Encyclopedia Phantasmagoria

Guide to the Fontana Ghost, Horror & Tales of Terror series’.

Dahl – ‘Ex-Private X’

Posted by demonik on May 22, 2007

Roald Dahl – William And Mary: William Pearl is dying of cancer when colleague Dr. Lanby approaches him with a macabre proposition. On his death, Lanby will swiftly remove his brain and one eye which, he believes, he can keep alive for at least a hundred years by means of an artificial heart and sundry tubes. William will even be able to communicate his thoughts via a variation on the seismograph. Initially horrified, William agrees and the soggy mass is soon sitting snug in a tray off blood.

Mary, having been suffocated all these years in a joyless marriage, finds the stripped down version of her husband far more attractive, especially as he no longer has the power to prevent her from doing all the things he forbade when he still had a body … (Horror 1)

Roald Dahl – Poison (Horror 3)

Roald Dahl – Georgy Porgy (Horror 5)

Roald Dahl – Royal Jelly: Albert and Mabel Taylor’s new born daughter isn’t doing well. She’s lost two pounds since birth and won’t take her bottle. Albert is a beekeeper by vocation and flicking through one of the trade magazines he hits on the solution: if he were to lace baby’s milk with Royal Jelly …
The baby thrives to the point that within a few days and several hefty doses she is twice the weight of a normal tot although her body is taking on an odd shape. Funnily enough, now Mabel comes to think about it, her husband has a bee-like quality about him too … (Horror 8 )

Mary Danby – Quid Pro Quo: “Sarah stared at the mirror, and a bloated, moulting, deformed creature, half woman, half budgerigar, stared back …”

The Potters are on holiday for a fortnight leaving the hired help, widow Sarah Smedley the run of the place bar their endless lists of do’s and don’ts. Their chief concern is that she feed Dicky the budgie, but when her lover Harry (married, three kids) asks her to spend four days with her at a Birmingham hotel she’s not going to let a little birdy stand in her way. (Horror 5)

Mary Danby – Party Pieces: Maggie and George throw one of their famous New Years Eve parties, and they will insist on treating their unlovely guests to a divertissement. Last year it was the “ghost” in the spare bedroom (dry ice and a tape recorder), this time, something altogether more complex for “Tonight is the night when the Bogeyman dies”. What follows is a variation on A. N. L. Munby’s A Christmas Game via Bradbury’s The October Game with just enough Danby to give it a further ghastly twist. (Horror 6)

Mary Danby – The Secret Ones: Adventures of three resilient rats – husband, wife and wife’s sister – who make home in the attic of a family mourning the death of their little daughter …
(Horror 7)

Mary Danby – Harvest Home: The inhabitants of Marna are the most beautiful, healthy and friendly race on earth. So what’s their dark and deadly secret? Much of it has to do with their drink of choice, Risoc. The rest … Tessa is about to discover the rest … (Horror 8 )

Mary Danby – The Natterjack: Sprightly sixty-year-old Celia buys Marsh cottage. The late occupant, another old girl, was considered a bit strange locally, on account of her morbid fear of toads. Celia doesn’t pay any attention to this silly gossip … until the day she finds a pumpkin-sized natterjack eying her from the back doorstep. Upset and strangely terrified , she confides her fears to old Jack, the simpleton Gardener with the warty wrists …. (Horror 9)

Mary Danby – Keeping In Touch: Alistair, recovering from a breakdown after his wife fled to Amsterdam with her lover, is invited to all the best Chelsea parties by friends keen to keep an eye on him. After one such gathering, he drives home drunk and knocks down a young man with an Afro. Seeing as the lad’s dead, there doesn’t seem much point in his hanging around just to get into trouble. At the next night’s gathering, he’s imposed upon to create a Frankenstein monster for a game of charades … (Horror 10)

Mary Danby – Nursery Tea: Olivia and Hugh avenge themselves on the despotic nanny who ruined their childhood by putting the old girl through the punishments she once so readily inflicted on them. (Horror 11)

Mary Danby – The Engelmayer Puppets: Doncaster. Gwendoline Porter-Grant lost her husband in the war and now all she has left of her family is a ghastly son, Sir William, an arrogant sixteen year old bully who will inherit the mausoleum of a house and the family fortune when he reaches twenty-one. His favourite threat is that he’ll cut her off without a penny.

At the Castle Fenton Annual Antique Fair, William acts his usual boorish self, upsetting traders and embarrassing his mother before they encounter Julius Von Bick who offers them an Austrian Puppet Theatre for the ludicrously tiny sum of one guinea. William buys it, thinking to sell it on at a massive profit. But not before he’s mauled the puppets around some and put on a show for his mother that she’ll never forget … (Horror 12)

Mary Danby – Woodman’s Knot: “Carneads: A nomadic European tribe which, in the belief that it could create a race of great physical strength weaned its children on the mother’s flesh. Their way of life took on a Religious significance …”

17 year old shop worker Sandra Morrison meets Daniel Carne at a funfair and quickly falls in love with this tall, brooding hunk. Evidently he feels the same way about her as a marriage proposal is not slow in coming and he whisks her off to live on the family commune, Woodman’s Knot. The massed ranks of his relatives are kindness itself, even if she finds some of their ways rather strange by her own standards. Then she falls pregnant …. (Horror 13)

Mary Danby – The Witness: Whitesea. Sylvia, down on her luck, gives uncle Arthur a helping shove toward his coffin so that she can get her hands on his house and convert it into a respectable hotel. She hasn’t accounted for Julius, the old boy’s tenacious cat, who’s taken that whole “nine lives” thing to heart. (Horror 14)

Mary Danby – Robbie: A well-meaning but mentally retarded eleven year old takes everything his long-suffering parents tell him way too literally. So when he wants to know what little boys are made of, it would be better not to rattle off “frogs and snails and puppy-dog’s tails.” And they certainly shouldn’t leave any sharp instruments within his reach …. (Horror 15)

Mary Danby – True Love: Jack and Vera Sprat have been wed for forty years and never a cross word. Now retired, he prides himself on his hand-crafted model village in the back garden while Vera is content dusting her fabulous collection of trinkets. Meanwhile, people continue to go missing in the immediate area: two paperboys, the door to door salesman from Kwik-O-Kleen, that rather plump woman looking for her cat. Cannibalism is the secret to a happy marriage. (Horror 17)

Mary Danby – Curlylocks: Rock House, Garthwaite. Nineteen year old Angela has realised that maybe it wasn’t such a shrewd move marrying Geoffrey after all. A wealthy solicitor, sixteen years her senior, Geoffrey won’t let her do a thing for herself and she’s doomed to a non-life of daytime TV with the occasional hour off for the joys of staring into space. When he refuses to allow her to cut her hair she rebels: isolated and resentful, she chances on a book about witchcraft in the local library and tries out some nasty anti-Geoffrey spells. Her dabbling in black sorcery is all too successful. (Horror 16)

Mary Danby – Lady Sybil, or The Phantom Of Black Gables: Dorking. The domineering Lady Sybil’s husband drowned himself in two feet of water, unable to take any more of his unlovely wife. After his death, Sybil and her two sons live as recluses if you discount the servants. Geoffrey is a doctor and Edward a failed composer given to boozing away his crippling frustration.

Now in her seventieth year, of late Sybil has been haunted by a shadowy figure in a cape and top hat whose slimy footprints can clearly be discerned leading to the house from the river. Has her husband returned from the grave to exact supernatural revenge or is perhaps Edward, easily led by his brother, masquerading as the ghost in order to drive the old girl insane?

We end on a note of terror with one party confined to an Asylum. (Supernatural)

Patrick Davis – Sally (Ghost 9)

Patrick Davis – The Tunnel: World War II. Constable Perkins, accompanied by two youths, on a late night errand of mercy inside the railway tunnel on the first anniversary of a train crash. Just as the old boy warned them, the tragedy is reenacted and they show commendable guts and compassion to complete their mission. (Ghost 12)

Richard Davis – A Day Out: A family so look forward to spending the day at the seaside home of their daughter’s intended, they come back from the grave to do so. A spectral seduction ensues. (Ghost 19)

Daniel Defoe – The Ghost of Dorothy Dingley (Ghost 14)

Walter De La Mare – Seaton’s Aunt (Ghost 1)

Walter De La Mare – Bad Company: The narrator is lured to a decrepit London residence by the spectre of an elderly gent who shared his carriage on the train. When, on impulse, he enters the house, our man discovers what he suspected he would – a decomposing corpse slumped in a corner. But the ghost’s main reason for luring there is to reveal his despicable behaviour toward his sisters as exposed in his last will and testament …   (Ghost 18)

August Derleth – The Adventure Of The Intarsia Box (Oriental Terror)

Monica Dickens – To Reach The Sea: Everyone comments on Jane Barlow’s beautiful wig, but unknown to her the hair was taken from a girl shorn for adultery prior to her suicide. History repeats. (Horror 5)

Monica Dickens – Activity Time: Widower Dicky experiences all the dubious delights of old age, hurtling from one calamitous humiliation to another until he finally comes to agree that maybe the suicides he’s disparaged as “cowards” probably had the right idea all along. Excellently crafted but as depressing as anything I’ve read in a horror collection. (Horror 15)

David Dixon – The Lodger In Room 16: “I believe that something is being wilfully and maliciously destroyed in there at night, sometimes as much as three times a week, sir. There seems to be a crank-handled device in there which sounds to me rusty, Mr. Moule, and the machine’s task involves a sound that I can only describe as that of crunching sticks …”

Mr. Feith is concerned at the habits of his unseen fellow boarder, but the landlord tetchily explains that the man is a cemetery worker who’s been at the lodgings for as long as anyone can recall and Feith shouldn’t go prying. A tall ask for our curious hero, who fatally encounters a horror not dissimilar to the leprous entity in Chambers’ The Yellow Sign. (Horror 15)

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle – Playing With Fire: “A seance where ordinary, intelligent people unleash a zany, evil force – with terrifying results …..” London. The small party at 17 Badderley Gardens will never again realise the same success they enjoyed the night M. Paul de Duc joined them for a seance. M de Duc believes that “when you imagine a thing you make a thing” – a terrifying concept when you think about it – and on this evidence he’s right. First, via medium Mrs. Delamere, a chatty spirit gives the assembled invaluable insight into the afterlife, then the Frenchman rather foolishly conducts his experiment … and materialises a unicorn. Which promptly goes berserk.
(Ghost 2)

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle – The Horror Of The Heights: “And then there was Myrtle’s head. Do you really believe – does anybody really believe – that a man’s head could be driven clean into his body by the force of a fall?”

Gallant aviator Joyce-Armstrong believes that the “mysterious” deaths of several pilots were caused by malevolent entities that haunt the skies 30,000 feet above Wiltshire. Taking to the air in his trusty monoplane, he seeks out the beauty and horror of the heights! Fortunately for us, Joyce-Armstrong belongs to that commendable breed who keep scribbling away in their journal right up to the moment of doom. His final entry is priceless. (Horror 7)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Brazilian Cat: Greylands, Clipton-On-The-Marshes, Suffolk. Amiable loafer Marshall King stands to gain a fortune and a title when his uncle, Lord Southerton, dies, but the old boy’s proving to be a tenacious bastard so he’s thinking of tapping up his wealthy cousin Everard who is not short of a few bob. Everard has just returned from Brazil with a wife and menagerie and is reputedly the most decent fellow on earth, so Marshall has little hesitation in accepting his invitation to stay with him in the country. Mrs. King proves to be a fly in the ointment, she’s openly hostile to Marshall from the first, but Everard – he really is a lovely bloke – explains that this is just another example of her obsessive jealousy. To make up for her rudeness, Everard treats him to a meeting with his pride and joy, Tommy the Brazilian cat, a puma-like monstrosity who, should it ever develop a taste for humans, will become “the most absolutely treacherous and bloodthirsty creature upon earth”. Thank goodness that Everard is such a wonderful fellow and not some psycho who’d lock you up with this beast to get his hands on Lord Southerton’s inheritance, eh? (Horror 10)

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle – Lot No. 249 (Horror 14)

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle – The Leather Funnel: Lionel Dacre is an occultist and collector of macabre artifacts, one of which is the inscribed funnel. To test his theory that one can divine in sleep something of the history of a given relic, he persuades the narrator to bed down with it. Our man duly witnesses the ordeal of a murderess who was put to the extraordinary question in a bid to get her to name accomplices. This involves her being tied to a wooden horse while gallons of water are poured down her throat. Unsurprisingly, the narrator wakes up screaming and his host comes rushing to his bed. On being told of his dreadful nightmare, Dacre enquires:
“Did you stand it to the end?”
“No, thank God. I awoke before it really began”
“Ah, it is just as well for you. I held out to the third bucket”.

Hugh Lamb has written of The Leather Funnel: ” … the torture of a 17th century woman is observed by the narrator in a dream, in a story almost pointless other than parading this cruelty.” Yes, it really is that good. (Horror 17)

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle – The Captain Of The “Polestar” (Sea Terror)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Silver Mirror: “What dire deed could it be that has left its impress there …?” : Told in diary form. An accountant working all hours on an important criminal case is disturbed by the drama being played out in his antique mirror. At first the only distinct figure is that of a beautiful woman in her mid-twenties, high forehead, chestnut hair, brown eyes ablaze with rage and horror. The next night the narrator can clearly discern another image, that of a man he doesn’t like the look of clinging to her skirt. And so it goes on until he bears witness to one of the most infamous murders in the annals of Scottish history. (Scottish Terror)

Daphne Du Maurier – Escort: World War II. Heading home for England, merchant ship The Ravenswing is intercepted by a U-Boat. It’s looking grim for stand-in skipper William Blunt and his men until the intervention of a ghost ship commandeered by a fellow with one eye and one arm. Patriotic supernatural fiction in the tradition of Machen’s The Bowmen. (Ghost 12)

Daphne Du Maurier – The Blue Lenses (Horror 5)

Daphne du Maurier – The Birds: (Kiss Me Again, Stranger, 1952). “Owing to the exceptional nature of the emergency, there will be no further transmission from any broadcasting station until 7a.m. tomorrow.

They played God Save The Queen. Nothing more happened.”

Cornish coast. On the morning of December 3rd, disabled World War II veteran Nat Hocken wakes to find that winter has arrived and the birds are acting strangely. During the night they attack he and his family in their cottage and the next day there are reports on the radio that the same situation has been played out across the British Isles. At first the BBC announcer treats the story as an amusing aside to the real news, but within days there have been several casualties and the air force are sent in – to no avail. When Nat calls in at the farm where he’s employed as a handyman, he finds the Trigg family slaughtered, literally pecked to pieces. Together with his wife, he gathers all the provisions he can, drives home with his well-stocked car (neatly avoiding the dead postman in the drive) and sets to boarding all his windows in readiness for the nights attack.

Published so soon after the war, the Luftwaffe’s bombing sprees were still fresh enough in the memory of those who’d lived through it for this creepy, doom-laden story to strike a haunting and frightening chord. The Birds was famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, although there was little left of Du Maurier in Evan Hunter’s screenplay and the action was relocated to Botany Bay. (Cornish Terror)

Ronald Duncan – Consanguinity (Scottish Terror)

Roger F. Dunkley – Cross Talk (Frighteners 2)

Roger F. Dunkley – The Method And Madness Of George Strode: Our hero’s increasingly desperate attempts to be rid of wife Emilia, all of which backfire, the snake-in-the-bed wheeze humiliatingly so. Will his luck change on their forthcoming trip to the seaside? (Frighteners 2)

Roger F. Dunkley – The Man Who Sold Ghosts (Ghost 11)

Roger F. Dunkley – Twisted Shadow (Ghost 12)

Roger F. Dunkley – The Ghost Machine: To test his magnificent invention, Professor Hamner advertises for a somebody who needs help to committing suicide. Unfortunately for him, the solitary response comes from Mr. Jeremiah Puddle, a desperate fellow who has already made several and varied attempts on his own life, each of them ending in abject failure. Puddle is trying to get away from his fearsome battleaxe of a wife. By the end of the story, so is the spectre-seeking Prof … (Ghost 13)

Roger F. Dunkley – Eye To Eye: Myers visits all the previous owners of his 1960 Daimler in an effort to fathom why he should always feel as though there’s someone with him when he’s driving. He unwittingly uncovers a murder and is pursued by the psychotic killer. (Ghost 18)

Roger F. Dunkley – Miss Brood’s Speciality: She has premonitions, always gloomy, never wrong. But when she dreams of a tall, dark stranger coming to her in the night she predicts a marriage proposal is imminent. At last, a happy vision! She’s wrong. (Horror 9)

Roger F. Dunkley – Surprise! Surprise! (Horror 11)

Lord Dunsany – Our Distant Cousins (Ghost 2)

Lord Dunsany – Thirteen At Table (Ghost 14)

Amelia B. Edwards – The Four-Fifteen Express: (Ghost 9)

Stanley Ellin – The Speciality Of The House: Laffler introduces his underling Costain to the delights of Shirro’s restaurant, the finest men-only meaterie one could ever wish to find, especially when “Lamb Amirstan” is on the menu …. (Horror 3)

A. E. Ellis – If Thy Right Hand Offends Thee … : St. Chrysostum’s College, 1925. A cowled skeleton walks abroad following an impromptu seance by four pupils at the nearby Hoecourt Ring. It terrifies several members of staff before it finally communicates to the medical officer what it requires of him. (Frighteners)

A. E. Ellis – The Haunted Haven (Ghost 8 )

A. E. Ellis – The Chapel Men (Ghost 10)

A. E. Ellis – Dead Man’s Barn (Ghost 17)

David Ely – The Academy: A place for parents to send their sons during their “difficult years” to drill all of that juvenile spirit out of them. Zombie farming. (Horror 3)

Caradoc Evans – Be This Her Memorial: Capel Sion: The tragic life and death of the deeply pious old Nanni who prays for death when the minister she raised from an infant announces that he’s moving on for pastures new. As RCH points out in his introduction, it’s a sly study of religious hypocrisy (notable in the pushy door-to-door Bible-salesman from Hell) and the ending is a killer. (Welsh Terror)

Barbara Joan Eyre – That Summer: Mimi Frost, 21, drowned in a dinghy accident, her boyfriend Phil swimming to safety to marry her best friend. Now Mimi’s ghost prowls the beach, looking to share the body of a suitable girl. (Ghost 12)

Barbara Joan Eyre – Siren Song (Ghost 14)

Barbara Joan Eyre – For Charity’s Sake: Grace is forever losing boyfriends to her flirtatious, self-centred younger sister, so when it looks as though Charity is shaping up to steal Roger she decides to teach her a lesson. By chance, Robin and Charity are bacteriologists working at the same Medical unit and prone to talking shop. Which is how Grace learns of the lethal culture for which they’ve yet to find an ante-dote.
Another full-blooded horror from the excellent #11, arguably the best in the series for original fiction. (Horror 11)

Barbara Joan Eyre – Anaesthetic: Samantha, 35, is in hospital for an operation and terrified. Her main concern is that she’ll choke to death when they put her under. When it’s all done, she wakes in the notorious Curie Ward with its unfeeling, sneering nurses and a room full of yellow women on drips. Everybody knows what happens to you in Curie Ward … (Horror 13)

‘Ex-Private X’ (A. M. Burrage) – The Sweeper: Tessa Winyard, 22, is engaged as female companion to eighty-year-old Miss Ludgate of Billingdon Abbots. The old lady has a reputation for meanness which makes her extravagant gestures toward passing tramps and beggars all the more inexplicable. Miss Ludgate has her reasons. Eighteen years earlier an emaciated man called at the Abbots and after castigating him as a workshy scrounger she set him to work clearing all the leaves from the path. After a few sweeps he fell to the ground and with his dying breath promised to complete the job and “I’ll come for you, my lady, and we’ll feast together. Only see as you’re ready to be fetched when I come”. Since then his spectre has returned each autumn and with each passing year he draws closer to the house … (Ghost 9)

‘Ex-Private X’ (A. M. Burrage) – ‘Smee’: At the Simpson’s Christmas party the twelve guests decide on a game of Smee (a superior variation of hide and seek) as the evening’s diversion. Mr. Simpson warns them to avoid the door leading to the back staircase as the descent is all but a sheer drop and eight years earlier young Brenda Ford broke her neck when she fell through in the dark. As the game gets underway it becomes clear that the group have been joined by an extra player … (Ghost 10)

‘Ex-Private X’ (A. M. Burrage) – The Running Tide: (Ghost 20)

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