Spookatorium 027

Holy Cats! After three years in the ground the Spookatorium has returned.

In this episode we look at Cotard’s Syndrome a psychological affliction where the sufferer believes themselves to be dead, missing organs or simple non-existent. We’ve got some publishing news from Gray Friar Press, Dark Regions Press, Tartarus Press and the new Phantasmagoria Journal. Then it’s into the catacombs beneath Paris, and a secret workshop in the dome of the Pantheon with UX and arguably secret society urban explorers and preservationists.

Author Richard Gavin speaks on the ideas behind his bleak tale In The Shadow Of The Nodding God from his collection Omens published by Mythos Books, and gives a reading of his vignette Notes On The Aztec Death Whistle. In addition to Omens, Richard has two other collections of short stories available Charnel Wine & The Darkly Splendid Realm are available from Dark Regions Press.

Music this time


Professor Gruntsplatter’s Spookatorium 027

Tell your friends, warn your neighbors!

Prof. Gruntsplatter


“The Black Gondolier & Other Stories” by Fritz Leiber

I have finally introduced myself to the weird fiction of Fritz Leiber via the collection, The Black Gondolier & Other Stories. It has impressed the hell out of me.  The title piece alone has been a revelation. Edited by John Pelan & Steve Saville it was originally released by Midnight House as a limited hardcover. Though this has since gone OOP, the editors reissued it digitally through E-Reads. It’s available from all the usual suspects.

Leiber stirs character, atmosphere, insight and entertainment in to a roiling cauldron of delicious poison. He makes it look easy, the stories are fluid and seamless. Even in the instances where the endings are visible on the horizon they are not a disappointment because they are inevitable. His authenticity, and the natural course of the prose validate the things you encounter along the way.

He stitches his underlying themes together in a way that is never overbearing, and for me was perhaps his most enviable trait. Leiber’s genius is no secret, he was awarded every prestigious honor through his life that was out there. I’m just late to the celebration.

While there were stories I preferred over others here, I enjoyed them all. I wouldn’t hesitate to call The Black Gondolier a masterpiece. Supernatural dread, conspiracy, and awkward friendship drape each other in this tale that remains relevant and powerful. Without going into details, Leiber infuses the world with a logic that other authors might leave open to the unknowable. Whether the logic of the enlightened or the mad, it informs the tale and makes this a potent classic I will re-read over and over both for entertainment and study.

Other highlights: The Dreams Of Albert MorelandLie Still, Snow White, Spider Mansion, The Dead Man, The Secret Songs and others.

More Please.

Cross-posted from The Aberrant Laboratory

“Dark Awakenings” by Matt Cardin

I first became aware of Matt Cardin when  looking up information on Michael Ruppert. Ruppert has spent much of his life  trying to draw attention to the clandestine drug money in the “straight” economy and the approach of peak oil. While Ruppert is an interesting guy, his role in this post is merely as an  absurd gateway to Matt Cardin’s work.

It was a search for Ruppert that led me to Cardin’s blog, The Teeming Brain, the first time. As I combed the archives, it became clear that the intellect and reason with which he wrote was far above the other places where Ruppert’s name turns up. It also became clear that his passion for supernatural literature, creative thinking, religion and a host of other intriguing topics would make it a place I’d return often.

I have yet to read Matt’s first book Divinations Of The Deep, released on Ash-Tree Press in 2002, but when Dark Awakenings was released by Mythos Books this year I snatched it up. 2/3rd’s of the book is short fiction, while the final third consists of three essays.

Cardin’s work is often mentioned along side such pillars as Lovecraft and Ligotti. It is said, that he (among a select few others) is the progeny of the dread those authors have sown. It is a fair assessment, however I don’t feel comfortable directly comparing them. Those writers leave you with a distinct feeling, a feeling that is an abundance of their appeal. Cardin does this as well, but it is unique to that of the above mentioned, to anyone I have read really.

This is intellectual, introspective, shamanic horror. The black things crawl through the psychic ditches of our world but in Cardin’s writing they are tethered more concretely to a sense of humanity. This is, in part, due to the scholarly inclusion of religion that he weaves through his tales. Let me be clear, these are not religious stories in any sense that would lead readers of this site to be apprehensive. The stories here incorporate undiscussed elements of religion that illustrate both a connection to something bigger and a reminder of the dark things hidden in the heavy language of gods.

While I quite enjoyed the entire collection, if forced to pick a single stand out it would be “The God Of Foulness” (of which you can read a small excerpt here.) The tale explores a growing cult of those who cherish disease, shun treatment and accept their withering as a form of body sacrifice to their God. I’m not going to pore over the details of this or the other stories now though.

The three essays that close the tome deal with the history of angels and demons, the  curious spiritual resonance of George Romero’s Living Dead films, and the reading of The Book Of Isaiah as a work of horror. Each of these was interesting, academic but not cumbersome, and a welcome inclusion.

Dark Awakenings is a very strong collection of work, and I hope it won’t be another eight years before he makes another collection available. I would also encourage you to check out Demon Muse his other blog focusing on “the nature and role of the unconscious mind as symbolized by the ancient Greeks and Romans in the form of the daimon, muse, and personal genius.” Oh yeah, he does music too.

Cross-Posted from The Aberrant Laboratory

Edward Lucas White “The Tooth”

Bill Lindblad over at Storytellers Unplugged post this article recently. The request, in a nutshell, was this: ” Take a minute or two to gather five or more titles…  stories, novels, collections, movies, what have you… by people who are no longer around… provide that list to some person or people who might be interested.”

In that last year I started keeping a list of short stories that made a real impression on me. Outstanding Short Stories (OSS). The list is not just people who are no longer with us, but Edward Lucas White fits the bill. He died in 1934. I plan to do posts like this one periodically and maybe turn people towards something they didn’t know about.

Edward Lucas White – “The Tooth”
It is not available online, but I did find this which is pretty great… Looks like “The Tooth” is in box 51

I read the story in his the collection Sesta and Other Strange Stories released by Midnight House. It appears to be out of print now. I bought it on a whim (and a sale at The Horror Mall) not knowing anything about the author or his work.

There is something about teeth that fascinates me. I don’t have any particular dental phobias, I just find them to be effective as imagery. As a friend of mine says, “It’s the only place where our skeleton shows.”

“The Tooth” is a tale of mysterious dentistry, curious trinkets, matrimonial bargains and a curse that leads to insanity and death. It was among the most unusual of White’s stories in the collection. There were other stories I really enjoyed, but “The Tooth” achieves a transcendent weird that has stayed with me since my first reading.

Dr. Lefferts, a renown dentist with an aversion to pulling teeth, has set a prohibitive price for tooth extractions. This puts him in the service of the wealthy who demand his fine skills and price is no object.

A wealthy heiress, for whom he has a long-standing infatuation, Miss Ingleton appears one day demanding his services. She insists she has a bad tooth that he can find nothing wrong with. Over a period of weeks he works on her mouth exclusively. Ultimately she demands the tooth be removed and he replaces it with a false tooth, never having found anything wrong with the original.

In the course of their working together she requests to see his personal collection of miniatures, curios and ivories for which he has some standing as a collector. She comes across as unimpressed and once her dentistry concerns are resolved he doesn’t see much of her. Enter Chow Ma, who carries in his mouth an artificial tooth that is giving him problems.

He demands it be pulled but the extraction must leave the tooth undamaged. Upon removing the tooth Dr. Lefferts discovers that it bears an intricate carving. Ma concedes that it is no ordinary tooth, it has been handed down through generations of his family with several of them having used it. Lefferts covets the piece for his collection.

This leads to a meeting in a ramshackle Armenian ghetto that reveals a rival bidder for the piece to be. . . the heiress, who has a collection of her own. It is not sold and sometime later Chow Ma returns to the good dentist with a proposal that he can have the artifact cheaply on the condition he marry anyone but Miss Ingleton.

Lefferts doesn’t believe he has a chance with the heiress, but is outraged that some mug would tell him to get married. Later the trio meet by coincidence at the shore, a disagreement occurs that leads to the offended Chow Ma to cast the tooth into the sea so that neither of them may ever possess it as a he utters a cryptic curse.

Suffice to say, that is not that last of the tooth. . .

I debated giving away the end since it’s out of print, but I’m not going to do that. The ending is, perhaps, predictable in some regards, but it’s done with a level of dread, paranoia and body horror that put’s “The Tooth” on my list of memorable, and outstanding short stories.

Cross-posted from The Aberrant Laboratory

Richard Gavin

I recently finished Omens (published by  Mythos Books )  by Richard Gavin, and wanted to sound the horn for him.  The 12 stories here showcase a diverse and peculiar dread. Gavin has some great ideas  and his command of language and tone made this a quite enjoyable.

His work has been compared to such shambling giants of the macabre as H.P. Lovecraft,  and Edgar Allan Poe and Thomas Ligotti and Omens deserves such comparisons. It’s not as nihilistic as Ligotti, or as cosmic as Lovecraft. Of the three, I’d place it closest to Poe. The pervasive creep factor that each of those writers possess is present in Richard Gavin.  His imagination is impressive and unique, and he does a really nice job of overlaying that strange darkness into a modern setting.

I’m always looking for more writers that capture this side of horror. The current crop of writers that are making waves seem more straight forward. That is not to say they are unskilled or not to be enjoyed.  I have just always favored more obscure tales of secrets, nightmares, and oddities and Gavin impressed me.

He has a brand new collection entitled The Darkly Splendid Realm (published by Dark Regions) that I’m anxious to get my hands on. The introduction was written by Laird Barron (who I swear I will do a post on one of these days). It was Barron’s involvement that brought Richard Gavin’s name to my attention and I’m grateful for it.


Cross-posted from The Aberrant Laboratory

Thomas Ligotti

teatroI was going to wait to post something on Thomas Ligotti until I had read more of his work, but what the hell. I’d heard his name  for a few years and had always been sort of curious, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to give it a chance.  I picked up a copy of the short story collection  Teatro Grottesco and devoured it. The other day  I found a copy of the out of print The Shadow At The Bottom Of The World  that I will probably dig into over the long weekend.

Ligotti  most often gets compared to Poe and Lovecraft, but from the shadowstories I have read thus far it is a tonal comparison more than a stylistic one. Within his body of work he has  visited the Lovecraft Mythos a bit from what I understand, but it is by no means is a focal point. His prose is tight and descriptive with out being overwhelming and superfluous. Ligotti’s stories evoke a vivid environment of apocalyptic dread, anxiety and madness that is truly potent.

His work is one of the very few that I have read that produced a “where have you been all my life” epiphany. The stories in Teatro, particularly “The Red Tower” and “In A Foreign Town, In A Foreign Land,”  capture so much of what I have tried to do in Gruntsplatter that seeing it on the page was striking. It was encouraging as well to see that those kind of stories have an audience.

Ligotti has also contributed to Current 93, on the albums “In A Foreign Town, In A Foreign Land”, “I Have a Special Plan For This World” and “This Degenerate Little Town.” I haven’t heard any of those releases. I’m not the biggest of Current 93 fans (David Tibet’s voice is annoying, sue me) but I am interested in seeing how his words play against their style of music.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time you see Ligotti’s name mentioned here, particularly since I have an unopened book of his work waiting for me.  Here is an interview from 2004 with Ligotti that is definitely worth reading. If you like dark fiction, short stories or any of the music I have done, I can’t recommend him enough. A lot of the stuff is out of print now sadly, but Virgin Books issued Teatro Grottesco and a collection of three novellas called My Work Is Not Yet Done that which I still need to get, and those shouldn’t be too hard to find. Fox Atomic comics has also issued two graphic novels called The Nightmare Factory based on Ligotti’s stories.

Cross-posted from The Aberrant Laboratory