Attendees : Front row (left to right) Jean Wilkinson, Mary G, Garnet Harrison, Nat Beck, Vivien G, Charles Beck, Elizabeth Harrison.
Back row : Steve Whatley, Ken G, Bill S, Steve Patton, Duncan West, Ken C, John Runter.
The Third Dennis Wheatley Convention was held on 30th October at the Corus Hotel in Elstree, the location for some of the filming of 'The Devil Rides Out'.
Thanks to our reviewer par excellence, Steve Patton, for providing the official report.
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The DW convention days always seem to be blessed with quality weather despite the onset of winter. It was, yet again, sunny as I drove down the M1 heading for the Edgwarebury Hotel, Elstree for the third time. The trip went very well despite the seemingly endless '50 miles per hour’ speed restrictions.
I parked the car in the hotel car park at 10.00am just as Duncan West arrived.
Ken C and Vivien G were also in the car park having been exploring the local scenery after a hearty breakfast.
We walked in to the hotel as Duncan explained that the numerology that I had used in last year’s Convention review was similarly applicable this year. The date being 30–10-2010 adding up to the magical number 7. (Spooky!!..taking into account that it would be Halloween in 14 hours time).
Ken and Mary Gallagher were together in the bar area (nothing unusual there !!) to greet us. I am full of admiration for the distance they travel each year to attend these meetings. Personally I am very pleased that they do though, as they reduce the average age of the group substantially. I am also of the belief that there is a subtle Scottish takeover (or Putsch as DW would have written) in place as we now have a third Glaswegian in our midst. Bill S - an accomplished banjo player and self confessed 'lousy singer'.
We were also pleased to receive two further new attendees, Garnet and Elizabeth Harrison. They were hoping to be at the previous meeting but were unable to make it. A big welcome to you all. We hope you can join us for many more.
The Programme (artwork courtesy of Steve Whatley)
The cover; the day’s events; the comments Iwan sent over from Spain
Nat arrived soon after looking resplendent with Versace bag. "Steve, How do you do it" she said, "How do I do what" I said, "Lose that weight" she said, "I stopped eating", I said. She looked doubtful. "I don't like the sound of that". Steve Whatley and Jean Wilkinson then arrived loaded up with bags of various accessories. Charles meanwhile was rushing around looking very busy (which he was) as well as being the perfect host (as always).
Our guest speaker John Runter had also arrived by this time. I say ‘guest’ speaker, but I tend to think of John as more of a member of our group, having been with us for two out of the three meetings. John also deserves much credit for travelling from Kent to be with us at nearly 80 years of age.
Unfortunately Iwan Morelius and his wife Margareta together with Nick and Mally Dow were unable to attend due to illness. We wish both ladies well and we are all looking forward to seeing them (and their other halves) next year.
We adjourned to the Arkley Suite and Charles officially welcomed everybody just after 11.30.
John Runter gave an excellent review of his experiences with all things ‘Wheatley’ going back over 60 years to the 1940s when he was a teenager.
John Runter giving his talk
This included extracts from a 1935 article by Cecil Hunt – the literary editor of the Daily Mail - who remembered a launching ceremony for ‘The Forbidden Territory’ in the wine vaults under Charing Cross Bridge. Cecil was anticipating great things from DW following his recent writing successes. How right he was.
There were also various newspaper cuttings provided by John, one of which reported a car crash in which DW’s wife Joan was supposedly injured. There was no evidence to back this up and the photograph of the lady in the paper was certainly not of his wife. John believes it was probably his stepdaughter Diana Younger who had had an accident in France in 1936 and the photo was mis -captioned.
We were then lucky enough to be shown ‘Dennis Wheatley’s Living Portrait’. Charles wasn’t aware this existed until a couple of years ago.
It was produced by DW for his family as a record of his life and the surroundings in which he lived. The current Wheatley family managed to locate the film and agreed to its showing. It was filmed at DW’s home in Lymington, Hampshire. In it DW and his wife Joan talked about his life up to the production of the film in the late 1960s and about the things he enjoyed, like collecting.
Steve Whatley was next on stage and certainly impressed the audience with his Philately Corner.
Steve Whatley’s first day cover
DW had been an avid collector of almost ‘everything’. He was a real magpie and hardly threw anything away. Steve, together with the previous film, highlighted the numerous stamps that he had collected, and so Steve decided to produce an excellent pair of first day covers which jointly commemorated the 350th anniversary of the restoration of the monarchy, with the return of Charles II, together with the 77th anniversary of his book 'Old Rowley' which was printed in 1933. On Saturday 29th May 1965 the Royal Stuart Society held a dinner at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair to mark the aforesaid anniversary. DW was the principal guest. Details of his speech have yet to be uncovered, but if it can be I’m sure Steve W will manage it.
The buffet lunch was served at 13.00 which I thought was even better than last year. Despite my 'diet' I felt obliged to try some lasagne and pasta bake followed by a small but very nice dessert. Nat was keeping a careful eye on me !!
We then assembled outside the entrance to the hotel for our annual photo shoot which we had to 'get through' fairly quickly as it had just started to rain. The group were partially covered by the entrance porch but the poor waiter who was taking the photos was rather damp as a result of his kind efforts. Further team photos were taken by the fireplace prior to our return to the Arkley room.
As Nick was unable to be with us, Charles stepped in to cover the next subject, “Astral Projection: Fact or Fiction?”
Charles introducing the after lunch session
Charles gave reference to the 'Silver Chord' which is referred to by DW in several of his books.
He informed the group that the Silver Chord is mentioned in Ecclesiastes* 12:6 which states:
"Remember him-before the silver chord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well"
It is well documented that people who have had near death experiences can recall looking down on the scene of the incident.
Charles highlighted the fact that near death experiences were acknowledged as a matter of fact all over the world and medical tests have tried to confirm the reality by placing a random number generator in an operating theatre and asking the patient what number they could see when in this state. There was a zero success rate.
Steve P enquired about the difference between the Astral, near death experiences and lucid dreams. Are they all the same thing ??
Bill said that it was a little bit like the Loch-Ness monster; we like to think it’s there and maybe even hope it is there but it has not been proved.
Charles went on to tell that a few pages of the original typescript of 'Strange Conflict' survived in the Humphreys collection. Charles read a piece from the book relating to the Duke’s endeavour to get onto the Astral plane in order to locate a convoy leaving Liverpool docks one night. The original version went roughly thus:
By quarter-past nine, with Rex beside him as guardian, he dropped off into an easy sleep and a few moments later was passing above the darkened countryside on his way to Liverpool.
As he did not know the whereabouts of Admiralty Headquarters there, and could not ask his way, it took him some time to find it, but at last he located the Headquarters in a big block near the docks. Soundless and invisible, he entered the building ...
The published version was slightly different:
By quarter-past nine, with Rex beside him as guardian for the first watch, he dropped off into an easy sleep and a few seconds later he was above Liverpool.
He did not know the whereabouts of Admiralty Headquarters there, but the impulse to reach it carried him to a big building down near the docks. Soundless and invisible, he entered the building ...
A true example of impressive editing. i.e., If the Duke thinks something – then he is there immediately which made it more mysterious and special.
Nick Dow had written previously in the DW library of his own harrowing experiences on this subject. Hopefully he will be able to give us more detail next year.
Steve Whatley was then called to the floor again to talk about ‘An Exhibition, A Television Debut and A Lost Publication’. John Runter ably assisted Steve in this presentation.
Steve Whatley on ‘An Exhibition, A Television Debut and A Lost Publication’
Steve decided to rehash the order and we started with The Television Debut.
Steve explained that DW had made various TV appearances over the years and after having contacted a lady at the BBC archives he had discovered that there were ten appearances that were not yet listed on the website.
Steve and John Runter then read out an interview from 1938 in which DW spoke about a big event that was being featured at the 1938 Daily Mail Ideal Home exhibition. It was DW's 'Mystery Rooms'. The idea had been taken from his two previous 'Crime Dossiers', ‘Murder off Miami’ and 'Who killed Roger Prentice'.
The idea was for the public to identify 8 personalities of sport, stage and screen by analysing 8 different rooms. In using their detective skills it was possible to establish who each room belonged to. There was a coffin in one room and a steam engine in another. There were also photos of peoples’ friends and relatives in the rooms to give extra assistance.
DW also went on to say that he and Joan then took a delayed trip through Egypt, (Alexandria & Cairo), Naples, Rome, Milan & Amalfi. When he returned, the 'Mystery Rooms' competition had completed and 'The Malinsay Massacre' (Crime Dossier no.3) was also being published.
Steve showed us Charles's copy of the 1938 Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition programme (priced 6d) which was placed on display afterwards.
Steve also managed to get in touch with Mark Gerson (the photographer of DW In the Heron books series). He managed to obtain copies of 10 x 8 photos which Mark took when he visited Cadogan Square. Mark was also the photographer at DW's 80th birthday celebration in January 1977.It was in one of these photographs that Steve noticed an item he hadn't seen before. It turned out to be the 'Mystery Rooms’ Dossier. Charles eventually managed to unearth a copy of this rare item via a bookseller in Cecil Court who had one in his garden shed !!!!. As soon as the bookseller found it, Charles was there like a shot. This item was also placed on display. A rare find.
The 1938 Daily Mail Ideal
Home Exhibition catalogue
The ‘Mystery Rooms’ ‘Dossier’
Lots of people clearly had a go at the competition - 10 competitors correctly named the owners of all 8 rooms (they won £20 each; their share of the £200 1st prize), 137 competitors got 7 right (and received their share of the £100 2nd prize), and a further 111 competitors got 6 right (and received as their prize a signed copy of 'The Malinsay Massacre').
Charles will be putting the full details of the ‘Mystery Rooms’ on the website in due course.
At 16.00 there was an opportunity to buy or swap books as well as look at the various objects on display; these included the famed DW first box set. Very few of these still exist.
There were various newspaper cut outs relevant to our speakers’ presentations.
Also on display was an excellent framed photograph of Dennis Wheatley as well as a large original poster of 'The Lost Continent'.
Afterwards Charles presented a top quality article on 'Dennis Wheatley and Joan Grant'
Charles began this topic by asking if anybody had read any of Joan Grant's books. There was a deathly hush which confirmed his thoughts.
He went on to say that she was a prolific writer having produced 14 books, the most famous being 'Winged Pharaoh' which he had borrowed from the school library as he was not allowed to read DW at his school. The book totally grabbed him and this led to him reading the remainder of her books.
It was only some years later when DW's autobiography appeared in print that Charles found out that DW knew Joan and that he was instrumental in the making of her first book in 1937 such a big success. DW sent a copy of the book to Howard Spring who apart from being an author in his own right also wrote for the Evening Standard. In his column, he stated that "If people adopted the teachings of this book it could lead to a new age of chivalry".
In 1937 DW was 40 and Joan was 30. Her father was a great intellectual. He had a triple first in maths and was a leading expert in mosquitoes; her mother was a society clairvoyant.
As a child Joan was very talented but nonetheless a handful for her parents.
On one occasion when a local Catholic priest came to dinner she said to him, "How wonderful, you are going to die next week"…..and he did!!
She could see dead people. She had fearsome dreams of World War One and soldiers being blown up and (apparently) knowing some of their names.
She also had psychometric skills, and it was when holding a blue Scarab beetle amulet that she tuned in to what she considered to be her incarnation as a priest-Pharaoh in the Egyptian first dynasty. Her recollections from this formed the basis of ‘Winged Pharaoh’ which became a huge bestseller in its time.
There were many other fascinating facts and it transpires that the dedication in 'Strange Conflict' is to Joan & Charles (Joan Grant and her second husband).
DW also wrote in the 'Library of the Occult’ edition of 'The Winged Pharaoh' (this time with a ‘The’ added to the title) that ‘this book stands out above all others…..’.
The last item on the programme was a selection of readings from four of DW's books. The selections were due to be read by the resonant voice of Nick Dow but in his absence some rather late substitutions were brought on to the field of play by Charles.
The Group assembled in the lobby
Steve Patton read from 'Come into my Parlour' in which Erika Von Epp jumps from a castle window in Germany to a massive pine forest to escape certain death from the Nazis.
Ken G read from 'To the Devil a Daughter' in which the fight of Good against Evil is fought out in a cellar.
Charles Beck followed up with a reading from 'Eyes of Horus', a book by Joan Grant. It tells the story of Ra-ab, heir to the Nomarch of the Oryx, who grows up in a corrupt Egypt devoted to the worship of Set, the Lord of Fear.
And last but not least, Mary G read from 'Codeword- Golden Fleece' in which the Duke de Richleau is chased through the streets of Warsaw into the bombed ruins of a church to escape a crazed mob.
Pre-dinner drinks were served at the bar from 7.30pm.
Unlike last year I am pleased to report that dinner was served at 8 o’clock but coffee was not served till after 10.00.
The Group at dinner
Last year Mary & Ken G purchased some quality Hoyo de Monterrey cigars and handed them out over the after dinner table. This year we were equally fortunate as they brought with them bottles of Kummel (a sweet, colorless liqueur flavored with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel) and bottles of Tokay (sweet white wine of Hungary, made from the Hungarian Furmint grape). Two of DW's favourites.
The assembled diners were warmed (literally) by the quality of the Wine/Liqueur and the equally appreciated gesture.
Many thanks... Next year could I suggest Vintage Bentleys all round !!
Ken G with the bottle The bottle of Kummel
Likewise Steve Whatley and Jean Wilkinson passed round a large box of assorted chocolate mints. Very welcome, Thank you.
When we left the dining room it was 22.40.
The final item on the agenda was to watch a showing of 'The Lost Continent' based on the book 'Uncharted Seas'.
Once again a big vote of thanks must go the main organiser(s) - Charles Beck and Steve Whatley - for all their hard work in organising this special occasion. A lot of effort has obviously gone into ensuring the success of the convention - which it certainly was.
So in the small hours of Halloween 31st October 2010 the 3rd DW Convention came to yet another successful end.
We leave with the final words from ‘Old Rowley’……. "And so to bed"
And the 2010 U.K. / U.S. ‘mini Convention
Jim Devlin (second from left) with (left to right)
Charles Beck, Jean Wilkinson and Steve Whatley
Shortly after the October Convention we had an unexpected surprise – Jim Devlin, a veteran contributor to the Library, came over from New York on a brief visit to London.
Steve Whatley, Jean Wilkinson and Charles Beck met him for supper in Covent Garden. Steve gave Jim various mementos of the Convention and Charles had arranged to keep hold of the ‘Living Portrait’ for a few days longer so Jim could watch it before it was returned.
A good time was had by all – come back soon, Jim !
This page last updated Copyright © 2002-2006 Bob Rothwell. 2007-2021 Charles Beck.