Read The Hammer Horror Omnibus Online
Authors: John Burke
What is the terrible secret of the village of Vandorf, where a murderer’s victims turn to stone?
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Baron Victor Frankenstein creates a grotesque monster—and is himself condemned to death for the creature’s brutal killings . . .
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Escaping the guillotine, Baron Frankenstein repays the dwarf who aids him—giving him a new body! But his creation is a killer; worse—a cannibal . . .
THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB
From the Egypt of 3000 B.C. to the London of 1912 comes the monster that would not die!
The four films from the
House of Hammer
upon which this book is based, were cast, directed and produced as follows:
starred Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Richard Pasco, Barbara Shelley and Michael Goodliffe. Produced by Anthony Nelson Keys, directed by Terence Fisher
The Curse of Frankenstein
starred Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart and Christopher Lee (as the creature). It was produced by Anthony Hinds, directed by Terence Fisher
The Revenge of Frankenstein
starred Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson and Michael Gwynn. It, too, was produced by Anthony Hinds and directed by Terence Fisher
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
starred Terence Morgan, Fred Clark, Ronald Howard and introduced Jeanne Roland. The film was produced and directed by Michael Carreras
Published 1966 by Pan Books Ltd,
Cavaye Place, London SW10 9PG
© John Burke, 1966
Printed in Great Britain by
Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk
This book shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. The book is published at a net price and is supplied subject to the Publishers Association Standard Conditions of Sale registered under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956
or five centuries the frowning Castle Borski had overshadowed the village of Vandorf. Stronghold of a noble Bohemian family, it had always dominated the entrance to the dark valley like a massive stone giant ready to stamp on anyone who tried to creep in or out. Nobody ever did creep in or out without the permission of the knights of Borski. Rumors might drift in on the breeze from the outside world, telling of great political upheavals, of kingdoms toppling and new powers rising, and even of the successful revolt of serfs against their masters. But in this valley there were no revolts. The serfs remained serfs.
Even when the last arrogant scion of the Borski family went to his death in the petty struggles of German nationalism in the nineteenth century, the people of Vandorf were still afraid to raise their heads. They knew nothing and cared nothing of the turmoil of proud new ideas just beyond their frontier. If they lifted their eyes they saw only that huddle of grim towers. The castle had been abandoned long before the end of the century, but to the local families it was still alive, still somehow filled with a superhuman power that must not be defied.
Men from other parts of Europe came into the valley, laughing at it while at the same time admiring it for being so picturesque, so unspoilt, so delightfully sunk in its old superstitions. Collectors of folk song and legend came. Painters came in order to capture on canvas, before it was too late, the sinister hues of this almost sunken land.
Let them come, let them go: the castle might now begin to decay, but its influence would still outlive this and many more generations.
At the turn of the century, when so many new things were setting Europe in a turmoil, something incredibly old came to live in Castle Borski. Nobody admitted it was there, because it was impossible that it should exist. There were seven terrible deaths in the forest, but they were not spoken of above a whisper. In Vandorf Medical Institution, established here by the authorities so that modern knowledge might shed some light into this sombre backwater of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was established that each of the victims had turned to stone. The Director of the Institution had been a sceptical man and a forward-looking, outspoken one. Now he was less outspoken. He had no wish to be recalled to Vienna and treated as a man who had lost his reason. Certain incredible suspicions stirred in his mind. They must be verified before he could make an official pronouncement. And he would speak out only when he was sure that it was safe to do so.
The natives of the village and the scattered homesteads in the neighborhood would never speak out because for them it would never seem safe. The monster which slumbered was too cunning, too terrible, too old in wisdom—perhaps immortal. Safety lay in denying all knowledge of it. If voices were raised in unwelcome questions, those voices must be silenced. To awaken it was wanton folly. To provoke it in any way was a crime—not in the eyes of the police, and not punishable by any Imperial law, but a crime that would be dealt with by the villagers themselves.
So the spectre from an ancient land lay in waiting in the vast, dank halls of Castle Borski . . . waiting until its destructive lusts should drive it forth again to take on human shape—a shape of beauty and yet of grotesque, unimaginable horror.
runo Heitz stood back from his easel and studied the few strokes he had just applied to the canvas.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I think I can start really serious painting in the morning.”
He looked at Sascha and then back at the painting. Already he was absorbed in technical problems. His work was once more what counted. Sascha, staring past the light into his shadowy face, thought ruefully that it hadn’t been like this fifteen minutes ago. Then he had not regarded her naked body as merely an academic study in anatomy. The fingers that now toyed with a paintbrush had then been exciting and demanding.
She reached for the clothes that, earlier this evening, she had tossed so eagerly aside. Bruno scowled. She had broken his thread of concentration. She said:
“I think you’re one of the most selfish men I’ve ever met.”
“Dedicated,” he corrected her with a grin.
She took a deep breath. She was trembling, although it was warm here in the old millhouse.
“Bruno . . . are you going to marry me?”
“I told you, yes,” he said abstractedly. He dabbed a blob of color into the corner of the canvas and bent forward to examine it. “As soon as I’ve got rid of a few debts and seen some money in the bank.”
He had indeed told her this. He had said it more than once. But talking about it was all he had so far managed.
Bruno Heitz had been coming to Vandorf for a few years now. The son of a professor at Berlin University, he had preferred to spend his holidays here rather than in the company of some of his more exuberant, hearty friends. Originally he had stayed at the local inn and painted wildly romantic landscapes, luxuriating in the Gothic extravagance of the scenery. Then he had met Sascha, the innkeeper’s daughter, and his interest had turned to a more personal style of painting. He was no longer a guest at the inn: her father disapproved of him and would have banished him from the district if it had been possible. Now he rented the millhouse for the season, and found it better in every way. It was more private, it was quieter, and as it was on the fringe of the dreaded forest there were no busy-bodies likely to come spying on them.
For Bruno it was ideal. For Sascha there had been hours and days of happiness here, too; but now there must be a reckoning, and he had to be told tonight.
Outside there was utter stillness. Nothing moved in the forest. Even in the daytime no birds sang, and at night there were none of the usual scurryings and rustlings under the trees. The trees themselves seemed petrified.
Sascha said: “Bruno . . .”
“Oh, now, for heaven’s sake.” He was like a petulant little boy, hating to be distracted from his game of the moment.
“We can’t wait any longer, Bruno.”
“Because I . . .” She faltered. Once it was said, everything would be changed. The carefree happiness would be ended. She dreaded what Bruno’s expression would be when he knew.
“Well?” he said impatiently. “Tell me.”
She had meant it to sound cheerful, to give him the chance of making it a cause for rejoicing, but now she found that she was sobbing. She could not check her tears.
“Oh, come on, now,” protested Bruno, “it can’t be as bad as all that.” He put down his brush and came to her, taking her in his arms. He kissed her bare shoulder. Again he was becoming aware of her; once more she was real to him. “Just tell me. What’s all this about?”
“I’m going to have your baby.”
He stood very still. Sascha buried her face in his jacket so that she wouldn’t have to look at him.
He said quietly: “When did you know?”
“A week ago.”
Slowly he pushed her away from him—but it was not a rejection. He smiled wryly, but behind it all there was an affection that warmed her through. It was somehow going to be all right.
Bruno ran a hand through his hair—the nearest concession he would ever make to smoothing down that unruly mop—and buttoned his jacket. The gesture was an oddly formal one.
He turned towards the door.
“Where are you going?” asked Sascha.
“To see your father.”
“I’m not going to evade my obligations. I want him to know that.”
“Isn’t that the way he’ll consider it?”
The words sounded so dull and hard. This wasn’t the way Sascha wanted to think of it. And she had not anticipated Bruno marching straight out into the night. They ought to talk about it, decide what was best, and make plans that would cause the least distress all round. The trouble was that Bruno was so impetuous. Having made a decision, he had no patience: it must be put immediately into effect.
“Don’t go to him, Bruno! Not now.”
“It may as well be now as any other time.”
“He’ll kill you.”
“I doubt it,” said Bruno.
He opened the door.
“You don’t have to rush off,” she cried after him. “We can talk . . . decide . . . Bruno, let me come with you. If you’re going . . .”
But already he was striding down the path. The light of the full moon struck across his face as he turned halfway down the slope and made for Vandorf.
Sobbing, Sascha pulled her clothes on hurriedly. She had no time to tidy herself up. Her one thought was to catch up with Bruno and plead with him to return. Tomorrow they could see her father. When they had worked out exactly what they must say and do, they could go to him. It would be better in the daytime. Tonight he would have been drinking with his cronies, the inn would be full of fumes and pipe smoke, and he would be in one of his tetchy moods.