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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.

Helltopiary

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!

Return of the Hopeless Kickstarter

Mark is very good to us…

The Passing Place

Its no great secret to any regular reader that I have a certain love for the Island of Hopeless Maine. The fictional collaboration begun by of Nimue and Tom Brown. A collaboration that generously extends to others whom get to play in the danger ridden sandpit of the fog bound isle.

As with most great literary obsessions of mine it began because I was introduced to the isle by others, in this particular case I believe it was writer ‘poet’ and fellow Yorkshireman Craig Hallam who first introduced me to it via the medium of Tom’s art on twitter of all places. For this singular favour he granted me I will even forgive him his poetry…

At the core of the expanding wonder that is the island is Tom’s art and Nimue’s prose which are so interweaved as to be inseparable, and while others do saunter through the fog it…

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Voices from Hopeless

Things we are doing!

Druid Life

On the 22nd of January, there will be an online Hopeless Maine festival, which is an exciting prospect. I’ve already got some brilliant content in from people involved in the project, with more to come. One of the things I love about Hopeless is that it has always been a community thing and that’s very much part of what it’s for.

I had a number of reasons for wanting to do this. One is that everyone being online during the pandemic opened up a great many things for disabled people, and now those things are going away again, which isn’t ok. I wanted to offer something. I also know that in the UK January tends to be a miserable month with not much happening, unpredictable weather and post-festive crapness. So I thought it would be nice to do something fun where no-one has to travel.

The third reason is that…

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Books of the year

There are Hopeless things here, and a number of other people we really like…

The Passing Place

It may be slightly early, as there is a fair chance I’ll read a couple more before the end of the year, but now seems as good a time as any to do my annual Passing Place Blog Books Of The Year Awards. An event that has never been annual previously, as I have never done it before, carries very little prestige, and no prize money… It also don’t have a particular order, but does include all the books I have reviewed on the blog this year as well as honourable mentions for all the books I personally have failed to write this year… So lets start there, as its mildly embarrassing.

At the start of the year, indeed the very first blog of 2021, I presented a list of things to come, the three books I hoped to write and publish this year…

Well, that didn’t happen… However…

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After the storm

After the storm, the sailors saw a lost princess in the ocean.

I filled my dress pockets with stones
Walked quietly into the sea
Nothing but memory remains here
A shadow reflection of me.


I am the mist on the water
The passing outline of a cloud
A touch of sky and the ocean
Wearing the cold sea as my shroud.


Queen now of nothing but sorrow
The mistress of solitude, cries
Gone is the breath from my being
Absent is the light from my eyes.


Spectre of sadness remaining
The echo that once was a life
No peace in the deep my ending
No final escape from all strife.


I haunt myself at the shoreline
Condemned to exist and to be
Trapped for all time recollecting
And never again to be free.

(A collaboration from Dr Abbey and Nimue)