Encyclopedia Phantasmagoria

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

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – The Elemental

Posted by demonik on August 15, 2007

R. Chetwynd-Hayes – The Elemental (Fontana, 1974)

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Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) in From Beyond The Grave
The Elemental
A Time To Plant – A Time To Reap
Birth
The Labyrinth
Someone Is Dead
The Jumpity-Jim
The Wanderer

Back cover blurb:

A beautiful, horror-crazed hunchback …
A house with devouring walls …
A corpse which seeks gruesome revenge …
An unspeakable gaoler from the grim, dark past …

Fear has many faces. Here are eight of its more bizarre, more nerve-jangling aspects, brought into icy focus by a master of the macabre.

The Tandem – Fontana bust up.

To coincide with From Beyond The Grave‘s release, Fontana published a tie-in edition of The Elemental, but as Chetwynd-Hayes explains, there were a few legal problems to be sorted out. “There was a big fight between Tandem and Fontana about who was going to bring it out. Bertie Van Thal got me into that mess: ‘Don’t worry’, he said, ‘I’m your agent, I’ll handle this for you’. Then he dropped me in it and said ‘It’s nothing to do with me’. The book finally came out from Fontana and Tandem brought one out at the same time as ‘by the author of From Beyond The Grave – that’s how they got over it.”

Stephen Jones & Jo Fletcher, Talk Of The Devil: A Writer In The Dark Lands, Skeleton Crew, Sept. 1990

Strictly speaking, The Elemental was hardly a tie-in with From Beyond The Grave at all as it only included one of the four stories featured in the film. The Gatecrasher came from The Unbidden and The Door and An Act Of Kindness from Cold Terror, both of which had been published by, yes, Tandem. The “Here are eight of its more bizarre, more nerve-jangling aspects” line on the back when there are only seven stories suggests they were really determined to get this out to coincide with the film. At least he was (still) on good form.

The Elemental: Surrey. Reginald Warren has an elemental attach itself to his shoulder on the tube during the rush hour. Clapham-based Clairvoyant Madame Orloff, who happens to be in the same compartment, offers to rid him of the fast-growing parasite (for her usual fee), but Reginald thinks she’s nuts and is glad to escape as his stop, where his wife Susan is waiting for him in a backless sun-suit. Unusually for RCH, theirs is a happy marriage … or it is until the elemental mauls Susan, whereupon Reginald relents and hires Madame O. By way of exorcism, the clairvoyant chants some toe-curlingly unfunny doggerel and that certainly gets rid of the tenacious entity, but once she’s scarpered and the coast is clear, it returns to settle the score.

The Jumpity-Jim:

The Primate Horrific or Jumpity-Jim hath little intelligence, being but a form of low existence that doth demand life essence and warm blood. Once it hath been raised it will leap about with much speed and agility, and, if that which it needs be not at hand, will depart with a mighty explosion.

But should there be within the radius of twenty feet, a virgin, who hath the right essence, and should the flesh of her back, that which lies between the neck and the upper portion of the loins, be bare, then will it leap thereon, and will become as part of the poor wretch, as doth the legs and other members that did God in his bountiful goodness provide.

Once the abomination has mounted the steed, it can in no wise be removed, unless a like-virgin, cursed with the same essence, can be induced, or forced, to accept the loathsome burden.

Conrad Von Holstein, Unnatural Enmities And Their Disposal

Young Harriet lands the unenviable position of kitchen maid at Dunwilliam Grange. Her career doesn’t get off to the best of starts as, while she awaits collection outside The Royal George, she’s beset by ranting preacher Father Dale. When she tells him where she’s heading, he rips the dress from her back and begins an inspection of her body for “the devil’s mark”. Dashing, handsome Lord Dunwilliam appears just in time to rescue her from further molestation, and the Priest launches into a tirade against him and his family, the gist of it being that they’re a shower of Black Magicians and the day of the Lord’s vengeance is near.

It’s some time before Harriet encounters the reclusive Lady Dunwilliam, a beautiful woman of twenty-six, cruelly disfigured by a spectacular hunchback. Ma’am seems to take a shine to the girl, instantly promoting her from the scullery to companion, and Harriet frets that maybe the mistress fancies her, especially when she demands the girl wears a backless dress with no underclothing.

The reality, as it turns out, is far, far worse than she could have imagined …

At first I thought that if ever a Chetwynd-Hayes story was nailed on for the full Amicus treatment it was this one, but on reflection The Jumpity-Jim would have been even better suited to a Hammer big tits and bonnets production in the Taste The Blood Of Dracula mould. The spurious Von Holstein book surfaces in a number of RCH stories and Lord Dunwilliam (or a relative of his) also appeared in Lord Dunwilliam And Cwn Annwn. Finally, RCH re-wrote The Jumpity-Jim as a Clavering Grange story, Loft Conversion, for Tales From The Other Side

Someone Is Dead: First published account of Francis St. Clare and his glamorous assistant Frederica Masters’ misadventures (although The Wailing Waif Of Battersea from the later Night Ghouls is alluded to in the text) sees them investigating a haunting at Clarence Grange, built on the site of a seventeenth century prison. The malevolent spectre is that a sadistic warden, Royston Wentworth who is using black magic to build a bridge between his own time and the present day. But who is he using as a conductor? Francis is his usual chauvinistic self, and makes the near-fatal mistake of underestimating his enemy, something he is duty-bound to do at least once per story. Fred is flogged during a psychic trance, makes the occasional “outrageous” remark and wears a mauve blouse which, like all her others, has a “dangerous split” down the centre: does she bulk buy them? The story is probably overlong and you’ve guessed the human portal long before St. Clare, but it’s an entertaining diversion for all that.

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