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.

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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)."