Thursday, 4 October 2007

Machen at FantasyCon

A great triumph. The Machen panel chaired by John L. Probert, and featuring authors Ramsey Campbell, Mark Samuels, and Simon Clark.

Details at the esteemed Mr Samuels Blog.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Arthur Machen, The Bowmen and The Angels of Mons - The basics

"In the popular view shining and benevolent supernatural beings are angels. . . I believe, the Bowmen of my story have become 'the Angels of Mons'." Arthur Machen

The Angels of Mons controversy is the the event which brought Machen his greatest fame in his lifetime and has been attached to him ever since. The questions surrounding the existence of the Angels of Mons caused massive debate at the time and continues to do so. Although the strength of the debate has subsided since its heyday New Age books which claim angels literally appeared at Mons are still being published today.

The Background

The Bowmen was first published in on 28th September 1914 following the Battle of Mons in late August 1914 near the start of World War One. Mons was the first major engagement between the British and German armies of the war. Heavily outnumbered the British were forced back into the famous Retreat from Mons, but inflicted heavy casualties on the Germans. A month after the battle Machen wrote a piece which was published in the London newspaper Evening News for which he was a journalist. The Evening News was London's most popular paper with a wartime circulation of up to one million readers at the time. The story described ghostly archers from the days of Agincourt, supported by St George, appearing to a surrounded group of British troops. The bowmen fired their arrows upon the Germans and averted defeat.

Machen soon found out in the days and months after the story was published that a number of people believed his story was true - that something supernatural like the story he had told had really happened and he had to correct a number of the people on the facts. However these enquiries were on a small scale - it was only in late April and May 1915 that rumours seem to have erupted on a mass scale in Britain that Bowmen, Angels or St George had been at Mons fighting for the British. Over the summer and autumn stories of Angels soon began to be reported in newspapers across the world, many sermons were preached, a film, posters, postcards and songs were all made in honour of the Angels of Mons.

When Machen claimed his story inspired these tales others attacked Machen for being unpatriotic and not believing in the Angels. It is clear as Machen pointed out at the time the majority of reports of Angels spreading in Summer 1915 were second hand, unreliable and some were deliberately faked by men who had not been at Mons. Such hoaxes have been an important part of how the Angels stories spread.

Read Machen's story and his introduction which gives his careful summary of the full background here.

The Evidence

Dr David Clarke, a expert in folklore and modern myths, argues in his book The Angel of Mons (2004), the most detailed examination of all the evidence on the case ever to appear, that Machen's view was essentially correct - that his story played a vital role in disseminating the idea that something supernatural intervened at Mons. Clarke showed in his book that all the evidence indicates that the first mass rumours concerning supernatural warriors at Mons seem to have erupted in Britain in April 1915, six months after the battle, when Machen's story had been in circulation for a long time. This means that suggesting that The Bowmen had no effect on the stories is very difficult especially as the earliest reports which mentioned Angels often referenced Machen's story as well. This is clearly shown by the fact many of the tales also contained elements from The Bowmen.

Seeded Propaganda?

Crucially Clarke points out the stories published around April and May 1915 often attribute their sources to mysterious anonymous British officers. He suggests these men may have been part of a covert attempt by military intelligence to spread morale-boosting propaganda. They may have been led in this by Brigadier-General John Charteris.

His memoirs At G.H.Q., published in 1931, Charteris claimed the story of the Angels of Mons was a popular rumour amongst the troops in September 1914, this was the earliest any extant account has said the rumour was in circulation in France. However it appears from Clarke's examination of Charteris' original notes and letters that he wrote those entries after the war and amended the dates. Indeed Charteris himself says in the foreword of At G.H.Q he has added to the material in the book. Given Charteris' association with pieces of allied propaganda like the story of the German corpse factory the Kadaververwertungsanstalt this might indicate Charteris had been behind an attempt to use the Angels for propaganda purposes.

Hallucinations and Clouds

The only reliable first hand evidence relating to incidents at Mons and its aftermath comes from two or three accounts from named soldiers who said they saw phantom horsemen and other strange sights during the Retreat. These reports were made in the autumn of 1915 as the controversy mounted. However this does not support the Angel stories. Most of the popular angel stories claim, just like in Machen's story that supernatural beings intervened directly to deter the enemy in battle, not on the march. Furthermore the hallucinations of seeing mounted soldiers are very different to the descriptions of the Angels spreading at home. While it seems certain that soldiers in the retreat, without sleep for days and exhausted from marching, did suffer what they thought of even at the time as hallucinations they do not account for the form of the popular version of the story.

Another interesting aspect of this is that we actually don't have that many accounts from soldiers of these visions. So rather than large scale mass hallucination at Mons it seems we are talking about isolated visions suffered by individual soldiers or small groups. These hallucinations it seems only became important in retrospect it seems apparent soldiers were not talking about it before April 1915 and then they discussed it because people were talking about it on the Home Front.

A more mysterious element is talk of shining clouds which also surfaced in mid 1915 which could refer to unusual weather conditions at the time of Mons. However these reports are more uncertain and are anonymous. They were also made in response to newspaper appeals for information and after rumours of the Angels were already rampant on the home front. We cannot be sure that memorirs of seeing strange clouds were not made into stories about angels by witnesses in retrospect in response to hearing about rumours started by Machen's story.

Machen's Responsibility

Even today people still wish to disassociate Machen from the story of the Angels. To date however no-one has succeeded in doing so as the evidence simply does not allow it. The importance of Machen's role is supported by the following facts :

A - No Early Witnesses

No-one has yet found any evidence of firsthand stories of supernatural intervention at Mons or afterwards pre-dating April 1915. No story of the supernatural which is not directly connected to "The Bowmen" has been found written down or discussed before that date despite the fact soldiers and support personnel like nurses regularly wrote home. In August 1914 a number of reporters had evaded the ban on front line reporting and were in France near the front line at the time of Mons none of them mention rumours of Angels. The way British newspapers printed the story avidly in mid to late 1915 shows they would have leapt on the story if available. The Battle and retreat from Mons generated a vast number of memoirs and reports, but none printed before late 1915 ever mentioned the Angels or anything similar. This six month gap is a crucial problem. Six months provides plenty of time for Machen's story to spread and mutate.

B - The Society for Psychical Research report

A careful investigation in 1915 of the Angels rumours by the Society for Psychical Research, who had longstanding expertise in such matters stated of for firsthand testimony, "we have received none at all, and of testimony at second-hand we have none that would justify us in assuming the occurrence of any supernormal phenomenon." The SPR went on to say the stories relating to battlefield "visions" which circulated during the spring and summer of 1915, "prove on investigation to be founded on mere rumour, and cannot be traced to any authoritative source."

Given that the majority of the members of the Society for Psychical Research believed in the existence of supernatural forces, but wanted to find reliable evidence for them the conclusions of this report are highly significant. If the SPR could find no evidence at the time it seems highly likely none existed.

C - The Rumours started on the Home Front

Crucially the stories of Angels seem to have spread first on the home front exactly where you would expect them to if they originated in Machen's story. Even though some of the stories which spread after April 1915 were not exactly like Machen's story it is clear that the stories spreading went through channels directly related to Machen's story. The parish magazine which reported stories of angels in April 1915 had previously requested to print Machen's story. The same paranormal periodicals like Light which later spread stories of Angels, had seized on the idea that Machen's story might be true soon after it was first published and asked Machen for confirmation and had discussed the story in their columns.

The furious pamphlet war and press controversy which erupted in 1915 was due to Machen's claims in a mass circulation newspaper that the Angels were inspired by his story. It was Machen's Evening News which was the first Fleet Street paper to circulate accounts of Angels. All the books on the Angels were written only after Machen published The Bowmen in book form in August 1915. It should be remembered that regular mail from home was one of the most important things for men in France. Newspapers and books were mailed out and passed out and shared and read and re-read. So it was very easy for the controversy to spread to the Front.

Even if the stories were spread in April 1915 by officers for propaganda purposes then it was clearly the existence of Machen's fiction which prompted military men to choose that rumour to support.

So even if an unnamed soldier did actually think he saw Angels at Mons, a fact which has never been proved, and his tales somehow reached Blighty, and then somehow spread the only reason the story was listened to was because Machen's story had prepared the ground.


One of Machen's main opponents who claimed the Angels were real was a nurse who claimed there was a cover-up and the army had forbidden witnesses to talk. Phyllis Campbell promised that “the evidence exists... and when the war is over and the embargo of silence is removed, Mr Machen will be overwhelmed with corroborative evidence.” That evidence never came - we are still waiting for it over 90 years later.

The Angels of Mons saga is a strange example of wartime mythmaking but also bizarrely reflected Machen's own curious life and works. His stories like The Three Impostors and The Hill of Dreams had blurred the difference between fiction and reality now The Angels reflected something similar. Machen never liked the story much and was soon sick of the affair but the story of the angels followed him to his death. Every issue of Machenalia reveals a new aspect of the Angels saga.

Links to explore:

The case of the Elusive Angels of Mons by Alan S. Coulson, MD, PhD. and Michael E. Hanlon,

Argues Machen was right as seen in the conclusion:
But if, as the only evidence seems to indicate, the legend's source is Mr. Machen's story... Machen's rescuing bowmen, converted to Angels then reduced to the simple, singular Angel of Mons, thus, moved from the homefront to the trenches and was sustained by both the public in Britain and the frontline Tommies.
Kevin Maclure, Visions of Bowmen and Angels

Argues Machen's story created some of the tales, but suggests others had independent origin. Dr David Clark's work however has undermined Maclure's conclusions.

David Clarke, Rumours of angels: a legend of the First World War – detailed study in Folklore

This article forms the basis for his later book the definitive study which backs Machen's claims.

Also see the links at his website:
David Clake, Angel Of Mons

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Faunus 16 - Summer 2007 Collection of Machen letters

The Friends of Arthur Machen commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of Machen’s death and the centenary of the publication of The Hill of Dreams in 1907 with the first ever publication of "John Lane and Arthur Machen: A Correspondence" in Faunus The Journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen, volume 16 (Summer 2007). It covers Machen's correspondence with the important fin de siècle publisher John Lane from 1895-1906. The letters demonstrate Machen’s refusal to censor The Three Impostors in the aftermath of the Wilde trial despite Lane’s requests and Machen’s irritation with the puritanical climate of the time. Machen did agree however to the removal of one terrifying word from the manuscript now put into print for the first time ever. The letters also covers Machen’s difficulties in getting The Hill of Dreams published in the climate of the time, which although written 1896-7 was not published for ten years. Other articles in that issue include Machen scholar Roger Dobson discussing in "The Book in Yellow: How Dorian Inspired Lucian" the connection between Machen’s reading of Wilde’s Dorian Gray and The Hill of Dreams. Paul Fox’s article “On the Matter of Coincidence: 'Though' and 'Why' and 'The Inmost Light.'” discusses the place of that story in Machen's 1890s fiction, and in his ideas of aesthetics. In Machen's 1916 article "The Shade of a Great Man" published for the first time since the war Dr Johnson returns to pontificate to Boswell on the such matters as the Blackout, the coming of “fireships of the air” and Conscientious Objectors.

The most recent Machenalia the newsletter of the society covers the recently finished Caerleon sculpture commemorating Machen, a number of Machen based film scripts in development, more on the Angels of Mons, Machen themed music and in a special Tobacco themed issue reveals that Machen foretold the recent ban on smoking.

Monday, 30 July 2007

The Sculpture

The Sculptor Jiri Netik and his wife siting on the Machen sculpture.

After a long agonising process including much debate over what sculptor to be selected Machen has another memorial in Caerleon besides the plaque on his house.

Sculpture detail

It seems the owner of the house had recently made alterations in his premises, and on digging the foundations for some offices, the men had found a curious head, evidently of the Roman period, which had been placed in the manner described. The head is pronounced by the most experienced archaeologists of the district to be that of a faun or satyr. [Dr. Phillips tells me that he has seen the head in question, and assures me that he has never received such a vivid presentment of intense evil.]

Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan

First he set himself to the severe practice of the text; he spent many hours and days of toil in struggling to fashion the serried columns of black letter, writing and rewriting till he could shape the massive character with firm true hand. He cut his quills with the patience of a monk in the scriptorium, shaving and altering the nib, lightening and increasing the pressure and flexibility of the points, till the pen satisfied him, and gave a stroke both broad and even. Then he made experiments in inks, searching for some medium that would rival the glossy black letter of the old manuscripts; and not till he could produce a fair page of text did he turn to the more entrancing labour of the capitals and borders and ornaments. He mused long over the Lombardic letters, as glorious in their way as a cathedral, and trained his hand to execute the bold and flowing lines; and then there was the art of the border, blossoming in fretted splendour all about the page.

The Hill of Dreams
All this despite the best efforts of wind, rain and storm to attack it. It was completed before the rain got really bad. Where it will be placed is currently under discussion it is safe in storage. Let me know if you have any ideas on location but it is quite delicate so it will probabally go indoors.

We still need money to pay for it though so please buy a copy of the booklet! If you have ever enjoyed Machen's work buy a copy the booklet has been widely admired by such luminaries as Mark Samuels said "Lots of brilliant stuff in there; you did an excellent job on it!", Ray Russell and Mark Valentine.

So he pottered on; reading everything, imitating what struck his fancy, attempting the effect of the classic metres in English verse, trying his hand at a masque, a Restoration comedy, forming impossible plans for books which rarely got beyond half a dozen lines on a sheet of paper; beset with splendid fancies which refused to abide before the pen. The Hill of Dreams

The Legio Secunda Augusta march to celebrate rites to Faunus at the new Machen sculpture.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Machen Spiked

There is an interesting discussion of Machen on Spike magazine.

It says some complimentary things, but the conclusion is less favorable. To be honest I see the difference between Machen, James and Lovecraft to be generally a matter of taste really. They were all successful in a narrow form of literature. James's success owes much to the fact he takes fewest risks perhaps.

"In the end Machen is a clear link between James and Lovecraft, but in my view falls well short of either, lacking the simple clinical craft of the former and the sheer disturbing vision of the latter."
Link here: Arthur Machen

Sunday, 22 July 2007

What is the Blog of the Black Seal?

An interesting Blog post here which mentions Machen link through here: Blog of the Black Seal

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Machen evening a great success

The Arthur Machen seminar was a great success with around sixty people attending which for a Thursday evening in Caerleon is a great turn out. And this despite a large rainstorm. There were anumber of familar faces like Jon Preece and another distinguished Machenite in attendance was Aidan Reynolds, the joint author of the 1963 biography.

Lionel Fanthorp was an excellent and genial chair and had some great anecdotes about Machen and his connection to his own Fortean researches. After some brief technical problems, I managed to get my audio visual Machen extravaganza working on the screen and we had a series of images as I attempted to run through Machen's life in twenty minutes not an easy

Catherine Fisher, Time Lebbon and Simon Clark all gave great insights into Machen and his influnces on their own writing and the way they perceived the landscape and world. They are all very experienced authors in a differing ways and it was fascinating to hear how Machen had
inspired them. We had a series of interesting questions to answer from the floor the last one being a very tough one what type of things would Machen be writing today if he was alive? The night could have gone on far longer. I was approached afterwards by many people saying they would seek out more of Machen's work.

We retired later to the Hanbury Arms where we drank much ale. The sculpture itself bodes well the sculptor has got a giant piece of Welsh oak to work from.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Machen predicts Tobacco ban and more

Machen loved both tobacco and drink and the banning of the combination of both in their natural home of the Tavern would have led to much fury. He is no doubt fuming in his grave.

Yet this feeling leads onto greater mystery. Machen's works have had many curious effects, accidentaly creating the Angels of Mons for instance. But by what strange power did he predict the coming of the ban of smoking in pubs. He seems to have known some dark conspiracy was at work. In an essay in 1921 which defended beer included Dog and Duck he writes:

I think that good drink merely represents the first line of the cause which the bad people are attacking. It is my opinion that these bad people are only in the first stage or movement of a much more general attack. Tobacco will be the next line, the next engagement will centre round the meditative pipe, the gay cigarette, the magnificent Corona. Already that battle is preparing in America; soon, in powerful circles, a pipe will be inconsistent with piety.

Yet Machen goes on to make even more startling predictions:

Nor will matters stop there. The Vegetarians have long been aware that what is the matter with the world is Meat. They have their feelings, like the anti-Burgundy and anti-Bass people and the anti-Tobacco people. They are quite convinced, with Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, that Meat is the root of all evil.

'It's not Madness, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble ... 'it's Meat.'

These persons then, sharing the opinion and the intelligence of Mr. Bumble, will engage on an anti-meat campaign. If they win, they will divide into two parties. One set will allow us to cook our vegetables; the other side will insist that if you are to boil your green peas, you may as well dine off rumpsteak at once. And, of course, sham science will come to their aid. There are plenty of doctors already who are quite prepared to demonstrate by unanswerable arguments that if you cook anything you destroy all its value.

Before long there will be letters in The Times over signatures furnished with the most appalling array of degrees and qualifications showing that the way out of all our difficulties is to put out the kitchen fire. But it would be a great mistake to suppose that the campaign will stop here, with our palates and stomachs and general comfort and well-being. All the arts will next be the object of attack; tobacco, beer, beef and boiled beans having fallen, painting, sculpture, music, literature will be suspected, examined, denounced, prohibited.

This is no fantasy; for this has happened before. It happened in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and is generally known as Puritanism. The movement was then allied with certain theological views. It began by smashing and destroying all the beautiful things that were then to be found in churches. It blotted out of the world a mass of beauty in a manner which is really awful to contemplate. Macaulay, not by any means the acutest of critics in a general way, got to the heart of the matter in his account of the Puritan objection to bear-baiting. They disliked bear-baiting, he said, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. So with their objection to sports and games of all sorts. They began by saying—and, no doubt, believing—that games were wicked when played on Sunday. They ended by banning games and sports of all kinds on any day. They shut up the theatres: they gave pleasure, and the Puritan hates pleasure because it is a good thing.

How could Machen know that the tobacco ban would be immediately targeted at theatres with actors smoking on stage. Could it be that the ban is not aimed at good health, but stopping theatres altogether? Likewise old films depicting smoking might be soon be banned. Let us hope Machen here is a false prophet.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Machenology: Tributes to the Master of Mysteries

Machenology: Tributes to the Master of Mysteries is a 44 page A5 booklet limited to 300 copies edited by Gwilym Games. All profits from the booklet will raise funds towards the 2007 Caerleon sculpture to Machen and to commemorating Arthur Machen. [You can see images of The Sculpture here.] It contains special new tributes to Machen written by Gwyneth Jones, Simon Clark, Tim Lebbon, China Miéville, Mark Samuels, Catherine Fisher, David Hewson, and Machen’s daughter Janet, plus a collection of the thoughts of other notable figures on Machen including: Tanith Lee, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Iain Sinclair, AE Housman, Henry Miller, HP Lovecraft, R.E. Howard, AE Waite, Clark Ashton Smith, MR James, Jorge Luis Borges, Sylvia Townsend Warner, plus many more.

It also includes a controversial essay in which Rhys Hughes explains why Arthur Machen is a far better writer for the Welsh to idolise than Dylan Thomas: “We are a low people. Dylan Thomas is treated as a god here and Machen is ignored." While well known Machen scholar Roger Dobson in his essay outlines the greatest unsolved mysteries of Machen scholarship.

It features two rare essays by Machen unpublished for many years, “A Book I Should Like To Write”, in which he discusses “one of the wonderful books that ought to be written – and never will be written… of those problems which are - almost - insoluble; and yet are not beyond all conjecture” and a thrilling true account of a weird Oriental Adventure in which Machen plumbs the depth of the mystery of The Hidden Claw, an escapade Machen illustrated himself.

It also includes a rare picture of the original “stone head of grotesque appearance” from The Great God Pan which will be an influence on the Machen sculpture. [Dr. Phillips tells me that he has seen the head in question, and assures me that he has never received such a vivid presentment of intense evil.] Dare you see it?

Copies available now. Cost is £5.00, postage free within the UK. Postage abroad is £1.00 inside Europe, £1.50 US/overseas. Make cheques payable to G. Games, or use paypal via G. Games, 9 Heneage Drive, Westcross, Swansea, SA3 5BR. Copies will also be on sale at the seminar and around Caerleon.

Remember too Machen is highly collectable similar booklets from the eighties are now worth up to five times or more their original price.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Machen in Babylon

Excellent post on Machen on Anthony Brockway's Babylon Wales, a fine blog on the stranger byways of Welsh popular culture.

"Welsh literary critics have largely ignored him or unfairly Uncle Tom-ed him (see Stephen Knight's jaw-dropping sidestep of Machen's work in A Hundred Years of Fiction). Rather than being a literary Uncle Tom you could quite easily - if you chose to do such a thing - make a case for Machen being a highly subversive Welsh writer. In many of his stories the English/rational/scientific is undermined by the Welsh/irrational/primitive. And it is the latter grouping that Machen most certainly identified with.

The problem with Machen for Welsh critics is that he doesn't fit easily into dominant social realist/nationalist/post-colonial readings of Welsh writing in English. He is a one-off, an outsider. Add to this a snooty attitude from academia towards genre fiction in general (horror stories aren't real writing are they?) and you begin to understand why Machen's work has slipped into the margins in Wales."

Anthony inspired Rhys Hughes' essay on Machen and Dylan in the Machenology booklet by a comment on the sculpture.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Arthur Machen – Master of Holy Terrors

An evening chaired by Lionel Fanthorpe celebrating Machen's life and work.

Thursday 5 July 2007

The Boardroom, Central Building, University of Wales Caerleon, Newport [Map Here]

IWA Gwent Branch and Academi. Part of Celf Caerleon Arts Festival.

6.30 pm (cost £5.00 to include a glass of wine)

“I shall always esteem it as the greatest piece of fortune that has fallen to me, that I was born in that noble, fallen Caerleon-on-Usk, in the heart of Gwent.” Arthur Machen

Arthur Machen (1863-1947) joined together tales of unspeakable fears and wonders with Roman Isca, Victorian London, the Holy Grail, and the Gwent countryside. He has been read worldwide and has been admired by many including Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Iain Sinclair, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir John Betjeman, Alan Moore, and Jorge Luis Borges. Now in the 60th anniversary of his death a sculpture is being erected to honour him and a distinguished panel featuring award winning writers: Simon Clark, Catherine Fisher, and Tim Lebbon join to explore Machen’s world of terror and wonder. Find out why they and Stephen King, Clive Barker and HP Lovecraft consider Machen to be amongst the greatest writers of tales of supernatural horror and fantasy.

  • Hear why Machen wrote what has been called the most decadent book in the English language, The Hill of Dreams.
  • Learn how Machen was the first novelist to place the Holy Grail in a modern setting – almost 100 years before Dan Brown.
  • Discover the truth behind the Bowmen and the Angels of Mons; did they slay thousands of Germans in World War One?
  • How is Machen’s The Great God Pan connected to Oscar winner Pan’s Labyrinth?

Find out more about Machen and the sculpture at The Friends of Arthur Machen and Celf Caerleon Arts Festival 2007 - .

[The event will be followed in the best Machen tradition by a visit to local taverns.]


Rev. Lionel Fanthorpe is an ordained Anglican priest, Fortean expert and entertainer. He has worked as a journalist, teacher, television presenter, author and lecturer. He has written 250 books. He is president of the the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena and the British UFO Research Association.

Simon Clark is an award winning horror novelist from Doncaster. In 2001 he won British Fantasy awards for The Night of the Triffids, a sequel to John Wyndham’s novel, and for best short story, "Goblin City Lights" and he has been shortlisted for many more including a World Fantasy Award. His twenty books include Blood Crazy, Darker, Vampyrrhic, The Fall, and the Doctor Who novella The Dalek Factor. He collaborated on the Machen inspired Exorcising Angels (2003) with Tim Lebbon. Website

Catherine Fisher is an award winning children’s writer and poet who lives in Newport. She has been translated into seventeen languages and her nineteen novels include the children’s fantasy series Book of the Crow, as well as Darkhenge, Snow-walker, and The Oracle Betrayed, which was a finalist for the Whitbread Children's Book Award, while The Candle won the Tir-Na-n'Og Award 2002. She has been nominated and won many others. Her novel Belin's Hill set in Caerleon was influenced by Machen.Website

Tim Lebbon is a Newport raised award winner writer of horror and dark fantasy and now lives locally. Author of more than twenty books which include Dead Man's Hand, Pieces of Hate, and Berserk, the fantasy Noreela series, and the Hellboy novel Unnatural Selection. He has won two British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Tombstone Award. His award winning novella White is soon to be a major movie written and directed by Stephen Susco (The Grudge). He collaborated on the Machen inspired Exorcising Angels (2003) with Simon Clark. Website

Gwilym Games is from Newport and is editor of Machenalia, one of the journals of the Friends of Arthur Machen, finalists for a World Fantasy Award in 2006. A recognised expert on Machen he has been responsible for the organisation of the Arthur Machen commemorative sculpture 2007 in collaboration with Celf Caerleon Arts Festival.

Supported by Academi and University of Wales, Newport, sculpture funded partialy by Principalty Medical Ltd.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Memorial Sculpture Plans

The idea of an Arthur Machen Memorial sculpture for Caerleon was first suggested in 2005 and has been a project worked on by the commitee of Celf Caerleon Arts Festival along with Gwilym Games of the Friends of Arthur Machen on and off over the last few years. The Arts festival holds a sculpture competition in which wooden sculptures are made for the town every year in July in the open air. This seemed an ideal opportunity to immortalize Machen in his birthplace. The sculptor commissioned for the piece, selected by the arts committee earlier this year after much debate in a long session is a Czech sculptor, Jiri Netik.

The Machen sculpture will take the form of a hand writing a book, on a plinth with a horrific mask of the Great God Pan and an inscription to Machen. The creation of the sculpture will coincide with the 60th anniversary of Machen’s death in Decemberand the hundredth anniversary of the publication of The Hill of Dreams.

To fund the sculpture a limited edition memorial booklet, Machenology will soon available. It will contain some rare items by Machen, plus a collection of tributes paid to him by writers past and present.

ans for the Machen memorial sculpture are came together nicely in conversations with Jiri Netik, the Czech sculptor. I should mention here how much we owe to Principality Medical Ltd, the innovative hi-tech firm based in Bassaleg who provided much of the funding for the sculpture.

Leo Basil its director told me that Machen was a writer of great importance worldwide who deserved a memorial in his home town. “Principality Medical provides prosthetics which are used globally, not just for medical purposes to cover scar tissue, but in the special effects industry too. Our products have appeared in some of the most successful science fiction and fantasy films of recent years so it was a natural decision for us to fund the sculpture. We like to think our dedication to perfecting our products mimics Machen’s commitment to literature.”

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Annual General Merging

Mark Samuels, master of fictions of urban despair, has photographs of the recent event carefully doctored to hide the true nature of what occured: The Annual Rite

We were particularly honoured by the presence of Stewart Lee. Besides being a fine comedian he is also a commited Machen admirer. He has not attended before.

Still cannot remove the stains.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Arthur Machen on BBC7

Sun 18 Mar 18:30-19:00 Fantastic Tales BBC 7
The White People : The nature of good and evil and the origins of sin are explored in this intriguing tale. [Rptd Mon 12.30am].

You can listen online here and for next seven days:

One of Arthur Machen's greatest tales is on the radio, a story which is often described as one of the best, if not the best supernatural story in English Literature.

Thanks to Calenture for warning.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

H.P. Lovecraft anniversary

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the death of one of Machen's greatest admirers H.P. Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) , who was inspired by Machen to create some of his best tales of weird horror, which in turn inspired many to follow in his footsteps and led to the creation of much sinister "Yog-Sothothery" and Mythos mysteries. Now many readers follow Lovecraft 's sources back to discover Machen leading to new followers for the Wizard of Gwent. It is strange to think the older Machen outlived Lovecraft for many years. Machen himself might have suggested this was something to do with Lovecraft's aversion to both tobacco and ale which Machen saw as essential to a healthy lifestyle.

May the Gentleman from Providence rest quietly in Deep Dendo.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Cult of the Red Moon

Behold the Circle of the Dôls

The carefuly syncronised plan for the Annual General Merging of The Friends to fall upon on a lunar eclipse was successful on Saturday due to the support of the Dôls.

The people of Usk looked on with wonder as the moon turned scarlet, much dark whispering was heard of the strange powers of these Machen folk. I fear a return to Usk may be unwise.

Following the grand dinner and the ritual evocation through the readings of The Author, the Red Ceremony was carried out in due accordance with the rules passed to us in The Green Book.

Thus the Circles are ready for another year.

Thursday, 15 February 2007


Your chance to discover a unique, previously unknown piece of Machen's wonderful shocker The Three Impostors. Later this year, FoAM will publish in Faunus a selection of letters between Machen and his publisher John Lane. They include the revelation that Lane insisted on the removal of one word from the very last page of the book. Only three members of FoAM know what that word is.

One lucky member will become the proud owner of a sealed envelope in a limited edition of one containing a page with the banned word, and learn its dread secret months before anyone else. This will therefore be a very rare and unusual Machen first edition. To be that member, all you have to do is bid successfully for it! You can either send an email with your secret bid to Mark Valentine at lostclub@btopenworl by 28 February 2007, or bid for it at the book auction at the AGM on 3 March. The winner will be the highest of any postal or personal bid. Proceeds will go to FoAM funds, and please note you are pledging a donation of the sum you specify in return for the word in the limited edition sealed envelope. You will be asked not to divulge the word to anyone else before Faunus publication, on pain of enjoying the ministrations of the minions of Dr Lipsius !

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

The Friends January Posting

The Friends of Arthur Machen start the year in spectacular fashion. Despite failing to win a World Fantasy Award in 2006 the Friends try to live up to the honour of a nomination for this prestigious award by producing more high quality material for their members.

The hardback journal Faunus 15 contains many remarkable things including Machen’s spectacular report of a Baseball match between the US Army and Navy in WWI, essential reading for sports fans. Gwilym Games explores whether Machen’s report hints subtly at strange primeval rites in connection with this wholesome game. There are extracts from one of Machen’s rarest translations Fantastic Tales, by the mad canon of Tours, Beroalde de Verville, and an obituary for Machen biographer Wesley Sweetser who died last year. The adventure of Arthur Machen and the Swiss Roll Factory is revealed. Critical items includes Bob Man’s important investigation of how the events of Machen’s tale Drake’s Drum (1919) became tied into older legends of the Drum and went onto to be quoted as true in published accounts just like The Bowmen inspired tales of the Angels of Mons. William S. Simmons article examines carefully the insightful nature of the Machen’s mystical stories The Green Round and The Secret Glory. Gwilym Games also explores use of Machen’s quotations in the Oxford English Dictionary, including the first ever use of the word Tank in a literary work as a vehicle.

The latest Machenalia has a Decadence theme with a special feature on Pan’s Labyrinth by Brian Showers, alongside firm evidence of Machen’s influence on an early version of the screenplay, if not the final film. There is an article on music inspired by Machen alongside various items on psychogeographic mysteries of interest to Machenphiles including the latest Hawksmoor developments and the newly discovered Lost City of Gwent, the rise of primeval Snake Gods, our usual visions of angels of Mons roundup [the legend never dies], lots of reviews of many books decadent and otherwise, including Kirsten Macleod’s vital new work on the 1890s Decadent Fictions which focuses heavily on Machen, The Decadent Handbook, Rabelais, a book on London Writing which names Machen as one of thirty essential London writers and an incisive review by the famed Dr Stiggins.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Voyaging into the Hill of Dreams

A literary walk from The Friends of Arthur Machen February 11th 2007, 2pm

By the steps to south entrance of the British Museum, Great Russell Street,
look for the mysterious, decadent Welshman clutching a copy of Arthur Machen's The Hill of Dreams, and join him on a free walk through Machen's London, with readings from the decadent masterpiece to mark the centenary of its publication.
"All London was one grey temple of an awful rite, ring within ring of wizard stones circled about some central place, every circle was an initiation, every initiation eternal loss."
Arthur Machen, The Hill of Dreams

The year 2007 marks the sixtieth anniversary of Arthur Machen's death. It is also the centenary of the publication of The Hill of Dreams in February, and is also the 110th anniversary of Machen completing the book in 1897. On Sunday February 11th there will be an intrepid venture into the territory of The Hill of Dreams, when The Friends of Arthur Machen and any others who wish to celebrate Machen will gather to mark the centenary of what most consider Machen's greatest work. The Hill of Dreams is a semi-autobiographical work which follows the career of a young writer from his strange visions of his Welsh homeland, on to London where his bleak wanderings across the vast metropolis are described in Machen’s lush prose. It has been described as "the most Decadent book in English Literature" , Henry Miller called it "a dream of a book", and H.P. Lovecraft said it was the "memorable epic of the sensitive Aesthetic mind". It was written by Machen in complete defiance of the moral panic following the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895, remaining unpublished for ten years as a result.
We will wander through Machen's London, accompanied by readings from The Hill of Dreams, in search of scenes that inspired the book's tragic protagonist, Lucian Taylor. Our ultimate destination: "the blazing public-houses as the doors swung to and fro, and above these doors were hideous brassy lamps, very slowly swinging in a violent blast of air, so that they might have been infernal thuribles, censing the people".

The Friends of Arthur Machen World Fantasy Award Nominee 2006

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Machen at World Fantasy Awards 2006

In 2006 the Friends of Arthur Machen were on a select short list nominated for a prestigious World Fantasy Award. The Friends were nominated for the excellence of their publications Faunus, Machenalia, and the critical acclaimed John Gawsworth, The Life of Arthur Machen in the category of a SPECIAL AWARD: NON-PROFESSIONAL. A glance at a list of previous winners of the award reveals that former winners of World Fantasy Awards include the greatest names in fantasy literature over the last twenty years. The award is a bust in the form of none other than H. P. Lovecraft, that ardent lover of Machen's work.

In stiff competition at the award ceremony in November in Texas The Friends of Arthur Machen were beaten by Telos Books, who write a variety of good books on screen SF and fantasy. The full results are on the Award website.

That Doctor Who revival emanating from Machen's own home ground of South Wales is clearly difficult to beat. Despite their disappointment the Friends were still thrilled by even getting to the nominee stage for such an important award with all the recognition from the World Fantasy community it implies for the quality of the society, its publications and of course for Machen's importance to fantasy literature. Other nominees for that particular award included the journal dedicated to another master of fantasy, and a great admirer of Machen, The Cimmerian which focuses on Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, and Jess Nevin's excellent The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana which inevitably featured Machen.

This category is usually won by a semi-professional small press rather than a society. Indeed The Friends are the only society ever to be nominated for the award besides the far larger British Fantasy Society which won in 2000 - and they reflect British Fantasy in general rather than the writings of one Welsh author.

Winner of best Anthology was :The Fair Folk ed. Marvin Kaye (Science Fiction Book Club) with many tales of sinister fairy beings a theme which Machen used well. Other notable nominees for Awards who are known Machen admirers were Graham Joyce for his The Limits of Enchantment which was up for best novel and Tanith Lee was up for her story in the best short story category with her tale from The Fair Folk. Caitlín R. Kiernan was up for several awards too and she too has mentioned Machen positively before I believe.