All posts by gothicmangaka

Meet Philomena Bucket

Please meet Philomena Bucket. She has recently shipwrecked on the island (which may explain her worried expression)

Philomena is a Traveller. Which is to say,  the example character in the Hopeless, Maine role playing game which is in development by Keith Healing. The whole project is coming along beautifully and has a publisher, so, fear not (or, not too much) it will be with you in the fullness of time. Keith understands the setting and the story in a way that makes us nearly giddy and is finding ways of having players explore and interact with the island and its flora and fauna (and those things which are uncomfortably neither or both) and create experiences and dark adventures.

Here, in Keth’s words, is how Philomena Bucket was born (or created) with some rolls of the dice-

“Philomena Bucket
These numbers tell us a lot about her. Philomena is of average build (STR 11) but a little sickly (CON  She could well appear a little pale and wan. However, her manual dexterity is good. She is not stubborn but can possibly be manipulated (WILL 10) but is of above average intelligence. She gets on pretty well with people (CHA 11) and is naturally drawn towards things spiritual (PSY 15).
Philomena rolled 52 on Class, making her as Middle class as could be, and 47 on Age. The player determines that as this is towards the top end of the range Philomena is 28 years old.
Given her physical characteristics and her high PSY Philomena’s player decides that she is an Artist specialising in painting. Her high PSY and DEX give her a base skill of 36% to which is added another 10% for her age, giving a total of 46%. She is pretty good but a bit rough around the edges.
She is a keen amateur Biologist.
Finally, and intriguingly, she is albino.”

If the roll had gone another way, she would have been inexplicably attractive to small bits of metal.

If you would like to know how all of this is developing and keep up with progress and news of release dates and such, I can recommend following the development blog, here!


Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.


The Stowaway

To discover the genesis of this tale we need to travel a great distance from Hopeless, to Catamarca Province which lies in the far north-west of Argentina. It was in this area, according to legend, that students of the dark arts would seek out the fabled Salamanca caves, where, some believed, lay the entrance to Hell itself. Here lurked terrors beyond our worst imaginings; terrors even greater than those encountered upon this island.
It was in these caves, in some far-off time, that the creature known as Manchachicoj was conceived, the spawn of a demon and a local witch. Manchachicoj soon grew up to be an eloquent, softly spoken romantic, driven by a burning obsession to seek out and seduce beautiful young women. Although his pedigree was a mixture of native Calchaquí and demon, with his charm and elegance you could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that he possessed all of the attributes of a classic Latin lover. Sadly, this was not the case, for Manchachicoj was somewhat hideous to behold; everyone he encountered eschewed the amorous attentions of this stunted, ugly creature.
After many centuries of unsuccessfully pursuing this quest all over Argentina it gradually dawned upon him that he was definitely not widely regarded as being boyfriend material. So, one bright morning in the latter part of 1886, while loitering around the docks in Buenos Aires, he made the decision that it was time to move on – and the three masted barque making ready to set sail for Portland, Maine looked perfect for the task.
With sails billowing as they left the quayside of Buenos Aires, Captain O’Neill looked lovingly around his ship. The Annie C. Maguire had made good progress. The passage from Liverpool to Argentina had gone exactly to plan and now, with a cargo of salt beef, he was determined to reach Portland by Christmas Day. Others on board were his wife and an eleven man crew. Just four thousand, seven hundred and twenty five nautical miles separated them from Christmas dinner in Maine. Little did he know that deep in the hold, sharing a barrel with a quantity of salt beef, was a diminutive and not particularly attractive stowaway.
Being a half-blood demon Manchachicoj’s senses were sharper than that of any mortal. He heard every conversation on board clearly and was able to see perfectly well in the pitch-black belly of the hold. Besides this, he had little need for food or drink. Occasionally, however, it pleased him to help himself to a mouthful of meat, or, in the early hours when the sailor on the middle-watch was half asleep, would steal a sip or two of water.
The long voyage passed without incident, and on the afternoon of Christmas Eve the imposing tower of the Portland light came into view. Manchachicoj was quietly dozing in his barrel at the time and the buzz of excitement on board brought him fully awake. But there was something else, some sound in the distance beyond the hearing of the others that drew his attention. It was enchanting  – a voice so achingly beautiful that it stirred him in ways he had never known. He was suddenly wrapped in a maelstrom of tenderness and lust, joy and sorrow, sunshine and moonlight. This must be the voice of the lover he had sought for so many centuries.
He scrambled from the barrel and made to climb out of the hold. He swore to himself. It had been battened down to safeguard the cargo as they entered the rough seas around the coast of Maine. Undeterred and driven wild with desire to see the owner of such a wonderful voice he found a marlin spike and began to hack away at the wooden walls of the ship with a superhuman frenzy.
If you examine the official report regarding the sinking of the Annie C. Maguire you will be told that she struck the ledge at Portland Head Light. The Lighthouse Keeper and some volunteers made a makeshift gangplank with a ladder, allowing everyone to clamber to safety. The report goes on to say that the cause of the wreck was puzzling; visibility was good and the crew swore that they had plainly seen the Portland Light prior to the disaster.
The truth of the matter is that the barque’s rudder had been damaged when Manchachicoj burst through; she was out of control. And so was poor Manchachicoj. His head was filled with an unworldly music that promised pleasures beyond all comprehension. Little wonder that he was so determined. There can be few in this world more obsessive and insistent than a siren-besotted Calchaquí-demon hybrid.
There we must leave the crew of the Annie C. Maguire, who all survived without a scratch and doubtless got to enjoy their Christmas dinner in Portland, though salt beef would more than likely have been off the menu. As for the barrels of meat, many made their way to the grateful populace of Hopeless. How that little episode eventually unfolded, however, is a tale for another day.
Oblivious to the damage he had caused, Manchachicoj swam frantically towards the source of the sweet-voiced songstress – which happened to bring him close to the coast of Hopeless. Demonic types conceived on land are not the most natural of swimmers. His technique, for want of a better word, resembled something between a dog-paddle and a panic attack but nevertheless, what he lacked in style he made up for in enthusiasm. Through dogged determination he fought his way through the icy waters towards his goal.
Both of his hearts leapt in unison as he saw her, a vision of loveliness perched daintily on an outcrop of rocks, known to the locals as The Devil’s Fingers. She was as beautiful as he had hoped and envisaged – and he was not at all fazed by her fishy extremities. As far as he knew, all of the girls in Maine looked like that. You must understand, Manchachicoj had never seen a mermaid or even heard tales of their fatal beauty. He had no inkling that, if he were a mere mortal, by now he would have drowned, having been driven mad by her siren song. Happily ignorant of these facts he was in love and anyway, drowning isn’t an option for a demon, half-blood or not, however badly he swims.
By the same token, the mermaid was impressed. Here was someone who had survived long enough to put himself in line to be properly seduced by her. It had never happened before. And looks aren’t everything, she told herself. Manchachicoj pulled himself up onto the rocks and the two gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes…You may ask if there was a ‘happy ever after‘ for these two? Some of you will remember the report in The Vendetta a few years ago of a mermaid turning up and singing seductively on The Devil’s Fingers. We nearly lost a few good men that day, including the venerable Doc Willoughby. These fellows were more than a little appreciative of the song she sang and it took a great deal of combined effort to stop them jumping into the sea. Fortunately everyone survived, including the mermaid. She was something of a disappointment to those who saw her, though. To put it mildly, she certainly wasn’t gifted with classic mermaid good looks. Have a look at the picture. Let’s just say she takes after her father.

Art by Tom Brown

The Poet of Tragedy Creek

Some time ago our late, lamented arts editor, Miss Bathsheba Caudle-Green, thought that it would enhance the cultural profile of the island if we had our very own poet laureate. After some consultation with the Mayor of Hopeless (who, at that time, was Alphonse Crackstone), a mutual agreement was reached whereby a modest cottage on Tragedy Creek, plus a small annual stipend, was arranged for the use of the successful applicant. It was later revealed that this was only achieved after Miss Caudle-Green had gained a not insubstantial degree of leverage by making reference to certain interests Mr Crackstone had in the recently re-opened Madame Evadne’s Lodging House for Discerning Gentlemen (Under new management).
Disappointingly, no one from the island applied for the post, so tentative advertisements were placed in the prestigious Kennebec Journal plus several other mainland newspapers. Despite this, only one candidate came forward; a young man named Leonard Stanley. Miss Caudle-Green was much relieved that her artistic ambitions for the island were bearing fruit and Leonard was immediately hired with no questions asked. Having few belongings, to speak of, he was soon transported to the cottage on Tragedy Creek amid a whirlwind of publicity and excited anticipation. Hopeless waited with baited breath for the pure bardic outpourings of its first poet laureate.
After several months of silence people began to wonder if the odd bardic outpouring, or, at least, a bardic trickle of some description, might yet be forthcoming; or, indeed, if the elusive poet was still on the island. Eventually The Vendetta sent Miss Caudle-Green to investigate. She came back shortly afterwards with ‘something he had been working on’ which she published in the paper following week.

Ode to Hopeless
by Leonard Stanley

What a wonderfully strange place is Hopeless,
This island surrounded by mist (and sea).
I really believe I would cope less
well, if anywhere else I should be.
So I think I’ll remain here forever,
as I’m someone who’ll quite often stay
a long time in places like Hopeless,
where the deer and the antelope play.*
So…‘til the mountains all flatten and slope less,
and the gallows (if we had one) is ropeless,
and the Vatican’s empty and popeless,
It’s here I will stay and I’ll mope less
frequently, on strange and mysterious Hopeless.
An island surrounded by mist (and sea).

*Actually they don’t but I like the image and it rhymes.

Sadly, days after this was printed Miss  Caudle-Green resigned her position at The Vendetta, and has not been seen in cultural circles since. Mr Crackstone also vanished. It appears that he had secretly sold the cottage and took the proceeds, plus the funds for the laureate’s stipend, with him. With no job or home and despite (or possibly because of) his heartfelt Ode to Hopeless, Leonard Stanley was removed to the mainland. He was welcomed back by his previous employer who had been looking for him. He has now resumed his position in the piggery of the Bolduc Correctional Facility.


Art by Tom Brown

Save the Succubus Wasp

Octavius Chevin is a man with a mission. Originally trained as a naturalist he has spent his entire adult life on the island making galoshes for the fishing community. However, his retirement has allowed him to return to his first love of entomology. Recently he has campaigned tirelessly for the protection and study of one of the island’s rarest and most curious arthropods – the Succubus Wasp. A species he himself discovered, frozen in a block of ice, a year ago.
He’s written books and papers about Vespula Hasturis, to give it it’s proper name. He’s formed the local environmental organisation that seeks to protect the Succubus Wasp and, until recently, campaigned to expand the membership of the charity.
Unfortunately he remains the sole member of Save the Succubus Wasp. Due to becoming bed-ridden he has had to completely abandon his efforts to increase the organisation’s influence among the local community, but his passion for environmental work is undimmed.
Today, he lives by himself in the old mill out near Geezo’s Bight.
When this reporter visited the door was already open and he was met cordially by Mr Chevin who received him in his bedroom.
In person Mr Chevin cuts quite an imposing figure –  Despite looking alarmingly emaciated and somewhat wild-eyed, the man turns out to be rather welcoming. Speaking candidly and openly about having lost the use of his legs and being only partially able to use his arms, he remains sanguine. His voice is high pitched with a faint sibilant tone and he also has a nervous tic of punctuating his sentences with a short buzzing noise from the back of his throat. He becomes animated as conversation turns from his ailments to his beloved wasps.
‘I am privileged to be on a mission to preserve the natural habitat and therefore the small population of Vespulis Hasturis for the benefit of present and future generations’ he says. ‘It is a beautiful creature, but its numbers are dwindling: at the moment there is only one live pregnant queen wasp and two dormant, pregnant, ice-bound queens, on the island. There were more, of course, but since the discovery of the frozen colony and their subsequent revivification by my hands last year, they have inevitably come into contact with humans’.
He continues – ‘This resulted in their habitat being encroached on at a rapid rate and also some regrettable deaths, in both the wasp and human populations.
As a result, a lot of misinformed and plain ignorant opinions about these shy and retiring creatures have come about.’ Mr Chevin has started to push himself forward and attempts to lean in closer to me.
He carries on – ‘The wasp has a fascinating feeding cycle. The queen will inhabit the nearest living creature it can find and appears to exert some sort of mental control over it’s host by releasing a special type of pheromone into the nervous system, as a result the host loses all interest in eating and sleeping. As it feeds further on the host’s spinal fluid the host rapidly becomes paralysed. As there is a finite supply of spinal fluid, this necessitates that the queen must find a new host after a while. It is quite slow to disentangle itself from the cerebellum of it’s current host so it has to keep it’s potential prey occupied for quite a while before it can attack and infest it. They can’t survive for long outside of another living thing, you see’. Mr Chevin is now shaking with excitement.
I edge back a little as Mr Chevin seems to be unconsciously trying to grasp my wrist.
‘They only lay eggs once in a lifetime so it’s important that a steady supply of hosts is available to increase the chances of Queens giving birth to fertile males of the species and therefore being able to immediately mate again. Sadly the males die after the procreative act, only the queen matters!’
His voice becomes tremulous – ‘Our number one priority is to see them growing healthy and breeding and spreading and to stop this trend of dwindling numbers’ he says fixing me with that commanding stare of his. I agree that we have a duty to help promote the future of these fascinating insects but decide to excuse myself as Mr Chevin seems to be having some manner of fit. His head is shaking violently and rapidly from side to side and he sounds as if he is about to cough something up.
I make a hasty exit as I fear that my presence may have exacerbated his condition. In some extremity of discomfort I believe he involuntarily threw something after me, as I heard a thud as if something had forcibly struck the fine mahogany door as I closed it on my way out.
Environmental concerns are all our responsibility and this reporter asks his esteemed readership to consider taking up Mr Chevin’s ‘adopt a wasp’ campaign which proved so unpopular and short-lived last year. Subscriptions can be delivered by postal order to the Vendetta.
This dark gem is from none other than Mr Charles Cutting with art by Tom Brown.

The Night-Soil Man

The following article discusses certain delicate matters not generally aired in polite society. Anyone of a sensitive nature may wish to stop reading now.
Hopeless is wonderfully rich in strangeness and mystery. It is home to a multitude of weird and unworldly creatures and sometimes it seems as if an ominous magic is lurking around every corner. While the human population and the more commonplace animal species living here are wary of these praeternatural neighbours, all recognise that, whatever dangers threaten to beset them, the business of living has to go on in all of its aspects. This inevitably includes the production and disposal of – and I blush to have to mention it – sewage.
In these modern times most people on the island enjoy the convenience of an unseen, efficient method of waste disposal. In the past, however, the gallant Night-Soil Man was our only method of removing the offending effluent. It would be common, after dark, to hear him rattling along the cobbled streets in his heavily-laden donkey cart. Although those days are, happily, long gone there still exist a few Night-Soil Men to service the more isolated and sparsely populated areas where it would be almost impossible to install any form of financially viable technology which would be sufficient to the task of  tackling the problem.
Maybe the best known modern day practitioner of this dying trade is Shenandoah Nailsworthy, a master of his craft. For those brave enough to be abroad at night, his burly form can frequently be spotted, scrambling over the rocky headland, burdened down with a large, tightly-lidded bucket, which is carried on his back like a rucksack. It should be noted that traditionally the work is always carried out in the hours of darkness in order to spare the sensibilities of the client.
There is a veil of secrecy surrounding much of the Night-Soil Man’s work. Indeed, the code of confidentiality that exists between him and his client has often been likened to that of the confessional. As Mr Nailsworthy once commented, “What happens in the privy stays in the privy.” Who exactly he said these words to is somewhat unclear though, as most people are disinclined to stand within speaking distance of him.
The comparison with the priesthood, perhaps, is greater than many may realise, as the general effluvium which surrounds him makes enforced celibacy an occupational reality. This is why there has never been a proud family tradition of night-soil collection with the tools of the trade passed from father to son. It has always been the occupation of a solitary man.  By the same token, however, it keeps him alive, as the otherworldly denizens of Hopeless, however bizarre or deadly they may be, will invariably give him a wide berth. After all, a foul stench is a foul stench in whatever dimension you partially-inhabit. The noxious reach of this lonely profession’s reek has even penetrated the folk-culture of the island. Besides a reference being made to him in the well-loved ballad ‘Ghost Writers in the Sky’, he is commemorated in a once-popular children’s street game; the song that accompanied it may still be heard occasionally:

Oh have you smelt the Night-Soil Man, the Night-Soil man, the Night-Soil Man,
Oh have you smelt Night-Soil Man who lives in Hopeless, Maine?

Oh yes I’ve smelt the Night-Soil Man, the Night-Soil man, the Night-Soil Man,
Oh yes I’ve smelt Night-Soil Man who lives in Hopeless, Maine. POO!

According to custom, when this game is played two children form an arch with their raised arms and their playmates march underneath in time to the song.The child who is left standing beneath the arch when the ejaculation POO! is reached is deemed to be out (this last syllable should be shouted lustily and with feeling). The arms of the arch come down and the hapless child is allegorically put into the Night-Soil Man’s bucket and the lid sealed. Comparisons have been drawn with Oranges and Lemons, at the end of which the unfortunate loser is symbolically beheaded. It either fate were factual it would be difficult to pick a preference.
Rufus Lypiatt, the landlord of The Squid and Teapot, told me a charming story about his elderly cousin, Arabella, one of the few people who managed, on one memorable occasion, to have a brief conversation with Mr Nailsworthy. Apparently she had a very bad head-cold at the time. It seems that one night she had wandered down to the end of her yard to answer a particularly urgent call of nature just a minute or so before he made his nocturnal collection. Surprised and probably somewhat embarrassed on having intruded upon her, he asked why she didn’t put a lock on the privy door.
“There’s no need,” she replied. “I’ve lived here for over forty years and no one has ever tried to steal the bucket.”
Finally, it should be noted that should you find yourself in the position of requiring the Night-Soil Man’s services please don’t be tempted to cut corners and do the job yourself. It is a potentially perilous activity and the chances are you will not succeed. At best you will simply end up going through the motions.*

*Author’s note: Apologies for the last paragraph. The temptation was just too much to bear.


Art by Tom Brown

Hopeless, Maine Horoscopes


Gemini: It’s your birthday, so you’ll be feeling your mortality keenly in the coming weeks. Death omens will be everywhere but if you are very careful, and avoid putting out to sea during the next tentacular spawning, you might just get through the year in something like a state of aliveness.

Cancer: Toilets are especially dangerous for you this month. Remember – always look before you sit, always have a talisman to clutch when you shit.

Leo: Be especially careful during any events of blood rain this month as your chances of slipping and falling to your death are higher than usual.

Virgo: Now is not the time to feel smug about apparent success. Now is the time to check carefully under the bed every night. Try not to sleep too heavily, it’s your only hope.

Libra: Beware of apparently friendly offers, the odds are they want something you won’t want to give.

Scorpio:  Nothing good whatsoever will happen to you this month.

Sagittarius: Next Tuesday you will be bitten by a dog. He’s probably rabid, we’ll have to kill him and some of you.

Capricorn:  The thing you are looking for has been eaten by a chicken, or buried by close family member for esoteric reasons.

Aquarius: Now is a really bad time for starting a new relationship. They’ll die, or they’ll kill you, or will turn out to have rabies from the Tuesday Dog Incident.

Pisces: I wouldn’t leave the house until after the full moon if I were you.

Aries: I’m pretty sure it was your dog. Everyone will blame whichever one of you it is and you’ll never be invited to parties again.

Taurus:  Late in the month, one of your more embarrassing secrets will be revealed thanks to a sequence of really bizarre coincidences.

The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow

Regular readers of the ‘Vendetta’ will recall that some years ago we reported the discovery of an ancient burial site in the garden of Mr Jasper Fingle. At the time there was a certain amount of shock expressed in some quarters that the island had been host to settlers much earlier than previously suspected. For some of us, however, this came as no surprise at all. Jasper Fingle lives very near to the area of the island known as Creepy Hollow. It was given this name years ago, not long after the arrival of the Founding Families in the early nineteenth century – and with good reason.
The Legend of the Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow, sometimes called the Woeful Dane, has irrevocably intertwined itself with the history of one of our oldest families, the Chevins. Young Ophelia Chevin discovered that she had the dubious gift of ‘The Sight’ when she was only eight years old. Unsurprisingly her imaginary friends were more numerous and a good deal more useful than those of most children. While others enjoyed the insubstantial companionship of mute entities whose function was to be merely there to listen, or take the blame for various misdemeanours, Ophelia’s were kept fully occupied. They not only played games with her but helpfully did many of her chores and made sure that anyone who had been foolish enough to upset her were soon to regret their actions.
The most unusual of these companions was a large and generously bearded wraith who wandered abroad with a pronounced limp and a mad look in his glowing eyes. Although somewhat alarming to behold, he harmed no one but spent his haunting hours frantically searching for his stolen gull eggs. It seems that he had lived on the island centuries before and the details of his tragic demise were related to Ophelia by the ghost himself during his more lucid moments. It is a well-known fact, as any self-respecting psychic medium will tell you, that there are no language barriers in the afterlife. Even the English spirits can manage to communicate reasonably well with anyone, although generally they prefer to speak, and sometimes wail, extremely loudly and slowly in their own tongue, certain in the knowledge that they will be understood.
It was not until she reached adulthood that Ophelia recorded the ghostly account in her journal, now a treasured document still in the keeping of one of her many descendants. I am privileged to have been allowed to peruse this document and relate to you the strange tale of The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow.
In those far off days the cliffs around the island were home to various colonies of sea birds. They would gather in their tens of thousands, squabbling, feeding, breeding – and most important of all, laying eggs. Like the inhabitants of St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides, the early settlers became skilled in scaling the slippery cliff-faces, slick with algae and guano, to retrieve the precious eggs which had become, along with the occasional careless gull, the mainstay of their diet.
Old Lars Pedersen was lame and therefore had no skills as a rock climber or egg-thief. He was, however, an accomplished wood carver. He would barter his plates, bowls and spoons for furs, cloth and, more than anything else, gull eggs. The workmanship and art that went into these simple utensils was huge. His spoons, especially, were greatly prized. And rightly so, for the eggs for which he traded them had been hard won (and often hard boiled).
When, one morning, Lars  awoke to discover that his stock of spoons and all of his eggs had completely disappeared he felt as puzzled as he was distressed. His home was well furnished, he had a fine bronze torque, a beautiful copper mirror and many valuable pieces of jewellery that he had hoarded since his seafaring days. To steal only eggs and spoons and nothing else made no sense. Ever practical, Lars shrugged off the intrusion and set himself the task of replacing supplies of both. After a day or two of dedicated carving and oiling his bartering skills with copious amounts of mead he soon replenished his empty shelves with freckled eggs of various hues. Just a few nights later these too disappeared. Those versed in Old Norse profanities may well have recognised a few of the choice comments he made about the incident. Yet another theft was the proverbial straw that broke the pack-mule’s back. He decided there and then to stay awake and catch the thief in the act. For three long nights he lay beneath his furs feigning sleep but there was no sign of the burglar. On the fourth night, just as he began to think that the thefts had stopped for good, he heard an ominous scraping and shuffling noise. At first he could see no sign of movement in the darkened room. Despite this, the scraping and shuffling carried on, occasionally accompanied by some high-pitched, excited chattering. Still no one was visible in the gloom.
“I am bewitched” he thought to himself uneasily.
Suddenly a pale shaft of moonlight shone through the smoke-hole of the hut, directly illuminating the strangest creature Lars had ever beheld. He described it as somewhat resembling one of the fish-egg pouches often seen washed up by the tide; the type sometimes called ‘Mermaid’s Purse’. This creature was larger, though.
“About the length of your hand,” he told Ophelia.
Several sets of tendrils extended from its body. Strangest of all was the fact that the creature was actually entwining some of these tendrils around four spoons and using them as stilts. And by the intricate runic carvings along the handle they were his own spoons, no less! As his eyes became more accustomed to the moonlight Lars spotted other shapes in the dimly-lit space. There must have been eight or ten of them, each wearing spoon-stilts and carrying more eggs in their tentacular grasp. Lars could not help but let out a little cry of surprise. As one, every creature’s eyes suddenly turned towards his prone body, and now they glowed horribly with a fierce green luminescence. He couldn’t move. It was as if their baleful and malevolent gaze had frozen him to the spot. He watched in terror as the weird band thieves scurried stiffly out of his hut, gibbering and squeaking. The wooden eating utensils tapped the ground with an ominous rhythm as they conducted their own version of an egg and spoon race.
It wasn’t until the last creature had disappeared into the night that the use returned to the Dane’s body. Although his limbs were able to move once more he was rooted to the floor, unable to remove the image of those terrible green eyes from his rapidly disintegrating mind.
Soon, all reason had drained from him. In the confused jumble that now filled his head all that made any sense was the memory of those eyes. They burned into his soul and took on the hue and shape of gull eggs. Pale and speckled, sometimes they would be a delicate blue, sometimes brown but eventually, always reverting to those dreadful lurid, luminous green orbs. Eggs and eyes became indistinguishable, portals to a ghastly quagmire that sucked him down ever further into a dark morass of madness.
“ My eggs” he croaked,  trying to rise to his feet and failing miserably. His last actions were to reach out, clutching at thin air in a vain attempt to regain his lost eggs.
He was found at daylight lying cold and dead on the floor of his hut, a look of terror on his face and his eyes wide and staring at something that lurked beyond human vision.
For almost eight hundred long years his troubled phantom has haunted the place that has since become known as Creepy Hollow. He has witnessed the coming of the mysterious fog that seems to permanently surround the island. As the fog rolled in so the sea bird colonies deserted the rocks forever and with their passing the little Danish settlement disappeared, unable to sustain itself without their bounty.
Is it the body of Lars that Jasper Fingle discovered? We’ll probably never know. What we do know, however, is that those strange, misshapen thieves took a liking to spoons. They were a vast improvement on the twigs and bits of driftwood they had previously utilised. With these, they were able to climb and hunt much more efficiently.
Should you be on the island and in the vicinity of Creepy Hollow it would be fruitless to go looking for the Woeful Dane. These days he has become less substantial, and as his shade gradually fades so does his madness. If anyone should stumble on the wraith unexpectedly he would make a feeble attempt at the wild-eyed lunacy they might expect but it would be obvìous that his heart – if he had one – was just not in it. I have it on excellent authority that occasionally the ladies of the Mild Hunt have been seen to call by and whip him up a protoplasmic three-egg omelette but their spaniels invariably overdo the yapping and begging, and this, along with the pungent nether-winds of their famously flatulent mules, quite frankly, spoils the meal entirely for him. I don’t believe he’ll be seen at all before long. But don’t concern yourselves. There are more than enough ghosts and night-walkers on the island to furnish our nightmares forever.


Art by Tom Brown

Chapel Rock

In the sixth century an Irish monk, Saint Brendan, along with fourteen companions, boarded a small leather boat and sailed out beyond the setting sun, seeking Paradise in the far west. Latter day scholars and adventurers now believe that he reached the shores of North America. This would be about seven hundred years before the Vikings attempted the same journey in their sleek, ocean-going, dragon-headed longships. The adventures of the saint are well documented, describing the many fantastical islands encountered on his journey. It is said that Christopher Columbus studied the account carefully before embarking on his famous voyage of 1492.
According to some old documents currently in the possession of Rufus Lypiatt, landlord of the Squid and Teapot, knowledge of the voyage of St. Brendan inspired a group of disaffected young monks to leave their monastery in Britain and set off on their own journey of discovery in the mid-1800s. Unlike Brendan they sensibly elected not to risk the trip in a craft that was little more than a flimsy, over-sized ox-hide bucket. Instead they opted to take advantage of the comparative luxury of a new-fangled steam ship. In the event, the experience of being ten days in a cramped hold, filled with generally underprivileged and somewhat sweaty fellow passengers sharing minimal hygiene facilities, made it abundantly clear that the dubious comforts of an ox-hide bucket probably had something of an edge over travelling in steerage.
After landing in New York they made enquires about any mysterious islands that might be found along the more northerly parts of the eastern seaboard. Strangely, everyone they asked, without exception, pointed them towards Maine. And so it came to pass that, upon one grey and dismal afternoon, a small band of less-than-fragrant monks found their habits flapping immodestly as a chilly north-westerly breeze welcomed them to the barren shores of Hopeless.
The apparent weirdness of the island, not to mention its inhabitants, immediately suggested that Brendan may indeed have landed here. It seemed a good place to settle, not least because few boats ever seemed to visit the place, so there was little chance of getting off anytime soon. Although there didn’t appear to be many buildings in the immediate area, providence led them to an abandoned chapel built upon a rock, not far from the shore. Its only occupants were the great black ravens, so familiar on the island. While others may have drawn certain conclusions from the word ‘abandoned’ the monks decided that it would be a splendid place to establish the very first monastery on Hopeless. With a youthful fervour that would have warmed the heart of the most fanatical Jesuit, they set about the task of renovating the humble chapel, planning to improve it, both in size and splendour.

As the monks toiled they little realised that beneath the cold grey flagstones of the chapel floor reposed the earthly remains of its founder, one Obadiah Hyde, a strict puritan who had brought his scrawny frame and joyless views to the island some two centuries earlier. Unsurprisingly, he was never a popular man and after his demise the building fell into disrepair.
It is no exaggeration to say that Hyde had his demons. He really did. Their names were Quarhouse and Mavis and they tormented him night and day. Their given task was to drive him into loose ways and revel in the pleasures of the flesh. While, for most of us, this would have been a short, pleasant and fairly uncomplicated journey, old Obadiah was steadfast. When their best efforts to lure him into a lascivious lifestyle failed, Quarhouse and Mavis resorted to spite. They swung upon his clothing, poked him with sticks and entertained him with an endless stream of ‘knock knock’ jokes. When he tried to sleep they gibbered and chattered incessantly. Eventually the curmudgeonly old puritan was driven to madness by their ceaseless torment, leading him to throw himself into the sea. After several lengthy discussions and committee meetings the relieved islanders thought it only right to drag him out of the water. They made a few half-hearted attempts to make sure that he was sufficiently dead, then wasted no time in interring him safely beneath the chapel floor.

Hyde was enjoying a leisurely, two-hundred year holiday in one of the classier parts of purgatory. He was feeling particularly smug for having got to the sunbeds before the Lutherans had the opportunity to throw their towels over them. His unusually sunny disposition soon faded, however, when he heard the distant but unmistakable sound of hammering emanating from his beloved chapel. What could it mean? Peering through the Astral mists he was shocked to find the old place being messed around. And messed around by monks, of all people. The nerve of them!! It was time to go back.
In recent years the ghost of The Mad Parson of Chapel Rock has been regarded with some fondness among the extensive pantheon of restless spirits who hang around Hopeless. In those days, however, it’s safe to say that the monks didn’t feel any particular warmth towards him. If any one word summed up his early manifestations it would be ‘bloodcurdling’. He would rage and scream, throw things around, mutter intrusively about ‘bloody papists’ in the middle of their devotions and appear without warning, generally putting the frighteners on all who beheld him.
When they could take no more of his haunting and taunting the monks decided the only possible remedy was for the ghost to be exorcised and cast out into the cold night skies forever.
One might assume that, having entertained such austere views in his lifetime, Hyde might have approved of fresh air and excorcism but as soon as the incense censer was swung and prayers of banishment intoned, the old ghost began to feel horribly queasy. The room became hazy, while the strangest of sensations made his ectoplasm tingle and not in a pleasant way. Little by little his wraith began to fade. Suddenly, just as he thought his haunting days were over for good, the ectoplasm started returning to his extremities and he felt himself being ushered to safety, far away from the detrimental effects of incense and chanting. Looking down he was most surprised to find that his benefactors were none other than his personal demons, Quarhouse and Mavis.
“You’re not the enemy any more” Mavis explained, pointing towards the chanting monks. “They are.”

Quarhouse and Mavis did their work well, whispering temptingly into youthful ears and telling them of the joys of earthly pleasures.The monks, once so full of piety and good intentions, didn’t stand a chance. They were young men far from home and quickly learning that the penitent lifestyle wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. It took little demonic influence to lead them on to The Primrose Path of Dalliance, which soon became a well trodden freeway leading to the joys of The Squid and Teapot and, with increasing frequency, Madam Evadne’s lodging house for discerning gentlemen.
Time is the great healer and during the years that passed, as all traces of the renovations disappeared, the ravens returned to Chapel Rock. Its resident ghost, Obadiah Hyde, The Mad Parson was content in the certain knowledge that things were very much as they should be. Occasionally he even allowed himself to smile indulgently as he fluttered eerily through the decaying ruins. Death had definitely mellowed him.



Art by Tom Brown

Meet Barnabas Hemingway Trouser

People (and others) your roving reporter has recently encountered another reclusive resident of Hopeless, Maine and felt moved to introduce him (so to speak) to the island populace at large. (Partly as a warning to those of you who might be hoarding items of cultural interest)

My impressions of Mr. Barnabas Hemingway Trouser follow-
he is (ostensibly)  a writer and painter, (where he hopes to publish, we are not yet aware!) and yet if one were invited to see the contents of his attic, one might wonder where or how he has managed to collect so many rare books and objects of art. When pressed, Mr. Trouser says that none of these objects will have wandered in his direction from anyone who had actual need of it (Or true appreciation of it.)
He is not a virtuous person as such but if he sees a loaf of bread on the way out of a house he has just burgled he would pick it up to give to an urchin, spotted on a street corner. He does not seem to enjoy the discomfort involved with a planned break in and if, for instance, he were hiding in a garden awaiting his chance at night he would ask himself why he’s doing this when he could be in a nice warm bed at home. Despite not being a natural adventurer and ill-equipped for “roughing it” he is keenly aware that he cannot resist the thrill and sheer devilment that come with such exploits. On the whole, an interesting and engaging chap, but one would be advised to check contents of pockets and bags before, during and after a visit.

Mr. Trouser (when not being fictional) is, of course, in reality, the greatly esteemed Stephen Mosley, who is an engineer, artist, journalist, photographer and writer who releases his work under the name of “Actuarius.” His love of Art Deco and the between-wars period informs every aspect of his life. Although he is no reenactor, He considers himself a Futurist.  He rejects the conventional thought that aligns this with the war loving far right. Not so much a collection of contradictions as a life lived on his own terms. He is honoured to have a representative in Hopeless, Maine.

Ghost Writers In The Sky

A strand of folklore common to various cultures throughout the western world is that of The Wild Hunt. From the Viking settlements of Scandinavia to the plains of Arizona, via several points in-between, many attest to having seen this ghostly cavalcade of wraiths racing across the night sky, filling the air with the clatter of hooves and the baying of hounds.
No one would express surprise to learn that Hopeless has more than its fair share of Wild Hunts. On a particularly busy night two or three can run into each other and the result is invariably chaotic. There are always tantrums, hissy fits and disagreements regarding rights of way and inevitable disputes about who is entitled to pursue what or whom. Occasionally a scuffle ensues, which is one of the more entertaining spectacles for anyone brave or foolhardy enough to be abroad on such a night.
One of the lesser known and least exciting of these chases across the sky is locally referred to as The Mild Hunt. Legend has it that many years ago a group of six lady authors set out from England to seek intellectual freedom in the New World. They had little money and their only possessions were three mules, a pair of springer spaniels and enough paper and ink to keep them occupied on the long sea voyage. The journey was largely uneventful and the ladies spent their days sitting on deck, laboriously writing improving pamphlets, which were intended to be distributed among the grateful inhabitants of New England when they eventually reached their destination. Sadly, just as they had sighted Maine, a terrible storm arose, as if from nowhere. The wind picked up and every one of their pamphlets was swept into the air. The ladies scuttled around the deck trying to retrieve them but all to no avail. Before long, near one of the many little islands that cluster around that coastline, the ship struck an outcrop of rock and quickly sank; every living creature on board descended to a distinctly watery grave. Under normal circumstances that would have been the end of the tale but this particular rocky outcrop was part of an Island that is frequently omitted from the charts. An island that seems reluctant to let its dead rest for very long…
As far as anyone knows the drowned crew all retired to a happy eternity drinking rum in Davy Jones’ locker. The ghosts of the ladies and their livestock, however, had a different fate. So distraught were they over losing their handwritten pamphlets, they vowed to scour the skies until each one was retrieved. Doubling up on the mules, with the spaniels at their heels, they rose into the heavens, amid a chorus of brays and irritating barks, eternally damned to fulfil their quest. Occasionally, when not unceremoniously falling off the mules, they can be spotted taking tea and cake with other wraiths, notably The Mad Parson of Chapel Rock and The Headless White Lady who is known to haunt The Squid and Teapot (though how she manages to consume tea and cake is a mystery in itself).
The legend gave rise to a popular song, often heard around the island.

Ghost Writers in The Sky

A night-soil man went strolling out across the darkened land,
Upon a ridge he rested, his bucket in his hand.
For all at once he spied some paper flying through the air
Ghostly pamphlets, by and large, littering everywhere.

The edges of these pamphlets burned with a fiery glow,
The ink was black and shiny and the paper white as snow.
A bolt of fear went through him as they fluttered through the sky
For he saw the riders plodding up and he heard their mournful cries

Dearie me, oh
Dearie me, oh gosh.
Ghost writers in the sky

Their faces gaunt, their glasses blurred their skirts all creased and stained,
With wraith-like spaniels at their heels they clung on to the reins.
They’ve got to ride forever across the Hopeless skies
On flatulent old mules, you can often hear their cries.

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call “Yoo hoo,
If you want to help us out, young man, there’s something you can do.
If you should see some pamphlets a-fluttering in the breeze,
Stick them in your bucket, lad, and put the lid down, please.”

Dearie me oh
Dearie me, oh gosh!
Ghost writers in the sky
Ghost writers in the sky
Ghost writers in the sky


art by Tom Brown