HUMAN DOLL: A Novel

Human-Doll-Cover_Border_03-15-20HUMAN DOLL: A Novel by Mark McLaughlin
FREE on Kindle Unlimited:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085XN8D8P/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0863VPT35/ 

One by one, America’s most beautiful celebrities are dying. The murders are diabolically orchestrated so that the victims are subjected to extreme bodily destruction. These victims are all guests or cast members from two TV shows – a medical reality show and a talent competition for drag queens.

Male model December Storm appears as a guest on both shows. Dubbed a ‘human doll’ by the media, he regularly receives plastic surgery to enhance his looks. He is the founder of a modeling agency called HeadTurners, and is becoming one of America’s most popular, compelling celebrities. A private investigator is hired to look into the murders, and soon, it becomes clear that December needs to beware. He might be the next celebrity to die.

Mark McLaughlin’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies. He has written fiction and poetry collections for many publishers nationwide. HUMAN DOLL: A Novel is the first solo novel of this Bram Stoker Award-winning author.

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THE PRISONER OF CARCOSA & More Tales Of The Bizarre

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THE PRISONER OF CARCOSA & More Tales Of The Bizarre by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr. (Paperback)  $9.98
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1659240719
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1659240719

THE PRISONER OF CARCOSA presents tales of the bizarre, featuring Lovecraftian horrors, alien nightmares, oceanic monstrosities, an account of The King In Yellow, and much more. Many of these adventures have only been available so far on Kindle. This paperback collection is a companion volume to HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS, THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT, and CITY OF LIVING SHADOWS. 

In “The Prisoner Of Carcosa,” a traveler falls in love with one of the owners of the Golden Moon Bed & Breakfast. He doesn’t know that the owner’s family guards a copy of the accursed book, The King In Yellow, which brings madness to those who read it. He soon learns that when that evil book is near, a hideous creature known as the Seeker of the Yellow Sign isn’t far behind. 

“Horrors Of The Trash Island” presents a Lovecraftian tale of ecological horror. Millionaire Asher Bellworth and his staff take a cruise on his yacht to check out an area in the South Pacific said to be the location of R’lyeh. R’lyeh is a legendary city on a sunken island where the evil entity Cthulhu is said to be trapped in a temple. They see a massive trash island floating over Cthulhu’s realm, and discover that the trash island is inhabited by a bizarre array of deadly mutations, as well as a bizarre human inhabitant. 

“Yuletide Mementos: A Tale Of Lovecraftian Horror” is a sequel to Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.” The tale is set in the family home of Professor William Dyer, leader of an ill-fated Antarctic expedition conducted by Miskatonic University in 1930. When he returned, he brought back two trunks, which he stored in the attic. A young relative is now curious about those trunks, not realizing that they hold an ancient horror, waiting to be unleashed. 

In “Diabolical Entities And How To Deal With Them,” Professor Artemis LaGungo provides an overview of the demonic denizens of Hell, and tells how to resist their unholy temptations. 

“You Shall Have This Delicacy” tells of the world’s most powerful witch, who gathers her friends for a dinner party with a shocking agenda. 

Set in the far future, “Tell Your Secrets To The Slime” follows a band of space explorers to a polluted planet populated by a grotesque life-form that feeds on guilt and sorrow. Will they be able to escape the alien horror that threatens to destroy them?

Mark McLaughlin is the author of EMPRESS OF THE LIVING DEAD, BEST LITTLE WITCH-HOUSE IN ARKHAM and HIDEOUS FACES, BEAUTIFUL SKULLS, among other horror collections. With McLaughlin, Michael Sheehan, Jr. has co-authored the Lovecraftian paperbacks, HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS, THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT, and CITY OF LIVING SHADOWS, as well as the Kindle collections, THE ABOMINATIONS OF NEPHREN-KA, THE HORROR IN THE WATER TOWER, THE BLASPHEMY IN THE CANOPIC JAR, SHOGGOTH APOCALYPSE, THE RELIC IN THE EGYPTIAN GALLERY, THE CREATURE IN THE WAXWORKS, THE TESTAMENT OF CTHULHU, STAINLESS STEEL SARCOPHAGUS and more.

 

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Three Lovecraftian Paperbacks

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Three Companion Paperbacks of Lovecraftian Horror
by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.
Unearthly fantasy and horror tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, crawling with eldritch creatures.

CITY OF LIVING SHADOWS & More Lovecraftian Tales
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687570779
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1687570779

THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT & More Lovecraftian Nightmares
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1795518367/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1795518367/

HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1791560520/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1791560520/

Keep visiting http://www.BMovieMonster.com for more information on books by Mark McLaughlin and his collaborators!

 

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CITY OF LIVING SHADOWS & More Lovecraftian Tales

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City Of Living Shadows & More Lovecraftian Tales by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr. (Paperback)
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687570779
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1687570779

CITY OF LIVING SHADOWS presents unearthly fantasy and horror tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, crawling with Lovecraftian creatures. Most of these stories have only been available so far on Kindle. This paperback collection is a companion volume to HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos and THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT & More Lovecraftian Nightmares

In the title story, “City Of Living Shadows,” a glowing flower in a tropical solarium holds the key to a horrific onslaught of night-gaunts from the Dreamlands. Can the reason behind their attack be determined before they destroy even more of the waking world?

In the novelette “Pyramid Of The Shoggoths,” a Miskatonic University instructor learns the true location of the burial chamber of Queen Nerfertiti. With his assistant, he begins an adventure that takes them to a strange subterranean realm in Africa. There they meet Balyphus, the last Elder Thing remaining on Earth, and his inhuman companion, the British ghoul Williams. They soon learn that Williams isn’t the Elder Thing’s only friend. Balyphus has created a troop of rampaging shoggoths that can destroy anything in their path … including human weaponry.

In “The Black-And-White House,” a writer rents a small secluded house and for the first time in years, he is able to enjoy peace and quiet. But soon, he discovers he is not alone there. An author who had once lived in the house never really left, and he wants the new occupant to help him with an impossible task: creating a sequel to the accursed book, The King In Yellow, which drives anyone who reads it insane.

“The Ambassador From Ulthar” tells of a young man who cannot escape his fate after injuring a four-footed denizen of the Dreamlands. 

The collection’s second novelette, “The Idol In The Hedge Maze,” tells of mega-wealthy Neil Prentiss, founder and CEO of a multinational technology company. He lives in a magnificent mansion surrounded by a sprawling hedge maze. He has everything a person could want … but he is dying of cancer. While examining the journals of the mansion’s previous owner, Neil learns how to contact a member of the Great Race of Yith, an ancient race of brilliant, monstrous beings. The Yithian offers what seems to be a high-tech solution to Neil’s problems — if the millionaire is willing to accept a bizarre substitution for his human body….

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“The Power Of Azalareon” — A Story From HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS

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The Power Of Azalareon

by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Mamie Saunders walked along the beach, scanning the sand with her metal detector. So far, the morning had been good to her. She’d found about six dollars in loose change, as well as a nice gold bracelet. She wasn’t sure if the chain was made of actual gold, but it looked nice on her wrist, and that’s what really counted. She wasn’t hurting for money. She just liked scanning the beach because it gave her something interesting to do.

She lived in a stone tower that had once been a lighthouse, generations ago, back when the nearby village of Gilman’s Cove had been a larger community with a robust business district. But, the accursed town of Innsmouth was just a few miles away, and the profound troubles of this larger neighbor had cast their shadow on nearby villages. Over the years, Gilman’s Cove had dwindled to just a few random homes and shops, and the services of the lighthouse were no longer required.

Every now and then, couples from Innsmouth would visit the beach and hold picnics near her tower. It was a lovely stretch of beach, so it was no surprise that people wanted to spend time there. And even though the Innsmouth visitors never caused any problems, she still hated them. She hated their thin hair, sloping foreheads and receding chins – and she was thoroughly repulsed by their thick, wet lips and their equally wet, protruding eyes.

Of course, she had to admit that she herself wasn’t exactly a beauty queen. She wrote romance novels as her profession, and sitting for hours, typing and nibbling on constant snacks, wasn’t the sort of routine that led to the trim figure that so many of her heroines enjoyed. Often, she would look in the mirror and wonder what she would look like, if only she weighed a good forty pounds less. She had long, beautiful blonde tresses, but no one was asking her to let down her hair, Rapunzel-style.

Her tower, like most lighthouses, was located on a high point of the terrain – a cliff overlooking the ocean. From where she stood on the beach, she could see the mouth of the cave far below her tower’s cliff. She’d never entered the cave, even though it was on her land. It was partially submerged in water and surrounded by sharp rocks, so trying to reach the cave would have been quite an ordeal. But still, she liked to imagine what might be found in the cave. Pirate treasure, perhaps … wooden chests filled with magnificent gems and ancient gold coins.

She noticed a thin young man heading her way, walking from the direction of the village. He wore a long black coat and a heavy dark-red scarf. He had brown, curly hair and a wide, slightly lopsided smile.

“Hello there!” she shouted. “Can I help you with something?”

“I’m looking for a lighthouse!” he said, trotting up to her. He pointed toward her home. “And hey, there it is. Is it yours?”

“Sure is!” she said. “My name’s Mamie. What can I do for you?” She noticed that he was carrying a pen and notebook. Was he a writer, too?

“My name’s Simon Booth. I’m doing research on some local history. I’m majoring in Comparative Religion at Miskatonic University.”

Mamie smiled. “What kind of job will that major get you?”

He returned the smile. “Teaching Comparative Religion, naturally! I’m writing a paper on the worship of Dagon in Innsmouth, and–”

“Is that wise? The cult of Dagon is still active. That might not be the best topic to investigate.”

“I know what you’re getting at,” Simon said, “but actually, that portion of my research is finished. I had to interview a lot of sketchy folks. A few of them … I’m not even sure if they could be called human. I had some close calls. Now I need to do some exploring in this area to finish my project.”

“Do all students these days have to work so hard just to write a paper?”

Simon shook his head. “No, I just love the topic. I tend to throw myself into my projects.”

Mamie nodded. She liked this guy: he had guts. Pity he was way too young for her. “Let’s go inside. I’ll brew up some coffee and you can tell me about this exploring you need to do.”

Inside, Mamie led Simon to the kitchen and asked him to take a seat at the kitchen table while she made the coffee. She enjoying doing it the old-fashioned way, grinding the beans herself and using a stovetop percolator. “So what do you need to explore? If it’s this lighthouse, don’t bother. It’s not that interesting…. But, I love it. It’s home.”

“Actually, I’m interested in the cave beneath your tower,” Simon said. “At one time, it served as a place of worship for the god, Azalareon. I recently interviewed a man from Innsmouth, a worshiper of Dagon, who’s a little over eighty years old. He said he had attended a ritual in the cave, about fifty-five years ago.”

“He was over eighty – and still lived on land?” Mamie asked.

“I see you know more than most folks about Innsmouth ways,” Simon replied, surprised. “Yes, most of Dagon’s worshipers go to live in the sea in what would be considered their senior years. This particular man put off his transition because he had to care for his grandchildren. He never left the house – the kids took care of all the errands. He looked more like an enormous frog than a human being.”

“Good of him to help his grandchildren that way. I would’ve thought he’d abandon them and head out to sea.” Mamie handed him a mug of coffee and joined him at the table. She took two cubes from the sugar bowl and popped them in her own mug. “Help yourself to sugar. So this man had once attended a ritual in the cave?”

“Yes. He was taken to the ritual by his parents, who were members of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Apparently, they were curious about the cult of Azalareon.” Simon sampled his drink and grinned. “Delicious – thank you! Doesn’t even need sugar. It already has a unique sweetness to it. You should open a coffee shop.”

“You’re very kind. I soaked the beans in cherry brandy with a touch of honey. I’m afraid I have an awful sweet tooth. So what happened at this ritual?”

“The cult members presented a robed victim to the creature they worshiped. He said their god looked like a huge, worm-like thing with a hide covered with, as he put it, ‘little boneless fingers.’ It crawled up on the green stone altar and swallowed the sacrifice whole.” He took another swig from his mug. “He told me the thing was about the size of a limousine. Nice comparison, but not exactly a luxury ride for the victim.”

“I don’t know about the god, but it would be fantastic to see that altar,” Mamie said. “The problem is, it’s impossible to get into the cave. The entrance is mostly underwater and it’s surrounded by sharp rocks. Do you really want to risk getting past all that, just for a paper?”

“I don’t have to!” Simon said. “The old man said there’s a door to the cave hidden in your basement. That’s why I came to see you. I’d like to know if I can enter the basement and look for that door.”

“Oh yes, certainly! But I’ve been in that basement hundreds of times. I can’t believe there could be a door down there that I haven’t seen.” She finished her coffee and stood up. “Let’s look right now! I hope we find that door because I’m dying to see that green altar!” She crossed to the kitchen sink and started looking in the oak cabinet above it. “Here we go! My best flashlight.  Is there anything else you think we’d need?”

“Boots?” Simon said. “If we manage to find the door and enter the cave, it would be wet down there.”

“I have galoshes in the basement.” She looked at his feet. “Mine would fit you. I’ve got big feet! Come on, let’s go.” She walked to the door at the head of the basement stairs and turned on the lights.

“This is exciting!” Simon said as they descended the stairs. “We’ve just met and already we’ve got an adventure cooking!”

“An adventure? Oooh, I can’t remember the last time I had an adventure. It’s seems like I’ve been puttering around this old lighthouse since the day I was born.” At the base of the stairs, she looked through a large box of odds and ends. “Ah, here are the galoshes. Might as well put them on now. If we find the door, we’ll want to pass through it right away. Besides, it’s mucky down here and I don’t want you to ruin your shoes.”

Mamie and Simon slipped on the galoshes and searched the basement, looking behind the dozens of boxes stacked against the walls. The warped floorboards creaked under their weight. At one point, while shuffling across the floor, Simon stumbled, kicking up a corner of a matted brown rug.

“Are you okay?” Mamie asked.

“Yeah. I almost fell down, but I’m fine,” Simon said. “These boots are too big for me.”

“Oh, dear. I knew I had big feet, but I didn’t think they’d be that much bigger than yours.”

“Don’t feel bad. I just have small feet – my dad did, too.” He straightened out the rug. “Hey, have you ever looked under this thing before?”

“No. It was there when I moved in. It’s so filthy I don’t want to touch it.”

Simon pulled up the rug. It was stuck to the boards at different points, but he finally managed to remove it, piling the dirt-encrusted mess against the wall. He pointed at the exposed area. “Look, there’s our door!”

A wooden hatch had been built into the floor. Instead of a knob, a hinged brass ring was set into the hatch. Simon pulled up on the ring, revealing a stone stairway.

Mamie turned on the flashlight. “Do you want to lead, or shall I?”

Simon waved toward the opening. “It’s your property. Go ahead.”

The steps were coated with a thin, dark layer of slime or mold, so Mamie kept a hand on the wall to support herself as she walked down into the earth.

“So what is this Azalareon?” she said. “A monster? A demon?” The walls of the stairway were solid stone. Who had gone to all the trouble of chiseling a passageway out of solid stone? Whatever Azalareon was, its cult seemed to have some extremely dedicated members.

“Azalareon might just be an oceanic mutant that ignorant people have fed and pampered and adored as a god,” Simon said. ‘Perhaps it had been found by some members of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and they’d decided it needed worshipers.”

“But would it still be alive after all these years?” They had reached the base of the stairs, and now Mamie was shining her flashlight in a wide arc to check out their surroundings.

Before them stretched a huge cave. The ceiling and walls were covered with a thick layer of black slime, while the floor was submerged under swirling dark water. They stood on a rusted metal platform by the side of the water. An equally rusted, narrow bridge led to an island in the center of the cave. The enormous green stone altar that stood upon the island glittered in the light. It appeared to be covered with hundreds of small crystals.

As Mamie stared at the altar, an overpowering sense of déjà vu swept over her. Obviously she had never been in the cave before, and yet why did the altar seem so horribly familiar?

“So that altar … that’s where the sacrifice happened?” she whispered. “According to that old man?”

Simon nodded. “Yep. That’s where the Saunders woman died.”

“What? That’s my last name! What was her first name?”

“I don’t know. The old man didn’t say.”

Mamie began to breathe faster. “Oh, dear. Suddenly I feel sort of … dizzy. Maybe you’d better take the flashlight. I need to sit down.”

Simon took the flashlight from her. “There’s no place to sit here. It’s all rust and slime. Take my hand. I’ll clean a spot for us on that altar.”

Holding her hand, Simon guided Mamie across the bridge to the island. “Careful,” he said, “everything’s slippery.”

“So this … god,” she said. “This Azalareon. What can it do?”

“‘Do’? What do you mean?”

“Does it have any special powers? Does it fly? Open gateways to other planets? Things like that?”

“Good question. The old man said it was able to change reality to meet its needs, but that could mean anything. I mean, technically, a person changes reality when he does the dishes or switches the channel.” He passed the beam of the flashlight over her face for a moment. “You’re looking pretty pale. Hang on, we’re almost there.”

Once they reached the altar, Simon pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped off a section of green stone. “There we are….”

He turned around and shined the flashlight at Mamie again.

But she wasn’t there.

Instead, he found himself staring into the hungry open maw of what appeared to be a gigantic albino sea cucumber. Its fleshy white body was covered with thousands of writhing cilia. Azalareon lunged forward, forcing Simon down onto the altar. He tried to push the horror away and his hand slipped into its mouth. Its swollen lips immediately closed around his wrist. Soon his hand felt like it was being bathed in acid. When he was finally able to pull it out, the flesh had been dissolved away and steaming bones were all that remained.

Azalareon slipped its gaping maw over Simon’s head. It continued to work more and more of the young man’s body into its ravenous mouth, until at last it had encased its victim, just as a hungry python eases a young goat through its expandable jaws to consume it.

Azalareon heaved its bloated body onto the altar to sleep. The god did not feed often, but when it did, it fed well and needed to rest afterward.

Hours later, the sleeper awoke.

The thing now resembled Simon in every way. The flashlight had died, but he did not need the light to find its way back out of the cave and into the building’s living quarters.

Naked and dripping with slime, Simon walked to the bathroom and took a long, refreshing shower. When he was finished, he slipped on his bathrobe. He wondered, for just a brief moment, why his plaid bathrobe was hanging from a hook on the back of the door in this strange bathroom…. But the thought passed almost immediately.

Everything in the lighthouse now belonged to Simon, including the lighthouse itself. Reality had changed to meet his needs.

Later, as he ground the sweetened beans to make his coffee, he thought for a moment about changing the theme of his paper to a comparison of Catholics to Protestants. But then he thought … what paper? It’s not like he was taking any classes. He never went to the city.

He lived alone in the tower outside of Gilman’s Cove. It wasn’t all that interesting, but he loved it.

It was home.

 

——————-
HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr. is available as a 248-page paperback on Amazon.com:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1791560520/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1791560520/

 

Be sure to visit and Like https://www.facebook.com/HorrorsAndAbominations/ — the Facebook page for Lovecraftian books and ebooks by McLaughlin and Sheehan.

“The Power Of Azalareon” by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr. ©2018 Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

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“The Gateway to Carcosa” – A Story from HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS

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Below you will find the story, “The Gateway to Carcosa,” from the Lovecraftian fiction collection, HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.  Enjoy!

The paperback collection is available on Amazon: 
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1791560520/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1791560520/

You can also watch a reading of this story at:

The Gateway To Carcosa

by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

This is the thing that troubles me, for I cannot forget Carcosa, where black stars hang in the heavens, where the shadows of men’s thoughts lengthen in the afternoon, when the twin suns sink into the Lake of Hali, and my mind will bear forever the memory of the Pallid Mask.

– Robert W. Chambers, “The Repairer Of Reputations”
 

As Ethan drove his midnight-blue Cadillac into the parking lot of the Aylesbury Public Library, he noticed something odd about the ivy-draped brick building. The frames of the doors and windows were all painted gold-metallic. He thought it seemed like an overly flashy touch for a humble small-town library in Massachusetts. But then, he pondered, why did a library have to be considered humble? Maybe there was something marvelous inside. Perhaps even regal. Certainly, that was what he hoped.

He had no problem finding a parking space near the front door: only one other car was in the lot. He entered the library and wondered if they’d forgotten to turn on some of the lights. The interior of the building was unusually dim. The windows were located high on the walls, and the slant of the sunlight coming in didn’t seem to reach the floor.

He soon saw the driver of the other vehicle. Clearly it had to be the librarian at the front desk. She was a slender, pale woman with dark, sleepy eyes. Her long black hair hung down from her scalp like a wet curtain. For one unnerving moment, she seemed to resemble a drowning victim, risen from the depths. She looked up with a polite smile and the illusion passed.  

He walked up to the desk. “Good morning. My name is Roger Clarence. I understand you have a rare book here entitled The King In Yellow. Would it be possible for me to look at it today?”

The clerk’s smile drooped into an expressive frown. “Look at it?” Her voice was surprisingly low and raspy. “Do you not intend to read it?”

“Well, of course I intend to read it,” he said. “That goes without saying.”

“Not necessarily,” she said. “If you only wanted to give it a cursory examination, I could grant such a request immediately. But if you wish to sit down and read it, I will first need to acquire the permission of the Executive Director. Then I will need to set up a private room in which you can read it, free of distractions.”

What distractions? Roger wondered. The place is empty except for the two of us. “Sorry, I misunderstood. Yes, I intend to read it. If you need to call your Director, go ahead.”

“The Executive Director is in the building,” she said, “but he’s very busy. I’ll tell him you wish to read the book. I’ll see what can be done for you. In the meantime, you’re free to look around, of course.”

“Thank you, I will.”

Roger began to wander through the dim rows of books. It soon became apparent that the facility’s collection was mediocre at best. His favorite library, located on the campus of Arkham’s Miskatonic University, had a larger and more extensive selection, but the one thing it did not have was a copy of The King In Yellow, which he needed to see.

He only knew a few facts about the book. The text was the script of a two-act play set in the mythical city of Carcosa, near the mist-shrouded lake of Hali. The title character was a supernatural entity, apparently both a demon and royalty, who interacts with two women of the city, Camilla and Cassilda. And, Roger’s elderly father, Graham, had spent his final years in a private mental institution because he had read the book all the way through.

For several months before he died, Graham pleaded with Roger to help find the key to the Gateway to Carcosa. The old man had read the book at the library in his hometown of Aylesbury and by reading the book, he knew there was a Gateway to this ancient, beautiful city.

“If I could show people the Gateway,” Graham had said, “they would know I am not insane. Help me find the Key. Once I have it, the Gateway will present itself to me. Then I can show it to others. They will know there’s nothing wrong with me. People say reading The King In Yellow can drive a person insane. I say it can reveal the path to the wonderful reality beyond the world we know. Be my clever boy, Roger. Find the Key.”

If only he hadn’t laughed when his father told him those things. He couldn’t help but laugh: it all sounded so silly … so theatrical and bizarre. The look on Graham’s face was the definitive image of despair. The next day, the old man killed himself by cutting his own throat with a broken bottle.

Roger realized too late that he had destroyed his father by not believing him. But what if Graham had been right?

Clearly Roger needed to know the truth about The King In Yellow. The only way to do so would be to find the book and try it figure it all out.

As he wandered through the library, he passed the entrance of a hallway which seemed darker than most. As he looked down the hall, he noticed a metallic gleam. The gleam then shifted and took the form – or rather, the silhouette – of a tall, robed man wearing an elaborate crown, or perhaps headdress. The silhouette seemed to be cut from a sheet of burnished gold. It shifted again and within a second, disappeared from sight.  

He walked down the hall, hoping to catch sight of the gold silhouette again. He noticed a door with a window of frosted glass at the far end. The glass glowed pale gold. Was the room beyond lit by a yellow bulb? That didn’t make any sense. The builders had probably installed yellow glass in the door’s window – perhaps for the same odd reason that had compelled them to paint the outside window and door frames gold-metallic.

He turned to walk back to the bookstacks, but instead found himself entering a large hallway from which branched dozens of smaller halls. This can’t be right, he thought. The building isn’t big enough. This doesn’t make sense.

He crossed the major hall to enter a smaller one, and again found himself staring at the gleaming silhouette of burnished gold. This time, the silhouette was closer, and he noticed a thin slit running down the middle of the metal sheet. Like before, the vision shifted and disappeared. He walked down this hall and at its end, found another door with a glowing pane of glass.

He walked back to the main hallway and found, to his confusion, that it was now much narrower. He walked briskly up the hallway, passing dozens of side halls. Finally he stopped. The distance he’d walked had to be at least four times longer than the actual building, and yet he wasn’t making any progress.

This place isn’t big enough to be a labyrinth, he thought. There’s no way I can be lost, yet I am. Maybe I just need to call out to the librarian. She can tell me what’s happening.

“Miss?” he shouted. “Miss, can you hear me?”

He waiting, listening, but couldn’t hear a thing. He glanced down a side hall and saw the glint of gold again. He hurried toward it. Soon it became the gold silhouette, shaped like a crowned man – but before it came within reach, it shifted and disappeared.

He continued walking and sure enough, there was another door with glowing glass. Clearly his only option was to pass through. He was about to grab the knob when the door was opened from the other side.

“Oh, there you are,” said the dark-haired librarian. “Sorry I took so long. The Executive Director is very busy today, so I had wait a while for him to see me. Come right in.”

Speechless and confused, Roger nodded and entered what appeared to be a simple office with a wooden desk and chair, as well as several filing cabinets. He took just a moment to examine the glass in the door and it was indeed tinted a light shade of amber.

“Is there something wrong with the glass?” the librarian said with a frown.

Roger shrugged. “No, not  at all.” He noticed she held a sheaf of papers. “What do you have there?”

“The book, of course.” She set the sheaf on the desk. “Or rather, photocopies of the pages. We keep these copies on hand to satisfy requests like yours. The book is too valuable to allow people to handle it. The Executive Director said you can read it in this form.” She tapped the sheaf with her forefinger. “I should add, this is a photocopy of the true, unaltered edition. Years ago, a gentleman asked to read the book. At the time, we also owned an inferior copy from an edited printing. Our current Director wasn’t working here then, so we didn’t recognize it for what it was. The imperfect edited version left out vital knowledge, and sadly, it left left the reader in question so confused … so addled.… Let’s just say the results were not optimal.”

With a sad smile, she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Roger sat down and began to read.

The hours passed as he pored over page after page of The King In Yellow. He soon found himself entranced by the customs, rituals and pageantry of the mythical city of Carcosa. The play was written so beautifully, with such soul-flaying tenderness, that he found himself brought to tears many times.

As he neared the end of Act One, he began to wonder if in fact, Carcosa was the real sharp-edged world and his own dull reality was the myth. He learned about the Pallid Mask and the cries it made in the Tower that Ascends Forever. He read on into Act Two, even as the walls of the room began to fade away. He did not question the fact that the room’s door was still standing. Its pane of amber glass shone like a warm, inviting dawn. Heavy mists from the Lake of Hali encircled him. Overhead, three moons drifted into view in an impossible sky flecked with black stars.

The gold silhouette appeared before him, and having read about the King and the Pallid Mask, he knew now: this was the Gateway to Carcosa. His father had only read the edited version, and so, did not know what he was asking when he asked Roger to find the Key for him.

Roger could never have handed him the Key to the Gateway because in fact, the Key was Death.

Roger walked to the amber glass and shattered it with his fist. Taking up a shard, he ran the sharp edge across his throat. Hot blood spurted from his neck, but he didn’t feel any pain. The slit down the middle of the Gateway opened up and the two halves swung open.

Ahead, he saw his father standing in a glorious garden. A robe of white silk was draped around his narrow shoulders. Behind him, flowering vines crept up a gold-metallic trellis. By his side stood a fine-boned, silver-haired woman, holding an exquisite blood-red orchid. A peacock of gleaming midnight-blue strutted toward her. She extended the flower and laughed as the bird pecked it to shreds.

Tears of happiness streaming down his face, Roger hurried through the Gateway.

The old man looked his way and smiled. “Look, Cassilda!” cried the old man. “My Roger has found the Key! What a clever boy!”

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At The Mustache Of Madness: Revisiting “The Dunwich Horror”

mark-tentacles


by Mark McLaughlin

It can’t be easy, trying to make a movie out of an H.P. Lovecraft story.

If you’re a fan of his work, you might wonder why there aren’t more Lovecraftian movies. After all, his stories are all so thrilling and imaginative….

But, there are some technical issues to consider. Personally, I delight in everything that Lovecraft ever wrote, but I do realize he was writing for the printed page – not the big screen.

For one thing, most of his stories feature hybrid deities whose bizarre forms could easily confuse movie viewers. People who aren’t familiar with these creatures might think, “What’s the deal with that big fat lizard-guy with the tentacle-beard and bat-wings? Is he a demon, an alien, a mutant, a deep-sea creature or what? Why is he always asleep at the bottom of the ocean? What’s so scary about that?”

Lovecraft’s creatures carry a considerable amount of back-story, which can be imparted in a story with relative ease. But it can be tricky, trying to convey all that exposition in a movie. I suppose you could give the hero an assistant who asks a lot of questions, like any one of Dr. Who’s companions. Still, that can get tiresome before long.

How do you casually explain, on-screen, the basics of a character as wildly convoluted as Nyarlathotep? “Well, you see, he’s sort of a shape-changing demon from another dimension. He’s known as the Crawling Chaos, though I’ve never seen him crawling around. When he visits Earth, he likes to dress up as a young Egyptian pharaoh. No one really knows why.”

Also, Lovecraft’s deities/creatures are often divided up into groups that don’t sound all that different. There are the Great Ones, the Outer Gods, the Great Old Ones, the Elder Gods, and the Elder Things. Okay, most of them are really old and/or great … yeah, we get it. The real question is, who gave these groups those names? They sure didn’t name themselves. For example, the Elder Things were huge, winged aliens with heads shaped like starfish. They would’ve been more likely to call themselves the Huge Things, the Winged Things, or the Starfish-Headed Things, instead of just referring to how long they’ve been around.

American International Pictures released the Lovecraft tale, “The Dunwich Horror,” as a movie back in 1970, and it’s clear they had to make a lot of hard decisions about how closely they would adhere to the original plot.

In the written story, the lead character, Wilbur Whateley, was the hybrid son of a human woman and the cosmic entity Yog-Sothoth. Wilbur was a freakishly tall, misshapen humanoid with a riotous conglomeration of unearthly limbs and organs. Obviously that would have been an expensive challenge for the production company’s make-up department.

That’s probably why they hired a handsome hunk, Dean Stockwell, for the part … that, and the fact that he was far more visually appealing than some transdimensional body-part casserole. Of course, they did want him to look somewhat sinister, so they gave him a sinister mustache. It really was an awesomely thick mustache … a veritable mustache of madness. I suspect they also made his hair curlier, and his eyebrows bushier, to make him look randy and satyresque.

The original story didn’t have a romantic interest, which is no surprise to Lovecraft readers. Fiction-wise, romance was not Lovecraft’s strong suit. Love – and women, for that matter –  rarely figured into any of his plots. That must be why Sandra Dee was brought into the film. A nationally released movie without an element of romance isn’t going to get very far.

The print version of “The Dunwich Horror” made readers wonder whether or not ancient monstrosities would take over the Earth and destroy humanity. The movie version made viewers wonder whether or not Nancy, the perky coed played by Sandra Dee, would finally lose her virginity to Arkham’s handsome mystic outcast.

One of my favorite moments in the movie comes shortly after the distinguished Dr. Armitage asks Nancy, who helps out in Miskatonic University’s library, to take care in putting away the priceless Necronomicon. Nancy agrees, but in no time at all, she allows Wilbur Whateley to browse through the ancient grimoire because he has “great eyes.” I’m glad she’s not in charge of national security….

Later, in the movie’s saucy ritual scenes, one cannot help but notice that Wilbur has propped up the Necronomicon on Nancy’s luscious body. At one point, he even has to part her legs a bit to get a better look at … the book, presumably.

We’re entering spoiler territory now, so please, don’t read on if you plan on watching the movie and would like to be surprised.

Certainly the movie’s most dramatic scene is when Wilbur and Dr. Armitage have their final face-off at the pagan altar site. Out of the blue, they begin to jabber occult phrases at each other that sound like words being hollered backwards. Apparently, the good doctor is better at jabbering, and has learned a higher quality of backward buzzwords. His occult cries cause Wilbur to burst into flames, and the defeated lad falls screaming off a nearby cliff.

At that moment, Wilbur’s supernatural, snake-tressed twin brother decides to make the scene. But by then, Wilbur has perished, the magic has dissipated, so the twin must depart for some Yog-Sothothian limbo. I was hoping that the twin would look like a giant mustache, composed of thousands of slender tentacles, but I suppose such an expensive effect would have been beyond the production’s budget.

Will there ever come a day when Lovecraftian movies are as popular as superhero movies? Probably not. Like I said: For most viewers, they’d require too much explanation. Lovecraft’s fictional world is filled with otherworldly concepts and pseudo-scientific mysteries, and that’s the way it should be. He wished to generate a profound sense of cosmic awe, leaving readers with more questions than mere words could ever answer.

The movie “The Dunwich Horror” is certainly enjoyable, but it doesn’t capture the dark, brooding brilliance of Lovecraft’s story. At least it presents many of the written tale’s marvelous concepts and inventive plot points … and really, that’s good enough. Hopefully, many of the folks who have seen the movie have found and enjoyed the source material, ushering new devotees into Lovecraft’s literary domain.

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An Excerpt From HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos

starfish

HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1791560520/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1791560520/

Below is an excerpt from “The Thing From Beyond The Living Door” – one of the many tales in this paperback collection:

I asked Caspar about the scuttering sound and was surprised to learn that he’d actually witnessed its source. He hadn’t mentioned it to anyone because the whole incident was so outlandish, he’d figured that no one would believe him.
Shortly after midnight on a Saturday, he’d happened to be awake, watching a late movie with the sound turned down so it wouldn’t disturb other tenants. It was then that he heard the sound in the hallway. It only took a moment to cross to the door and open it.

He looked down the hall and there he saw it – a nimble, hideous thing, at least five feet long and three feet high. Caspar said that it looked like a starfish with seven legs, covered with black-velvet fur. It moved by running on the tips of its limbs, with its body held up in the air. On the top of its body, at the root of each limb, were flexible stalks that ended in glistening, spiderlike eyes, as red as rubies. He added that he could not see a mouth anywhere on the creature’s bizarre body.

The thing did not seem to notice him as it scuttered quickly down the hall. Caspar went back inside his room, but afterward, he wished he had followed to see where it was going.

“I have no idea what a thing like that could be,” I said. “It sounds like a weird cross between a land mammal and a sea-creature, but such a thing just doesn’t exist.”

“I know. It’s just impossible! I wouldn’t have told you about it if you hadn’t asked me about that noise.” Caspar shrugged. “I suppose it was all a dream. But still, can you smell things in a dream? That thing was close enough for me to smell it. Like ammonia.”

“Sometimes I smell ammonia in the halls,” I said. “I just assume Mrs. Veng has been doing some scrubbing.” I thought for a moment. “Can you show me where it might have gone after it ran off?”

 

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For Movie Lovers: The Top 10 Accidental Comedies Of All Time

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Every now and then, a movie comes along that was clearly meant to be a riveting, thrilling drama – but somewhere along the line, its creators went overboard and the movie inadvertently shifted into a comedic gear. That’s what I call an accidental comedy – a type of movie I dearly love. Below, I’ve listed what I consider to be the top 10 accidental comedies of all time. You can find most of these films on YouTube and/or DVD collections of vintage movies.

I’ve arranged these movies chronologically, since I’d be hard-pressed to arrange them by their quality. With movies like these, how can you tell which one is best … or worst? An early warning: Some of the write-ups below contain spoilers, so if there’s a movie in the list you haven’t seen yet and you want to be surprised, you might want to skip reading that particular paragraph.

MANIAC (1934) – When you think of cheap, sleazy horror movies, you don’t usually think of films from the 1930s. In that regard, watching MANIAC will expand your knowledge of movie history exponentially. Basically, this is a convoluted retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat,” featuring a mad doctor who wants to raise the dead. The doctor’s assistant kills him and then begins to impersonate him with zesty aplomb (I told you it was convoluted!). The assistant then shoots up a patient named Buckley with the wrong drug and before you know it, poor addled Buckley is dragging a half-naked corpse around the countryside. Somehow cats get roped into the action and, per the “Black Cat” plotline, a dead body in the wall makes a cameo appearance. The feverish wall-to-wall over-acting makes this an inadvertent comedy classic.

THE GIANT CLAW (1957) – At last there will come a day when the Earth has to face its greatest opponent: a giant space-bird that apparently lives to destroy. The whole world quakes with fear as this fine feathered extraterrestrial ruins lives, vehicles and real estate at a dizzying rate. We are told it is as big as a battleship, and that it came from an antimatter galaxy. It all sounds perfectly horrifying, but alas, cries of terror give way to gales of laughter when we see that the creature looks like a demented, googly-eyed, turkey-vulture piñata. Apparently, that was the best that the producer could afford…. But hey, maybe aliens DO look like demented, googly-eyed, turkey-vulture piñatas. Who can say?

BLACK SUNDAY (1960) – Many people consider BLACK SUNDAY to be a horror classic … and it is! It is an elegant production that tells a brooding tale of death, black magic, and revenge. Actress Barbara Steele is entrancing as the lovely, evil witch, Asa Vajda. I’m sure there are plenty of people who watch this movie without laughing. But, I’ve seen it many times, and the more you watch it, the more you realize that there’s waaay too much talky, repetitive exposition. Authoritative characters explain every little thing down to the last detail, and that evil witch should does like to gloat, monologuing with more gusto than the villain in any James Bond movie. This is one movie where the inadvertent humor grows on you with repeated viewings.

THE GREEN SLIME (1968) – This energetic American/Japanese production has one of the most exuberant theme songs you’ll ever hear, and certainly will never forget! The lyrics include these thought-provoking questions: “Is it something in your head? Will you believe it when you’re dead?” Astronauts are sent into space to destroy a huge asteroid heading toward Earth, and some green ooze from the surface of the asteroid smears on their outfits. After they blow up the asteroid, they return to their space station. The asteroid ooze soon grows into green, one-eyed monsters with tentacles, and while they try their best to be frightening, the aliens are really just goofy little Cthulhu-wannabes. There’s drama galore throughout the movie, but all the rubbery space-goobers are more of a humorous distraction than a threat.

GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (1971) – Most old Godzilla movies have amusing aspects to them, and most of that humor relates to the rubbery suit of the title monster. In this one, the Smog Monster, also known as Hedorah, is even more bizarre and comical than Big G. Like the little space-goobers in THE GREEN SLIME, Hedorah is goofy, rubbery, and more adorable than abhorrent. In the big face-off at the end, Godzilla goes to such great lengths to finish off Hedorah that the battle takes on a distinctly wacky tone. The movie features a few short cartoon sequels with ecological messages, and those also add notes of whimsy to the movie.

INFRA-MAN (1975) – INFRA-MAN was certainly meant to be a fun movie, since the characters, for the most part, are bold and cartoonish. But, it was obviously written as a superhero action movie, as opposed to a comedy. A scientist turns a colleague into a bionic hero named Infra-Man to defend the world against the evil Princess Dragon Mom and her devilish mutant followers – namely, She Demon, Giant Beetle Monster, Octopus Mutant, Emperor of Doom, Driller Beast, Laser Horn Monster, and the twin Iron Fist Robots. The funniest aspect of the movie isn’t the action or the characters – it’s the grandiose dialogue. For example, when Princess Dragon Mom first addresses the Earth, she states: “Greetings to you, Earthlings! I am Princess Dragon Mom. I have taken over this planet. Now I own the Earth and you’ll be my slaves for all eternity!” Wow, nice way to greet her new neighbors. Later, the scientist tries to intimidate the forces of evil by saying, “No matter how potent your weapons are, you’ll be defeated because Infra-Man is invincible against them!” The entire movie is filled with this same high-power, hilarious degree of bravado.

EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977) – THE EXORCIST is considered one of the best horror movies of all time. EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, on the other hand, is considered one of the worst movies of all time … and rightly so. Linda Blair returns to her role as Regan, now recovered from her exorcism ordeal, and Richard Burton plays Philip Lamont, a troubled priest. Father Lamont has been sent by the church to investigate the original exorcism and Father Merrin’s death, which had resulted from that exorcism. The movie goes in many strange directions, and some are laughably bizarre. For example, locusts figure heavily into the plot. Who would have guessed? We find out the demon Pazuzu is a sort of locust demon, and that for reasons too lengthy to explain, Regan now knows how to perform a dance to drive off locust swarms! Also, there’s a machine called a Synchronizer that can align two people’s brainwaves, and the scene with that device is weird, wild and fairly ridiculous. I would like to add, even though it’s awful, I happen to enjoy many awful movies, and I’ve watched EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC at least a dozen times over the years.

CALIGULA (1979) – CALIGULA is a historical drama about a Roman emperor, and its stars include Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole and Sir John Gielgud. The movie also contains explicit orgy scenes (FYI, the distinguished performers named aren’t orgy participants). Surprised by all that adult content? Well, you probably shouldn’t be, since Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse magazine, was also a producer and director. CALIGULA’s most outrageous performances come from McDowell and O’Toole – both excel in their mad, lust-crazed roles. I suppose it’s a bit of a stretch to call it an accidental comedy … it’s more of an intentional porno. But I do think you’ll laugh at Peter O’Toole’s gloriously rambunctious performance. You’ll also laugh with surprise at many of this movie’s various naughty jests and antics.

MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) – Faye Dunaway played Joan Crawford in MOMMIE DEAREST, and certainly she sank her teeth into the role. The movie tells how Crawford was an abusive foster mother, as well as a compulsive perfectionist and neat-freak. She wanted to control every aspect of her world, and became overly upset when things didn’t go her way. The character’s behavior is so extreme that most viewers cannot help but laugh at her bombastic emotional excesses. The movie eventually became known as an unintentional comedy after its release. For that reason, the film has ascended to cult-movie status – an acknowledged best-of-the-worst classic.  

KING KONG LIVES (1986) – KING KONG LIVES is the sequel to the 1976 remake of the original KING KONG from 1933. In this sequel, we find out that after King Kong fell off the World Trade Center, he was kept alive in a coma at a facility called the Atlanta Institute. How did Kong’s fall from the World Trade Center not shatter his bones to bits? Darned if I know! Kong’s doctor, played by Linda Hamilton, wants to bring the big guy out of his long-term slumber, but he needs a major transfusion before that can happen. Eventually a female giant primate, Lady Kong, is found in the Borneo area and becomes the donor Kong needs. Once the blood situation is squared away, Kong is given a gigantic artificial heart and restored to a mobile lifestyle. Kong then gets mixed up with Lady Kong and sure enough, runs afoul of civilization again, escapes … and is marked for death. It took so much time and effort for us humans to wake him up, only for us to decide he needs to die. Humans sure are fickle! Along the way, Kong fathers an adorable Kong Jr. Aaaawww! KING KONG LIVES tickles me because it makes precious little sense … but still, it ambles and shambles along with carefree confidence.

There you have it – my list of the top ten accidental comedies of all time. I do want to stress, this list isn’t etched in stone. Certainly I’ve seen thousands of movies over the years, but I know I haven’t seen every movie ever made. But rest assured, I’m working on it!

 

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THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT & More Lovecraftian Nightmares

tigerman-house

THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT & More Lovecraftian Nightmares by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1795518367/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1795518367/

THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT presents tales of Lovecraftian fantasy and horror, as well as an epic poem regarding the return of Nyarlathotep to the modern world. Most of these adventures have only been available so far on Kindle. This paperback collection is a companion volume to HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 TALES OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS, and has been released for readers who prefer holding books, as opposed to devices.

Stories in this collection include “The House Of The Ocelot,” “Queen Of The Vultures,” “The Foul One Lives To Destroy: A Tale Of The Dreamlands,” “Shoggoth Apocalypse,” “The Glorious Return Of Herbert West,” “The Last Witch-House,” “Stainless Steel Sarcophagus,” and many more.

The collection also includes the epic poem, “The Arrival Of Our New Master: A Lovecraftian Armageddon.” People believe that Caliban Storm, son of wealthy Bernard Storm, offers the wisdom and guidance that the world has needed for so long. But in truth, there is something very wrong with handsome young Caliban. He is in fact an avatar of Nyarlathotep, a malevolent deity also known as the Crawling Chaos. Caliban Storm presents the world with a series of amazing technological advances as he rises in power. But, each advance comes with monstrous surprises, and it soon becomes apparent that Caliban has a nightmare agenda in store for the Earth….

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