Archive for April, 2016

Walpurgis Night

Posted in Bram Stoker, Dracula, Dracula's Guest, Gothic Poetry, Gothic Prose, Poetry, Prose Poetry, Walpurgis Night, Walpurgisnacht, Weird Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Tonight is Walpurgis Night, named after the English Medieval missionary, St. Walpurga, who first brought Christianity to the Germanic people. Her feast day is May 1st, and the eve of the day, April 30th, is often celebrated with dancing and reveling. Somewhere along the line this reveling became identified with the Witch’s Sabbath and Walpurgisnacht, as it is known in Germany, became a night of ill omens and devilry.

Sometime in the early 90’s I wrote a prose piece entitled “Walpurgis Night”, which was inspired by 2 things: one was a stencil someone had sprayed on the wall of my favorite pizza joint on Newbury Street in Boston, which read “Walpurgis Night” in black letters. I always assumed it was a local Goth or Metal band, but brief online research has revealed nothing that I can find. I was later to find, after the fact however, that one of my favorite bands, Black Sabbath, had originally intended their song “War Pigs” to be called “Walpurgis”. Both video and audio documentation of an early version of the song featuring a more lyrical emphasis on the black mass imagery has been available for some time now for public consumption. They had even decided to call the album “Walpurgis”, but the record executives thought it sounded too Satanic, so they toned down the devil imagery and made the newly titled song “War Pigs” into more of an anti-war tune. Of course, when they came up with “Paranoid”, they scrambled to promote that instead as the single and the new title of  the album, the artwork for which still played off of the “War Pigs” theme and confused a lot of stoners back in the day.

The other inspiration, which will be apparent to anyone who is familiar with it, is Bram Stoker’s short story, “Dracula’s Guest”, which was an excised early draft chapter from the original novel.

“Walpurgis Night” is far from my best work, and a little hokey in retrospect, some 25 or so years down the line, but it is an indication of where my creative writing would eventually go.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my prose poem “Walpurgis Night”…

"Walpurgisnacht" by Johannes Praetorius (1668).

“Walpurgisnacht” by Johannes Praetorius (1668).

Your friend is a fool, and shall die as such. You Englishmen, so arrogant! Where is the precious Crown for him now? His impressively  untainted lineage will mean nothing to the wolves. All blood tastes the same to them, blue or otherwise; but that is the least of his worries.

He would indeed be fortunate if it were only the wolves whom he met with.  For there are myriad other creatures which shall be roaming the lonely roads tonight, far more horrible than they. The dead shall rise and the witches shall be reveling in their sabbats and rutting rituals, and the Light Bearer shall hold sway.

Not a one of  my men would go out on this of all nights to search for any man, no matter what the price. For you see, tonight is a night for prayers, garlic rubbing, and door bolting. Tonight my friend, is Walpurgis Night!

Charles L. Grant’s “The Dark Cry of the Moon” (1986)

Posted in "The Dark Cry of the Moon", "The Soft Whisper of the Dead", Berkley Books, Charles L. Grant, Donald M. Grant Publisher, Oxrun Station Series, R.J. Krupowicz, werewolf novels with tags , , , , , , on April 9, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Published in 1986, “The Dark Cry of the Moon” is the second book in the Oxrun trilogy, which takes place in historical Oxrun Station. Each of the books in the trilogy features a classic monster. In the first installment, “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, the villains are vampires; in the second, “The Dark Cry of the Wolf”, the monster is a werewolf.

"The Dark Cry o the Moon" 1986 Donald M. Grant Publisher.

“The Dark Cry o the Moon” 1986, Donald M. Grant Publisher.

The story picks up a generation or so after the first book. The are no recurring characters, although a few do seem to be descended from a few of the protagonists of the previous tale. The town doctor, John Webber bears his progenitor’s name, and the new chief of police, Lucas Stockton, is apparently the son of Detective Ned Stockton, and has even named his own young, Ned, son after his father.

As in “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, the hero policeman and his plucky sweetheart race against time to figure out who is perpetrating the horrible murders which have upset peace in the sleepy town of Oxrun Station. There does seem to be a formula here, but it is well-executed nevertheless.

There is a wise old gypsy woman, Lucas Stockton’s faithful housekeeper Maria Andropayous, apparently modeled after the character Maleva from the Universal Studios Wolf Man movies of the 1940’s, who is steeped in arcane lore and spouts cryptic warnings. “The wolf,” she said, “walks on two legs.” [pg. 40]

There are several references to wolfsbane throughout the story. In this tale, the blooming of wolfsbane in the moonlight indicates the nearby presence of a werewolf. This is also mentioned in the Universal films, but has some precedent in the classical poem “Metamorphoses”, by Ovid. It tends to pop up now and then in supernatural fiction and film, but its uses vary. Universal used it, under its other name, aconite, as a vampire deterrent in “Dracula” (1931).

Odd that with so many references to the Universal films, Grant’s essay “A Foreword for Those Who Remember Ralph Bates” seems to focus on the Hammer films. Then again, I don’t recall having read it, so perhaps he does give them a “shout out” in there, as the kids say.

There is a bit more mystery in this book, and with all of the red herrings, I honestly couldn’t recall who the werewolf was until only a few chapters from the end of the book. The story is good, with likeable characters, as well as a few highly unlikable ones. It is fast-paced, much like its predecessor, and really reads like a classic horror film. The book is lavishly illustrated by R.J. Krupowicz, who did such an awesome job on “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, although this time, he left out the red highlights, which were so eye-catching in the previous book. This would be the last book he would illustrate for this series. The follow up, “The Long Night of the Grave” was illustrated by artist Jill Bauman, whose style is much less baroque.

Paperback edition of "The Dark Cry of the Moon" (1987, Berkley Books).

Paperback edition of “The Dark Cry of the Moon” (1987, Berkley Books).

Unfortunately, even though the book looks lovely, there are many typos. I had spotted one or two minor ones in “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, but there were many in this volume and for a pricey collectible I believe Donlad M Grant Publishers should have taken more care to weed these out. Even so, I highly recommend this novel and I believe that if you can afford it, the Donald M. Grant hardcover is the way to go, if only for the lovely dust jacket and interior artwork by R.J. Krupowicz.