The Stone Tape

The Stone Tape

We’re back and we’re watching in helpless terror as echoes of the dead past haunt us, screaming endlessly. This is our look at the classic 1972 British horror film, The Stone Tape. Fittingly, the BBC originally broadcast it as a ghost story for Christmas. We may be a day late on that front, but the nights are still cold and dark, and the air filled with ancient menace.

And weird dancing lights, for some reason.

Main Topic

Although not explicitly Lovecraftian, The Stone Tape shares some themes with Lovecraft’s work, especially in its scientific investigation of the unknown. This is not too surprising, considering the script was written by Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame _who we mentioned in episode 5). His work is always easy to mine for Call of Cthulhu inspiration, and we cheerfully do so in this episode.

“If you can write a stat block for the Colour Out of Space, you should be able to manage a bunch of spooky lights.”

News

At the time of posting, you only have around 24 hours to back the Idol of Cthulhu Kickstarter Campaign. This features a new scenario from our very own Matt Sanderson, adding new layers of horror to Lovecraft’s tale, The Call of Cthulhu.

And speaking of time-limited offers, you have less than a week to act if you would like a copy of issue 3 of The Blasphemous Tome, the 1980s-style fanzine we produce for our Patreon backers. This is the first issue to be licensed by Chaosium and features a brand-new, fully statted scenario for Pulp Cthulhu. If you would like a copy, simply back us at any pledge level by the end of 2017. The Tome will then find its way into your hands, as if by eldritch and unwholesome magic.

Our good friends over at Chaosium have announced an exciting new scheme. The Miskatonic Repository allows Call of Cthulhu fans to publish and sell their own material, subject to editorial approval. Chaosium have even provided templates and art packs to make the process easier. The first publications are already available, with many more in the pipeline.

And, in a Christmas miracle, Patreon have cancelled the changes to their fee structures. Backers will not be charged extra processing fees, and will continue to pay only the amount they pledge. Even so, we will continue to investigate alternative options for backers. Watch this space for updates.

Other Stuff

We are still working our way through a long list of people to sing our thanks to. This is our hideous way of praising those brave people who back us on Patreon at the $5 level. For reasons of basic human decency, we limit ourselves to two songs per episode. The recent surge of backers brought on by the new Blasphemous Tome means shall we be singing for many episodes to come.

 

Episode 96: Pontypool

We’re back and we’re trying to make even less sense than usual. This is for your protection. Pontypool has taught us the hidden dangers that lie in meaning, so we’re going to follow the advice of William S Burroughs and exterminate all rational thought.

William S Burroughs

Cut the word lines. And step out into silence. It is yours. It is everybody’s. You do not see the trees when you walk down the street because of ‘The “Word” Tree’.

While Pontypool is not based on the work of Burroughs, his influence coats it like a viscous splatter of undifferentiated tissue. This is possibly the strangest zombie film ever made, if you can even call it a zombie film, more concerned with linguistics than brain-eating. It deals with a maddening memetic plague, spreading like a virus through the English language. Any word could be the one that sends you into a spiral of cannibalistic insanity.

Saying “week” instead of “fortnight” has this effect on me.

While there is little action or violence in Pontypool, its strange ideas, claustrophobic setting and slow build up of dread are all great inspiration for horror RPGs. We spend some time picking these elements apart and discussing how we would use them in our games.

To be fair, this kind of thing happens in most games I run.

And speaking of horrible things coming from human mouths, spreading madness and suffering, there is more singing in this episode. We have a new $5 backer on Patreon, so we are singing our thanks in our own, indescribable manner. In fact, we have a lot of thanks to offer in this episode. This is probably because of the upcoming cut-off for issue 2 of our backer-only fanzine, The Blasphemous Tome. Time is running out!

The faces we pull while singing are far more alarming than this.

As we mention at the start of the episode, Matt appeared on a recent panel discussion hosted by Thom Raley of Into the Darkness. If you fancy learning more about scenario design or simply want to marvel at Matt’s groaning bookshelves, click below!

And in our Lovecraftian Word of the Fortnight Week segment, we mention a marvellous sketch from Burnistoun that mixes Lovecraftian horror and the mundanity of dealing with the council. Well, here it is in all its sanity-blasting glory.

If you liked that, you may also enjoy their cosmic-horror-tinged Epiphany Continuum sketch.

 

Episode082

We’re back, and we’re tearing into the ripe meat of another Lovecraft story. This time we discuss the charnel pleasures and toothsome delights of Pickman’s Model. While there is nothing of the cosmic about this tale, it is one of Lovecraft’s best-known works, and perhaps the purest horror story he ever penned. It introduces us to Lovecraft’s version of ghouls, although they weren’t fully integrated into his wider Mythos until The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

pickman's model

Put down your lunch and wave to the nice listeners.

The above picture is probably the iconic rendition of Pickman’s Model, by beloved pulp artist Hannes Bok. In the episode, Paul mentions that this image also reminds him of one of the covers of the Grafton editions of Lovecraft’s work. While its subject may lack the distinctive snout and hooves of Lovecraftian ghouls, and is rather more corpulent, it still sort of fits the (grave) mould.

haunter of the dark cover

Not every model is a size zero.

As usual in our story episodes, we talk about the different elements we can steal for our games, as well as mentioning various film and television adaptations. Specifically, we discuss the Pickman’s Model episode of Night Gallery, as well as Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture and their adaptation of Cool Air; Volume 4 of Lurker Films’ H P Lovecraft Collection, which is devoted to Pickman’s Model and includes the feature film Chilean Gothic; and Pickman’s Muse, an independent feature which, unusually, sets Richard Upton Pickman at the heart of the events of The Haunter of the DarkI reviewed Pickman’s Muse as part of the 2013 October Horror Movie Challenge.

pickman 6

Don’t let the lack of ghouls put you off. There are many fine films that fail to depict the consumption of human flesh.

This episode also sees more singing. It obviously didn’t see the singing in time, otherwise it would have run off in the other direction. If you haven’t encountered our outre musical endeavours before, I had best explain that this is the way we give thanks to our bravest and most generous Patreon backers, whose praises we literally sing.  This time, inspired by our topic, we have tried to integrate some glibbering and meeping into one of our numbers. It was an interesting experiment, but it has left us with some unwholesome appetites.

skulls

Our backing choir will now join us in a bone-shaking rendition of I Ain’t Got No Body…

Speaking of music, we make mention of a far more melodious and less sanity-blasting number, in the form of a fun, catchy RPG-related song titled Party Killer, from our friends Kat and Sarah. Well, here it is!

We have a fresh and meaty segment of our new Q&A feature, Ask Jackson. As the earthly vessels of the ascended spirit of Jackson Elias, we are empowered to ask his advice about all matters eldritch on behalf of our listeners. If you have some hideous conundrum weighing on your mind, simply use the Contact Us page to let us know what it is, and Jackson will provide you with his shining wisdom before you know it. This episode sees the first question to involve a visual component, in the form of the brochure depicted below. Pay close attention, for your very life could depend on it.

manatee

If you think those are fronds in his maw, you are just the kind of naive fool that ends up devoured.

This episode also includes an unexpected and delightful piece of interaction with one of our listeners. Frank Delventhal sent us a couple of mysterious packages from Germany, packed with eldritch goodies. You can listen as we unwrap them on air and try to work out just how he managed to bend a bunch of six-inch nails into such unnatural configurations (having seen photographs of Frank’s workout regimen, I still maintain that he used his bare hands). You can see some photographs of the lovely presents below!

Frank Pressies 1 Frank Pressies 2 Frank Pressies 3 Frank Pressies 4

Blimey, this was a busy episode! I’ve written scenarios shorter than these show notes. Congratulations if you made it all the way through them!

How Cthulhu Took Over the World

We’re back, and we’re celebrating our fiftieth episode! We’re as surprised as you are that we’ve made it this far; we really should have been eaten by a shoggoth or returned to our essential salts long ago. With this in mind, we decided to commemorate the occasion in the way we know best: by talking too much. This is a long episode — over two hours in length — but it’s also a big subject. You could almost call it Cyclopean.

Cthulhu_sketch_by_Lovecraft

There’s a reason why Lovecraft is remembered as a writer and not an artist.

Over the years, we’ve met a lot of people who only know of the Cthulhu Mythos through gaming. Given how pervasively Cthulhu’s tentacles have worked their way into the gaming world, and into geek culture in general, almost everyone interested in such things has heard of Lovecraft, or at least his most famous creation. This episode is our attempt to explain where it all came from and how Lovecraft’s influence spread so widely. It is a superficial overview at best, and none of us are Lovecraft scholars. We hope this will at least serve as an introduction, and may illuminate a few dark corners you weren’t previously aware of.

dream-e1336351281908

Or you may prefer to flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Our investigations take in books, films, television, comics, music, games and other eldritch topics. All this follows on from the work of Lovecraft himself, however, and happily this is now in the public domain. If you haven’t read any of his stories, you can peruse them free online, or pick up a nicely formatted ebook of his complete works for less than the price of a sandwich.

calamari sandwich

Especially one with tentacles.

With this being an overview, in many cases we’ve done little more than name-check various works, authors and artists. Our half-formed plan is to return to some of these topics in more depth later. Please let us know whether this sounds interesting or is the worst idea since August Derleth decided the Mythos should centre on a fight between good and evil. Weep.

Instead of finishing on that vexing note, here’s one of the highlights from Shoggoth on the Roof, a work we mention a number of times.

Top 5 Scary TV Programmes

This week we talk about our favourite horror TV programmes. Some of these could be better classified as science fiction, drama or even comedy, but they all disturbed us in that special way that horror should.

No, comedies are supposed to make you _laugh_ until you cry.

Comedies are supposed to make you laugh until you cry.

These programmes span over fifty years of television, and while some may be a bit tame by today’s standards, they all still stand up as stories. Paul has verified this using his children as experimental test subjects. Electric shocks were applied only as necessary.

Beasts

When did you say this was made?

If you don’t want to know what the programmes are until you hear us ramble on about them, look away now.

I think I see some spoilers up ahead.

I think I see spoilers up ahead.

The programmes we each chose are as follow.

Scott:

Matt:

Paul:

You can find all the episodes of Beasts, The Kingdom, They Came from Somewhere Else, Jam and Urban Gothic on YouTube. Be warned that Jam is strong stuff, with lots of swearing, nudity and situations that will make your soul wither up and die.

Happy viewing!

Happy viewing, and don’t have nightmares!