Thursday, April 9, 2015

A-Z: H is for The Hangmans Plot

A-Z Challenge continues with the letter H and today I'm focusing on The Hangman's Plot.  My initial goal was to feature The Calendar of Horrors, an earlier publication of Gothic penny dreadfuls, but in truth, there was little information to find.  That said, I switched penny dreadful topics to another more robust story, The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot.

"The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot"

Newsagents' Publishing Company, a publishing company known for it's bloody content created The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot in 1866.  It was a serial publication that originally referenced Detective Brownlow and Sergeant Tuevoleur of the French Police as authors. had an extremely detailed article on this publication.  It mentions that those names were pseudonyms and that the "real author was unknown." Additionally, when I searched for the book, I found it lists Newsagents' Publishing Company as the author.

The Dance of Death and Newsagents' went overboard with the blood and other graphic writing that was not suitable for their target readers, young boys.  According to Yesterday's Papers, a blog by John AdCock, "this penny dreadful ran to 182 pages approximately 23 weeks of 8 page penny parts and reads like each part was written by a parliament of drunken hacks fighting a deadline."  When the tale turned sordid, with the sex, violence and even a mention on incest, the public eventually lost interest.  What's also disturbing were the promotions these publishers ran at the time.  E.S. Turner's wrote about a penny dreadful publication, 'Boys' Weekly' in a book he wrote called Boys Will Be Boys.  He explains the publishers created elaborate promotional drawings, inviting readers who were mostly boys to participate and the prizes were "'six splendid guns', 'sixteen costly stilettos', and twenty volumes of Lives of Notorious French Criminals."  Seems a bit odd to be giving away guns after you've fed your readership with nothing but violent tales, huh?  

Where can I get a copy of The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot?

I was not able to find the penny dreadful version in an e-copy format.  The only one I found was a hard copy via Google Books.

That's it for the Letter H.  How's the A-Z Challenge treating you guys?

Mina Burrows


S. L. Hennessy said...

I SERIOUSLY need to read this one, even if it might be a little blood and gore-ish.

Dani said...

Sooo... because of all these amazing stories you're posting about, I decided to start watching the TV show... gruesome!!
I totally like it and all of it's gory, unnerving storyline. And the actors are perfectly fitted for their characters!

Sharon Marie Himsl said...

Hi! Interesting topic, Mini. The wild west of publishing you might say, but then... so is self-publishing it seems today. The public decides what's worthy. Agree though, this series seems inappropriate for boys...which isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened.
Inventions by Women A-Z

Diane Coto said...

Hi there - Interesting post and book. Although, I think the book would be more than I can comfortably handle. BTW, I gave a shout out to your blog on my 'H' post today on :)

Rosie Amber said...

What an interesting post and those prizes! The mind boggles. Just dropped by from the A to z from a link on Diane Coto's Happy blogging.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Aimed at boys? And here people think today's video games are too violent.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

I find it amusing that people went for penny dreadfuls for the thrill, and yet there was a limit that they were not willing to cross...

@TarkabarkaHolgy from
Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

Nick Wilford said...

Alex took the words out of my mouth! Violent media is nothing new, but it's not like you get a free handgun with Grand Theft Auto.

Shawn Yankey said...

Sounds like a really cool story.
Shawn from Laughing at Life 2

Sophie Duncan said...

That one sounds a bit OTT!
Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
Wittegen Press

cleemckenzie said...

X-rated and created for young boys? Did I read that right? Those Victorians!

Matthew MacNish said...

Wow. This is beyond awesome. What a great H topic!

2015 A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Matthew MacNish from The QQQE

Jessica Marcarelli said...

First time here, from the A to Z Challenge! Glad you're keeping up with it. I love your theme.

2015 A to Z Blogger
Visions of Other Worlds

Moonie said...

Everyone has an angle. Interesting that they had a ghost writer who perhaps didn't want to take credit for the Penny Dreadful!
Happy A to Zing