Friday, 20 October 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Black Lady of Bradley Woods Part V

Over the past month, we've been investigating the tale of the Black Lady of Bradley Woods. We have looked at this well-known ghost's origin story, traced how various aspects of the legend have evolved over the years, and how this particular ghost story is actually still changing even in the 21st century. In fact. thanks the Black Lady legend appearing on the internet it would seem that the story is actually still gaining additional elements, with a notable example being the claim that there is an informal folk ritual to summon up the Black Lady.

In recent retellings of the tale, such as the one found on the Creepypasta Wiki,  it is alleged that if you go into Bradley Woods upon New Year's Day and call out "Black lady, black lady, I've stolen your baby" three times, the spectre will appear. However most write-ups of the Black Lady legend also claim that this particular bit of lore is another recent addition to the mythos. Now the Creepypasta Wiki version appears to have been posted first in October 2013, however this version was copied and pasted, more or less exactly, from an entry posted on another website Urban Legends Online. And this earlier article (which you can find here) by "Storyteller" who claims to live locally, was posted a couple of years before on September 13th 2011.

Now another, later version can be found on the website Lincolnshire Info which details historical places to visit. In this article on the Black Lady (which you can find here), which was posted June 11th 2014, you find the summoning recounted again, but this time with a slight difference -  
 Most people in the village believe that if you go to the woods on Christmas eve and say, “Black lady, black lady, I’ve stolen your baby” three times, the black lady will appear to you.
So then this later retelling has the special date for the summoning as Christmas Eve rather than New Year's Day. And the change in dates is interesting, for it mirrors some of the variations in the actual origin tale of the Black Lady. For as we saw in the first part of this series, some versions of the story place the tragic events of the Black Lady's origin as occurring on New Year's Day, while others allege it all happened one Christmas Eve long ago.

Now having discovered a variation,  I carried on looking for other mentions of the summoning to see if there were further variants. Naturally I was also searching for versions which predated the Creepypasta and the Lincolnshire Info articles. And apparently there had been an earlier version of the legend posted, but one on a now-defunct site Mysterious However thanks to some web wizardry, I was able to locate an archived version of the page which was written by Paul A McHugh and posted in July 2011. And this version also gives the date for the summoning as Christmas Eve. However curiously, in this article's retelling of the Black Lady origin tale , the date of the tragedy occurring given is New Year's Day.

Naturally this begs the question whether the Christmas Eve summoning date is genuine lore, or just an error. For logically you would think that the summoning rite should occur on the anniversary of the tragedy. And it is easy to imagine that a writer might accidentally transpose the two holidays - for that kind of simple error is a very familiar to anyone who writes. However on the other hand, folklore is not known for kow-towing to logic at the best of times, and it is not uncommon for legends to contradict themselves. Plus generally speaking, the spooks and spectres of folklore often manifest annually upon a Christmas night - all over the British Isles there are tales of ghosts who only will appear on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And given the widespread nature of this Yuletide tradition of hauntings, it is actually perfectly plausible for the Black Lady legend to contain two seemingly contradictory dates.

So then, I continued to search for an older account that might shed some light on the matter. And on the site I found what appears to be an even earlier version. Now I have had no luck in working out exactly when this first appeared, but judging from the dates found in the rss feed for updates to the site, it was certainly published before June 2011, making it the earliest version so far. However this is not the usual version of the summoning rite we have seen repeated so far, but a far more detailed version, and one with some radical differences. You may read the full article here, but here is the relevant section for our investigation - 
When my mum was a child she lived near Bradley Woods and this is one of the places she used to play. This was in late 1940’s. My mother’s story. When we were children we used to go to the woods and several of us would spread out and call her. We used to say “Black Lady, Black Lady we have your baby” and we used to shout this in turn. When the grey mist came we used to follow it through the cutting to the side of the church (St Georges, a Norman church). When she got to the church she would fully appear. She was a young lady and she was dressed in grey and she would disappear through a door at the side of the church, although there was no door there.
Now there are several interesting points here. Of course, as we are looking at the folklore of the Black Lady, we need not concern ourselves with the question of whether the spectre actually did appear when called. What is important for us is that local lore claims that she would. Secondly, it is interesting to note that while the rhyme is more or less the same - there is only a minor variation in the wording - there is no prescribed date or time for carrying out the ritual. However while there isn't an specific date for this version of the summoning, it is instead more closely tied to a particular location. And more intriguing still is the fact that this account alleges that this summoning lore was common knowledge to local children in the 1940s, despite accounts of it only seeming to surface in the 21st century.

This kind of dating issue is one of the key problems for folklorists, for folklore often exists as an oral tradition, and therefore a piece of legend or lore may have been in circulation decades before anyone formally writes it down somewhere. Now given that this account is the earliest mention I could find of the summoning, I don't think we have any particular reason to doubt its veracity. Had it appeared later, there could be a suspicion that it was an embellishment of the later lore. However given the dates, the reverse could well be true, with the later, and briefer versions being been spawned from some clumsy paraphrasing of this little article. But equally, the shift from being tied to a certain place to a certain date could well be down to the natural drift that occurs in folklore passed down through several generations, or simply multiple versions being told at the same time in the area.

However what is particularly intriguing about the above report from the 1940s, is the fact that it chimes very closely with details of tales told of the Black Lady that are not usually recorded in write-ups of the legend. Several alleged sightings of the Black Lady describe her as dressed in grey, and there are other reports of her appearing as mist. Furthermore in the comments on local historian Rod Collins' article on the Black Lady, there is even a report, dated as occurring in the 1950s, of some local boys encountering something terrifying in the lane by St George's Church that leads into the woods.

It is enough to make you wonder whether there really is something haunting Bradley Woods... However I think it is more than fair to say that the Black Lady has certainly haunted the imagination of local folks for generations, and given how tales about her are not only still spreading, it will be many years before this particular ghost is laid to rest.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT #28 - The Coming of the Catalogues

Hello dear fiends and welcome once again to the tottering old pile that is only held up by the tottering piles of tat within its walls! No, seriously folks - if the roof falls in while you are here, we're definitely not liable for damages now I've warned you about it! However impeding death by roof slates aside, let's see what I've dragged out for you today...

Now that teetering pile of thick, once slick, volumes aren't just there to hold the crumbling spires of this ancient edifice up! On no, dear friends, those tatty and dog-eared tomes were once a source of delight and magic, whose mere appearance was a mystic harbinger of joys to come! And while now they are I must admit sometimes serving impromptu architectural supports in this dilapidated wreck of a house, there were in fact the cornerstones of many a childhood in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, and indeed were a key building block in many a family celebration. And so what were these arcane volumes of enchantment and wonder? Well, they were mail order catalogues. But wait, come back! These weren't just any old catalogues, these were the fabled Autumn/Winter editions? Don't you realise how important that was? Well then, let me explain!   

We increasingly tend to think that getting our shopping through the post as a marvellous miracle of the internet age. How we laugh at those fools who were stupid enough to be born in the dark days beFore the web, those berks who had to actually GO TO A SHOP and CARRY IT HOME THEMSELVES! Morons right? Wrong! For if you thinkst so, thou are the dullard here! See, I'm so annoyed, that I hath gone all old-fashioned and that on thy hind-quarters! Anyhow, verbal tomfoolery and needlessly insulting the readership aside, the rapidly being forgotten fact is that home shopping has been around for an awfully long time. Alright it's not as quick as the internet, but it was a thing for a lot longer than you might imagine.

Now here in the UK we had a long tradition of shopping by mail, with several big companies enjoying decades of trade by issuing big fat catalogues of their ware that folks could order from. One of the biggest and one of the first was the Kays catalogue, that was founded in Worcester in 1890. Yes, you did read that right! And their big rival Freemans was set up in Clapham in 1905, and even third kid on the podium, Bronze medalist Grattans, started up in 1912! These three firms were the titans of the catalogue world in the UK, issuing huge telephone directory-sized books, featuring literally hundreds of glossy pages, and detailing thousands of products. Plus for many years, the catalogues had an added incentive other than just getting the goods delivered to your door. And that was you could pay off your bill in installments, thereby encouraging customers to do very big shops indeed.

Clothes, household goods, garden equipment, sports gear, kitchenware, bed linen, electrical goods... you name it, and they sold it. And of course, they did toys. Oh boy, did they do toys! In particular, the Autumn/Winter editions were stuffed with page after page for toys and games, catering for all tastes, ages, and interests. And so while the Spring/Summer edition generally could go and die in a hole as far as most kids were concerned, the Autumn/Winter catalogue was a big part of many a childhood.

To begin with, the mere appearance of one of these weighty tomes was a magical event,  and for many kids the appearance of the Autumn/Winter edition  had an almost totemic quality. It was an mystical event like hearing the first cuckoo, but instead of being a sign of spring starting, the arrival of the Autumn/Winter catalogue on the doorstep was the first herald that Christmastime was indeed coming!

As for the catalogue itself, obviously I don't need to explain the appeal of pages and pages of toys and games. It was like having a toyshop window in glossy paper form. And indeed, like Dickensian orphans in the snow, we sat with our noses practically pressed against this papery windowpane, coveting the delights showcased within.

However what it is easy to forget these days, is that back then these toy sections of the catalogues were a prime way we used to discover what new toys and games would be coming out that year. Sure, you could maybe see a new toy in the local stores, or maybe catch a TV ad (if they had made on one at all that is), but an Autumn/Winter catalogue was pretty much an encyclopedic listing of all the goodies hitting the shops - it was like having every toy store in town in your hands!

And this of course leads to the other major reason why these catalogues are so fondly remembered - for writing your annual list of requests for Santa was frequently done while flipping through such a catalogue, weighing up how many things you could reasonably get away with asking for. Now course, we all know that Santa is indeed real, but equally even little kids know that they aren't going to get the entire contents of the local toy shop. Not only did you have to calculate how good you have been, divided by a guesstimate of whether Santa had possibly seen you shooting the cat up the arse with a Nemesis rocket from your Matchbox Raider Command that time last week, but you had to choose wisely...

For however by a certain age, some of us had learnt that all that glitters wasn't toy gold. And you had to chose very carefully... For yes, that particular toy might look and sound VERY EXCITING indeed, and worth worth all those unnecessary caps, but the brief description and pictures in the catalogue could well be even more misleading that certain toys adverts I could mention - yes Tank Command I am looking at you! And stop laughing at the back, Super Flight Deck and I Vant To Bite Your Finger, you time will come, believe you me! Now where was I? Oh yes...

...And if you had <sad grail knight voice from Indiana Jones and his Dad> chosen poorly</sad grail knight voice from Indiana Jones and his Dad>, when you opened the bugger up on Christmas morning, you'd quickly find that instead of delivering the ultimate play experience, it was in fact shoddy and badly thought-out tat. Not a desirable result at the best of times, but you really wanted to avoid blowing your BIG PRESENT choice on something that turned up to be rubbish. As comedian Jack Dee once remarked, ordering things from catalogues is very similar to making a bet...

Of course like many things in childhood, the time when catalogues brought us joy and excitement was all too brief, a short span of years that fall between gaining a competence enough reading level to navigate the densely packed pages and read the descriptions in tiny print and that sad day when toys and games lose their appeal... Of course, the process of growing up does bring the catalogue a second and somewhat grubby renaissance, when the teenage hormones kick in and you realise there's nearly naked ladies to be ogled in the lingerie section, that's an entirely different story! And no, you can't borrow my copy of Kays Autumn/Winter 1983 for old time's sake! Away with you, you filth wizard! 

Monday, 16 October 2017


Day 8 - "When It Was Moonlight..."  - I just can't resist the Ionicus style at the moment! Although there's more than a touch of MR James about this one too..

Day 9 - "Morning Stroll, Pnakotus, 400 Millions Years BC" -
This time I was having a go at doing something in a Gahan Wilson style, and hence opted for a little drawing of one of the Great Race of Yith who according to HP Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time lived on Earth in the millennia before man...

Day 10 - Nothing clever, just an undead fella! 

Day 11 - "Vincent in Blue"

Day 12 - "Delvers in the Dark" - a little homage to old school RPG art

Day 13 - "He seemed to be a tall thin man — or was it by any chance a woman?— at least, it was someone who covered his or her head with some kind of drapery before going to bed, and, he thought, must be possessed of a red lamp-shade — and the lamp must be flickering very much..." from Number 13 by MR James

Day 14  - The Inhabitant of the Lake - a pen and water colour inspired by the writings of Ramsey Campbell 

Day 15 - The Rose Garden 

"It was not a mask. It was a face — large, smooth, and pink. She remembers the minute drops of perspiration which were starting from its forehead: she remembers how the jaws were clean-shaven and the eyes shut. She remembers also, and with an accuracy which makes the thought intolerable to her, how the mouth was open and a single tooth appeared below the upper lip. As she looked the face receded into the darkness of the bush..." from The Rose Garden by MR James

Saturday, 14 October 2017

HYPNOGORIA 73 - Recent Horror Round-up Part 2

Continuing our reviews of some recent horror movies, Mr Jim Moon takes a look at pleasure. In this show we review An Unkindness of Ravens, The Blackcoat's Daughter (AKA February), Get Out, and A Monster Calls. Once again all reviews are spoiler-free!

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Friday, 13 October 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Black Lady of Bradley Woods Part IV

Over the past few weeks, we have been exploring the assorted eerie tales that cluster around the Black Lady of Bradley Woods. This ghost has long been known the local area, however as we have seen in our little investigations, the stories surrounding this particular haunting are not only still being told but are also still evolving. Now largely this is occurring in the usual way for folklore - that is to say that the details of a story change as the tale is retold over the years, and occasionally new elements and additions find their way into the fabric of the legend too. 

Now in the case of the Black Lady of Bradley Woods, tales of her hauntings have spread into a wider arena. For these days, her legend is recounted not just in the local area but across the world thanks the dubious magic of the internet. Hence while the Black Lady isn't the only ghost in the region, she is certainly well on her way to becoming the most famous. She has her own Wikipedia entry, appears in countless online catalogues of local spooks, and perhaps most significantly of all, she has entered the strange worlds of Creepypasta. And if you are unfamiliar with with Creepypasta, allow me to explain... 

While you may well be forgiven that it is some sort of off-beat cookery site, Creepypasta is a term, and part of the name of several websites, for short macabre tales shared online. Effectively creepypastas are the digital equivalent of all those old campfire stories and playground shockers that have been passed around orally by generations of kids. The term itself derives from a corruption of "copy and paste", a nod to how such creepy tales originally began circulating on the internet, as chunks of text copied and pasted from emails and bulletin boards. While some purists might wish to dismiss creepypastas as something separate and different from traditional folklore, to my mind if they are not an emerging modern form of folklore, they are at least closely related. For example, in our previous explorations we have seen what I have tentatively termed 'weblore' shaping the current versions of the Black lady legend. And the fact that she is also now haunting the online realm of creepypasta is also having an effect on the shape of her stories. 

Now then, the Black Lady makes an appearance on the major sites for creepypasta, the Creepypasta Wiki and her tale appears on this page here. Now this article retells the usual version of the Black Lady's origin, however at the close of the piece, it makes this addition - 
Legend has it that her ghost still wanders the woods today, and if anyone is brave enough to walk into the woods on new year’s day and shout "Black lady, black lady, I’ve stolen your baby!" three times, the woman shall appear and confront them.
Anyhow, the interesting thing here is the new addition to the story, the claim that you can summon up the Black Lady. And in other write-ups of the Black Lady stories we have an additional caveat that states that it is thought this summoning appears to be a relatively recent addition to the mythos. 

Now firstly we should note that such simple rites to call up a local ghost, a witch or even the Devil Himself, are common in local folklore. For example, as I have previously mentioned in these columns, a local ghost I'm familiar with, the Grey Lady Lady of Aycliffe Village, can be called up by walking round St Andrew's Church at midnight. And there are many more such tales in regional folklore. Common elements involve going to a certain place, usually on a certain day, or at a certain time, and either reciting something and/or performing some simple action - knocking on doors or walking so many times around an area are common examples of this. 

Folklorists have called these sort of informal folk rites "legend tripping". They occur all over the world and are perennially popular with teenagers. These rites share much in common with other spooky activities that kids everywhere practice, that I'm sure you are all familiar with, such as messing about with ouija boards at sleep-overs or summoning Bloody Mary. Legend tripping taps into that same spirit of daring each other to do something that will scare the pants of you, however it is specifically tied to a certain place which has a local folklore story attached to it. In some ways, you can see legend tripping as a way of bringing a legend to life, or as a kind of live action roleplay of a campfire tale (or these days a creepypasta). 

Now in the case of the Black Lady summoning incantation, it is claimed that this is a recent addition to the legend, and given its appearance in a creepypasta version of the Black Lady story, it would be easy to assume that this summoning is indeed a new addition to the lore. But I did wonder about that. For while the term "legend tripping" was only relatively recently coined by folklorists, and hence gained a lot of attention recently,  the actual phenomena has been going on for decades. 

For example, the humorist Odgen Nash wrote a terrifying ghost story called The Three Ds which appeared in 1948 in Harpers Bazaar, which tells of a girl at a Massachusetts boarding school who is dared to do the local legend trip to the grave of one Elizabeth Catspaugh, a witch hanged in Salem. Going further back into the realm of fiction, the tale Wailing Well by MR James can be read as a legend trip going horribly wrong - in this story a group of Scouts out camping (a traditional place for telling of eerie tales of course) are warned from going into a certain patch of woods. One boy decides to test the truth of the legend, and needless to say as this is a James story, pays dearly for it. Delving back even further into literature, there are countless ghost stories from the Victorian era that have as their central premise someone going to stay in a supposed haunted house as a wager or a dare. 

So then, is the summoning of the Black Lady really a recent addition, or is it a case of this aspect of legend being only recently recorded? Next time, we'll attempt to trace this element of the story back to its roots.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Hello dear fiends and welcome once again to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Over the last few weeks we've had the toy box out and have been looking at a celebrated range of diecast vehicles that dominated birthday and Christmas lists for a good half decade. First appearing in 1977, the Adventure 2000 range from Matchbox saw the veteran maker of toy cars venture into futuristic realms to deliver a host of exciting SF vehicles. As we have discovered in previous weeks, Adventure 2000 seemingly owed a debt to the Land Master from the movie Damnation Alley (1977), which was based on the novel of the same name by Roger Zelazny.  The flagship vehicle of the range, the Raider Command would go on to appear in the pages of legendary comic 2000 AD as Judge Dredd's wheels in the epic saga of The Cursed Earth, which coincidentally owed a huge debt to Zelazny's book too.  

Now whenever there's a hot new toy flying off the shelves, it doesn't take long for competing firms to start designing rival products to get themselves a slice of the action. Now in the world of diecast metal cars, Matchbox had an equally venerable competitor in the shape of Corgi, who had been making toy vehicles since the 1930s. Now since the 1960s, Corgi had had a winning hand in the shape of several tie-in vehicles, most notably having the license to make toy versions of the Batmobile from the Adam West Batman series, and the rights to make miniature version of James Bond's cars. Indeed for decades the Corgi versions of the Aston Martin DB5 and the Batmobile were bestsellers, captivating generations of kids who hadn't even been born when these iconic vehicles first hit the screen. 

Therefore they were somewhat miffed when Matchbox started stealing their thunder with the Adventure 2000 line, a range that was delivering exciting wholly original fantastic vehicles, complete with the kind of special features, such as firing rockers and pop-out weapons, that made the Bond and Bat cars such perennial winners. Hence in 1979, Corgi launched a rival range to compete with these usurpers in the world of fantastical vehicles - the X-ploratrons

Like Adventure 2000, this was a line of four vehicles featuring all new designs and exciting special features. And like their Matchbox rivals, the X-ploratrons came complete with their own back story too. According to the marketing blurb, "in a fictitious disaster-wrecked world of the 21st century, the elements rebel against man!". Now I must pause here and remark that I was so relieved they pointed out that this was a fictitious future and not an actual accurate prophecy or something! Blimey, you had me worried for a moment there Corgi!

And for that matter how exactly do elements rebel? Are they rebelling against something in particular or is it just a Marlon Brando style "whatcha got?" deal? We will probably never know! Anyhow, come and meet the quartet of super-duper vehicles that had "their own individual role to play in the battle against disaster from within and without the planet!" 

First up was the X-1 Rocketron (D2023) - a six wheeled tracked vehicle that "traversed icy wastes locating disasters with its sensorscope and fires solar powered rockets". See, destructive and green at the same time! Although quite what disasters could be averted by rocket bombardment the adverts weren't entirely clear. Deadly avalanches? Stroppy icebergs? No one was entirely sure to be honest. However the toy itself came with a real, working compass fitted inside the cockpit, and a rear mounted missile launcher to strike terror into the hearts of younger siblings and family pets. 

Next up was the X-2 Lasertron (D2024) - apparently in the dangerous future of the X-ploratrons "dramatic and sudden changes in the arid belt cause hurricanes and sandstorms threatening to engulf continents" and this chunky six wheeler had the job of dealing with those. And how does one truck sort out such extreme weather? Well, solar powered lasers allegedly! And hence it came equipped with a lenticular prismatic disc to turn the power of the sun into laser death! Sadly however in real life the prismatic disc didn't generate lethal beams of energy, but just changed colour from yellow to black. For me, easily the weakest of the X-ploratrons, for despite looking and sounding cool, the play value of a shiny sticker was a bit limited. 

Offering far more exciting play in my humble opinion was the X-3 Magnetron (D2025) - a four wheeler designed to tackle the menace of meteorite bombardment. Although the toy didn't feature a working rocket that was depicted in the art and adverts, it did come with a moveable arm fitted with a magnet and a sliding roof compartment to store samples. Well, stray paperclips and orphan screws and nails at least. But hey, a magnet on a robotic looking arm! And magnets were cool! 

Finally there was the X-4 Scannertron (D2022), an allegedly amphibious craft that "scoured swamps" for "fissures which swamp cities with boiling mud and debris". I say "allegedly amphibious" because taking this one into the bath with you was, in reality, a recipe of peeling off decal,s and eventually, rust. But the idea of a fighting force for multiple terrains was appreciated. Anyhow, to tackles these aforementioned tectonic threats, the Scannertron came with moving jungle cutters at the front and rear, a magnifying lens mounted in the middle of the craft and a self righting cockpit. 

Now I think it is fair to say that the X-ploratrons were something of a mixed bag. For while the Magnetron has a magnet to play with, and the Scannerton had cutting blades and a magnifying glass to unwittingly start forest fires with, the Rocketron's missile was a bit weedy and the novelty of the  Laserton's shiny disco array would wear off before you got it out of the packet. However in fairness, not every model in the Adventure 2000 range was as exciting as the Raider Command, and so, in terms of exciting features I think the two ranges more or less balance each other out. 

However I think Corgi didn't quite get their designs for their future fighting force to look quite as cool as Matchbox's. Adventure 2000's designs had a pleasingly realistic feel to them, whereas the X-ploratrons seem a bit more clunky and chunky, and with their bright, almost primary, colours look more toy-like and therefore to a certain section of their market, babyish in comparison. But on the plus side, Corgi had clearly clocked the Matchbox-2000 AD link-up, for the box art for their rival range featured gorgeous visuals from Carlos Ezquerra, the legendary comics artist responsible for classic 2000 AD strips such as Strontium Dog and Fiends of the Eastern Front, but more importantly, was the co-creator of Judge Dredd himself. 

Apparently there were tentative plans to expand the range, and pictures of a prototype for a fifth vehicle do exist. Photos in The Great Book of Corgi 1956-1983 (1999) shows a flatbed launcher style truck, equipped a large ICBM - I'd guess this would have been dubbed Missiletron or similar. But sadly the X-ploratrons' mission was seemingly doomed to fail, for the range remained a quartet, and worse, the models were only in the shops for a year before being consigned to the toybox of history.

However despite burning briefly, it would seem the X-ploratrons did burn bright, for they are just as collectable as their Adventure 2000 counterparts, and command very similar prices these days. And fortunately the weather in the 21st century is still behaving itself... But for how long? Perhaps the X-ploratrons' day will come at last!

Sunday, 8 October 2017


Hello folks! This year I thought I would have a bash at the annual artistic malarky that is #inktober! I've meant to for a couple of years now, but as October is something of a busy month around here at the Great Library of Dreams I usually end up forgetting. However this year, I did remember, and so then here is the first week's worth of doodles and sketches! 

Day 1 - a little piece inspired by The Tractate Middoth by MR James

Day 2 - a little sketch I entitled "The Witch At The End of Your Bed" 

Day 3 "Late Night by the Fireside" - Thought I'd have a bash at a spooky scene like the ones Ionicus used to do for the covers of ghost stories for William Kimber books. You can see a fine selection of Ionicus cover over here at The Common Swings. On reflection I think this one came out more like Roger Hargreaves, but never mind! 

Day 4 - See the little goblins...

Day 5 "Hallowtide at Exham" - Another attempt at something in an Ionicus/Kimber style! This one was getting closer to what I wanted, and very much a homage to the Ionicus cover for Halloween Hauntings edited by the late great Peter Haining

Day 6 "Tiptoe Through the Tombstones" - another somewhat Ionicus inspired piece, with a touch of Alfred Bestall too

Day 7 - Another piece inspired by MR James - 
"The whispering in my house was more persistent tonight. I seemed not to be rid of it in my room. I have not noticed this before. A nervous man, which I am not, and hope I am not becoming, would have been much annoyed, if not alarmed, by it..." 

from The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral by MR James 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

HYPNOGORIA 72 - Recent Horror Round-up Part 1

October is here and Hallowe'en is not far away. So then, in the first of a two part offering, Mr Jim Moon takes a look at some recent horror movies for your autumnal viewing pleasure. In this show we review Prevenge, The Evil Within, The Void and The Girl With All the Gifts. Note - all these reviews are spoiler-free!

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Friday, 6 October 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Black Lady of Bradley Woods Part III

Over the past few weeks we have been discussing aspects of one particular ghost story, the tale of the Black Lady who allegedly haunts Bradley Woods in Grimsby. Now then, as we are concerned with this haunting as folklore, whether this particular spectre exists or not is an issue - for what we have been examining is how the stories about the Black Lady have changed over the years. Now given that folklore exists first and foremost as an oral tradition, and therefore it is impossible to date exactly when the eerie tale of the Black Lady first appeared. However certainly the story of the haunting and the tragic tale of its origin have been told in the local area throughout the 20th century and continue to this day. And last week we saw how in the 21st century, the story is still changing, now thanks to the tale being circulated on the internet, as weblore if you will.

It is the fact that this eerie story is still actually evolving that makes the tale of the Black Lady so intriguing. For in folklore we can roughly divide any old tales into two categories. Firstly there is what I would term 'preserved lore'. These are stories and legends that have been written down and recorded, but now more or less just exists as retellings of the exact same tale. Or to put it another way a standard version now exists, and it is a story that is read about in books rather than still being told by people. On the other hand however, we have the second tentative category of what I'd would dub 'living lore'. These items of folklore I would define as a local story that is not only still being told as part of a surviving oral tradition, but is also still being changed and added to as the years go by.

In the case of the Black Lady, we have clearly a more or less standard version of the story - the sad tale of her origin - that has been widely recorded. However, as we saw last week, when we investigated claims that she also haunts/or had haunted the nearby Nunthorpe estate, we discovered this was a somewhat recent addition to the legend, indicating that her tale is still being embroidered through retellings. Now this new element to the story appears to be a simple case of mistaken identity, with two separate but relatively nearby hauntings becoming confused. But while this might be just an  error, it does demonstrate that the story is very much still alive. And what is more, there are further other elements in the lore of the Black Lady that appear to be recent additions too.

Traditionally the Black Lady is seen walking within Bradley Woods, or spotted near its edges. However while researching the legend, as well as finding several sightings of her walking in the woods being made by passing motorists, I also discovered that it is claimed that sometimes she will cross the road, causing passing cars to slow down before she melts away. Furthermore in my devling in the Bradley Woods stories, I discovered a first-hand account, dating from the 1960s, of a Black Lady encounter in which the car actually struck the soon-to-vanish figure with an audible bump.

Of course, if you are at all familiar with folkloric ghost stories, these accounts of the ghost causing phantom accidents will undoubtedly sound very familiar. And this is because there are many tales of local hauntings which have the spectre walking out in front of a car. In fact, this ghostly behaviour is so common it appears to be a modern variation of the well-known Vanishing Hitchhiker story and has been been "the Spectral Jaywalker". Many examples of it, and its elder sibling tradition, are detailed on Sean Tudor's excellent site Road Ghosts.

Quite how such tales end up being so common, occurring not just all over the British Isles but all over the world, is a question folklorists and researchers are still investigating. However in the case of the Black Lady, I did find some interesting possible clues to how they spread. In the lively comments section on local historian Rod Collins' article on the Black Lady, where I found the 1960s jaywalking report mentioned above, I came across several other mentions of the Black Lady haunting the road. Interestingly however, I also found references to what appears to be a sub-tradition that alleges that instead of a figure, mysterious lights are the cause of these phantom near-misses.

Now one plausible explanation for the spectral jaywalker phenomena is that they are optical illusions. The theory goes that thanks the bends in the road, direction of travel, and other natural effects of the local landscape on both light levels and visibility, some places generate an illusion or impression of a shape or a figure on the road. It is a well established fact that rapid changes between light and darkness can produce visual distortions - photically induced hallucinations are a good example of this - and it is thought natural features on specific stretches of road such as sunlight shining through trees can produce subtle strobing effects that generate these illusions. So then, given that many spectral jaywalkers are described as pale figures - often ladies in white - or as in the case of the Bradley Woods haunting, patches of light or mist, this may well be the scientific explanation for a real phenomena that underlies the folklore.

Sadly I've not been able to trace much further detail on these particular tales of hauntings on the Bradley Road, but it would seem that this section of road is a common spot for sightings of the Black Lady. But given that one commenter on the Rod Collins article mentions his father recounting a tale of a vanishing car on the Bradley Woods road, one cannot help but wonder if these tales of lights on the road were perhaps originally a separate road ghost story. As we saw last week, the Black Lady legend appears to have absorbed (or at least to be in the process of absorbing) a separate tale of a hooded figure that haunted Nunthorpe in 1980s, and therefore I suspect the haunting at Bradley Road may well have been unrelated to the Black Lady at first, but is now becoming part of her folklore.

I suspect this is often the case where one story is more active than others. And have no doubt the tale of the Black Lady is still very active - it is indeed living lore. For her eerie story continues to be told in the local area, and now her fame is spreading online too. Next time, we will examine a further example of the Black Lady legend becoming more elaborate in recent years, one that sees the Black Lady incorporating another sub genre of folklore...

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT #27 - To the Planet Zeto and Beyond!

Welcome once again to the 'Orribe 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Please step inside, but be careful! We've got the toy box out again and the floor is covered with little diecast metal cars at the moment! Now then, over the last few weeks we have been chatting about the Matchbox Adventure 2000 range, and this time, as you might have guessed from the traffic jam/war zone on the carpet, we're continuing the tale of these exciting little SF vehicles

Now Matchbox had been making toy cars and trucks since roughly the pre-Cambrian Era... Or 1953 at least. They had made pocket-sized, and indeed pocket-money priced, versions of all kinds of automobiles, and had even branched out into ships, planes and tanks. However Adventure 2000 saw the venerable toy makers making a bold new foray into a whole new genre, heading into the world of SF, and jolly exciting it was too. First  released in 1977, the initial range comprised of the K-2001 Raider Command (super cool all singing, all dancing all killing, all terrain vehicle), K-2002 Flight Hunter (flying space sports car), and the K-2003 Crusader (laser tank thingamajig). Coming complete with little plastic figures of space soldiers, this range were a huge hit for Matchbox, and as we saw last time, even took a starring role in a classic Judge Dredd comic.

As it was soon clear that they had a winner on their hands, naturally Matchbox were keen to expand the range, and therefore created a second wave of new vehicles for the Adventure 2000 line in 1978. The first addition was the K-2004 Rocket Striker, another very cool looking armoured truck with missiles mounted in a roof compartment. Nowthis was a nice looking vehicle, and a very neat to the range to be sure, fitting in nicely with its metal brethren. However in fact, it was a little bit of cheat, for this model hadn't been especially designed for the range. In fact, the same model had been doing the rounds since 1976 as the K-111 Missile Launcher in the Matchbox Battle Kings series - a range dedicated to modern military hardware. Basically the only change was that now the vehicle was a more olive shade of green and had the Adventure 2000 decals on it. But that said, it did fit in well, and you can never have too many missile firing vehicles, can you? 

However Matchbox didn't stop there. For this new addition to the range was also available in a bumper pack with two other smaller vehicles. This was the K-2005 Command Force set, which comprised of the Rocket Striker plus the three smaller craft. These were the Rescue Hover Craft, the Planet Scout, and the Cosmobile. Now actually all of these three smaller craft had also previously appeared in different colours in earlier Matchbox ranges too. The Rescue Hover Craft was originally the plain old Hovercraft in the 1976 Matchbox 75 range, while the Planet Scout and Cosmobile had appeared in funkier paintjobs in the 1-75 range in, you guessed it, 1975. Plus this pair had also moonlighting in the Super Kings range since 1978 too.

The full 1978 line-up

Also around this time, for probably the usual no good reason, some versions of the range came out with magenta tinted windscreens rather than the typical orange. As you might expect, these are somewhat rarer and hence go for larger prices if you're thinking of starting to collect this range. However there were more radical changes to come!  In 1979/1980 the brief flavour blurb that outlined a sketchy backstory for the range was changed from some vague talk about a future war to this - “The interplanetary commission prepares for an expedition to planet ZETO”!

And what did this mean for the range? Well, primarily it meant that the militaristic olive livery that had served the range so well since 1977 was now ditched in favour of a presumable more interplanetary deep metallic blue. Again this latest and indeed, last iteration of the range is considerably harder to find these days. This last wave of the Adventure 2000 range also added a final new vehicle which is one of the rarest of all these Matchbox models - the K-2006 Shuttle Launcher.

Now this last entry in the range was largely very similar to the K-2003 Crusader, however instead of a rotating laser turret, this half tracked behemoth sported a MASSIVE red plastic launcher on the the top. However this didn't fire piddly little Nemesis rockets like the Raider Command, but a HUGE round flying saucer! And of course, because of the highly breakable nature of the plastic launcher coupled with the tendency of flying saucers to get lost under sofas or in gardens, it is now very rare to find one of these babies intact out there in the wilds of either Planet Zeto or the even more hazardous environment of Ebay!

Sadly it seems the range was retired around 1982, but for a good half decade kids had had the hardware to wage ferocious future wars, skirmish with ravening muties, and explore strange new worlds with these wonderful models. Obviously thanks to its appearance in 2000 AD, the Raider Command is highly prized by Dredd fans, but all these unofficial die-cast progeny of the Landmaster are very appealing to collectors. They were so popular that they even inspired a rival range from competitors Corgi... but that is a tale for another day!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

HYPNOGORIA 71 - Scarred For Life

Do you remember the '70s? Strange decade wasn't it? Post apocalyptic dramas, weird crime fighters, spooky SF shows, and some genuinely terrifying ghost stories... And that was just the children's television! Come take a trip back to that very disturbing decade where terror and horror lurked everywhere from TV to comics to board games and even snack foods! Relive those golden days with Mr Jim Moon as we take an in-depth look at Scarred For Life Volume 1 by Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence, a marvellous tome that both catalogues and celebrate that was weird and unsettling in the 1970s!

Get your own copy of Scarred For Life Volume 1 here! 


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