Sonntag, 1. Juli 2012

The Ghoul Keepers edited by Leo Margulies
Pyramid Books G-665,
1961, 35¢, 157pages

                                                                       My copy.

“The Ghoul Keepers" is one of those kinds of anthologies that I like best. It’s a fairly light one night read, has an awesome “John Schoenherr” cover, has nothing but stories that originally appeared in “Weird Tales” magazine and only has one story that’s been heavily anthologized.
What more can you ask for? What I also find nice about this collection is that it contains all but two stories from the “Dorothy McIIWraith” era (1940-1954). Henry Kuttner’s “Elak of Atlantis” story “Spawn of Dagon” and Edmond Hamilton’s “Isle of the Sleeper” are the only stories that were printed during “FarnsworthWright’s” editorship. Unfortunately my copy is one of those old paperbacks where the glue has turned brown and brittle. I actually had to take it apart and re-glue it. Thank God that there are several sites on the Web that give instructions on paperback restoration and repair.

This is also one of four anthologies that Mr. Margulies edited that entirely consisted of “Weird Tales” reprints. The other three are “Weird Tales”, “Worlds of the Weird” and “The Unexpected”. All three are also fine collections. Mr. Margulies was a Pulp and paperback editor from the early 1950s up till 1975 when he passed away. He also helped launch the “Popular Library” line of paperbacks from “Pine Publishing”.

Now let’s take a look at the stories…….

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Robert Bloch.

This is a fun and ugly Robert Bloch story written after he had shrugged off his Lovecraftian influences and was writing those Robert Bloch kinds of stories that you either love or hate. I tend to love them. This is a great love triangle story that goes terribly wrong. Hugo, a young drifter who I guess you could describe as borderline mentally retarded gets hired as the backstage assistant to Victor Sadini, a travelling vaudeville Magician. Hugo falls in love with Isobel, Sadini’s beautiful stage assistant. She convinces Hugo that Sadini is a genuine magician whose powers are real and uses them to keep her enslaved. The real deal is that Isobel is carrying on with George who is a Crooner travelling the same circuit. They want to run off with all of Sadini’s money and props. Isobel then seduces poor stupid Hugo and convinces him that the only way to set her free is for Hugo to kill Sadini who has shown Hugo nothing but kindness. To cut to the chase, Hugo offs Mr. Sadini and takes possession of Sadini’s supposed source of magical power, his Wand. Hugo then takes Sadinis place on stage since he is now a true magician and performs the sawing the lady in half trick. We can all see where this goes. I liked the story quite a bit and it’s very much an “EC comics” kind of story even though it predates the EC line of horror comics by a few years.

“The Martian and the Moron” by Theodore Sturgeon.

Even though this was published in “Weird Tales” it’s not a horror story. Its light hearted SF about a 1920s Radio Nut who receives messages from Mar which no one believes.  So 20 years later, his son woes a beautiful young woman who is none to bright and a total blank slate.  It turns out she’s is a Martian experiment sent to Earth to learn about us. She is a kind hearted mental sponge who soaks up earthly life style. This is a good natured and sweet story. More in line to a 1930s screwball comedy that late 1940s horror that Mr. Sturgeon was so good at before he made his big mark as a science fiction writer.

“The Isle of the Sleeper” by Edmond Hamilton.

Edmond Hamilton wrote tons of stories for “Weird Tales” back in the 1930, both Science Fiction and Horror. All of his “Interstellar Patrol” stories appeared in “WT” even though they were some of the very first “Space Opera” stories. “Space Opera” was created at this time by “E.E. doc Smith”, “Jack Williamson” and Edmond Hamilton. I’ve always felt that Mr. Hamilton was at his very best during the 1920s and 1930s when he was writing crazy and over the top “Age of Wonder” stories. His horror stories from this period are also great fun. Sadly “Isle of the Sleeper” isn’t one of them. A man gets stranded on a desert isle where he meets the love of his life. They are then threatened by “the Sleeper” who rules the isle. It turns out that out narrator is the sleeper and it was all a dream. Or was it? This one didn’t impress me at all. It goes to show that even the greatest of writers don’t always produce great stories.

“Please Go ´Way and Let Me Sleep” by Helen W. Kasson.

 This story is a rare bird. It’s a humorous horror/ghost story that actually works!  The occupants of the Collins’ family vault are up in arms. It seems a distant cousin is mourning above the vault every Sunday morning and disturbing the rest of those residing in the vault. They hold as family meeting and decide to fight fire with fire by haunting their “Haunter”.
The story is lots of silly and gruesome fun that actually succeeds at being a funny ghost story. I particularly enjoy how the vault residents bicker among themselves the hierarchy of the dead. What is particularly interesting is the “Helen W. Kasson” was “Stanley G. Weinbaum`s” sister!!

“The Lake” by Ray Bradbury.

It’s no wonder that “The Lake” is one of the late Ray Bradbury´s most reprinted stories.
(It can’t believe that after 40+ years of reading that I’d say “the late Ray Bradbury”.)
This is one of many horror stories that Mr. Bradbury had published in “WT” very early on in his career. What I like so much about these stories is that it seems that Ray was still young enough to be not dipping his childhood in so much sugar. This story is so damned good that it brings the entire anthology to a dead stop. After reading it for the first time you’ll probably have to put the book aside for a while. Young Harold is spending the day for the very last time at a lake in Michigan where so many childhood summers have been spent. He is moving to L.A. the next day with his mother. He’s leaving his childhood home forever. He’s also leaving “Tally” who was his first and greatest love. On his last evening at the lake he begs her to come back to him. She drowned in the lake when they were both 12. Many years later he returns with his bride on their honeymoon. He sees a life guard come out of the lake carrying something. It is the well preserved body of a little girl who drowned over a decade before is discovered. She is so well preserved that Harold gets the impression that she’s only asleep. What he sees brings back to him the knowledge of everything he has lost. He then returns to a bride who he now hates. This story hits like a hammer every time I read it. I love it and despise it.

“The Witch in the Fog” by Harry Altshuler

This one is a wonderful story of revenge during a foggy English night. A British “Gentleman” sold his young Ward to an Indian Prince against her will for a large sum of money. Many years later she returns to England to stalk him. She finally visits him at home one night to exact her revenge. But first she shows him what she has learned since joining the “Thugee” Cult by single handily dispatching two armed burglars. This one has a current of nastiness running under the surface that makes it so good. You go girl!

“Clair De Lune” by Seabury Quinn

“Claire De Lune” is another of Mr. Quinn’s wonderful “Jules de Grandin” stories.
For those of you who don’t know, Seabury Quinn was “Weird Tales” most popular writer during its original run. He wrote something like 93 “de Grandin” stories between 1925 and 1951. And these weren’t the only stories he published in “WT”.  Jules De Grandin is a Fench occult detective who lived in New Jersey with his friend and co-investigator, Dr. Trowbridge.
Think retro-X-files here. Jules and Trowbridge went up against and defeated every conceivable kind of supernatural and weird menace. Werewolves, ghosts, demons, gods, cultists, vampires, serial killers ect. You name it and they fought it. The series is terribly formulaic and illogical. It’s kinda like being with “Jessica Fletcher” in that supernatural evil rears its head anywhere these two gentlemen go. I love these stories though. They display an odd combination odd combination of charm, warmth and pure grisliness that’s hard to imagine without reading them.
Clair de Lune is a typical “de Grandin” story with he and Trowbridge go up against a female psychic vampire with strong lesbian overtones. Imagine Sherlock Holmes and Watson fighting monsters and you’ll have a good idea of what these stories are all about. I can’t get enough of them. I have all but one of the “Popular Library” collections printed back in the 1970s. I read them sparingly so that I’ll always have another adventure to look forward to.

“Spawn of Dagon” by Henry Kuttner.

Henry Kuttner started his career as a very young member of the original “Lovecraft Circle” before moving on to being a pretty good “Weird Menace” and horror writer during his 2nd writing phase. After that he moved on to pulp SF but didn’t truly shine until he married and started collaborating with great “C.L.Moore”.  Mr. Kuttner wrote a series of “Sword and Sorcery” stories about “Elakthe last prince of Atlantis” for “WT” in an attempt to try and fill the hole left by the death of “Conan” creator “Robert E. Howard”. Sadly the shoes left by REH were so big that no one has ever been able to fill them. We have to give Henry credit for trying though. The “Elak” stories are basically fluff. Fun fluff, but still fluff.
“Spawn of Dagon” is more or less “Generic S&S hero meets the children of Cthulhu”. Elak is given the job of destroying a magic gemstone and murdering the wizard who owns it. He ends up getting involved with a “Dagon” sect of Lovecraftian squid entities who wish to destroy manking and take over the word. They always seem to want to do that? Don’t they? This is a light but fun S&s story that shows the influence of both REH and HPl on the young Henry Kuttner. It’s a nice story that’s not to terribly memorable.

All in all “The Ghoul Keepers” is a strong and diverse collection of stories that you should read if you can find a cheap copy on line. It’s good for an evening’s entertainment. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie to you!

Take care and thanks for stopping by!



  1. Could've sworn I had a later edition of this, but neither of the covers revealed by a Google Image search rings a bell. *sigh* I hate it when that happens ...

    1. Hi gef!

      Check this out!

      This is a new "Weird Tales" blog. It's in my blog links list now.


  2. I would be much obliged if you listed some of those sites that provide info about restoring old paperbacks. I have a few that I don't touch for fear of pages scattering to the wind.

  3. Hi Rick,
    here are a few links. Wax paper is very very important! :-)

    I found the wikihow link to be most useful.


  4. These '60s anthologies are getting really difficult to find in any kind of decent condition on my bookstore jaunts. Alas.

    1. Hi will,
      welcome to the club! :-)
      You can't imagine what it's like finding this stuff while living in Germany. 20 years ago it was bad, but not like now. You could still go to the flea markets back then and find stuff that had been left behind by 50 years of GIs. Today it#s almost impossible to find any US/UK paperbcks more than 10 years old. Once in a while I do hit the jack pot at the little used book store run by the Red Cross. I actualy found the old Tolkien early 1970sLotR/Hobbit boxed set from Ballantine still in shrink warap. I only paid €2.50 for it! Unfortunately, those kinds of finds are few and far between. I was back home last Sepetember and visited several used book store in the columbus area and hardly found anything worth talking about. I rely mostly on Ebay and Abebooks. The best bet with ebay is to find people who list incorrectly or don't give enough details like publsher, complete title or editor. I save lots of money this way. It's a real bitch though that the US Post Office got rid of space available overseas shipping. Stuff took forever to get here, but a single paperback cost on a few dollars to ship andf a big box full for around 15 bucks. Now everything is Airmail and costs a small fortune.

      Don't forget though, a true obsessive never gets discouraged or gives up!
      The hunt is half the fun.

      Take care.