Spukenswald

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove that sometimes gives up wonderful little delights: “Spukenswald” is one such gem. I found it while excavating the Christmas 1909 issue of a magazine called The Scrap Book. I wrote about this on Multo, but since my research into the provenance of the tale (which was unattributed in The Scrap Book) turned up something interesting, I thought I’d share it here, too.

[“Spukenswald is] a Grand Guignol romp that’s got all the fixings: a haunted castle, a magic talisman, a mysterious lady, a young man on a quest, wizards, revenants, robbers, even cannibals! …

Although The Scrap Book presents the story as an anonymous “Ghost Story Translated from the German,” it’s actually an American-authored pastiche/spoof of the German gothic literature so popular in the early 19th century. Plus, it has some interesting connections to that great author of American gothic, Edgar Allan Poe.

Read all about “Spukenswald,” its author Lambert Alexander Wilmer, and Edgar Allan Poe over on Multo. The post, of course, includes a link to the original story. Good bloody fun! Do enjoy.

Notes on The Tiger’s Cave

Investigating “The Tiger’s Cave” was more interesting than the story itself.

I dislike this story. It’s a straightforward South American adventure yarn that reminds me a bit of pulp fiction from the early twentieth century, with an exotic native damsel and intrepid white explorers. This in itself is not necessarily a deal-breaker for me, but the story also includes some animal cruelty that I just found, well, gross. I wasn’t entirely looking forward to tackling, or writing about, this case.

But the research uncovered a couple of interesting people that I hadn’t known about before, and that makes writing this post fun again.

“The Tiger’s Cave” first appeared in The Monthly Magazine, March 1831 (New Series Volume 11, Number 63). The editors credit the narrative to “A.F. Elmquist, of Copenhagen.” However, I’m not sure Elmquist wrote the story….

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Notes on The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is the story of a ship’s encounter with the legendary ghost ship of that name; the tale originally appeared as “Vanderdecken’s Message Home” in Blackwood’s Magazine, May 1821. (The second link is more readable than the first.)

It’s a mildly interesting story, set around the idea that running into the Flying Dutchman is bad luck, and accepting the missives of its cursed, homesick crew is even worse luck. This is apparently the first literary version of the Flying Dutchman legend, and introduces the name Vanderdecken (later, Van der Decken) for the captain of the doomed vessel.

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Notes on Peter Rugg, the Missing Man

Peter Rugg, the Missing Man” first appeared in The New England Galaxy on September 10, 1824. This “cursed traveller” tale, about a man doomed to ride forever in search of his home in Boston, evidently caused quite an impression on readers. Like the Angels of Mons or the so-called Legend of the Three Crowns of East Anglia, Peter Rugg crossed over from fiction into the status of “authentic” regional legend.

…as I stood recently on the door-step of Bennett’s hotel in Hartford, [I] heard a man say, “There goes Peter Rugg and his child! He looks wet and weary, and farther from Boston than ever.”

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The Legend of Old Spital Inn

One of the pieces that Vincent Price reads on his 1974 spooky tales album, A Graveyard of Ghost Tales, is a story called “The Ghostly Hand of Spital House,” by Dorothy Gladys Spicer. This is a fun and engaging tale about some bandits who try to rob an inn with the help of a hand of glory : a candle (or candle-holder) made from the hand of a hanged man. Lighting the hand of glory puts all the sleeping occupants of the house into an even deeper sleep, from which they don’t awaken until the hand is extinguished. You can see how this would be a (cough) handy tool for robbers and catburglars to have.

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Side Excursion: The Struggling Astrologer, Issue One

In my previous post, I tracked down the origin of the story called “The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century” in Henry St. Clair’s anthology Tales of Terror/Evening Tales for the Winter. That search led me to St. Clair’s source: a story entitled “The Necromancer” in the first section of the 1825 astrological tome The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century. This first section was likely the first issue of a failed periodical called The Struggling Astrologer (1824), edited by English astrologer Robert Cross Smith.

As I mentioned in that last post, this first issue of The Struggling Astrologer is made up mostly of pieces that appear to be lifted from other literary and occult sources. This makes it rather like one of those Caedmon Records of spooky readings by Vincent Price. So of course, I had to track them down. And here they are! Try imagining Vincent Price’s eerie voice as you read them.

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Notes on The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century

A literary sleuthing case with an unexpected payoff.

UPDATE 3/21/21: The Ex-Classics Website recently put up a version of The Necromancer, directly from the original sources, with footnotes. Check it out!

In 1983, in his authoritative reference The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, Everett Bleiler identified “The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century,” from Tales of Terror/Evening Tales for the Winter as the first part of The Necromancer, a work best known today for being one of the seven “horrid novels” that Jane Austen mentions in Northanger Abbey.

The Necromancer; or the Tale of the Black Forest is a 1794 translation by one Peter Teuthold [1], of Der Geisterbanner: Eine Wundergeschichte aus mündlichen und schriftlichen Traditionen gesammelt (The Spectral Banner: A Wondrous Tale Collected from Oral and Written Traditions), a novel written by Karl Friedrich Kahlert under the name Lorenz Flammenberg, and published in 1792.

So far, so good. But here’s where it gets interesting. A comparison of The Necromancer to “The Astrologer” shows the two plots are basically the same–but the texts are different. Moreover, the names have changed: the two principal characters in The Necromancer are Herrman and Hellfried; in “The Astrologer” they are Herrman and Cronheim. Other details differ, as well.

It’s known that Teuthold took liberties in his translation, going so far as to lift a story from Friedrich Schiller and insert it into The Necromancer [2]. Could “The Astrologer” be from an alternative translation of Der Geisterbanner? Or is it a plagiarism of Teuthold’s work? The latter seemed most likely, and I assume it’s what Bleiler believed, but I wanted to find out.

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Wrapping up Volume One!

I’ll finish up my posts on Volume One of Evening Tales for the Winter with a brief discussion of the remaining three stories.

The Cavern of Death” is a longer novella in the gothic style, set (of course) in the depths of the Black Forest. It starts out well enough, with a handsome young couple in love, an interfering father, intrigue, family skeletons, and the mysterious dark cavern of the title. I confess that I gave up about midway through. Full-blown gothic isn’t one of my preferred genres, and this got a little too gothic for me.

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Notes on The Mysterious Bell

The Mysterious Bell” is a short, enigmatic tale that feels like the beginning of an unfinished story, but I like it. It reminds me a bit of the spooky sea tales of William Hope Hodgson, or of the Belgian writer Jean Ray. It also has hints of what could be science fiction elements.

It came careering over the waters with a rapid motion, and as it drew near, exhibited to our wondering gaze a single black mast, rising from the centre of what seemed a square and solid block of wood, but without yard or sail, nor did any living creature appear upon it.

Science fiction or ghost story or both — it is not only intriguing for the mystery within the narrative, but as a literary sleuthing puzzle, too.

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