Who is Dr. Eben Spencer?

Eben Spenser

This weeks prompt is : 9. Dr. Eben Spencer Plot

The Resulting Story: Dr. Spencer’s Tale

Oh dear, oh my, we have a problem fellow members of the Undead Author Society. Search high and low, in dark Ryleh and distant Pengaga, you will find no trace of Dr. Eben Spencer. All my sources indicate that Dr. Eben Spencer is a persona sprung from the dreams of Mr. Lovecraft himself, a civil war doctor who uncovered some monstrous alien flesh. So, I will be cobbling together what I can of Dr. Eben Spencer, and the possibilities his dream flesh may have.

The dream’s summary I’ve found is as follows: Lovecraft refers to a dream in which he saw himself as Dr. Spencer, an army doctor who discovered strange organic remains of an unknown race home from a local healer.

Dr. Eben Spencer is formed by Mr. Lovecraft, and Mr. Lovecraft is him during the dream. So, as we must start somewhere, we will say that Dr. Spencer was from Providence, Rhode Island, the city and land that the good Mr. Lovecraft so adored. Rhode Island’s most important and well documented regiment was then 7th Rhode Island Infantry. This could be a possible deployment for the good doctor. The 7th participated in Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, Jackson, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, Poplar Spring Church, and Hatcher’s Run. After Fredricksburg, food and money were scarce.

Of course, Dr. Spencer has to become…well, a doctor. Sources tell me that this was a rather simple task, though becoming a competent one was difficult. Some sources cite apprenticeships, some went through foreign schools, some stayed in the states. For an anglophile, like Mr. Lovecraft, the middle option is most appealing. Mr. Lovecraft haunted Europe with horrible cults and traditions of dark magics, so there is much to be mined. Granted, perhaps the infamous Miskatonic provided the education for Dr. Eben Spencer, that was finished later. Or perhaps he was an eccentric.

To further the strangeness of the doctor, we could place him in one of the medical factories, creating pharmaceuticals and equipment for the field deployment. These would be a strange place, certainly, to find blobs of alien flesh. But…well, the war was not guaranteed. What lengths would either side go to achieve victory? The Colder War touches on this, albeit with a focus on the Cold War.

There are some plots that ought to be avoided, however. Dr. Herbert West has been touched, as have zombies in general. Reviving the dead is a fascinating practice, but we have touched it. There may be more to gain from betrayal at the hands of one’s creation, and of course there must be a source for this mysterious sample (Nyrlanhotep seems especially suited for such a role, hateful teacher that he is). We know he has haunted the America’s, active in Salem and Arkham. Sorcerers and witches haunt that area as well. Perhaps a disillusioned Dr. Spencer seeks out such vile methods to win the war. Or seeks to prevent rebels and Confederates from doing so.


The strange blob also mentioned in the dream, however, is akin to a shoggoth  and betokens terrible things. A shoggoth, for those unawares, is a creation of an Elder Race and are biological machines. Created as slaves, Shoggoths eventually rebelled and devoured their masters. They are terrifying creatures, declared unreal by the might Abdul Alhazered (Who, it must be noted, did not say such things about Great Old Ones or other creatures). Shoggoths are often blobs of organs and flesh, shifting between what is necessary at any time. If such a thing was found by Dr. Spencer, in any war scenerio, it would imply that something truly terrible has happened.

But discussion of the Earth’s lush history (and the Mythos’s take on it) will have to wait until another prompt (and there are plenty that deal with the prehuman ruins that liter the deserts and jungles). In the mean time, I stich together my Ebenzer. Perhaps he will emerge similair to the one found by The Writer and the White Cat and the UFO round up (The section on Roswell in Upstate New York).

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The Duel

The Duel Image
The prompt:8. Hor. Sto. Man makes appt. with old enemy. Dies—body keeps appt.

The Research: That the Dead May Walk

Betwixt the hills in the foggy land, lay the village of Rindoon. And twin smiths worked iron and steel, for farmers and for kings. Richardson the younger, his family recently (well, as recent as any movement was in those days, so a century or so) came to the town and set up trade. Across the way, and down the main road Leewood made spears and swords and plows for kings and lords and farmers of yore.

Never a feud north of Italy was as great as between the two craftsmen. Apprentices of both were seen in the dead of night, on mission from there master, hammers in hand with which to smite plough and nail, and discredit their foeman. Journeymen in the streets would tussle, or break into shops to make off with prized steel or product. Eventually, the lord of Rindoon tired of the feud.

“The two are worse than French with their quarreling,” he declared to his court, pacing his throne room, “They threaten the sanctity of my realm more than blasted Englishmen or Norsemen, they have the guile of distant Byzantines, and the honesty of a Spainard. If this continues, iron and steel will have there way, and stay unmade. And what then? How shall I muster men-at-arms if the king were to call? If Papal Bull come’s down, to bear a cross to Jerusalem or plauge from hell rises up again? Or civil war rock the land? Or some dreadful Norman or fierce German with cruel pagan axe comes for our land?”

At this the lord’s minister spoke, perhaps the only man so close to a throne with loyal intention in the long history of man. He was a thin man, made more so by being so near to the Lord of Rindoon, and was known to have traveled far and wide for a man of his day. To distant Sardath and far away Timbuktu had he ventured before returning to his native land, wise in every way of the world.

“Sire, if they yearn for blood, let blood be small. Arrange, between the two men, a duel. Let them with all their skill craft a blade for the occasion, so that they’re skill can be tested. Then the matter will be resolved once and for all, with the greater blacksmith being amongst the living. And swear to use the victors sword, that way you may profit yet from this feuding.”

“Ah, and let my subject tear into each other like savages? I am a lord of men, not of wolves and apes. No, blood and steel will not solve this day. Some accord between them must be reached, some grace given or allowed,” spoke the court chaplain, a portly man, bent with age into a boulder of a man. He had studied in Rome and Paris, under many wise men. Some said he dated back to the great wars of Faith, that he had set foot on the emerald Isle with Saint Augustine.

“It will be blood, either by your will or by theirs. And what shall be said, of the lords of men, if peasants so defy them,” the minister said, frowning.

The lord stood still, staring now at the throne of his dear castle, a flame roaring behind. Hollowed tapestries hung from the walls, many common to what you would expect such a man to have. But one had hung since his father’s father time. A host of knights and swordsmen stood with white and red shields to overthrow embattled castle, clanging steel on wood.

“By blood, mi’lord, a castle is bought, by blood it is maintained, and by blood it may be lost should God will it,” the minster said slowly. The lord raised his hand to silence him.

“Send word to Leewood and Richardson. This dispute must end, lest chaos and fickle chance reclaim the world. They will forge their swords, as fine as they can make, and in three months time, the week before our Lord rose, they will settle this, that Easter may make them clean.”

And the court chaplain frowned, though it was barely noticeable among his many wrinkles. The message was brought down from the castle on the hill to Richardson and Leewood. The smiths read it each, rejoicing it seemed. Hammers thundered for days, in the smitherys. Apprentices were worked until they were passed out at the door. Journeymen were left unwatched, spending days at the taverns. Some said chaos had grown mightier rather than feebler with the lord’s command.

The oldest apprentices joined in as well, boasting of their masters skills. Leewood had learned Damascan arts, which no armor could stop. Richardson had stolen away with a piece of the cross from a ruined chapel. Leewood had saint bones for a crossguard. Richardson had gone to Danmark and learned the ways Weyland smith. Shards of Excalibur had made there way to Leewood. Richardson had sharpened his on the Blarney stone.

But there was an apprenetice, youngest of Leewoods, his seventh that spoke otherwise. Leewood had gone up yonder, into distant woods and hinterlands at night. He had dealings with Fairies, the apprentice said over ale. Leewood had spoken to Oberon and Nudah and other pagan forces down in the woods, among the people who lived there, who’d neither heard nor cared for Christian ways. Distant horns had echoed at nights when Leewood went down below, into dimly lit valleys and glades amongst ruins steeples and grave yards.

And the day of the duel did come, each standing atop the hill across from each other, dressed as they wished to be buried. Richardson came, dressed in greenery and white, his sunday best, with his one ring of gold and his other of iron on his hand. Leewood came, with a great collar and a red scarf around his neck, a short cloak draped behind him. Both drew swords, broadswords of well made steel. The chaplain, the lord, and the minister stood of to the side, waiting to see what would come of this. The people of the village, the apprentices and journeymen of every trade, and even some travelers came to see the spectacle.

The duel began in earnest, and the clang of parry on parry continued for only a moment. Leewoods ankle gave, and Richardson struck sudden and fast at his shoulder, cutting a fatal blow. Darting back, Leewood seemed to topple over for a moment. Richardson smiled. The crowd held its breath.

And then Leewood righted himself, and turned to face Richardson. And that seventh apprentice cried out in terror as he sped forward, striking with reckless abandon. Richardson swerved and slashed, tearing cloth and skin as the steel fury of Leewoods sword beat on like a smiths hammer. Back Richardson stumble, giving first feet then yard to the advancing madman. At last he stumbled down. The chaplain stood upright, as did the rest of the crowd as Leewood advanced, rolling his head back in laughter. Thousands of crimsons lines marked Leewood, across his face and side.

“That is an ill omen, for men such as him to laugh,” the chaplain said, “My lord, fetch the guard. No good has come of laughter bought in blood.”

As the men-at-arms drew near, they saw Leewood’s sword come crashing down, again and again into the screaming form of Richardson. As the noise stopped, the men drew near with spears, as if apporaching a wild bear. Leewood turned and stared with beastial eyes, eyes cruel and capricous. And then he ran laughing into the woods, his sword slumping to the ground as he ran.

“Follow him! Get the horses!” The lord said, running to stables.

The hunted for Leewood in those wretched woods for days. In fen and valley, over hill and dale, through village and beneath willow, until they found him at long last, hanging from a tall tree. His eyes vacant, and his hand carved with some strange sign. None could say what it read or meant. When they returned his body to be buried in the churchyard, the ground turned to stone beneath him.

“The earth will not receive him. He is not among the children of Adam any longer,” the chaplain said, “Bringing him into the chapel and I will preform what I can.”

And so Leewood’s coffin sat outside the chapel, a stone box that shook as others passed. And the minister, who meant no harm, was gone. The apprentice, the seventh who saw him go into those dark woods, said he heard Leewoods voice echoing from the trees still, even as the box remained unopened.

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That the Dead May Walk

Skeltons in suits.png

This Weeks Prompt is: 8. Hor. Sto. Man makes appt. with old enemy. Dies—body keeps appt

The Resulting Story:The Duel

Mr. Lovecraft has given me an excuse to discuss the living dead. The process of reanimation is a recurring one in folklore and fiction. We discussed Frankenstien’s monster previously, as well as the Vampire or at least the Greek variant. But now we enter into the general topic of the dead that walk, specifically the walking corpses. This means, for the time, we will abandon ghosts, and I will not be doing anyhting on vampires for the coming story. No, we’ll discuss here and in the story, the revanent, the zombie, the draugr, and the ghoul. As well as the appointment that might have been made.

The revenant is, typically, a body animated by passions. Typically, such a revenant is a wicked man, a sinner, and unbeliever. Hence the passionate revival that they attempt to continue their sins, and spread illness and diesease as they go. The dead are to be exhumed and the corpse destroyed. Our appointment set up makes the revenant a good choice, as an appointment with an old enemy is no doubt emotional. The revenant is sometimes explained as being like a ghost, moved by unfinished business at some level.

The zombi or zombie, however, has a rich and confusing back ground. Arguably, the notion of cannibalistic undead traces all the way back to Ianna’s threat in the Epic of Gilgamesh, to free the dead, and have them overpower and devour the living. The term itself is, famously, from Hati and involves a bokor, or evil sorcerer in Voudun tradition.But the conception of a horde of monstrous creatures scampering over each other like mad cannibals is…well, suffice to say modern and ancient. The Night of the Walking Dead owes a great deal to Iannna’s threat and to My Name is Legend. The zombi of the Hatian tradition is not a simple brute, when directed by a bokor. If used in this prompt, the zombi, it seems must possess some intelligence. Whether the original mind or another, we shall see.

Part of the tradition, of man eating or cannibalistic undead, can traced to the Arabian Peninsula, with the ghoul or ghul. A ghul is malevolent spirit, that can be sent back to death by a stern blow to the head. Ghuls revive, however, if a second blow is delivered (so only hit once children). The not only eat, but robe and drink blood of victims, leading them into deserts in the form of hyenas. The term also goes back to the story of Vathek, a gothic tale with much to recommend.

The draugr is a Norse nightmare, however. Like revenant, it is an animate corpse, but often far worse. Draugr possess magical might,able to discoprorate, change size and shape, and any other horrible wasting tricks it has learned as one of the dearly departed. In several sagas, a Scotsman named Gramr takes the form of a draugr after death. And wrecks havoc for a number of days before being discovered. Draugr often guard lost land or treasure as well, determined to grip it to the last. They might, therefore not fit the appointment idea.

But what kind of appointment? For an enemy, there are a few options. Firstly, there is of course a simple meeting. A dinner, a date in some bizarre sense, or some sort of legal settlement. All of these lend an air of surreal to the proceedings (especially if there is a competition involved, since a lawyer who is not of the living arguing habeas corpus has a charm to it). The more exotic, however, is the old style of the duel. Dueling was a common European pursuit, but has a few interesting implications. Duels, like the dead, are things of passion and death. Fatal in their resolution, an undead opponent (particularly a revenant) is perfectly in his element with steel hitting steel.

But what would move a man to rise again? What passion? Love? Lust? Hate? Rage? Despair? Whom is his opponent? Where will they cross blades? I have found my own creature to raise, to tell that tale of tragedy and horror. What might yours say?

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The Devil’s Playthings


Credit to Jim Silvia, found here: http://jimvsilva.com/


This Week’s Prompt:7. Horror Story. The sculptured hand—or other artificial hand—which strangles its creator.

The Research:Idle Hands

I’ve known Jeffery for years. He was a nice old codger, living in his families dying home. It goes back to before that nasty business, must be at least two hundred years old by now. Jeffery Ruven spent days whittling, molding, and sculpting on the porch. Wood, bone, stone, it didn’t matter. He’d make something useful out of it. When he was younger they were toys, for children on holidays or birthdays. Sometimes he’d make tools, small forks or decorative stands for older folks who wanted to look rich.

And then the Great War came, a scar across the nation. Jeffery went off to those forbidding fields of Flanders, under Major Clapham , rifle in hand. He was one of the senior men, sure, but he would fight as hard as the rest of them. Of course, hard boiled will-to-fight didn’t matter much when compared to rifles and gas. Landmines and tanks didn’t give a damn if you really wanted the win. And so he ended up in a hospital, a puzzle missing some of the pieces. Most important, his left hand had been mauled by bayonets when he was sent back, a bloody stump of a hand.

Now, Ruven knew what to do. There was a medic in the company, a Mr. West, that had done wonders stitching men back together. If some doctor could do it, he could manage something like repairs. He’d built things all his life, he’d build some more.

Hours were spent carving, crafting, shaping his new left hand from. His first was a simple one, mean for grasping the wooden end of another hand. It had no nails, barely any markings of fingers. But it served its purpose and he was able to continue on to his second hand. A stone carving, a fist of marble for grasping as well, this one for the local pub, in case he needed to swing as well as take a swig.

His third was wooden, with fine detailing, for shaking hands and gesturing about town. After all a man needs such things. He even war his family ring on the skeletal wooden grasp. His fourth was a replacement for the first, with joints that could be carefully positioned in order to hold pen or pencil. His fifth was an ornate punching hand, his sixth little more than a ghastly claw he made in the night in case of Germans on his shore, his seventh was for Sundays, a beautiful oak hand shaped to pray.

Jeffrey was never the most social man, but as the wheel time turned round, he came out less and less. He bought food from the general store, and there wowed others with the wonders of his hands. Oh, yes, sometimes they were still toys and tools. But he’d taken up other work as well. Back during that madness, he made a piece of majesty, this wonderful crown of wooden digits. He had statues of the Hands of Glory, to hold candles by. Some northerners or foreigners bought them as novelties, but mostly they lined his lawn to ‘keep the devil at bay’.

The ultimate triumph, which how he made I still don’t know, was this strange little hand. It had smooth, lithe fingers, plated in gold leaf. How he could afford that I don’t know. I don’t guess. The joints creaked a little, made this horrible scratching sound at times if he waved too fast. He explained that he’d made them using some steel he’d bought and cut and bolted together. When he wanted, by some machinery I’d guess, he could grip like a gator.

How it got round his neck, I didn’t know. We found him like that, pinned in place by his hands. His stone hands lay across his chest, his wooden hands held to his wrists, and that golden wonder gripped his throat, while that damnable claw rested on his head, holding it back against the post.

It had eagle talons of stone, that hand, and its joints were stiff and useless. Jeffrey’s next of kin, Malcolm, ask us to take the lot of them. Wanted nothing to do with those things, thought they were damned creepy. Ernest took it home that day, thought it’d make a good show piece. He was found carved up that night by something vicious. I told them the hand did it, and we buried the cursed thing in the fields around the house. Ripped up all those hands of glory, tossed them in for good measure as well.

Next day, Warner, oh God Warner was found with the golden hand stuffed down his throat. So we buried that one. Then the stone ones feel on Lincoln and his wife’s head, smashed them clean. How the hell they got in that house, I don’t want to guess. They were good people, Lincoln and Warner. From good, honest families too.

The wooden hands we burned when we found them again. They’d made there way into my sons play things, and I’m not an idiot. I think I’m working my way down to the last few. But last night, last night Malcolm was checking the grounds. Someone’s gone and dug up those old hands. He saw them at night, he swears, crawling about the yard, rolling about. But worse, worse he swears he saw a group of men gripping them in the darkness, using them instead of their real hands. The lot of them looked to be in poor shape, bloated with malnourishment and bleeding from their back and limbs. They stared at him from the fields, and went on.

I told him it was nonsense. Just the fields hands mocking him. But the next day, he’d been burned by those hands of glory. That just leaves me, the last honest man in town with some heritage to be proud of. Let’em come. I’m not afraid. I know where I’m going when I die, and I know where there from. Let’em come.

Apologies for the delay, but this particular ghost was hard to draw from the depths. Perhaps you had better luck, and would like to share your lost technique? In the mean time, I believe I have found Mr. Lovecraft’s eventual story here. I have also gathered more research from fellows in the field of horror on Frankenstien’s monster here, and another story of living dead here.

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Idle Hands

Idle Hands.png

This Weeks Prompt: 7. Horror Story. The sculptured hand—or other artificial hand—which strangles its creator.

The Resulting Story:The Devil’s Playthings

This prompt tells us right off we are in a horror story. So, a horror story we shall plan. The key thing with this piece is the nature of the hand. Hands are interesting item to focus on, as the phrase “Right hand man” and “Not tell the left hand what the right hand is doing” all belie. Hands are typically servants (the hands of the King) or signifies of will (the hand of God). From a literary point of view, the hand betraying its creator is…well, there’s a lot to read in there.

And part of that is the tendency, well, for creations to turn on their creator. We, in our illustrious modern age, take this with the Robot uprising. Robots are, until the introduction of some AI, treated as sort of perfect servants. The analogy to human’s as the minds to robot hands was drawn by the wonderful Aaron Diaz, who’s work takes a more positive view of trans-humanism then we must. Horror is, sadly, reactionary to some degree when it comes to technology.

Earlier ages enjoyed the rebellion of Adam, whether in Frankenstein or Paradise Lost. In this case, the metaphor for playing god is more literal than modern automaton revolts imply. Frankenstein goes further and draws from the golem legend, where the act of Genesis is almost totally redone. In the Golem of Prauge, however, the Golem grows and grows, becoming hungry and unmanageable.

All of this traces back further still to that age of Greek and Roman myth. The Prometheus story, the invention that the gods forbid and the subject of the all-mighty who rebelled. But the horror of this story is not necessarily its ancient roots.

Playing god is dangerous, but there is something unnerving about the object of our labor, which we have poured our time and soul into, coming to life against our will. Worse, pursuing and assaulting us. It is best, the object of obsession. The work that consumes the life of its creator, both metaphorically and literally. Now, that is perhaps a bit cliché. A bit on the nose. But it is something to keep in mind.

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