Manly Wade Wellman was born in Portuguese West Africa in 1903. He eventually moved to America and settled in North Carolina. He started out as a reporter before quitting to write full time. He wrote in several genres’ including horror, science fiction, adventure, crime, comic books, and mainstream novels. Wellman won the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Award in 1946, beating out fellow contender William Faulkner. Faulkner took offense to the slight, writing the magazine’s editor, calling himself the most important American writer in Europe. Wellman would win several other awards during his long and prolific career, including the World Fantasy Award twice. He had some of his works adapted for television, such as LIGHTS OUT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY, and MONSTERS. The 1972 movie WHO FEARS THE DEVIL was based off his work. He wrote several series of stories containing reoccurring characters. One of them, referred to as “Silver John” or John “The Balladeer”, was about a man who travels The Appalachian Mountains with a guitar strung with silver cords. He encounters all sorts of creatures from mountain folklore. Manly’s wife Francis Obrist also wrote horror under the pen name “Garfield”. Manly passed away in 1986.
1. “The Kelpie” (1936) – A woman sees a hideous aquatic man-creature emerging from her boyfriend’s aquarium. It grows as it leaves the water. The boyfriend never sees it, and the woman senses the thing hates her.
2. “The Theater Upstairs” (1936) – A former actor and his companion come across a little theater playing a film starring an actress with whom he used to work. She killed herself after he ended their romance. They are the only ones at the showing in the strange theater. The movie is said to be an adaptation of Guy DeMaupassant’s “The Horla”. Things become more disturbing when other deceased stars appear on the screen and seem to take notice of them.
3. “The Golgotha Dancers” (1937) – A man helps dispose of a bizarre, unwanted painting from a museum. He decides to take it home to mount in his house but finds it has hellish attributes.
4.”The Terrible Parchment” (1937) – A couple enjoying a quiet evening in their apartment get their issue of Weird Tales Magazine delivered early. A strange piece of paper falls out of it that’s written in archaic languages. It feels cold and clammy to the touch and as they struggle to read it, the language shifts to one they can comprehend. It’s a piece of the dreaded Necronomicon, and it wants them to recite the words on it, to cast a spell that would awaken Cthulhu. When they resist the parchment becomes more aggressive.
5. “Up Under the Roof” (1938) – A boy hears something dragging itself around above his bedroom. It sounds large and amoeboid. He begins to suspect it’s aware of him and has evil intentions. No one else in the house hears it. This story reportedly terrified one of Wellman’s editors.
6. “The Cavern” (1938) – A man keeps receiving warnings he will die in a cavern, and his friend will witness it. He vows it won’t happen, but can he avoid this fate?
7. “These Doth the Lord Hate” (1939) – A farmer faces a tough decision between his love of God and his family when he realizes his wife and daughter are both practicing witchcraft.
8. “The Devil’s Asteroid” (1941) – A sci-fi tale about a man, falsely accused of murdering a Martian dignitary, who is sent to a livable asteroid as punishment. Once there he is named the leader of a group of other prisoners because he’s the most recent arrival. The longer anyone stays on the asteroid the more they de-evolve into mindless monsters, and he being the most recent arrival is the most evolved. What continues from here is a great sci-fi adventure with a bit of mystery, political maneuvering and romance.
9. “The Frogfather” (1946) – A young man witnesses what happens when his mean-spirited boss forces him to maneuver their canoe into a portion of the swamp in search of frogs to eat. Unfortunately, it is the haven of what the Indians call Khongabassi, or The Frogfather. I really loved this story.
10.“Parthenope” (1953) – A shipwrecked student washes ashore of a reef to the sound of music being sang by a beautiful woman. She nurses him to health but for what reason, and what secret does she hide?
11. “Straggler from Atlantis” (1977) – This fantasy tale features the debut of Kardios, the last survivor of Atlantis. Manly would write more of his continuing adventures. Here Kardios is asked to help a society of Giants by slaying a strange amorphous creature that has been feeding on them. He gains a special sword to help in this endeavor.
12. “Ever Faith Endures” (1978) – A man from America tracks down a British Manor that belonged to his ancestors. Once there he meets a beautiful distant cousin who tries to keep him from learning the dark task she’s been entrusted to perform. The house holds a menacing, ancient presence within.
Article by Matt Cowan