The Other Pans People

Van Thal and Vampires

Herbert Van Thal – Pan Horror 1

Posted by demonik on September 16, 2007

Herbert Van Thal (ed.) – The 1st Pan Book Of Horror Stories (Pan, 1959)

Pan Horror 1

Joan Aiken – Jugged Hare
A L Barker – Submerged
Oscar Cook – His Beautiful Hands
George Fielding Eliot – The Copper Bowl
Jack Finney – Contents Of The Dead Man’s Pocket
Peter Fleming – The Kill
C S Forester – The Physiology Of Fear
L P Hartley – W.S.
Hazel Heald – The Horror In The Museum
Hester Holland – The Library
Fielden Hughes – The Mistake
Nigel Kneale – Oh, Mirror, Mirror
Noel Langley – Serenade For Baboons
Hamilton Macallister – The Lady Who Didn’t Waste Words
Chris Massie – A Fragment Of Fact
Seabury Quinn – The House Of Horror
Flavia Richardson – Behind The Yellow Door
Muriel Spark – The Portobello Road
Bram Stoker – The Squaw
Anthony Vercoe – Flies
Angus Wilson – Raspberry Jam
Alan Wykes – Nightmare


Flavia Richardson – Behind The Yellow Door: Mrs. Merrill, the brilliant surgeon and pathologist, advertises for a secretery. Marcia Miles is told that her main duty will be to act as a companion to her daughter, Olivette. As it transpires, Merrill only wants some of Miss Miles to act as permanent companion to the girl, who is a horror from the waist down. Together with Dorcas the ‘chambermaid’, Mrs. Merrill overpowers Marcia and straps her down on the operating table: “Assuming that the operation is successful, as it must be, you will find Olivette’s deformed legs grafted on to your body, while Olivette will at last be able to enjoy her life as a normal human being. She has waited nearly twenty years. You have had twenty years. It’s your turn.”

Anthony Vercoe – Flies: A starving tramp breaks into a vacant Elizabethan house in Holborn, and is transported back in time to the height of the Great Plague.

Seabury Quinn – The House Of Horror: Lost in a storm, De Grandin and Trowbridge chance upon Marston Hall, home to the brilliant surgeon Dr. John Beirsfield Marston who retired after his deformed son committed suicide when his bride to be, actress Dora Lee, jilted him. Not much has been heard of Marston since then, although a number of young girls have gone missing in the area …
Rarely was Quinn to pen anything quite as nasty as this (although he tried, and even rewrote The House Of Horror at least once: The House Where Time Stood Still). This is where my fascination with the De Grandin’s began.

Oscar Cook – His Beautiful Hands:The ghoulish journo, Warwick, may have had his heart broken by the heroine of this nasty tale, but he’s not one to let sentiment stand in the way of his profiting from a sensational scoop.
A manicurist extracts deliberately protracted revenge on a man who wronged her mother. Incest, rotting flesh and a deformed baby also loom large. Never let it be said that Cook did things by halves.

Hester Holland – The Library:Margaret, fresh from her break up with her fiance, applies for the position of secretery to the elderly Lady Farrell at Wincombe Court. After enquiring if Margaret has any close family or friends and receiving the all-important ‘no’ in reply, Lady F. hires her to look after the place while she’s abroad. At first, Margaret is a little disappointed that her work involves so little and the library – “the heart of the house” – is out of bounds to her. Worse, Wincombe Court is alive, and it requires a steady stream of sacrifices. Eventually, Margaret gets to see inside the library and meets the girls who had the job before her. What’s left of them.

Angus Wilson – Raspberry Jam: Wilson’s first story, written in 1946 and published three years later in The Wrong Set.

Young Johnnie befriends the Swindale sisters, Marian and Dolly, two aged local eccentrics who live alone on Potters Farm. His mother and her friends look upon this unlikely alliance with equal parts amusement and concern as both women have spent time in the Asylum. Johnnie’s mother wonders what her husband will say when he arrives home from Germany.

All goes well until the old girls argue and engage on a mutual four day bender. They only snap out of it when they realise the boy is due and they haven’t made any jam! Worse, the birds have been at the raspberries!

When Johnnie arrives they’re both back on the booze and finally show the kind of form that got them committed in the first place.

Make no mistake, despite that gormless synopsis Raspberry Jam is truly grim. It’s been cited as an influence on the slow burning, spiteful writings of Charles Birkin and, while Birkin was at it a decade earlier, I can certainly spot similar traits.

If I remember, Raspberry Jam was my least favourite story in Pan Horror #1 when I first read it back in the eighties. It isn’t now.

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