The Curse of Collinwood

DO ZOMBIES WALK AT COLLINWOOD?

 Upset over the death of Ernest Collins, Victoria begins to believe that phantoms are haunting her. Are they figments of her imagination? As the threats to her life become very real, she is forced to accept the horrifying truth.

The strange figures are not phantoms but the bodies of Derek and Ester Collins, murdered more than a century ago. They were unwittingly released from their coffins by a shaft of moonlight – and doomed to roam the earth as the “living dead.”

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First edition printed May 1968. This seventh printing – April 1969.

Dysfunctional families – that great invention of the 1990’s Oprah generation. Of course in the good old days, before all this new-agey psycho babble became all the rage, f***ed-up families weren’t ‘special needs’ at all – of course not, they were cursed. So much more glamourous.

In my last post I had the audacity to suggest that the Collins’ of Dark Shadows fame stood as a shining example to us all of a family so riddled with dark deeds and unnatural lusts even Jeremy Kyle would shudder at the prospect of taking them on. And here’s the proof!  Plundering my collection of Dark Shadows paperbacks, I’ve found not one, not two, but THREE Marilyn Ross novels chronicling the various curses afflicting the Collinwood clan – though truth be told I think the word is being used a little loosely here.

Barnabas, Quentin and the Witch’s Curse

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First printing August 1970.

CAN BARNABAS STOP QUENTIN FROM BRINGING HIS COVEN TO COLLINWOOD?

Quentin Collins’ coven of witches, centred in the Castle Asariana in Venice, was the scandal of the city. Reports of the bizarre practices of the Devil worshippers, all of whom were beautiful girls, circulated widely, and invitations to the parties that Quentin sometimes held to attract new members to his cult, were greedily coveted.

Then two Americans died while spending an evening at the castle but before the authorities could investigate, Quentin and his entire group vanished. Soon after, Quentin shows up at Collinwood, with the intent of establishing his cult there.

Barnabas knew it was up to him to stop Quentin before Collinwood was turned into a centre of Black Magic and Satan worship. But who wielded the stronger power – Barnabas or the Devil himself?

Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio Curse.

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First printing November 1970.

IS THE SIGN OF SCORPIO THE MARK OF DEATH?

Terror reigns at Collinwood when several patients at a nearby psychiatric clinic at which Barnabas Collins is a patient are stabbed to death. Each victim’s forehead is marked with a scorpion, the zodiacal symbol of death,

Then Diana Collins, another relative of the Collins family who is undergoing psychiatric treatment at the hospital, finds a bloody knife in her room. Diana, whose astrological sign is Scorpio, is afraid that she may have committed the murders during one of her blackouts. The fear that she is losing her mind is compounded when no one will believe she has seen a strange, wolf-like creature prowling the grounds.

The only person who will listen to her story is Barnabas. But how can he help her when he too has become a suspect?

As far as I can tell, there is at least one more Dark Shadows ‘curse’ book – Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse, which – considering how much mothers get blamed for everything – must surely be the most cursed curse book of them all…

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Phantom Manor

THE GRUESOME LEGEND OF PHANTOM MANOR

“When the ‘ghost’ appears in the sinister monk’s corridor, someone will die!”

From the moment she came to live at Phantom Manor, a rotting pile of stone she had suddenly inherited, Jan Davis became the terrified victim of a series of ‘accidents’.

The lurking murderer could be anyone whose life was tied to the dread secret of the eerie mansion; a homicidal half-witted young man; a jealous relative who wanted the manor for herself; even a neighboring landowner with whom Jan had fallen in love.

But the hidden villain of Phantom Manor could also be one of the ‘unliving’ – the legendary ghost that stalked its shadowy corridors, leaving horror and death in the echo of its unearthly footsteps…

A Paperback Library Gothic by Marilyn Ross. First printing January 1966. Cover art Victor Kalin.

This one I found in pristine condition  at a local charity shop.  It promises all sorts of gothicky goodness and has gone straight on to my pile of must-reads over the Christmas holidays.


The Brides of Saturn

A true bride of January, Vanessa thrived on the strength of her ambitions. Even her most secret dream to marry into nobility was suddenly within her grasp when handsome Lord Edward Norville fell madly in love with her.

But Edward’s proud ancestry was marred by an unearthly malignancy that was destined to twist her hopes and challenge her Saturnian endurance.

For, the instant she dared to marry him, the ancient family curse against the brides of Capricorn would be hungrily waiting to claim her as its fourth victim.

Resurrection of Evil!

Then the lights went out. She was helpless in the dank, cavernous wine cellar. Then suddenly from a distance she heard a low, gloating chuckle – a malevolent sound that sent her fears soaring!

Wheeling around she snapped her flashlight beam in the drection of the sound. To her utter shock, she saw the outline of a crouching figure in some sort of ragged robe. Then the beam leveled on the features of a gargoyle with a twisted mouth and glittering, insane eyes.

Vanessa screamed and stumbled into total blackness…….

Writen by W.E. Dan Ross. Published by Berkley Medallion Books December 1976.

The last in this months themed Gothics, Brides of Saturn is one in a series, published by Berkley, featuring a book for each sign of the zodiac.

Other titles in this series include:

TWILIGHT FOR TAURUS By Miriam Lynch

TERROR OF THE TWIN By Dorothy Daniels

THE MOON SHADOW By Kim Allyson

THE LION’S GATE By J. Alexander

MAIDEN OF GLORY ISLAND By June Wetherell

BALANCE OF TERROR By Cynthia Van Hazinga

NIGHT OF THE SCORPION By Saliee O’Brien


Behind Locked Shutters / The Twilight Web

Thought I’d post a couple more of my Dan Ross paperbacks. Dan Ross is the bestselling Canadian writer who wrote a lot of Gothic Romances, using various pseudonyms. As Marilyn Ross he wrote over 30 paperback gothics based on the TV series Dark Shadows.

Both titles below – in addition to The Third Spectre which I reviewed in my last post – are published by Macfadden-Bartell. I thought the covers were interesting in that they both feature rather sinister looking men lurking in the shadows, both of whom seem to be wearing eye patches……

Behind Locked Shutters

A Ghastly Dream Come True….

Elizabeth felt like a beautiful princess in the romantic chalet. It was a setting out of a dream.

Then suddenly her life became part of the bizarre and chilling terrors locked behind the chalet doors – weird noises in the night, cries of madness creeping down the halls, ghostly figures lurking in the shadows and pursuing her.

Where does a dream begin and where – and when – does it end?

Paperback edition Published 1970.

The Twilight Web

Better Dead Than Alive…

Rose Hilary faced a glorious future with the man she loved. Rocky Terrace, the beautiful old mansion that was to be their home, was only part of the fortune she’d inherited.

But dark terrors crouched in the estate’s every corner. The lovely young heiress was about to become a victim of happenings so bizarre she could only wish for death….

Paperback edition published 1970.

Dan Ross was a very prolific writer with over 300 novels to his credit. His Dark Shadows books each took about three weeks to write. Behind Locked Shutters was his hundredth novel, dedicated to his wife Marilyn, and published with this message on the inside cover. How cute is that?! There is an interview with Dan Ross by Craig Hamrick over at Dark Shawdows Online.

The Third Spectre

WELCOME TO TERROR…

The newlyweds had come home to the Marchand mansion. But the silent old manor house quivered with hidden terrors.

Their life together had just begun, yet, suddenly, it faced a horrible – and abrupt – ending. For the beautiful bride had just received an invitation to die. And the murderer was near… very near…

Written by Dan Ross. First printing by Macfadden-Bartell April 1969, second printing June 1971.

Nancy Marchand is newly wedded to Ralph, a hot shot criminal defence lawyer and proud owner of a large ancestral mansion situated on the shore of the idyllic Green Ridge Lake in Vermont.

Sounds to good to be true? Of course it is! For one thing, Nancy’s husband takes his work far too seriously, giving the phrase ‘bringing your work home with you’ a whole new meaning when he brings one of his clients – the beautiful blonde and accused poisoner Jean Gilbert – home to live with them.

Ralph insists his motives are entirely professional but Nancy has her doubts, especially when Jean confesses to her she actually quite fancies him. And then Nancy starts getting ill – someone is trying to poison her…..

I quite enjoyed this book as a bit of a thriller but I did not find it very gothic. There was a lot of dialogue but not much in the way of atmosphere. The  spooky bits were very few and far between and centred around the appearance of a ghostly spectre of a long dead ancestor supposedly acting as a portent of bad things to come – but ultimately I was left with the impression it was merely  a device tacked on to the story to add a supernatural dimension. I do however love the dreamy, almost psychedelic, cover art. Three out of five stars.


 

This Old Evil House

She made the strange turquoise house reveal its terrible secret – and found herself  staring into Death’s face……

thisolhouseRuth Ames could hardly believe her good fortune when she and her husband Charles found a house that they could afford. But the turquoise colour was not the only strange thing about the new house. For soon after they moved in, Ruth knew that evil had happened there.

Was there any truth to the frightening stories her neighbors told – stories about the torture that was a grisly part of the house’s past and the murder that had taken place nearby?

At first Ruth tried to ignore their warnings, until one day she felt the icy fingers of fear, and the death that had haunted her home was no longer a chilling tale, but a horror filled reality…..

Written by Laura Frances Brooks (aka W.E.D Ross) , first Ace Printing August 1975.

Hmmmm. Not sure about this one. It starts off promising enough when Ruth and her husband Charles Ames end up with far more than a bargain after purchasing a too cheap hunk of bright blue real estate along the east coast. Soon enough, before you can scream ‘Oi, look behind you!’ there are all manner of  strange happenings and murderous secrets popping out of the antiquated woodwork.

Unfortunately the pace and plot of the story just didn’t cut it for me and I found it difficult to stay sighinvolved in this one. There are some nice gothic touches and hints of phantasmal goings on, with ghostly footsteps in the attic and mysterious scents haunting Ruth’s sleep, but these are overshadowed by the motley, raggle taggle crew that makes up the novel’s supporting characters – believe me these neighbours are weird, and not in a good way; the poor characterisation and stilted dialogue seriously compromise the novel’s credibility. I also found the relationship between Charles and Ruth a little jarring at times and bordering on the abusive.

Our protagonist, Ruth, was likable enough and the writing was at it’s best when focused on her and her ever increasing anxiety when left alone in the house,  solving it’s secrets while edging  ever closer to her own death, and with a little tweaking this could have turned into a rather good murder mystery, but ultimately it was let down by too many unconvincing chacters all vying for attention, overcomplicating the story and draining it of suspense. Also the ending came about far too sudden and as a result was a little unconvincing but by then I was finding it difficult to care. Two out of five stars.

A Gathering of Evil

a gathering of evil“Was a noose tightening around a horrified Deborah Foster?

It was the night of evil ritual. The worshippers of the devil danced around the ruined abbey, now transformed into a temple of terror. Deborah had come there hoping to unmask her sister’s killer.

Suddenly against her will, Deborah felt herself succumbing to the unholy spell woven by the frenzied witches. Relentlessly they began to encircle her. Panic gripped her for she knew they had chosen her as their next victim.”

Written by Marilyn Ross and first published in 1966 by Paperback Library Gothic.

Marilyn Ross was one of the pseudonyms used by Canadian author William Edward Daniel Ross who is well known for his popular novels based on the Dark Shadows television series.

gatheringevilA Gathering of Evil is set in 1872 and tells the tale of a young woman called Deborah struggling to find out the circumstances of her late sister’s death. Against all advice she travels to the estate of her sister’s widower where she finds herself pitted aganst all manner of evil things, including phantoms, werewolves, hunchbacked gypsies and transmigrating souls – and she even manages to attend the odd satanic mass or two. Nothing is as it seems in this haunted mansion of dark cellars and secret passageways as friends become enemies and enemies turn out to be – well not quite as nasty as they first appeared.

This is a nice supernatural thriller choc full of gothic goings on, but the ending comes on a little sudden and I didn’t feel all the earlier spookiness was adequately accounted for. The heroine, Deborah, was actually very brave and dealt with whatever was thrown at her quite well (better than I would anyway) – though I had to question why she kept turning up at those Black Masses when she was so obviously repulsed by those pesky Satanists – that was just asking for trouble. Extra points awarded for the fantastically named leading man – Roderick Vroom. Four out of five stars.