Sunday, 28 December 2014

2014 - Year in Review

The endless, trudging march of time sees us once again stare bleary eyed into the uncertain future of a "new year" and "fresh start", while cursing the yawning chasm of empty darkness which now lies behind us. But we had a laugh eh? As the end approaches, a quick look back at our most read posts for this year, in no particular order...

Our main project focus for this year was 13 Commonwealth Tales, which explored folktales from other parts of the world, and also continued to encourage local storytelling. The project was supported by Big Lottery Celebrate funding.We all pitched in with our favourite stories and Mhairi did a smashing job on the artwork to create a storybook which we released during Doors Open Day in September. The 64 page book is available for free from Dutch Gable House and 7 1/2 John Wood Street, but will also be free online in January.

13 Commonwealth Tales cover by Mhairi
As well as details on the project itself, one of the most popular stories we shared on the blog (but which did not appear in the book) was the tale of Maddy Glasker...

Battle of Largs by Andy Lee
Details of our Viking comic strip exhibition, featuring artwork specially created to accompany the gothic poem Battle of Largs by Greenock's very own John Galt was well received. Which is we will have some more news to share on this project next year...

One of our most viewed posts from way back in January, was actually not about heritage at all, but some well meant, hard learned advice from myself about finding funding for projects, and how the "community" bit isn't what you add in to get the project to look nice for funders, but instead, the fundamental building block for the whole process.

Tin Jimmy by Andy Lee
In March we shared a page from a comic strip featuring "the robot James Watt built", Tin Jimmy. And we will have more, slightly longer adventures for our Victorian Robot in 2015. Meantime you can read James Watt's own notes on the robots creation right here... In a similar vein, news of An Ancient UFO sighting in Greenock caused quite a stir...

And we haven't actually talked much about it yet, but it would be remiss not to mention how much fun Andy and I had working with the Gies Peace project and St Ninian's Primary Seven in Gourock all through November and December on a particularly wintery comic...Coldheart. Here's a wee sneaky peak...

So aye, 2014 has been a busy and rewarding year for us, but there have been a few other heritage projects delivering across Inverclyde over the year as well, so props to Rig Arts Are Ye Askin project,  the major event that was White Gold at the Sugar Sheds, Dutch Gable House's WWI drama project which you can watch here, the Absent Voices project, which explored the history of the Sugar Sheds and produced a whole archive of creative responses to that story and of course the start of Inverclyde's Great War project. Hats off all round.

We also turned Fifteen in 2014, which was nice, especially as we seem busier now than we have ever been. 2015 is shaping up nicely too, but there will be lots of time to talk about that next year. For now, here's another chance to see the trailer for our upcoming Time and Place project, featuring a new soundtrack from the band British Sea Power. The film and accompanying exhibition will be displayed in February...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Midwinter Tales - A Very Merry Cthulhu

check out Cthulhu Countdown Calendar
It would surprise few to know that many of Magic Torch enjoy the eldritch horrors of H.P. Lovecraft, indeed our own Tales of the Oak comic features not one but two Lovecraftian tales, The Call of Clutha (see what we did there?) and The Belville Terror, and last years A Nip In The Air had a few sinister Mithraic cultists. The original HP Lovecraft tale below features some rather pagan midwinter celebrations. And obviously nightmarish horror from beyond the unknown stars...

I was far from home, and the spell of the eastern sea was upon me. In the twilight I heard it pounding on the rocks, and I knew it lay just over the hill where the twisting willows writhed against the clearing sky and the first stars of evening. And because my fathers had called me to the old town beyond, I pushed on through the shallow, new-fallen snow along the road that soared lonely up to where Aldebaran twinkled among the trees; on toward the very ancient town I had never seen but often dreamed of.

It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide, and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten. Mine were an old people, and were old even when this land was settled three hundred years before. And they were strange, because they had come as dark furtive folk from opiate southern gardens of orchids, and spoken another tongue before they learnt the tongue of the blue-eyed fishers. And now they were scattered, and shared only the rituals of mysteries that none living could understand. I was the only one who came back that night to the old fishing town as legend bade, for only the poor and the lonely remember.
Then beyond the hill’s crest I saw Kingsport outspread frostily in the gloaming; snowy Kingsport with its ancient vanes and steeples, ridgepoles and chimney-pots, wharves and small bridges, willow-trees and graveyards; endless labyrinths of steep, narrow, crooked streets, and dizzy church-crowned central peak that time durst not touch; ceaseless mazes of colonial houses piled and scattered at all angles and levels like a child’s disordered blocks; antiquity hovering on grey wings over winter-whitened gables and gambrel roofs; fanlights and small-paned windows one by one gleaming out in the cold dusk to join Orion and the archaic stars. And against the rotting wharves the sea pounded; the secretive, immemorial sea out of which the people had come in the elder time.
Beside the road at its crest a still higher summit rose, bleak and windswept, and I saw that it was a burying-ground where black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse. The printless road was very lonely, and sometimes I thought I heard a distant horrible creaking as of a gibbet in the wind. They had hanged four kinsmen of mine for witchcraft in 1692, but I did not know just where...

continue reading HP Lovecraft's The Festival...

In a similar vein, I cannot recommend The Daemoniacal Father of Christmas post from this polar cosmology blog highly enough...tip of the hat to Graeme Rose for drawing it to our attention.

And while you read, why not enjoy these terrifying Carols from the empty places between worlds...(though be warned, their questionable quality may itself drive lesser beings through the gates of madness)

Then to round off your evening, what could be better than the avuncular Mark E Smith reading another HP Lovecraft story for Christmas. Ho ho ho,

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Midwinter Tales - The Boarded WIndow

A short story from Ambrose Bierce. Many other short stories can be read for free on Underworld Tales... 

In 1830, only a few miles away from what is now the great city of Cincinnati, lay an immense and almost unbroken forest. The whole region was sparsely settled by people of the frontier--restless souls who no sooner had hewn fairly habitable homes out of the wilderness and attained to that degree of prosperity which today we should call indigence, than, impelled by some mysterious impulse of their nature, they abandoned all and pushed farther westward, to encounter new perils and privations in the effort to regain the meager comforts which they had voluntarily renounced. Many of them had already forsaken that region for the remoter settlements, but among those remaining was one who had been of those first arriving. He lived alone in a house of logs surrounded on all sides by the great forest, of whose gloom and silence he seemed a part, for no one had ever known him to smile nor speak a needless word. His simple wants were supplied by the sale or barter of skins of wild animals in the river town, for not a thing did he grow upon the land which, if needful, he might have claimed by right of undisturbed possession. There were evidences of "improvement"--a few acres of ground immediately about the house had once been cleared of its trees, the decayed stumps of which were half concealed by the new growth that had been suffered to repair the ravage wrought by the ax. Apparently the man's zeal for agriculture had burned with a failing flame, expiring in penitential ashes.

The little log house, with its chimney of sticks, its roof of warpingclapboards weighted with traversing poles and its "chinking" of clay, had asingle door and, directly opposite, a window. The latter, however, was boarded up--nobody could remember a time when it was not. And none knew why it was so closed; certainly not because of the occupant's dislike of light and air, for on those rare occasions when a hunter had passed that lonely spot the recluse had commonly been seen sunning himself on his doorstep if heaven had provided sunshine for his need. I fancy there are few persons living today who ever knew the secret of that window, but I am one, as you shall see.

The man's name was said to be Murlock. He was apparently seventy years old, actually about fifty. Something besides years had had a hand in his aging. His hair and long, full beard were white, his gray, lusterless eyes sunken, his face singularly seamed with wrinkles which appeared to belong to two intersecting systems. In figure he was tall and spare, with a stoop of the shoulders--a burden bearer. I never saw him; these particulars I learned from my grandfather, from whom also I got the man's story when I was a lad. He had known him when living near by in that early day.

One day Murlock was found in his cabin, dead. It was not a time and place for coroners and newspapers, and I suppose it was agreed that he had died from natural causes or I should have been told, and should remember. I know only that with what was probably a sense of the fitness of things the body was buried near the cabin, alongside the grave of his wife, who had preceded him by so many years that local tradition had retained hardly a hint of her existence. That closes the final chapter of this true story--excepting, indeed, the circumstance that many years afterward, in company with an equally intrepid spirit, I penetrated to the place and ventured near enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it, and ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy thereabout knew haunted the spot. But there is an earlier chapter--that supplied by my grandfather.
When Murlock built his cabin and began laying sturdily about with his ax to hew out a farm--the rifle, meanwhile, his means of support--he was young, strong and full of hope. In that eastern country whence he came he had married, as was the fashion, a young woman in all ways worthy of his honest devotion, who shared the dangers and privations of his lot with a willing spirit and light heart.
There is no known record of her name; of her charms of mind and person tradition is silent and the doubter is at liberty to entertain his doubt; but God forbid that I should share it! Of their affection and happiness there is abundant assurance in every added day of the man's widowed life; for what but the
magnetism of a blessed memory could have chained that venturesome spirit to a lot like that?

One day Murlock returned from gunning in a distant part of the forest to find his wife prostrate with fever, and delirious. There was no physician within miles, no neighbor; nor was she in a condition to be left, to summon help. So he set about the task of nursing her back to health, but at the end of the third day she fell into unconsciousness arid so passed away, apparently, with never a gleam of returning reason. From what we know of a nature like his we may venture to sketch in some of
the details of the outline picture drawn by my grandfather. When convinced that she was dead, Murlock had sense enough to remember that the dead must be prepared for burial. In performance of this sacred duty he blundered now and again, did certain things incorrectly, and others which he did correctly were done over and over. His occasional failures to accomplish some simple and
ordinary act filled him with astonishment, like that of a drunken man who wonders at the suspension of familiar natural laws. He was surprised, too, that he did not weep--surprised and a little ashamed; surely it is unkind not to weep for the dead. "Tomorrow," he said aloud, "I shall have to make the coffin arid, dig the grave; and then I shall miss her, when she is no longer in sight; but now--she is dead, of course, but it is all right--it must be all right, somehow. Things cannot be so bad as they seem."

He stood over the body in the fading light, adjusting the hair and putting the finishing touches to the simple toilet, doing all mechanically, with soulless care. And still through his consciousness ran an undersense of conviction that all was right--that he should have her again as before, and everything explained. He had had no experience in grief; his capacity had not been enlarged by use. His heart could not contain it all, nor his imagination rightly conceive it. He did not know he was so hard struck; that knowledge would come later, and never go. Grief is an artist of powers as various as the
instruments upon which he plays his dirges for the dead, evoking from some the sharpest, shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles; some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the
sensibilities to a keener life; to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing benumbs. We may conceive Murlock to have been that way affected, for (and here we are upon surer ground than that of conjecture) no sooner had he finished his pious work than, sinking into a chair by the side of the table upon which the body lay, and noting how white the profile showed in the deepening gloom, he laid his arms upon the table's edge, and dropped his face into them, tearless yet and unutterably weary. At that moment came in through the open window a long, wailing sound like the cry of a lost child in the far deeps of the darkening woods! But the man did not move. Again, and nearer than before, sounded that unearthly cry upon his failing sense. Perhaps it was a wild beast; perhaps it was a dream. For Murlock was asleep. Some hours later, as it afterward appeared, this unfaithful watcher awoke and lifting his head from his arms intently listened--he knew not why. There in the black darkness by the side of the dead, recalling all without a shock, he strained his eyes to see--he knew not what. His senses were all alert, his breath was suspended, his blood had stilled its tides as if to assist the silence. Who--what had waked him, and where was it?

Suddenly the table shook beneath his arms, and at the same moment he heard, or fancied that he heard, a light, soft step--another--sounds as of bare feet upon the floor! He was terrified beyond the power to cry out or move. Perforce he waited--waited there in the darkness through seeming centuries of such dread as one may know, yet live to tell. He tried vainly to speak the dead woman's name, vainly to stretch forth his hand across the table to learn if she were there. His throat was powerless, his arms and hands were like lead. Then occurred something most frightful. Some heavy body seemed hurled against the table with an impetus that pushed it against his breast so sharply as nearly to overthrow him, and at the same instant he heard and felt the fall of something upon the floor with so violent a thump that the whole house was shaken by the impact. A scuffling ensued, and a confusion of sounds impossible to describe. Murlock had risen to his feet. Fear had by excess forfeited control of his faculties. He flung his hands upon the table. Nothing was there!

There is a point at which terror may turn to madness; and madness incites to action. With no definite intent, from no motive but the wayward impulse of a madman, Murlock sprang to the wall, with a little groping seized his loaded rifle, and without aim discharged it. By the flash which lit up the room with a vivid illumination, he saw an enormous panther dragging the dead woman toward the window, its teeth fixed in her throat! Then there were darkness blacker than before, and silence; and when he returned to consciousness the sun was high and the wood vocal with songs of birds.

The body lay near the window, where the beast had left it when frightened away by the flash and report of the rifle. The clothing was deranged, the longhair in disorder, the limbs lay anyhow. From the throat, dreadfully lacerated,had issued a pool of blood not yet entirely coagulated. The ribbon with which he had bound the wrists was broken; the hands were tightly clenched. Between the teeth was a fragment of the animal's ear.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Midwinter Tales -The Berry Yards

Photo - Louie Pastore : Dark Side o' Inverclyde

Today, a wee excerpt from a longer work in progress...

We would go to pick elderberries and brambles most weekends in the autumn, then help squash them up to make wines. This year though, winter was mild, and so we had been able to pick berries much later than usual. I remember it was only just getting light as we left the house.

The best bushes were towards the east end of town, or in the wild fields between the bombsite gaps round the old mills and sugar refineries. Today though, my dad had another idea, the old railway track that ran along the back of the town, you had to walk up and under an old archway that didn’t have a building attached to it anymore.
‘Is this really an old track? I won’t get electrocuted like on the advert?’
‘I wouldn’t have brought you here if you could get electrocuted would I? Look,’ my dad threw his jacket down onto the railway line, ‘See? Safe.’
He climbed down into the sidings, and lifted me down after him, I was shoulder deep on the line, and now I could see the bushes the whole way over. Dad smiled and started wandering along, picking at the brambles.

It was a strange sort of silence there, not quiet like proper countryside. More just empty of the noise that I felt should have been there, on the railway line, behind the factories. I stared up at the empty windows of the refinery, rows and rows of cracked glass, distorting the shadows that swayed behind them, until I felt sure I saw hands pushing against broken window panes. Hoping my eyes were playing tricks on me and suddenly frightened that my dad was no longer nearby, I turned to look for him, starting to panic. As I turned, I caught sight of his jacket on the line, just where he had left it, only now, it was torn and shredded. I shouted out for him, and immediately he appeared around the bend in the siding.
‘What’s wrong? Are you okay?’
‘Your jacket,’ I said, pointing, but as we both looked, I could see that it lay just where it had been. Intact and undisturbed.
‘What about it? Are you okay?’
‘I’m fine,’ I said, ‘just…don’t go far away.’
He nodded and patted my shoulder, ‘There’s some elderberry trees up here,’ he said, ‘I’ll be right there.’
He clambered up off the track and towards the trees. I stared at the jacket a little longer, just to be sure, then I returned to the brambles. Even though I knew my dad was nearby, I still felt uneasy, there was a…vibration? Like when there is a television or something left on in the house and you can feel it rather than hear it. I stopped picking again and peered up to where my dad was, making sure I didn’t stare back at the factory windows. He was still there, yellow plastic bucket in hand, whistling away. As I looked though, everything sort of flickered and greyed out, all the colour leaked away, and there was a whisper, right by my ear, ‘Train’s coming.’ I could feel the cold breath of the whisperer on my neck, but as I jumped, and turned to face them, no one was there.

The jacket lay on the track. Not knowing why, I pulled it towards me and stood in at the siding with my eyes closed. And the train came.

It seemed to go on forever, the old track squeaking and shrieking as the wheels battered over the top. It must only have been seconds until my dad grabbed me from above, holding me tight, crushing me in against the siding until it had passed by properly. The jagged bramble bushes were digging into me the whole time. Then it was gone. My dad lifted me up from the side of the track, he looked so strange, smiling, but, sort of crumpled. I know that look much better now, I’ve made it myself. It’s scariest that first time though, when you first realise that grownups aren’t always in control either.

My gran lived nearby, nearer than our own house, so we walked straight there, leaving the upturned bucket and all the spilled berries behind us. I drank sugary tea and listened to my gran shouting at my dad for taking us up there. He didn’t even try to argue, he just kept saying ‘I didn’t know they still used it.’
‘There’s been too many accidents up there,’ she said, ‘far too many. You’re lucky you’re not both under a train right now.’
I thought about my dad’s ripped jacket on the tracks and the cold whisper, but I just drank my tea. That was the last year he made wine.

True story. Though, rather than being a historically accurate depiction of early 80s Greenock, the reality of where we were on the old track and what I saw is muddled up in my head. But we did often pick around Lyndeoch Street and further up. It was a properly strange experience, which I remember in different ways. But to this day, I can't drink wine.

Actually, that's not true.

The Berry Yards were very nearby to the source of another childhood scary story, The Catman.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Midwinter Tales - No Smoking Kills

A festive tale now from Mark Jones, President of Greenock Writers Club, and a gentleman and a scholar to boot...

Eight months had passed since I’d last seen and spoken to Niall. Eight months since our last rammy, and still Dad’s estate hadn’t been settled.

It scunnered me to spend Christmas in my brother’s company. I was afraid how things might turn out. Yet it had to be done – I had to return to the bay and sort things for good. Afterwards I would at least – and at last – feel free to move on, leave the past behind and break the bonds that bound two brothers who loathed one another.

MacKellars’ Farm. Back o’ the World, the back of beyond. What was Niall up to? Twelve months since Dad died and still the place hadn’t been sold. The locals would be wondering too. However, we all knew the answer. Niall was still attempting to broker a better deal – but since each successive offer appeared more profitable than the last, he would, I knew, never make up his mind. He was too greedy to settle on anything – too greedy to finally sell – for fear greater riches awaited him around the corner. And, as I’d realised eight months before, at the climax to that belting fight at midnight along the lonely lane that leads to our farmhouse, he had never intended me to help him decide what happened to the farm. After Dad died, it had fallen to us both, but not only was Niall intent on making as much money from its sale as humanly possible, he was hell-bent too on ensuring only he ended up with the proceeds.

So the trip home hardly thrilled me. But I had long since steeled myself for it. I could be as dispassionate as I liked now. He wasn’t about to get his way, after all.

Niall, a pest controller, had always resented me. The clever brother, I’d left the bay for Edinburgh University, studying chemistry to PhD level, and escaping the drudgery of agriculture, returning to the farm only a couple of times a year. Neither of us were our father’s sons in this regard, neither inheriting his interest in farming. And, after I’d left, what had Niall ever done but pish away Dad’s pocket money and waste opportunities? He had a similar intelligence to me – consider him handling all those pesticides and poisons stored in the outhouse. He must, in his own way, have been just as scientific. But he was too lazy to put in the work, and he became envious, resenting others’ success – my academic success, my salary working for a pharmaceuticals company on the other side of Scotland. He wanted everything on a plate.

And he could never keep a friend. Dad always blamed the friend. He had a soft spot for Niall, who in Dad’s eyes could do no wrong. But how many friends can you discard along the way without it becoming obvious? Niall was a bad lot, not the kind of guy you stayed friends with for long. Nobody could stick him. No one could trust him.

Niall’s personality – unfortunately for us both as it turns out – initially made things simple for me when ultimately we fell out over how to dispose of the farm. At first, his refusal to consider any proposal of mine frustrated me. Then, when he started going behind my back to actively destroy deals I’d worked hard to secure, I lost my rag. And it was all too easy to get at him. I abandoned my attempts at diplomacy, at reason, at a calculated softly-softly approach to handling his temper, and went for him hammer and tongs. I lost control of my emotions, a foolish thing to do.

Knowing that, money aside, the only thing Niall truly cared about in the world was Gillian, his girlfriend, all it took for me to avenge myself was to send faked business mail in his name to the home of Gillian’s parents, and then a few anonymous demands for debts. Living away in Edinburgh, there was no way I should have known their address, so it couldn’t be traced to me. But Facebook and an old-fashioned phone book are fabulous things, I found. Gillian knew as well as anyone that Niall never kept friends for long; that there was something shady about him. But she’d never understood what it was about him that repulsed others. Knowing how often he’d fallen foul of others but not why, my forgeries helped wipe the scales from her eyes. She now believed he was up to no good, trying to con her in some way. Just as I’d hoped and connived, she dumped him. Nice girl, Gillian. Innocent. Too good for Niall.

But he knew it was me, even if he couldn’t prove it. That’s why he’d waited silently in the trees for my return from the pub one night while I was back at MacKellars’, visiting to help arrange the sale. Top of the hill where the road leads to Leapmoor. He caught me unawares, left me for dead in that ditch, cleverly making it look like a hit-and-run.

From the moment I regained my senses I knew he’d checked me. I could never prove his guilt. He’d sorted himself a perfect alibi. And how could I say anything to convince anyone else? I simply wasn’t in a position to. Checkmate, perhaps. As I said, he’s not stupid, when he puts his mind to it; and muscular with it.

Instead, I let it lie, bided my time. I was calm. The desire for revenge consumed my soul but anger, I decided, would no longer get the better of me again. Niall would neither enrage me ever again, nor see a penny of Dad’s money. Of that, I was certain.

Which is why, nearly a year ago, on Christmas Eve, I returned to the bay, to the farm, finding myself in the old living room, divided from my brother by nothing more than a coffee table. Sitting so close, his sight disgusted me. I felt awkward and, I must admit, somewhat nervous. Still, the evening passed quietly enough. I ignored him for the duration, and he never once spoke to me. It was like he couldn’t see me.

The issue of Dad’s property still hadn’t been settled at this point, of course. However, I’d earlier read paperwork left carelessly on the sideboard of a deal to develop the whole farm into a housing estate – the very last thing Dad would have wanted. This was obviously Niall’s current plan. He had reason to believe he didn’t need to consult me. I knew it wouldn’t happen, though. He would think very differently about things in the morning.

Eventually, he sauntered out to the yard to padlock the gate and outhouse. Stepping outside myself, I watched him in the warm light of the old hut, tinkering about amid the pots and packets of the toxins he took care to store safely. He puffed away on an electronic cigarette. It had rarely left his lips in all the time I’d been back. He’d finally quit. It was the first thing I had ever envied him for. We’d started smoking together in our early teens, out in the barns. I’d always regretted this, never able to chuck it. And here was he, weaning himself off the addiction more successfully than I’d ever managed.

At that moment, I craved the soft soothing sensation of a long drag from a lit fag. But I’d none on me, and no means of buying any. I would even have taken a puff on that electric one of his, simply for the nicotine rush, but that wasn’t going to happen either. I was jealous. Really, really jealous. Almost insanely so.

Niall returned inside, bolted the back door, laid the e-ciggie on the sideboard, and departed upstairs. Again, I may as well not have been there for all he noticed me.

Alone at last, I wandered around the darkened house, pausing at the sideboard to pick up the e-ciggie. I twirled it between my fingers, wondering whether or not to take a quick suck from it. But nicotine was of no use to me now.

Tiptoeing through to the living room, I gazed over old familiar ornaments, objects and picture frames. Perhaps for the first time, I truly sensed Dad was no longer with us, gone to a better place. Then I tired of the sadness and set to work.

It took a good fourteen hours before anyone found him. I say good, but those hours were bad for me. I hadn’t counted on Niall having become so friendless that nobody would visit bearing gifts even on Christmas Day. I watched him rise for breakfast, puffing away at the e-ciggie while he went about his chores before passing out on the kitchen floor. But the wait thereafter was inconvenient – I had other places to be. Furthermore, I was afraid delay would spoil everything. I knew very well he mustn’t be left too long. He might die. And I didn’t want that.

Eventually I had to dial 999, afterwards placing his mobile in his hand so it looked like he himself had phoned for help.

Then I went and waved the ambulance through the gate after they’d cut the padlock to get in, but, naturally, these paramedics were in too much of a hurry to notice me standing there.

Thankfully, they found Niall alive. Only just, but enough. I watched them revive him briefly from his coma, then cart him off. I waited for the police to arrive, smiling in silent satisfaction as they puzzled over what had happened. Why would this relatively young man have taken the trouble to break open his own e-cigarette and introduce a concoction of various rat poisons to the cartridge? A combination of chemicals so precisely weighted towards one consequence that a suspicious mind might almost suspect an expert in pharmaceuticals had measured them out?

And why had this Niall MacKellar then inhaled from it? It looked suspicious, but there were only his prints on the device, and no evidence of the farmhouse having been visited by anyone else.

Poor soul. It was clearly a suicide attempt – botched, for he hadn’t died. But what drove him to it? He’d suffered two deaths in the family in under a year, of course – his father and then the brother. Yet, hadn’t he so much to look forward to, what with the sale of the farm and everything? Paperwork left lying on the sideboard suggested he was about to become a very wealthy man.

Trapped within his brain, having imbibed enough chemicals to mangle his mind but not die, Niall resides in a netherworld twixt the two extremes of existence, neither dead nor truly alive. Only death can relieve him from this misery – and he must wait. I never intended killing him. No, I want Niall to live, and to live for as long as possible – locked away safely from harm; semi-conscious; with a drip to feed him and a nurse to wipe his bum, day after day after day.

Who knows how long he’ll yearn release? How many decades must pass until I’m forced to face him again? But I’ll not worry for now. I’ll let that lie, bide my time. Fear, like anger, is irrelevant to me at present.

Call me cruel if you wish, but I had never forgiven Niall for beating me, leaving me in that ditch, unable afterwards to prove his guilt or prevent him taking MacKellars’ Farm for himself.

Now he’ll never have a chance to prove it was me who spiked his e-cigarette. And, you know what? I used to loathe him for it, but today I see he did me a big favour that midnight moonless evening along the lonely lane to Leapmoor. For, when it comes to revenge, it’s so much easier when your victim has already done you in. This twilit afterlife brings spectacularly useful advantages.

Being dead. They can’t arrest you for that.

Mark has written for us a few times before, why not have a read at Moonlight Over Inverkip, or his festive Ghost Story from last year Cantus Arcticus. Also, I'd just like to take a minute to slip into full on Tales from the Crypt host mode and say 'That story was sure to give you the vapours...' 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Midwinter Tales - A Child's Voice

A lost BBC Ghost Story for Christmas?

From the videos own youtube description, via Rog Pile's Channel

"Radio fixes the person but frees the imagination."

This might be the first time this BBC ghost story has been viewed publicly in 36 years. A number of people across the net remember the story, and I've seen requests for it. The quality isn't terrific as I transferred my home video recording to DVD more than 10 years ago - and it's now converted to Flash. T P McKenna stars, playing Ainsley Rupert MacCready, a radio storyteller who writes his own stories (making his character probably not a million miles removed from A J Alan) in this creepy story by David Thomson.

Borrowing a synopsis from IMDB: "It is a well worked traditional Ghost story about a DJ of a radio station who broadcasts a horror story concerning a Magician who enlists the help of a child to perform the "disappearing " act on stage.

"Each night the DJ Narrates a chapter of this story to the listeners as he sits in his darkened studio with just his producer in the control room. After the first night's broadcast, the DJ goes home to his nightcap but is disturbed by the phone ringing, and upon answering hears a child's voice asking him not to continue with the story as it is too frightening."

Of course, he doesn't take the hint...

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Grave Tales from the Gable

A selection of folk tunes and spooky spoken word, based on the heritage and folklore of Inverclyde, recorded by volunteer group, The Friends of the Gable. 
A physical copy of the album is available for purchase in the Dutch Gable House shop, with all proceeds supporting local heritage and education activity in the building.
A big thank you to everyone from Port Glasgow Business and Training Centre who got involved.
Music - Brian Heron, John Joyce
Vocals - Brian Heron, Kevin Rodger, Yvonne O'Kane, Amanda Bow
Spoken Word - Fiona MacLeod, Paul Bristow
Percussion - Laura Mathieson
Artwork - Andy Lee
Logistics - Ross Ahlfeld

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Midwinter Tales - Wendigo

Andy's welcoming PostIt Note Wendigo, which once lived on the office door.
Really wish we'd thought about using this for a Christmas card...

While stocking up on your winter provisions to avoid Wendigo attack in the lean months, you'll be wanting to make sure you have a copy of the 32 page full colour folk horror comic Uncommon Tales, available digitally later this month as a free Christmas treat. It could very well save your life*

*this is highly unlikely, Wendigo is relentless and remorseless, and unlikely to be distracted for long by a comic

Monday, 1 December 2014

Midwinter Tales 2014

Merry ever during the final month of the year, we like to curate and share a selection of  chilling tales told in all sorts of different ways. This year among other horrors, we have a preview from our Uncommon Tales comic, sinister cigarettes, musical nightmares and berry picking.

We always like to begin with a tale from M.R. James, and this year, it's a more unusual choice, the marvellous Rats, read by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker...

As it's that time of year, you may also wish to purchase our fundraising ebook A Nip In The Air, available on kindle.

And there's more winter folktale fun on my personal blog, Stramashed, with stories featuring badgers, magical christmas presents and mithraic worship. Something for everyone. Sort of.