Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Edgardemain is the on-line repository of John Martin's long running ERB-APA publications, some revised, some brand new, and some works that never appeared in ERB-APA. John's main interest is the life and works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but all "work" and no "play" can make Jack rather dull, so Martin howls at Halloween each year and we, at erblist.com's ERBmania!, also howl with glee when "Bridge" shares his annual batch of tall tales and scary bedtime stories.
We can only say: Brilliant!
Bridge's Howl'oween Howlers
John "Bridge" Martin
Copyright © 2020
Editor: John "Bridge" Martin begins his annual Howl'oween tales of terror with a short that puts the capital "T" in terror!
WHERE SWARMED THE SPIDERS
October 25, 2020
Bram stroked his long, grey beard and, feeling the melted butter and salt residue from the popcorn he'd inhaled, he took his partially used handkerchief from his back pocket and used what he believed to be the unsoiled part to inadequately clean the strands of facial hair. He belched as he manipulated the remote to check the onscreen TV listings, and then grabbed the handle on his recliner to launch it back into a more comfortable position.
He loved his recliner, which brought his head into a position where he was looking up at the ceiling. That's when he saw the spider. It was huge. Well, not really huge in comparison to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, for instance, but a pretty good-sized spider, its legs sticking out on all sides as if to demonstrate the size of a 50-cent pierce.
It was directly overhead, in a perfect position to let out a silken thread and descend directly onto his hair or his face, as the case may have been, had it been of a mind to do that. It probably wasn't, he realized. It probably would be more interested in pursuing tiny insects which might have invaded his home. He knew the spider probably meant no harm to him. But then, he just didn't like spiders.
There had been another spider—or perhaps this same one—a few months before, and he had taken after it with his cane, attempting to squash it by poking the rubber-tipped end upward. But his aim had been slightly off and the startled spider had scurried across the ceiling faster than he thought possible, and disappeared "somewhere," perhaps behind the curtains or a picture frame, or maybe into a crevice not visible to the human eye.
No, he needed something more certain. He went to the kitchen and opened the doors under the sink while the spider, oblivious to its impending doom, remained in position. There were two cans of Black Flag Ant and Roach spray. If it was good enough to deal with those critters, it would probably take out a spider as well. Armed, he walked confidently back into the living room and was able to reach high enough to bring the nozzle to about a foot and a half from the spider. He triggered two quick sprays which sent the spider running haphazardly. He'd probably given it enough to do the job but added another couple of squirts to make sure. The spider dropped onto the extra cushion he had on the seat of his recliner, landing on its back, its legs wiggling pathetically as they extended upward in a futile supplication for mercy. He didn't want to touch the thing so he grabbed a dirty sock from the floor where he'd thrown it after taking his shoes off the night before, and picked it up and carried it out to the trash container in the kitchen and shook it off of the sock.
Satisfied, he return to his routine, picking up the remote once more.
He was unaware of something sinister that lurked a few feet below him in the crawlspace. Spiders of all sizes were marching with determination to a central point. A large spider, grey from its advanced age, waited patiently for all to arrive and then addressed the assemblage.
"Our dear uncle, Auric Nyde, has been slain, my friends. Wickedly, wantonly, painfully, thoughtlessly. He meant no harm. He was merely doing his job, trying to keep sugar ants and other crawly creatures from pestering the ungrateful owner of this human domicile. He was killed in the line of duty. Now, there is nothing for us to do but get...revenge."
There was nodding and murmuring from the thousands of creeping things.
"Follow me," said the old one, turning and starting for the foundation posts by which the spiders ascended to the creaky floorboards above and toward the joint seams, where cracks had appeared over time.
Up above, Bram was shaking his head with sadness upon the realization that the boyish and clean-cut Martin Milner was actually playing a bad guy in the movie "13 Ghosts" which was airing on the TV. He was also tired, not having gotten a good night's sleep. His eyes closed just for a moment but he was soon snoring like a trooper and sleeping as soundly as Dracula in the daylight.
He never saw them coming, creeping across the carpet, crawling up onto the recliner, positioning themselves on the arms and back of the chair, all within inches of his reclining body. Others had crawled onto his shoes and up to the tops of his socks, a step away from the tender flesh of his calves, swollen from heart disease. A few had managed to find their way behind his back, where the tail of his shirt had become untucked and there they perched on his belt, hungrily eyeing the exposed flesh of his lower back. Some descended on webbing from above, poised above the gaps where his shirt, one size too small, left open patches of flesh visible between the buttons.
And, at a signal from the grey one, they all jumped onto him simultaneously.
It was as if a thousand needles had pierced him from every direction all at once, for that was exactly what was happening to him.
He tried to move. He wanted to jump, to dance around the room, brushing and crushing the offenders. But he found he could not move at all. The multiple bites, which included paralysis drugs as well as poison, had started the job, and the webbing, which was being strung back and forth across his stiffened body, was completing it.
The only movement he could make were the tears from the ducts around his eyes. He could not speak, but for just a few more seconds, he could think, and he asked himself, "Why did I kill that innocent spider. Why, O why?"
And then, there was only the barely perceptible sound of miniature mouths biting, rending, chewing, eating.
And none of the diners even thought of wishing for butter or salt.
Editor: Lost Cities and Lost Civilizations are not that unusual in the Lord of the Jungle's domains ... but a perfectly normal Gothic Victorian Mansion? Who knows what dangers are within!
HOWL'OWEEN: TARZAN AND THE HOUSE IN THE JUNGLE
October 26, 2020
Tarzan pushed the fronds apart and stared at the magnificent yet haunting mansion. How did it get into his jungle? It had not been there before. But that it was here now could not be denied. Obviously, some ghastly games were afoot.
The mansion was surrounded by a fence of metal bars, each topped by warheads pointing to the sky which seemed, at his distance of 100 feet, to be razor sharp. Beyond was the large three-story mansion itself, with towers that reached even higher. The whole thing was painted a grave gray, but the paint was old and chipping. Off to one side of the mansion was a cemetery with leaning stones. There was something foreboding about it. Yet, at the same time, the ape-man could not suppress a smile. A new adventure, perhaps.
Tarzan was not afraid of anything and, picking up the satchel he had recently acquired, began walking boldly toward the mansion. The gate opened easily to his powerful right arm, although it made a squawking sound, complaining about being forced to move on its rusty hinges. He proceeded on up the walk toward the main door. He looked for a knocking device of some kind and finally found one that appeared to operate by pulling. He yanked the rope and heard a distant gong, but the rope snapped back suddenly, almost spinning the agile ape-man off balance.
The door was opened by a gaunt giant who looked more dead than alive, although his imposing stature was really no greater than that of the ape-man himself.
"Is the master of the home present?" asked Tarzan.
The butler, for so he appeared to be, gave a once-over to the ape-man, who was naked but for a loin cloth. He gave a low, guttural growl and then said, "Follow me." But as they turned to go, the butler gazed up at the top of the Jungle Lord's head and apparently mistook the ample thatch of black hair for a hat, reaching as if to grasp it. Then, seeing that it was hair, and also seeing the warning look from the ape man, lowered his hand, gave out a low growl, and turned and continued on his way.
They came into a sitting room where sat a woman to rival La of Opar in her striking appearance, though her features and presence seemed almost opposite of the ruler of the lost city. This woman was almost cadaverous. She was tall and thin, yet shapely. Her black hair, parted in the middle, hung down to her waist, blending with her long, sleek dress. She seemed to be regarding him both with amusement and curiosity.
"It's so nice to meet a neighbor," she said. "Won't you be seated."
Tarzan sat down in a wicker easy chair and returned her smile. "I'm Lord Greystoke," he said. "Since your home showed up here, I thought I should make your acquaintance."
"Mon merveilleaux ami!" said the woman. "Would you like some tea?"
The British influence surfaced, and the ape-man replied: "Certainly."
It would be incorrect to say that Tarzan was startled by what happened next, but an unschooled observer may have assumed that from Tarzan's lightning like reaction as he assumed a subtle pose of battle readiness. An innocuous black box on the end table opened and a disembodied hand reached out, holding a cup of steaming tea.
"Why, thank you, Thing," said the woman, taking the cup of tea and offering it to Tarzan.
The ape-man didn't reach for the tea. Instead, he said, "So that's what they're called...."
"I'm sorry," said the woman. "I don't know what --- "
"Thing," said Tarzan. "That thing is called a thing."
The ape-man reached down for his satchel, sat it on his lap, and opened it up. Inside were two disembodied hands, very similar to the creature in the woman's black box. They were moving and quite animated.
"Why, what lovely ones they are." She reached out her hand, as if to stroke one of the animated appendages. But her wrist was caught in the vice-like grip of the ape-man.
"STOP," he ordered. "Do not touch the things that are Tarzan's. Tarzan watches."
She half-closed her eyes and gave him a dreamy, seductive look. "You're frightening me," she said. "Don't let go, mon cher."
Tarzan looked into her eyes and, despite thoughts of his beloved Jane, he found himself somewhat transfixed by her stare. But at that moment, the spell was broken.
"French!" exclaimed the mustachioed man who had just entered the room. "Tish! you spoke French!" he yanked her hand from Tarzan's grip and began at her knuckles, kissing his way up her arm.
Tarzan stared at his empty hand, puzzled that this wisp of a man could break his grip so easily. But love could do things like that and this man was obviously obsessed by love for this woman.
In any case, Tarzan realized the interruption had been fortuitous, breaking the spell of the woman's eyes and freeing him from whatever she might have had in mind next.
He glanced down into his carpet bag and saw that the two severed hands were still wiggling. He snapped the case shut.
"I must be going," he said. "But since I see you are familiar with the use of the thing, I would like to make a welcome gift to you." So saying, he extended his hand with the satchel.
"Oh no," said the man. "We have one thing, and one is all we really need. He's quite versatile and he's everywhere."
"But Gomez dear," put in Tish. "Remember that Pugsley and Wednesday have asked for one of their own. And Halloween is coming."
Gomez grinned broadly. "Right you are, my sweet," he said, and took the proffered bag. "Where did you come by these."
"I got them," said Tarzan, "from one who had no business to give them to me or to any other. But since you're my new neighbor, I'll just tell you that I got them from a witch doctor who owed me a favor."
Tish's eye lit up. "A witch doctor? I think we'll fit in well here, Gomez," she smiled.
Tarzan bowed and turned to go, nimbly sidestepping a lion which had appeared out of nowhere and briefly casting an admiring glance at a tall, stuffed polar bear. Behind him he could hear Gomez saying to Tish, "Come, my dear. Let us go upstairs."
Tarzan was halfway down the main hall when he noticed the butler standing in his path, flanked by a homely boy and a little girl who was casting a malevolent glance of appraisal at him, her arms folded in a gesture of defense and defiance.
The butler reached out with a battered and dented pith helmet.
"Not mine, old chap," said Tarzan, waving his hand in a gesture of dismissal. "Remember, I came with no headgear."
"For you...." came the spectral voice from the guttural vocal cords of the butler.
"The man who owned it won't be needing it anymore," said the little girl, smiling with an attitude of satisfaction.
Tarzan frowned but decided to take the hat nonetheless. Tarzan was a practical man and deemed it the simplest way to make his departure with smoothness. He did not wish to fight his new neighbors—yet—especially since the charming kids might get in the way. Besides, he thought to himself, with a smile, he knew of a couple of mangani who would probably find great sport in fighting over the headgear.
As he stepped out the front door, the ape man's keen sense of smell easily detected the odor of rapidly approaching scorched oil. He smiled grimly as he stepped to the side and looked up, in plenty of time to avoid the oil as it hit the porch and splattered, before forming into a black, glistening puddle. He looked up and saw the grinning faces of Gomez and Tish looking down upon him from the battlement, behind the over-tipped cauldron.
The ape man smiled and waved.
They waved back.
He turned and, at a trot he could keep up for hours, headed back into the surrounding jungle, looking for new adventures. He mentally added another visit to the jungle mansion as a must-do for the future.
Editor: The Ghost of Robert Lewis Stevenson is taking notes! The Mystery of Transformations Most Strange is Revealed ... only if you DARE!
PROFESSOR PORTER AND MR. HYDE
October 28, 2020
"What's in the glass, father?" Jane Clayton asked.
"It's a new concoction I've mixed up in my lab," said the aged and creaking professor. "I think it'll make me more macho. More tough, you know. More able to depend on myself rather than always having to have your husband show up to yank me out of jams."
"It's bubbling and smoking," said Jane. "Are you sure it's safe?"
"Of course," retorted the professor. "I made it myself, you know. I know what ingredients I put in it and how they interact with each other. The bubbling and smoking is just for psychological effects. It's supposed to make me feel a little more macho just looking at it, challenging me to put it to my lips and drink it down. Sort of a warm-up experience, along with a dose of 'I Dare You.' Or," said the conscientiously correct professor, "I dare me."
"Well, I'd drink it slowly if I were you," said Jane. "I've got to leave. Tarzan is expecting me to meet him at the Waziri village for their Halloween party."
Professor Porter watched her close the door, then turned with a smile to his libation. He hadn't bothered to tell her, but it would only work if he chugged it, so he scooped up the glass, raised it in a silent toast, laid it to his lips, and poured the contents down his throat.
* * * * * * * *
Tarzan and Jane were having a ball at the Waziri kids Halloween party. The caramel apples were quickly disappearing off the serving platters, Jane's home-baked chocolate chip cookies had all been consumed, and the cider was flowing liberally.
As the frolic continued, there struck suddenly a tension in the air and all stopped momentarily to stare at the tall, scruffy stranger who had just walked through the village gates, holding a cane in his right hand and slapping it repeatedly into his left, while grinning horribly.
The stranger was like nothing any of them had ever seen before but Tarzan, whose olfactory nerves were on the job, immediately recognized his father-in-law by his peculiar smell. The ape man grinned broadly, thinking to himself that Professor Porter had come up with a dandy costume in which to Hyde his appearance. It was far better than Tarzan's Halloween outfit. He was dressed as Johnny Lafitte, the pirate, and Jane had chosen to wear a La Diablesa outfit.
Tarzan whispered the creature's true identity to Jane and she nodded, but still was a bit concerned. It was hard to imagine her father in such garb and making such gestures.
Still glaring around him at every one, and continuing to whack his left hand with the cane, the professor advanced on the cluster of children gathered around the pumpkin piñata which had been shipped to Greystoke Manor, a gift from Billy Byrne.
The crowd separated to allow him access. Tarzan started to step forward but stopped when Jane laid a hand on his arm. "Be gentle," she said. "He... he doesn't seem to be in his right mind."
The momentary hesitation had allowed enough time for the professor to complete his journey to the great orange pumpkin and he raised his right arm to strike the thing.
"No, no, father!" cried Jane. "It's for the children—"
But his blow connected with precision and the green mamba coiled in the decorative foliage at the top of the gorged gourd dropped lifeless to the ground.
He picked the thing up, holding it by its tail in one hand with the other positioned just behind its head. He raised the stretched out snake to face level and bit it in two, spitting out several green and red chunks from his mouth. The crowd gave way as the strange figure walked to the blazing fire and disdainfully tossed the snake parts in.
The bizarre figure turned—eyes blazing, teeth showing—to the crowd and hollered:
"Macho enough for you?" He then turned and walked back to the jungle path which led to Greystoke Manor, laughing maniacally. "Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."
"I guess his formula worked," said Jane. "He seems pretty macho all right."
"Yes, he does," nodded Tarzan, with a broad smile.
"All right," said Jane. "I know that look in your eye. What are you thinking?"
"Well," said Tarzan. "I'm about due for another trip to Opar. I could use a macho guy like him in case we run into any beast men, so I think I'll ask Dad if he wants to go along."
Tarzan rubbed his hands together in anticipation of the journey. "Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha," he said.
Editor: A quiet night that turns deadly. When werewolves hunt even the mighty Lord of the Jungle must be on guard!
THE NIGHT OF THE GOLDEN WOLF
October 30, 2020
The full moon cast its borrowed light on the ape man as he navigated through the trees that surrounded the small glade, in which he lighted after first sniffing the scents brought by the breeze.
The effluvia which came to his nostrils was not in Tarzan's normal spoor catalog but he was still able to identify it. The odor was of the Golden African Wolf, which was more common in the Cape Horn region than the area of the Dark Continent which was his domain. But still there had been reports of such beasts sometimes ranging this far north.
Strangely, though, the scent was mixed with that of man. So, was this a man who was somehow traveling with a wolf, or had the wolf recently tangled with a human, perhaps even having one for its supper?
The answer was neither, as Tarzan soon realized. The scent which had been carried to him by Usha, the wind, became stronger and he heard the fumbling gait of a beast that didn't know if it should be ambulating on two legs or four.
Speculation about the creature was interesting, but survival was more important. The ape man drew from its scabbard the hunting knife of his long-dead sire just in time, for at that moment there burst from the surrounding verdure a beast that was stranger than any that Tarzan had ever encountered.
He had only an instant to examine the vile thing but in that time he saw a large wolf-like beast which, yet, had somewhat manlike features on what sufficed for a face. The thing was snarling with rage and flecks of foam flew from its mouth like so much confetti.
The claw-like hands were extended toward him and Tarzan knew he would do best to avoid those. Nimbly, he leaped to the side as the beast charged. Its momentum carried it forward and the ape man turned and leaped onto its back and encircled its neck with his left arm, raising his knife hand to strike a fatal blow.
But at that moment the creature spoke in a rasp. "No, not with an ordinary knife. It must be silver. Silver. Or you will become what I am."
Tarzan of the Apes was a quick study. Though he had read Professor Porter's journals on documented case of lycanthrophy, he had digested them with mere academic interest and hardly believed that he himself would ever be confronted by such a creature, or even that he believed the various superstitions.
Tarzan had made his decision. He plunged the knife deep into the chest of the monster and rolled it onto its back to see if he needed to add a coup d'grace. The creature was close to death and yet it opened its yellow eyes and gazed up at him with an expression of hatred mixed, oddly, with relief.
Having slain the disgusting piece of garbage and given the corpse a quick boot in a sensitive spot to see if there was any life remaining, the ape man was satisfied it was dead.
But he was not alone. A voice came from behind him and he cursed for allowing himself to become so wrapped up in the kill that he had momentarily ignored his other senses. But as he whirled, knife still in hand, he relaxed. It was only an old native woman sitting in a cart to which were hitched two domesticated oryxes.
The petite woman, swathed in colorful sashes, large earrings and a head scarf, began to speak: "Now, when the light of the full moon shines upon you, the way you walk will be thorny. You too will become a wolf, with the instincts of the wild beast."
Tarzan made a face and ignored the woman. There was something he had yet to do. Turning back to the dead beast, which had somehow lost its hirsute characteristics and was beginning to look strangely like a man, he placed one foot on the chest of the vanquished foe and lifted his head to the moon, hurling from his throat the wild and weird cry of his people, sending it echoing again and again through the surrounding jungle. In the seconds that followed, he heard manu scream in fright, the rapidly decreasing footfalls of a fleeing feline, and the hoarse whisper of an intimidated impala.
He turned back to the woman and glared. "And if you speak the truth, old woman," he said, "I don't think that things will be all that much different than what I've been doing all my life."
THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
October 31, 2020
Amid the cold and dampness of the grey and swirling fog,
Frankenstein's cruel monster was clod-hopping through the bog,
While nearby too a werewolf bold was slinking on the prowl,
It saw the hulking monster and it charged him with a growl.
The killers locked with deadly grips; each sought the other's doom,
The wolfman bit the monster but the monster lowered the boom.
It strangled its attacker, then hurled it in the mud,
But not before the werewolf had drawn the monster's blood
Frankenstein, infected, turned his eyes unto the moon,
His hair was growing longer till he looked like a baboon,
His fingernails extended, with pointy tips and curls,
His teeth grew long and yellow, no longer white like pearls.
He roamed the moor, exhausted, throughout the dreary night,
At morn his hair of wolf was gone, though he still looked a fright.
He knew, since he'd been bitten, that whene'er a full moon shone
He'd turn into a werewolf and would haunt the Twilight Zone.
He slept through all the day and when the night came once again.
The moon was full no longer so he wore his usual skin.
But unknown to the monster, a vampire stalked his path,
Frank's scent not hard to follow as he needed a hot bath.
'Twas Dracula himself, who gave no quarter, nor no truce;
He stalked the monster hoping for a chance to drink its juice.
At last, while Frank was puzzling how to cross a castle moat,
Dracula sneaked up behind and went straight for his throat.
He bit into the monster's neck and drank the crimson flow;
Poor Frankenstein was dead ere he a single punch could throw.
Drac buried then the body 'neath a broken wagon tire,
But Frankenstein next evening came to life as a vampire.
So then Frank slept through every day and rose up every night,
And knocked his victims flat, then of their necks he'd take a bite.
And monthly he became a wolf and tore his foes apart,
Gouging out their eyeballs and eating up their hearts.
But came along Van Helsing, with hammer and his stake,
He caught ol' Frank a' sleeping right after his lunch break.
He pounded home the aspen, stuffed garlic 'tween Frank's teeth
And left him without e'en a decent funerary wreath.
They wrapped him up in strips of cloth, around and 'round they went,
To keep his ugly carcass hid; they left not e'en a vent.
They put him in a box inside a tomb and closed the door,
They didn't think that they would see that monster anymore.
But from Egyptian pyramids a mystic priest did come,
He burned some dried up tanna leaves and beat upon a drum.
The smoke went curling through the tomb and tickled Frankie's nose.
His nostrils twitched and twisted...and then the thing arose.
Wrapped head to toe in rotting rags, the fiend now roams the land,
A creature made of body parts combined by human hands,
Part vampire and part mummy, part wolfman and cadaver,
Just one of these is bad enough, but four-in-one is graver!
And so this Halloween be careful when outside you go,
Beware of trick-or-treaters if they stand six feet or so;
If you should meet a stranger, don't try to get too chummy.
For you may be confronted... by Frankula Weremummy.