THE DEEP ONES: "The Phantom Farmhouse" by Seabury Quinn

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THE DEEP ONES: "The Phantom Farmhouse" by Seabury Quinn

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feb. 4, 2020, 11:14am

Apologies for not posting this days ago! Life gets in the way sometimes. Back to normal now. I'll be reading this - tonight - out of The Ghost of Fear.

feb. 4, 2020, 11:33am

Always appreciate the work done in the wings ....

feb. 4, 2020, 7:27pm

I read this online. And quite by coincidence, came to the TV adaptation while working through my Night Gallery DVD box set just this weekend.

Editat: feb. 5, 2020, 2:35pm

I think that I first heard the term "loup-garou" as a kid, watching a JONNY QUEST cartoon. Interesting here that old Pierre tells Mr. Weatherby that it's the dark of the moon he should be most wary of, thus making the traditionally ominous full moon the safest bet for a lycanthrope-free amble. But then these aren't as much werewolves as they are demon dogs (apologies to James Ellroy), so they might well have their own rules. Actually most of the werewolf "rules" as we tend to know them didn't come about until Universal's THE WOLFMAN in 1941.

No surprises here, as Quinn telegraphs everything well in advance, but he does a fairly good job at conjuring an eerie atmosphere.

feb. 5, 2020, 5:09pm

This was my first non-Jules de Grandin Seabury Quinn story. I actually like the de Grandin tales, although I recognise their faults and understand why their critical reputation has fallen so far below the writings of HPL, REH, CAS since the ‘30s. (Even so, wouldn’t a TV show in the style of the Timothy Hutton/Maury Chaykin A Nero Wolfe Mystery be fun?).

However, I had got a sense from various stray online comments etc. that some at least of Quinn’s non-series stories have a higher reputation. “Roads” is the one that gets a specific mention. And this story was deemed good enough for the Night Gallery treatment. Although I had spoiled things, in a way, by watching the TV version first I have to agree that there are no real surprises in how things play out. In fact I was a little surprised at how close to the de Grandin template it comes, at times. There’s the romance element, and Pierre bringing a French, and a Catholic, perspective and folk wisdom to bear, some of his pronouncements not a million miles away from what de Grandin himself might have said.

feb. 5, 2020, 11:18pm

I liked how the story throws a bunch of the motifs of the supernatural tales together when later writers probably would have used just one. So, we have ghosts, werewolves, and, maybe, some kind of psychic influence going on all in the same story.

I've only read the story once, but I had several questions.

My big question is if the Squires were victims of the original werewolves of the farm or themselves those werewolves? If the former, were they transformed into wolves by virtue of how they died and then not having a service read over them?

Was Weatherby’s initial imagining of the farmhouse influenced by some special psychic contact with Mildred? Did she send a vision to him to effect the salvation of the Squires? If so, it only seems to be Mildred in on that project. Or, because he was a clergyman, is this to be thought a sort of miracle with a clergyman being in the right place at the right time to effect the Squires’ final death? However, while an evil legend seems to hang about the place, we don’t hear of any recent evils until Weatherby sees the house. Then sheep start dying. Are the Squires some weird combination of ghost and loup-garou, only manifesting themselves occasionally but in a very physical way?

Editat: feb. 20, 2020, 10:52am

>7 RandyStafford:

Great questions, and I have no special answers. I'd add that my initial interpretation was that Weatherby's psychic connection to the house and occupants was a lure more than any attempt at salvation. This would fit in with the conversation about hunting when he first meets the Squires. But the myriad contradictions you point out are all there and not easily explained. The story works well without explanation, the eeriness over-determined, as it were, despite Weatherby's own dull wits.

For some reason the T. Rex song "Metal Guru" was looping through my head, consonant somehow with loup-garou. As I recall, Cabell also referenced the term in "The White Robe", though perhaps it was only Baring-Gould using that term. Cabell's story also featured a man of the cloth, though of course in that instance he was the lycanthrope. (Cabell's was published 5 years later, in 1928.)

feb. 20, 2020, 8:41am

>8 elenchus: I found this quote charming, from the Canadian Encyclopedia, which was news to me;

"Loup-Garou, the werewolf, is known but less widespread in French Canadian folklore than in Europe. The Loup-Garou is not always a wolf or dog, but may also take the form of a calf or small ox, a pig, a cat or even an owl. The spell could last for as long as 101 days, taking hold of the victim every evening, who was forced to wander the countryside in animal form. The spell might be broken if someone recognized the individual while transformed and could draw blood from the animal; neither person could speak of this incident, for fear of worse reprisals. Anyone could fall under suspicion of being a werewolf who had not made their Easter duty for seven years in a row."

Editat: feb. 21, 2020, 3:09pm

The quaint name of the author is what caught my eye, Sea(bury) Quinn or 'sequin' (is Jerome Burke then a pen name?) … so I read the second Castalia link 'a lesser light that still shines'. Well worth a plunge:

* really enjoyed the Maine setting, it was vivid and alive - I pictured Cliff Haven Farm, west side of Lake Memphremagog in Vermont (close enough to 'Briarcliff') located south of Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac in Quebec's Eastern Townships (was there in Oct1993 to hear live Gregorian Chant)
* the convalescent/disability aspect created a gothic feel to the story right off the bat
* what is a Nimrod ? (have heard the term, but was derogatory)
* the fixated description of the water and the hands helped focus the tension
* the way his rational mind kicked in to explain any odd observation was consistent and charming
* poetic descriptions of time passing (waning moon, etc.) and similes abound
* I like that Geronte means gentle, and that Pierre is a typical Quebecois name (1st Pope)
* part The Hound of the Baskervilles part The Call of the Wild - dog-sledding in Algonquin Park 60km r/t with a team of huskies is anything but relaxing and the owner (Dutch guy) threatened that if I let go of any of my five dogs while hitching them up in a very precise order (to avoid fighting), that it would disappear into the woods since they're half wolf - they yip and yowl non-stop (friendly as they are) except when running, then eerie echoing silence prevails
* the cousin's apt name of Baptiste … St.-Jean-Baptiste Day is a big annual holiday in Quebec on June 24th … John the Baptist gave Jesus the very first Sacrament, which all Catholics receive first, as babies asap; Cure is another word for priest (as in the Cure of Ars/St. John Vianney) and with his 'Holy Orders' Sacrament, he would have one more than the cousin (unless Baptiste was married) - also the breviary or bible/crucifix image is a sacramental, as is holy water, etc. to prevent entrance by anyone or anything demon-possessed
* Extreme Unction is also a Sacrament, not a sacramental, the final of the Seven Sacraments available to Roman Catholics - so the dying woman was not only 'saved' but saved the priest/Baptiste by him bringing anointing oil and holy water for her Last Rites
* Sacraments sever each soul from the devil's grip, especially vital at the time of death, but Confession (now called Reconciliation) does the same throughout life from age 9 since Sacraments are stronger than exorcism, which is merely a structured rite or sacramental
* the Basilica of St. Anne-de-Beaupre is a real pilgimage shrine est. 300km northeast of Montreal or 30km from Quebec City
* I like that the words exercise and exorcise are so similar, like when he walks on the porch in the rain, he's extracting unrest within
* a bull mastiff outweighs a Siberian husky so for Boris to be traumatized by the encounter with a tail-less version, it must have been an immense beast
* love that Mildred got one over on her parents, final justice and all that, for 'the sins of the fathers' she inherited unwillingly - the funeral's timing was critical since she'd only be able to hold them both off for so long, once they clued in that she was tired of the lifestyle - I doubt she'd have been able to do this when they were all younger (no limp, etc.) so it was like a perfect storm
* I'm assuming that the Squires were non-Catholics so John's prayers were sufficient
* having just read The Spook House by Bierce, that sense of dread stayed with me throughout this story, without me realizing it

Fav quotes:
" The legend of the werewolf—those horrible monsters, formed as men, but capable of assuming bestial shape at will, and killing and eating their fellows, was as old as mankind’s fear of the dark, but no mythology I had ever read contained a reference to dog-people. Strange fancies strike us in the moonlight, sometimes. "

" For a few seconds he looked fixedly at me, chewing the cud of senility between his toothless gums, then, glancing carefully about, as if he feared being overheard, he tiptoed up to me and whispered: “M’sieur mus’ stay indoors these nights. W’en the moon, she shine, yes; w’en she not show her face, no. There are evil things abroad at the dark of the moon, M’sieur. Even las’ night they keel t’ree of my bes’ sheep. Remembair, M’sieur, the loup-garou, he is out when the moon hide her light.” And with that he turned and left me; nor could I get another word from him save his cryptic warning, “Remembair, M’sieur; the loup-garou. Remembair.” In spite of my annoyance, I could not get rid of the unpleasant sensation the old man’s words left with me. The loup-garou—werewolf— he had said, and to prove his goblin-wolf’s presence, he had cited the death of his three sheep. "

" … to make a nasal investigation of my knees. Scarcely had his nose come into contact with my trousers when he leaped back, every hair in his mane and along his spine stiffly erect, every tooth in his great mouth bared in a savage snarl. But instead of the mastiff’s fighting growl he emitted only a low, frightened whine, as though he were facing some animal of greater power than himself, and knew his own weakness. “Good heavens!” I cried, thoroughly terrified at the friendly brute’s sudden hostility. “Yes, M’sieur,” Geronte cut in quickly, putting his hand on the dog’s collar and leading him a few paces away. “It is well you should call upon the heavenly ones; for surely you have the odor of hell upon your clothes.” “What do you mean?” I demanded angrily. “How dare you—?” He raised a thin hand deprecatingly. “M’sieur knows that he knows,” he replied evenly; “and what I also know.” "

I love an unflappable old guy who can't take any argument seriously. =)

" There was something ominous and terrifying in the two-toned pastel of the house that morning. Its windows stared at me with blank malevolence, like the half-closed eyes of one stricken dead in mortal sin. The little patches of hoarfrost on the lawn were like leprous spots on some unclean thing. From the trees behind the clearing an owl hooted mournfully, as if to say, “Beware, beware!” and the wind soughing through the black pine boughs echoed the refrain ceaselessly. "

Gorgeous lush writing.

Editat: feb. 21, 2020, 12:34pm

>7 RandyStafford:
>8 elenchus:
My interpretation was that the Squires were already in loup-garou form when they found the original farmhouse, with Mildred cursed by birth. Their random prey kept hidden from sight to avoid suspicion, and not buried respectfully because they didn't care and strangers wouldn't be missed. The serial killer aspect made me think of Brian Dennehy, whose character in a true crime saga hides victims in his own basement, until a visitor detects decomposition aroma through heat vents, then reveals the grisly discovery. Ma and Pa (paw?!) Squire seem fine to carry on as they always have, seeing it as a gift (funny to picture werewolves in a seniors facility, complete with limp). Mildred seems to therefore help catch those first three sheep, the best of the lot says Pierre, for her parents who might not be up to it anymore, and by this 'offering' they agree to swear off John. She's blatantly bribing them with what they value, and I doubt they cared much for binding promises. Maybe sheep were off limits before, to stay off the radar, or because the facility was newly built.

The clergyman might have been so used to giving the benefit of the doubt, by nature of his vocation, that he was on an 'innocence of the unknowing outsider' soundwave tuned into lack of fear of both the evening stroll and of the farmhouse. I don't think he was stupid or naïve, just 'protected' by a self-preservation instinct. I can't find where Mildred became aware of his job title (did he dress in black or wear a cap only for clergy?), looking for RIP potential, or if she simply lured him in intentionally. Love ultimately won over her transformation/curse prividing added strength to persevere. Her parents likely thought she was 'playing with her food' by gleaning amusement from repeated visits rather than reparation or healing from spiritual therapy. If he was to help, which must be during beast phase, she needed to mortify her instincts. It reminded me of Mrs. Dubose in To Kill a Mockingbird, who quits painkillers to leave the world as 'free' as when she entered it. Jem reading to her, over time, helped with the distraction, in the same way John's visits distracted Mildred long enough to establish trust needed for him to honour his promise to her. That one kiss nearly brought down the house. She sought release from her curse, sensed his arrival, which manifested the ghost house, drew him in, outlasted countless delays (weather/illness) biding her time. I doubt the house was visible to anyone else, and sheep were needed to keep her parents away from her rescuer while she organized the 'uneven flat stone path' of her own redemption.

It was only 3 weeks in September, from his arrival at the newly constructed Briarcliff to his first walk. Don't they say it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit or to break an old one? He had fixated on those 'chimneys' long enough to breathe them to life, and when he considers using the name 'John Squires' on his second outing to the farmhouse, it was no acciden on the author's part, we're meant to notice. Puzzle pieces galore infest his imagination, so his job is to shape them into something familiar, through intrigue not fear. He feels uneasy that first time, but that sense of familiarity and the light in the window, etc. dispels suspicion. I thought it might have something to do with his general health, that he was frail enough to be without habitual barriers.

Or, poor John is simply an unreliable narrator, because he's lovestruck and twitter-pated.

Editat: feb. 21, 2020, 11:35am

>6 housefulofpaper: What is Night Gallery, a tv series that they compiled into dvd format? I may seek out more, the French detective or the others.

I knew that Hercule Poirot was Belgian, but it didn't click that he was RC until seeing David Suchet with rosary beads. No wonder this exclusion from the community led to a reflex to anticipate endless societal obstacles and snares set in place by the guilty. Intuition and criminal psychology or behavior patterns versus a trail of identifiable evidence.

Editat: feb. 20, 2020, 3:43pm

>5 KentonSem: I liked that flipped expectation also, the full moon versus the sliver, in the same way as the house is bathed in pastel light at the end of the story, which is considered more menacing than complete darkness.

Editat: feb. 20, 2020, 4:25pm

>10 frahealee: * what is a Nimrod ? (have heard the term, but was derogatory)

Biblical reference (Genesis, Chronicles) to a mighty hunter, but apparently Elmer Fudd is (indirectly) responsible for converting that reference into one meaning a dimwit. But Bugs & Daffy came along in the late 30s / early 40s so well after this story.

>11 frahealee:
Nice observation about Mildred getting the sheep for her parents, as an exchange for keeping John for herself.

Editat: feb. 20, 2020, 5:00pm

>14 elenchus: Thanks for that. Sometimes it seems that I need twenty minutes or more to suss out the target before delivering a bullseye!

I'm watching Gary Oldman as a werewolf hunter currently, looking for more insight. =)

Editat: feb. 21, 2020, 11:24am

All it mentioned, was that the werewolf bloodline gets stronger with each generation so the grandchild is stonger than the parent, who was stronger than their parent. Male or female.

The bite needed to occur during a blood moon once every 13 years in order for the transformation to occur. The rest of the time, if you were bitten by the wolf during a regular full moon, you would likely die.

Each full moon, the village sacrificed its best livestock as an offering to the wolf, to leave villagers in peace. Like a pact.

Silver swords (only three) blessed by the Holy See could slay the wolf, and when trying to identify it, they looked for; isolation, strangers, strange habits, anomolies, disabilities, dark arts, deep musky smell, etc. which would betray the wolf hiding in their midst.

Once the wolf is killed, it reverts back to human form.

It cannot cross onto consecrated ground as man or beast, or maintain wolf form during daylight hours (not dawn but sunrise, through to sunset, not dusk). If someone is bitten during daylight of a blood moon by the wolf in human form, the curse is still effective.

By birthright, the 'gift' is passed to the eldest child. If that child cannot understand the wolf when in wolf form then the child cannot be his/hers.

feb. 20, 2020, 6:58pm

>12 frahealee:
Night Gallery was a US fantasy-anthology series that aired between 1969 and 1973. It was hosted by Rod Serling, and he also wrote some episodes. Obviouly it looks like a follow-up to The Twilight Zone but form what I gather Serling had less editorial control and was not happy with an emphasis on pulp horror type stories. Indeed there's a higher ratio of adaptations of stories from Weird Tales and other pulps, to original teleplays, than was seen in the Twilight Zone. But honestly, I enjoy these stories for what they are, and finds me of Serling's scripts, sorry to say, quite preachy and dull. Many of the stories were directed by young directors just out of film school and keen to make a name for themselves (including Stephen Spielberg) and have that avant-garde edge that you see in US TV of similar vintage (early Columbos for example). The format was unusual because within the allotted timeslot they allowed for stories of different lengths. Some are merely comic sketches (like a cartoon in a magazine, I like to think). Apparently this has counted against the show when it went into syndication. Indeed for years I'd only seen one story (a celebrated late Serling original, "They're tearing down Tim Riley's Bar", on British TV in the early hours of one weekday morning, shorn of beginning or end credits. I only knew what it was because it's mentioned in Marc Scott Zicree's The Twilight Zone Companion.

But yes, the whole series has been released on DVD. I have a UK (Region 2) set but it must have come out in the US as well, and probably well before I got hold of it. Of course, it may now be out of print.

I should make clear, though, they never did dramatise any of the de Grandin stories. And neither has anyone else, to date.

There was an interesting twist, and germane to the character's Catholicism, in the recently adaptation of The A.B.C. Murders starring John Malkovitch as Poirot. It infuriated the purists but taken as a stand-alone interpretation it worked, i thought.

Editat: feb. 21, 2020, 11:10am

>17 housefulofpaper: I've heard of The Twilight Zone but have never seen an episode. Jaw drop?! Nor have I seen Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, reality shows, etc. Many classics to hit in my 20yrs left (?) but I'm getting better at prioritizing short stories through diligent intention.

Also, I can't see John Malkovich as Poirot, because his accent in Secretariat (2010) playing French-Canadian horse trainer Lucien Laurin, was sad but adorable. He seems to have a good sense of humour about himself, so can really do no wrong, deflecting criticism on a regular basis.

PS - Found an ABC Murders trailer, he looks so dapper in grey tweed! He can play eccentric and quirky like nobody's business, so I'm sure it'll be great. My Agatha Christie novel knowledge is rusty these days, apart from the usual suspects. Oops, 2018, so says IMDb, so it's well over.

Then, watched a 30min interview with John, director, writer, etc. and they highlighted the changes made and why. Made sense to me. The refugee angle suits his backstory, whether Christie intended it or not. Keeps her work edgy and relevant.

feb. 20, 2020, 7:38pm

>18 frahealee:

I've arguably watched too much television!

Editat: feb. 21, 2020, 10:50am

>19 housefulofpaper: We unplugged when Canada switched from analogue to digital (31Aug2011, last televised event we saw was Sam Roberts Band play Canada Day in Ottawa, a week after my daughter's surgery) but my only withdrawal was Coronation Street! Quit cold turkey, but without cable tv, losing 3 channels was easier than expected. My boyos supplied a Blu-ray/Sony screen combo, and if not for them, electronics would still be boxed. My daughter's laptop suffices.

Your profound media/literature knowledge and the selfless sharing of such, has saved me reams of research. Thanks from the bottom of my Bell bill.

Found photos on IMDb Night Gallery photo page, of David Carradine and David McCallum in The Phantom Farmhouse, #78 of 98, and Linda Marsh as Mildred in #19/20 (you can see those long pointy pink/red fingernails). With dozens of familiar faces (including Mark Hamill pre-Star Wars), the collection must be a wonder to behold.