SPECTRAL


The Memphian darkness of the secret chamber in the lofty cavern beneath Rumanos Castle was broken only by the light of my ancient oil lamp and of seven candles as I stood in the centre of the “Magic Circle” far below the northwest quarter of the city of Baltimore, Maryland. The “demonic spirit” that I had conjured appeared as a blacker-than-black shadowy shape with glowing crimson eyes in the Triangle of Manifestation before me. 

I am Dr. Daniel Rumanos, one of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL. I possess numerous powers and abilities that appear as “Magic” to Earthlings.

“Master!” bellowed the spirit. “I am here! I arrive at your summoning! What is your will?!” 

I had only recently received a psychic premonition of a coming threat -- a veritable maelstrom of horror that threatened to engulf all -- but I, to my very great annoyance, had to admit that I could just not get a clear idea of what it was. 

“You know why I have called you, Servitor,” I imperiously told the demon. “Tell me, then: What is coming?” 

“It is evil beyond evil, Master!” replied the dark one. “A darkness that is rising to destroy this world and the race ruling it! But it is not of our doing, Master Rumanos! I do swear most solemnly by the most-mighty Thrones of the Luciferian Empire we know not of it!” 

The demon’s manner puzzled me deeply. “What could this new horror be, then,” I mused aloud, “that even the Servitors of Astaroth and Beelzebub fear it?” 

“We fear not, Master!” screamed the demon. “It is simply that we have only heard fragments of what to expect from the coming doom!” 

“You shall inform me of all you know right now, Servitor. I command you in the names of ADONAY and of BABYLON, and by the Most Holy TETRAGRAMMATON!!” 

“We know that in the coming weeks the Rising Dark will bring forth masterpieces of terror to many locations around the nation which you inhabit! They are its side-effects, and in turn will create fear from which it shall feed in its coming into being! This is all we know, Master! I swear that is all we know!” 

Odd as it seems to say, I knew that the demonic servitor was speaking the truth. The Seals of Solomon, the spells that I had spoken, and the powerfully-blessed Magical Sword I held prevented it from lying. 

“You have indeed done well to warn me of this, spirit,” I said. “I now license you to depart from this reality. Do now immediately go forth in peace and do harm to no one and to no thing. I command you in the name of YEHASHUAH YEHOVASHAH.” 

The demon then faded from view and I was left alone in the murky gloom of the cavern far within the earth. 

Masterpieces of Terror, the Servitor had said. Masterpieces of Terror. I wondered what classic monstrosities this “Rising Dark”, whatever it was, would soon bring forth in order to plague the world. No matter what they were, I would be informed of them due to the great occult powers and connections I held, and it would no doubt be my task and responsibility to protect the human race from them. No doubt this was part of the frightful, unknown threat’s plans as well -- to attempt to weaken me before its bid to come to power. 

It was going to be a frenetically difficult time, so I knew I must do whatever was necessary to ready my finest, most puissant, and deadliest paranormal defences -- before it was too late. 

Strewth! Here we go… 

*****

It was very soon after this that I received an email anxiously requesting my help from a young gentleman named Jon Hutter. It seems his fiancee, a very pretty young lady named Nina, had made the acquaintance of an Eastern European nobleman called Count Orlock, who had recently moved into an old mansion in their affluent town of New Whitby, Connecticut. 

Hutter was worried that Nina had become increasingly obsessed and infatuated with the handsome, suave Count. But this had gone beyond any ordinary jealousy on Hutter‘s part. He had gone to visit Nina at her parents’ home, and found Count Orlock himself there as a welcomed guest. It was on that particular evening that young Hutter noticed something quite peculiar about Orlock: He seemed to cast no reflection in a nearby mirror. When Hutter pointed this out, the Count angrily smashed the mirror, claiming grievous insult, and then quickly left! 

After hearing this, it was no surprise indeed for me to hear that the telltale fang-marks had already appeared on Nina’s throat. Obviously, the mysterious Count Orlock was a vampire, and had visited the young girl in her bedroom. 

Orlock again victimized Nina the following night as she walked in the garden behind the family home. She was found lying unconscious by the house-maid. Hutter tried to talk Nina into going with him to New York to perhaps hide in safety from Orlock, but her parents refused to let her go, instead sending her to her room with the female servant ordered to look after her. Perceiving that there was indeed something supernaturally sinister about the Count, the devoutly-Catholic family was careful to place a large image of the Blessed Virgin over Nina’s bed. 

It was then that Jon Hutter had bravely, if foolishly, gone to Count Orlock’s nearby residence, Carfax Mansion, in an attempt to confront Orlock himself and deal with the matter. The Count simply and commandingly stated that Nina now belonged to him and that Hutter would be utterly destroyed if he attempted to interfere. It was only the blessed crucifix that young Mr. Hutter thankfully wore that prevented the grotesque vampire from killing him right then and there. 

It was at this point that Hutter contacted me. I promised him I would travel there immediately and do all that was in my power to vanquish the infamous Count Orlock, even if it involved having to excavate Carfax Mansion itself to find the hideous, stalking fiend! 

I was briefly delayed before leaving, in order to properly gather together the appropriate weapons and instruments of vampire-hunting. While I was doing this, Hutter visited Nina on the terrace of her home, where she spoke to him of how she had come to love the night and its fog-enshrouded darkness. Then, a huge bat suddenly flew above them and in its horrid squeaking seemed to speak directly to Nina. The girl then attempted to attack Hutter, but he saved himself by showing her the crucifix as I had instructed him. Nina then confessed what Orlock had done to her, and told Hutter that their love was finished as she was soon to instead become the Count’s vampire bride. 

Then Nina returned to her bed. Thinking she was safe with the protection of the holy image, Hutter left her to sleep. But Orlock soon hypnotized the house-maid into removing the Virgin’s picture from the room and opening the windows! 

It was at that time that I arrived by my teleportation powers. I immediately went with Jon Hutter to check on Nina and found that she had disappeared from her bedroom, evidently having been abducted by the obscenely-evil Orlock. 

We hurried with much haste to the mansion in hope that we would be in time to save the innocent girl from becoming an un-dead creature and the wicked Count’s eternally-cursed consort. 

Fortunately, it was almost dawn and I knew that the vampire would have to return to his coffin during the hours of daylight. We found him there, deep in the cellars below Carfax Mansion, and while Hutter continued to search the unhallowed abode for his lovely Nina, I produced a wooden stake which I had concealed within my long coat and impaled the vampire, the hideously-debased Count Orlock, through his unholy, dark heart. 

With the vampire’s satanic influence now destroyed forever, Nina returned to her usual sweet self, and I am pleased to say that she and Hutter were joyfully married soon afterward. 

But, as I wished them well and returned to my Baltimore headquarters, I knew that such brazen activity from the vampire could have been only under the influence of the Rising Dark, and that I would have to be continually on my guard in the coming weeks as its malevolent power continued to grow -- and as I a sought a way to identify and defeat it!! …

The activities of the dark force continued soon afterward, when the following was brought to my attention: 

A certain Conrad von Dippel, who was a particularly-genius medical student residing in the small, usually-quiet Pennsylvania Dutch city of Whitehall, desperately wanted to create a man in his own image, using the remains of the dead -- in fact, the young scientist was completely and utterly obsessed with the idea, and this pretty much to the exclusion of all else. So he and his humpbacked assistant, Justin, set forth under cover of darkness to the old cemetery just outside of town and secretly disinterred a freshly-buried coffin, then stealing the corpse for Dippel to use in his unholy, utterly insane experiment. 

But they soon realized that the head and, most important of all, the brain of the body were severely damaged. To remedy this, Dippel then sent Justin to purloin a better brain from the local medical college. However, the idiot humpback took the wrong brain -- the twisted brain of a severely mentally disturbed convicted sex-offender who had only recently hanged himself in his prison cell! 

Soon afterwards, the experiment was conducted, where extracting the mysterious “ray of life” which he has discovered from the energy of a powerful thunderstorm, Conrad Dippel brought to life the terrifying body which he had assembled -- the huge, grotesque amalgamation of stolen corpses joined together in an horrific surgical patchwork: The Dippel Monstrosity!! 

But Conrad soon realized what a terrible, aggressively-dangerous monster he had created, and so immediately locked the creature in a cell beneath the old house outside of town in which von Dippel has been conducting his secret experiments. 

Feeling a definite sense a remorse at the results of his own unfettered scientific curiosity, Conrad Dippel then left the house, trusting his assistant Justin to be able to guard the monster while Conrad himself attempted to forget its existence. But the strength of the Monstrosity had been in this very much underestimated, even by its own creator, and so it soon escaped, knocking down the steel door of the cell with ease, and then strangling Justin to death with its large, gnarled hands. 

Roaming for several days through the nearby countryside, the Monstrosity eventually encountered a beautiful teenage girl who was walking home from her job at a nearby market… 

The next day, the mangled, hideously-violated body of the young woman was found by her friends whom had gone out in search of her. 

When revealed, the incident propelled the town’s population into an uproar of vigilantism and, demanding the death of the unhallowed fiend which had so horribly defiled and murdered the innocent girl, they quickly took to the countryside themselves -- in search of the perverted, unknown murderer that we now know to have been the Dippel Monstrosity. 

It was then that I heard of these events in the news reports. The media was downplaying the rumors of a literal “monster” being the perpetrator of the crime, resigning it to the hysteria of the locals who claimed to have glimpsed the brutal monstrosity lurking in the nearby woods. But I perceived right away that these horrifying events were a part of the continuing influence of the Rising Dark, that mysterious, coming evil that was on the way and which threatened to soon engulf the world and all its people in eternal, screaming eldritch madness!! 

But, by the time I arrived, the enraged townspeople had quite taken care of their own immediate problem-- they had pursued the creature to the old, decayed windmill of a nearby abandoned farm, then they had set the mill on fire in their attempt to destroy the revolting Monstrosity forever! 

I stayed in the area of Whitehall, Pennsylvania for a few days after that, essaying to absorb any psychic emanations which could help in my investigation of the coming evil. But I knew that I could not stay very long, as it would soon be continuing its unholy influence elsewhere, raising more hideously grotesque, bloodcurdling monsters and wicked, malevolently ungodly horrors -- in what was only the merest preliminary to the unspeakably horrendous and obscenely-powerful threat from which it had become my unenviable duty to defend the entire human race -- and indeed perhaps all of life on Earth itself!! …

One thing I couldn’t help noticing was that these manifestations of the rising evil’s power were strangely… familiar. The next one was no exception. 

It involved a beautiful young Romany girl named Sada Ouspensky, who contacted me concerning her boyfriend, a wealthy local playboy in Seattle, Washington whose name was Mike Kemp. 

Sada and Mike had become romantically involved when her people had come through town during the carnival season., and the girl had stayed behind to be with him. He had rented a downtown apartment for her, knowing his family would not approve of the affair. 

But Sada’s Gypsy family didn’t approve either, and her older brother, Orlando, secretly returned to Seattle with designs towards using violent means to put an end to it and thereby defend his sister‘s honour. 

Orlando Ouspensky, by the way, happened to be a werewolf

One night, the hideous werewolf attacked Mike as he left Sada’s apartment building, but met its end when Mike pulled a silver-bladed dagger from his jacket pocket -- a family heirloom which he had been somehow influenced to carry. (I believe, in retrospect, that this was part of the secret magical manipulation of the Rising Dark). 

Mike killed Orlando the werewolf, but not before being deeply bitten on the arm by the terrible man-animal. He fled the scene but did not even find it necessary to establish an alibi. Orlando, whose body returned to its human form after death, was a wandering Gypsy with no identification on him, and the police just assumed he had been yet another victim of the frequent muggings of the area. The event was soon forgotten by the local authorities. 

But Sada knew and did not forget. She knew that Mike now had the horrid curse of the werewolf transferred to him, and that he would soon, at certain times, begin to be transformed into a ravening beast. 

Within a month, Mike had already changed into the wolf-like creature and had stalked the city streets, first killing a local cafĂ© clerk. He only retained vague memories of being a werewolf and of killing the innocent, and struggled as best he could to overcome the urge. This, to the great misfortune of young Mr. Kemp and also to poor Sada, who indeed loved him dearly, was doomed to failure. 

But Mike did give Sada the silver dagger and made her promise -- to absolutely promise -- that she would carry it with her at all times. 

Then the night came that Mike attacked Sada in his horrible werewolf form -- his urge to kill, to maim, to devour overcoming even the affection he felt for her. It was there on the dark rain-soaked streets of downtown Seattle that the sobbing girl used the silver dagger to set the man she loved free from the gruesome curse of the werewolf. 

It was only then that she contacted me. I am quite well-known among certain sections of the Romany people due to my own supernatural powers, but wondered why she had waited until the end of the matter to request my aid. Nevertheless, I left for Seattle as soon as possible, thinking that perhaps Sada just felt in need of spiritual counseling after the horrifying experience she had undergone. 

I met the young woman in one of the many coffee-establishments for which the great city of Seattle is justly famous and spoke to her of the unfortunate matter. She said she would return to her people soon, but indeed wanted to speak with me first. 

“I am so very sorry to hear that you had to experience this, but you know you had to do it,” I consoled her. “He wanted it that way. That’s why he entrusted the dagger to you.” 

“I know that, Dr. Rumanos,” said the girl sadly but firmly. “I thank you for your kind words, but there is another reason why it was so urgent that I speak with you.” 

“Really?” I inquired, wondering what it could be. 

“Yes,” she said. “The night after Mike’s death I had a strange dream -- a psychic message which I knew was meant for me to tell you. It has been repeated three times, and in the traditions of my people that means that it concerns something which must come to pass, something big, something… dangerous. Perhaps something from which only you can protect this world.” 

I looked at her in astonishment. Had she gotten a message somehow that would help me in identifying the menacing evil that was on the way? So it appeared! 

“What was it?” I managed to ask. 

“Only four words: ‘Beware the Southern Cross’” …

What did it mean? “Beware the Southern Cross”, the young girl had told me. Was it something or other to do with the stars of the constellation of that name? A cult which worshipped them, perhaps? Yet another extraterrestrial invasion? I did not know and indeed could only speculate. 

Before returning to Baltimore, I stopped by the National Museum in Chicago in order to view some rare Egyptian antiquities which they had in their collection, and also to hear a direct account of some unusual activities which had been rumoured -- and which I believed may have been once again influenced by the Rising Dark. The museum’s curator, Dr. David Bakerson, a rather dignified elderly English gentleman known to me, filled me in on the details of the case. 

According to Dr. Bakerson, a High Priest of Ancient Egypt known as Setheru had been resurrected from the dead soon after his mummy was unexpectedly discovered by an archaeological expedition nearly two decades ago. According to hieroglyphics found in the tomb, the evil Setheru had been buried alive for attempting to use black magic to bring his love, the incredibly beautiful young Priestess An-Ste-Naph, back from the dead. 

One of the archaeologists at the dig had read aloud from the mysterious Black Scroll which had been buried with Setheru, returning life to the wicked High Priest. The horrid Setheru escaped from the tomb, taking the Scroll with him, intending to search the world and its people for the modern reincarnation of An-Ste-Naph. 

Years later, Setheru had taken upon himself a new identity as a modern Middle Eastern gentleman named Mostafa Bey. He then contacted an American expedition visiting Egypt and showed them where to excavate in order to find the tomb of the Priestess An-Ste-Naph. Her tomb was uncovered and the mummy and treasures found therein were transferred to the United States and put on display at the Chicago National Museum. 

Just shortly after this Mostafa Bey himself showed up at the museum and was welcomed cordially and with many honors for his invaluable aid in unearthing this important archeological find. But little did anyone know of his true, darkly-sinister motives. 

It was then on one fateful day that Setheru encountered Jessica Middleton, a girl visiting the museum with her class from the University of Illinois -- and noticed that she bore a quite striking resemblance to the Priestess. Believing the lovely young woman to be An-Ste-Naph’s reincarnation, he planned to murder her, so that he could then again resurrect her with the soul of his lost love and make her his bride. 

But Jessica then remembered her past life as a Priestess in Ancient Egypt, and began to pray most fervently to the awesomely-powerful goddess Nephthys -- beseeching the dark goddess to save her from the fate which the insane Setheru/Mostafa Bey had in store for her. As the murderously-mad high priest stood over her that night in the otherwise-unoccupied museum, two beams of dark-purplish light silently emitted from the eyes of the statue of Nephthys -- destroying the Black Scroll, and reducing Setheru himself to dust. 

As the Black Scroll burned away to ashes, Jessica escaped from the museum, later informing the curator -- whom Setheru had hypnotized into being absent during these hideous events -- of her story, which he now duly passed on to me. 

I then respectfully thanked Dr. Bakerson for relating this story, and asked him to inform me right away of any other odd or seemingly-supernatural events which happened to occur or to become known to him. He sincerely promised that he would. 

I quickly returned to the Rumanos Castle in Baltimore, intending to spend some time doing research -- and indeed whatever else was necessary in order to find the meaning of the enigmatic “Southern Cross” and the terrible darkness rising which threatened the entire world in gloom-enshrouded ways of continuing and growing ghastly wickedness -- ways which I could now strongly feel would, if I did not identify and stop them -- soon come to total and complete fruition with evil, grotesque, and obscenely-debased consequences far beyond any and all sane imagining!! …

However, whilst I was occupied with this, further horrific events were occurring back in Whitehall, Pennsylvania -- events that I only pieced together later from reports, anecdotes, and hearsay. Further events involving Conrad von Dippel and the horrific Monstrosity of his mad, insane creation. Events of fear and shrieking eldritch madness -- of evil and wicked science gone beyond the pale of reason. Events of most extraordinary Horror!! 

Even I did not realize that the Dippel Monstrosity had actually survived the fire at the old windmill! It had fallen unseen into a flooded pit beneath the mill and, hideously enough, managed to escape destruction, though now grotesquely burned and scarred to even greater ugliness than its already incredibly gruesome visage! 

Not knowing this, Conrad von Dippel had returned to his lovely young wife-to-be, Valerie, at his ancestral home near Philadelphia. Still feeling remorse at the results of his unholy experimentation, Conrad had by now renounced his creation, but still believed he could be somehow destined to unlock the divine secrets of life and of immortality itself. 

That very same night, the horrible Monstrosity, wandering aimlessly through the wild, gloom-cloaked hill-country of north-eastern Pennsylvania, followed the sound of a violin playing and encountered an old blind hermit. The poor, lonely old man thanked the Lord for sending him a friend. He then, over the next few weeks, taught the monster to speak and shared meals with it. 

But then, to bring this seemingly idealist happenstance to a sad ending, two lost hunters stumbled upon the cottage and immediately tried to kill the monster. It attacked them in self-defense and accidentally knocked down the cottage killing the hunters and the hermit -- the only friend it had ever had in its entire, obscenely-tortured existence. 

It was only days after this that Conrad and Valerie, now married, were visited by the Monstrosity. It then demanded that von Dippel return to his laboratory and create a mate for it. Conrad, of course, refused and the Monstrosity retaliated by kidnapping Valerie -- only guaranteeing her safety if Dippel agreed to its demand. In fear for her safety, Conrad then returned to his tower laboratory where, in spite of himself, he began to grow enthusiastic over his work. After being assured of Valerie’s well-being, Conrad completed the body of the new, female monstrosity! 

A terrible storm raged as final preparations were made to bring the monstrous bride to life. Her body was raised through the roof. Lightning struck -- sending electricity into the monster‘s mate. Incredibly, amazingly, Dippel had again succeeded in his perverted, blasphemous, ungodly experiments -- She lived!! 

The excited Monstrosity then saw his would-be bride and reached out to her in yearning, in desire, in longing and unspeakable craving. The female monster, screaming in the most abject expression of total, unmitigated terror, rejected him. 

As Valerie raced to Conrad's side, the dejected Monstrosity rampaged in shock and unbelievable psychological pain through the laboratory. It then told Conrad and Valerie von Dippel: "Go! Leave here and live!“ 

But, to the strange female creature, the she-monstrosity, which it then knew would be its one-and-only chance at a companion, its prospective mate who had indeed only rejected it as all others had and always would, it said in a ghastly, extreme determination of weirdly-mingled love and hate: "We return to the dead!" 

While the Dippels fled, the Monster, rejected, despised, and realizing that this and this alone will be its horrible lot always and forever, pulled the lever and brought about the destruction of the tower and its unhallowed laboratory -- just hoping against hope only that it may succeed in destroying its monstrous, sickening self FOREVER!! …

My colleague Dr. Bakerson, curator of the National Museum of Chicago, soon enough came through with relating to me yet another incident of grotesque horror -- of weird science which was obviously influenced by the rising darkness!! I shall repeat it here pretty much verbatim according to the notes which he duly sent me regarding this most unusual case: 

A certain very mysterious stranger, his face swathed in bandages and his eyes obscured by dark goggles, had one night taken a room at The Lion Rampant Inn in the obscure northern California village of Sunville. The man had virulently demanded that he be left alone. Later, the innkeeper, a Mr. Hill, was sent by his annoyed wife to evict the stranger after he had made a huge mess in his room while doing research and had also fallen behind on his rent. Angered, the odd stranger violently threw Mr. Hill down the stairs! 

Confronted by a policeman and some local villagers, the strange man removed his bandages and goggles, revealing that he was invisible. Laughing maniacally, he then took off his clothes, making himself completely undetectable, and drove off his tormenters before himself fleeing into the countryside. 

The stranger was Dr. Ian Moucheron, a genius chemist who had discovered the secret of invisibility while conducting a series of tests involving an obscure drug called duocane. Brandi Stuart, Moucheron's young girlfriend and the daughter of his employer, a certain Dr. Stuart, became quite distraught over Moucheron's long absence. So Stuart and his other assistant, Dr. MacKenzie, searched Moucheron's empty laboratory, finding only a single note in a cupboard. Stuart then became rather concerned when he read it. On a list of chemicals was duocane, which Stuart knew to be extremely dangerous -- after all, an injection of it once had driven a guinea pig mad. 

Later on the same evening of his escape from the inn, Moucheron turned up at Stuart's home. He had forced MacKenzie to become his visible partner in a plot to dominate the world through a reign of terror, commencing with numerous cold-blooded murders. They drove back to the inn to retrieve his notebooks on the invisibility process. Sneaking inside, Moucheron found a police inquiry already underway, conducted by an official who himself believed it was all a hoax. After securing his books, he attacked and killed the officer out of spite. 

Back home, MacKenzie called first Stuart, asking for help, and then the police. Brandi persuaded her father to let her come along. In her presence, Moucheron became more placid and calls her "sweetie". When he realized MacKenzie had betrayed him, his first reaction was indeed to get Brandi away from danger. After promising MacKenzie that at 11 o'clock the next very night he will murder him, Moucheron escaped and went on a fantastic, hideous killing spree. He caused the derailment of a train, resulting in over a hundred deaths, and then proceeded to throw two volunteer searchers off a cliff. The police soon offered a reward for anyone who could think of a way to catch the Invisible One. 

The chief detective in charge of the search used MacKenzie as bait, feeling Moucheron would attempt to fulfill his promise, and devised various clever traps. At MacKenzie's insistence, the police disguised him in a police uniform and let him drive his car away from his house. Moucheron, however, was hiding in the back seat of the car. He easily overpowered MacKenzie and tied him up in the front seat. Moucheron then sent the car down a steep hill and over a cliff, where it exploded on horrible impact. 

But the doom of Dr. Moucheron, the dangerously-insane Invisible One, the scientist who had driven himself mad with his experimental ventures, was soon to occur. 

Moucheron had sought shelter from a snowstorm in a barn. A farmer heard snoring and saw the hay, in which Moucheron was sleeping, moving. Terrified, the man had quickly notified the police. The police surrounded the building and set fire to the barn. When Moucheron came out, the chief detective saw his footprints in the snow and opened fire, mortally wounding him. Moucheron was then taken to the hospital where, on his deathbed, he admitted to Brandi that he now believed he had tampered with something that was meant to be left alone by mere mortal men. After he had died, his body gradually became once again visible. 

Oy! What a tale!! …

The next yarn of our ever-expanding, fantastically-grotesque, bizarrely-eventful and hideously-amazing Spectral Odyssey opened with the debut of the new season at the Lyric Opera House right in my own city of Baltimore, with a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. A beautiful young girl named Christine had made a sudden rise from the chorus to become the understudy of the prima donna. 

At the height of what had been the most prosperous season in the Opera's history, the management suddenly resigned. As they left, they told the new managers of the Opera Ghost, a phantom who asks for opera box number five, among other things. The new managers laughed it off as a joke, but the old management left troubled. 

The next day, Miss Virginia Carlotta, the prima donna of the opera, barged into the manager’s office enraged. She had received a letter from "The Phantom," demanding that Christine sing the role of Donna Anna the following night, threatening dire consequences if his demands are not met. Christine was in her dressing room at that moment, speaking to a phantom voice. The voice warned her that she would take Carlotta's place on Wednesday and that she was to think only of her career and her master. 

Wednesday evening, Carlotta was ill and Christine took her place in the opera. During the performance, the managers went to Box 5 to see exactly who had taken it. The keeper of the box did not know who it is, as she had never seen his face. The two managers entered the box and are startled to see a shadowy figure seated. They ran out of the box and composed themselves, but when they entered the box again, the person was gone. 

In her next performance, Christine reached her triumph during the finale and received a standing ovation from the audience. Later, once again in her dressing room, the phantom voice finally fully revealed his horrifyingly-lecherous intentions to Christine: "Soon, Christine, this spirit will take form and will demand your love!" 

Carlotta then received another discordant note from the Phantom. Once again, it demanded that she take ill and let Christine have her part. The managers also got a note, reiterating that if Christine does not sing, they will present Don Giovanni in a house with a curse on it. 

The following evening, despite the Phantom's warnings, a defiant Carlotta appeared as Donna Anna. At first, the performance went well, but soon the Phantom's curse took its effect, causing the great, crystal chandelier to fall down onto the audience. Christine ran to her dressing room and was entranced by a mysterious voice through a secret door behind the mirror, descending, in a dream-like semi-swoon, by a winding staircase into the lower depths of the Opera. She was then taken by gondola over a subterranean lake by the masked Phantom into his lair. The Phantom introduced himself as Harold and declared his love; Christine fainted, so Harold carried her to a suite fabricated for her comfort. The next day, when she awakened, she found a note from Harold telling her that she was free to come and go as she pleases, but that she must never look behind his mask. In the next room, the Phantom was playing his gigantic underground pipe-organ. Christine's curiosity got the better of her, causing her to sneak up behind the Phantom and tear off his mask, revealing his hideously deformed, skull-like face. Enraged, the Phantom immediately made his plans to hold her prisoner known. Responding to her attempt to plead to him, he excused her to visit her world one last time -- but only briefly. 

It was then that I, having been apprised of these singular occurrences (I always have season tickets at the Lyric, after all), arrived and took the young girl away to safety, removing the hypnotic spell which the evil Phantom had placed upon her. 

Soon after, a mob infiltrated the Phantom's lair. As the clanging alarm sounded and the mob approached, the Phantom attempted to flee. But the Phantom was pursued and killed by a mob, who throw him into the Inner Harbor to finally drown. Finis. 

It was immediately after this that I received word of the death of Dr. David Bakerson, who had been horribly murdered late one night at the Chicago Museum. His body had been mutilated, with crosses carved into it by the killer’s -- or killers’ -- cruel knife. Upon the unfortunate gentleman’s corpse had been draped a most sickening symbol -- a Confederate Flag, on which had been written the name of the organization behind it; the hideous, demoniacally-charged cult of terror that had been plaguing the nation with these grotesque, chaotic horrors -- The Klan of the Southern Cross. …

Bloody Kluxxers! Blooming Goddamned worthless Confederate fascist scum!! That is what I would have to contend with to solve this mystery and to save the nation -- and indeed the world -- from an absolutely-unspeakable evil. Seriously, I feel that nothing could have angered me more. Demons and ghosts and strange night-terrors and supernatural horrors and physically-malformed monsters I can understand, but the continuous, oddly human need to hate each other for such totally ridiculous reasons is something that is still -- and perhaps always will be -- beyond the reach of even my extensive and quite obviously ingenious understanding of the vast, seemingly-immeasurable universe and the mighty forces that guide it. 

In any event, it now appeared that the “Rising Dark” was somehow being caused by a group of racist redneck cracker filth calling themselves The Klan of the Southern Cross. But how? Had they made a deal with some “infernal” entity in exchange for a path to domination being opened to them? This is what I had to discover before I could even hope to defeat them. 

But before I was able to do so, my attentions were diverted by one more case of classic, monstrous horror! 

Recognizing that understanding the influence that the wicked force was having would greatly aid me in the cause of tracking down and defeating them, I carefully followed the reports of this monstrous horror -- The Fish-Man or The Thing from the Dark Florida Swamp -- as they appeared in certain rather-exclusive, deeply scientific reports to which my long experience and complicated connection had given me access. 

An expedition in the Florida swampland had uncovered strange, outlandishly-bizarre fossilized prehistoric evidence of a link between land and sea animals in the form of a very large, skeletal hand with grotesquely webbed fingers, and a return expedition had quickly been funded in order to look for the remainder of the ancient creature’s skeleton. 

Taking a small ship into the swamp was a scientific party which included a beautiful young woman researcher, Julia Stephens. 

The scientists were unaware that a huge, amphibious-yet-anthropomorphic "Fish-Man" monster survived in the remote swampland and was watching them -- watching them very closely, and watching the lovely Julia in particular. 

One eventful day, young Julia went swimming and was hideously stalked underwater by the horrible, misshapen and bloodcurdling thing, which then got briefly caught in one of the ship's draglines. Although it had soon escaped, it had left a gruesome, menacingly-horrific claw behind in the net, thus revealing its existence to the understandably-stunned scientists. 

Subsequent encounters with the Fish-Man claimed the lives of several of the ship’s crew-members, before the horrid, ghastly Fish-Man was itself finally captured and locked in a steel cage on board the boat. However, it escaped during the night -- attacking and quite easily killing the two men who were guarding it. 

Following this incident, the scientists decided that they should immediately return to civilization, but as the ship tried to leave, they had found the entrance to the swamp blocked by fallen logs -- courtesy of the escaped Fish-Man, which was now absolutely determined to keep the beauteous Julia with it captive as its mate! 

The thing then abducted Julia one night and took her to its gloomy cavern lair. The men of the expedition quickly gave chase to save her. 

Finally, Julia was rescued and the terrifying thing -- The Thing from the Dark Florida Swamps -- was then riddled with bullets before it retreated to the murky bog-land where its body slowly sunk into the watery depths -- hopefully to its final demise. 

*****

Now that the name of the Klan of the Southern Cross cult had been revealed, it was only a short time until I was able to ascertain the location of their headquarters via my numerous contacts in the occultist underground. You can imagine that it was of no surprise to me that this hideously racist organization, which used the Confederate flag as its symbol -- a symbol of abject loathsomeness matched only by the debased swastika of Nazi Germany -- had as their meeting place a church building in the vicinity of Birmingham, Alabama. 

This horrid church, which went by the name True Christian Community Assembly, boasted as its pastor a certain Bobbie Soeller (Yes, “Bobbie” was the name on the man‘s birth certificate, not Robert or even Bob but “Bobbie“), who had some time before made a few appearances on internet radio shows as a self-proclaimed “paranormal investigator”. Yet another trailer-trash “ghost hunting” hobbyist. Bollocks, but I am so bleeding sick of them!! (One would think that the fate of the vile Zef Bazans and his “Ghost Escapades Crew” -- who, according to the official account, were killed when a freak storm knocked a hole in the roof of their Las Vegas penthouse hotel suite -- would have taught certain people a lesson. But no.) 

Anyway, it is undoubtedly during his activities as a sham “expert on the paranormal” that this Bobbie Soeller character had become possessed with some type of negative spiritual force which had then led him to found his “church” and to become the Rising Dark, influencing the coming of all these grotesque horrors which had so hideously occupied my time for what amounted to several weeks now. This entity -- whatever it may be -- obviously had the goal of feeding from the terror thereby raised in order to heighten the powers of its followers in a bid towards total world domination -- its use of the name of a fascist KKK group only making this all the more painfully obvious. 

But the entity itself -- what was it? I am loath to admit I had no idea, and the very fact that it could hide its identity from one such as I showed that it must be a frightfully powerful force indeed. 

So, though I felt totally knackered from my recent experiences, I knew there was no time to be wasted in waiting to face this sickening Bobbie Soeller, the macabre Klan of the Southern Cross, and whatever unspeakable evil was secretly empowering them. I accordingly teleported, one Thursday evening, to the True Christian Community Assembly building near Birmingham, Alabama. 

It was a small, non-obtrusive church-building in a quite isolated area with a rather large spread of dismal grounds around it. A small sign over the door read “No non-Whites, non-Christians, or foreigners”, proving that my sources were certainly not incorrect in asserting that this was indeed the headquarters of the occult Klansmen. 

I boldly entered the building and walked into the unhallowed sanctuary. Who should I see, standing beside the pulpit, but the aforementioned Pastor Bobbie Soeller himself! He was an individual of medium height and build, clad in a white business-suit with a red necktie, with short, dark hair, and coldly grey eyes. He possessed a low, sloping forehead and was practically chinless, and had a rather thin-lipped, cruel mouth which curved evilly into a crooked grin when he saw me. 

I could immediately tell that there was no human soul remaining in that body. Mr. Bobbie Soeller was indeed perfectly possessed, but by what? 

“In accord with my rights I hereby address the entity inhabiting the body of Mr. Bobbie Soeller,” I proclaimed. “By the powers in me ordained I now declare the end and absolute cessation of your diabolical machinations!” 

At this the being animating Soeller laughed -- laughed with a shocking joy as if it had found my proclamation of exorcism a mere trifle. 

“Doctor Rumanos,” it/he said, with a huge, booming voice tinged profanely with Bobbie Soeller’s own hillbilly accent, “It is you who are the expression of the demonic realm. For I whom you now face am a manifestation of the forces of Heaven -- I am an holy angel of righteousness come forth to cleanse this world from the wickedness of uncleanness and of all impurity, especially that of its continued miscegenation! I am the proclamation of the divine principle, I am holiness manifest -- I am KHADRIEL!!” 

Then a white light flashed from Soeller’s eyes, knocking me backwards several steps as I saw the radiance about him, and the seemingly-unmistakable wings of angelic presence spread with horrible majesty behind his now-hovering form!! 

So, after all of this it turns out that the “Rising Dark” was a bloody ANGEL! (Well, actually some extraterrestrial force pretending to be one.) It is a funny old Universe, eh? 

“Khadriel,” I said, “you arre a real cad. Why, just bloody why, pray tell, would an angel, even a sodding nut-job rebel one like you are, want to lower itself to the position of possessing the body of an inbred cracker idiot like this Bobbie Soeller scum?” 

“Ah, but that would be it, wouldn‘t it?” said Khadriel. “His will was just so simple, so wonderfully compliant. Unlike far too many of this disobedient race of mortals, to whom I say Heaven has thus far been much, much too lenient. But no more! Now, I employ the terrors of the human-kind to increase my power, and through my growing leadership, Heaven shall expand to the world of the material, and shall use the creatures of flesh as our servants forever, as indeed it should have been from the very beginning, the very genesis of the Creator‘s works!” 

“Yes,” I countered him, still pretending to go along with his affectation of being an angel, “I know that some of you lot never really got over the fact that Allah gave the human race free will, now did you? Just could not take it, could you, that mere creatures of flesh were in His eyes perhaps equal to you? 

“But now tell me,” I continued, “why did you allow Soeller’s sick cult of followers to murder my friend Dr. David Bakerson? He had nothing to do with this! There is only one possible reason for you do such a senseless, horrible thing: It was only to spite me, was it not?!” 

Again, the hideously insane angel laughed, laughed with ghastly mirth: “Well, at least the good Dr. Bakerson didn’t offer to do any pirouettes, unlike that poor little ballerina girl you murdered a while back, eh, Rumanos?” 

“Do not give me any of your bloody sanctimonious judgments, Khadriel,” said I, “or shall I instead call you ‘Bobbie’?” 

“Well then, Rumanos,” the angel replied. “By the same token, I most certainly wonder by which of your many other names do you prefer to be addressed then, hmmm? -- Hieronymus, Merlin, Nostradamus, Casanova, Robert-Houdin, Rasputin, The Mershon, Daemon-Star… Perhaps you can tell me, how many are there again?” 

“Actually, I was thinking of just calling myself ‘The Great Rumanos’,” I told him with a pride I knew would irk him, “but that would be redundant.” 

“It matters not, for your time is now over.” Khadriel stated, his voice now rising to a mad, ringing crescendo. “I have weakened you by the many toils which I have recently caused, and now I will witness your ending!” 

“Yes, yes, I have heard it all before, you old angelic wanker. Just shut it and go ahead and do your bloody worst.” 

“I need do nothing, Rumanos. My servants, the soldiers of the Invisible Empire, shall do it all at my command. 

“White brothers of the Klan of the Southern Cross,” he continued, “come forth and do kill this creature, this practitioner of Blackest Magic -- Come forth now and do utterly exterminate the one known as Dr. Daniel Rumanos, the Daemon-Star, our most-hated enemy!!” 

Then, from behind the pews of the church came the grotesque Klansmen, in their white sheet-like robes emblazoned with the holy symbol of the Cross which they had debased to their own, horridly-racist use -- with their masked faces and their sickening, pointed hoods. A full dozen of them then advanced towards me from all sides. I was trapped. 

“Exterminate him!” again bellowed the utterly mad Khadriel. “Destroy our most-hated enemy, the infamous Dr. Rumanos! Kill him! Kill the Limey bastard! And I hear he is also secretly a Muslim! Kill him! KILL HIM!!” 

So, is this really it, then? Am I to die right hear and now, at the hands of an hideous cult of blooming hillbillies in white sheets who are commanded by an absolutely, un-redeemably insane “rebel angel” who wants to eliminate me from being in the way of his evil plans to overthrow the Almighty? This, after having been much-weakened by weeks of investigating and battling numerous monsters and unspeakable horrors? 

Bollocks. 

As the sickening members of the horrible Klan of the Southern Cross closed in upon me, I quickly reached into my coat pocket and produced a parchment talisman on which were written several Magical Words of Power in blood -- my own blood. I am the most powerful “Magician” in the Cosmos, and using my own blood is most certainly a highly dangerous enterprise. Nevertheless, this was indeed a desperate situation -- and one which I had prepared for. 

I held the talisman before me and said calmly, “Servitor, release them.” 

From the talisman immediately came forth a jetting stream of blackest occult energy, spreading, creeping around the church interior and soon coalescing into the forms of all the classic monsters which I had faced recently: The vampire Count Orlock, the Dippel Monstrosity and its Mate, the Cursed Werewolf, the mummified Setheru, the Invisible One, the Lyrick Opera Ghost, and the Thing from the Dark Florida Swamp!! 

As soon as these truly universal horrors had become present, the cult members just dissolved into nothing, having been totally overcome by the ancient, primal fear of these unhallowed terrors which had haunted countless and untold generations of the human race. Their physical bodies now destroyed, their hideous white robes then fell harmlessly to the floor on every side of me. 

The human form of Bobbie Soeller dissolved as well, as the eldritch, ghastly monsters advanced towards the grotesque Khadriel. Then, just before they, having now returned in shape to the formless dark essence which then surrounded the false-angel, enveloping him completely and disappearing into the phantasmal inter-dimensional void in which the insane “angelic” insurgent would be imprisoned by the manifestations of the collective fear of the entire human race in abject blackness forever and for all eternity -- it was then, with a dreadful sound which I will never totally eradicate from my thoughts -- that I heard the sound as of an angel screaming in terror

All was then quiet in that building of the headquarters of the True Christian Community Assembly of Alabama as I walked outside and put a shield of forgetfulness around the remote church, so that it would be always forgotten and no innocents would stumble upon the horrid mental residue of the fearful events that had transpired there. 

As the moon shone down with silvery radiance upon me that phantasmagorical night, I again held forth the talisman and concentrated for a moment, until a familiar, shadowy form with glowing red eyes appeared before me. 

“I thank you for looking after them, my faithful Servitor,” said I. “You are now again licensed to depart in peace until you are once more called to my service.” 

“Yes, Master,” replied the Servitor in its voice like the crackling of flames. “I only await your further commands.” 

Then the demon faded from view as I prepared to return home for a long-awaited and much-needed rest. 

Thus endeth my SPECTRAL Gothic Odyssey, or The Adventure of the Rising Dark. I am Dr. Daniel Rumanos, THE DAEMON-STAR, and I am indeed quite certain that I know and understand horror far better than any bloody false “angel” ever could.

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN