Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thoughts on A. P. Baker’s A COLLEGE MYSTERY (1918).

A College Mystery has become a staple of the folklore concerning Christ’s College, Cambridge.


The edition under consideration was published by Black Heath Editions in 2016. Black Heath Editions republishes lesser known works of supernatural fiction from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the Kindle format 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. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out what I consider to be a major failing of this version. This Black Heath kindle edition does not contain any of the five (or six) illustrations included in the 1918 (or 1923) editions. In my opinion, this absence takes away from the willing suspension of disbelief necessary for such a tale.


A College Mystery was A. P. Baker’s only work of fiction ever published. W. Heffer and Sons Ltd of Cambridge published the First Edition in late 1918. This was followed by a Second Edition in 1923. To the best of my knowledge, the only difference between the two editions is a slight change on the front cover-board; as well as the possible inclusion of one additional illustration in the 1923 edition.


Arthur Ponsford Baker was born in Cape Colony (what would later become South Africa) on the 6th of September, 1873. His father was a colonial merchant. By 1881, the Baker family had returned to England. Arthur grew up to attend Christ’s College in 1892 with the idea of gaining a medical career.

In 1895, Arthur suffered a crippling sports injury. As a result, he had to leave Christ’s giving up on his medical career ambition. However, he returned to Christ’s in 1903, this time seeking a degree in History which he received in 1904; becoming a lecturer in History at Christ’s College thereafter.

A. P. Baker was greatly admired as a lecturer and as a supporter of Christ’s College especially by the students. On 20 March 1919, Arthur Ponsford Baker died at the too young age of 45.


My thanks are due . . . to the Provost of Eton for reading through the manuscript of this little book and for kindly comment . . .[i]

In the Preface to A College Mystery, Baker stated unambiguously, in the quote above, that M. R. James, the acclaimed writer of ghost tales (as well as then Provost of Eton) was familiar with A College Mystery. Not only that, he had read and commented on it as well.


A College Mystery is a variation on the “found manuscript” horror tale and is presented to the audience in several layers. Baker, as the narrator, initially relays to the reader several reports based upon reports of a wandering ghost at Fellows’ Garden, Christ College, Cambridge. Baker then comments that he has come into possession of a collection of papers of one Simon Goodridge.

These papers were grouped into three parts:

The first was the “Record of Christopher Round.” Being a close friend of Round, this initial and largest section of the collection was bequeathed to Goodridge following Round’s death. Written by Round, thirty years after a dark deed, the narrative detailed the circumstances which conspired to turn what was a years-long personal enmity with a man named Collier into professional contention. Then, their professional rivalry expanded into envy; and then into jealous, indignant rage. Until finally, this rage became murder.

The second part was comprised of two newspaper articles reprinting 1) the coroner’s inquest into Collier’s death and 2) Collier’s Will. The inquest established Collier’s death as accidental. This exonerated Round of any wrong-doing as well as casting doubt on Round’s recollection of the events leading to Collier’s death. As events would have it, Round was never informed of the inquest’s judgment.

Collier’s Will detailed the motivation behind his actions leading to the final collision between Round and himself. The document innocently explained away Round’s misconceptions regarding Collier’s intentions. Round’s subsequent deed was made all the more tragic. This would haunt him the rest of his days . . . and beyond.

The final part, Goodridge’s personal statement, provided an outsider’s perspective on the Round / Collier rivalry; including the events leading up to Collier’s death. Aware of the events’ impact upon Round’s health—physical and mental, Goodridge’s comments only deepened the reality of the tragedy.

And, as a postscript, Goodridge included a few reports of the supposed haunting. By the date and location of the haunting, he was able to link the unquiet spirit to Christopher Round.


There are numerous reviews and commentaries on A College Mystery found on the internet. For the most part, each covers the same points and say roughly the same things. However, some articles say it better than others. The Haunted Library, a blog, posted on 10 November 2014 a masterful review of A College Mystery. Summarizing the story, it stated that “Baker's ingenious little book purports to be a true account of the events which resulted in there being a ghost in the Fellows' Garden at Christ's College.”[ii] A little further on, the blog-post continues:

A College Mystery is a work of fiction, but Baker did such a skilful job of putting his book together, adding weight to his story by creating newspaper articles that read as utterly genuine and adding footnotes, that his account of the Fellows' Garden ghost has been accepted by many over the years as true.

I find this comment to be very interesting. When I began researching A College Mystery for this posting, I was struck by how many sources treated the story as factual. In other words, that there really is an unquiet spirit haunting the Fellows' Garden at Christ's College and that Baker, in essence, was attempting to clarify the origins of this paranormal phenomenon.

This was incredible! I am not sure why, but of all the tales of haunting written in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, A College Mystery was one of the extremely few that was actually believed to be true! On the blog, Ghost Cities, Ani Balan wrote “Although it was ostensibly a work of fiction, it has since come to be widely accepted as true.” A little later in the same article, Balan went on:

The fictional story of Round and Collier has become so firmly attached to the ghost at Christ’s that it is impossible to say whether Baker invented that too, or whether there really were sightings of a strange figure in the Fellows’ Garden around which he wove his fiction.[iii]

Rupert Matthews’ Little Book of the Paranormal, published in 2010, treated the incident in A College Mystery as a true haunting. The entry on Christ’s College, reproduced below in its entirety, doesn’t even mention Baker or his tale; but treats the haunting as a real phenomenon.

At any time of the year a visitor to the Christ’s College, Cambridge, may come across a stooped figure shuffling quietly around the Fellows’ Garden. This is the penitent ghost of a Fellow from two centuries ago named Christopher Round. He killed another Fellow of the college on this spot and, although he escaped the noose, his spirit returns still in the hope of achieving forgiveness.[iv]

Even Christ’s College Magazine 2010 (page 26), referred to an October 2009 article on Haunted Cambridge locales that mentioned in passing “. . . the legend of the ghosts of the Fellows’ Garden, described in A. P. Baker’s A College Mystery.”[v]

Whether based in actual lore or utterly fictional, Baker’s ghost, ironically, has achieved a life of its own.

clip_image008The Fellows’ Building (drawing by F. H. Round)

A large part of this was due to Baker’s skill incorporating actual locations (Fellows’ Garden, the pool/bath, rooms in the Fellows’ Building) within the framework of his tale. These images, and others, insert a large dose of realism to the story; actual places, still visible to the present day.

clip_image010The Swimming Bath in the Fellows’ Garden (drawing by F. H. Round)

His familiarity with Christ’s College, along with the several drawings included in the Heffer and Sons editions, add a degree of intimacy not usually found in a typical British tale of haunting.


A College Mystery concludes with the narrator describing incidents involving supposed haunting at Christ’s College. The narrator links it to Round’s earlier statement because of the locations of the reports and the date they both occurred—May 29—the date of Collier’s death.

But it doesn’t end there.

The 1998 edition of Christ’s College Magazine included a piece, A College Mystery – A Further Mystery?, written by Michael Wyatt. Similar to the postscript in Baker’s book, this short piece brings the haunting up to a more modern time, implying that what goes on at Fellows’ goes on there still.[vi]


The story of A College Mystery is, therefore, not so much a ghostly tale as a murder mystery to explain a ghost.[vii]

A College Mystery was written not as a ghost story in the strictest sense, but more as an exposé providing an origin tale for a haunting. It is not a tale of haunting, rather, of the events which lead to there being a haunting in the first place. As a consequence of Baker’s approach and style in writing, A College Mystery blurred the line between fiction and reality. As a result, his tale is actually believed by many to be a true record.[viii]

I can think of no greater tribute for an author’s work.



Print Resources

Digital Resources

Baker, A. P. A College Mystery. Black Heath Editions. 2016. Kindle Edition.

Online Resources

Balan, Anil. “A College Mystery.” Ghost Cities. Anil Balan. 19 August 2012. Web. 06 April 2018.

Bowkett, Kelvin, Helen Mort, Tamsin Astbury, editors. “Staff.” Christ’s College Magazine 2010. Christ’s College Cambridge. 23 October 2012. Web. 05 April 2018.

Collia, G. R. “A College Mystery ~ A. P. Baker.” The Haunted Library. G. R. Collia. 10 November 2014. Web. 03 April 2018.

Haunted Rooms. “Christ’s College Cambridge.” Haunted Rooms. Haunted Rooms & McMedia Group Ltd. Web. 05 April 2018.

Pardoe, Rosemary. “A. P. Baker and A College Mystery.” The Ghosts & Scholars: M. R. James Newsletter. Issue 8 (Sept 2005). Web. 16 April 2018.

[i] Baker, A. P. “Preface.” A College Mystery. Black Heath Editions. 2016. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Collia, G. R. “A College Mystery ~ A. P. Baker.” The Haunted Library. 10 November 2014.

[iii] Balan, Anil. “A College Mystery.” Ghost Cities. Anil Balan. 19 August 2012.

[iv] Matthews, Rupert. Little Book of the Paranormal. The History Press, Glouchestershire. 2010, 2011.


[vi] More than anything else, Wyatt’s article reads more like a work of fan fiction.

[vii] Pardoe, Rosemary. “A. P. Baker and A College Mystery.” The Ghosts & Scholars: M. R. James Newsletter. Issue 8 (Sept 2005).

[viii] This phenomenon called to mind the reaction to the 1997 horror movie, The Blair Witch Project. A fictional supernatural creature set in an actual location is thought by many viewers to be a record of true events rather than entertainment. Also, Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of H. G. Well’s War of the Worlds aired on October 30, 1938 and allegedly caused mass panic and confusion.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"Evil Seeks Evil": Initial Thoughts on HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT


Almost since its inception in 2013, the principal focus of Old Sins Cast Long Shadows has been 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.



Recently, I saw Hellraiser: Judgment for the first time . . . Wow!

Following on and building upon the discussion from my previous post of a few weeks ago on the Hellraiser fan film No More Souls, I find I can no longer contain my inner fan-boy over Hellraiser: Judgment.

This is not a review of the film, Hellraiser: Judgment, per se . . . I loved this movie! There, that is my review!

clip_image004Hellraiser franchise.

This post is a consideration of a few interesting aspects of Hellraiser: Judgment. To start, I need to share that in watching Hellraiser: Judgment the first time (and there have been, and will be, more times), I experienced the same feeling of unease I felt when I saw the first Hellraiser movie so many years ago. To feel that again in a Hellraiser-franchise film was both a surprise and a pleasure. It was a feeling of disquiet or dread that I haven't felt while watching a film in a long time.

clip_image006First sight of Pinhead and the Auditor


Hellraiser: Judgment completed filming in early 2016 and, though originally slated for a 2017 release, was lost in the limbo of film distribution till January 2018. Insight into this limbo was hinted at in a 16 October 2017 Facebook post by new Pinhead actor, Paul T. Taylor, who wrote:

Seriously, I have a reliable source who just informed me that HELLRAISER: JUDGEMENT has been on a shelf for a while, unfinished. But now that Harvey Weinstein is out of the picture, HR:J has been taken off that shelf and is back in post-production, thanks to Bob Weinstein's love of horror films and his new-found freedom. He runs Dimension Films, the owner of the HELLRAISER franchise. I suspected something like this might happen and I'm so glad I was right.[i]

If I read Taylor's statement correctly, he is saying that without Harvey Weinstein's fall from grace due to his sexual predation, Hellraiser: Judgment might still be in limbo! Well, Mr. Taylor was much clearer in an interview two months later. He came right out and stated as much:

I think the reasons are many, but probably mostly due to the studio (Dimension Films) not doing the film for the love of the franchise, but rather to legally hold onto the franchise. It’s a Weinstein property, and we all know how that’s turning out! I wonder if the movie would have EVER been released if the women who have come forward to share their stories about Harvey had remained silent. I think it just wasn’t a priority for the studio to release it, but now they need all the money they can get.[ii]

Pinhead will have such sights to show Harvey . . .

Thankfully, Hellraiser: Judgment was released on home media and V.O.D. on 13 February 2018 by Lionsgate Films.


"Jesus wept."

~final words spoken by Frank Cotton (while wearing Larry Cotton's skin) just prior to his dismemberment in Hellraiser (1987).

"Jesus wept."

~final words spoken by the angel Jophiel just prior to her dismemberment in Hellraiser: Judgment (2018).

Jesus wept.

~John 11:35.


Depictions of Diabolical (or Divine, depending on how you see it) politics in fiction is a favorite subject of mine. Hellraiser: Judgment revealed another faction in the Hell in which the Cenobites reside–the Stygian Inquisition, led by the Auditor. Interestingly, it is not made clear in the film whether there were any other groups or organizations in Hell. This leads to further questions. Are the Cenobites and the Inquisition the only two? Is there a devilish hierarchy? And if so, who (or what) is at the top?

The Angel Jophiel is able to command both Pinhead and the Auditor on pain of Divine punishment, which strongly suggests to me that, at the top of Hell's hierarchy stands . . . Heaven! With all that this disquieting statement implies.

The Angel Jophiel, whose name means “Beauty of God,” is believed to be the angel that banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Thus, this makes the conclusion of Hellraiser: Judgment a little more feasible in light of this Judeo-Christian lore. I am not sure how I feel about the Angel Jophiel. Not for the character which was great, but rather what it indirectly meant.


Clive Barker introduced the character of Pinhead, as an unnamed being from Beyond, in The Hellbound Heart in late 1986. He further expanded upon the character in the 1987 movie, Hellraiser by giving Pinhead the face and voice of Doug Bradley. In 2015, Barker published The Scarlet Gospels after an excruciatingly long wait. Barker wrote The Scarlet Gospels to be his final word on Pinhead and reveal his ultimate fate.


I hold strong negative feelings toward Barker's The Scarlet Gospels. Not least of which concerned its portrayal of Pinhead (or The Hell Priest as he was actually known). In this work, Pinhead is a petty thug; not at all how he has been imagined. This disconnect was jarring and even uncomfortable for me to read.

In The Scarlet Gospels, Barker, not only draws from imagery of Heaven and Hell, a central figure in the story is Lucifer himself! Talk about Judeo-Christian! However as Barker is the original creator of Hellraiser and Pinhead, his works are official canon. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

I believe this closer connection with the Judeo-Christian afterlife detracts from the "horror" of the experience of the story. Rather than a mythos which stands apart from our reality, this inclusion of the all-to-familiar Judeo-Christian Hell and Lucifer calls to my mind the H.P. Lovecraft versus August Derleth interpretations of the mythos behind and around Lovecraft's tales; one, a cold and uncaring universe, the other, an eternal war between Good and Evil.


I opened this discussion with a quote—the shortest verse in the Bible—as well as the quote's dual (to the best of my knowledge) appearances in the Hellraiser franchise.

"Jesus wept."

In 2018's Hellraiser: Judgment, the Angel Jophiel, finding herself in a similar situation as Larry did in the original 1987 film, repeats the quote in homage back to that first Hellraiser.

And, according to Clive Barker, that phrase was the result of an actor's ad-lib in the first 1987 Hellraiser film:

The most famous line in the film is an ad-lib

Andrew Robinson (who later played Garak on Deep Space Nine) plays Larry, and he's probably the most famous actor in the movie. He also contributed a lot of ad-libs to the dialogue. For example, Robinson contributed the line, "Enough of this cat and mouse shit."

Barker also mentions in the commentary that it was Robinson's idea to replace the script's generic "fuck off" as his last line with the now oft-quoted phrase (and, incidentally, the shortest verse in the King James Bible) "Jesus wept!"[iii]

In an interesting side note to "Jesus wept" in Hellraiser: Judgment, Tunnicliffe responded to a discussion on The Clive Barker Podcast and provided feedback to the commentary. Focusing on the inclusion of the "Jesus wept" dialogue in Hellraiser: Judgment, Tunnicliffe stated that this phrase wasn't even in the script![iv] Tunnicliffe was, and frankly still is, unsure whether its inclusion was the best decision or not![v]


"The sweet suffering."

~final words spoken by Pinhead in No More Souls: One Last Slice of Sensation (2004).

"The sweet suffering."

~final words spoken by human-Pinhead after his banishment from Hell into Earth in Hellraiser: Judgment (2018).


In my previous post, I discussed Gary Tunnicliffe's involvement with the Hellraiser franchise and, in particular, his fan film No More Souls: One Last Slice of Sensation, which he wrote, directed and starred in (as Pinhead). No More Souls, made for the pitiful sum of $2,500, showed Tunnicliffe how to make every dollar count and make a little go a long way.

It was the fact that Tunnicliffe wrote, directed and starred in (not as Pinhead, however) the new Hellraiser: Judgment that allayed my fears regarding Judgment's place in the franchise.[vi] It has been reported that the budget for Hellraiser: Judgment was between $350,000 and $500,000; a pittance for a feature-length production of today. Fortunately, Tunnicliffe had experience with the restrictions this placed and how to circumvent them.

. . . it became clear that Judgment was made solely for fans of Hellraiser with complete disregard for mainstream audiences.[vii]

I could not agree more with the above quote. Another review pointed out that Hellraiser: Judgment has the feel of a fan film and that was a good thing.[viii] Truly, I think Tunnicliffe's experience on his Hellraiser fan film, No More Souls, provided him with exactly the know-how he needed to make Hellraiser: Judgment a film for the fans.

clip_image010Director Gary J. Tunnicliffe with Alexandra Harris as Detective Christine Egerton

I must confess that as entertaining as Tunnicliffe's rendition of The Auditor was in Hellraiser: Judgment, I would have liked more Pinhead; though his time on screen was superb. The actor who portrayed Pinhead here, Paul Taylor, showed himself to be a worthy successor to Doug Bradley's Pinhead. He understood, as did Bradley, that when wearing such an over-the-top costume, the "less is more" acting philosophy is the way to go and carried it off superbly, in my opinion.

clip_image012Paul J. Taylor is Pinhead in Hellraiser: Judgment.

clip_image014Gary Tunnicliffe touching up Paul Taylor's Pinhead makeup while still in his Auditor costume.

Regarding the elephant in the room of the Hellraiser franchise, I do not intend to comment upon the public falling out between Tunnicliffe and Doug Bradley over the casting of Pinhead. However, I do hope that two old friends can reconcile themselves and find that friendship again.

And lastly, I found deeply satisfying the homage to the first Hellraiser film I referred to above ("Jesus wept"). Along those lines, I like to think that Tunnicliffe threw himself a little wink-wink when the last words in Hellraiser: Judgment spoken by Pinhead, harkened back to the final words of Pinhead in his No More Souls fan film.

"The sweet suffering."


The conclusion of Hellraiser: Judgment was excellent with a wild set-up for a possible sequel. Or, as a reviewer with Bloody Disgusting online magazine put it:

. . . a wild finale that makes it all worthwhile. Everything comes full circle in the final moments, adding an entirely new dimension to the Hellraiser franchise. Tunnicliffe delivers on his promise with an overly ambitious conclusion that beautifully ties it all together.[ix]

If this is an example of what Tunnicliffe can do, then all I can say is . . . When is the sequel coming out?



Print Resources

Digital Resources

Online Resources

Danhauser, Ryan. "Hellraiser Judgment – Audio Commentary." The Clive Barker Podcast. The Clive Barker Podcast. 4 February 2018. Web. 10 March 2018.

Das, Abhimanyu and Anders, Charlie Jane. "All The Weirdest Secrets You Never Knew About Clive Barker's Hellraiser." IO9 Gizmodo. Gizmodo Media Group. 24 October 2014. Web. 09 March 2018.

Davison, Jacob. "Review: ‘Hellraiser: Judgement’ Verdict, a Step Up in the Franchise." 13 February 2018. Web.17 February 2018.

Decker, Sean. “Editorial: Why Ingrate Fanboys Need to Let Go of Territorialism (and Why Hellraiser: Judgment Might Be Awesome).” Dread Central. Dread Central Media LLC. 29 July 2016. Web. 24 March 2018.

Green, Adam & Lynch, Joe, hosts. "Gary J. Tunnicliffe." The Movie Crypt, episode 232. GeekNation. 2017.

Malone, Stephanie. “INTERVIEW WITH GARY J. TUNNICLIFFE, WRITER/DIRECTOR OF HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT (2017).” Morbidly Beautiful. Morbidly Beautiful. 19 September 2016. Web. 24 March 2018.

Miska, Brad. "[Review] Sluggish ‘Hellraiser: Judgment’ Still Has Grotesque Charm." Bloody Disgusting. Bloody Disgusting, LLC. 1 February 2018. Web. 7 March 2018.

Posey, Arthur. "Interview: Hellraiser: Judgment star Paul T. Taylor drops by 1428 Elm." 1428 Elm. FanSided Inc. 29 December 2017. Web. 07 March 2018.

Ridenour, Rob. "My Personal Feelings on Hellraiser: Judgment – Part One." The Clive Barker Podcast. The Clive Barker Podcast. 20 March 2016. Web. 22 February 2018.

Taylor, Paul T. HR:J in post-production. Facebook, 16 October 2017, 2:49 p.m., Accessed 4 March 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. "Gary J. Tunnicliffe." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 05 February 2018. Web. 15 February 2018.

[i] Taylor, Paul T. HR:J in post-production. Facebook, 16 October 2017.

[ii] Posey, Arthur. "Interview: Hellraiser: Judgment star Paul T. Taylor drops by 1428 Elm." 1428 Elm. FanSided Inc. 29 December 2017.

[iii] Das, Abhimanyu and Anders, Charlie Jane. "All The Weirdest Secrets You Never Knew About Clive Barker's Hellraiser." IO9 Gizmodo.

[iv] Just like in the original Hellraiser movie's script!

[v] Danhauser, Ryan. "Hellraiser Judgment – Audio Commentary." The Clive Barker Podcast. 4 Feb. 2018.

[vi] We can all agree that Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) was an abomination, Tunnicliffe's script notwithstanding. And, yes, the plot of this new film did have plot elements in common with 2000's Hellraiser: Inferno.

[vii] Miska, Brad. "[Review] Sluggish ‘Hellraiser: Judgment’ Still Has Grotesque Charm." Bloody Disgusting. 1 February 2018.

[viii] Davison, Jacob. "Review: 'Hellraiser: Judgment' Verdict, a Step Up in the Franchise." 13 February 2018.

[ix] Miska, Brad. "[Review] Sluggish ‘Hellraiser: Judgment’ Still Has Grotesque Charm." Bloody Disgusting. 1 February 2018.