Monday, January 5, 2009

Best Hoax of 2008: The Great Non-Finding of the Holy Grail of Horror

If you didn't follow the strange kerfluffle that arose this Summer over the Holy Grail of Horror, the lost Lon Chaney film London after Midnight, it's even better six months later.

A concise write-up of the hoax, though there are many, appears here. What happened was this: In late July 0f 2008, a writer using the handle Sid Terror posted a lengthy claim that some time in the late 80's, Sid had come across a copy of London After Midnight mis-filed in a film vault under a misleading label.

If ever there were a case of Pics or it Didn't Happen, this was it.

The story he told of the discovery essentially made sense, but none of the rest of the narrative did. Why did Sid wait twenty years to tell anyone, and why get all riled up about it now? Understand, finding London After Midnight would be huge, so even breathing of an existing copy sends people scrambling. Where was the proof, any proof? People who had met Sid spoke up on his behalf saying "we know this guy and don't think he would lie," but only Sid's site rushed to his defense, banning posters who doubted Sid's story.

Eventually, nothing happened. We can only assume it was a hoax, but one that captured the imagination of nearly every horror site around the net. There has not been a follow-up, no confessional I've found.

I think the most ironic part of this is that "LAM" is only important to Horror Fans because we've decided it is-- it's that one asterix we've all been reading about since we were kids. And the awful apparent truth (the last copy was lost in a fire in the late 60s) seems too senseless to be true, as though we can believe the senseless deaths of humans but can't imagine the senseless disappearance of art.

BTW, I'll blog soon about how fandom was crafted by books in the pre-net age.

Some fun links:

  • London After Midnight Myths, which covers every LAM misunderstanding except the recent one
  • In 2002, Turner Classic Movies released a restoration that comes as close as possible to giving us LAM-- it's a slideshow of production stills, complete with music. You can find it in the Lon Chaney collection on DVD here

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