Devon is famous for its myths, and award-winning Exeter filmmaker Ashley Thorpe has been drawing on this mythology to recreate dark tales of horror, most recently in his radio play The Demon Huntsman.
The story was written for Glass Eye Pix’s Tales From Beyond the Pale radio dramas.
Ashely has won awards for his animated horror movies, which have gone some way in recreating the British horror industury, picking up the Buried Alive! Visionary Award in Atlanta USA. He also nabbed the Media Innovations award for independent film in March, 2009.
Ashley latest movie, The Hairy Hands, is based on the Dartmoor myth of ghostly hands which steer drivers off the road.
In his article on FearNet, Ashley wrote: “Although I’ve spent the last five years or so researching British legends, some of them are as familiar to me as the weather-worn gates of my first school.
“When I was a child growing up in Devon I was surrounded by ghost stories, local legends and folk songs about monsters, and I was lucky to be surrounded by people keen to tell them, especially to a wide-eyed child. I was fed a constant diet of vengeful ghosts, highwaymen and deals with the devil in the Dartmoor fog.
“It was a passion that was encouraged and subsequently entertained by my parents, and I’ll always thank them for that.
“Thus when I was asked to submit a script for the series I inevitably looked to Dartmoor and its myths for narrative and to the golden age of Hammer horror for stylistic flourish.”
Ashley goes on to give a low down on the story which inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles – the legend of Richard Capel – a violent and powerful 17th century Devonshire Squire who enjoyed something of a horrible reputation, who was laid to rest in a sepulchre in the churchyard above Buckfastleigh after his death in 1677.
The very same region boasts a much older tale – a Demon Huntsman. The area on the south west edge of Dartmoor has long been linked with tales of the devil. This for example taken from a travel journal circa 1879:
“…and on stormy nights the peasant has heard the whisht hounds sweeping through the ” rocky valley with cry of dogs and hoofs thick-beating on the hollow hill. Their unearthly master has been seen sometimes visible – a tall, swart figure with a hunting pole.”
The ‘swart figure’, invariably the devil, would hunt the unwary with his pack of hounds mercilessly across the moor – driving them to their deaths over the cliff at Dewerstone. Initially nameless, the huntsman was later christened Dewer (there is much debate as to whether the rock was named after the demon or the demon was named after the rock) has also on occasion been described to bear cloven hooves, or the antlers of a stag, and as such his visage invokes even earlier myths: the Celtic Cerunnos, Herne the hunter and oft told tales of ‘the wild hunt’. Stories within stories, myths within myths.
Read the full article on FearNet and download Ashley’s radio play The Demon Huntsman on The Tales From Beyond the Pale site.