Tuesday Terror! Crooken Sands by Bram Stoker

Arthur, Where’s Yer Troosers?

The porpy and I are always happy when Bram Stoker pops up in one of our anthologies. His stories can sometimes be a bit grim for our tastes, but they’re always well written and imaginative. This one is in Our Haunted Shores, one of the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series…

Crooken Sands
by Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Mr. Arthur Fernlee Markam, who took what was known as the Red House above the Mains of Crooken, was a London merchant, and being essentially a cockney, thought it necessary when he went for the summer holidays to Scotland to provide an entire rig-out as a Highland chieftain, as manifested in chromolithographs and on the music-hall stage.

It has long been a joke in Scotland that if you see someone wandering around in tartan you can be sure they’ll be a tourist. Mr Markham based his knowledge of Scottish culture on a totally reliable source…

He had once seen in the Empire the Great Prince – “The Bounder King” – bring down the house by appearing as “The MacSlogan of that Ilk,” and singing the celebrated Scotch song. “There’s naething like haggis to mak a mon dry!”

(The kilt is not always flattering…)

Very true! Crooken Bay is a beautiful spot, situated between Aberdeen and Peterhead…

…at either end of the bay is a rocky promontory, and when the dawn or the sunset falls on the rocks of red syenite the effect is very lovely.

There is just one spot in the bay that presents danger to the unwary…

Between the rocks, which are apart about some fifty feet, is a small quicksand, which, like the Goodwins, is dangerous only with the incoming tide. It extends outwards till it is lost in the sea, and inwards till it fades away in the hard sand of the upper beach.

It is just above here that the Red House is situated. Mr Markam hadn’t told his family about his holiday outfit, and had had it made in secret…

He had taken some pains to insure the completeness of the Highland costume. For the purpose he had paid many visits to “The Scotch All-Wool Tartan Clothing Mart” which had been lately established in Copthall-court by the Messrs. MacCallum More and Roderick MacDhu.

These gentlemen had pointed out the possible embarrassment of wearing a clan tartan to which Mr Markam was not entitled, so Mr Markam had ordered them to design a unique tartan for him…

It was based on the Royal Stuart, but contained suggestions as to simplicity of pattern from the Macalister and Ogilvie clans, and as to neutrality of colour from the clans of Buchanan, Macbeth, Chief of Macintosh and Macleod. When the specimen had been shown to Markam he had feared somewhat lest it should strike the eye of his domestic circle as gaudy…

(…but sometimes it is…)

However, he was delighted with it and gave the makers his permission to use the design for others if they wished. He didn’t want to go completely overboard though…

“I shall not, of course, take the claymore and the pistols with me on ordinary occasions,”

He changed into the Highland outfit as the boat drew into Aberdeen, and burst upon his family in his full glory. His son was the first to react…

“Here’s a guy! Great Scott! It’s the governor!” And the boy fled forthwith and tried to bury his laughter under a cushion in the saloon.

This was nothing, though, to the reaction of the Aberdonians when the family disembarked…

The boys and loafers, and women with babies, who waited at the landing shed, followed en masse as the Markam party took their way to the railway station; even the porters with their old-fashioned knots and their new-fashioned barrows, who await the traveller at the foot of the gang-plank, followed in wondering delight.

News ran ahead of them to Crooken, and the villagers had gathered to welcome them…

When the party arrived at the gate of the Red House there awaited them a crowd of Crooken inhabitants, hatless and respectfully silent; the remainder of the population was painfully toiling up the hill. The silence was broken by only one sound, that of a man with a deep voice.

“Man! but he’s forgotten the pipes!”

* * * * *

You may well be wondering exactly where the horror is in this story, and I assure you there is some, but I couldn’t resist the humour in the beginning. I’ve never really associated Bram Stoker with humour somehow! Anyway, Mr Markam insists on continuing to wear his rig regardless, despite the warning of the village seer that…

Mon! mon! Thy vanity is as the quicksand which swallows up all which comes within its spell. Beware vanity! Beware the quicksand, which yawneth for thee, and which will swallow thee up! See thyself! Learn thine own vanity! Meet thyself face to face, and then in that moment thou shalt learn the fatal force of thy vanity. Learn it, know it, and repent ere the quicksand swallow thee!”

And one day, on the quicksand, Mr Markam sees himself…

I’ll leave it at that! If you’d like to read the story, here’s a link. The porpy and I found it very well told with lots of humour, and a great, unexpected ending!

(The porpy and I were both put in mind
of the late, great Andy Stewart…

Fretful Porpentine rating:   😮 😮

Overall story rating:            😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Amazon UK Link

42 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Crooken Sands by Bram Stoker

  1. Really? If I ever visit Scotland I can’t wear my lovely pink, white and black tartan scarf because then you’ll all know I’m a tourist? But I love my scarf!!!
    My grandmother used to sing Donald, Where’s Yer Troosers 🙂
    Thank you for the link, I’m off to read the story now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It has long been a joke in Scotland that if you see someone wandering around in tartan you can be sure they’ll be a tourist This made me laugh because I am pretty sure my dad wears tartan on his yearly trips to the Isle of Mull (alleged land of my forebears). He would be outraged at being seen as a tourist, which of course he is. He prefers to think of himself as a valued member of the diaspora. I dread to think how all the locals see him!

    As for the story – I don’t think of Bram Stoker as funny either but your extracts did make me chuckle, so maybe I’ve underestimated him!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, well, if he’s part of the diaspora that’s different! Of course he’s entitled to wear tartan then… 😉 It’s usually people with Scottish heritage that go for tartan and kilts in a big way when they visit Scotland – I always feel we must be a disappointment to them when they ask us things like what our clan tartan is and none of us ever know!
      I was really surprised at the humour in this – I usually think of Stoker as writing pretty grisly horror, often too strong for my taste. But this one is fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hahaha!! I can just see that man striding along wearing all of that Highland tartan! I don’t usually think of ‘wit’ when I think of Stoker, but that is funny, FictionFan! Why do tourists do those things!! The story does sound good, but I am still thinking about the wit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was the humour that appealed to me in this one – not at all what I expected from Bram Stoker! Haha, most of the tourists who wear tartan have Scottish heritage so there’s some excuse, but I always think they must be so disappointed to find we don’t dress like that in everyday life! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. 😊😊😊I’ll be sure to wear tartan when I visit Scotland! Reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad about the way people with old money (as opposed to the nouveau riche) dress. Some of the richest people I’ve seen in recent years (and in the past while I was an undergraduate) wore old clothes. You’d never recognize them as rich. But the people whose acquisition of money was more recent had on expensive designer clothes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, yes, that’s so true! I remember once when I was on holiday in the Highlands we bumped into an actual Highland chief – the head of one of the really old clans – and he was wearing the shabbiest tweed suit I’ve ever seen! He’d have been a real disappointment to anyone who thinks the Clan chiefs wear their regalia all the time… 😉


  5. I confess that I haven’t read any Stoker other than Dracula, but like you, humour isn’t something I’d have associated him with. This does sound good fun. (whispers-I happen to like tartan, but am guessing should stay far far away from waring any if I travel to Scotland)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, we’re much more polite to tartan-wearing tourists than the people in this story… I think! We all wear tartan too really, but scarfs and things like that rather than full Highland dress! I was surprised at the humour in this – not what I expected for Stoker at all, but he did it very well!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So tourists stand out by wearing kilts, huh? I never knew that! But that nice-looking man in his kilt would stand out in jeans and a T-shirt, wouldn’t he? Sounds like an interesting story (and if Porpy wasn’t too scared, maybe it will be right up my alley!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was a period when every American man who came to Edinburgh seemed to be wandering around in tartan trews (trousers). It did used to make us laugh, but I think we were politer about it than the people in this story… 😉 That nice-looking man is the delectable Major Johnny Thompson, Equerry to the late Queen and now to the King. He brightens up all these Royal occasions… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never thought about Stoker beyond Dracula and certainly not anything with humor. I think the right man in a kilt can look quite good! 😉 Oddly enough, the rector at my church often wears one. I think he just likes the breezy feel in our hot, humid weather! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, as someone who has always preferred skirts to trousers I can understand that! 😉 I do think the kilt can look great, especially in military parades and suchlike. The full Highland rig makes them look like fearsome warriors – which they are!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I always enjoy his writing but some of his short stories are really dark and grisly, that leave pictures in my mind I’d rather not have. So I was surprised by the humour in this – not what I expected!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, yes! I always feel it must come as a disappointment to tourists to find that we actually don’t dress like that very often, and most of our men wear trousers! I’m surprised they don’t demand a refund… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never understood the attraction of kilts. And I’m still trying to understand the ending of the story. Perhaps I’m too tired because it’s late. But I did enjoy the song, especially the second half when it sounded like he was impersonating Elvis, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What?? Oh, I love kilts when worn by a man who knows how to wear them! Often the first time a Scotsman wears a kilt is at his own wedding and that’s always a mistake, I feel – they spend the whole day looking self-conscious and making sure they’re decently covered! But when it’s someone used to the kilt and with good legs it can look super sexy, especially when dancing… 😀 Haha, the Elvis impersonation is great, isn’t it? Unfortunately the song has been stuck in my head for three days now – I think I’m going mad…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Gosh this is surprising, I would never think of Bram Stoker and humour together, but there you have it, this sounds funny (at least the beginning). My husband has a whole kit, with the Logan tartan, kilt, the works. He doesn’t bring it out often, but it takes him a good hour to put it all on. He has more accessories than I do!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Does he? Haha, I often think the diaspora are more enthusiastic about Scotland than Scots are! I must say I think the full rig looks great and I’m a bit sorry that our men tend to only wear it at their weddings or big formal occasions. Scottish country dancing really requires a kilt to get the true swing – it never looks so good when the men are in trousers!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A great story which led me to look up Stoker’s nationality (Irish) and to find that he regularly spent time in Aberdeenshire. There’s a bit of isolated kilt wearing here under certain formal circumstances, especially in Dunedin. I remember Donald, Where’s Yer Troosers being played on the request session on the radio when I was a child (without the Elvis version add-on 😀). The whole song is in my head … I hope I haven’t put in back in yours … 😐

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I didn’t know he’d spent time in Scotland until I posted this and my brother told me – apparently some of the locations in Dracula were supposedly based on places in Aberdeenshire, though he moved them to Transylvania! Haha, it’s usually weddings and ceremonial stuff that bring out the kilts over here. I quite like them on men who’re used to them, but men who only wear them once or twice in their lives always look totally uncomfortable! Hahaha, you have! I’ll be singing it for days again now… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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