the alias of John Brody. He wrote other short
tales for Gerald G. Swan. He also had a brief career writing
science fiction for New Worlds magazine.

Corner Cottage by A. M. Burrage (erroneously spelled here as Burridge) is typical campfire stuff. Family takes up residence in a cottage that annually is abandoned due to a curse. An entire family died there. The current residence–and artist and his wife and son–move in and disregard local gossip. But when events and noises rattle them for weeks and months, the climax comes on the very annual night the dead family, er, well, DIED. Coming home from the pub, the artist walks in on his wife and two very dead visitors, with bullet wounds in their heads, from a double-suicide. Their son is upstairs screaming and bawling that a dead girl is in his room. They move out the next day, and later read that the cottage caught fire and burned to the ground. The artist prefers to believe that the dead scared them away to save their lives. Did they?

A. M. Burrage prolifically wrote for at least three full decades.

The vignette A Lot of Gammon is purely tongue-in-cheek humor poking fun at small village lore surrounding ghosts and the like. Amusingly enough, the local tells informs the outsider that he was told how to invoke curses and use witchcraft, but states it’s a lot of gammon, or bunk. As a jest, he grabs the broom, sits upon it, and recounts the words he was to use to fly. Shockingly, the broom lifts and takes off, with the man screaming BLIMEY into the night….

 

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Weird and Occult Library # 3 (Gerald G. Swan)

Weird and Occult 1/- Library # 2 (Gerald G. Swan)

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…let’s now continue the second of three blogs on Weird and Occult 1/- Library, as published by Gerald G. Swan, my favorite wartime British publisher. As noted, Swan had acquired and filed numerous short stories during and shortly after the war years. Come 1960, they re-opened their files and compiled three 64-page books, with original cover art.

The contents:

  • (1-12) The Voice of Amalzzar by Henry Rawle
  • (12-13) Skulls That Cannot Be Shifted by A. C. Bailey (article)
  • (14-18) His Second Chance by A. C. Bailey
  • (19) The Cat and the Occult by F. Thomas (article)
  • (20-29) Death Mates by Hugh J. Gallagher
  • (30-37) Come Brother, Come! by Dallas Kirby
  • (37) A Court Martialled Ghost by A. C. Bailey (article)
  • (38-43) “Where That Dark Water Is…” by Chas. H. Bradford
  • (44-52) Beneath the Mountain by Christine Gittings
  • (53-63) Judgment Bell by John Russell Fearn
  • (63-64) Made of Sand by M. E. Orman

The Voice of Amalzzar begins in the usual introductory fashion. Chums haven’t met in many years and the one suffering with weird situations requests the assistance of their old friend, writes him, and he, like a good buddy, appears on the scene, to record the event for the reader. In this one, a mummy’s essence is tapped and they bring back its entire life story. Thankfully, the mummy speaks perfect English (or, rather, the scientist’s mechanism does). One of the electron tubes suddenly blow as the orator begins foretelling the future. A stale, well-dated tale.

His Second Chance is somewhat amusing, if cliché. A man is struck by a bus, dead, and his ghost wanders about eventually learning the truth and that the world will get by just fine without him. The ghost also learns that his wife had been having an affair, his daughter now intends to pursue her own interests against his wishes, his job and friends found him a scoundrel, and only his dog seems aware of his presence after he whistles. He eventually imposes the shell of his soul upon a newborn baby….

Death Mates is an adventure tale. Not weird. Perhaps gruesome, in its time? A wealthy man in the jungles of South America over the years places ads around the globe for certain sorts of female employees. The current boat-load arrives and they are sent to their rooms. The self-proclaimed trapeze artist manipulates her room’s window to access and enter another girl’s room at night and reveals that she is in fact a man, in disguise. He’s secretly on a mission to discover the whereabouts of his missing sister. While talking, the pair sneak out and discover that the resident is a madman whom enjoys hunting “skilled” women. His trophy room consists of their heads! The trapeze artist does battle with the man and his weekend-warriors (killers) and blows up the mansion. A fun tale, but ill-placed to this volume.

Come Brother, Come is another of those cliché tales, in which a fisherman whom murdered his brother long ago is drawn again out to sea during a tumultuous storm, rowing for his life, as his rotting corpse of a brother pulls himself out of the ocean and drags his killer down with him….

“Where that Dark Water Is…” is from poet Walter de la Mare. It is aptly re-utilized here, involving deadly sea sirens. A lighthouse is investigated, only to discover a knife in the back of one man, and another tethered, equally dead, by a pool of water.

Beneath the Mountain involves a typical discovery of a lost sea monster, being tended to by a zoologist, of sorts. The trapped cave-dwelling beast kills the man feeding it, and the narrator leads others to the location, but the beast has already escaped.

Now, this next story, by John Russell Fearn, is well-worth the purchase of this book, alone. Judgment Bell, while yet another typical story of its sort tackling a well-worn plot, is so adroitly told that it kept me plodding along wondering just how this particular version would end. Two lovers picnicking are caught in an uncanny storm and take shelter in a church in which her uncle, a dozen years earlier, had died, from a bizarre lightning strike. The lady is strong-willed, independent and intelligent, to the point that she does not believe in the occult. However, when she finds a variant of her surname in the monk’s books, retelling an old local legend, the eerie setting rattles her nerves and shakes her to the core. Legend holds that an ancestor [of hers] assassinated the church’s monk, but he set a curse upon the family, to hold through the centuries until each could be drawn to this very church and vengeance exacted upon each one. Realizing that she may be victim to an unknown family curse, she frantically seeks to escape, but the storm keeps them inside. Losing sanity, she “sees” the ghostly monk, loses her mind, and is struck by a bolt of lightning, charring half her body. Her lover is maddened and discovers a real live monk on the premises, and is certain he is the man she saw. The monk explains the old tale, and that he is aware of who [in family name] she is, and then shows that the legendary “Judgment Bell” that they both heard, in fact, does not exist!

The digest wraps up with a bizarre short, in the form of Made of Sand. An odd child builds a figure out of beach sand and that night, it takes form on the beach and the girl wakes up and dies. A worthless little tale….

Weird and Occult 1/- Library # 2 (Gerald G. Swan)