Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Sunday 24 February 2013

The Horror in the Museum

Yes I know, you're thinking Jurassic Park ...
Nonetheless, we went on a family outing this weekend to the Australian Museum in Sydney. As usual, I was thinking about writing while the kids were having fun, and I busied myself taking some photographs for reference. (In fact I got into trouble upon our return, as I had very few photographs with the children in them.) I was trying to think of creepy stories set in museums, of which there are a few waxworks-type ones, but I could think of none to do with dinosaurs. Then I remembered a "horror" novel called Carnosaur by Harry Adam Knight (aka John Brosnan) which I read many years ago and remember almost nothing about. Surely there are others?
If you know of any, please let me know!

I love the combination of enormous, threatening monster skeletons ... and dado rails.

Of course, one of the best known such tales must be The Horror in the Museum by H.P. Lovecraft, although it was ghostwritten for Hazel Heald in 1932. This tale may not have been one of Lovecraft's best (though I'm no expert) but it certainly helped make popular the premise of the someone-staying-the-night-in-a-waxwork-for-a-wager type scenario. 

A.M. Burrage

Speaking of which, a favourite short story of mine is The Waxwork by A.M. Burrage. (I have a wonderful collection of his short stories called Warning Whispers, well worth looking out for. Although, unfortunately, The Waxwork isn't included.) Raymond Hewson is a down-at-heel journalist who contrives to spend a night in the "murderers' den" of Marriner's Waxworks. Of course all the usual suspects are represented, such as Crippen, but also a strange Dr. Bourdette, who was supposed to have hypnotised his victims and cut their throats. The creepy thing is, though, this figure is especially lifelike; and the manager tells Hewson that Bourdette is the only figure represented who is still alive in reality ... and still on the run! "'I thought I saw him move,' said Hewson with a catch in his voice."
Hewson soon shows signs of nerves once the night begins, thinking he sees the waxworks moving, especially Bourdette. "'He's only a waxwork like the rest of you,' Hewson muttered defiantly. 'You're all only waxworks.'" He becomes mesmerised by Bourdette, unable to resist as he steps off his plinth, explaining how he is evading the authorities, by pretending to be his own wax likeness. Bourdette produces a razor. Hewlett is found dead the following morning. But surely his own imagination is ultimately to blame? It's an atmospheric, tense short story, worth searching out in various compilations. It's one of those tales where the reader is not sure if anything out of the ordinary happened or not.
Luckily, this critter was stuffed ...
There must be a creepy story in there somewhere.


  1. I quite enjoyed 'The Book of the Dead' by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child which is set in an old Egyptian museum exhibit.

    1. Thanks, I'll have to check that out. Sounds interesting.