Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library #38

Script by Nicola Cuti (Last Of Its Kind)
Art by Joe Staton (Last of Its Kind)
Published by Charlton Comics Group
Dated: 1978

The cover to my copy of Baron Weirwulf's Haunted Library #38. Copyright 1978 Charlton Publications, Inc.

The cover to my copy of Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library #38. Copyright 1978 Charlton Publications, Inc.

I’ve never been a big anthology fan, especially not of the horror genre. Scary stories are great and all, but often times I find that the need to tell the tale in a truncated manner causes certain things to be overlooked. As a person who likes to get into a story’s universe, understand how it ticks and really feel the impact of a story’s course of events, logical fallacies and shortsightedness can ruin my experience.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the tales to be told in Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library #38 value in-the-moment shock much more than they value anything making sense before or after the story. And, in some cases, these lapses in the storytellers’ judgement actually indicate some pretty terrible things.

Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library is actually part of a Charlton Comics Group series simply named Haunted. I assume Baron Weirwulf is the gentleman pictured in the upper left-hand corner of the cover, but he does not appear in #38. Also, I just want to say now, for a moment I made some odd assumptions about what the star on the cover next to his head meant. I still don’t actuallyknow what the star means here (suggestions are welcome) but I thought it a weird enough idea that it merited mention.

Inside the book are three stories; Sad-Eyed Sara, Last Of Its Kind, and The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. As you may have guessed from my credits listed above, only one of those stories actually has any creators credited.

So, let’s begin. And spoilers.

The first tale of terror presented to us in Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library #38 is Sad-Eyed Sara. As is typical of the genre the titular Sara is a beautiful blonde young woman who has somehow turned out flawlessly gorgeous with perfect hair in the bayou of the deep south. She lives with her scraggly Pa, and the story opens with the two of them boating through the swamp towards town for supplies. While Sara is asking her father if she can have some money to replace her rags with a new dress she accidentally steers the boat too close to an alligator. Pa let’s his displeasure be known by striking her across the face – so hard she should have fallen overboard and tipped the boat if it weren’t for comic book physics.

Our hatred of Pa established, when they reach the dock they are met by a young man named Cabe. He and Sara act as if they haven’t seen each other in years, and Pa asks Cabe to watch his daughter for him while he picks up supplies. Cabe and Sara are only too happy to wander off together…and Pa follows. Spying from around a corner he overhears Cabe admit that he is sick of seeing Sara “on the sly.” Cabe plans on leaving town the next day and wants to take Sara with him as his wife. They agree to meet at dusk at Mr. Remson’s shack, a gentleman Cabe says is out trapping so his place will be empty.

Determined not to let Cabe take his chore-machine, Pa waits in the shack with a shotgun. When the door opens the waiting man immediately blasts the figure in the head. Moments later Sara arrives, aghast at what her father has done. She agrees to help Pa drop the body into the depths of the swamp, and while she does make one half-hearted attempt to attack her father with the boat pole she otherwise follows his instructions and the two return home.

Later that night Pa is awoken by a ghostly cry; Saarraaa. Spotting a shadowed figure outside, Pa and Sara decide that Cabe wasn’t entirely dead. They both assume that the mangled man has risen from his watery grave. Sara wants to go to him, despite how horrible he may now look, but Pa orders her to stay inside while he leaves to finish what he started.

In the swamp the nervous man fires at anything which makes noise, and while reloading his gun he sees Cabe approaching – the young man looks perfectly fine. Startled and terrified Pa turns to run, but ends up stumbling into the middle of a quicksand bog. Pa calls for help, but Cabe claims that he is too far away to reach. As her father sinks into the muck Sara arrives, and realizes that the man Pa shot was actually Mr. Remson, who had returned early.

Pleased that all which stood between them is now resolved Sara and Cabe walk off into the swamp to start their new life together. End.

What?

I’m only going to briefly touch on how this is a story of a woman who’s completely dependant on a man becoming completely dependant on another man. As far as we know, Sara’s only desire in life is to get away from Pa – and to own a new dress. Granted, getting away from the violent and murderous Pa is a good idea that I wholely support. But we aren’t given any insight into what Sara may do with her new life beyond marrying Cabe and doing chores for him.

That must be better than the status quo, right? Well, let’s look at Cabe. He seems like a better choice because he’s not slapping the poor girl. But is he really that great a catch? He wants to run away with Sara, so why wait? Why bother to meet her at dusk when they are together now in town? We know she doesn’t have anything of value at her shack, why does he send her back to her violent father instead of saving her then and there?

Okay, so maybe he’s stupid, that’s no so bad, right? Well…stupidity has its limits. For example, Cabe’s recommendation to meet at Mr. Remson’s shack. He says it will be empty because the man is out trapping. Does he not understand that most people don’t trap at night in the bayou? Especially before night-vision goggles? Yes, it is empty now, but you just agreed to meet Sara around the exact time Mr. Remson should be returning.

That stupidity could be forgiven, if not for the ramifications of it. Remson does return to his shack and is shot in the head by the waiting Pa. We know nothing about this poor man, save for the fact that his body is apparently similar enough to Cabe’s to make both Pa and Sara mistake their corpse. At the end of the story an innocent man has died because of Cabe, and no one cares. Sara and Cabe walk away from the drowning Pa (who Cabe could have easily saved with any vine or branch) with no concern for an innocent man’s murder, and the manslaughter of Pa.

I can understand that maybe Sara is emotionally incapable of fully realizing all of what has occurred after years of abuse. But Cabe? Maybe we’re not meant to think too hard about it, but do we really think Sara is better off with a man who is the direct cause of two deaths and doesn’t care one bit? That’s called sociopathy! I know I’m worried about her.

Sadly, the following story – Last Of Its Kind – doesn’t leave a much better taste in my mouth.

The story starts with big game hunter Zorkas hiring a new guide, Murphy. Zorkas, a man with white hair and a full white beard. shares the tale of the yeti he and a past hunting party encountered. It killed his men and left Zorkas half-dead. Since then Zorkas has hunted it across every continent, landing him currently in Africa. Murphy thinks Zorkas’ claims are insane, especially when the hunter says the yeti “is the last link between man and animal,” but Murphy agrees to the job since the money is good.

In the high grass of the African plains the hunting party makes camp. During the night a shot is fired, and one of Murphy’s men wounds the creature. Zorkas runs off into the high grass with Murphy, but a boobytrap kills the hired man who realizes too late that Zorkas has not been honest about what they are hunting.

Zorkas cries out that he will never stop hunting the animal, and he then shoots down the branch that it is perched on. After landing to the ground it is revealed to the reader that the animal is actually a female humanoid covered in white fur (scroll back up and look at the cover, which is a “remastering” of the reveal panel). The female bemoans that she only wanted to live out her life in peace as “the last of my kind.”

We then see Zorkas disrobing, his hunting jacket having obscured the thick coat of white fur similar to the female’s. The comic ends with him saying, “No, fair one. You are only the next to last.”

Let me say, I love the twist here…until I think about it.

I know it could be argued that Zorkas may intend to live out his life with the female, now that he has found her. Or maybe he’s planning on taking her back to his civilized estate – he’s got “good money” coming in from somewhere. There are many ways to sort of force the outcome of the story to be happy.

But force is what I’m worried about.

On any continent Zorkas could have just parked his ass where he knew the female was, sent home his men, stripped down, and joined her peacefully. Do these animals not smell different from humans? She’s clearly been watching Zorkas’ hunting parties, she’d have realized what he was once unclothed.

Instead, he’s been having people actively hunt her, with no orders to withhold gun fire. Zorkas even shoots at her. This isn’t a man/creature who has given the impression that, now that he’s found her, he’s going to take things slow. And the intelligence both “yetis” display does not give the impression of an animal mating imperative that would justify swift action towards repopulation. I don’t want to type the word I’m thinking, but the story leaves me very uncomfortable and concerned for the female’s welfare under Zorkas’…care.

Also, any ending of a story where the protagonists may have children only to know they will either be the extinction generation or need to mate amongst themselves is not a happy ending.

The final story, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, is fairly straightforward. Carole Adams is a country girl who dreams of winning the Most Beautiful Girl In The World contest. She hooks up with a talent scout, who she seduces and convinces to fix the low-level beauty pageants. As she rises in fame and competitive levels she drops her beaux, claiming she doesn’t like cheaters, and shacks up with Personal Business Manager Mr. Lucius. Lucius promises Carole that with him she will rise “right to the top of the beauty contest ladder…and even beyond!”

Under Lucius’ advice Carole bribes judges, and it is implied she does it with more than just the winnings from her previous contests. The night before the Most Beautiful Girl In The World contest Carole discovers that someone has entered who she is certain will win. Lucius recommends that if Carole doesn’t believe she can sway the judges, perhaps something can be done about the competition.

Cut to Carole tricking her way into the other woman’s penthouse apartment, pulling a gun, getting disarmed, and then stumbling through a window and falling to her death. Of course it is revealed that Mr. Lucius was Satan, and when he promised “the top” he just meant the top of the building Carole fell from. Carole has finally achieved the status of beauty queen – the Beauty Queen of Hell!

Honestly, I just found this story to be dumb. Carole was a reprehensible character whose soul was likely damned to Hell before she met Mr. Lucius, so her final fate is not a shocker. I love a good “deal with the devil” story, but for that to work the wording of the agreement still has to be honored in some unexpected fashion. Lucius literally said “top of the beauty contest ladder” and no matter what he later claims the other woman’s penthouse – with its absurdly thin windows – does not count. This time Satan isn’t being ironic, he’s just being a dick.

All and all there is nothing about Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library #38 that would make me recommend it to anyone. There aren’t even any especially notable ads. The art is pretty good in each story, but that can’t carry the three stories the images were drawn for. The only one I thought contained the most interesting twist, Last Of Its Kind, just leaves me with far too uncomfortable a feeling. Not a single story scared me. I supposed if I was meant to put down the book feeling especially unsettled and somewhat upset then that goal was achieved, but not in the way I think the creators intended.

I would absolutely not recommend this issue to anyone.

Scott T. Hicken is the Web Manager and Editor of EXIERN. He welcomes your comments and feedback!