The Possession of Elizabeth Calder

Spirit of Vengeance

After only a few hours in the old mansion on lonely Randall’s Island, Elizabeth Calder realized that some eerie force was watching over her. Fifty years before, the peace of that house had been shattered by murder and suicide – could it be that a revenge-hungry spirit still walked the halls?

Elizabeth was determined to find the truth – and someone was equally determined to kill her before she did. As danger piled on danger and terror on terror, Elizabeth little suspected that, in her moment of greatest need, help would come from the spirit of a woman who had been dead for fifty years!

A Ravenswood Gothic. Written by Melissa Napier. Published by Pocket Books October 1973.

Elizabeth Calder has been having a tough time of it lately. Her fiancé, Jeffrey, has broken off their engagement and run away with her best friend. To make matters worse, all her other so-called friends find the situation hilariously funny and aren’t sympathetic at all. Poor Elizabeth finds herself traumatised and friendless (perhaps that’s for the best though…) retreating ever deeper into her own imaginary world, wistfully dreaming of far off lands from times past and future…

Luckily, before her self -imposed exile drives her completely bonkers, she receives an invitation from her Aunt and Uncle inviting her over to their place. They are park rangers who live and work on the beautiful but isolated Randall’s Island, just off the Jersey coast and Elizabeth decides some time away in such a wondrous place will be just what she needs to get well again.

However, no sooner does she arrive than her imagination starts playing tricks on her again. Or does it? Locals start looking at her funny, muttering darkly about her resemblance to another Elizabeth – an Elizabeth Conway – who died over fifty years ago. Then, on her first night at the island, our Elizabeth is visited by a host of ghostly apparitions –  some good, some bad – doing the dance of death in the middle of her bedroom.

Confused? I was. But it transpires that Elizabeth Calder is being haunted by an evil force that wants to kill her as well as the spirit of Elizabeth Conway – a girl whose own lover had jilted her too. Over fifty years ago. And when that Elizabeth’s sweetheart disappeared she was falsely accused of his murder. So she killed herself.

Or did she? For there is more going on at Randall Island than mere hauntings. Woken up during a raging thunderstorm in the middle of the night, Elizabeth spots some suspicious looking characters lurking outside of the house. Following them into the cellar she narrowly escapes death by a caved in tunnel before stumbling right into the middle of an illegal smuggling operation, led by evil old crone Emily Baxter, a woman who has more than one reason for wanting to kill our heroine…

Some books read like a perfect summertime romance – there’s no point analysing it too deeply (you won’t find much worth looking for anyway) so best to just pour yourself another drink, relax, lie back and enjoy the ride. The Possession of Elizabeth Calder was like this for me – I had no idea of what was going on (still don’t actually) but our time together was short, sweet and great fun while it lasted. And with a cover this groovytastic, who cares what’s on the inside? Three stars out of five.

The Cup of Thanatos

Dr Paul Holton could no longer ignore the facts: the mystery-shrouded Thanatos Society had sprung up from the smouldering ashes of the evil ‘Circle of Ra’ he had once helped to destroy. The name of the Satanic leader was different but Paul recognized the familiar Machiavellian techniques. Once again the insidious Dr. Blackton was pandering to his all-consuming lust for power and world domination.

Suddenly Paul found himself deeply involved for Sarah Wellington, a young and gentle friend, showed signs of drug addiction – and Sarah wore around her neck the distinctive symbol of the Society, named in honor of Thanatos – the ancient God of Death.

Paul had always known he and Dr Blackton would meet again. He knew, too, that one mistake could plunge them all into the Kingdom of Darkness…

Written by Charlotte Hunt (aka  Doris Marjorie Hodges). An Ace Gothic 1968.

The Cup of Thanatos is the second in Charlotte Hunt’s Dr Holton series, where our eponymous hero is once again fighting for freedom and the soul of a beautiful young girl against the villainous Dr Manfred Blackton and his mistress of ceremonies, the gorgeous I-am-so-evil-I-get-my-green-nail-varnish-specially-made-for-me-by-slaves-in-Cairo Madame Zerena.

Having narrowly escaped the clutches of Scotland Yard in the Gilded Sarcophagus, Manfred Blackton and Zerena are lying low in some North American desert, running a ‘nature cure’ sanatorium under the assumed names of Madame Olga and Dr Julius Grafton.

But it’s not long before they find bigger fish to fry when they are visited by Dr Mefferhossen, the leader of a secret satanic cult known as the Thanatos Society. By utilising mass-hypnosis techniques while channelling the ‘Lucifer Force’, they plan to create a new world order. To do this, Dr Mefferhossen needs our two mystic mercenaries to help him beg, borrow or steal the secrets of some of the greatest scientists in the world.

He sends Manfred and Zerena to England – to ‘soften up’ the famous English inventor Algernon Mannering and his psychically gifted daughter, Sarah. Algernon Mannering has invented an apparatus that, when combined with Sarah’s visionary powers, has the potential to pierce the ‘Barrier of the Cosmos’. The Thanatos Society believes this apparatus, combined with the right drugs, holds the key to taking control of the world.

But they have picked on the wrong victims as Sarah is an old friend of Dr Holton. When she gets drawn into the world of shady séances and drug taking rituals, Dr Holton becomes increasingly concerned for her safety. His worse suspicions are confirmed when she disappears and is presumed dead. He makes it his mission to find out what’s happened to her and what follows is an adventure that takes Paul Holton across Europe, culminating in him gate-crashing a Satanic Mass in a devil haunted monastery in the Austrian Alps.

The Cup of Thanatos is another enjoyable occult thriller in the Dr Holton series. Moving away from the first person viewpoint in The Gilded Sarcophagus, I enjoyed it better as more time is given to following the exploits of Dr Manfred Blackton and Zerena – the globe trotting pseudo-Satanists who are more than happy to lend their support to whichever world dominating, fanatical cults come their way.

There’s not much more to ask for if drug-addled, devil worshipping neo-nazis exploring the outer reaches of time-space consciousness is your thing, though I was a little disappointed by the Thanatos Society – for when one of their rituals successfully conjured a genuine supernatural spectre, most of the members ran off in terror! Hmm, not very hard these Satanists. It did however make it a lot easier for Dr Paul Holton to step in and save the day.

The cover art shares the same signature as my previously reviewed Beauty That Must Die but I’ve yet to find out anything about the artist. Four out of five stars.