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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The Curse of the Clodaghs

As the new visitors’ guide, Tess Connolly is a lovely addition to historic Clodagh House. Neither Richard, the new Lord Clodagh, nor the other members of the household, however, are aware that Tess is really the key element in a dangerous scheme concocted by her fiancé, Shaun Clodagh, to expose his brother’s murderer…

When it appears that Shaun, too, is dead, Tess is torn between the knowledge that this is part of the plan, and a horrible suspicion that he has unwittingly become the victim of his own ruse.

Alone on a mission that has lost its meaning, in a house full of people she doesn’t trust… Tess stands in the way of a murderer bent on total victory.

Written by Frances Cowen. First Ace printing March 1974.

Since we are now in the middle of our ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ great British summer, I thought it’d be nice to post something light and summery looking to cheer me up – and counter-balance the fact it’s been pouring with rain all day.

Curse of the Clodaghs takes place in Ireland in July and, coincidently, it is raining there too. Our heroine, Tess Connolly, has just turned up to her new job at the ‘unutterably dreary’ and storm-soaked Clodagh House. Her fiancé, Shaun Clodagh, has suspicions about the new family taking over his home and he has come up with a plan. His brother was recently drowned in a boating accident just off the coast and Shaun suspects foul play, so he decides to ‘disappear’ while faking his own death. Meanwhile, Tess takes a summer job at Clodagh House as a tour guide – using her position in the house to inveigle herself into the confidences of the new owners in order to find out the real story behind the infamous Clodagh Curse.

It is a scheme that looks good in theory but, when Shaun misses his secret rendezvous with her, Tess begins to suspect he really is dead. Grief stricken and alone, she has no idea who she can turn to for help. She decides to stick things out for the summer to see if she can solve the mystery behind these suspicious disappearances but before too long, strange accidents start to plague her…

I am irresistibly drawn to books about family curses for some reason but I have yet to read one that fully lives up to the promises hinted at within. The ancestral curse was a staple in earlier gothics and there is something about the idea of vengeful ghosts reaching out from the past, punishing the innocent for their forefather’s misdeeds, that chills the cockles of my heart.

Then there are those families so messed up, so unutterably deranged that they may as well be cursed – and these make for great gothic reading too. Dark Shadows very own Collins family or V.C Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic are good examples of this.

Alas, Curse of the Clodaghs doesn’t quite fulfil my expectations in the ‘curse’ department but it does have some nice gothic touches – with legends of sea monsters, mysterious ghostly ladies and lots of mist-laden, lush descriptions of the Irish coast. Three out of five stars.

Romany Curse

Sign of Evil

Adela Barron and her mother traveled to Florida to sell the house Papa Barron had lived in as a boy. The house was swarming with gypsies. When Adela tried to learn their customs, she was sharply reprimanded by her stern Aunt Cecile and by the gypsies themselves, including the handsome Django.

Adela was warned never to go to the gypsy camp, but she did, and twice, attemps were made on her life. When she met Dr. Larry Norton she thought her problems were over. Then her mother disappeared. And Adela was sure the gypsies had kidnapped her.

Written by Suzanne Somers. Published by Modern Promotions 1972.

Suzanne Somers is one of the pseudonyms used by Dorothy Daniels, whose Strange Paradise novels I reviewed earlier this year.

In Romany Curse, Adela accompanies her mother on a trip to her late father’s estate in Florida. Adela loves the house but her mother hates the place and is hoping to sell it off and move on as quickly as possible.

Things do not go to plan – Adela’s mother is kidnapped by the local gypsies  and  Adela finds herself in ever increasing danger from their evil leader Hadari.

It transpires Adela’s father was Hadari’s predecessor, so gypsy law – not to mention squatter’s rights – dictate the house and all of Papa Barron’s money, belongs to them. To seal the deal Adela is forced to marry Hadari.

It all works out happily ever after when Adela and her mother are rescued by the handsome Dr Norton, the disgraced Hadari is forced into exile and the gypsies  elect a new leader – Adela’s new best friend, the charming Django.

Romany Curse is not very good and has very little to do with curses of any kind, let alone Romany ones. There is a bit of a story in there somewhere but stylistically there is nothing remotely gothic about its atmosphere or prose. Also, it is supposed to be set in the early 1800’s but  the dialogue and overall characterisation is too modern to be convincing and actually gets confusing at times.

On the plus side, Romany Curse is only about 100 pages long,  so makes for an easy afternoon’s reading and I do like the artwork. The greenish cast and subject’s wide-eyed expression is somewhat reminiscent of those kitsch, plastic-framed  matglo prints we used to win on the bingo stall at the funfair. Two out of five stars.


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


Stone of Blood

Stones of Blood on the Showboat of Death!

The cause of Sarah’s tradgedy remained a mystery for over a century. The Indian chieftan’s daughter, callously betrayed by her husband, was found dead near the place where her present-day namesake, the showboat Indian Princess, lay at anchor.

But if time didn’t unlock the riddle of her death, it also failed to banish her presence from the boat. Lonely ghost-like moans filtered up from the lower decks…there was an outbreak of of unexplained accidents.

And then Lyssa Du Champ, the new star singer, discovered the terrifying truth about her predecessor’s “suicide” and the bloodstone ornaments sported by the sinister men who ran the show!

Bloodstone – The March Birthstone

Mossy green flecked with red, protects its owner against treachery.

Written by Juanita Coulson. Published by Beagle Books. First printing March 1975. Cover art Charles Gehm.

Continuing from my last post (on the theme of themed gothics) Stone of Blood is the third in a series of novels, published by Ballentine Books, whose stories are based on birthstones.

The titles in this series are listed as:

1. The Ghost and the Garnet by Marilyn Ross

2. The Amethyst Tears by Marilyn Ross

3. Stone of Blood by Juanita Coulson

4. Dark Diamond by Diana Tower

5. The Shadow Over Emerald Castle by Marilyn Ross

6. The Moonstone Spirit by Jean DeWeese

7. Blood Ruby by Jan Alexander

8. The Carnelian Cat by Jean DeWeese

9. A Gleam of Sapphire by Diana Tower

10. Opal Legacy by Fortune Kent

11. A Topaz For My Fair Lady by Jane Toombs

12. Turquoise Talisman by Sharon Wagner

The cover art is pretty stunning and there is a signature to the bottom right of the picture but I can’t for the life of me decipher it. (Oh yes I can, it’s Charles Gehm)


To Seek Where Shadows Are

Posed for Death….

Laurie’s fiancé hated the apartment she’d chosen for them to live in when they got married. Steve couldn’t be specific, but something about the old Victorian building really bothered him.

But Laurie loved their future home. As she poked through the old rooms that had once served as an artist’s studio, she discovered a portrait of a lovely but obviously unhappy young girl that had been painted at the end of the last century. The pretty young model fascinated Laurie and she longed to know the reason for the sad expression on the girl’s face. Her curiosity would soon be satisfied – but at the risk of her engagement and, ultimately, her life!

Written by Miriam Benedict. First Avon printing December 1973.

A classic haunted house mystery. Our heroine, Laurie the Librarian, finds herself the new tenant of a old but ‘heaven sent’ apartment in an eerie Victorian house located in the bohemian part of town.

Of course Laurie falls in love with the apartment and can’t wait to start settling in to wedded bliss in her first new home with husband-to-be Steve.

Unfortunately Steve hates the place, won’t set foot in it actually, so for most of the story Laurie is left to renovate and redecorate on her ownsome, assisted by the occasional morale boosting bottle of wine and Chinese take away provided by her neighbour  and best friend, Alex the Artist,  who lives downstairs.

Things soon take a gothic turn for the worse when Laurie  becomes haunted by strange dreams and mysterious goings on that have a story of their own to tell – a tale about a beautiful artist’s model driven to despair by guilt and the  murderous attentions of  the artist’s jilted, jealous fiancée .

Isolated and vulnerable, driven to exhaustion by all her redecorating and stressed by the move, Laurie becomes more and more obsessed and endangered by these nefarious spirits. Bit by bit – and with a lot of help from her friends – she is able to unravel the mystery surrounding the secrets of this house, hopefully laying to rest the unhappy ghosts for good.

This was a fair to middling read in the gothic stakes. There were plenty of spooky happenings, including a sleepwalking, spirit possessed boyfriend with a penchant for past life regression, and a nice background story involving a doomed love affair  /  tragic love triangle from the past.

However, the overall execution of the story was a little inconsistent – this was yet another book that starts out good but gets spoiled by a rushed ending where the characters will say and do anything just to tie up the loose ends in time. As a result, some of the characterisation just did not seem too credible to me and so I found myself losing interest about two thirds of the way through.

On the plus side, there are some well written, genuinely gothicky moments and the cover art is especially beautiful. I love that spooky looking tree poking out from behind the curtain. Three out of five stars.


The Golden Fig

thegoldenfigWhen Paul Stembridge came looking for his missing brother Geoffrey, Susan Lord could not know he had brought a family curse with him. Susan fell in love with Paul, married him, and in her happiness, all thoughts of Geoffrey were forgotten.

But soon a subtle change came over Paul. gradually Susan realised that he wanted her for one purpose only – to help him break the curse.

What had become of the missing Geoffrey? If the curse had taken him, then Susan, too, was in danger. Captive of a family plagued by violence, Susan faced a legacy of evil that spanned more than a century.

She had to learn the secret of the Stembridge curse – or die a victim of it.

Written by Nancy Taylor Smith. First Ace printing August 1974.

Set in the early 1900’s, this is an exotic excursion into the world of old-time tropical plantations and dark family secrets, with a smattering of voodoo adding intrigue to the mix.

Susan Lord works in the Ossadaga Public Library, lives in the local boarding house and feels life is passing her by. A self proclaimed old maid at 25 (weren’t those the days!) you can imagine her excitement when the mysterious, tall, dark and handsome Paul Stembridge comes into town. A whirlwind romance follows and soon enough Susan is  married and whisked off to Stembridge’s grand West Indian stately mansion.

Well, marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be for Susan, with Mr Right very quickly turning into Mr Completely Appalling as he becomes increasingly moody, abusive and controlling toward his figarunspouse. Then there’s the hostile family and the West Indian ghost’s or duppies to put up with, as well as the resident family witch leaving voodoo dolls in her underwear drawer.

Like all great gothic heroines, Susan takes whatever’s thrown at her, even her husband’s punches, and carries on trying to maintain some semblance of normality, while all is heaving and seething around her.

Gradually more and more clues lead her to the truth behind her brother in law’s  disappearance and,  as befitting such a glamorous location, things come to a stormy, windswept climax during a thundery hurricane – when Susan finds true love in the arms of her rescuer and the mystery behind the Stembridge family curse is finally revealed.

 For connoisseurs of the creepy, this book has a little something for everyone. There’s black magic, white magic, haunted houses, madness and hidden treasure. There’s even the grisly remains of a body hidden right under everyone’s noses – I won’t say where but the clue is in the title. Three out of five stars.

House Malign

housemalignJames Venner was a bluff county squire; his wife kindly but fussy; his daughter withdrawn and secretive; and his only son, Tarquin, a musical prodigy of genius. Their lonely house in Devon seemed a sanctuary to young violinist, Vanessa Orchard, who went to live with them to coach Tarquin.

But the family had a strange history…. Terror came to Vanessa in inexplicable ways – and Death was waiting in attendance at HOUSE MALIGN.

Written by Julie Wellsley and published as a Mayflower-Dell paperback 1967.

Having already read and reviewed Julie Wellsley’s Chateau of Secrets I was pretty excited when I stumbled upon this gothic romance tucked away in the Fifteenth Century Bookshop in Lewes recently – and what a bargain for 20p!

Like Chateau of Secrets, this story centres around the grim and ghostly goings on when a young woman, in this case the violinist Vanessa, ends up living with a rather strange family in a rather isolated area. Vanessa needs to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, in order to grieve over the death of her father and re-evaluate her life, so she jumps at the chance to work as a live-in music tutor with the Venner family in Devon.

The suspense builds nicely as Vanessa finds herself increasingly cut off from her friends and embroiled within some rather strange goings on. There are hints at a terrible curse overshadowing the isolated old farmhouse and with the bad weather comes bad dreams and premonitions that someone or something is out to get her. Armed with nothing but her trusty violin and with no-one but the local vicar to confide in, Vanessa ends up fighting for her life and sanity as the story builds to its fiery climax.

helpmehousemalignThis is an atmospheric suspense novel with some nice gothic touches. We have violins, madness, strange midnight whisperings, foggy, deadly landscapes and a mangled kitten in the bed scene. The Venner family are very weird, especially the child prodigy with a penchant for Nazi memorabilia, Tarquin.

There is very little romance getting in the way of the plot – in fact there is hardly any romance at all, which might put some people off. Though a more than eligible love interest presents himself early on in the guise of the handsome country squire Roderick Egan, Vanessa quickly writes him off as a bit of a bumpkin and he just as quickly fades to the back of the story line. Also I found the ending a little rushed and  teetering precariously toward silliness but the writing is very effective and if evil boy geniuses are your thing then this is the book for you. Three out of five stars.


Knight’s Keep

knightskeepOrphaned Janet Bewleigh had become an heiress overnight – the unexpected reward for an act of kindness – and now the once locked doors of her beloved Knight’s Keep were open to her.

But there was an aura of evil at the stately manor house which weighed on her like an invisible shroud. She wondered about Lord Ashford, her enigmatic, strangely attractive host, and about the sad, dead girl whose ghost still hovered over the Keep.

And then Janet read the ancient family motto, and knew that the final act was yet to be played…….

Written by Rona Randall and first published in Great Britain 1967. Published by Sphere Books 1973.

Set in Victorian England and narrated in the first person this is the story of one young lady’s quest to seek sanctuary by returning to the home of her recently deceased parents,  only to find madness and murderous intentions awaiting  her.

Our heroine, Janet Bewleigh, enjoyed a poor but happy childhood, helping out in her parents vicarage in Covent Garden, giving out soup and bread to the poor. Then a sudden skating accident leaves her tragically orphaned and she is left to carry on the work of her parents alone. One of her charges, the down and out Uncle Silas, dies in yet another mysterious accident soon after, and Janet becomes an unexpected heiress to a large fortune. Not only that, but he really was her uncle and she soon finds herself visiting the large Elizabethan mansion where her mother had grown up – Knights Keep.

keepsake

As you’d guess from the cover art things don’t start off so well for our Janet, with sinister ladies in waiting, a marriage to a sex obsessed sadist and a poisoned pet puppy to deal with for starters – but after a few interesting adventures and plot twists it all works out for the best. I really enjoyed this book, it’s full of atmosphere and attention to detail with some genuinely creepy bits –  I particularly liked the relationship between Lord Ashford and his rather enigmatic stepmother, the weird and wonderful femme fatale Miranda.

The blurb on the inside cover informs us Rona Randall is established as one of the best writers of Gothic Romance. Furthermore, Knight’s Keep was nominated for a major award of the Romantic Novelists Association. At the time of print the author was living in Sussex and it’s great to read something so good by a local author – I’ll definitely be looking out for more of her stuff. Four out of five stars.

Harlequin House

Harlequin HouseHARLEQUIN HOUSE – where the ghosts of a violent past intruded on a honeymoon…..

It was a marriage of convenience – Breckenridge needed a fortune to rebuild his ravaged plantation, and Tamson, deserted by the man she loved, needed someone to salvage her pride.

To escape the gossiping tongues and pitying glances, Tamson accepted the absurd offer of this strange man – to become his wife, and the mistress of his isolated, eerie ancestral home.

In an atmosphere of superstition and intangible evil, Tamson slowly learned to care for the stranger she had married; learned too, that her real husband’s real love was Harlequin House, and that he was determined to save it from ruin – at any cost…..

Written by Leal Hayes and published by Ace Gothics 1967.

The story gets off to a  slightly implausible start as our heroine, Tamsoncloseuphouse Yorke, reluctantly agrees to marry the  moody and mysterious gent, Mr Breckenridge Rawlins. This is strictly a union of convenience – he needs her money and she needs to escape from a scandal caused by  the sudden breakdown of the engagement to her true love, John Markham. After a quick and loveless honeymoon, Tamson soon finds herself mistress of a grand but beaten up old southern mansion; a place as dark, secretive and brooding as her pretend husband.

With big lonely houses come big scary curses and Harlequin House is no exception. Soon Tamson is caught up in a web of spooky happenings and doom laden omens. The discovery of the  hidden Harlequin room and its secrets do nothing to allay her fears and events escalate until a disastrous fire, that rips through the plantation leaving her husband for dead, coupled with  an attempt on her own life, eventually forces a resolution to the story and the mystery enshrouding this mansion is revealed.

tamsonWritten in the first person narrative, this is a very nicely done,  spine tingling,  good ol’ boy southern gothic, with plenty of intrigue and ghostly goings on. There are cursed bloodstains and doomed love triangles to contend with and I particularly liked some of the descriptive passages  centred around Tamson’s initial reactions to her new abode and it’s inhabitants. Though the start was a bit shaky, I quickly found myself engrossed in the story and its characters. The cover art ticks all the right boxes and there is an added lovely little  pen and ink sketch on the inside cover.  A bit of a page turner and recommended. Four out of five stars.

wakeuptamsonthehouseisonfire