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Monday, 19 December 2011


Father Christmas, garbed in blue as traditionally described, bringing a little magic to my bookshelf! (Dr Karl Shuker)

It is nothing if not timely today to blog about the most elusive crypto-primate of all. Glimpsed on only a single night each year, when it is usually seen clambering over roof tops and disappearing down chimneys, it is famed for its distinctive red and white pelage, profuse facial hair, rotund body form, readily recognisable ‘ho ho ho’ triple cry, predilection for sherry and mince pies, and unique symbiotic relationship with reindeer.

Or, to phrase it another way, certain books of mine, most notably The Unexplained, Mysteries of Planet Earth, and Dr Shuker’s Casebook, have shown that my interests in mysteries and legends are not entirely limited to those of the cryptozoological and zoological varieties. Indeed, I have plans for another casebook, which, with stunning originality, will most probably be entitled Dr Shuker’s Second Casebook, and will include the following festive preview. Happy Christmas!


The exchanging of gifts is an intrinsic part of the Christmas celebrations, a popular tradition dating back to the very first Christmas, and even earlier - when the Romans offered tributes during the late December festival of Saturnalia, which Christmas replaced.

Today, the personification of gift provision at Christmas is Santa Claus. Nevertheless, this jolly red-suited, white-whiskered, rotund figure with a zest for ho-ho-hoing, reindeer roof-riding, and chimney-descending as he delivers presents to children is only of fairly recent origin - the modern-day product of many fascinating transformations and identity mergings down through the ages.

Indeed, Santa the gift-bringer most probably began life as we know him as a god - Odin (Woden), the chief deity of the Norsemen or Vikings. They believed that during December, Odin descended to earth in a chariot drawn by goats, or riding his famous eight-legged steed Sleipnir, temporarily deserting Asgard - heavenly abode of the gods - in order to bring gifts to his loyal human worshippers, thus helping to sustain them during the bleak, icy weather characterising winter in northern Europe. Odin typically wore a long blue hooded cloak, and possessed a profuse white beard - features retained in slightly modified form by his successor, Father Christmas.

In an attempt to limit the worst excesses of winter and to placate this fearful embodiment of Nature, later Scandinavian traditions involved nominating someone in each community to personify Winter. This fortunate person would then find himself invited to everyone's home, where he would be richly regaled with food and drink in a symbolic effort to pacify Winter.

Although, after having ingested and imbibed at a succession of houses, Winter's human ambassador was undoubtedly rendered exceedingly passive (if not entirely prostrate!), whether the same can be said for Winter itself is another matter entirely. Nevertheless, the custom proved popular, and travelled far, eventually reaching the British Isles, where the person representing Winter became known as Father Christmas.

Paradoxically, therefore, Father Christmas originated not as a giver but as a receiver of gifts. All this would change, however, courtesy of a much-loved archbishop from Myra in what is now southwestern Turkey. He lived from 280 AD to 6 December 345 AD, and was later canonised - becoming the patron saint of many diverse people, including boys, pawnbrokers, dockers, coopers, brewers, unsuccessful litigants, unmarried women, and sailors, as well as the inhabitants of Aberdeen and Russia. His name? St Nicholas.

Some of Santa Claus's most enduring traditions stemmed from the life or legends associated with St Nicholas. These included his bringing of gifts, because St Nicholas was well known for his great generosity. Moreover, he allegedly saved the three daughters of a poor man from being sold into prostitution by secretly throwing pursefuls of money into their house through an open window. One of these purses accidentally fell into a stocking that had been hung up to dry after being washed, which gave rise to the custom of putting out stockings at Christmas to be filled with gifts by Santa.

The celebration of St Nicholas became very popular in Europe, but especially so in Holland, where he was called Sinter Klaas. During the early 1600s, Dutch settlers established colonies in North America, and took their traditions of Sinter Klaas with them. Here they flourished, giving rise to a new Yuletide gift-giver, who became known as Santa Claus.

A fairy story from 1906 in which St Nicholas is depicted with many of the characteristics nowadays associated with Santa Claus

In Britain, meanwhile, Father Christmas reigned supreme, but also more sternly than his New World counterpart. For although Father Christmas ultimately became a gift-giver too, according to British custom he only gave gifts to good people, and he (or a helper) carried a cane for punishing those who had been wicked during the year.

Elsewhere in Europe, other gift-givers had also appeared on the scene. In Germany, for instance, Father Christmas is merely a messenger, communicating children's requests for gifts to Heaven - it is the Christ Child (Kriss Kringle), an angelic fair-haired child dressed in white, representing Jesus, who brings the gifts. Spanish children, conversely, receive theirs directly from the Three Kings; whereas in Russia a grandmotherly figure called Babouschka does the present-providing honours.

In southern Italy, a broomstick-riding woman called Befana drops presents down the chimney of every house on 5 January in the hope that one of them will be received by Jesus - to whom she did not give a present when He was born. This was because she was so busy sweeping her home with her broom that she was too late to visit Jesus before Mary and Joseph fled Bethlehem with Him to escape King Herod.

A modern-day cartoon representation of Befana, who is often depicted as a broomstick-riding witch-like figure more befitting of Hallowe-en than Christmas!

As for America: the evolution of today's Santa Claus continued apace with the penning in 1822 by a New York languages professor called Dr Clement Clarke Moore of his now world-renowned poem 'A Visit From St Nicholas', with its famous opening line: "'Twas the night before Christmas". This magical poem contained many of Santa's modern-day attributes, including his plump jolly form, vigorous laugh, sack of toys, reindeer-drawn sleigh, and his inimitable mode of entry into a house via the chimney.

In 1863, Harper's Illustrated Weekly published the first in a classic series of Santa engravings by Thomas Nast, who bestowed upon him an even more rotund, bewhiskered, beaming, toy-laden image. This transformation was completed during the early 1930s by a highly influential Coca-Cola advertising campaign, starring a jovial red-robed Santa skilfully designed by artist Haddon Sundblom. This rapidly became the definitive Santa Claus, delighting generations of children ever since - and not only in the U.S.A.

Just over a century ago, Christmas commercialism in America began to cross the Atlantic, infiltrating Europe and thus bringing the New World's legendary gift-giver with it. Inevitably, Britain's Odin-descended, blue-cloaked, hooded Father Christmas and St Nicholas's red-garbed, nightcap-wearing Santa Claus eventually merged into one. Indeed, many people today assume that these are merely alternative names for the same person - blithely unaware of their entirely separate origins.

Although, from a strictly historical perspective, this is undoubtedly a sad situation, I very much doubt that there will be many children eagerly anticipating the arrival of a certain sleigh-riding visitor this Christmas Eve who will worry too much about which name they should call him by - as long as he has brought with him a sackful of presents!

Typical representation of Santa Claus, garbed in red

Thursday, 15 December 2011


Rick Hart is and has been many things – a Vegas bartender, a US Air Force military man, an accomplished writer and eloquent poet (as this book readily demonstrates), a highly-skilled martial artist, and much else besides. But first, foremost, and forever, he is a biker.

Me with my copies of Rick's books (Dr Karl Shuker)

Sin City Rider: Memoirs Of A Vegas Biker, Rick's second book, following on from his equally enjoyable and insightful Lines On The Bar – Whiskey On The Rocks, is a thrilling eye-opener of a read, recounting his years as a member of a back-patch motorcycle club beginning in the early 1970s. In it, he strips bare the many romantic, nonsensical images of what being in what is often termed an outlaw club is all about, revealing the true, sometimes gritty, often eventful, but always honour-bound reality. Because despite what you may have read elsewhere, being a club member is much more than riding a bike with your buddies and wearing the colours – it is about loyalty, dignity, being there for your bros, and – above all else – commitment.

Back cover of Sin City Rider

In his club, Rick – or Turk, to give him his club name – was the Sergeant at Arms, responsible for maintaining order and discipline, and the club certainly chose the right man for the job. Rick is someone who others cherish greatly as a friend, knowing that he will ever be there for you, but fear greatly as an enemy, knowing that he will never not be there against you. And once again, the key theme to these twin aspects is commitment – never giving up on anyone or anything, and as his book so evocatively confirms, Rick never does.

This overriding sense of commitment shines through every page of Rick's words, with which he recounts in an engagingly laid-back but ruthlessly honest style of writing just some of the many adventures, good and bad, that he and his fellow club members experienced over the years. There is humour, frustration, surprise, tragedy (I guarantee the final chapter will tear your heart out!), revenge, joy, disappointment, and so much more here, plus a section in which he describes how he felt one night when entirely alone in the Nevada desert outside Vegas with just his Harley for company that is quite simply some of the most evocative poetry that I have ever read.

Many bikers (myself included) have dreamed at some stage or another in our lives of what it must be like to belong to an 'outlaw' motorcycle club, but few of us have shown the courage and single-minded determination to live that dream, to abandon so much of the trappings and chains of the modern age in search of freedom and comradeship, a brotherhood linked by two wheels and the open road. Rick, however, is one of those few who did just that (the chapter in which he describes how he became a patch holder is one of my personal favourites), and this fine book is a moving, spirited testament to that choice.

If you're a biker like me, you will devour page after page of Sin City Rider with a gnawing hunger to experience those long runs with Rick and his bros down the wide, starkly beautiful desert highways – I read it from cover to cover while on holiday recently, and enjoyed every last word. And if you're not a biker, then I strongly suggest that you read this book without delay, and see what you've been missing out on all these years!

And don't forget to check out Rick's previous book too, Lines On The Bar: Whiskey On The Rocks, for an exhilarating, eye-opening insight into the other, much less glamorous, darker side of Las Vegas.

To order either or both of Rick's books online, just click on them at,,, or directly from their publisher, Xlibris, at - or, if you prefer, you can order by phone from Xlibris on (within the U.S.A.) 888-795-1274 ext 7879, or place an order through your local bookstore.

You need these books! (Dr Karl Shuker)

Thursday, 17 November 2011


I have long been a fan of the poetry of Miroslav ('Mirek') Fišmeister from Brno in the Czech Republic, with whom I also share a passion for cryptozoology. I currently own no less than five of Mirek's published books of verse, which he has very kindly translated into English for me.

Reading them is like entering into a vast kaleidoscope of dazzling, multicoloured images that swirl and dance before my eyes in a profusion of never-ending, never-repeated patterns and sequences - infusing my mind with their vivid hues and captivating, lyrical word-play to conjure forth a truly magical world in which the most unexpected concepts are deftly juxtaposed, generating a limitless diversity of wholly original, unforgettable visions and dreams.

So here, to demonstrate just what I mean, is one of my particular favourites from the rich canon of Mirek's poetry, and which appears in Pieter Van Den Hoogenband (2010).


Je za deset minut půl desáté,
a všude jsou čtverce.
Už deset minut
je za deset minut půl desáté,
a něžný oranžový vorvaň
vysezený Elysejským palácem z podkladku
myslí na živé dřevce,
které ve dvou hradech z modrého mramoru
natahují hodiny, stále, stále.
Už šachovou figurku
je za deset minut půl desáté,
a býložravý gepard se žene
za antilopami tvých ňader.
Už Ganyméda
je za deset minut půl desáté.

It’s half past ten in ten minutes,
and squares are everywhere.
For ten minutes already
it’s half past ten in ten minutes,
and a gentle orange sperm whale
hatched by the Élysée Palace from a nest-egg
thinks of living lances
which, in two blue marble castles,
wind up clocks again and again.
For a chess figure already
it‘s half past ten in ten minutes,
and a herbivorous cheetah runs after
the antelopes of your breasts.
For a Ganymede already
it’s half past ten in ten minutes.

My five books of Mirek's poetry are:

Ten Stolek Je Nízk‎‎ý! [The Table is Low!] (Edice Nezavedeni, 2005).

Z (Vĕtrné Ml‎ýny, 2009).

Pieter Van Den Hoogenband (Edice H_aluze, 2010).

Šel Jsem Tím Městem... [The Town I Visited...] (Vydal Oftis Ústi nad Orlici v Roce, 2010).

Barva Času Je Žlutá [Time is Yellow] (Vetus Via, 2011).

And I am truly honoured to be one of the persons to whom Mirek has dedicated Pieter Van Den Hoogenband – thank you so much, Mirek!!

My collection of Mirek's poetry (Dr Karl Shuker)

Friday, 28 October 2011


Cloud-busting is the alleged ability to dispel clouds using only the power of the mind.

As far back as 1895, French cloud-buster Louis Alphonse Cahagnet claimed that he could select a cloud in the sky and then disintegrate it within the space of 15 minutes simply by directing his thoughts at it. He informed a neighbour, called Lecoq, of his powers, and when Lecoq tried he discovered to his surprise that he too was able to accomplish this feat. Two other friends of Cahagnet, known as Médar and Gérard, also demonstrated this anomalous talent, and when they combined forces with Cahagnet to break up a big grey cloud, each concentrating upon a different portion of it, the cloud duly vanished in 10 minutes.

Perhaps the most famous cloud-buster was New Zealander Dr Rolf Alexander. In 1956, he performed a convincing demonstration at Holne Tor, Devon, in the presence of initially sceptical British journalist Fyfe Robertson. Alexander claimed that he could only disintegrate cumulus clouds, preferably well-formed and not overly large ones, stating that these possessed a very fragile electrical equilibrium, and that because of this he could destroy them by directing his mental energy upon them. He referred to his cloud-busting ability as creative realism, and believed that it may function by neutralising the clouds' electrical charges.

At the end of the demonstration, Robertson was sufficiently impressed by what he had seen to state: "I really find it very difficult not to believe, startling and improbable though it may seem, and almost in spite of myself, that Dr Alexander can disintegrate clouds". Nevertheless, his final, qualifying remark proved to be very prophetic: "Nothing I have seen adds up to the kind of proof which scientists can legitimately demand".

During the mid-1950s, Alexander's abilities were also tested by Denys Parsons from the Society for Psychical Research, in London, and meteorologist Dr Richard Scorer, an expert on cumulus clouds, from London's Imperial College of Science and Technology. This time, Alexander's results were less impressive, and Dr Scorer voiced the following conclusions.

Firstly, he pointed out that cumulus clouds tend to disperse naturally in 15-20 minutes anyway, so that there seems little hope of determining whether a supposed instance of cloud-busting has actually worked if it has taken 15-20 minutes for the cloud-buster's target cloud to disintegrate. Secondly, when a given cumulus cloud breaks up, it is usually replaced very quickly by new ones of similar appearance forming to one or the other side of it. Thus, unless this specific meteorological fact is known to a cloud observer, he may mistakenly assume that he has been watching the same cloud all the time - thereby leading him to believe that the cloud has indeed broken up into laterally-dispersed pieces. This, in Scorer's opinion, was the simplest explanation for Alexander's alleged cloud-busting behaviour.

In response, however, various other cloud-busting practitioners have claimed that they can disintegrate clouds in as short a period of time as 90 seconds. This is far quicker than the time taken for clouds to break up under natural conditions, but no formal scientific tests of such claims appear to have been conducted, so they currently remain unconfirmed.

Cumulus clouds

Friday, 30 September 2011


James Dean has always been a major hero of mine, so to say I was honored when, a fair few years ago, one newspaper article likened me to the James Dean of cryptozoology, would be the understatement of the century. So here is a tribute article of mine to someone who has influenced me so much and for so long through my life.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever.
Live as if you’ll die today.”

- James Dean

He came into this world 80 years ago, grew into a uniquely talented and extremely charismatic actor, then died violently exactly 56 years ago today, on 30 September 1955, at the age of only 24 after starring in just three films. Yet there has never been even the briefest of pauses in his popularity. More than five decades have passed since his death, but his name lives on, undiminished by time, and his persona remains far more potent and vibrant today than that of almost any modern celebrity, epitomising the cool yet confused teenage rebel that he played in so mesmerising and convincing a manner on the silver screen during the early 1950s. He died just before the advent of rock ’n’ roll, but with his raw macho image of black leather jacket, jeans, and motorbike, he was already the archetypal rocker, and his life has been duly commemorated in numerous rock songs, most notably by The Eagles. And the name of this enduring icon? Who else could it possibly be but James Dean?


An only child, he was born on 8 February 1931, in a nondescript Indiana town called Marion. Nevertheless, perhaps the portents of future fame were present even then. Certainly, it is nothing if not remarkably apt that someone destined to be one of the most controversial and mercurial of movie stars should come to share a name with so close a counterpart from the literary world - for although he would always be known simply as Jimmy or Jim to his friends and colleagues, he was christened James Byron Dean.

Jimmy’s parents were Mildred and Winton Dean (a dental technician but descended from generations of local farmers), and Jimmy’s first few years were idyllic, his mother nurturing in him a life-long love of acting and the classics before the family moved to Santa Monica, California, to further Winton’s career. While Jimmy was still only nine years old, however, tragedy struck, when Mildred was found to be suffering from advanced uterine cancer, dying shortly afterwards on 14 July 1940. Robbed of his beloved mother, Jimmy was grief-stricken. Only two days later, moreover, adding further to his disorientation, Winton, feeling unable to care for him single-handedly, sent Jimmy back to Indiana, to be reared from then on by his aunt and uncle, Ortense and Marcus Winslow (a farmer), in small-town Fairmount, not far from Marion. It is widely believed that this most unsettling episode in his life is what ultimately transformed the young James Dean into the rebellious, troubled, yet wholly captivating star that transfixed movie-goers yet consistently failed to find personal happiness or stability.

At school (as well as at home), Jimmy became something of a troublemaker, but he excelled at sports, especially basketball, and after obtaining his first motorbike in his early teens he also became an extremely accomplished, daredevil rider. However, his passion for acting superseded everything, and he appeared in numerous school plays, increasing his ambition to become a successful actor. After graduating from high school in May 1949, Jimmy journeyed to California to live with his father in Santa Monica, but a month later he moved to Los Angeles, where in September 1950 he entered UCLA to commence a university course in drama. Yet despite his success in winning the much-coveted role of Malcolm in a major UCLA production of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, staged from 29 November to 2 December 1950, he was forced to take a series of dead-end jobs while seeking the showbusiness break for which he so earnestly yearned.


During the next two years, a number of minor breaks did come his way. These included a Pepsi-Cola television advert, an appearance in an episode entitled ‘Hill Number One’ of the TV show ‘Family Theater’ playing the disciple St John, some radio shows, and even a trio of walk-on film appearances - in ‘Fixed Bayonets’ (1951), ‘Has Anybody Seen My Gal?’ (1952), and the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy ‘Sailor Beware’ (1952), in which he had a one-line speaking role. But these were not enough to quench Jimmy’s thirst for success. By October 1951, he had already quit not only UCLA but also California, drawn eastward like so many other young stage and movie moths to the bright Broadway-beckoning lights of New York, in search of a place in the celebrated Actors Studio - run by Lee Strasberg and including Jimmy’s greatest movie star hero, Marlon Brando, among its members.

Remarkably for a complete unknown, Jimmy was accepted, where, although failing to impress Strasberg, he did attract the attention of acclaimed film director Elia Kazan. Indeed, following his albeit brief Broadway run during December 1952 as a caged teenager in the play ‘See the Jaguar’, and a well-received role during February 1954 as Bachir, a sexually-devious Arab houseboy in a stage version of André Gide’s book The Immoralist, in March 1954 Kazan cast this youthful misfit in a role that could have been written especially for him. Namely, Cal Trask, the brooding, rebellious, Cain-type brother in the Warner Brothers film version of John Steinbeck’s powerful novel, East of Eden.


Inevitably, Jimmy attracted Kazan’s disapproval for his tempestuous, unpredictable behaviour, not to mention his penchant for hair-raising devilment on four and two wheels, and for noisily playing the bongo drums (one of his favourite hobbies) while on set. He also succeeded in alienating the film crew and (with the notable exception of Julie Harris) most of his co-stars too - particularly the cultured old-school actor Raymond Massey, playing Cal’s father, and Dick Davalos, playing his Abel-counterpart twin brother Aron. Yet in spite of (or even perhaps because of) it all, Jimmy turned in a spellbinding performance, greatly influenced by the Method school of acting championed by Strasberg’s Actors Studio.

In June 1954, while still filming ‘Eden’, Jimmy began dating the actress often said to be his one and only true love, 22-year-old Italian-born Pier Angeli. In the decades since his death, there has been much controversy concerning Jimmy’s sexuality. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, even asexual – all of these have been attributed to him. There is no doubt that by the time of ‘East of Eden’, Jimmy had been variously acquainted or infatuated with some homosexual or bisexual figures, including pastor Dr James DeWeerd at Fairmount’s Wesleyan Church, and CBS TV director Rogers Brackett (plus, later, ‘Rebel’ co-star Sal Mineo). He had also dated numerous women – dancer Dizzy Sheridan, teenage actress Barbara Glenn, New York photography enthusiast Arlene Sachs, and New York actress Christine White among others. And then there were the various strictly platonic, brother-and-sister type relationships, most notably with Julie Harris, and sultry feline singer Eartha Kitt. Little wonder, then, that those who knew him best agree that it wasn’t a person’s sex that attracted him but their personality, meaning that in a sense he was both bisexual and asexual, having little affinity with sexuality but every affinity with living a life that lacked boundaries or limitations. Until, that is, Pier Angeli entered his life.

She was working on a film called ‘The Silver Chalice’ in an adjacent film studio to his, and the two soon became very attracted towards one another. Despite rumours that their romance was a studio publicity stunt, Kazan and others had no doubt whatsoever that it was genuine. In keeping with the tragic idol persona that Jimmy nowadays embodies, however, it was doomed from the very beginning, due to the implacable disapproval of Pier’s mother, a staunch Catholic who hated non-Catholic Jimmy’s hip, reckless image and sullen attitude. Nevertheless, the film world was still startled when in October 1954 Pier abruptly announced her engagement to singer Vic Damone, and married him just a month later. The nuptials were watched from across the way by a thunderous, uninvited Jimmy, sitting astride his motorbike before riding off alone. Abandoned by his mother in death, by his father in despair, and now by his greatest love in favour of someone else - from then on, Jimmy’s moods, always uncertain and stormy at best, became ever darker, his insecurities ever more apparent.

Premiered in New York on 9 March 1955, ‘East of Eden’ had cost over one and half million dollars to make, but was a huge success, with Jimmy acclaimed as a major new star, resulting in fan clubs springing up all around the world in his honour. Highly uncomfortable as the focus of such unexpected adulation, Jimmy derived great pleasure from sneaking anonymously into cinemas to watch how audiences reacted to his riveting portrayal of the haunted, alienated outcast Cal Trask on screen. Sadly, this was to be the only one of the three films in which he starred that Jimmy would live to see released. Nor would he ever know of his ‘Best Actor’ Oscar nomination in 1956 for his performance as Cal.


In January 1955, two months before the ‘Eden’ premiere, Jimmy had been signed up for the film role that he was assuredly born to play, and with which he will forever be most intimately identified – the disaffected, red bomber-jacketed, Lee jeans-clad teenager Jim Stark in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’. Another Warner Brothers movie but directed this time by Nicholas Ray, it co-starred a young Natalie Wood and an even younger Sal Mineo, creating both off-screen and on-screen a complex triangle of mutual attraction. Jimmy starred as a loner, misunderstood by his parents, especially by his weak father played by Jim Backus (thereby yielding an uncomfortably close parallel, perhaps, with Jimmy’s own life), and rejected by the other students at his new school.

It was during this same period that Jimmy, by now becoming a serious movie heart-throb, featured in two major photo-shoots for Life magazine. The first, a studio-based session on 29 December 1954 with celebrity-snapper Roy Schatt, resulted in the classic ‘Torn Sweater’ series, named after the tatty sweater worn by Jimmy, who was also sporting photogenic designer stubble long before it became fashionable to do so. The second, in February 1955, saw Jimmy return to New York and Fairmount with New York photographer Dennis Stock, which yielded some of the most famous and iconic of all James Dean images.

As with ‘East of Eden’, Jimmy played his role in ‘Rebel’ in his own unique, idiosyncratic way, replete with extraordinary mannerisms, improvisations, and what had become by now his trade-mark mumbling delivery. But again, the result was both hypnotic and groundbreaking – for countless young screen-goers everywhere, James Dean was the definitive teenager, epitomising and embodying the angst, confusion, rebellion, pain, rage, and sexual awakenings that they were experiencing.


‘Rebel’ would be premiered in New York on 26 October 1955, but well before then Jimmy was already hard at work on film #3, shooting for it having begun in Texas on 3 June 1955. This was ‘Giant’, a big-budget Warner Brothers movie adaptation of Edna Ferber’s bestselling oil-boom novel, with veteran director George Stevens, in which, for the first time, Jimmy’s two principal co-stars were major-league movie actors – Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. Yet again, Jimmy played a disturbed, embittered outsider – ranch-hand Jett Rink, who becomes, following the discovery of oil on his tiny plot of land, an extremely wealthy oil baron, surpassing even the fortune amassed by his hated rival, Bick Benedict (played by Hudson, with Taylor as his wife, Leslie, who also nurtures a soft spot for Jett). Ironically, Jimmy’s off-screen relationship with his co-stars mirrored their on-screen one, Jimmy and Hudson loathing one another but Jimmy and Taylor forming a genuine platonic friendship.

In the film, Jett Rink aged from a 19-year-old youth to a dissipated 46-year-old with grey hair, requiring a far greater scope of acting talent than Jimmy had ever been required to display before, and critics are still divided as to whether he accomplished this successfully. Nevertheless, his performance was such that, in 1957, he received a second ‘Best Actor’ Oscar nomination, the first time that any actor had received two posthumous Oscar nominations. Sadly, however, he did not win on either occasion.

Having completed his filming for ‘Giant’ on 22 September 1955, Jimmy, by now something of a veteran, successful car-racer, decided to enter a race in Salinas, California, driving his latest four-wheeled acquisition – a silver Porsche 550 Spyder that he had dubbed ‘Little Bastard’ (after an affectionate nickname given to him by his friend Bill Hickman, a stuntman on ‘Giant’). At around 10 pm on 23 September, however, just under a week before he set off for Salinas, Jimmy had a somewhat macabre chance encounter with British actor Alec Guinness, to whom he proudly showed off ‘Little Bastard’. Far from being impressed, however, Guinness inexplicably felt a wave of horror sweep over him as he looked at the car – so much so that he found himself imploring Jimmy not to get in it, and stating that if he did, he would be dead in a week.


Although he was understandably startled at first by Guinness’s chilling words, Jimmy soon laughed them off, and so it was that during the afternoon of 30 September 1955 he and his mechanic Rolf Weutherich found themselves heading down Route 466 towards Salinas in ‘Little Bastard’, with Jimmy driving. Just before 6 pm, they approached a junction with Highway 41, at a speed of around 85 mph, and at that same moment a Ford sedan driven by 23-year-old college student Donald Turnupseed pulled out onto Route 466 directly in front of them. Jimmy swerved desperately, but could not avoid the Ford. According to Weutherich, who, like Turnupseed, survived the inevitable crash, Jimmy’s last words were: “That guy’s gotta stop...he’ll see us!” The feather-light racing car was virtually annihilated, and Jimmy died of multiple injuries before his broken body arrived at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital. The crash had taken place exactly a week after Guinness’s eerily-prophetic warning.

Jimmy’s death incited shock, grief, rage, and quasi-religious fervour among his fans around the globe on a scale unprecedented since that of Rudolph Valentino back in the mid-1920s. What had until then been an enthusiastic following of fans soon transformed into a veritable cult – and the rest, as they say, is history.

For James Byron Dean, one journey had ended, but another had already begun. An actor had died, but a legend was born.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – The Little Prince

(James Dean’s favourite quote from his favourite book)

All illustrations here are of postage stamps and other items from my own personal collection of James Dean-related philatelic memorabilia.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Not all dolls and marionettes are as friendly as these (Dr Karl Shuker)

Although this article of mine was originally published in a now-defunct British weekly magazine called Me! way back in November 1994, IMHO it remains one of the most chilling articles that I have ever written.

It was 12 August 1964, and Irene Tucker had invited two friends to her apartment in Boston, Massachusetts, for coffee and a chat. In the event, they had little time for coffee, and the subject of their conversation was very different from what they had expected. For as they were sitting there, they suddenly heard an unfamiliar female voice, oddly guttural and mature, coming from the bedroom of Irene's 11-year-old daughter, Holly Anne - but there shouldn't be anyone in that room except for Holly herself.

Frightened at what she might find, Irene rushed to Holly's bedroom, and flung open the door - but all that met her eyes was Holly, fast asleep in her bed, and her doll sitting on the bed beside her. Softly closing the door again, she went back to her friends, who were as puzzled as she was. There had certainly been a strange voice - but even as they spoke, they heard it again! And this time it was much louder - and it was calling to Holly. "Will you get up, Holly Anne - get up and talk to me!"

Rushing into the bedroom at once, they were faced with exactly the same scene as before - Holly asleep, her doll on her bed. By now, however, Irene was becoming distinctly uneasy, so as soon as Holly woke up, they told her what had happened. To their amazement, Holly was totally unconcerned - "You probably heard Betsy calling to me. She always tries to wake me up and get me to play with her." And with that, she picked up her doll, and said "This is Betsy. Say hello to Mommy's friends, Betsy".

On that particular occasion, 'Betsy' apparently decided to remain silent - at least, that is, until Holly's mother and her friends had once again gone out and closed the door. Then, only moments later, they clearly heard that strange guttural voice speak again. This time, however, it was testily enquiring from Holly why she hadn't scolded her mother and friends - "Haven't they anything better to do than snoop on us?"

During the next fortnight, Irene was driven to distraction by the voice that Holly claimed to be Betsy's - vociferous as long as Holly's bedroom door was closed, mute as soon as it was opened. Then, one of her friends who had heard its eerie tones on that first evening, hit upon the clever idea of hiding a voice-activated tape recorder in Holly's room.

This her mother did, then the following morning she took it out of Holly's room and played it in the presence of her two friends. There was no doubt - someone, or something, with a distinctly older voice and a peculiar accent had been chatting to her daughter during the night. It had been faithfully recorded by the machine - but, dashing Irene's hopes that it was nothing more than a clever example of ventriloquism on the part of her daughter, the older voice was talking about all sorts of things that Holly couldn't possibly have known.

At this point, Irene became so alarmed that she took the doll out of Holly's room, bringing it into her own instead, and placing it on her dressing table. That evening, with the doll still on the table, Irene went to bed - but not long afterwards, she awoke in terror. There had been a loud scream, and an ominous thud. What had happened? Was Holly in danger? She turned on the light immediately, ready to race into her daughter's bedroom - and then she saw it. Betsy had apparently fallen off the dressing table, and was lying on the floor - with her head smashed in. From that moment onwards, the strange guttural voice was never heard again, and Holly confirmed that Betsy didn't speak anymore.

The final twist in this chilling tale came a short time later, when out of curiosity Irene played to a linguist the tape of Betsy's night-time conversation. He was very interested, because he recognised Betsy's accent - it was German. Moreover, when the broken doll was examined, it was discovered that, sure enough, Betsy had been made in Germany!

This is just one of many reports on file concerning dolls that have somehow 'come alive' - usually to the amazement, and terror, of those around them. Indeed, some were so malevolent that Chocky, the demonic doll from the 'Child's Play' series of horror movies, seems positively playful in comparison!

The macabre episode of Holly and Betsy was among several investigated by Robert Tralins, a noted occult authority in America, and the author of an extraordinary casebook entitled Children of the Supernatural (1969). Another, equally inexplicable case that he researched was that of a real-life Pinocchio - a puppet that seemingly came to life!

Lucian Devlin and his wife, from New Orleans in Louisiana, laughed when their 7-year-old son Joey came into their bedroom one night in 1947 and said: "There are ghosties in my toy box and they keep waking me up and they won't let me sleep." Just to humour him, however, his parents went back with him to his bedroom - but even before they reached the door, they could plainly hear loud bumps and other noises emanating from inside the room. His mother cautiously opened the door, stepped inside - and to her astonishment, the lid of Joey's toy box suddenly opened, unassisted, and inside she could see a hand puppet, which was moving around all by itself. Moreover, as she watched, some of the other toys suddenly seemed to hurl themselves out of the box, and lay scattered all over the floor.

Fleeing the room in terror, she refused to let Joey go back to bed there, so Joey and his parents spent the rest of the night in their own room - until, that is, the child and his mother had finally gone to sleep. Then, Lucian Devlin quietly got out of bed and made his way to Joey's room, opened the door, and looked inside. There, to his great alarm, was the macabre marionette, moving about completely unaided by anything or anyone. After watching this bizarre toy for a time, Devlin turned the light on. Instantly, the puppet froze - but it was too late. Devlin had seen more than enough to know what he had to do. He took hold of the puppet, left the house with it, and threw it into the nearby river. Never again did "ghosties" in his toy box disturb Joey's sleep.

The case attracted so much attention that the Devlins finally denied that anything had happened. Years later, however, Joey, then a fully-grown man, spoke with Robert Tralins, and confirmed that it had all been perfectly true.

The Devlin case featured a 'bad Pinocchio' - one that seemingly came to life for disruptive purposes!

A haunted doll's house featured in a somewhat similar case - when, on 1 August 1960, 10-year-old Terri Woods, of Cumberland County in North Carolina, came to play with her dolls, and found that somehow, everything in her recently-acquired giant doll's house had been moved around. None of her family had been anywhere near her toys since she had last played with them, so her parents were at a loss for an explanation. Over the next few days, however, the same thing happened again...and again - even when the doll's house was locked by itself inside Terri's bedroom. By now, her parents were almost as frightened as Terri - who, on one occasion, had actually seen her toys moving about by themselves inside it. Even Mr Wood's decision to keep the house under lock and key in an unused spare bedroom failed to prevent the toys' uncanny animation. In fact, that only made things worse.

On the third day of the doll house's imprisonment there, Mr and Mrs Woods detected a foul, evil smell seeping from that room - and when it was unlocked, they found that the malignant odour was diffusing directly from the doll's house. There was only one course of action left to take with this bewitched building - and Mr Woods took it. After emptying it of toys, Mr Wood carried the doll's house outside, doused it with petrol, and set fire to it.

Happily, events were not repeated with a new doll's house that the Woods bought their daughter - but the way in which they had obtained the haunted version may provide an insight into its weird behaviour. It had arrived on Terri's tenth birthday, a gift from an anonymous 'well wisher' whose identity was never uncovered.

In black magic, it is well known that if people want to rid themselves of an item of evil, they must not sell it - instead, they must secretly give it away, and receive no recompense. Could that explain the mysterious arrival of Terri's doll house?

As revealed in Reincarnation International (July 1994), Barbara Bell of San Anselmo, Nebraska, produces a regular newsletter in which she documents the psychic messages that she allegedly receives via her Barbie doll - but in Australia there is a famous cloth doll that can apparently do much the same thing too. It is owned by Nicole Hart, from Melbourne, and in 1987, when she was 8 years old, it began talking to her - but quite aside from the extraordinary fact that it contained no built-in talking device to explain its sudden conversion into a veritable chatterbox, its words were very disturbing.

For this weird toy began to predict dramatic incidents that would occur in her family and elsewhere - predictions that Nicole's parents heard too, and which all came true shortly afterwards! To date, they have included the diagnosis of her grandmother as suffering from cancer, the killing of her pet cat Jinx by a car, a neighbour's death, and three motor vehicle crashes. Hardly a cheerful selection, but as pointed out by Nicole's father, architect Vance Hart: "The doll never predicts anything good. Its messages are always of impending disaster and doom. We can't take much more of its doomsday predictions."

Cabbage Patch Kids are supposed be as individual in form and personality as real children. They are even sold with detailed 'life histories' and 'birth certificate', and the buyer has to sign 'adoption papers' and to swear in front of a witness to be a good, kind parent - but in some cases, the dolls seem to have taken all of this a little too seriously for comfort!

In August 1984, Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper reported the tribulations suffered by a childless woman from Connecticut who until recently had owned one of these dolls. Often, she would inexplicably find it in a different room of her home from where she had left it, but one day events took a much more sinister turn - when the woman found the doll with a menacing expression on its face, and spouting forth what amounted to a verbal spanking for not tucking it in its crib! Chillingly, the doll also told her: "I'm not just a doll!"

Greatly frightened, the woman called in an exorcist, but by the time that he had arrived the doll had somehow managed to suspend itself in the air. Fortunately, following his gestures with a crucifix, it soon fell down into its crib. After that, he and its 'mother' swiftly buried the eerie doll in the garden, after sprinking the site with holy water - just in case!

Another Cabbage Patch Kid that was laid to rest beneath a secure layer of earth and soil with all speed had been owned by an American woman - until the summer night in 1984 when she claimed that something had tried to strangle her while she slept. According to psychic investigator Edward Warren who was called in to deal with the situation by the distraught woman, when she had woken up there was nothing to be seen - only her doll, but when she looked closely at it, she saw to her horror that in one of its specially-constructed grasping hands was a button, torn off the nightgown that the woman was still wearing!

In East Hartford, Connecticut, a life-sized Raggedy Doll allegedly attacked Tony Rossi, the boyfriend of Margarite Tata to whom it belonged and who shared her bed with it. Tony had been having nightmares about it for several days, so one morning in March 1974 he picked it up, shouted "You're nothing but a toy!", and shook it. Instantly, he felt searing pains across his chest, and when he unbuttoned his shirt he supposedly discovered to his great shock that "there were seven bleeding claw marks slashed across my body!".

Dolls can be looked upon as emotional sponges, sucking up and into themselves the concentrated outpourings of love and attention lavished upon them by their owners - and often serve as substitutes for real children. Some people may say, therefore, that perhaps we should not be too surprised when they begin to display and release human emotions themselves - but what reflection upon the darker side of humanity is it when those emotions apparently include attempted murder?

Clowns and jesters - but sometimes, toys are no laughing matter! (Dr Karl Shuker)

Thursday, 25 August 2011


A nature fairy (Dr Karl Shuker)

It was quite a while ago that I penned the following retelling of a traditional Irish folktale, as a sample of text for a possible book on the Little People, which would be written in the style of my dragons book. Sadly, however, the project didn't come to fruition - or at least not so far - but here, extracted from the depths of my Eclectarium, is the text sample in question, and I hope that you enjoy it.

Some fairies are solitary by nature, and these tend to be capricious and malign towards humans; a few even belong to the Unseelie Court, and are best avoided. Happily, however, most fairies are usually good-natured and can be generous to humans if treated with respect. They often live in great congregations, with splendid palaces inside hollow hills, and belong to the Seelie Court. Yet even these, known as trooping fairies, can be fickle and mischievous, especially if dealt with disrespectfully, whereupon they take great delight in punishing those humans responsible - as vividly illustrated by the following traditional British folk-tale:

Long ago, in a little village at the foot of Ireland's Galtee Mountains, lived a man known to everyone as Lusmore, on account of the sprig of lusmore flowers that he always placed in the band of his hat. Tragically, Lusmore had been afflicted since birth with a deformed hump-back, which gave him unrelenting pain and never permitted him to stand up straight. Yet despite this burden he was always cheerful, and sang happily when skilfully preparing the beautiful hand-woven baskets, hats, and other items, using rushes and dried grasses, for which he was famous far and wide.

One evening, Lusmore was walking back home, slowly and painfully as always, after having personally delivered some of his wares to a rich buyer in a neighbouring village, when, passing through a shadowy glade, he heard the most delightful singing - as if an invisible choir were present, filling the glade on all sides with melodious music. Lusmore paused, listening intently, and soon noticed that the singers were repeating the same simple theme over and over again. After a time, the singing paused, and Lusmore took the opportunity to add his own musical contribution, by elevating the theme a key with his own tuneful singing voice, creating a pleasant harmony. A few moments later, the choir began accompanying him, and the singing became even more dulcet than before.

Suddenly, the music stopped, and the glade instantaneously lit up, illuminated by what Lusmore thought at first were hundreds of tiny fireflies or glow-worms. But as he peered at them, he realised to his amazement that they were fairies - a huge assembly of gossamer-winged, gorgeously-attired fairies, whose tiny bodies glowed in the moonlight, and whose faces were as beautiful and radiant as flowers. Laughing excitedly, they told Lusmore how delighted they were with his gift to their music, and, in thanks, they promised to return his kindness with a reward of their own, by removing from his life its greatest burden.

And as they spoke those words, the entire company took wing, and swarmed all around the bewildered Lusmore like a host of will o' the wisps, enfolding him in a luminous swirling cloak of shimmering Faerie light. Startled, Lusmore closed his eyes, and felt a brief jolt of energy surge through his body, like a small electric shock, causing him to jerk upwards, involuntarily - and as he did so, he was astonished to discover that he was standing up straight, for the very first time in his life! Lusmore opened his eyes at once, and looked all about him, but the fairies had gone, with only the fading sound of their singing to confirm that they had ever been there. At his feet, however, was a strange object, like a large boulder - and to his shock and delight, Lusmore realised that this was his hump, no longer weighing down his back, whose shoulder blades were smooth and unburdened at last.

Hardly daring to believe his luck, Lusmore ran all the way home, and the next day he banged on the door of everyone's house to tell them of his incredible experience the previous night. All of the villagers were delighted for him - all but one, that is, a miserable, nasty-tempered man called Jack Madden, who was also a hump-back, just like Lusmore had once been, but was sorely lacking Lusmore's pleasant personality. Madden was jealous of Lusmore's good fortune, but as he had no spite or bitterness in his soul Lusmore ignored Madden's envy. Indeed, he was only too happy to suggest to Madden that he should go to the glade himself the next evening, and do what he, Lusmore, had done, and perhaps he too would be rewarded by the fairies there.

Despite moaning that it was a long way to go, Madden decided to follow Lusmore's advice, and spent much of the day walking to the glade, where he then waited, somewhat impatiently, until it grew dark. After a time, Madden heard the strain of sweet music wafting through the trees, a rich congregation of voices singing the same simple theme over and over again, just like Lusmore had heard. Unlike Lusmore, however, Madden had neither the patience nor the musical ability to join in. Instead, after just a few minutes, he lost his temper completely, shouting out rudely that he was tired of hearing the same theme and that it was surely time that they learnt something else to sing.

The music stopped instantly, and the glade became absolutely still. Then all at once, it was as if Madden were being attacked on all sides by a furious swarm of buzzing mosquitoes - but these were no ordinary mosquitoes. Suddenly, they illuminated themselves, and Madden saw that they were in fact a vast company of extremely angry fairies, their little faces screwed up in rage, as they pinched him, pulled his hair, tweaked his nose, flicked his ears, and screamed at him in high, piercing voices that echoed inside his head - accusing him of ruining their music, and promising swift revenge.

Overcome with fear, Madden closed his eyes and staggered away, but he tripped over the root of a tree and fell to the floor, enveloped by the swarm of enraged fairies. He felt a jolt of energy flow briefly through him, causing him to open his eyes in fear. To his relief, however, the fairies had gone, and so too, Madden hoped, would be his hump. But when he tried to stand up, his back was still hunched, and seemed even more painful and heavy than before. Gingerly, Madden felt it with his hands, and to his great horror he discovered that not only was his hump still there, but now, there was a second hump alongside it!

That was the fairies' punishment to Jack Madden for spoiling their music, and for the rest of his life he would now have to walk with two humps on his back instead of one - as a warning to everyone of what can happen if they fall foul of the Little People!


African shaman mask (Dr Karl Shuker)

Here are a couple of hairy curiosities (in every sense!) that I'm sharing with you today from my Eclectarium.

This strange, brown, hair-like material is used by Senegalese shamans in secret rituals, and is incorporated into magic medicines that supposedly bestow good fortune upon their recipients. Shamans claim that they obtain it from demons when entering an alternate dimension of consciousness. They mix devil's hair with other substances, such as chicken's blood, and wrap the resulting concoction in goatskin or hyaena skin before giving it to the recipient - who must then undergo a series of tasks with it, based upon instructions relayed by the shaman from invisible spirit beings, in order for it to have the desired effect.

On 13 May 1848, a violent earthquake shook Chantibun in eastern Siam (now Thailand), but that was not all, as recorded in Scientific American: "During the shock, there spontaneously came out of the ground a species of human hairs in almost every place - in the bazaars, in the roads, in the fields, and the most solid places. These hairs, which are pretty long, stand upright and adhere strongly to the ground. When they are burned, they twist like human hairs and have a burned smell...they all appeared in the twinkling of an eye during the earthquake". But from where? One authority claimed that they were "...probably some interior bituminous substance melted and blown through the pores of the earth into fine strings and congealed, resembling hairs". Another, commenting upon a Chinese case, believed them to be fibres from the hemp-palm tree. At present, quake hairs remain a mystery.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Browsing through the books in a local charity shop yesterday, I noticed an anthology of short verses by Patience Strong, entitled Thoughts For Every Day. Opening it entirely at random, my gaze fell upon the following poem, ‘The Bird of Dreams’, which I had never previously read but which so captivated me upon doing so that I took the volume to the counter and paid for it straight away– a delightful new addition to my bookshelf to be treasured over the years, a bright new seashell encountered by chance but gathered up with joy from the infinite seashore of Life.

THE BIRD OF DREAMS - Patience Strong

When the house is quiet with the coming of the night -
Wrapped about in rosy veils of softly fading light.
The Bird of Dreams on silent wings comes to my windowsill.
The clock chimes out the sunset hour, but Time itself stands still.
Years are moments. In a flash I live the past again.
I hear a voice, I see a face. I feel the joy and pain,
As if it were but yesterday. What is this magic power -
That calls up ghosts out of the shadows of the evening hour?
I light the lamp, and in the dazzle of the sudden glare -
The vision goes. I look around, and there is no one there.
But through the window in the dark, beyond the lamp's bright ray -
I see the Bird of Dreams spread out its wings and fly away.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Earlier tonight, in my previous post here in The Eclectarium of Doctor Shuker, I recalled how, while I was still a youngster during the mid-1960s, a certain fascinating compendium of mysteries entitled Stranger Than People played a fundamental role in triggering what would become a lifelong interest of mine in such subjects.

In addition to containing accounts of many famous true-life mysteries, this particular book (published in 1968 by Young World Productions Ltd of London) also included a couple of wonderful – and wholly original - science-fiction short stories. Tragically, however, because it did not appear to have had a very large print run, was never reprinted, and is nowadays long-forgotten and very scarce, relatively few people are likely to have read them.

Consequently, in that afore-mentioned Eclectarium post of mine I had great pleasure in exclusively presenting one of those two sci-fi stories, ‘Klumpok’ (click here).

So now, utilising the Fair Dealing/Fair Use convention I have equal delight in presenting here in the context of review, and on an entirely non-commercial basis, the other story.

Entitled ‘The Yellow Monster of Sundra [sic] Strait’, it was written by Ted Hallam and featured some very striking illustrations by an uncredited artist.

So just click on the following scans to obtain readily-readable enlargements of this thrilling story’s complete set of original pages, exactly as they appeared in Stranger Than People. But I warn you: if you’re even the slightest bit arachnophobic, it might be better to go off and do something else instead!

UPDATE: 3 April 2014

In response to reader Shane O'Connor's recent request (in the Comments section below), I have pleasure in presenting here the Contents page from Stranger Than People, which shows the wonderfully diverse and fascinating subjects documented within this amazing book:


Stunning artwork from 'Klumpok' in Stranger Than People (1968)

I owe a great deal to a wonderful but sadly long-since-forgotten compendium of famous true-life and fictitious mysteries entitled Stranger Than People – as I explained in the introduction to one of my own volumes, Dr Shuker’s Casebook (2008):

Here I am with the two books that sparked my lifelong interest in cryptozoology and other subjects of mystery (Dr Karl Shuker)

“It is well known that my passion for cryptozoology was ignited by the 1972 Paladin paperback reprint of Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s classic tome On the Track of Unknown Animals, bought for me as a birthday present by my mother when I was around 13 years old. However, my interest in mysterious phenomena as a whole stemmed from an even earlier present – a copy of Stranger Than People, an enthralling compendium of mysteries from fact and fiction, published in 1968 by YWP, and aimed at older children and teenagers, which I saw one day in the Walsall branch of W.H. Smith when I was 8 or 9 years old, and was duly purchased for me as usual by my mother.

“Within its informative, beautifully-illustrated pages I read with fascination – and fear – about Nessie and the kraken, vampires and werewolves, the Colossus of Rhodes and Von Kempelen’s mechanical chess player, dinosaurs and the minotaur, witches and zombies, yetis and mermaids, leprechauns and trolls, Herne the Hunter and Moby Dick, giants and the cyclops, feral children, the psychic powers of Edgar Cayce, and lots more. It even included two original – and quite superb - sci-fi short stories: ‘Klumpok’, about giant ant-like statues found on Mars and what happened when one of them was brought back to Earth; and ‘The Yellow Monster of Sundra Strait’, in which a giant transparent globe containing an enormous spider-like entity rises up out of the ocean; plus a thrilling (and chilling) fantasy tale, ‘Devil Tiger’, featuring a royal but malevolent weretiger that could only be killed with a golden bullet.

“Needless to say, I re-read the poor book so many times that it quite literally fell apart, and was eventually discarded by my parents. After I discovered its loss, I spent many years scouring every bookshop for another copy, but none could be found. Not even Hay-on-Wye – world-famous as ‘The Town of Books’ with over 40 secondhand bookshops – could oblige. A few years ago, however, the Library Angel was clearly at work, because one Tuesday, walking into the bric-a-brac market held on that day each week in my home town of Wednesbury, on the very first stall that I approached I saw a near-pristine copy of Stranger Than People! Needless to say, I bought it, and to this day it remains the only copy that I have ever seen since my original one.”

Indeed, due to this book’s great scarcity today, it recently occurred to me that few people will have been fortunate enough to have ever read any of those marvellous short stories from it that I mentioned above.

Consequently, after more than 40 years, utilising the Fair Dealing/Fair Use convention I am delighted to be able to rectify this sad situation by presenting here in The Eclectarium of Doctor Shuker, in the context of review, and on an entirely non-commercial basis, my own personal favourite – Klumpok.

Just click on the following scans for readily readable enlargements of the original pages (pp. 86-92) from Stranger Than People, which also reveal the stunning artwork that accompanied this story. (Unfortunately, I am unable to name-check either the author or the artist responsible for Klumpok, because no credits of any kind were given in Stranger Than People for this particular story.)

I hope that you enjoy Klumpok just as much as I did – and still do:


And click here to read the second gripping original sci-fi short story that appeared in Stranger Than People - 'The Yellow Monster of Sundra Strait'.