For the few handful of collector of British published weird, strange, uncanny, occult stories, many of those are not aware the publishers, Gerald G. Swan, issued originally back in 1940, also another publication bearing the same exact title as that presented here.
And there, however, the similarities end.
The 1940 edition was released in pulp-magazine format, and nearly all the contents written by Wm. J. Elliott, under a variety of pseudonyms. The 1946 edition was one of two issues issued by G. G. Swan, and, in pamphlet format. None of the stories, in this case, were by Wm. J. Elliott.
There is no signature to the cover indicating whom the artist was. I will say that it hardly conveys much in the way of horror. It looks better-suited to one of Swan’s Confession! romantic publications than that of the weird genre!
The opening tale is “The Secret of Claire Church,” which is certainly a horrific tale up until the blasé end. Answering the summons placed in the ad of a newspaper to become housekeeper and answering to the list of a hundred weekly tasks, Thomas Wilding accepted the terms and road the rails out to distant Penford. His employer, one James Grenvil (which at first glance made me wonder if this would be a beastly tale, since the surname immediately reminded me of Grendel…) is old and rich and hated and despised by those that reside within and around Penford, for, the man annually had knowledge of whom would die within a year’s time! One year, Grenvil is too ill to physically leave the house, and upon swearing Wilding into secrecy, has him, on All Saints’ Day lever him out to the abandoned Claire Church at night. Further, no matter what he sees or hears, he is to keep quiet. The eerie setting transpires to be a gathering of ghostly figures rasping out the burial service for the dead! Twelve years past and twelve times his master went, without him, for he swore to never behold such an uncanny sight again. The twelfth would be Grenvil’s last, for when he comes home, he collapses, and utters that it was HIS name announced. The next moment, he is dead. Oh please! Why ruin such a great story by killing him off that day? [The author is Hadyn C. J. Perry, of the Dudley district, born 1928. I find it hard to believe he wrote one story; perhaps Hadyn sold tales to newspapers, too].
“The Kiss of Lillith” is dreadfully awful in that anyone can guess the bare nature of this tale. Lillith is the bride of Lucifer, and Jim Strange is magnetically drawn to her, seals a pact with a kiss and must kill his own true love, for she is the direct descendant of a maiden whom once wronged Lillith an eternity ago. [The author is “Sam Bate;” full name is Samuel Ebenezer Bate, born 30 December 1907. He died in Camborne-Redruth, Cornwell, England, in 1981].
“The Mind of a Murderer” involves a scientist whom transfers the mind of a human into that of an animal (and, vice versa). However, he engages humans that are repugnant to society, and in this instance, uses a murderer. However, the scheme goes awry when the murderer quickly learns to make use of his tiger-body and kills the scientist. [The author is John Body (sic) alias of John Brody.]
Next up is “Gruenaldo.” Ravell goes through life hearing weird music. Nobody hears it. It comes from no definite source. Deciding that he is perhaps in need of a profession change, he becomes a police constable. They transfer him out of the city to a countryside town in rural Sussex, and becomes a night patrolman. He eventually hears that infernal music again, and finds himself before an old derelict house. (Naturally, weird story, old house, odd music, at night, and the house must likely be abandoned, right?) The house is abandoned. (Damn, I’m good!) He approaches to find a gargoyle with a violin above the door. He enters, and comes to realize he has been there before, though, in fact, HE himself, has not. He then knowingly finds and secret compartment, extracts a large book, and reads an excerpt about an annoying tramp that played a violin and that the owner of the house damned him forever and that only his reincarnation may release him. Ravell utters the secret magic words and the next day, never hears the music again. Likewise…the gargoyle is missing! [Author is Henry Ravell; his identity is unclear to me, however, a number of his stories center around music. I suspect he might be Thomas Henry Rawle, born 1909, of Axbridge, but, don’t hold me to that!]
“Four Gold Teeth” involves yet another crazy scientist meddling, this time, not with humanity or animals, but, with nature itself, plant-life. Professor Parry is fond of orchids, and one day, he vanishes, while working on some great scientific advancements. The estate is sold off and an unnamed man and his terrier, Mac, purchase the home. The dog discovers a dilapidated well, and barks fiercely at it. One day, the dog is snared by some bizarre fleshy plant-like tentacle. Eventually, our narrator goes down the well to investigate, finds a light switch, and finds Professor Parry’s secret laboratory infested with killer plants. He flees, and nearly is killed in the process. Time passes, and some thief, having stole from a house, makes his way across the yard and is caught up by the well (it is thought that perhaps the thief was going to hide the jewels, etc., down the well) and pulled down and in. Our narrator goes to the rescue, and eventually, they destroy the plants, and find four gold teeth at the center of the blob. They now know the fate of the missing Professor. [Author of this ridiculous yarn is Christopher Harman. Nothing is known about him….]
John Raikes is completing his masterpiece to be entitled “Venus and Juno,” when tragedy strikes, and his model, his wife, dies, struck by lightning. John hires another model, one he used to be infatuated, and she tries to coyly play on him. Finally, he relents, and asks her to marry him. Naturally, she accepts. BTW, both models were sworn enemies. However, in “John Raikes’ Model,” the title of this story, seemingly comes to life and haunts him to the point that he follows his wife, the creation molded before him, to a drowning death. [The tale is written by Sutro Miller, author of several odd stories, of which a collection, entitled “H for Horrific,” was compiled by Sentinel Publications in 1947 and is today terribly common to find. He resurfaced in 1953’s GG Swan’s “Fairies Album” with a kiddie tale and then, inexplicably, vanished].
“Hands in a Mirror” is a weak effort at the weird. It is wholly unexplained gibberish, better fit for a girls’ paper than a weird publication. Two young ladies discuss one’s fiance, Mark Atlee, having shot himself on the eve of Laura’s wedding. Laura hauntingly relives that fateful day and explains that she had some form of vision in her mirror, which disclosed that Mark, having been previously married, a shortly at that, had murdered his first wife, and accumulated her fortune. The mirror discloses a secret compartment in the desk and she pops it to find a handgun. She ends up killing Mark Atlee and hiding the gun, thus avenging the first wife, whom she believes gave her the vision to begin with. [The tale is told by Meredith Huntley, whom is also the author of some children’s stories].
“Vampires Work at Night” aptly gives way to the story’s intent, to some extent, but, is vastly ruined by a lackluster finale. Charles Benton is vacationing way from England in the realm of Bohemia (really?) he comes upon a gorgeous girl. He romances her and finally they marry and he takes her back to England. The town is happy, because, in fact, they KNOW she is a vampire, and responsible for local deaths, but, being superstitious, they are terrified to confront her. (Unlike conventional vampire lore, she can be out in broad daylight). She constantly whines that she desires to be returned to her homeland and he convinces her to stay. She eventually relents and as time passes, he begins to become weaker and weaker to the point of being bedridden. A doctor is called in and while there, Charles is slipping into his final dying stages, she confidently begins drawing his last life-blood right before the doctor’s very eyes! He wrestles her away from the dying Charles, and she suddenly (really, inexplicably) gives up the fight and collapses. (Seriously?) [Written by Shelley Smith, I was very disappointed by her vampire effort. Her birth name is Nancy Hermione Courlander. She was born 12 July 1912 and died April 1998 in Worthing, Sussex, England. She married Stephen Bodington, in 1933].
“The Stain” is a simple tale. Man loses his way in the woods at night, comes across a creepy house with creepier residents. Lumbering deaf mute and his apparent mother. They put our fellow up in the mute’s bed, and while trying to sleep, looks at some old magazines. One mentions “The Michigan Moron Murders,” and he begins to believe the mute is the slayer. A blob of deep red begins to seep down toward him from the attic and he is certain there rests a slain soul, after hearing a gun bark. Later discovers it is merely a wine cork that popped and it leaked down from above. No mystery or horror there…. [This tale was supplied by Hedley H. Gore, a name that is perhaps scarier than the story itself. Remarkably, this is a real name. Hedley Herbert Gore was born 26 November 1911 and died 1982 in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. He wrote a few dozen children’s stories under the alias Michael Kendrick for Gerald G Swan, and as Gordon Hedley, at least thrice. He was Secretary General of Luton and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry for most of his adult life].