Thursday, April 1, 2010

Edogawa Rampo’s World of Grotesque Beauty

Shonen Magazine (June 15th, 1969)
Editor: Nakajima Kawataro
Art: Aizu Kyuzo
Planner: Ohtomo Shoji

There’s no one better suited to turn the youth of today into the gibbering sociopaths of tomorrow than Edogawa Rampo, Japan’s turn of the century master of gothic horror.
Shonen Magazine, the leading boy's magazine in its day, ran a series of two-page spreads illustrating classic nightmarish images from his cavalcade of chilling tales.
Come one, come all, and step inside…

The Fantastic Panoramium

Located in the heart of the metropolis stands a singularly decrepit mansion overgrown by weeds, its blackened brick construct occupying the most peculiar of neighborhoods.

Should you by chance wander into its streets, you will bear witness to the grand panorama of unimaginable illusion and madness.

From The Conjurer (魔術師), 1930 

The Murderous Cave of the Giant Whale

The first of such panoramas is inside a goliath whale. Arteries and ventricles snake about, creeping like the roots of an ancient tree, continuing for a hundred meters into the endless distance, the small and large intestines of the leviathan tangled like bruised serpents.

Suddenly, the guts begin to convulse and undulate. Inside, a hideously deformed man-thing wriggles for his life.

Red lamps cast a bloody pallor upon their intruders. The unfathomable otherworldliness of the monstrous panorama sends man’s mind reeling with depraved madness.

From Scenes of Hell (地獄風景), 1931

The Devil’s Underground Paradise

The five reporters had been invited to the devil’s underground panorama. It is a hideaway for those malformed who would create a kingdom for the devil on earth.

In the swamp surrounded by queer rock formations swim beautiful mermaids. Behind them a subterranean rainbow glows strangely.

Suddenly, the most hellacious music sounds, and the rainbow begins to drip with innumerable bloody icicles. It was a world of madness and illusion, of Heaven and Hell incarnate.

From The Great Darkroom (大暗室), 1936

The Cursed Doll of Death
From the next panorama comes the chilling sound of a whistle, followed by a black locomotive, wheezing as it disappears into a tunnel. Next to the steel tracks, thick as giant pythons, a wild dog feasts veraciously on the waxen human wrist.

The wrist belonged to a woman’s mutilated corpse.

Police rushed to the scene to discover a grotesque straw man hanging from an electrical pole. The effigy was as tall as a human, the straw around its chest mangled and slashed to ribbons, from which stood a white-bladed dagger, twisted deep as if to pierce the heart.

“The doll is cursed!”

Had this straw man killed the women? The policemen's faces took upon a ghastly pallor.

From Demon (鬼), 1931

The Skeleton Gold of Clock Manor
With the candlelight as their guide, they traversed down the musty staircase of the clock tower (manor), descending one hundred steps to an underground maze. Following the narrow path strewn with the dust and mold of decades of lonliness, the passage opened up to the interior of a hexagonal Japanese clock. A skeleton lay on the floor, sprawled on its side and entangled in its own white hair, grasping a black key at the end of its outstretched arm.

Amongst the wooden boxes stacked high, one is broken open, and from it immeasurable gold coins and doubloons spill out onto the cobblestone. A scrap of ancient parchment hangs from the box. It reads:

“Here is the final resting place of my treasure. Wait for the tide of war to settle, then use it as means to begin a family." -Shirobee the Seaman.

From Ghost Tower (幽霊塔), 1937

Psychotic Hell of Gigantic Mirrors
Escape from the narrow underground panorama and into a never-ending Hell.

The walls are lined with mirrors of all types, concave, convex, to wavy. Standing in the room, your shape shifts from gigantic, to Lilliputian, to stretched tall, to with your lips pulled and stretched up and down. The room was like looking into the delusions of a mad man.

In the center of the room a large sphere rolls about, and inside echoes the soul-scraping laughter of a man possessed.

Hammer in hand, you smash the object, and find huddled within it a lunatic with otherworldly, empty eyes.

The interior is a mirror itself, complete with a small light. The man entered the globe, and upon seeing his own form reflected, received such a fright as to drive him mad.

From The Hell of Mirrors(鏡地獄), 1926

Escape to the Skies! The Bloodsucking Fiend

Inside the Kokugikan, a chrysanthemum pageant is well underway. But atop its, a bizarre hunt begins. The vampire has made his presence known. A mass of people quickly swarm around the building. The vampire’s mouth is lipless, filled with white fangs, and its terrible face could not be belong to a being of this world.

Just as they have the beast cornered, the vampire escapes in a balloon. Down below his pursuers set about the task of pulling it down. The vampire begins cutting the ropes holding the balloon ropes with a knife. The crowd could only watch him float off into the untimely early morning landscape, hands clenched into sweaty fists.

From The Vampire (吸血鬼), 1930

The Amusement Park Swallowed by the Earth
At long last, the end of the panorama is upon us. There is a sudden sickening roar emitted deep from the bowls of the earth. The ground cracks, destroying various devices of leisure in a deafening cacophony. Innumerable cracks form in the concrete whale. The water in the underground aquarium rebels and spews forth like a tidal wave.

Finally, the panoramium is swallowed up into the earth.

From Scenes of Hell (地獄風景), 1931


  1. A fantastic selection!
    Thank you for posting these.

  2. "The Human Chair" is one of the best creepy stories I have ever read. Excellent post.