Wednesday, August 15, 2018

FrankenJeep III

This brings us up to the present...


"Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?" - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

Small update on the nature of 24+ year old Jeep YJs.

So, from the moment I brought FrankenJeep home, he gave me trouble starting. Especially when cold. It improved a little after I tuned him up, went with new plugs and wires, and replaced the idle air control valve (IAC)... but he persisted in his dogged refusal to start at times. The IAC took care of some of the idle issues, and cleaning out the throttle body helped with the starting a little, but it just got worse and worse.

About a month ago, he started just cranking. He'd eventually fire over, but it wasn't looking good. After some web crawling and Youtubing, I realized that there was a delay between turning the key and when the Check Engine light came on. Once I cranked for a it, or just left the key in, the Check Engine light would eventually come on, and Frankenjeep would fire right up. Yep. It was the telltale and terrifying sign of a bad ECM. Ridiculously common on YJs, but a pain in the undead butt, ya' know?!

So I pulled the ECM (gorram 8mm bolts!), packed it up in a box, and sent it to a place I found on Ebay out of Chicago. Cost me $115. I sent it on 7/31, received it back on 8/9. Reversed the pull out, and reinstalled... and now FrankenJeep fires up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The idle issues are gone, and it takes like half a crank to fire it up.

NOW I can move on to the serious modifications, like a lift, tires, armor, etc.

In an unrelated note, I did do some useless, completely aesthetic and mall-Jeepy things to it.

My gear shift knob...

My transfer case knob...

And, my tire cover! 

Hmmmm. I'm sensing a pattern...

I'm looking forward to having a running Jeep, especially since this weekend is Jeepalooza 2018. In my hometown, we have the Last Stop Willoughby festival - it's named after the Twilight Zone episode where a train traveler gets stuck in a small town in the past. It's named after my hometown. The episode was written by Rod Serling... but it was contributed to by the late, great Harlan Ellison (who grew up in the next town over - Painesville). They have a big parade and over the last 8 or so years, there's also been a Jeep Parade at the end of the regular parade. We're talking 100+ Northeastern Ohio Jeeps, tooling down the road. It's an amazing sight to see!

I kind of thought, in the back of my mind, that I wanted to make sure FrankenJeep was ready to go for the parade no matter what, and now I'm happy to say he'll be there!

The adventure continues!

FrankenJeep - It's Alive!!

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

So... a couple months later, and there's been some progress.

The main issue is... Frankenjeep failed eCheck yet again. I spent quite a bit of time working on him mechanically, but it looks like it's not happening. That's what temp plates are for, I guess. In January 2019, I'll get plates for him once he's 25 years old and grandfathers out of eCheck.

(Getting new brakes, a tuneup, oil change, and basic maintenance [3/14/2018])

Also squared the brakes away, so he stops when you tell him to.

Other than that, he's running amazing after everything that we did to get him up and going

I also began body work. Pulled the front flares and found that the fenders had quite a few holes in them. So a bunch of new sheet metal, some tiger hair, and some finish bondo later, and the tub is in tip top shape.

Now, I am not a body guy. I'll be the first to admit that. However, I have Youtube and several years of half-assed painting experience; enough to be dangerous. In other words - the body's not super smooth, but it's good enough.

REMEMBER: FrankenJeep is a low buck project. He's for cruising in the summer and off-roading when I can. He'll never be a show quality ride. This means I'm not dumping a crap load of money (beyond the crap load I've ALREADY dumped into him) for paint... so I went with a backyard paint job.

We went with a Rustoleum spray job. The boy and I spent a day sanding and doing additional body work, spent a day taping and prepping, and then painted it in like 2 hours.

The paint job looks amazing from 10 feet away. Up close, you can see some runs here and there... but Frankenjeep looks pretty damned good now. Plus, I used Rustoleum 2x from Home Depot... so I'm not concerned about dings or anything because I can always just give it a quick, $3.49 spritz to touch him up from trail rash and mall parking lot door wangs. All told, with bondo, primer, paints, painting supplies... I spent like $150. I could have probably bought an HPLV sprayer and did it the right way, but rattle cans worked with the spirit of the build.

NOW that all that other crap is done.. and while I'm waiting for him to age into some plates... I can spend some time working on mods.

I also added:

  • A Rampage soft top
  • Bestop soft doors (I LOVE these doors!) 
  • A Rampage Center console
  • Seat covers
  • Other little odds and ends

On the immediate list:

  • Lift
  • Bigger tires (31s or 32s. Nothing crazy)
  • New bumpers
  • Some offroad lights (I'm thinking round halogens mounted over the windshield. Old school, ya know? That's how Jeeps had them when I was younger and dammit, these kids today with their new-fangled LEDs need to get off my gorram lawn!!!)
  • Paint the hardtop black

Nothing too crazy... just want it to look good and perform a little better.

FrankenJeep - Grave robbery!

Ed. Note: I've had a running Jeep build over on, and figured I'd put it over here for posterity. And... maybe... it'll prompt me to do more goddamned writing.


I am alone and miserable. Only someone as ugly as I am could love me.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein 

So, I finally re-entered the Wrangler world.

I have a long history of Jeeps (I’ve really owned nothing else my entire adult life). However, my last Wrangler (a a 2002 TJ I purchased new ) succumbed to the awful horror of northern Ohio winters and road salt. The frame completely rotted out and, at the urging of my wife, I replaced it with a Commander. I love the Commander, and its both my DD and our traveling vehicle because its so comfortable, but it wasn’t quite a Wrangler, you know?

So, a year or so ago I began to get the itch to go topless again. It was almost unbearable. I finally decided to pull the switch last fall and picked up a new project for a ridiculously low price. Now, after spending the winter working on it (when the weather would let me), it’s finally ready to begin its undead return.

Shambling back from the dead… it’s Project FrankenJeep!! (Cue the dramatic flash of lightning and crash of thunder!)

Why’d I get it? Because it was in pretty good shape, despite her appearance. Plus, it’s become a great project for my teenage son and I.

The gruesome details: 
It’s a 1994 YJ with the 2.5. It’s pretty stock, but it has a hard top (something I’ve never had before with any of my previous 5 Wranglers). Per the prior owner – it had new floor pans, new body mounts, brand new fuel pump. Also did some body work to patch holes in corner panels, installed new inside door panels, and seat belts. The motor has 55,000, while the body has 200,000. It also had the frame repaired.

All of these details – especially the body work – made it almost impossible to pass up. The frame and body are in great shape and the body work was done right.

However, there were some issues (aren’t there always, though?!)

It had been straight piped. Unfortunately, my neighbors don’t deserve that, so I had to put on a new muffler and tailpipe. To complicate this, and the single most important issue with it - Ohio has 9 counties where we need to do emissions testing. I live in one of them. It failed it’s first echeck (high NOX), so I spent the winter doing all kinds of stuff that precluded the last resort - replacing the catalytic converter. Why? Because emissions testing is only needed on vehicles less than 25 years old. Frankenjeep is 24 years old. I’ll be damned if I’m going crazy and dumping a bunch of money at something stupid when, in like 6 months, I don’t have to do anything for it. So I’ve done a tune up (new plugs, wires, cap, and rotor), oil change and filter, and changed the air filter. I’m going to Seafoam it, hit it with some high test gas and some Guaranteed to Pass. Im also going to run it on the freeway to heat up the cat and hope that I can cheat the roller test enough to get plates for it.

In the meantime, it also looks like the brakes have never been done on it. I had to replace the brakes all the way around, a rear brake cylinder, and a couple brake lines. It’s still giving me some trouble getting bled, and the brakes are still a little soft. I’m planning to fix that in the next few days. I fear I’m going to need to replace the front bleeders (Curse you, road salt!) and/or the master cylinder.

Once FrankenJeep passes echeck, it’s time for body and paint. I’m thinking of painting him orange. Half thinking of doing the $50 Rustoleum paint job.

The key with FrankenJeep is that he is a fun Jeep. He’s not my daily driver, and I’m going to build him up and do so cheap. He’ll see trails, and he won’t be pretty, but he’ll be kick ***.

Future plans:

  • A soft top
  • 32s and a small lift
  • New bumpers
  • Expedition rack (had one on my last jeep and LOVED it)
  • Bunch of small things to make it as fun as possible! 

Here he is the day he came home on 9/13/2016! 

Here are some pictures of the work that was done to him by the dude who had him before me... as he wrote: 
Has been completely gone through, new floor pans, new body mounts, brand new fuel pump, did some body work to patch holes in corner panels, new inside door panels, seat belts, motor has 55,000 and body 200,000, frame repair on rear where leaf spring shackle goes, everything has been done right. 4 Cylinder with five speed. will make someone a really nice jeep (Edited for illiteracy).

Watch for more progress..

Friday, June 24, 2016

A (Belated) Return to Zombieland - Day of the Dead Film Location

I have been horribly negligent when it comes to my blog, and I've been woefully behind on updating anything.

Take this post for example. Believe it or not, it's almost a year late. My apologies for that.


In October of last year, myself and ZombieBoy partook in what is likely to be an annual pilgrimage to Zombieland... the area of Pennsylvania where George A. Romero filmed his classic unholy zombie trilogy... Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead!

This time around, it was to attend the recently started, but annual Living Dead Fest in Evans City, Pennsylvania. Yes... that Evans City. The bucolic town where Night of the Living Dead, as well as The Crazies, was filmed!

Interestingly, the Living Dead Fest is actually pretty small. Really small, in fact. Evans City is a small little town, and it and the festival's center point is the newly moved Living Dead Museum. You may remember, the original was actually located in the Monroeville Mall - the filming location of 1978 Dawn of the Dead - and I related how cool it was when myself, the wife, and the undead and evil prodigy I call my kids visited it a few years back.

Now, it's in Evans City, and it seemed to -- at least the day of the Festival -- be hopping.

Organized by none other than Gary Streiner - the sound guy for The Night of the Living Dead (and brother of Russel Streiner - who played the iconic Johnny in the original NOTLD). There were a slew of people who appeared in the movie, people dressed as zombies, and all kinds of other coolness.

Probably the highlight, for me though, occurred while we were walking through the vendor area. I was perusing some zombie posters in a tent, and I looked to my left to say something to ZombieBoy. Only he wasn't there. he'd moved on to the next booth. It was who was standing next to me that freaked me out, however. Standing next to me instead... and I get giddy thinking about this still... was none other than TOM SAVINI!

That's right Tom Mother-Flipping Savini! 

I made an "Eep!!" sort of noise, stammered, and said, "Tom, wow! Hi! How are you?"

"I'm good," he said, and reached out and shook my hand.

Then he moved on. And I stood there, all star struck. Like a total fan boy.

I snapped a quick picture of him at the next booth, but did it surreptitiously because I know it's uncool to take a pic of a celeb at a convention or fest without paying them, but I was so fucking jazzed! He was the one person I was hoping to see, and to have a one-on-one personal interaction like that was mind-blowing!

Anyway, after that and given how small the town and festival space itself was, ZombieBoy and I found we had walked through the entire event within a half hour or so. And it was only like 1:00 in the afternoon. We had tickets for the festival movie later that night (The Crazies was playing on a screen in EDCO Park after the sun went down), and needed to kill some time, so we headed up to the Evans City Cemetery as ZombieBoy had never been there.

I started showing him around, and as I'd been there before and knew where things were, I actually managed to pick up a couple of other visitors and wound up leading an impromptu tour. Amazingly, one guy in the group actually had a printout of my blog article on it and was using it as a guide for himself and his girlfriend!

You can check out my first, geeky visit to the Evans City Cemetery by clicking here.

The newly restored chapel looks amazing compared to my last visit, and I'm so, so glad I could contribute to and kick a couple shekels towards the restoration and resurrection of this iconic structure.

Having finished the tour, it was getting on lunch time. As Mrs. Zombie wasn't around, it became necessary for us to eat unhealthy fast food. I feel no shame in this. Dr. Zombie - on occasion - needs to sneak some unhealthy food when he can. Just saying...  So we motored up into Zelienople, which was having a huge Oktoberfest celebration. And by huge, I mean HUGE. The Living Dead Fest, which is down the road a mere 5 minutes, was paltry in comparison.

Anyway, we headed into the local Zelienople Burger King where we got to try something I'd been dying to try since it had come out --- The Burger King Halloween Whopper.

And, in case you're wondering: The news articles were all true. For days afterward, ZombieBoy and I were plagued by neon green, iridescent, 2-4-5 Trioxin colored poop. Unpleasant, I know. But true. So horribly, horribly true. True and sooooo worth it!

As we were eating lunch, I was thinking about how I'd already pretty much seen all Evans City had to offer in terms of movie locations. It was then that I struck upon the idea of visiting the final movie location for Romero's classic Day of the Dead... the one place I'd yet to see! I talked it over with ZombieBoy, and as we had several hours to kill, we went for it.

About a half hour or so ride from Zelienople, you can find the Gateway Commerce Center in Wampum, Pennsylvania.

It was here that George Romero filmed the underground scenes from the fabulous 1985 zombie classic, Day of the Dead!

Here are some shots from the original movie:

A former coal mine, it's been turned into a storage shelter and it made the perfect location for Romero's film. Romero chose it because it was still close to Pittsburgh, and it had the requisite claustrophobia-inducing gloom for the underground military research facility the film's characters find themselves in.

Needless to say, it's just a really cool location.

As you approach, there are two entrances. you drive up a winding road and are met with imposing, monstrous, real-life zombie proof gates that lead into the side of a mountain. Unfortunately, you can't get into the facility because it's private property, but that didn't stop me from driving up to both gates and taking some pictures between the gaps in the security gate.

It may have been wistful thinking, but the shot above feels an awful lot like the shot from the original movie. Here are some screen shots for comparison...

What do you think?

Anyway, it was still cool as hell! There was an undeniable creepiness to the place.  As I looked through the massive gate into the very bowels of the mountain that towered above us, the smell of mustiness and earth and the coolness of subterranean wind was chill-inducing.

We snapped pictures at both gates and were very pleased to have checked yet another unhallowed horror movie filming sites off the list!

We returned to Evans City afterwards, and got some dinner, before moseying down to EDCO park at dusk to watch the amazing and political charged classic, The Crazies, with a small crowd of fellow Living Dead aficionados! ZombieBoy and I cuddled under blankets, ate popcorn, and I had a couple beers under the chilly, October sky in the birthplace of the modern zombie movie.

What was great was that The Crazies was filmed in Evans City proper. It was really neat, and a little surreal, to see many of the same buildings and bridges and streets we'd just spent the day walking through on the big screen. All in all, the movie in the park was one of the highlights of the entire trip. I'd return just for that!

After the movie, we drove back home, and I reflected how glad I was to have shared some of my geeky love of all things horror with my now teenage son, ZombieBoy. He was there when we went to Monroeville to see the Dawn of the Dead Mall, and now, as a young man, he was there for this other great experience. It was cool, and also a little bittersweet as he will soon be leaving for college soon and opportunities like this -- opportunities to share in our mutual geekiness--  will be forever reduced.

He's gone from this...

To this...

Crazy, right?

All in all, it was a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Holy Shit... I've Been a Total Slacker!

Holy shit.

It's been since August of goddamned LAST YEAR since I updated the old Midnight Theater of Terror blog.

I am, apparently, a lazy, lazy slacker.

When last we left off, I was on my way to Providence, Rhode Island, to attend and present a paper at the 2015 Lovecraft NecronomiCon.

Sadly, that never happened.

You see, Mrs. Zombie was stricken by a severe emergency medical condition that necessitated a nearly month long hospital stay. That hospital stay began roughly a week before I was due to leave for Providence. And because I'm not always the cold, sociopathic bastard that I sometimes portray... I had to cancel my trip.

Fortunately, I explained my situation to the Chair, and they were amazingly cool with it.

I even was offered the opportunity to reapply to next year's 2017 conference, which I plan to do. I will make it to Providence, I will walk in Lovecraft's footsteps, and I will bask in the hallowed New England town that gave birth to the greatest horror writer of all time.

So I've got that going for me.

Additionally, my inability to update my blog has been further complicated by the insanity that was my first year of grad school. That's right, Dr. Zombie is working to get himself a Masters in English Literature. My hope is to teach college at some point.

And on that day, I will be known as PROFESSOR Zombie.

That's right -- tremble in fear, mortals!

The work for my Masters, and the ridiculous amount of reading I've had to do, has seriously compromised my ability to write long, meaningless posts about my ego, read anything for personal pleasure, and have any semblance of a normal life.

But, now that I've survived my first year (and I have the summer off before I start my next, and hopefully final, year) I plan to rectify this unacceptable drought of fart jokes and ridiculous opinions. I also plan to write this year (in between getting ahead on my readings for NEXT fall).. so watch for more frequent updates, dear reader.

In fact, I'm writing this because I realized that - last fall - Zombie Boy and I took a late Autumn pilgrimage to another horror movie filming site, and I never bothered to write it up. That's what prompted me to dust off the old, forbidden tome that is my blog and start writing again.

So, watch for a Dr. Z Horrific Road Trip post in the next few days.

Until then, gentle reader, Unpleasant Dreams!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Road to Providence - The Horror Begins!

So I'm sitting here, listening to the fall of rain and the crash of thunder outside of my window, drinking a Red Hook Brewing Out of your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, thinking of another Red Hook. The Red Hook, NY neighborhood where H.P. Lovecraft spent two years of his life - two long miserable years - married to Sonia Greene. It was the only time in his too short life he lived anywhere but in his beloved Providence, and he hated it. He returned to Providence in 1925 and wrote The Horror at Red Hook in the same year -- the story very much an allegory for his own turmoil at living in such a non-New England environment.

And, it is on that note, that I'm excited to say that plans are starting to come together for my own trip to Providence. I'm presenting at the Henry Armitage Symposium on Saturday, 8/22, at around 9:30.

And, HOLY SHIT, I just realized I'm a little over a week from leaving! Wow. It's coming up quick! I need to put my presentation together!

So far, I've signed up for just a few things that I need to attend for the conference, but there's also a lot of free and/or down time to explore.

I'm doing two sponsored tours of Lovecraft's Providence; one by foot and the other by bus. I've been assured by the Con organizers that they are different and both exciting. I'll also be partaking in a new card game taht's being play tested called "Feed the Shoggoth". I've recently learned that Sandy Petersen, the designer and creator of Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu will be there as well! I'm really hoping he will be available to sign a copy of my original CoC rule book, or perhaps my original copy of his Peterson's Field Guide to Cthulhu Monsters!

I've also signed up to see a live theater production of The Shadow over Innsmouth, as well as a big Party honoring HPL's 125th  Birthday on 8/20. How cool is that, I'll be in Providence, on HPL's birthday, and partying with live music and plenty of Narragansett Innsmouth Ale and Lovecraft Honey Ale!

My Convention experience will end on Sunday morning with a special Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast, and then I'll begin the long trip home -- with a stop in a special old town north of New York City, on the banks of the Hudson River. A town that Washington Irving described as, "In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of Saint Nicholas, there lies a small market town." Indeed, I will venture, at the early cusp of Autumn, to the haunts of the late, mourned Ichabod Crane and his haunting, goblin pursuer... the Headless Hessian of lore!

I'll probably be updating as the week goes on, doing a combination of vlogs and blog article on shit that happens.

Stay tuned, this is going to be Doctor Zombie's biggest Horrific Road Trip to date!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What?! MORE Lovecraft? Really?!?

Exciting news! I've just received final word... I've been asked to participate in the Dr. Henry Armitage Scholarship Symposium at this year's NecronomiCon in Providence, RI. I'll be presenting my article on Lovecraft's development of a unique mythos.

So, I'll be making the pilgrimage to H.P. Lovecraft's beloved Providence in August to attend the conference and convention!

In other words, I'll be hobnobbing with various other weird fiction weirdos like myself for 4 days!

It's also a momentous time to be in Providence. Why? The conference runs from August 20th through August 23rd. The 20th is HPL's 125th birthday!

This is a great honor and I'm sooooo excited to make the trip to Providence. In addition to visiting Providence, and walking in HPL's footsteps, I plan to visit some of the surrounding locales as well.

Things I plan to do  MUST DO while I'm there include:

  • Meet S.T. Joshi and Ramsay Campbell, who will BOTH be there! 
  • Visit Brown University - the basis for Miskatonic University
  • Visit Salem. I was there once back in college, but it was night and I didn't get the opportunity to explore
  • Visit Marblehead and/or Newburyport, the coastal towns that formed the basis for Kingsport and decrepit, dark Innsmouth.
  • On the way home, swing through Sleepy Hollow NY. Just because. 
  • Spend three and a half days immersed in gaming, lectures, and all manner of Lovecraftian shenanigans
  • Find and consume Narragansett Brewing's Lovecraft-themed frothy adult beverages (only available in Rhode Island!) 

This is going to be AWESOME!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Happy Half-Yeard!

Here it is... Operation Dwarven Beard 2.0 has reached a critical milestone. I'm halfway to my full yeard. That's right, I hit six months on my year beard (yeard!).

It's my half-yeard!

There are some things I want to let you know about my half-yeard. There's a need to clear some shit up around here.

First and foremost, this is no goddamned hipster beard. I am, and will always be an old Goth dinosaur. No indie rock for this boy. Besides, I am  too gray, my pants are too baggy, and I wear way too much black to be considered anything remotely hipster.

I do realize I have a love for beard products. Beard balm, beard oil, natural moisturizing soap, and mustache wax have become part of my morning ritual. The shit works, and works well.

I'd recommend the Grave Before Shave line of beard products. They smell amazing (especially the Bay Rum scent and the Gentleman's Blend scent!) and do wonders to tame the wild 'trapper-who's-spent-too-long-in-the-woods' look of the beard.  I'll provide a review in an upcoming article.

In addition to the beard oil and balm, I've been using soaps by Dr. Squatch. They smell delicious and are super moisturizing. They're perfect for the old soup catcher on my face. Dr. Squatch soap works so well and is so slippy, I now use it when I shave the old zombie dome.

I've also been using the Fisticuffs mustache wax. Truthfully, the old lip cover has given me the most trouble (besides the fact that I've had to stop wearing collared shirts because they mess up the beard from rubbing). I needed something to hold it's unruliness at bay -- and mustache wax is like mana from heaven.

Another thing you need to know -- I will straight up falcon punch any motherfucker who makes a Duck Dynasty comment. Seriously. I shouldn't need to explain how inappropriate and insulting that is. It's like calling a pretty girl a Kardashian. In my case, though, it could be deadly...

Anyway, Check the half-yeard out!

It is a manly beard. It is a good beard. It is a beard with great potential.

Fear the beard!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Primal Ooze: The Origins of Lovecraft's Weird Fiction in Arthur Machen

      The burst of weird fiction popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s gave rise to modern horror and science fiction.  Coming into its heyday in the early 20th century, this unique brand of literature’s influences can be traced to an even earlier date. Modern horror can find its roots in the gothic horror and ghost stories of the Victorian Age and, more specifically, in the period at the end of the 19th century, from 1890 through 1900, in what is referred to as the fin de siècle. It is at that time that the true roots of weird fiction manifested itself in the works of British weird horror writer Arthur Machen. A Welsh writer, Machen first began writing short stories that would become an early influence on the pulp writers of the 20th century. Machen’s works would go on to establish ideas and motifs that have become essential parts of weird fiction and influenced generations of writers.
       That being said, no discussion of weird fiction would be complete without including the master of weird fiction, H.P. Lovecraft. His ideas of cosmic horror and development of a unique mythos, as well as his influence on a large group of fellow writers, shaped the course of early twentieth century weird fiction. And yet, despite his vast influence and unique style, Lovecraft owed a significant debt to the earlier works of Arthur Machen. This paper will examine Machen’s influence on Lovecraft, as well as his influence on horror and science fiction on a broader scale.
        Born in 1863 in Carleon-On-Usk, in Gwent, Wales, Arthur Machen’s rustic upbringing proved immeasurably influential on the tone and imagery of his writing. Although he moved to London and became a member of the Decadence movement, his writing invariably recalled the ancient myths and unique landscape of his boyhood home. As Machen himself wrote in his autobiography, Far Off Things, his early home in the wilds of Wales was filled with:

…deep silence, deep stillness everywhere; hills and dark wintry woods growing dim in the twilight, the mountain to the west a vague, huge mass against a faint afterlight of the dead day, grey and heavy clouds massing over the skies… Carleon-On-Usk, the little silent, deserted village that was once the golden Isca of the Roman legions, that is golden forever and immortal in the romances of King Arthur and the Graal and the Round Table(Far Off Things, 9).

       It was against this backdrop, and tinted with the earthy pagan myths and fables of Carleon-On-Usk’s ancient Celtic and Roman influence, that Machen comingled the cosmopolitan urban settings of his stories with the wilderness of the more untamed parts of England. His stories comprise a counterpoint of wild and urban, modern and ancient, and sacred and profane. This seemingly incongruity worked extremely well, and would help in the transition of the literature of the time. From the Gothic romance of Shelley’s Frankenstein, to the Victorian prudery and xenophobia of Stoker’s Dracula, or the allegorical conflict of Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—  Machen’s works represented a shift in horror fiction, a shift towards the more modern and realistic horror of the 20th century.
This idea of modernity is what most signifies the impact of Machen’s works. In 1894, he wrote The Great God Pan. Widely believed to be the best and most exemplary of his works, The Great God Pan is a masterpiece that combines elements of horror that would later become indispensible tropes of weird fiction. The story opens with a Dr. Raymond and his colleague, a man named Clarke. They are in the midst of a medical experiment on a young girl— the ward of Dr. Raymond, Mary. Dr. Raymond has taken her in and raised her from childhood, although his intentions are not honorable. He has done so specifically to conduct this very experiment when she is old enough. Through surgery, he manipulates Mary’s brain in such a way that it levels, “utterly the solid wall of sense, and probably, for the first time man was made, a spirit will gaze on a spirit world…Mary will see the god Pan! (Arthur Machen Collected Works, 2)”
The surgery is successful, but only briefly. When Mary awakes, she has a moment of seeing something, but what she sees proves too awful for her mind to handle. The experiment leaves her hopelessly catatonic. The story moves forward several years later, and a beautiful but sinister girl named Helen Vaughn plagues the local town. Helen leads two of her playmates into the local woods, where they encounter strange creatures who rape both of the children.
       Again, the story moves forward several years, and we find that Helen has grown up and moved to London, where she has married a man named Herbert. Herbert is found some years after his marriage to Helen alone and destitute. Herbert’s former school chum, a man named Villiers takes him in, and hears from Herbert a horrifying tale about Helen.
According to Herbert, Helen dragged him into unnatural acts of perversion and vice. As Herbert exclaims: “I have seen the incredible, such horrors that even I myself sometimes stop in the middle of the street and ask whether it is possible for a man to behold such things and live. In a year, Villiers, I was a ruined man, in body and soul – in body and soul” (Arthur Machen Collected Works, 10).
At this point, Helen has left England. She has fled to South America, but not after leaving a string of dead men and hinted at sexual deviance. She returns later, and we find that Villiers has made the acquaintance of Clarke, from the early part of the story. Upon hearing of Helen’s return, they confront her and she goes through a horrific transformation. As Machen describes it:

Though horror and revolting nausea rose up within me, and an odour of corruption choked my breath, I remained firm. I was then privileged or accursed, I dare not say which, to see that which was on the bed, lying there black like ink, transformed before my eyes. The skin, and the flesh, and the muscles, and the bones, and the firm structure of the human body that I had thought to be unchangeable, and permanent as adamant, began to melt and dissolve… I saw the form waver from sex to sex, dividing itself from itself, and then again reunited. Then I saw the body descend to the beasts whence it ascended, and that which was on the heights go down to the depths, even to the abyss of all being. The principle of life, which makes organism, always remained, while the outward form changed… I watched, and at last I saw nothing but a substance as jelly (Arthur Machen Collected Works, 30).

It is revealed at the end that Helen is the offspring of a union between Mary and the pagan god, Pan. Her lascivious behavior and illicit sexuality are manifestations of her father, and the ill conceived experiment of Dr. Raymond.
It is in this narrative that Machen creates the overarching thematic elements that make The Great God Pan what Stephen King called, in the end notes to Just After Sunset, “…one of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language” and led H.P. Lovecraft to say of Machen, “Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen, author of some dozen tales long and short, in which the elements of hidden horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and realistic acuteness”(88). The Great God Pan along with his other works (like The Novel of the Black Seal, The Hill of Dreams, and The Novel of the White Powder) has an acute sense of the blending of modernity and antiquity. In Machen’s case, his horrors are ancient: the horrors that stalked his Celtic ancestors. The monsters he writes of wear the faces of fairies, satyrs, strange creatures, and magic-imbued people whom evolution has left behind. At odds with this are his protagonists. Taking the form of scholars, philosophers, and modern, urban men, his protagonists walk the border between the old world and the burgeoning, technological era of the late 19th/early 20th century.  Or, as Jones wrote, “Throughout his writings, the ancient Celtic and Romano-British legacies of spiritualism and the occult, and the permeable borderland between the two worlds of spirit and matter, are all imaged forth in geographical terms on the Welsh border in Caerleon, and in the occult investigations of seedy men of letters, theosophists and scientists, working in exile, obscurity and poverty in the secret labyrinths of the shabby outer suburbs of West London” (36).
To support this supposition, and show the influence of this theme on later fiction, one need only look to the acknowledged father of modern horror, H.P. Lovecraft.  This melding of the mythical and the scientific was a common component in the stories of Lovecraft. Often, his protagonists were— like Machen’s— erudite men of education who found themselves at odds with ancient evils. Although, Lovecraft’s monsters and horrors were much older and more cosmic, there are echoes of Machen’s The Great God Pan throughout Lovecraft’s work. In The Dunwich Horror, for example, there are undeniable traces of Machen’s Clarke in Lovecraft’s Dr. Henry Armitage. To further compare, there is a considerable parity between Helen Vaughn and Wilbur Whateley, his monstrous twin brother, and both Helen and Wilbur’s awful, inhuman fathers. In fact, Lovecraft actually mentions Machen’s Great God Pan in a conversation between characters in The Dunwich Horror. A further influence on Lovecraft can be seen in the surgery Dr. Raymond performs to open up Mary’s mind to other realities. Here, we see a striking resemblance and similarity to the resonator experiments of Crawford Tillinghast in “From Beyond”. As Joshi writes, “Machen’s influence stands behind only Poe’s and Dunsany’s in Lovecraft’s work”(75).
While Lovecraft was a rational, scientific atheist, Machen remained a lifelong Catholic. His Catholicism and faith did not prevent him, however, from dabbling as a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, along with his friends and contemporaries: W.B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde. Keeping with his standing as a fin de siècle Decadent, he also mixed faith with the controversial scientific theory of evolution. In The Novel of the Black Seal, Machen tells the story of Professor Gregg who spends the latter part of his career searching for a devolved race living in the wilds of Wales. He finds an artifact that leads him to Monmouthshire. There he finds a mentally disabled boy who has traces of the ancient race in his blood. Using him as a compass-like tool, the professor ventures into the forest and disappears, taken by the monstrous elder race. Professor Gregg’s housekeeper, Mrs. Lally, tells the story.  As previously mentioned, this idea of the modern world butting up against the ancient remains a theme that Machen used to great effect.
That science can exist in a world of the supernatural is a tenet of modern horror and science fiction. There is a philosophical element to this idea of science and the supernatural coexisting. As Camara observed, weird fiction “presents nature as preeminently unnatural, as rival with ‘supernatural’ phenomena such that the occult and the scientific not only exist in a continuum, but inquiries undertaken in one field can lead directly into the precincts of the other” (100). In the case of The Novel of the Black Seal, Professor Gregg, and Machen by extension, argue that the myths and fairy tales we know may be window dressing. The scientific improbability of a race of throwbacks in the Welsh mountains is perhaps explained by myth, although time and storytelling have prettied up the reality. As Kandola explains, “…Machen’s fictional scientist contends that both folktales and literature are guilty of ‘dressing up’ these ‘dreaded beings … in charming forms, knowing the truth to be the very reverse’”(501).
This scientific view of evolution, or atavism, as it were, is an interesting approach by Machen. As Forlini observed, in The Novel of the Black Seal:

… [With]A professor’s investigation of strange races that have fallen out of the grand march of evolution… we need not read such tales as evidence of the text’s ‘Darwinian anxieties’ about devolution or the instability of matter… Instead, we can see how Machen flags his engagement with contemporary science and plays with object-driven narrative of evolutionary anthropology to destabilize the hierarchical relation between the ‘primitive’ and the ‘modern’ (487).

It is specifically a desire on Machen’s part to meld 19th and 20th century ideas around science and faith, much like H.G. Wells did in The Time Machine. This concept of devolution has become standard fare for modern science fiction and horror and the idea of an atavistic fall reverberates as very modern fear. Lovecraft, however, expanded on this idea, but gave it his own uniquely cosmic twist
  The Novel of the Black Seal, from Lovecraft’s standpoint, supported many of his own beliefs. His stories are rife with examples of this idea of devolution and primitive humans. Notwithstanding his racism and sense of patrician superiority, one of the best examples of Machen’s influence can be seen in Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls”. Lovecraft’s wealthy American protagonist, Delapore, moves into his ancestral home in England, the Exham Priory. The sound of rats in the walls leads to an expedition into the ancient tunnels beneath the Priory— tunnels that predate the Romans and Celts of antiquity. The story ends with Delapore driven mad by the call of his ancestors and the cosmic horror of the eons of civilization found in those dark passages. Delapore is found at the end of the story screaming in ever devolving language and madly eating the corpse of one of his fellow explorers. Additionally, other stories of his speak of strange, subhuman creatures living in the wilds of the New England countryside. The motif occurs again and again in Lovecraft’s stories and can be seen in, for example, The Whisperer in the Darkness, “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and his Family”, and Lovecraft’s most famous work, The Call of Cthulhu.
Defining weird fiction, and modern horror is difficult. Weird fiction in and of itself mixes elements of the supernatural with science fiction, and is distinctly different from the Gothic and Victorian ghost stories of the 18th and 19th century. As Camara observed:

Machen’s urban horror questions modernity, its notions of progress, and its technological breakthroughs with the specter of a metaphysical force from the remote past that invades civilization from its wild outside…  Moreover, despite the fact that Machen’s fiction is steeped in an antique world, it is also at the same time thoroughly modern in terms of its settings, formal experimentations, and engagement with the sciences (72).   

At the time that Machen was writing, in the 1890’s, literature was undergoing a change. His unique approach to horror led to the advent of weird fiction, which morphed into modern science fiction, horror, and— to a smaller extent – fantasy literature. H.P. Lovecraft extolled, and in some cases emulated, Machen’s style and freely acknowledged Machen’s exceptional mastery of early horror.  Machen’s reach, however, went far beyond Lovecraft and the other weird fiction writers of the time. Traces of the dark, comingled urban and rural horror of Machen still resonate in the works of authors like Stephen King, Brian Keene, Ramsay Campbell, and T.E.D Klein.

Sources Cited

Camara, Anthony Christopher. Dark Matter: British Weird Fiction and the Substance of Horror, 1880-1927. UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2013. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.

Forlini, Stefania. “Modern Narratives and Decadent Things in Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters”. English Literature in Translation 1880 – 1920. 2012. 3 Dec 2014. Web.

Jackson, Kimberly. “Non-Evolutionary Degeneration in Arthur Machen’s Supernatural Tales”. Victorian Literature and Culture. 41 (2013): 125-133. Web 3 Dec. 2014.

Jones, Darryl. “Borderlands: spiritualism and the occult in fin de siècle and Edwardian Welsh and Irish horror”. Irish Studies Review. 17.1 (2009): 31-44. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.

Joshi, S.T. H.P. Lovecraft: Nightmare Countries. New York. Metro Books. 2012.

Kandola, Sandeep. “Celtic Occultism and the Symbolist Mode in the Fin-de-Siècle Writings of Arthur Machen and W. B. Yeats”. English Literature in Translation 1880 – 1920. 2009. 3. Dec. 2014.

Lovecraft, H.P. Great Tales of Horror. New York. Fall River Press. 2012. Print.

--- Supernatural Horror in Literature. New York. Dover Publications. 1973. Print.

Machen, Arthur. Collected Works: 23 Tales of Horror & Other Fiction Short Stories. USA. 2012. Print.

--- Far Off Things. Aegypan Press. USA. 1922. Print.