During his long and prolific career, Robert Bloch produced top notch fiction in multiple genres including horror, crime, pulp and science fiction. Born in Chicago, IL in 1917, he became enraptured by the stories he found in Weird Tales Magazine and began a correspondence with legendary horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft. Receiving encouragement from Lovecraft to keep writing, Bloch soon became a regular contributor to Weird Tales. Lovecraft and Bloch even went on to create a sort of trilogy of short stories where they “killed” each other off in their respective tales.
The recipient of multiple prestigious awards during his career, Bloch is probably best remembered for his novel PSYCHO, for which he was paid $9,500 for the film rights. Iconic director Alfred Hitchcock adapted it for the big screen in 1959. The movie became an instant classic that has enjoyed a long life ever since. Bloch had several other stories adapted for film, television and radio and even had his own radio program called STAY TUNED FOR TERROR, for which he wrote more than thirty scripts. The Amicus movie, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, was an anthology film where each tale was written by Bloch. He had work adapted for or wrote the scripts for many classic series including THRILLER (hosted by Boris Karloff), ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, STAR TREK and TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE. Robert died of cancer in 1994. He wrote all the way up to the end.
SOME OF HIS STORIES:
1. “The Shambler From The Stars” (1935) – A weird fiction writer who’s obsessed with learning of occult things seeks out esoteric tomes from which to plunder forbidden knowledge. He finds a copy of De Vermis Mysteriis or The Mysteries Of The Worm, a book written by an alchemist, necromancer and reputed Mage who was said to employ invisible familiars to do his bidding. Since the book is written in Latin, he’s forced to seek help translating it. Their attempts end up summoning something terrible.
2. “The Secret of the Tomb” (1935) – The last descendant in a long line of sorcerers is psychically drawn to the ancient tomb of a long dead ancestor to learn of a diabolical family secret.
3. “The Mannikin” (1937) – A hunchbacked man from a diabolical family seems to be falling under a dark influence as the hunch on his back grows and starts to move.
4. “The Sorcerer’s Jewel” (1939) – Originally published in STRANGE STORIES MAGAZINE under the pseudonym Tarleton Fiske, this story is about a photographer/artist obsessed with taking unique and bizarre pictures. He doesn’t believe in the occult but his assistant, a devotee of such things, promises to bring him a jewel ancient Egyptians used to look into alternate dimensions and have it made into a camera lens to see what images it produces. They come to find there are dangers involved looking into such places.
5. “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” (1943) – A man in Chicago is approached by an English gentleman who says he’s searching for Jack The Ripper despite the fact he should have died years ago. He says he believes The Ripper has staved off death because his murders are ceremonial rituals designed to keep him young, and that he thinks he’s one of the Chicago man’s artistic friends and enlists his aid in finding the immortal murderer. This story has enjoyed many adaptations over the years in various mediums.
6. “Sweets To The Sweet” (1947) – A housekeeper encourages a lawyer to look into how his brother, her former employer, treats his six year old daughter. She tells him about signs of abuse she’s seen and how his brother claims his daughter is a witch. When the lawyer goes to investigate, he finds there may be more truth to the statement than he initially believed in this horror classic with a fantastic, grisly ending.
7. “Floral Tribute” (1949) – A boy, raised by his grandmother who lives near a graveyard, is happy playing among the tombstones. He brings home fresh flowers from from the graves every day. At night some of the denizens of the necropolis come to talk with the grandmother. This story is more eerie and touching than scary.
8. “The Shadow From The Steeple” (1950) – The story starts with a friend of Robert Blake, a character H.P. Lovecraft killed off in his story “The Haunter of The Dark” meant to represent Robert Bloch, seeking out what happened to him. The friend, named Edmund Fiske, and Blake were said to be part of the ‘Lovecraft Circle’ of writers who corresponded with one another about the supernatural. It’s said Lovecraft helped Blake in a quest involving a dark church. Fiske spends years tracking down leads regarding the night Blake died but finds most involved have also died or can’t be located.
9. “Head Man” (1950) – An S.S. executioner in Nazi Germany develops an obsession with keeping the heads of a couple who’ve been charged with witchcraft. When it begins to appear he may be prevented from obtaining them, he breaks the rules to get them anyway, but things don’t go as planned.
10. “The Hungry House” (1951) – After a couple moves into a new house, they begin to glimpse something in any reflective surface. They dismiss it as natural occurrences at first, but as time goes on it becomes more disturbing. The husband discovers a locked closet in the attic filled with mirrors that were apparently removed by the previous occupants. This spooky tale was adapted for the television series THRILLER in 1961 as “The Hungry Glass”.
11. “Notebook Found in an Abandoned House” (1951) – Presented as the title suggests, a notebook has been found in an abandoned house, written by the 12 year old boy who was trapped there by ancient, menacing entities that lurk in the forest that surrounds it. It’s firmly set in the Lovecraft Mythos with several references to his creations. This is a great tale of terror with monstrous, elder creatures and dark secrets of the cursed forest they reside in.
12. “The Light-House” by Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Bloch (1953) – This is a posthumous collaboration, in which Robert Bloch completed a story Edgar Allen Poe left unfinished when he died in 1849. It’s about a nobleman who takes a job tending a lighthouse alone because he wants the solitude to write. Eventually, when the loneliness begins to wear on him, he decides to try and psychically summon a companion to him. This is thoroughly satisfying, atmospheric, weird tale.
13. “House of the Hatchet” (1955) – An argumentative couple embark on a road trip for a second honeymoon to rekindle their relationship. On the way, they stop at a place billed as a genuine haunted house that’s now a tourist attraction. It’s said a husband killed his wife with a hatchet in one of the rooms. When they go in and take the tour, the husband feels a dark presence in the room where the murder occurred. This story has a nice twist ending.
14. “Terror In Cut Throat Cove” (1958) – This is a long but riveting story. It begins with an American writer living on an island in the West Indies being approached by two treasure hunters. They recruit him to locate a legendary lost ship that was carrying a massive altar when it sank which would be worth a fortune if recovered. The writer agrees primarily due to his attraction to the treasure hunter’s girlfriend. After they successfully find the ship, one of the divers returns from the wreckage missing his head. They decide he either had a freak accident or encountered a shark during the dive. The leader of the mission is then forced to compel the writer to take the next dive with him where they encounter a monstrous creature. This is a great horror/adventure tale with a hint of romance.
15. “The Animal Fair” (1971) – A drifter finds himself in the small town of Medley, Oklahoma during a carnival. Seeking shelter from the midway noise, he enters a tent where the main attraction is a gorilla who’s mistreated by his trainer Captain Ryder. After the drifter has moved on, a storm hits and he’s picked up by Captain Ryder, who then inadvertently reveals a dark and horrifying secret during the ensuing conversation. This story has nothing supernatural in it but remains a terrific weird tale with a shocking ending.
Article by Matt Cowan