A series of three Lovecraft-related and interlocking tales spans the 20th Century and a horror lurking underground in a small Ontario town. Beginning with a plague just after WWI and something growing under the cemetery earth. A newspaper publisher loses his fiancé to cholera and encounters the unthinkable, and his son returns to Cobston a half century later only to find that the still lies buried there. He falls In love there but the trauma of an undead curse drives him back to the United States where he spends almost three decades before being drawn to the Cobston he cannot forget. It is in the dawn of a new century that he again finds love and horror, confronting the ultimate evil. The book is difficult to forget and includes evocative illustrations, the town map, and the complete facsimile of the 17th Century academic treatise Masticatione Mortuorum, or the dead who eat in their graves.
Perhaps there was not a Cobston in Southern Ontario, but I always imagined Peterborough as it must have been at the end of WWI, and the details of the Canadian culture are authentic enough, based upon my more than a decade living in Ontario and traveling through its towns and countryside in all four seasons; there was a plague after that great war, and this illustrated book spans three eras from 1919 to the year 2000 followed by offering the reader the facsimile of one of the most grisly academic treatises ever penned.
Though the Cobston Trilogy deals with a horror festering under the town’s burying ground, it is also a trilogy of love stories, tragic, hopeful, and finally redeeming, whose saga spans almost a century and which culminates in the battle with an evil thing that began with a cholera plague and which almost destroyed the lifeblood of the community before it was confronted, and its illustration create the mood of each period.
An excerpt below: “I translate this loosely from the original Latin, written in 1679 by Phillip Rohr, a fellow of the University of Leipzig. Its title is Dissertation de Masticatione Mortuorum or, in English, a Dissertation on the Chewing of the Dead.” I winced; there was something distasteful, almost indecent, about this prim and proper man sitting the dim gaslight reading this uncomfortable stuff to me. I would not have expected him to sink to the level of the penny dreadful. He worked his mouth and continued to translate freely from the German black letter text, “Those who the history of funeral rites and of the mysteries of earth have written, have not neglected to place on record that there have been found from time to time bodies who appear to have devoured the grave clothes in which they were wound, their cerements, and whilst doing so to have uttered a grunting noise like the sound of swine chawing and rooting…” Rev. Gresham heard my sharp intake of breath, and I was almost certain that he did smile at that moment. I opened my mouth to speak, but he held up his hand and turned over several of the pages that crackled in the deep silence. “The theme then of our disputation will be that there are some who were actually dead and who were buried, but energized by an unusual and extraordinary power altogether external to themselves, they have even within their tombs been known to eat and partake of food.” Another rustling of pages, “The eminent Harsdorffer…mentions an occurrence when the body of a man not only devoured his own linen shroud but also half-devoured the corpse of a woman in a neighboring grave. Only seven years ago, in 1672, there was a similar case in a certain village which lies at a distance of three miles from this very town, and it was observed by an intimate friend of mine, one who is worthy of the utmost confidence. The body of a man, whose name although known to me, I prefer not to mention, having been most rashly exhumed by the villagers was found to have eaten his own limbs.”
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