Claimed: The Classic of Supernatural Horror
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by Francis Stevens
Description: Horror Classic of an Ancient God's Vengence! When a young woman's grasping billionaire uncle unearths a centuries old box from Atlantis containing the magical secrets of the ancient God of the Sea, she finds herself a pawn in the struggle between her uncle and the legendary but-all-too-real Poseidon. For the Sea God is determined to either regain the box--or claim her as his bride! A young doctor resolves to stand by her against this dark peril; but how can he protect her, when the sea can invade the third story of a house, when the oceans rise from the shore to swallow whole cities, when Poseidon himself comes riding his white maned horses across the sea's waves, and when the long-dead rise up to man ghost ships and pluck the woman he loves from his arms! Claimed! is another classic masterpiece from the grandmistress of dark horror, Francis Stevens (AKA Gertrude Barrows Bennett), the woman whose work, H. P. Lovecraft wrote, "if written by Sir Walter Scott or Ibanez ... would have been praised to the skies... Underlying its amazing and thrilling scenes ... [is a] wonderful and tragic allegory. [Stevens is] among the highest grade of writer." Fantasy editor Mary Gnaedinger hailed it as "a masterpiece ... all readers will like." Claimed!, written in 1919, is a rare treat for horror fans!
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2002
eBookwise Release Date: August 2004
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [203 KB]
Reading time: 125-176 min.
When a young woman's grasping billionaire uncle gets hold of a centuries old box from Atlantis containing the magical secrets of the ancient God of the Sea, she finds herself a pawn in the struggle between her uncle and the legendary but all-too-real Poseidon. For the Sea God is determined to either regain the box--or claim her as his bride! A young doctor resolves to stand by her against this dark peril; but how can he protect her, when the sea can invade the third story of a house, when the oceans rise from the shore to swallow whole cities, when Poseidon himself comes riding his white horses across the sea's waves, and when the sea's long-dead rise up to man ghost ships and pluck the woman he loves from his arms! Claimed! is another classic masterpiece from the grandmistress of dark horror, a work H. P. Lovecraft called "amazing and thrilling!" Editor and fantasy expert Mary Gnaedinger hailed it as "a masterpiece ... all readers will like." Claimed!, written in 1919, is a rare treat for horror fans, out of print in any form for more than fifty years!
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In the introduction to the Renaissance E Books edition of Possessed!, we wrote:
"Francis Stevens" was the pseudonym of a woman who signed all her correspondence, "Mrs. Gertrude Bennett." Born Gertrude Barrows in 1884 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she had loved books and dreamed of being a writer since childhood. That explains part of the attraction of Steven Bennett, a Philadelphia journalist, whom she met and married around 1908. A little more than two years later, Steven Bennett was lost at sea, while accompanying an expedition searching for sunken treasure, leaving Gertrude with an eight month-old daughter to support. For several years, she managed to eke out a living by working as a secretary to a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and typing student theses at night. Then tragedy struck again, when her father passed away. Gertrude became responsible for her invalid mother, who required constant attendance, as well. But Gertrude Bennett's personal losses became literature's gain. Forced to remain home and care for her mother full-time, she sought a job that she could do from her third floor apartment, and decided to try writing.
Gertrude Bennett must have had a taste for dark fantasy, because that's what she started with. She must also have had literary talent, because her first effort, Unwilling Adventurer (titled Nightmare on publication), a short novel featuring carnivorous plants, giant spiders, and a mysterious death-dealing cult, sold instantly to All-Story, one of the leading publications of the era. The editors knew they discovered a major new talent in the occult-horror field, launching it with a special boxed announcement that read, in part, "This is the first work of an exceedingly promising writer, and it is a moral certainty that if you have any taste for the weird, you will demand that it shall not be the last." Readers were, indeed, pleased, demanding more, among them a promising young writer of weird tales himself, H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote several times about the work of Francis Stevens, praising her as "the highest grade of your writers ... who realizes that psychology plays in life's comedy, tragedy and romance."
Everything else Gertrude Bennett wrote sold with equal rapidity, and was received with equal acclaim by readers and her fellow authors of dark fantasy alike. There followed, in short order: a novel, The Labyrinth, the short stories, "Friend Island" and "Behind the Curtain," the novels The Citadel of Fear, Avalon and The Heads of Cerberus, the short stories "Elf Trap" and "Unseen-Unfeared," and two more novels, Possessed! (aka Serapion) and Claimed!, along with a final short novel, Sunfire. About that time, Gertrude Bennett's mother passed away and her daughter had become firmly ensconced in school, and she chose the security of a fulltime job over the uncertainty of a writer's life, returning to work as a secretary. After that, nothing further was seen from the pen of Francis Stevens.
In all the four brief years of her career (1917-1920), she produced only eleven works--five novels, two novellas, and four short stories (four of which are included in this volume). But, but such was the quality of this small body of work that its reputation has spanned nearly a hundred years, with collectors typically paying between $30 and $150 for the now-rare magazines that contained her work (in fact, only two of her novels were ever reprinted in book form--The Citadel of Fear and Claimed!) and her works have been praised by knowledgeable aficionados of horror and shudder tales from Lovecraft to Steven King. For instance, writer-critic Pamela Sargent has lauded her as "the most important woman writer of dark fantasy between Mary Shelley and Anne Rice!" While Mary Gnaedinger, editor of the Golden Age pulp magazine, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, called Bennett/Stevens, "unique in the records of great fantasy. [She has] the power to evoke the very essence of all that is strange and weird and at the same time makes live both the real and the supernatural characters." But, perhaps author-editor Lloyd Arthur Eshbach captured the essence of her work best, when he wrote that, the stories of Francis Stevens "are original in concept, entertainingly written, revealing a unusual mastery of atmosphere, a flair for maintaining suspense, a fertile imagination, a rare narrative gift, and a strong leaning toward the mysterious."
These skills were never more evident than in Claimed!
Jean Marie Stine
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Extract from entry of May 17, 19?, in the log of the Portsmouth Bell, British merchant vessel, Captain Charles Jessamy, Master:
THE floating scoria and ashes covering the sea in an almost unbroken thickness of from six to fifteen inches are greatly impeding our progress. How far we shall have to sail before we are out of the affected region I am unable to judge. With the fair breeze and all canvas set, three knots has been our best speed since meeting the seismic wave, May 14.
The port binnacle still disagrees by two and a quarter points with the starboard binnacle, and by one and a half with that in my cabin. Two of the compasses, therefore, or more likely, all three, have been in some manner affected by the submarine volcanic convulsion which caused the wave. Heavy clouds preclude observations; by dead reckoning we should have sighted Corvo early this morning. The heat is terrible, registering 150 F. in the coolest parts of the ship.
Approaching at last the island referred to on my last entry of the 16th, I determined to go ashore if possible. Shortly after six bells in the afternoon watch, being then by dead reckoning 40 degrees N., 31 degrees 15 minutes W., we dropped in a boat, and, leaving Mr. Kersage in charge of the ship, with considerable difficulty made our way to land. The island proved to be perhaps five miles in circumference, being of an irregular, oval shape. The formation is a dark, chocolate-colored rock, striated with metallic-red, as I discovered by scraping away at one spot the scoria and wet ashes with which it is thickly coated.
Near the center the rock has been flung up in ridges, forming rectangular and other shapes, quaintly reminiscent of the ruins of old buildings. Though, from some distance off, I observed that in several cases the warm rain which has been falling intermittently had washed the ash away from these ridges and that the rock so bared is uniformly of the same brilliant metallic-red with which the chocolate-colored formation near the shore is streaked.
From where we stood the illusion of ruins was nearly perfect, and indeed--who knows?--we may to-day have looked upon the last surviving trace of some ancient city, flung up from the abyss that engulfed it ages before the brief history we have of the race of man began. I would have liked to investigate the "ruins" more closely, but thought best not to attempt it. From many fissures hot, ill-smelling, and probably poisonous vapor is still pouring up, and though the rock is sufficiently cool so that it is possible to walk on it, I deemed it safer to confine exploration to a comparatively small space near our landing-place.
I and one of the men, James Blair, were the sole members of my little exploration party actually to set foot where man has at least not set foot in untold ages, and where, in all possibility, man may never set foot again, since land of this type is quite likely to sink beneath the waves as abruptly as it rose above them.
Blair rather amused me by asking permission to carry away a keepsake of Belle Island as Kersae and I agreed to name it. Scattered over its surface are many irregular blocks and ball-shaped masses--"bombs" as they are termed--greenish-black lava. One of the smaller of the blocks was rather pretty, having a very regular rectangular shape, and the lava deep-green in color, flecked with brilliant scales of metallic scarlet.
Blair said he meant to cut and hollow it out as a box, but when he picked it up it was so hot it burned his hands. The men who had remained in the boat, laughed, which so much annoyed Blair that he removed his shirt, wrapped the block in that, and triumphantly carried it off.
A memento of Belle Island! As I write the place is still visible, a black streak flecked with the scarlet of its "ruins," and set in a desolate, heaving waste of gray. I wonder if any other ship will ever sight that land? It may rise yet higher, pushed up by the mighty forces at work beneath us. Or it may be only a week--a day--till the sea reclaims its own.