Archive | September, 2012

The Monkey’s Paw

30 Sep

William Wymark Jacobs (1863-1943) was born in London and spread his literary talent widely as a journalist, humourist, dramatist and novelist. He became popular with readers for a series of tales about the lives of seamen, but in 1902 wrote The Monkey’s Paw, a horror story which has been filmed, adapted for radio and television, and is probably one of the most anthologised stories in English literature. The story is based on the famous setup, in which three wishes are granted. In the story, the paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, but they come with an enormous price for interfering with fate. The story has been adapted into other media many times, including a one-act play that was performed in 1907 at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre. There were also film adaptations in the silent era, notably the infamous 1933 version directed by Ernest B Schoedsack, a lost film whose mysterious disappearance has been debated for decades. An updated version of the story was then featured in a 1965 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Most recently, director Ricky Lewis Jr. adapted the story into a partially animated horror short in 2011. What is it about The Monkey’s Paw that has made it so irresistible to adaptors in the century-plus since its publication?

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The Riddle of Richard the Third

23 Sep

King Richard III was one of England’s most famous, most hated and in many ways most important monarchs. Although he reigned for only two years, between 1483 and 1485, he is remembered for a variety of reasons. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field was the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses and is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England, before the ushering in of the Tudor period and the English Renaissance. He is rarely spoken of fondly, however, and is often regarded as the pantomime villain of English history. History has forever tarred him with the accusation that he murdered his young nephews Edward and Richard, following the incident of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, even though the evidence of Richard III’s alleged crime is circumstantial to say the least. As an unpopular king, Richard III had to face more than one rebellion and it was in a successful revolt by Henry Tudor (later crowned King Henry VII) that he ultimately met his end – the last English king, incidentally, to fall in battle. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Richard III, however, is what happened to him after his death – or more specifically to his body.

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Monster Mash(ups)

16 Sep

A Mashup novel (for those of you who aren’t in the know) is a work of fiction which combines a pre-existing text, often a classic work of fiction, with a modern genre such as crime, fantasy or horror. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which combines Jane Austen’s classic novel with elements of modern zombie fiction, is one of the most famous and successful works in the genre, and has been credited with spawning a rash of imitations and cash-ins, such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, which does much the same with the historical autobiography. While some see the Mashup novel as re-energising fiction and bringing it to a wider audience than ever before, many criticise it for being too safe and lazy – the literary equivalent of the current penchant in Hollywood for reboots and prequels. What is unarguable, however, is the genre’s success. Both AL:VS and P&P&Z have topped the bestseller lists; the former has already been made into a Hollywood blockbuster while a film version of the latter is in the pipeline. So what makes Mashup novels so appealing and do they spell the beginning of a new golden age in genre fiction or the end of literature as we know it?

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One Year On…

9 Sep





No official posts as such today but I couldn’t let the one year anniversary of Ghost Cities go by without comment. Yes, this website/blog is one year old today! The very first post New Zealand Ghosts went up on 9 September 2011 and the rest is history. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has ever visited and/or decided to follow this site and liked and/or commented on any of the posts that have appeared on it. It goes without saying that any website or blog is totally dependent on its visitors and Ghost Cities is no exception. I’d also like to re-affirm my commitment to scouring every corner of the world and every period in history for the very best ghost stories, urban legends, unsolved mysteries, tall tales and conspiracy theories; reviewing supernatural-themed short stories, novellas, plays, poems, novels, TV shows and films both old and new; and bringing you the best of my own work, both published and unpublished. I plan to be around as long as there’s someone out there who wants to read the content on this site and I hope you’ll all join me or stay along for the ride for as long as it lasts.

Once again, thanks all and I hope to celebrate many more anniversaries with you in the years to come!

Phantoms and Faders in Old London Town

2 Sep

With the Olympics not long past and the Paralympics still upon us, I thought that this might be an opportune moment to consider the haunted history of the UK’s capital city. There is certainly no shortage of material to draw upon when investigating the strange past of London, for just as it has been central to many of the major event’s in the nation’s history, it has also been equally famous as a city of vice, sin, crime and bloodletting. The grim legends of Jack the Ripper, Springheeled Jack and Sweeney Todd continue to cast a menacing shadow over the grimy streets of the East End. Bram Stoker may have made London Dracula’s main preying ground in his iconic horror novel, but the dark Count is seemingly very far from the only vampire – real or fictional – who has flitted through the city’s shadows. Similarly, the plot of Jonathan Landis’s American Werewolf in London also has its terrifying basis in reality. Many of the phantoms that are said to roam the capital are an essential part of British history, folklore and legend. The Tower of London, for example, is reputedly England’s most haunted building precisely because of the many who perished within its walls. There is an old saying that ghosts only ever appear in places that have known either great happiness or great misery, and the buildings and the haunted streets of London have certainly known both in abundance. The countless numbers of people who have lived and died in London in the course of its almost two thousand years of history had known every human emotion – among them hope, joy, love and, of course, terror. In consequence, there is not one square inch of old London town that is not imbued with the memories and experiences of its former citizens.

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