…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.
- (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….