This story baffled me for a long time but I think I was looking for meaning where there was none... it’s just more straightforward than I thought it should be. Or something. A young gentleman is accused of murdering the simple servant girl with whom he has been conducting a peculiar dalliance when his rich posh fiancée finds out and ditches him. The dead girl, Ann Clark, refuses to die quietly though, and plagues him right up to his execution. It’s an odd, slight story which was made into a Ghost Story for Christmas in 2019 featuring Peter Capaldi in a crazy wig as the prosecuting lawyer at young Squire Martin’s trial. This illustration was a five star hair tearer and I’m far from pleased with it, not least as the reanimated corpse of Ann Clark seems to have my face.
Two bickering friends go on an ill prepared canal boat trip, and come across a mysterious woman sleeping on the canal bank. They agree to let her come along for the ride in return for galley duties. From there on in everything begins to get weird, especially once they decide to explore an unmapped channel. Howard’s story is an absolute gem, a masterclass in understated dread and the ending is extraordinary. Better known for her upper middle class family saga the Cazalet Chronicles, somewhat tragically going by this Howard only wrote three ghost stories (if that’s what this is - it’s certainly very odd and horrific) which were published in a collaborative anthology with Robert Aickman in the early 1960s, while they were in a relationship. I bet dinner round their gaff was an absolute scream. Another illustration I could have twiddled around with for days and I’m not massively happy with it, but I’ve really got to call time on it. It’s turned out a bit weird which I'm blaming on having a cold but that’s only fitting I suppose.
Written and directed by Mark Gatiss, this was the BBC’s 2018 A Ghost Story for Christmas offering. It is the short but not very sweet tale of tetchy veteran actor Aubrey Judd’s nightmarish encounters in a radio studio, where he trying to record a story for his regular Man in Black-esque horror series (which was latterly presented by Gatiss himself, who must at some point have had to apply for extra fingers in order have the necessary number required to insert into all the horror filled pies his many digits are stuck in). His script seems to have been replaced, he complains to the young producer. And then it doesn’t. And then it does, and an alternative horror story unfolds, an episode from Judd’s history he has spent the subsequent years trying to forget. But his past has very much resurfaced in every sense of the word.
Judd is played by actual veteran actor Simon Callow, as version of himself, it seems, which is no bad thing. He delivers both Aubrey and Simon’s lines with relish so fruity you could stick it in a jar and call it piccalilli. Callow’s an actor I’ve had a soft spot for since I first saw him extravagantly snog Brenda Blethyn in the sitcom Chance in a Million in the 80s. Rather marvellously, last Christmas he recorded a short anthology of ghost stories for Audible, which are linked by a slight but enjoyably hokey ghost story in which he plays another version of himself, with Sally Phillips as his producer. The readings themselves are splendid and perfect for spooky festive hunkering.
I was slightly underwhelmed by the Dead Room when I first saw it. I think I was hoping for something along the lines of Gatiss’ Crooked House which I loved and remains one of my Christmas TV staples. With it’s modern functional setting of a radio studio, this is a much less flamboyant offering but it’s grown on me - taut and claustrophobic, I really enjoyed watching it in preparation for drawing this. It also gave me the challenge of drawing a series of sounds. It’s on Youtube. Altogether now “S-s-s-single bed…”