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The hideous truth about coffee

Coffee beans do not grow on the island of Hopeless. Anything that cannot be grown or made here might occasionally wash up from a shipwreck. For people who have lived on the island all their lives this isn’t much of a problem because real, proper coffee has never been a thing.
However, if you’ve known true coffee, then what happens on the island is a source of pain and dismay. There really is nothing quite like salt soaked, wood flavoured coffee that’s been in the sea for a day or two.

Then there are the coffees the islanders like to make. Much of this is inspired by having consumed salty wood flavoured coffee. Or by having survived the coffees made by other islanders. Sometimes, the people who have consumed proper coffee in the past go a bit mad and try to make coffee out whatever is to hand. This never goes well.

In the picture, we see a cup of Master Scutcheon’s hairy coffee. The hideous origin story can be found over here –

Desperation breeds terrible choices. Yes, there are plants that taste bitter and not all of them will kill you. Yes, a bit of dirt will give you exactly the right colour. Yes there are two kinds of berries that give you a buzzy, lively feeling. One causes chronic flatulence and the other may lead you to temporarily believe that you are a duck.

Eldritch Broadcasting

Last year, we did an online Hopeless, Maine festival. It was a lot of fun (I know this may undermine our horror cred a bit, but fun it was). During that process we discovered that Andy Arbon had an Eldritch Broadcasting Corporation that he’d stashed somewhere down the back of his labyrinthine underground layer. Having retrieved it and dusted it off a bit, there’s been some careful oiling and hand cranking and the whole thing looks ready to roll.

On Saturday the 4th of February there will be an online festival over on the Hopeless, Maine facebook page. The whole thing should migrate to youtube afterwards and we’ll share that here when it does. This year it will be a broader event and we have some exciting new contributors in the mix as well as plenty of familiar faces.

On the Hopeless, Maine side, the Scientific Society have been decidedly busy. Sorry about that. The ones who survived their recent research projects will be giving talks on said research.

There’s new material in from The Ominous Folk as well, and some of the Hopeless, Maine crew will be in the mix doing non-Hopeless things, just to add to the fun and confusion!

Andy Arbon will be reading The Cursed Letter Opener of Otley Chevin, which first appeared here on the blog.

Come and wave your tentacles in our general direction!

Song in progress

We’ve got a new song – written for us by Keith Errington! And we know there are more to come, so this is an exciting development.

Druid Life

I know it’s more normal to wait until something is entirely finished before putting it out into the world. However, I’m excited about this song, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about processes. Song arrangements don’t happen by magic, and how we do things as The Ominous Folk is quite interesting.

The song then – is about Annamarie Nightshade, a witch from the Hopeless, Maine project. It was written specifically for Susie to sing, and it was written for us by lovely Keith Errington. Keith has been part of the Hopeless, Maine project for many years. He’s written in the setting and he’s also performed with us at events. This is his first song for us, and we know there are more to come. I’ve known for some time that Keith is a songwriter, but it’s not something he’s been putting in public. It’s great…

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Starry Grabby Pie

Starry, grabby pie

With tentacles green blue and grey

To warm you on a Hopeless day

The sky eyes know the darkness in my soul

Shadows on the hills

Sketch the trees and the tentikills

Catch disease and winter chills

In eldritch colours corrupting my hand

Now I understand

What you tried to feed to me

How you suffered for your pantry

How tentacles bring insanity

They would not stay still, they don’t know how

Perhaps we’ll eat them now.

Starry, grabby pie

Sea monsters that we must erase

Swirling pie filling in violet haze

Reflect in sickly splatters in the loo

Colors changing hue

Unstable horrors we’ve consumed a few

Hopeless faces lined in pain

Cannot be soothed by what the chef has planned

Now, I understand

What you tried to feed to me

And how we suffered your insanity

You just wanted to be free

We would not listen, then we had a row

We will not listen now

(With all due apology to Vincent.)

What Every Ghost Should Know

Sixteen can be a difficult age. For Naboth Scarhill things had escalated from being somewhat difficult to becoming annoyingly complicated when he discovered that he was dead. It was not the business of not being alive that concerned him particularly. To begin with he had tried to look on the bright side. At least there was no more work to do, his days and nights unhindered by the niggly little inconveniences that bother the rest of us, smug in the knowledge that our mortal coils are as yet unshuffled. There was no one to berate him for leaving his clothes on the bedroom floor, or neglecting to put the toilet seat down, or forgetting to wash behind his ears, all things that the average sixteen-year old boy might be forgiven for not doing. He found that there was no great joy to be had, even if he decided to revel in this new-found freedom. It would have meant nothing, for Naboth was now a ghost, an apparition as insubstantial as the grey mist that lingered sullenly over the island of Hopeless, Maine.

Being murdered is not at all pleasant. There is more to it than simply having one’s life taken away; there is the sense of being targeted and knowing that someone, somewhere has gone to the trouble of singling you out for a particularly unpleasant method of extermination. It is, indeed, a dreadful thing. More dreadful still, however, is when your violent death has been brought about by a case of mistaken identity. Can you imagine it? Oh, the injustice of it all, especially when you are, or, more correctly, were, just sixteen with the exciting promise of life sitting before you like a map, waiting to be unfolded. This left the shade that was Naboth raging and howling through the night, intent on revenge but having no idea how to exact it.

He had learned from Marigold Burleigh – whom, regular readers may have gathered, had been possessed by the recently returned Trickster – that his death had been caused by a vicious thought form, conjured by Durosimi O’Stoat. In the dim chaos of its mind the thought form only knew that it was to kill the Night-Soil Man, a post that Naboth had held for just one day. You can see why he was not best pleased.  Now the angry spirit of Naboth Scarhill desired nothing more than vengeance, and to see Durosimi suffer horribly. The drawback to this plan was that, while Naboth had both a voice and ghostly presence, he had no power to inflict physical harm upon anyone. When he burst into Durosimi’s home and tried to frighten the sorcerer, the only reaction was scorn.

“You cannot frighten me, you deluded fool,” scoffed Durosimi, derisively. “I have consorted with dæmons, ghouls and foul creatures of the pit, each more hideous than you can imagine. Do you think some stunted phantom muck-shoveller is likely to concern me? Now clear off, go and haunt one of your vile cess-pools. That’s all you’re good for!” 

To say that Naboth was taken aback by this response would be an understatement. It had always been his understanding that almost everyone is frightened by ghosts, and even those who aren’t would not be so dismissive of an obviously angry spirit. He needed to go away and think of what to do.

It was a few nights later when he next appeared in Durosimi’s parlour, screeching, wailing and banging his bucket lid up and down.

“Go away, little man,” said Durosimi languidly. “Did you not hear me the first time? I am not scared one iota by you.”

“Fair enough,” replied Naboth, between wails. “But I ain’t going nowhere. I’m going to haunt you every night. You’ll get no rest from me…Oooooooooooooooh.”

And so, for night after night, over the next two weeks, Naboth made Durosimi’s life a misery, until, out of the blue, the sorcerer said,

“Alright, I give up. I apologise for killing you. Now please go away.”

“No chance,” said Naboth, “you’re stuck with me. Dusk until dawn for the rest of your days… oooooooooooweeeeeeeeeee.”

A few more nights passed by in this way, until it seemed that Durosimi had really had enough. Clapping his hands over his ears he ran like someone possessed, out into the darkness.

“I cannot stand this anymore,” he wailed, “I’ve got get away from this awful noise before it drives me mad.”

Delighted, Naboth chased after him, through the trees and out into the folds of the Gydynaps, banging his bucket lid for all he was worth and screeching like a banshee. This was more like it!

Durosimi ran frantically into a dark, yawning cavern etched into the side of the hill. Enjoying his new-found power, Naboth followed.

“Enough, I beg you stop,” cried Durosimi, holding out his hands, as if in supplication.

“Never!” laughed Naboth, “I’ll never give you any peace… ooooooooaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghhhh”

‘His wailings are becoming ridiculously theatrical,’ mused Durosimi to himself, then, quite unexpectedly, washed the cavern in a ghastly green light, and smiled unpleasantly at Naboth.

“This is one I made earlier,” he said, sprinkling a handful of salt on to the floor, and completing the circle into which the spectral Night-Soil Man had drifted.

“Try and get out, by all means, but I can assure you that you won’t, not as long as the salt circle is unbroken. This is something that every ghost should know. Oh, and by the way, just in case that bony mutt, Drury, comes looking for you, I’m going to block up the entrance when I leave. Goodnight dear boy. Enjoy Eternity.”

And with that Durosimi was gone and the cavern was plunged once more into darkness, save for the faint luminesce that hung about Naboth, eerily reflecting on the ring of salt that encircled him.

In the distance he heard the tumble of rocks, rigged earlier that day to block the cavern’s mouth.

Philomena Bucket laid a basket on the doorstep of The House at Poo Corner. As usual she had brought Rhys Cranham, the Night-Soil Man, his supper of starry-grabby pie and two bottles of Old Colonel, courtesy of The Squid and Teapot. Rhys would always consume this half-way through his round, often giving a scrap or two to Drury, whose attempts at eating always ended with the chewed food dropping through his skeletal frame on to the ground, later to be enjoyed once more, but this time by the crows.

Tonight Philomena discovered that Rhys had left her a letter. Intrigued, she picked it up to peruse later, in flickering candlelight, back in her room at The Squid and Teapot.

“My Dear Philly, I hope you are well. I am just letting you know that the troubled spirit of poor Naboth seems to have disappeared. I have not seen him for some time now. I think, maybe, he has come to terms with his dreadful fate and has found some peace at last… “

There were some loving words following this, but these are for Rhys and Philomena’s eyes only.

The barmaid read the note once more. Had Naboth really found peace? The old magic that resided deep within Philomena stirred restlessly.

Something was definitely wrong.

Who has Michael killed?

This year’s Ominous Folk Show starts with a chap called Michael, who is not entirely sure who he has killed.

Folk enthusiasts familiar with the song Crazy Man Michael may see where we are going with all of this.

We included the song Crazy Man Michael the first time we tried using folk music as a way of getting a graphic novel onto a stage. I’ve been singing it for more than 20 years and it really is the perfect song for Hopeless – death, madness, crows, magic, murder on a beach…

We’ve now got an image of The Ominous Folk for this show. It’s good to have something that makes an explicit visual link between the performance wing and the comics.


While Helltopiary is a particular risk in the woodlands, it also turns up around ruined properties and will invade lonely, isolated buildings. When not in motion, the Helltopiary looks a lot like shrubbery. You may chance upon it in a wood and find yourself wondering who on earth would have come out here to sculpt such a thing. It is best to run away at first sighting. 

The method of attack favoured by the Helltopiary will be informed by its shape. More abstract looking entities tend to favour crushing, smothering moves. Helltopiaries who have grown into creature-like forms will likely pounce and bite. Once the prey is subdued, the Helltopiary inserts thorns into the flesh of the victim – so many thorns – and then slowly takes all of the blood from the prey’s body. A hurried attempt at saving someone from a Helltopiary may result in considerable thorn damage. Helltopiary is less likely to attack people who are wearing a lot of metal, so it is as well to go in with a colander on your head and a washboard strapped to your chest, at the very least. Vulnerable to fire, wary of axes.

Songs from Hopeless, Maine

Music from the island!

Druid Life

One of the things that delights me about the whole Hopeless, Maine project I’m part of, is how much of a community has developed around it. Tom and I have always held space for other people to come and play with us, and this has led to many glorious things at this point.

In this video, are the Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine. That’s Tom and I plus James and Susie, and we’ve done a fair amount of gigging together over the last year. It’s been a wonderful expansion of the Hopeless project. We headed this way years ago after being asked to do an evening event at a book festival. It would be fair to say that graphic novels do not work well on stage. 

This song was written for us by Walter Sickert. Tom first ran into Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys more than ten…

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Shambling Stacks

Normally, Shambling Stacks are scavengers, feeding on whatever happens to be dead, or dying, on a beach. However, they are also highly territorial and likely to attack anyone they find beachcombing on their turf. They will also attack when hungry, and in times of extreme hunger will leave the beach and head inland to seek a meal. The Shambling Stack is well camouflaged on the beach – if it lies down it will blend in perfectly with other detritus. When it stands still it is hard to spot – especially at a distance. Stacks can be small and easily overlooked, but can grow to six or seven feet in height, at which point they are hard to miss! The Shambling Stack prefers to attack by creeping up behind people and falling down on them, digging in all of its many pointy parts before starting to feed. If provoked, ravenous or annoyed it may risk a more visible attack. It depends mostly on its scale and weight, and tends to be solitary – although the smaller ones will attack in groups. Hates fire. Oblivious to blades – best dealt with using heavy, blunt objects.

Dustcat, Baby

Here for your delight and delectation is a little bit of dustcat footage, shot by Martin Hayward Harris – maker of this puppet. Tom is working the puppet.

Try singing about ‘dustcats’ to the tune of ‘Loveshack’. dustcats baby, dustcats baby…funky little cat.

If you would like to meet this puppet in person, and get a photo of you with it, then come along to our Stroud event!