It’s that time again, boys and ghouls. Two months have passed, and I think that’s more than enough of a wait to be delivered a heaping dose of Golden Age terror. HAUNTED HORROR #3 is here!
Insert maniacal laughter here.
“Hangman’s Horror” (from Web of Evil #2, 1953) is one of HAUNTED HORROR‘s favorite subset of stories: where an evildoer’s foul actions come back to bite them. As I recall most of the first issue was made up of such fare.
When social reformer Jeb Daws threatens the political status quo in a small English town, its current masters decide to pursue the only logical course of action when dealt with a political rival the people adore: ruin his reputation. Insert your own political joke here. And of course, they jump straight to murder, specifically in order to frame Jeb and use their tight control of the local courts to see him hung. Why no one thought to wonder at the convenience of the murder, or the fact that the presiding judge was in no way impartial is anyone’s guess. Point is, Jeb Daws dies, but not before vowing revenge.
And then he becomes a ghost. You know, as you do. Although after earthquakes and demon eyes from previous issues, just a straight up ghost seems almost tame by comparison. At least the art is really, really good. For a Golden Age story, anyway. Heck, many comics from recent decades could only dream of being as good.
Second feature is “The Thing In The Pool” (from Tales of Horror #2, 1952), which inverts the revenge angle a bit. A builder of ultra modern homes is shocked to learn his secretary intends to marry another man, despite his own feelings for. He reacts as any sane man would.
He threatens to kill her if she doesn’t reconsider. Amazingly this doesn’t result in the couple informing the police about the guy’s death threats. Then again, we wouldn’t have a story if he just got arrested, so what can you do? You gotta get on the boat sooner or later.
One year later, and the builder gives the married couple a visit…and also a free mansion. Because that’s normal. And of course the thing has a trap waiting for the young couple, because our antagonist doesn’t know a thing about proportionate response. Or moving on.
This is one of those horror stories I like, where you have protagonists that, if not being exactly fleshed out enough to be liked in particular, one at least doesn’t wish any harm on them. I know I’ve talked about this before, but most modern horror films make the mistake that the story is about seeing a bunch of jerks being killed off one by one. Unfortunately, when you do that it becomes hard to care about what happens, and horror ceases to function. So it’s nice to have people I don’t mind rooting for.
Not that it ends all that well for them in the end. Or anyone, for that matter.
“Weird Worlds” (from Chamber of Chills #23, 1951) is not a story so much as a set of scenerios that have the potential to scare. It’s a one page list of “alternate dimensions” that contain things like destructive blobs, violent cavemen, and aquatic monsters. It’s not much to write home about, but they could be decent starting points for more fleshed out tales of terror.
“The Eyes In His Hand” (from Worlds of Fear #10, 1953) tells the tale of a (rather ugly) young lad trying to win a marbles tournament in order to use the prize money to pay the debt his mother owes their landlord. But said landlord has a terrible secret and hidden desires, which are centered on his twin glass eyes. Eyes like marbles (get the point yet?) that seem to hold mystical power.
Personally I didn’t much care for this story. The art gives rather bizarre expressions to its characters, to the point where most of the time the protagonist is depicted with his mouth agape, lips flapping disconcertingly. It’s also kind of complicated when all is said and done. You couldn’t just have the blind landlord be using magic glass eyes? They had to be tied directly into backstory involving the boy’s father and a boxing match? I swear the story channels part of Daredevil’s origin, or it would had this not come first. Except in this case the guy without sight is the villain.
I actually want to do a proper review of this story, if only because I wish I could explain all the weirdness of it.
Next is “Haunt From The Sea” (from Journey Into Fear #7, 1952). A woman sailing alone in the open ocean is caught in a storm and cast into the water. She finds herself in cave on a deserted island, with all her possessions neatly stacked beside her and her craft dragged ashore. But her savior was not a man, but some kind of sea humanoid…thing. And he’s actually not that bad, giving her a pearl necklace and letting her just leave.
But should she have just left? And what’s the see thing’s real agenda if not just being a good Samaritan? Well I sure as hell don’t know, since the story implies that what ultimately happens was all part of his plan. A plan that didn’t seem to have any kind of understandable goal, and which could not have been properly set up. This story was mostly just random, with elements of both Beauty and the Beast and Cast Away. Except neither normal household objects nor beach balls are given characters. And I don’t know why anything happened.
Last of the bunch of “One Man’s Poison” (from Mysterious Adventures #17, 1953). We’re introduced to the kindly old Norris couple, Ma and Pa. And they’re great people, so long as you ignore the fact that they’re vampires and murder traveling salesmen for their meals. This system they have of always feeding on strangers served the two well, allowing them to remain outside of suspicion in their community. But what happens when the strangers stop coming (probably do to all the weird disappearances) and the hunger still continues?
I rather liked this story. Despite being unrepentant murderer cannibals, Ma and Pa Norris are great to watch. It’s so refreshing to see vampires in fiction that aren’t brooding misanthropes, but rather people who just happen to have specific dietary requirements and a need to fulfill them. And they look like old people, unlike basically every modern vampire story where every strigoi is eternally young and beautiful in a necrotic sort of way.