Monday, October 24, 2011

Monsters with Guest Blogger Will Graham

With only one week left until Halloween, a few friends have dropped by to talk about the creepy, the eerie and the down-right terrifying. Please welcome my first guest, the incomparable Will Graham!

It’s a moment I’ll never forget. My grandfather gave me a copy of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The cover still lingers in my mind; a dark green background, Baskerville Manor in the fog… and the face of the Hound right there in front. (It was a Dell paperback, priced at .40 cents, which tells you how long ago this was!)

I didn’t read that book, I devoured it. I’d never read anything like this in my life. Fascinating and scary by turns, it was the single most amazing book I’d ever read, and it opened the floodgates to an obsession with reading that continues to this day.
A few months later, home in (at that time) Chicago, WGN was running late night movies. One particular commercial for the upcoming Fright Night Friday, was….. yeah, you guessed it. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, Hammer Studios version, starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes.

Negotiating, pleading, begging, pick your word, I was eventually granted Parental Permission to stay up late and watch it. It started at 10pm, way past my usual bedtime at that point. Determined? You have no idea.

So I did.

And it scared me to death.

I don’t mean it frightened me, or made me shiver. I’m talking about stark terror. Even at that age, I recognized some of the differences between the book and the movie (Hammer jazzed up the sexual components in the story, but at that age I was more interested in car chases and exploding briefcases).

I’d never seen anything as outright evil as The Hound, the climactic chase through the Moors was bad enough, but confronting The Hound was something that, to this day, I cannot quite find the words. I slept with a light on for months afterward and, I’ll confess it now, a BB gun under my pillow. It was THAT scary.

Flash forward thirty-plus years. VHS dominated the market, and there was a wonderful store at the time called Suncoast Motion Picture Company in the Mall. One Saturday, browsing the rack, I turned…. and there it was!

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hammer Studios, 1959. I was too adult to bellow “Wow!” in the store, but it was in the back of my mind.

According to witnesses, I left a vapor trail when I snatched it from the rack.

I couldn’t wait to get home and pop it into the VCR and re-live it. I knew, I just knew, it would be wonderful and terrific and as amazing and scary as I remembered it.

What I remember now is feeling sorry for the Great Dane they strapped a paper-maché mask on and made run around with over-dubbed growling and snarling on the audio. It was so bad, you can even see the straps holding the mask on the poor dog from some angles.

It’s laughable now, but I’ll never forget the first time I saw the movie. OR the first time I read the book. To this day, it’s a favorite. Somewhere over the years, I lost the copy my grandfather gave me, but there’s an entire bookcase full of Holmesian works.

When I re-wrote SOMETIMES, THERE REALLY ARE MONSTERS UNDER THE BED, once I got a grip on the newest version of it, there’s a moment I remember thinking, “I’m gonna scare Conan Doyle himself with this one, it’s only fair!”

I deliberately wrote the final confrontation in a howling rainstorm with powerful winds bashing the hero and villain about, on a rooftop, vulnerable both to each other and the elements. The setting is a multi-story building in modern times, but in my mind it was set in another time, a long-ago time, on the Grimpen Mire in the Moors, where The Hound bayed at the moon and warned the populace to stay out.

Did it work? I can’t really say. But I’d like to imagine Sherlock Holmes himself might smile kindly about Michael O’Leary and the drastic -- but final -- solution to the mystery….

Will Graham is the pseudonym of a Houston private investigator specializing in computer forensics. Will's latest book Sometimes, There Really Are Monsters Under the Bed is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


  1. Great title, and fun monster hands under the bed. Have a spooky day and oogie boogie week.

  2. Just reading this blog scared me!

  3. Great blog, William. And Hammer films were scary (and sexy) to me, too.

  4. Yes, yes, you laugh NOW at the Great Dane with the papier-maché mask, but the question is, do you still sleep with the bb gun under the pillow?

  5. Thanks, Spooky. I really like the cover, too!

    Anonymous, GOOD...:) I did it right..:)

    Aw, Elaine... another Hammer Film Fan! Turner Classic Movies is running a Hammer Marathon Halloween Day.... set the DVR...:)

    Harley, no guns under the pillow for me these days. Boo and Emma handle the monsters that dare come into the neighborhood...:)

  6. I had to admit to Will the other day that I hadn't read MUTB yet. I read his screenplay the novel's based on, and I had nightmares that night.

  7. From Loretta Wheeler:

    Great blog,Will and Suzan:) It's fun re-visiting what scared us as children. I can remember my first brush with the old vampire movies and how scared I was...or how about the chill you got when you watched "House on Haunted Hill", or even worse, "Psycho"?

    The film that really terrified me, when I was grown, was "Night of the Living Dead". I had NO idea what I was in for. I still won't watch it again. Once was enough for me:)

    I have read "Sometimes, there really are Monsters under the Bed" and found myself doing a double-check over my shoulder as I turned the pages:) That's always the best "test" for a book with me...rushing to turn the page, and double checking your backside.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, you two:) Lo

  8. Isn't your bedtime still 10PM? LOL! Just kidding.
    As corny and as horribly made now, I love all the late night horror movies made in the 50's 60's and 70's. Most especially anything with Vincent Price.

    But it was the campy movies of the 80's that skeered me. To this day, I WILL NOT watch Friday the 13th. Nope. Won't do it.

    Great blog, Will!

  9. Pretty much, Jenn, yeah...:)

    10/25, Turner Classic is running several of the Vincent Price "Edgar Allan Poe" movies for Halloween. With all your free time (ahem!), well... maybe you should record them....:)

  10. Will, I think this blog is wonderfully written! It's almost as good as your book...well the final scene up on that roof does make it a tad more scary!!
    One of my earliest scares was watching Dark Shadows every afternoon. We only came home to the States in the summers and it's the first thing we looked for on TV. It came on at 2pm.- late enough in the day to carry the story with you to bed. Scared me silly, but there I was the next afternoon repeating the same thing!!

  11. House of Wax with Vincent Price was spooky for DH.
    Not so much later.
    This is a great blog, William!

  12. Great post, Will! My favorite show growing up was the Twilight Zone. Loved the eerie twists and turns. I did watch a few of the Friday the 13th's. The music still freaks me out, but the only show I remember is the one with Kevin Bacon. LOL I’m looking forward to reading Monster’s Under the Bed. :)

  13. Thank you, Stacey! DARK SHADOWS ruled..:) Used to watch the re-runs on the Sci-Fi channel years ago. Wish they'd show DS again.

    Thank you, Marie. HOUSE OF WAX is one of my all time favorite scary movies. Vincent Price was perfect for it.

    Melissa, I *still* watch TWILIGHT ZONE when it's on. Classic stuff, more so when you consider TZ is over 50 years old now... yikes!!

  14. I know I was scared reading Sometimes There Really are Monsters Under the Bed.

  15. Suxan, I had red his screenplay too and read Monsters...both were really, really scary...Great work, Will!!

  16. I don't usually read the scary stuff. I'm a light-weight when it comes to horror and monster books/movies.

    I remember when I was very young watching one of the Psycho movies on TV. It was this time of year and I thought it would be a great way to herald in the ghoulish season. Little did I realize what was about to unfold before my eyes.

    It doesn't help that I come from a Latin family. I don't know what your folks did to keep the heebie-jeebies out of the house, but my family used all kinds of concoctions that included candles, burning sage, and occasionally coconuts. Don't even ask me about the coconuts. I still shudder.

    So here I am sitting my little-girl behind in front of the TV, thinking how great it was that Halloween was fast approaching (and how cool that its also my birthday), when the music to the movie got really creepy. I heard the mother talking to her son in a rather cruel tone and I began to question the wisdom of watching this movie. But the Curious George that I was, I was glued to the screen as the man approached the old woman who sat in the wing-back chair. He said something. She replied. He retorted, walked around to face her and then...


    The fugliest decayed face filled my field of vision. I scrambled back, screaming at the image as it seared into my now beguiled mind.

    My poor mother endured my quivering lower lip for the rest of the day. I still remember how I clutched her as though my life depended on it. She tried to pry my little fingers off to no avail. Lets just say she wouldn't let me watch TV on my own for a long time after. That was fine by me.

    As far as monsters under the bed, I can attest to that. I have them. They keep meowing and tearing up my apartment like a big chew toy.

  17. Great memories, Will...thanks for reminding me of another wonderful--and terrifying--story.