JL'sNcover10 Jon Lantern’s Nightmare JL'sNcover10

Herein below this darken’d sky
Where black things crawl
And some might fly
On this the night of Hallows Eve
In defence we must receive
Power of light to make us strong
To weather out this night so long…
aaarrggggghhhhhhhh! NIGHTMARE!

Many years ago I was asked to tell a Hallowe’en story to my son’s scout group. A ghost story, “Jon Lantern’s Nightmare”, was the result, a few thousand words long. JL’s Nightmare has over many iterations filled out to 27,000 words, suitable for 8-12 year old readers. But ever since its one outing with the scout group (who were suitably scared!) it has remained inaccessible, just bytes on my hard drive (and backed up elsewhere of course). I was advised once by the author and journalist Brandon Robshaw, who very kindly responded to some correspondence, that the story would have more chance of attracting a publisher if it were part of a series. I’m writing part two at the moment, “Jon Lantern’s Blind Terror” and have the outline of the last part, “Jon Lantern’s Cosmic Horror”, worked out.

In the meantime I’ve published JL’s Nightmare as a single story on Kindle. Why not? “Have a go,” is the best maxim!

Even an electronic Kindle publication needs a cover. I worked with Will Smith, a talented young art student at Chesham Grammar School in Buckinghamshire where I’m a guvnor, to do the illustration. Here’s the result:


The Story
Read the prologue here. Did Jon Lantern’s Nightmare happen? Or was the nightmare a troubled part of Jon’s sleep one frosty Hallowe’en night, his subconscious gone berserk? We never find out. Or do we? At the end of the story, do we? Did Jon merely spend the night of Hallowe’en twisting and turning in his bed at home? Or was he in actuality summoned by his strange, old-fashioned twin Jack, to battle the forces of evil? Did Jon experience his terror asleep in a nightmare, or was it terror in the quivering, wakeful flesh? And anyway, what’s the difference? One way or another shards of terror criss-cross the story. One way or another it is an absolute NIGHTMARE!

The setting for Jon Lantern’s Nightmare is a Cornish village at Hallowe’en. There are three main characters, Jon Lantern, schoolboy, thirteen years old; Jack Lantern, his forbear, who died several centuries earlier; and a girl of great character, Angela Grant. Jon and Jack are almost the same person, far separated in time but kindred-close in other respects. Jon already knows about Jack Lantern from words that can just be made out on his gravestone. Jack perished, also aged thirteen, in a fire.

Jack Lantern’s spirit has remained Uneasy since he died because of his guilt in abandoning his sister Mabel in the fire that also did for her. Because of this Jack’s spirit hasn’t been able to move on. So Jack is a ghost and he comes back, like other ghosts, at Hallowe’en. He and Jon together are, with their family bond, a unique and powerful force for good. But between them not powerful enough: on the fateful Hallowe’en night, crucially, they are assisted by the resourceful and courageous Angela, who is the same age as Jon. Angela has become embroiled in the story by the Mistress, one of the leading ghouls who, like Uneasy folk, return on Hallowe’en - Sambain’s Night. Angela attracts the sadistic attention of the Mistress after a spooky Hallowe’en party with her friends.

Ghouls are the scum of the spirit world. Their sole objective is to capture Uneasy Ones, and Fresh Ones too like Angela, so that their spirits can be sucked out at the Dread Party organised on Sambain’s Nights for the ultimate evil being, the horrific Master. Ghouls take the form of grey spirits with awful red eyes that resemble those of Jack o’Lanterns. Trick or treaters are their usual targets. These are a particular speciality of the ghastly Italian ghoul, Crafty Luigi, assisted by his mean accomplice, Malachi the Mechanic.

Ghouls are given three hundred and thirty three years to suck the spirits out of the dead folk who have become Uneasy. If they fail, their Master suffers an appalling fate, with his ghoul foot soldiers dispatched forever to a terrible place beyond Hades. On the night of the story, Jack Lantern is in his three hundred and thirty third year, so capturing him is an absolute priority. For his part, Jack is simply desperate to move on.

In addition to the Master, and assisting the Mistress in doing his foul bidding, there are two other leaders among the ghouls, Maeve the Cruel, fiendishly cunning, and the mighty fighter Maxim Malpurgis.

On the fateful Hallowe’en night Jon, Jack and Angela come together and are involved in various skirmishes with ghouls. Their destination across the moonlit Cornish countryside is Saxon Hill where Sambain’s Fire will rage. Early on Jon is captured by ghouls in a farmyard. This is where he meets Angela. With Jack’s help they escape, narrowly avoiding having their spirits sucked out. Eventually, all three kids make it to Saxon Hill and the giant bonfire. The Master is there, not seen but cravenly concealed like a giant mole underneath a huge grassy hummock. On the hill there is a great gathering of Uneasy Ones, who have assembled because this is where they get the chance to move on if they manage to incinerate a ghoul in Sambain’s Fire. Ghouls are also on Saxon Hill in big numbers, attracted by the Uneasy Ones. The combat is fearsome. Wretchedly, led by Maxim, the ghouls eventually turn out to be triumphant. The story reaches its climax during a violent thunder storm. The storm provides a final, supernatural twist.

Suddenly it’s morning. Jon wakes up. He’s in his own bed. He has missed breakfast. Why is it so late? Why is he so sore? Where is Angela? Where is Jack? Did the dreadful events surrounding Sambain’s Fire actually happen? Or were they just a living NIGHTMARE?

Parts Two and Three
In the next part of the trilogy, Jon Lantern’s Blind Terror, there is a similar theme but in a world setting rather than just Cornwall. The final part of the trilogy, Jon Lantern’s Cosmic Horror, pits Jack, Jon and Angela against the ultimate evil of evils, but this time with the cosmic background of the entire home galaxy, the Milky Way, and the super-massive black hole at its centre.