Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Considered Rant on The Pyramid (2014).

Almost since its inception, the principal focus of Old Sins Cast Long Shadows is nineteenth-century supernatural horror in English literature. It will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future. Lately, however, I find myself wanting to explore works and topics, in various media, only tangentially related to this blog's focus. In addition perhaps, though rarely, I would like to discuss horror-related subjects not even closely related to this focus.

Therefore this post will be somewhat of a departure from what is usually discussed in this blog. Yet even so, there is a connection to Old Sins Cast Long Shadows' focus. For whenever one looks into horror or supernatural occurrences back into the nineteenth century, especially in the English mind, more often than not, the Freemasons are never far away.


It is well known by those who know me just how much I love horror and horror movies.

Especially, horror movies with weird monsters.

Especially when those horror movies have an Egyptological basis!

What follows is not a review or even a discussion concerning this movie's strengths versus weaknesses or even its general historical inaccuracies. Rather this entire post is a rant! A considered rant to be sure, but still a rant against one single statement made in this entire film that, despite its glaring historical inaccuracy, offended me personally.

Initially, I was looking forward to watching this movie. The trailer looked good; though, based on long experience watching horror movies, I was not expecting award-winning quality. I was confident to be entertained at least.

As I watched this film for the first time, streaming on my computer, it was just as I expected...until just after the one hour mark...



The Pyramid was released in late 2014 by 20th Century Fox.

There are quite a few reviews written about this movie available online. With very few exceptions, the vast majority of reviews were negative; bemoaning missed opportunities and disappointment. Even a review in The Irish Times was brutal! I thought it wasn't that bad.[i] The plot was pretty standard. I thought the special effects were pretty good. The plot did play fast and free with Ancient Egyptian mythology – but whatever. One can't have everything.

Briefly, the plot is set during the 2012-2013 political unrest in Egypt and involves a father-daughter archaeological team.


They and their small crew discover a weird pyramid in modern-day Egypt.


Despite government orders, they sneak into the pyramid and promptly get sealed inside.

While searching for the way out, ancient traps kill two of the group. Those left venture deeper into the structure and come across amazing things. The survivors blunder into a burial.

Before I go off into my tirade, allow me to set this scene and quote the pertinent dialogue from the 1:04:00 mark in the movie.


The survivors come across the desiccated husk of a man with his heart torn out.


They find a journal establishing that the dead man dates from May 21, 1897.


On a finger of its left hand, they observe that the dried corpse wears a ring. . . a Masonic ring.

Dr. Nora Holden: "That's a Freemason symbol. They must have built the offshoot tunnel that we entered."

Prof. Holden: "Yeah, that makes sense."

Fitzie: "This is all very interesting, but our main priority should be getting out of here. The Masons aren't important."

Prof. Holden: "They were excellent tomb robbers. If they couldn't find a way out . . ."


"They were EXCELLENT TOMB ROBBERS."! Are you freakin' kidding me?!

So typical of Hollywood, well-known for cheap shots.

What makes the Freemasons, and by implication this dead Masonic explorer, "tomb robbers"? There is no evidence whatsoever that the Freemasons were doing anything other than exploring the weird pyramid; just as the archaeological crew in this movie were doing. What makes Prof Holden–lead archaeologist and speaker of the above dialogue–and his crew not "tomb robbers"? Hypocrisy!

I cannot express just how much this narrow-minded statement offends me!

I know of no evidence of tomb robbery committed by Freemasons in the past, ever. Quite the contrary. The reverence the brethren hold for the past is prodigious and well known. For a fact, I know that there have been Freemasons who were respectable historians and yes, even archaeologists. I am also sure that today there are Masonic gentlemen in these occupations. I am equally sure that all of them would resent such a clueless statement.

Interestingly enough, I actually found a comment on this movie and its portrayal of Freemasonry on a Masonic Grand Lodge website. I was surprised by this because in matters of unfavorable representation in the media, it has been very rare (and that only recently) that there has been response to such statements by formal Masonic organizations.

As part of its series regarding the representation of Freemasonry in film, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M.'s website briefly addressed the fleeting reference. The statement remarks that not only was the film's treatment of Freemasonry unfair, but that this kind of representation unjustly reduces Freemasonry to a caricature and nothing else.[ii]


Following this false and insulting statement, my interest in this film fell away to nothing.

I am a Freemason. And I find this statement concerning Freemasons offensive.



Print Resources

Digital Resources

The Pyramid. Dir. Grégory Levasseur. Perf. Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O'Hare, James Buckley. 20th Century Fox, 2014. Online.

Online Resources

The Pyramid (2014). Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. 25 March 2015. Accessed 12 November 2017.

Wikipedia. The Pyramid (film). 05 November 2017. Accessed 12 November 2017.

[i] Keep in mind that I am also a super-fan of the original Godzilla movies, as well.

[ii] The Pyramid (2014). Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. 25 March 2015.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thoughts on GHOSTS: BEING THE EXPERIENCES OF FLAXMAN LOW by K. & Hesketh Pritchard

A fine collection of tales dating from the final years of the Victorian Era, K. and Hesketh Prichard's Ghosts: Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low is also another example of the literary sub-genre of "occult detective" which I have written about in the past.


My object in sending you these notes is that you may (should you think fit) prepare from them some sort of volume of a popular character. In case this suggestion should fall in with your ideas, will you undertake the task?

All that I ask is that you should disguise my identity, as I have no wish to pose as a fanatic, and with this stipulation I leave the matter in your hands, and remain, very truly yours,


An excerpt from the "Introduction" to this volume.

Originally appearing in print in Pearson's Magazine, the Pritchards (or the Herons, a pseudonym, as they were known in the pages of Pearson's Magazine) initial six Flaxman Low stories were printed in the magazine from January through June 1898 and the "second series" of six Flaxman Low tales from January through June 1899.


Cover (identical for both volumes)

Pearson's Magazine, volume V (Jan-Jun 1898).

Pearson's Magazine, volume VII (Jan-Jun 1899).

At the beginning of both series of stories, an introduction was provided by Pearson's Magazine. Both introductions strongly implied that these tales were accounts of actual supernatural occurrences and not works of fiction. Below is a reproduction of the banner image and introduction to the second series of Flaxman Low tales.


The twelve Flaxman Low tales were first gathered together and published as a collection shortly after the final story appeared in Pearson's Magazine. It is interesting to note that this book was published by Pearson's Magazine's publishing arm. It is also worthwhile noting that the authors' true names are listed; though, just in case, their pseudonyms were also included.

clip_image008 clip_image010

First 1899 edition published by Pearson - cover and title page.

The edition under consideration here was published by Black Heath Editions in 2014. Black Heath Editions republishes lesser known works from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for incredibly reasonable prices. I would not have even heard of many of these authors (and their works) had it not been for Black Heath Editions. Thank you.


Kate and Hesketh Pritchard were a mother-and-son who wrote short pieces for journals under the pseudonyms of H. and E. Heron. Together they created the Flaxman Low stories. There was no way to know what was the work of one versus the other.

Hesketh Pritchard was an interesting figure in late Victorian and Edwardian literature and science. After the publishing of the Flaxman Low tales in 1899, Pearson's Magazine commissioned Pritchard to explore the Republic of Haiti and write on it for print. As a frequent companion on his travels, his mother, Kate, even accompanied him part of the way to Haiti.

Considered to be the first white man to cross Haiti in nearly a century, Pritchard wrote and sent reports to be printed in Arthur Pearson's Daily Express. Pritchard was one of the very first to record in detail the voodoo practices of the inhabitants. As with the Flaxman Low tales, his writings were complied and published as a book, Where Black Rules White: A Journey Across and About Hayti in 1900.

Pearson sent Pritchard right out again to explore Patagonia. His assignment was to and investigate the possibility that the giant ground sloth might still roam. His reports to the Daily Express were thrilling to its readers. Once again, his writings were gathered together and published in Through the Heart of Patagonia in 1902.

Following these adventures, Pritchard again partnered with his mother to write a series of tales revolving around the character of Don Q., a Spanish Robin Hood who fought evil. In 1904, the pair gathered their short stories into the collection, The Chronicles of Don Q. This was quickly followed by The New Chronicles of Don Q. in 1906. And in 1909, they produced a full novel, Don Q.'s Love Story.

A few years later, Pritchard returned to the winning combination of writing about his explorations and then publishing them in book form; this time for exploring Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is regrettable that there is so little information at hand concerning Kate Pritchard and her life. Such is not the case with her son, Hesketh. There is so much more to this man which I have not even touched upon here. Pritchard would continue writing fiction and non-fiction through much of the remainder of his life.

Hesketh Pritchard died on June 14, 1922. Ironically, his mother, Kate, would outlive him by many years, finally passing away in 1935.


Below is a listing of the initial six Flaxman Low stories in the order they appeared in Pearson's Magazine, from January through June 1898; as well as the "second series" of six Flaxman Low tales from January through June 1899. This is also the order in which the work here under consideration presents the Flaxman Low tales.

"The Story of ‘The Spaniards,’ Hammersmith"

The disappearance of the original home owner and the subsequent reports of haunting over the intervening decades leads Flaxman Low to investigate.

Their combined experiences and certain clues indicate to Low that the haunting is the result of the possessed remains of a murderous leper!

"The Story of Medhans Lea"

Three stalwart men relate to Low their harrowing time at Medhans Lea. They seek his diagnosis and advice. Without leaving his chair and only using knowledge and his reason, Flaxman Low unravels the mystery of those inexplicable events.

"The Story of the Moor Road"

Low and two men discuss the nature of the entity tormenting the men's family.

After consideration of the events, Low determined an elemental spirit of the earth had been released.

"The Story of Baelbrow"

Wow! Didn't see this one coming! A ghost. . . A vampire. . . A mummy! A house is built on an ancient barrow. The barrow's evil essence of its ghostly occupant transforms into a vampiric spirit which possesses the husk of a desecrated ancient Egyptian mummy. And voila! A ghost-vampire-mummy!

"The Story of the Grey House"

This tale presents one of the best statements, in my opinion, of what it means to be a gentleman in the Victorian era: "If we lose our lives it will be in the effort to make another spot of earth clean and wholesome and safe for men to live on."[i]

I sort-of worked out what the evil force was before the reveal; I just couldn't believe it! A blood-drinking killer plant![ii]

"The Story of Yand Manor House"

Spiritualism, occult beliefs and necromancy drive the haunting at Yand Manor.

"The Story Of Sevens Hall"

Modern psychology (for the time) is used to fathom the reason behind a deadly haunting.

"The Story of Saddler’s Croft"

Curiosity mingled with spiritual possession; an American couple who think having a haunted house is really great–rarely ends well.

"The Story of No. 1 Karma Crescent"

Reports of repeated ghostly murders, Flaxman Low realizes it is not ghosts at all! Rather a wicked Chinese poisoner.

"The Story of Konnor Old House"

According to Low, the supernatural is just a part of the natural world that we don't understand yet.

A fungus! African medicine men! Here again, Low uncovers that no supernatural agency at work. rather just evil that men do.

"The Story of Crowsedge"

The narrator provides a glimpse into what sort of person Flaxman Low is with this quote: "...a solitary and interesting figure surrounded by his books, his Egyptian treasures, and his grotesque memories..."[iii]

Low is introduced to the person of Dr. Kalmarkane, the Moriarty to Low's Sherlock, and a searcher after black magic and dark, occult knowledge.

"The Story of Mr. Flaxman Low"

The concluding tale in this collection opens with the sentence: "The very extraordinary dealings between Mr. Flaxman Low and the late Dr. Kalmarkane have from time to time formed the nucleus of much comment in the press."[iv] This sequel to the previous tale relates these "...very extraordinary dealings..." and details the final resolution of the rivalry between Low and Kalmarkane. During the final confrontation, no power of mind nor supernatural agency was utilized. In an arranged duel, Low shot Kalmarkane in the head. . . Old school. I like it.

In the final paragraph of this collection, acting as a pseudo-epilogue, the narrator left the door open to present additional tales of Flaxman Low's adventures in the future.

We are still waiting.


The occult detective sub-genre was still relatively new in 1899. Many writers and researchers agree that the sub-genre began with Le Fanu's Dr. Hesselius, whose earliest appearance in book form was in 1872 with In a Glass Darkly.

Partial List of Occult Detectives, Authors, and Earliest Appearance

  • Martin Hesselius (J. Sheridan Le Fanu)—1869
  • Flaxman Low (The Pritchards)—1898
  • John Silence (Algernon Blackwood)—1908
  • Thomas Carnacki (William Hope Hodgson)—1910
  • Simon Iff (Aleister Crowley)—1916

A more traditional, common definition of occult detective fiction is ably presented on Wikipedia. From Wikipedia:

Occult detective fiction combines the tropes of detective fiction with those of supernatural horror fiction. Unlike the traditional detective the occult detective is employed in cases involving ghosts, curses, and other supernatural elements. Some occult detectives are portrayed as being themselves psychic or in possession of other paranormal powers.[v]

However, there are examples of tales prior to Le Fanu's Dr. Hesselius that can be considered to be part of the occult detective fiction sub-genre. This broad interpretation of the sub-genre is principally due to the efforts of Tim Prasil, a writer of occult detective fiction. On his blog, The Merry Ghost Hunter, following an in-depth discussion and among many interesting and valuable pieces of research, Prasil came up with this expanded definition of occult (or alternately, psychic) detective fiction. Mr. Prasil declared:

Occult detective fiction presents a character who probes a mystery, exhibiting similarities to other fictional detectives of the same era in investigative methods and in professional or amateur status. However, unlike detectives whose cases are confined to the physical world, the occult detective accepts or comes to accept that phenomena typically termed “supernatural” can play a very real role in the mystery’s solution. That mystery can involve a violation of criminal law (e.g., a murder) or of natural law (e.g, a ghost), but the supernatural element might also be part of the investigation itself (e.g., clairvoyance).[vi]

Prasil explained that his more expansive definition allowed the sub-genre to be traced back further than Le Fanu and his "Dr. Hesselius." To the 1840's at least![vii] Based on this definition, our man here, Flaxman Low, was not one of the first, but rather one of a long line of occult (or psychic) detectives. Low just happened to be the last one published during the reign of Queen Victoria!

I am not sure if I agree with this updated definition or not. However, I am very glad that it is still a ripe topic for discussion.


Pritchard was many things in his life. Being an author (in part only of supernatural tales) was just one small aspect to that plurality. Yet it is through his writings that he has achieved lasting renown.



Print Resources

Digital Resources

K. and Hesketh Prichard (E. and H. Heron). Ghosts: Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low (Black Heath Gothic, Sensation and Supernatural). Black Heath Editions. 2014. Kindle Edition.

Online Resources

Grant, John Linwood. "Casting the Prunes: Flaxman Low Triumphant!" Greydogtales. 06 September 2016. Accessed 01 November 2017.

Hanley, Terence E. "Hesketh Pritchard and the Raised Dead." Tellers of Weird Tales. 08 March 2017. Accessed 02 November 2017.

Jacoby, Charlie. "Giant Sloth: A century on and the hunt is still continuing for this mystical creature," The Daily Express, 08 February 2001. Charlie Jacoby. Accessed 05 November 2017.

Prasil, Tim. "Settling on a Definition of Occult Detective Fiction, Part 3 (of 3)." The Merry Ghost Hunter. 06 February 2016. Accessed 05 November 2017.

skullsinthestars. "E. and H. Heron’s Ghost Stories" Skulls In The Stars. 16 July 2008. Accessed 28 October 2017.

skullsinthestars. "Who ya gonna call? Ghost doctor, ghost-finder, or ghost-seer?" Skulls In The Stars. 28 February 2008. Accessed 02 November 2017.

Von Ruff, Al. "Publication: Ghosts: Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low." Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Accessed 01 November 2017.

Von Ruff, Al. "Title: Ghosts: Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low." Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Accessed 01 November 2017.

Wikipedia. "Flaxman Low." 01 October 2016. Accessed 04 November 2017.

Wikipedia. "Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard." 09 September 2017. Accessed 04 November 2017.

Wikipedia. "Occult detective fiction." 02 November 2017. Accessed 09 November 2017.

[i] Loc 1327 of Kindle edition.

[ii] This tale called to mind The Little Shop of Horrors. Granted there it was a giant potted plant and here a creeping vine, but you get the idea.

[iii] Loc 2819 of Kindle edition.

[iv] Loc 3088 of Kindle edition.

[v] Wikipedia. "Occult detective fiction." 02 November 2017. Accessed 09 November 2017.

[vi] Prasil, Tim. "Settling on a Definition of Occult Detective Fiction, Part 3 (of 3)." The Merry Ghost Hunter. 06 February 2016.

[vii] Prasil, Tim. "Settling on a Definition of Occult Detective Fiction, Part 3 (of 3)."

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Considering IN GHOSTLY COMPANY by Amyas Northcote

Frequently of late, I realize that I have been commenting on collections of tales rather than single works; and will probably continue to do so in the future. It is not as easy as one might imagine to find 19th century supernatural horror literature, though it is not for lack of trying. Honestly, I am appreciative for any qualifying works I can find.

All of that being said, I am very pleased to explore In Ghostly Company by Amyas Northcote.


“Oh, you poor fool! How little you understand. Since that night five weeks ago when first I found you, before you saw my living face, have you learned nothing? You talk of your position, of your social influence; you prate of the police.” Her eyes, dark and gloomy, seemed to devour him as she went on: “What can you do? I hold you and shall always hold you. I may never see you again in this body, I want nothing of your material life, I want something more, I want you yourself, I want your soul.”

He shrank back in horror. “Are you the Devil?” he said.

She burst into a fit of terrible, silent laughter.

“The Devil,” she said, “we are becoming quite mediæval. Do you expect to see this foot,” and she pushed forward her own, “turned into a hoof? Are you waiting for me to take out a parchment to be signed in your blood?”

She laughed again.

“No, Mr. Carmichael,” she went on, “I am not the Devil. Perhaps you would be better off if I were.”

An excerpt from "Mr. Oliver Carmichael"

Amyas Northcote's only collection of supernatural tales, In Ghostly Company, was originally published in 1921 by John Lane, The Bodley Head in the U.K.


A facsimile of the original dust jacket

The edition under consideration here was published by Black Heath Editions in 2014. Black Heath Editions republishes lesser known works from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for incredibly reasonable prices. I would not have even heard of many of these authors (and their works) had it not been for Black Heath Editions. Thank you.


Amyas Northcote, born on 25 October 1864 in Pynes, Exeter, was the seventh child of an aristocrat-politician and manor lord. While growing up, his home welcomed the notable and powerful such as Lord Churchill and Prime Minister Disraeli. Northcote's father, Sir Stafford, held a deep appreciation for ghost stories and tales of fantasy. Thus, Northcote's interests were influenced from an early age.

As the son of a lord and politician, Northcote attended Eton, an exclusive school for boys in preparation for university. M. R. James, noted author of supernatural tales also attended Eton. If I understood and interpreted the details from The Eton Register correctly, both attended Eton during the period 1878 through 1882.[i] As well, both began to attend university in October 1882—James to Cambridge,[ii] Northcote to Oxford.[iii] It is not knowable whether the two ever crossed paths, though it is an interesting possibility.

Following his time at Oxford,[iv] sometime after 1887, Northcote relocated to the United States–Chicago–where he was a very successful businessman. According to once source, he was "business manager of an English real-estate investment syndicate."[v] On May 14, 1890, he married Helen Dudley. They raised two children; both born in Chicago.

It was during his time living in Chicago that Northcote discovered his penchant for writing political commentary.[vi] It is unknown (though not believed by researchers) if he wrote or published any fiction while living in the U.S.

In spite of his liking and appreciation for the U.S., shortly after 1900, Northcote returned to England. Not much is known of his activities during this period except that he was a very wealthy man, and, for a time served as Justice of the Peace for Buckinghamshire.

Out of nowhere, In Ghostly Company, a collection of his supernatural tales, was published in November of 1921 (just in time for the Christmas ghost-story season!). Regretfully, Amyas Northcote would not publish a second book. He died on May 11, 1923 at the age of 58, almost exactly eighteen months after the publication of In Ghostly Company.

It is unknown whether Northcote would have published more tales of the supernatural had he lived. Or was the publication of In Ghostly Company just a one off, a lark? In either case, it remains a profoundly regrettable mystery.


The thirteen tales in this collection are listed below. Other blogs/sites provide excellent summaries of the individual stories. I shall not duplicate such here.

  • "Brickett Bottom"
  • "Mr. Kershaw and Mr. Wilcox"
  • "In the Woods"
  • "The Late Earl of D."
  • "Mr. Mortimer's Diary"
  • "The House in the Wood"
  • "The Steps"
  • "The Young Lady in Black"
  • "The Downs"
  • "The Late Mrs Fowke"
  • "The Picture"
  • "The Governess's Story"
  • "Mr. Oliver Carmichael"

Northcote did not limit himself to the "unquiet dead" (i.e. ghosts) when writing his supernatural stories. For example, "In the Woods" described no simple ghost. Nature itself made up the supernatural force in this tale, reminiscent of Algernon Blackwood's The Willows or Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan. Similarly, in "Mr. Oliver Carmichael," there is no ghost at all in this tale. Rather, it is the mystical power of metaphysics that make up the supernatural element here, tormenting the protagonist.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Northcote's writings remind them of M.R. James. Northcote's style as well as aspects of his tales are reminiscent of M. R. James, however, I do not think that this is due to any conscious or deliberate imitation. Instead, I believe In Ghostly Company followed in the long tradition of English ghost stories just as James did.

In addition to this, M. R. James' characters tended to be academic and of high social status, very much like himself. Mrs. J. H. Riddell's characters were solidly middle class or aspiring to be. Their concerns revolved around debt, inheritance and such matter. Again, much like Riddell herself. But with Northcote, despite the fact that he was the son of an Earl, that he became a Justice of the Peace in later years, that he was a very wealthy man in his own right; the characters he wrote about, whether as protagonist or as support, in many cases involved members of the working class.


Not as well-known as M. R. James or Bram Stoker or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I am convinced that Amyas Northcote deserves a respected place on the roll of English authors of ghost tales from the early twentieth century.



Print Resources

Davies, David Stuart. "Introduction." in In Ghostly Company. Wordsworth Editions: Hertfordshire, 2010.

Digital Resources

Northcote, Amyas. In Ghostly Company (Black Heath Gothic, Sensation and Supernatural). Black Heath Editions. 2014. Kindle Edition.

Online Resources

Cowan, Matt. "In Ghostly Company by Amyas Northcote." 18 September 2013. Accessed 26 September 2017.

Eton College. The Eton Register Part IV. 1871-1880. Spottiswoode & Co., Ltd.: Eton. 1907. Pages 125 & 147. Accessed 16 October 2017.

Evans, Dewi. "In Ghostly Company (1921) by Amyas Northcote." Mystery and Imagination. 06 September 2013. Accessed 26 September 2017.

Foster, John, editor. Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886. Joseph Foster: London. 1888. Page 1029. Accessed 17 October 2017.

MacColl, Gail & Wallace, Carole. To Marry an English Lord: Victorian and Edwardian Experience. Workman Publishing. 1989. Page 329. Accessed 04 October 2017.

Northcote, Amyas. "The Utter Corruption in American Politics." The Nineteenth Century, volume 35. April 1894, page 692-700. Accessed 04 October 2017.

Terry, Mark. "In Ghostly Company." Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Accessed 27 September 2017.

Vagrarian. "In Ghostly Company by Amyas Northcote." Dust & Corruption. 30 July 2014. Accessed 28 September 2017.

Withers, John J., editor. A Register of Admissions to King's College Cambridge, 1850-1900. Smith, Elder & Co.: London. 1908. Accessed 17 October 2017.'s+college+cambridge&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQ-JiBsfrWAhXogFQKHU2nBysQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=register%20of%20admissions%20king's%20college%20cambridge&f=false

[i] Eton College. The Eton Register Part IV. 1871-1880. Spottiswoode & Co., Ltd.: Eton. 1907. Pages 125 & 147. Accessed 16 October 2017.

[ii] Withers, John J., editor. A Register of Admissions to King's College Cambridge, 1850-1900. Smith, Elder & Co.: London. 1908. Accessed 17 October 2017.

[iii] Foster, John, editor. Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886. Joseph Foster: London. 1888. Page 1029. Accessed 17 October 2017.

[iv] It is unclear whether Northcote completed his studies at Oxford or left Oxford prior to graduating.

[v] MacColl, Gail & Wallace, Carole. To Marry an English Lord: Victorian and Edwardian Experience. Workman Publishing. 1989. Page 329.

[vi] A simple Google search uncovered several examples of Northcote's political writings. For example, "The Utter Corruption in American Politics." The Nineteenth Century, volume 35. April 1894, page 692-700.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Books Jonelle Made Me Read 8 - STARGAZER

Series Introduction

In this occasional series, I will be discussing books that a teenage girl (now a fourteen-year-old), Jonelle, instructed me to read. And when I say "instructed me to read," of course I mean "commanded me to read." For those of you who don't know her, she is a highly intelligent, sweet, precocious and fairly bossy young lady.

A large part of the reason why I read this book, and the other works that will be discussed in this blog series, is that I want to understand how teenagers think. These posts will not be a review of the book per se as much as an exploration of my random thoughts on the book.

How did I get myself into this?


In a earlier post, I wrote that Jonelle had recommended a number of books to me. Eight, now nine, books. Though I did not blog about each of these works, I did read each of them.


I thought it would be interesting to show, via this "shelfie," what books Jonelle recommended I read. I believe I only ever asked Jonelle to choose a different title once.

Not bad.


Then, in the corner of the trunk, I saw a scurry of movement. My eyes caught a glimpse of a tiny dark tail: a mouse, burrowing for cover.

Before thinking about it, almost without even knowing I was doing it, I snatched the mouse up and bit in.

It only squeaked once. If it twitched, I didn't know. All I knew was the blood was filling my mouth—real blood, living blood, blossoming outward against my tongue. It was like biting into juicy grapes on a blazing summer day, except hot, sweeter and even better than that. The mouse's last heartbeats fluttered against my lips as I took two sips, three, and then I was done.

I pulled the mouse away, looked down at its dead body, and gagged.

Gross, oh, gross! I spat a couple of times, trying to get any fur or mites or mouse cooties off my lips. The little mouse's corpse I hurled into the corner, where it fell limply. Even as I wiped my mouth repeatedly with my sleeve, I couldn't forget the aftertaste of blood—

—and it still tasted great.


Books Jonelle Made Me Read

Stargazer (Evernight, Book 2) by Claudia Gray.



The second work in the series (4- or 5-part series, depending on how you look at it), Stargazer was published in 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers. Picking up where Evernight left off, it continues the story of the extremely star-crossed youths in love, Bianca and Lucas—young vampire to be and young vampire hunter.



In this second novel, the story is moved forward by focusing a lot of ink on Bianca's gradual transformation into a full-fledged vampire. As revealed in the opening quote, Bianca really likes drinking fresh, hot blood despite, in this case, being utterly disgusted by the source.

Coupled with this, Bianca struggles with her love for Lucas. She is torn between this love and loyalty to her parents and her vampire people. Following a short separation and some upheaval, Bianca and Lucas pledge themselves to each other. They believe that their feelings for each other can overcome any obstacle; even the meaningless conflicts that the adults in the tale are so caught up in.


Mrs. Bethany continued, her voice for once free of coldness or disdain. "The day came when the first human being killed another—with foreknowledge, intent, and the understanding of what it is to take another human's life. When that blow was struck, the bonds between the natural and supernatural world were shattered. Even though that first victim's life ended, his existence did not. The supernatural part of the first murdered man split into two—body and spirit. Vampires are the undead body. Wraiths are the undead spirit. Our powers are unlike each other's. Our consciousnesses are different. And we have been divided from them and from humanity ever since."

This novel's major conflict introduces a new and ominous monster-type, ghostly wraiths (at least it wasn't werewolves, so far anyway), and a new character, Charity, the sister of Balthazar. The wraiths haunt Evernight Academy and stalk Bianca due to a bargain her parents made years before with the wraiths.

Discovering that she is the root of the vampire/wraith conflict and being the one to pay for her parents misdeeds toward the wraiths, flares Bianca's anger toward parents and everything that they represent for her. This, along with her parents strong opposition to her relationship with Lucas, drives a wedge between Bianca and her parents beyond teenaged petulance.

These actions called to mind something I wrote in my blog post concerning Evernight (Book 1): "At its root, Evernight is a variation on the Romeo-and-Juliet theme or young star-crossed lovers. Throw in an Underworld-movie-franchise vibe and, viola! Evernight." I stand by this assessment for Stargazer as well.


Near the end of the book, a major Black Cross force assaults Evernight Academy. After fleeing the burning Academy, Bianca and Lucas are picked up by Black Cross troops. Alone for the first time in her life and feeling cornered with no way out, Bianca agrees to join the Black Cross.

There is no way this is going to end well.


While there were not as many dramatic plot twists as in Book 1, there were enough surprises to keep the reader guessing and anxious to turn the page! I firmly believe Stargazer is a worthy continuation to the tale of Bianca and Lucas. I have every confidence that the next volume, Hourglass, will be as worthwhile.

As Jonelle has recently started high school (which, by the way "Oh My God!"), the demands upon her time have increased dramatically. I am hopeful that, in time, she will continue to recommend books for me to read; as well as comment on them herself.


Monday, September 18, 2017


While this work does not exactly date from the Victorian era, at least it is from the early Edwardian. I stumbled upon it quite by accident, as well as other very interesting works by Black Heath Editions, presented solely in kindle format on

I am so pleased I did. I will reap many happy rewards from this discovery.


"I've got it! At least it fits in with all the details we've found. She must have been of royal blood; for in that fourth picture she's with the man with the black beard, who has the symbol of royalty, and she's nearly as large as he. In this first scene she's making love to this duck in the white skirt, who is very much smaller, to show he's a mere man. He's coy, and has his hands before his face. I suppose that means he does not want to come into the game. Those three other fellows, who are lying on their backs over here, must have been three chaps who did not come to any good end by her. They all have their hands over their faces, you see; same position as the leading man. I guess she was a pretty strenuous lady, judging from these next two pictures. My word, they are frank, aren't they? In the fourth picture the king is reprimanding her for her ways, and she's got her back to him. On this wall, she's evidently being tried for her sins, and the king is pronouncing sentence. And here—hi! look at this—they're walling her up in this very tomb, alive. Here they're dragging her along that passage outside, with the tomb open and ready; and in this last one, the king is putting in a stone. There's the lamp standing on the stone block, with a slave doing something to it." He drew a long breath. "Well! by George! But why did they shut her up alive? Why didn't they poison her or cut her head off, or something that way?"

In the Dwellings of the Wilderness is the first novel of C. Bryson Taylor and was originally published by Henry Holt and Company in New York City in 1904.



The edition under consideration here was published by Black Heath Editions in 2014. Black Heath Editions republishes lesser known works from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for incredibly reasonable prices.


Charlotte Bryson Taylor was born in Washington D. C. on 7 March 1880, the daughter of a U.S. Navy admiral. Charlotte was very well educated and by the time she was twenty-years old, her writing appeared regularly in newspapers and magazines. As with Riddell (link), Charlotte had to deal with ingrained opposition to women earning a living. She signed her works "C. Bryson Taylor." It is assumed this was done to conceal her gender.

A few years after publishing her second novel, Nicanor: Teller of Tales in 1906, (which was less well received) and suffering from several personal tragedies, Charlotte left the publishing world. She died in June 1936 in New York City.


In brief, this tale is set in Egypt where several American archaeologists and their group of native workers discover a lost pharaonic tomb. Quite by accident, they uncover and manage to enter a secret chamber where entombed inside lay the body of a royal lady. This entombed woman was not a mummified corpse in the traditional sense. The body was not prepared nor embalmed. The body was not bandaged nor placed in a sarcophagus. Nothing resembling the iconic image of the mummy was present. The creature here is the victim of intentional entombment while yet alive and natural mummification due to environmental factors.

On the walls of the tomb is carved the tale of this woman. Her entombment was punishment for her craven deeds. One explorer is trapped alone for a short time in the tomb and sees (or imagines he sees) the desiccated mummy reforming into a beautiful woman and tempting him.


The creature in this story does not resemble a mummy in the more common and popular sense, it is more like a ghoul. In Arabic lore, the ghoul or "ghul," whose source lay in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, was said to have "lured lustful men to their doom by taking the guise of beautiful women."i This is exactly how the creature, the re-animated corpse in this tale, hunted her prey; luring various men (archaeologists and native workers alike) away to their doom.

Middle Eastern lore is rich and possesses a long, long tradition in myth and folklore of undead creatures. A singular example of the depth of Middle Eastern myth as it relates to the undead can be found in a passage from the four-thousand-year-old tale of Gilgamesh. The goddess Ishtar threatens the loosing of all hell with the words:

I shall bring up the dead to consume the living,
I shall make the dead outnumber the living.

While not directly concerned with mummies, such an ancient story mentioning, even in passing such as here, the idea of the dead rising to attack those still alive implies that the concept of the man-eating undead is deeply rooted in the region's culture. This, coupled with the Ancient Egyptian obsession with the afterlife, makes for lasting imagery.


And lastly, it is worth noting that as In the Dwellings of the Wilderness was published in 1904, the previous year saw the publication of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars (link). While there seems to be little doubt that In the Dwellings of the Wilderness was influenced by The Jewel of Seven Stars and both share plot elements in common; there are differences as well:

  • most significantly, the creature in both works was once an Egyptian princess.
  • the Egyptian princesses were not mummified in the traditional sense.
  • both princesses were guilty of some heinous infraction.
  • In The Jewel of Seven Stars, an elaborate ritual was required to reanimate the princess. While with In the Dwellings of the Wilderness, one just had to open the door.
  • In The Jewel of Seven Stars, the name of the princess and her back-story are critically important to the tale. In the Dwellings of the Wilderness, does not even give the princess's name.
  • In The Jewel of Seven Stars, the protagonists fight in a more spiritual type of attack. In the Dwellings of the Wilderness's creature is much more straightforward.

To be honest, I was surprised to learn that The Jewel of Seven Stars and In the Dwellings of the Wilderness were not the earliest works of fiction to revolve around a female mummy as protagonist. Some other, earlier works of mummy fictionii:

  • Théophile Gautier's "The Mummy's Foot" (1840). A female mummy's spirit haunts the man who possess her mummified foot.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's "Some Words With a Mummy" (1845). A mummy is awakened by electricity. He has a conversation with the awakeners.
  • Louisa May Alcott's "Lost in a Pyramid; or, The Mummy's Curse" (1869). A mummified sorceress curses the man who defiled her corpse.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Ring of Thoth" (1890). A tale of love and betrayal. A man at long last reunites with his lover.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's "Lot No. 249" (1892). A man uses magic to reanimate and control a mummy to wreak vengeance. This is the first example of an animated mummy as a mobile and sinister creature.


Of the four iconic literary monsters of the nineteenth century, vampires, werewolves, mummies and ghosts, vampire tales were extremely popular and ghost stories by far the most common, it is the ancient dead of mummies that hold special interest for me, stories such as Taylor's In the Dwellings of the Wilderness.



Print Resources

Digital Resources

Taylor, C. Bryson. In the Dwellings of the Wilderness: A Classic Novel of the Mummy's Curse (Black Heath Gothic, Sensation and Supernatural) Black Heath Editions. 2014. Kindle Edition.

Online Resources

Anderson, Douglas A. "C. Bryson Taylor." Lesser-Known Writers. 28 December 2011 Accessed 03 September 2017.

Colavito, Jason. "More on the Gilgamesh Zombies." Jason Colavito. 26 October 2011. Accessed 14 September 2017.

Evans, Dewi. "In the Dwellings of the Wilderness (1904) by C. Bryson Taylor." Mystery and Imagination. 29 July 2013. Accessed 17 August 2017.

Gallo, Daniel B. "The History of Zombies." The Shofar. 27 November 2012. Accessed 14 September 2017.

Getz Jr., James R. "Ishtar and Zombies." Ketuvim. 16 September 2009. Accessed 14 September 2017.


amb, Robert. "How Ghouls Work: Ancient History of the Ghouls." 11 October 2011. Accessed 14 September 2017.

[i] Lamb, Robert. "How Ghouls Work: Ancient History of the Ghouls."

[ii] Note: this is not a complete nor thorough list.