A Gothic, Cosmic, and Psychological Lifetime of Horror: The 16 Greatest Short Stories from Robert Bloch

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

Robert Bloch wrote literature that ranged from the psychologically terrifying to the downright “weird” horror; his inspiration stemmed both from watching his first scary film on his own as a child—and his subsequent nightmares—and his admiration for the stylistic horror of H.P. Lovecraft. His stories, however, are and always will be uniquely Robert Bloch, a genius in psychological horror with a splash of the supernatural. His deep interest in serial killers brought back anti-heroes like Norman Bates and Jack the Ripper.

“The Shambler From The Stars” (1935)

This particular short story first appeared in the September issue of Weird Tales, in 1935—later on, it was included as a part of his first published book, The Opener of the Way (1945). It was one of the many works that bore the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and can be considered part of the genre of cosmic horror. More than just another author following the footsteps of Lovecraft, Bloch still included elements of Lovecraftian influence, such as the inclusion of The Necronomicon, and The Book of Eibon. Deliciously self-indulgent, Bloch’s story is about a writer of weird fiction obsessed with learning all things occult when he looks to find the aforementioned esoteric tomes of forbidden knowledge. As we all know when it comes to Eldritch cosmic horror, this writer inevitably summons something disastrous.

“The Secret in the Tomb” (1935)

Another instance of cosmic horror in the early days of Bloch’s writing career, it has been compared directly to the stylistic literature of the father of cosmic horror himself—to the point that, if the author of this had been unknown, it would have been assumed to have been a product of Lovecraft. This dark, dank tale of eldritch horror and dread is lurking, just beyond sight, and awaiting the arrival of the last descendant of a long line of sorcerers.

“The Mannikin” (1937)

Another Weird Tales original, published in the April edition in 1937, we get a tale of a strange reclusive and a disfigured, hunchbacked man named Simon, whom the locals all despise. As a short story, of course, it doesn’t take long to find that this cosmic horror is based all around the diabolical hump on Simon’s back—just wait until you find out what the hump really is.

“The Sorcerer’s Jewel” (1939)

This is a story that Bloch originally published under the pen name Tarleton Fiske in Strange Stories Magazine, in 1939; in this story we see a similarity to “A Shambler in the Stars” when we follow a photographer who takes incredibly bizarre photos as his life’s passion. While he doesn’t believe in the occult, his assistant happens to be a devotee of a peculiar occult practice and everything changes when the photographer is brought an ancient jewel.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” (1943)

Over the years, Robert Bloch’s short story “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” has been adapted to various mediums following its publication—the story is about a man from Chicago who is approached by a gentleman from England who tells him that he’s looking for Jack the Ripper. This, of course, is strange on its own as the infamous serial killer should have died years before. The Englishman believes that Jack the Ripper has become immortal through occult means and that his serial murders are actually ritual sacrifices that restore his youth. The man from Chicago is enlisted to help to bring the Ripper to light.

“Satan’s Phonograph” (1946)

A slow burn for a short story, this haunting tale follows the narrator down memory lane as he tells the reader about the ingenious, but wildly mad piano teacher that helped him to reach Carnegie Hall—but when the pupil returns from his tours across Europe with his new wife in tow, he finds that his old teacher had been institutionalized—when his insane old teacher shows up in his house with a seemingly innocent phonograph and his wild theories, the narrator believes his teacher is simply delusional.

“Sweets To The Sweet” (1947)

Bloch spins the thread of a sinister six-year-old girl, following the narrative of the housekeeper as she speaks to her former boss’s brother, who happens to be a lawyer. The housekeeper encourages the lawyer to look into what she believes to be a brutally abusive situation between father and daughter. She tells the brother about all of the signs of alcoholism and beatings, while the child is accused of witchcraft. When the lawyer finally goes to investigate what is happening in his brother’s home, he finds out that the truth may be more disturbing than he expects.

“Floral Tribute” (1949)

An eerie tale of a young boy being raised by his grandmother brings her fresh flowers home every day—it’s not until the inhabitants of the local cemetery come to speak with the grandmother that she finds out that he has been taking them from the graves of the nearby graveyard, where he plays among the tombstones.

“The Shadow From The Steeple” (1950)

Yet another story based in the Lovecraft universe, Bloch starts the story off with the friend of a character Lovecraft had killed in his short story “The Haunter in the Dark” whom Lovecraft had modeled after Bloch himself. A convoluted and dark fictional tale based on Lovecraft and his circle of writers, we get to see the authors appearing as characters of their own making. As another story within the Cthulhu Mythos, we see how involved Bloch was still within the Lovefcraft style even at this point in his career.

“Head Man” (1950)

An interesting spin on Nazi Germany’s obsession with the occult and paranormal, a SS executioner puts everything on the line to keep possession of the heads of a man and woman who had been charged with witchcraft and executed as a result.

“The Hungry House” (1951)

A tale that will once again make you fear your own reflection in a mirror; “The Hungry House” takes place after a couple moves into their new home. As they try to get comfortable in their new house they begin to see spooky inexplicable reflections around the house and dismiss it as being an overactive imagination. It’s not until the husband finds the locked closet in the attic that they realize something is incredibly wrong with their house—in it are all of the mirrors that the previous owners had removed from the walls of the house.

“Notebook Found in an Abandoned House” (1951)

This story is told from a notebook found in an abandoned house, which was written by a twelve-year-old boy by the name of Willy Osborne who is trapped within the house by the sinister beasts, or “them ones,” that stalk him from within the woods and swamps that surround the house. “Them ones,” that Willy is scared might come and get him are monstrous, Lovecraftian elder creatures who used to be take sacrifices to be appeased.

“The Light-House” (1953)

This particular short story took special influence from a story that Edgar Allan Poe began before his death in 1849, but was never able to finish; in 1953 Bloch took this unfinished short story, finished it, polished it up, and then had it published. As such, it is considered a posthumous collaboration. It follows the pursuits of a nobleman who takes a job as a lighthouse keeper, so he may write in solitude. His loneliness gets the better of him in this weird and satisfyingly dark tale, when he tries to psychically summon a companion.

“House of the Hatchet” (1955)

A couple with a relationship on the rocks decides to take their a second honeymoon on the road—on their trip they end up stopping at a haunted tourist attraction, where the story goes that a husband had killed his wife with a hatchet in one of the rooms. When they decided to take a tour of this haunted house, the husband begins to feel a heavy dark presence in the room where the murder was said to have occurred…

“Terror In Cut Throat Cove” (1958)

Considered a horror adventure tale, “Terror In Cut Throat Cove” follows the tale of an American writer who is approached by a treasure-hunting duo; they end up recruiting him to help them locate this long-lost legendary ship that sunk with a massive fortune aboard because the writer has an undeniable fondness for the girlfriend of the treasure hunter. A crazy adventure ensues until they find the ship and one of the divers returns from the ship’s wreckage without his head.

“The Animal Fair” (1971)

This story of a drifter who ends up in the small town of Medley, Oklahoma while the carnival is in town—where he enters the a tent that houses a gorilla who happens to be the main attraction—not to mention seriously abused by his trainer. This horrifying weird tale ends in a shocking twist and is well worth the read.

Works Cited:

Cowan, Matt. “FIFTEEN HORROR TALES BY ROBERT BLOCH.” Horror Delve, 4 Apr. 2016, horrordelve.com/2016/04/04/robert-bloch/.

HorrorBabble. “The Shambler from the Stars” by Robert Bloch. Youtube/”The Shambler from the Stars” by Robert Bloch, HorrorBabble, 12 Mar. 2018, youtu.be/0Q6xA0f9SNk.

HorrorBabble. “The Secret in the Tomb” by Robert Bloch. Youtube/”The Secret in the Tomb” by Robert Bloch, HorrorBabble, 20 Aug. 2018, youtu.be/vodqchPxgCoyoutu.be/vodqchPxgCo.

Thomas, G. W. “The Early Robert Bloch.” Dark Worlds Quarterly, 6 Aug. 2020, darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org/the-early-robert-bloch/.

A Look Into the Succubus

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Horror Mystery and Lore

What do we really know about succubi? As far as can be seen from movies and literature, they aren’t usually regarded with fear—although they should be. The idea of a run-in with a succubus, a female sex demon, is usually considered an arousing fantasy—those who have experienced them first-hand would strenuously disagree. There are numerous posts on Reddit that offer details of the simultaneously pleasurable and terrifyingly evil encounters with a real succubus. Suffice it to say, some of the victims of succubi meet their end in a terrible fashion.

The silhouette of a woman in bed, Succubus
Photography by Alexander Krivitskiy

Real Encounters with Succubi

While it seems unthinkable that something as outlandish as a succubus could be real, let alone feed off of their human lovers, there are documented cases that lead us to believe that such demons could possibly exist—have you ever encountered a succubus or an incubus?

J. K. Huysmans Seeks Religion, Finds Sin

A French author of the nineteenth century, J. K. Huysman had decided to go on a pilgrimage—having spent much of his life exploring various paranormal and supernatural phenomena. In an effort to travel back to the Christian roots of his childhood, he took up residence at a monastery. A misled belief that has been held for centuries, especially in the case of demonic possession, is that a pious lifestyle will provide personal protection from all evil spirits. This was an unfortunate rumor because it seems that the more dedicated a person is to their religious beliefs, the likelier that they are susceptible to attracting demons of all kinds. As a man with good intentions, he was not necessarily the most virtuous of people and he soon found himself to be the target of a succubus.

While he slept one night in his room at the monastery, he was awakened in the middle of his climax—seeing the succubus just as she began to vanish. Huysmans was certain, after seeing evidence that someone or something else had been in his bed with him while he had been sleeping. The belief at the time was that a succubus would steal the semen from unwitting male victims, then transform into an incubus, the male counterpart to the succubus, then use it to impregnate female victims.

Silhouette of a woman, Succubus
Photography by Alexander Krivitskiy

Pope Sylvester II’s Rise to Power

Prior to becoming Pope Sylvester II, Gerbert of Aurillac was a student, he fell in love with the daughter of the dean of this university. Unfortunately for Gerbert, she rejected him as he was far below her own social class—the anguish and unrequited passion he had for this woman possessed Gerbert with lustful and lascivious feelings. This was when he met Meridiana, an exquisitely beautiful young woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere. She promised him that should he remain faithful to her alone that she could make him intelligent, wealthy, and provide him the intimacy that he so desired. Gerbert couldn’t accept her deal quickly enough and through proving his loyalty, she helped him traverse through the ranks of the church and was appointed as archbishop of Rheims. By the time he had become pope, he was far above the social class of the woman who had slighted him; when he cheated on Meridiana with the dean’s daughter, she forgave him due to his previously intense loyalty.

Meridiana was Gerbert’s closely guarded secret, because of the well-known requirement of chastity for the Catholic clergy. He continued in his successes, until one day, Meridiana predicted he would die during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem—as it would seem, the age-old adage of, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” is really the case when dealing with a possessive, jealous, female sex demon. Terrified, Gerbert canceled his trip to Jerusalem, then publicly confessed to his lifetime of sins, fearing that if he were to die without repenting, he would have gone straight to hell. He later died in Rome, where he now resides in a tomb, which is reported to begin to sweat when the current pope is destined to die.

A Succubus Disguised as An Imaginary Friend

In 2012, a young man named Patrick was the target of a succubus that had been posing as his imaginary friend from childhood—this friend, Lucy, would come to Patrick when he was lonely and play with him, following him throughout his childhood and watching him grow. One day, she confided in Patrick that one day he would be old enough for her to teach him interesting and exciting things that he couldn’t yet understand. His parents were understandably disturbed by his obsession with his imaginary friend, so they took him to several different psychologists to see if they could get him some help. When Patrick got to the age of sixteen, he said that Lucy persuaded him to meet and date real women so that she could start teaching him these new things; he claims she stuck around for several years, teaching him how to satisfy himself and the women he took as partners. Lucy finally disappeared when Patrick fell in love and married.

Cultural Representations of the Succubus

Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1868
Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1868

Lilith, the First Wife of Adam

As the first wife of Adam from the Garden of Eden, Lilith is the archetype of feminism, independence, and dominance. While she takes many forms in the various versions created of her, she became the first succubus when she left the Garden of Eden and interbred with demons—she was said to give birth to over a hundred children a day, creating an entire race of succubi. She is such a powerful icon as a demon and a succubus, that there are reports from men from vastly different cultures, throughout the centuries that claim to have been visited by Lilith—some who summoned her, others were just unsuspecting victims. Lilith, is by far the most famous succubus in all of the lore, appearing in Christian, Roman, Greek, Judaic, Sumerian and Egyptian cultural mythologies.

In Sumerian lore, she was the goddess of fertility and witchcraft, which evolved with the Assyrians and Babylonians who categorized her as a demon. She appears in Greek mythology as well, portrayed as a romantic adversary of Hera, who as a jealous goddess cast her out and sent her to roam the lands and consume infants.

Um Al Duwayce

In the Middle East there is a version of the succubus known as um al duwayce—she is the possessor of both incredible beauty and the most intoxicating scent. Um al duwayce roams the desert, acting as judge, jury, and executioner to men who would commit adultery. Hold on though, it gets better—for the men who she has tempted into having sex with her, her lady bits act as a guillotine for the victim’s manhood, then she reveals her true form and devours him alive.

Qarînah 

Similar to the succubus, the qarînah belongs to Arabic superstition, she is a spirit with origins in ancient Egypt and possibly within the pre-Islamic animism of Arabia. While the qarînah is invisible, she can be seen by a person who possesses the second sight, but instead of showing as a woman, they are depicted as a household pet. It is said that the people that the qarînah possesses can never enter into marriage, or she will end their lives.

Autumniessink

The Hawaiian succubus isn’t known by too many details, except that she appears as a beautiful young woman, then sneaks into the tents of virgin men at night and robs them of their purity. In order to stay virginal and otherwise thwart the Autumniessink, the man must wear a loincloth made from Hawaiian Snowbush.

Movies and Television Shows That Make Us Weary of Pretty Women

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Lost Girl (2010 – 2016)

A Voodoo Practice: Mysteries of Zombification

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Digging Up the Origin of Zombies

Hand reaching into the darkness
Photography by Lalesh Aldarwish

While zombies have been on the pop culture radar pretty heavily for several decades now, the history of this undead phenomenon has a history deeply rooted in the Haitian Voodoo religion—in fact, the belief in zombies is still a relevant aspect of New Orleans Voodoo. In our western society, we rely heavily upon our knowledge of what is presented to us in movies and television, but the zombie culture we know and love evolved from a very real magical tradition. Original zombification didn’t involve leaks from biological factories, like what happened in Train to Busan (2016), or an airborne virus as was the case in AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010)—it involved a spiritual, magical, and chemical process that arose through voodoo ritual which required the calling of several voodoo spirits (Loa).

Where we see zombies being portrayed as people who have died then coming back to life, the voodoo tradition it is actually a person who is under the powerful influence of psychoactive drugs. These drugs are usually administered to the unfortunate person by a bokor, the voodoo equivalent to a sorcerer or witch doctor. After being dosed with these psychoactive drugs, the victim essentially goes into drug-induced paralysis which mimics death so profoundly that it is rumored that people have been buried alive after being zombified. This is the case in one of the original, classic zombie films The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), where the main antagonist, is buried alive while fully cognizant—which, needless to say would be incredibly terrifying.

The Process of Zombification

Skulls piled on the ground
Photography Renato Danyi

There is a lot of disagreement about whether or not the person who is to become a zombie is actually deceased or not—some believe that the process revives the recently dead into mindless, soulless automatons, while others insist it’s just the effect of psychoactive drugs that leaves the victim in a state of deep, chemical-induced paralysis, which mimics death to the point that even vital signs are not measurable. Within the Voodoo religion, only bokors have the power to create and control zombies, while the methods and ingredient amounts changes from each individual bokor, the process follows the same pattern. Some processes use voodoo dolls, blood and hair from the intended victim, and others use a “zombie” powder—this powder is a concoction of varies herbs and animal parts, most of which are poisonous, as well as human remains.

This powder can then be administered through ingestion or injection and begins to take effect immediately. Immobility, slowed vitals, and reduced oxygen intake occur within minutes which results in the death-like paralysis where the victim is still fully conscious of their surroundings. Once officially declared dead, the victim is buried alive and within eight hours, the bokor digs up the body to keep the victim from actually dying from asphyxiation. Other procedures follow, which result in a mindless and easily controlled zombie which does the bidding of the bokor who created it. The person remains a zombie until the bokor passes away and is no longer capable of administering the drug that maintains the victim’s zombie-like state.

Clairvius Narcisse the Real Haitian Zombie

Creepy old, overgrown cemetary

Photography by NeONBRAND

Zombification is often referred to as either a solely magical or physical experience, but in truth it is a mixture of both, it’s essential for a person to have a belief in voodoo and the ability to be turned into a zombie in order for the process to work in its entirety. This was the case for Clairvius Narcisse, the man who claimed to be a zombie, but returned home after eighteen years and his story was finally told.

In 1962, Narcisse was admitted to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti. He complained of fever, body aches, and ‘general malaise,’ but after being admitted he began to spit up blood. His condition declined rapidly, until two days later when he was officially pronounced dead by two separate physicians. Narcisse’s sister, Angelina, was present when he was declared dead and then notified the rest of the family, a day thereafter his body was buried, and ten days after that a concrete memorial slab was placed atop the grave by his family.

What most the family didn’t know is that Clairvius had actually been pulled out of the grave and resuscitated. He was given the zombie concoction and kept in a zombie-like state for two years, working as slave labor in a region of the country that was much farther north. This was all done at the behest of his brother, after refusing to sell his portion of the family estate to him. After two years of being a zombie, his master had been killed, then he and all of the other zombie-slaves were released from their chemical induced state of submission. Clairvius stayed away from his home for the next sixteen years, knowing that his return would make his brother aware that he was no longer being controlled by another. Once his brother passed, he finally returned home, where he approached his sister Angelina in a local marketplace and introduced himself by his childhood nickname which she and a few other intimate family members alone were aware of.

Investigating the Haitian Zombie with Hamilton Morris

The following six-part Vice production follows the investigation of The Haitian Zombie, with Hamilton’s Phramacopeia, in order to find the truth behind the folk magic and legends of this walking dead phenomenon; Hamilton follows the scientific trail to the origin of the poisons that are said to cause Zombification in order to bring them back for formal chemical analysis.


Please watch the following footage with discretion–there are scenes and images that some viewers may find disturbing.

These videos are meant to be educational in nature.


Part One

This first episode goes into the initial introduction, including the nature of what Zombification entails.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 05

Part Two

The following video contains graphic footage included in a voodoo ritual, in which an animal sacrifice is made for the Loa, please be advised it may be considered disturbing to some viewers.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 06

Part Three

In this third episode, Hamilton goes to find a Bokor in order to witness the process of Zombification, but results in angering the Bokor and being told the deal is off.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 07

Part Four

Hamilton goes to find the main ingredient of Zombie powder, in this fourth episodes, which is a species of puffer fish.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 08

Part Five

In the fifth part of Investigating the Haitian Zombie, Hamilton meets up with another Bokor who possesses the Zombie powder that they have been searching for and witnesses a real zombie.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 09

Part Six

The final installment of the investigation into Haitian zombies, they travel back to the Bokor who showed them what they had been searching for to come through with the final product they paid for.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 10

Knowing what we have learned from different sources, about the process of Zombification, can it truly be said that it is a purely chemical process? These videos in particular have all but debunked the rationale that it can all be chalked up to a chemical reaction, so some aspects of this spiritual process is often contributed to the powerful belief in their magical practices. What do you think about the phenomenon of Zombification? Let us know in the comments below.

Alaska’s Bigfoot: The Tornit

Categories
Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

History and Mythology of the Tornit

Tornit, Alaska's Bigfoot, caught and caged
Photography by Elmira Gokoryan

Back in the old times, when Baffin Island was still known as Nunatsiarmiut (new-naht-saw-me-oot) and before European influence, the Inuit people lived near the coast of Kangiqtualuk. They were master kayak-builders and survived by means of subsistence—they were excellent hunters, regularly bringing in seals and whales to feed the people in their villages. They were not the only people living on the island though, they lived under the shadow of fear with a tribe of much bigger and aggressive people. Their way of living was different than their Inuit counterparts, as they could not build kayaks, tan hides, or preserve food in the traditional ways of the north.

These people are known as the Tornit (tore-knit) and possessed not only a larger stature but extraordinary strength; they would build houses out of stones and boulders that were much too large for any Inuit person to lift. These creatures, although human-like, are not human at all, with long arms and legs, they present more like a large ape or Neanderthal. Although they are bipedal in nature they would still be mistaken for a bear at a distance, due to their hairy appearance. Despite their largely physical advantages over a regular man, the Tornit have exceedingly poor eyesight which hinders their ability to hunt. They often smell like ghastly rotting flesh at worst and at best as if they have been freshly sprayed by a skunk—this concept also connects them largely to the creature of the southern United States known as the Skunk Ape.

So What’s the Story?

Crouching ape; Alaska's bigfoot, the Tornit
Photography by Kelly Sikkema

There is an abundance of lore available on these creatures through the published anthropological surveys of the Northern territories from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Franz Boas wrote down the oral traditions of the Inuit people from Baffin Island to Hudson Bay and captured many stories of the unscrupulous nature of the Tornit. There were some inconsistencies, with some villages recalling oral traditions that painted the Tornit to be a friendlier beast and even other recollections that the Tornit were actually hunted as a food source.

Their tense relationship with most of the Inuit tribes may have had less to do with the race of people as a whole and more so with the idea that neither the Inuit nor the Tornit seemed to be too fond of each other in general. The overwhelming consensus with all of the information available in books and online suggest they are a morally repugnant, dim-witted, unpleasant, and vicious creature. All of the lore taken into consideration, the reputation that the Tornit have, smacks more of a feudal war than that of a monster that hunts its prey from the shadows, but the isolated incidents of Tornit invading Inuit villages while the men were away simply to kill all of the women and children, in my opinion, makes them creatures to be feared.

Read the first installation of our original story, which features a rendition of the Tornit folktale, or check out other fascinating Alaskan cryptids!

Alaskan “White Death” Tiger

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Date of Discovery

According to records, the first reports of the White Death monster was over 200 years ago, before modern America had touched the lives of the Alaskan Native peoples.

Name

The Alaskan White Tiger is also known as the White Death to locals because it would come during snowstorms: killing cattle, hunters, and wild game.

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Physical Description

Legends and reports have this creature at 9 feet long, 5 feet tall; around 1000 pounds, and with very thick white fur. Supposedly two large dark stripes run along it’s back, and 8-inch canine fangs hang out its mouth like a Sabertooth cat.

Origin

This large feline-like creature inhabits the outside areas of Paxson, Alaska which is full of marshy terrain. The tails surrounding this creature began when locals missing cattle and hunters from the villages almost 200 years ago. Little of the old tails and legends have been recorded, so not much is known past the recent reports from modern times.

Mythology and Lore

There are reports to this day about the White Death sightings by locals on dog sled rides. Another report came from a young man Jason, who spotted the creature in a tree line. Others are from snowmobilers who claimed to capture a clear photo, which to this day is the only one inexistent. Many people claim the White Death has a roar so loud it rattles your chest. To this day locals comb the wilderness of Alaska trying to find this creature.



Is there anything we missed about White Death? Let us know in the comments section below!