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  • Writer's picturePete Mesling

In Pursuit of Lemarchand's Box: A Pilgrimage to Dallas

Such sights to show you ...

Outside of close friends and family, there aren’t many people I’d travel 1,600 miles to see. Clive Barker is one of them. I flew from Seattle to Los Angeles in 2013 to take in a screening of the “Cabal Cut” of Nightbreed, which Clive attended, along with Mark Miller, but that trip was also an excuse to catch up with an old friend. In attending Texas Frightmare Weekend (TFW), May 4, 5 and 6 of 2018, on the other hand, I had no motivation other than the guest list, and although it was a great thrill to meet the Cenobites from the first two Hellraiser films (most of whom were also in Nightbreed), and most of the actors who have portrayed Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th franchise (plus makeup-effects maestro Tom Savini!), Clive was the reason I ponied up the cash and boarded an airplane bound for Dallas.

I had actually met Clive several times prior to TFW: once on his Sacrament tour, twice on his Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War tour, and once on his Mister B. Gone tour. All three of those signings took place in my home base of Seattle, so I didn’t have to travel far. TFW was another matter, but well worth the trip—flight delays owing to severe thunderstorms and all.

Day One. The first thing I noticed when I walked into Clive’s signing room was how meticulously it was decked out with rare books, displayed like a city of stories and art—found ruins, where every stone and brick is precious. And then there were the sketches lining the walls, many of them torn from sketchbooks and leaning against the wall from chair-rail molding. This was the art of book-selling perfected, and it made me yearn for the Real Clive Barker Store for the umpteenth time since its closure. (Here’s hoping it returns in the future, more robust than ever.)

Despite the crush of adoring fans slavering for the master’s signature, Clive was able to spend a bit of time with everyone, exchanging as much conversation as time would allow. He was able to make up for this by flat-signing everything and not doing any personal sketches (well, someone may have been fortunate enough to land a sketch, despite an official TFW announcement that he wouldn’t be doing them, but I didn’t see him draw any).

Following are some of the items I was able to have signed by Clive and/or his representatives from The Order of the Gash.

The hardcover comic collection Hellraiser Anthology Volume Two (signed by Clive).

The Sorcha Ni Fhlainn-edited Clive Barker: Dark Imaginer (signed by Clive).

Stealth's complete Books of Blood (first edition, second printing, signed by Clive).

Earthling Publications’ gift edition of Weaveworld (signed by Clive).

All three of Phil and Sarah Stokes’s wonderful Memory, Prophecy and Fantasy books chronicling Clive’s staggering body of work (signed by Clive).

The Nightbreed Chronicles (signed by Clive, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, and Simon Bamford).

Doug Bradley's book, Behind the Mask of the Horror Actor (signed by Doug).

Earthling Publications' numbered edition of The Scarlet Gospels (signed by Doug Bradly, who wrote the foreword, and previously signed by Clive).

Doug Winter's Clive Barker biography, The Dark Fantastic (first edition, signed by Clive and previously signed by Doug at a writing workshop I attended in Baltimore some years ago).

Barbie Wilde’s short story collection, Voices of the Damned, to which Clive contributed the cover art, as well as some of the interiors (hardcover first edition, signed by Clive and Barbie).

Barbie Wilde's novel, The Venus Complex, which boasts a beautiful cover illustration by Daniele Sera (signed by Barbie).

And last but not least, issue six of Doorways magazine, edited by Mort Castle and containing both a reprint of Clive’s “Midnight Meat Train” and my own story, “The Tree Mumblers” (signed by Clive and previously signed by contributors John. R. Little and Jane Yolen; obviously, this one holds a great deal of sentimental attachment for me).

And that brings us neatly to Day Two, which was all about the weakness of mine that I already alluded to at the top of this post: the Friday the 13th films. These movies are … well, at the opposite end of the artistic spectrum from Clive’s cinematic work, but I can’t deny harboring a soft spot for them. They scared the hell out of me when I was young, becoming almost a test of stamina and courage among my peers, and so they’re somewhere in the mix of my nostalgia for the horror fiction and films of that period, along with the short stories, comics, novels and films of Barker; the fiction and film adaptations of King; and a slew of low-budget slasher films inspired by, but rarely as effective as, the original HALLOWEEN.

I will say this: the actors who have worn the mask of Jason Voorhees—whether the infamous goalie mask or the more short-lived burlap sack—know how to enjoy themselves at a convention. All of them—aside from Richard Brooker (part 3), who is no longer with us, and Derek Mears (remake), who was not in attendance—signed my copy of Peter M. Bracke’s Friday the 13th encyclopedia, Crystal Lake Memories, with great enthusiasm and humor. The teen-murdering thespians I’m referring to are Steve Dash (part 2), Ted White (part 4), Tom Morga (part 5), C.J. Graham (part 6), Kane Hodder (parts 7, 8, 9, and 10), and Ken Kirzinger (Freddy vs. Jason).


As you can see, the bar was high for Day Three, but it was not done being raised, as it happens. I had realized at some point during the blur of activity on day two that it would be nice to have Clive’s signature on the official TFW print that he designed (the same design adorning the official convention T-shirt). These prints were made available for purchase prior to the convention, so I had picked mine up during check-in. Now I decided to head over to the convention hotel one last time to see if I might be able to catch Clive’s final signing session.

Not only did I catch it; I was first in line (my timing throughout the convention was eerily good), if you don’t count Nicholas Vince, who sneaked in ahead of me to hand Clive a gift. Who's going to argue with Kinski from Nightbreed, after all. As I slid the print in front of Clive for him to sign, I complimented him on the stunning image, for which he thanked me. Then, while he signed it, I added that I can’t make up my mind if the figure in the drawing is coming together or falling apart. Clive looked up at me with mischief in his eyes, smiled broadly, and said, “Maybe both ... as we all are.”

Amen, Brother Clive. Amen.

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