Have you heard “The Howling Man?”

As is the way with many of my generation, I’m an unapologetic fan of the classic tv series The Twilight Zone. I’ve even written about or referenced it a few times on this blog (here, here, and here). One of the short stories in my roster for this year was Charles Beaumont’s “The Howling Man” which was also adapted into a screenplay for Rod Serling’s program.

(below: Rod Serling, the host of “The Twilight Zone”)

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“A fever dream of forests full of two-headed beasts came, then the sound of screaming. I awoke, but the scream shrilled on – Klaxon-loud, high, cutting, like a cry for help.”

Beaumont takes a character, David Ellington, places him alone in an unfamiliar setting, heaps on a helping of fevered delirium, and only then allows him to tell us a story. The story of The Howling Man.

Ellington becomes ill on a “walking trip” through Europe and seeks refuge from a harsh storm at the Abbey of St. Wulfram’s. Expecting to be greeted with charitable hospitality, he is instead surprised to be seemingly unwelcome and discouraged from lingering. His physical condition does not permit them to deny him succor, however.

Days of delirium follow, extending into a fortnight, interspersed with his hearing the terrifying screams. “They were totally unlike any sounds in my experience. Impossible to believe they could be uttered and sustained by a human, yet they did not seem to be animal.”

Though he can hear the screams clearly, the monks of the abbey and their leader, Father Jerome, do not seem to hear them. Later we learn that “Sound had, in these years, reversed for (them): the screams had become silence, the sudden cessation of them, noise.”

When Ellington recovers a bit, he discovers the source of the screams, a man locked in another cell of the Abbey. As more is revealed by Father Jerome, the reader begins to suspect what a special prisoner this “man” really is. Ellington himself, however, is a bit slow on the uptake, demanding to know who the man is, and an exasperated Father Jerome finally asks him, “Are you such a fool, Mr. Ellington? That you must be told?” The prisoner is the antagonist in the most ancient of struggles.

I couldn’t find a free online copy of the story, but you tube (no longer) has a video of the Twilight Zone episode if you’d like to watch. The original Twilight Zone series is available on either Netflix or Amazon Prime Video (can’t remember which, but maybe both) as of 11/2017.

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One other note: I found this story interesting, too, in that it contained a hint of American isolationism, personified by Ellington’s father, who warns him about the potential perils of visiting Europe: “…Describing in detail, and with immense effect, the hideous consequences of profligacy, telling of men he knew who’d gone to Europe, innocently, and fallen into dissolution so profound they had not been heard from since…” Written after World War II, I found this opinion somewhat telling.

(below: author Charles Beaumont)

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9 Comments

  1. November 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    This seems so right up my alley. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure the story is still in copyright territory but it seems a difficult find. Is your copy part of an anthology?

    Like

    • Jay said,

      November 10, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Hello! My copy is part of the “super-sized” book, “The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories,” which I first learned of on Nina’s excellent blog, Multo(Ghost), which is among my links on the left. I got the kindle version, and have probably only read less an 25% of the stories thus far. I haven’t encountered any duds yet.

      http://www.amazon.com/The-Weird-Compendium-Strange-Stories/dp/0765333627

      -Jay

      Like

      • November 11, 2013 at 11:40 am

        Thanks, Jay. I love Multo(ghost) and follow her blog. That definitely looks like an ebook for me. Over 1000 pages but I’m trying to add more short stories in my life. The past few years they’ve been shuffled to the side but I enjoy them a bunch.

        Like

  2. drwhonovels said,

    November 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I read this short story as a young teenager — it was compiled in a “Twilight Zone”-themed book of short stories that formed the basis for many of the TV episodes. It made a vivid impression on me, especially as it takes place before World War II and hints that the “howling man” played a part in the outset of that war! Wish I still had a copy of that book… I lost track of the paperback after moving off to college and haven’t seen it in probably 20 years…

    Like

    • Jay said,

      November 10, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Sounds like a great book! While the series did have its share of “duds” among the episodes, there were certainly more than enough excellent ones to populate a book like that.

      Thanks for sharing your personal history with this story.

      -Jay

      Like

  3. Rob said,

    March 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Hey Mr. Carr,

    Thanks for sharing! I too am an unapologetic fan of the classic of TZ as well! The best part about the show what how much it left to your imagination. Good Stuff my friend and a great read!

    Thanks for sharing,

    -Rob

    Like

  4. September 4, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Sorry to arrive late but some beaumont is being reprinted and the fat Tor paperback THE HOWING MAN can be found on Ebay if you’re luck for a less than extortionate price.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul said,

    September 7, 2016 at 10:45 am

    That’s an interesting passage at the end, Jay. You may have something there. I enjoyed this post — thanks for giving me the link.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      September 7, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Thank you. I enjoy reading your blog. I never get tired of The Twilight Zone. 🙂

      Like


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