As generations of fans know, my family has been creating the popular Claverack Hillsdale occult mysteries since the middle of the last century. My father died when I was five, and the family franchise fell inactive. I have always gravitated toward comics, particularly the EC and House of Mystery style anthology style of shock suspense horror comics. When my friend Mitch Waxman and his weirdass cohorts told me about their plans for this web site, I asked if they would be interested in using Claverack Hillsdale and his world. Happily, we were able to weave through the complex legalities of decades old licensing and steer a clear course for Clav to the Internet.
Over the next few months, the first major Claverack Hillsdale story of the 21st century will be unfolding in a daily comic strip I am producing with Mitch called "the Starry Ones". To the end of informing new readers who are isolated by time or place from my ancestors work, I am providing this timeline (originally prepared by number one Claverack Hillsdale fan Bernie Larkin) of the family history. Bernie wrote, scanned, and did most of the HTML monkeywork on the timeline pages, which he has graciously allowed us to publish here, and we had our Weirdass Webmaster tweak it a bit. I will be filling in anything missing in the timeline after I make my usual trip home to Vermont this summer and go through the family library.
I can be reached here, but please, I will not answer questions regarding the "Hilldsdale curse".
|A Claverack Hillsdale time line|
1870-8- A weekly British publication, The Kensington Gazette, seeking to increase its' readership agrees to publish the serialized accounts of a Scottish occultist and his sidekick as they explore the seething horrors lurking beneath the genteel surface of Victorian London. The series proved to be very popular with, and attracted what was considered to be a common and vulgar class of reader, and the editors decided to make the name of author Ancram Hudson a masthead item throughout the life of the periodical. This decision assured the financial solidity of the Kensington Gazette and the editors began to secure other fantastic and weird fiction to compliment their star author and his popular creation Claverack Hillsdale. Eventually, the publisher of the Gazette (Lionel Hutchence) succumbed to an Absinthe addiction and committed suicide. The Gazette closed its offices in October of 1878.
1879- Ancram Hudson was approached by an American publisher of novels and technical journals, the Lighthouse Publishing Company of Massachusetts, to begin writing an exclusive weird fiction novel. In the next six years, Hudson and Lighthouse would produce the definitive series of books which would establish all the critical Hillsdale identifiers. The shaved head and goatee, the black greatcoat, the house in Vermont and the apartments in New York City and Philadelphia, and above all the master villain himself- Hampton Jitney. Hudson and his wife Penelope were also blessed by the birth of their first son, Ancram Hudson the second.
1880- The first Lighthouse novel Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Colour of Madness is published in England, America, and Canada. It was a huge hit and Lighthouse contracted Ancram Hudson for five more novels.
1881- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Monkey's Claw.
1883- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Prophets of Lem.
Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Heretic
1886- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Path of Iron.
The disturbing series of mysterious deaths associated with the Hillsdale franchise continued when author Ancram Hudson was found murdered in his locked study. A mysterious blood covered African mask, which his family had never seen, was found and Scotland Yard declares the case closed due to lack of evidence.
1887- Mdme. Penelope Hudson moves her family to America to be closer to her paternal family, who have set up housekeeping in New York City. Her oldest son, Ancram Hudson the second, is accepted as a student at Princeton University and establishes a residence outside Philadelphia.
1898- Professor of English Literature Ancram Hudson moves to New York City to take over the household of his mother after she passes on. He inherits responsibility for his five brothers and contacts Lighthouse Publishing executives inquiring if any interest in his fathers characters might still exist. After an enthusiastic response from the ailing publisher, Hudson begins the second series of Hillsdale novels. Fans of the Hillsdale stories refer to this period as the mythos.
1899- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Serpents Heart is released and finds an ecstatic audience.
Ancram Hudson marries his long time sweetheart Virginia Hastings
1901- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Skull of Isis.
1902- Ancram Hudson the third is born in New York State on Halloween.
1904- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Ring of Destiny
1905- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Return of the Heretic (Hampton Jitney's return and the establishment of the cycle of the returning gods). This is also the beginning of Hudsons' period of correspondence with the other writers of weird fiction such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Howard Philips Lovecraft, and the young Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lovecraft's influence over Hudson begins to show at this point with his alliterations to the fallen race of Old Ones and the sunken city of the dreaming gods.
1906- Hudson, seeking a more regular form of income, begins work as a staff writer for the legendary Pulp Magazine Fantastic Tales.
1907- Ancram Hudson, seeking to escape from being a mere writer of coarse fiction, begins a literary magazine called the Saw Mill Gazette. It publishes his prose and commentary. The Saw Mill never truly finds its audience and Hudson resigns himself to his fathers legacy.
1908- A collection of Fantastic Tales is released which includes the compilation of Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Mask of the Sheik.
1908-1913- Hudson becomes the most popular writer amongst the stable of authors at Fantastic Tales and enjoys a quiet period of life with his family in lower Manhattan. Ancram Hudson the third is fascinated with the idea of becoming an engineer and leaving behind the literary traditions of his family. During this time, he publishes such legendary tales as; the Touch of Zeus, and the Ocelots' Eye.
1917- Ancram Hudson the third fakes his age and joins the fledging air corps of the United States army in order to get to europe and see the world.
1918- Sergeant Hudson receives a letter from his mother that informs him of the horrible death of his father. The senior Hudson was electrocuted by a lightning bolt in a freak strike at the corner of Broadway and west 27th streets during an otherwise clear day. The army sends Hudson home where he reluctantly picks up the reigns of the family franchise. His version of the Hillsdale mythos is at first uninspired and longtime fans begin to drift away.
1919- Hudson makes a trip to the Dakotas to see the sights of the vanishing American west and he meets and marries a Lakota Sioux woman named Beatrice Three-Bears. When he returns to New York, their interacial relationship encounters enormous bigotry and it is decided that they will move to his motherŐs ancestral home in Townshend, Vermont.
1920- Ancram Hudson the second releases his first Claverack Hillsdale novel- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Ghost of the Hun to accolades from both the Hillsdale fans and the mainstream Literary critical establishment. Hudson becomes a bit of a recluse, and his work arrives at Fantastic Tales by telegraph or post. He is never seen by any outside of his family again. However, it is during this period that the Hillsdale mythos enjoyed their greatest expansion.
1921- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Son of the Sky
1922- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Heretics' Revenge.
1923- Ancram Hudson the fourth is born on his fathers birthday.
1924- The American National Broadcast Radio Playhouse presents a dramatization of Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Monkey's Claw on American radio. The broadcast is well received and a contract is formed to provide one new drama each week. Hudson agrees to this and ceases his relationship with Lighthouse publishing closes its doors after a disastrous and deadly fire which wiped out its printing plant.
1928- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Haunted Limosuine.
1931-35- The Great Depression wipes out the American National Broadcast Radio Playhouse Company and Hudson hires an agent in Hollywood. Within a year, the first serial of Claverack Hillsdale is released to the saturday matinees both in America and abroad. This serial starred veteran actors Paul Ashe (Claverack Hillsdale), Martin Armstrong (Ancram Hudson), Basil Legrange (Hampton Jitney), and introduced engenue Lisa Perry in the new role of Hillsdale's research assistant Rochelle Hopewell. The series continues for the next 4 years in weekly installments and centered on a quest for an ancient vedic book which Jitney wanted for his nefarious purposes. The series was produced in cliffhanger format and spawned several licensed products which are highly prized by collectors (including the decoder ring pictured here).
1936- The first Hillsdale feature film, and adaptation of Claverack Hillsdale and the Heretic called simply "The Occultist" is released. Oddly, one of the biggest fans of the film, as revealed in the British magazine Insight, was German Chancellor Adolph Hitler. He revealed his long admiration of the Hudson family franchise and hoped for a new series of novels.
1938- Seen as a response to the news of the second world war, Hudson releases a new novel called Ancram Hudson's Claverack Hillsdale and the Hounds of Havok.
1939- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Vault of the Turk is released to enthusiastic crowds. News of the authors bizarre death in the mountains of Vermont spur sales to an all time high.
1946- Lieutenant Ancram Hudson the fourth returns from the occupation of Japan and moves into the apartments his family maintained in New York City on the corner of Bleecker and Barrow streets. He finds himself associating with the beat scene of Greewich Village and uses the GI Bill to enroll in the New York University school of Medicine. SPECIAL SECTION!!! FAMILY PHOTOS FROM THE HUDSONS!!!
1949- Hudson marries concentration camp survivor Iris Rabin and they are blessed with the birth of twin sons, Ancram the fifth and Hastings Hudson.
1950- Hastings is abducted and killed by an escaped mental patient. Devastated, the Hudsons leave New York and return to the Townshend house to recover. The fans of the Hillsdale franchise despair of ever seeing a return of their favorite occultist.
1952- His family estate depleted and under funded, Hudson is forced to contact a series of publishers in New York in an attempt to support his growing family. Softshoe Publishing of Madison avenue agrees to give the franchise a try. The 13 year hiatus of the series hardly hurt its sales and a new generation of readers hungrily gobbled up Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Atomic Ghouls.
1953- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale and the Red Lemur.
1954- The Victorian titling of the series is changed and the series is introduced henceforth as Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: or Claverack Hillsdale:Demonologist presents: Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Hampton Jitney returns is published.
Also, Hudson is invited to write for the revived Fantastic Tales magazine, where his father had been a popular writer in the first and seond decades of the the 20th century.
1955- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Fuhrers legacy.
1956- Claverack Hillsdale:Demonologist presents: Tales to Chill the Blood. This is the first time other writers are allowed to mold the world of Hillsdale mythos and several notables including Roger Block and Augustus de Lerth are included in the collection.
1958- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Jitney's coven.
1959- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: The State of Empire.
1960- On a book tour in England, Ancram the fifth sees his father killed in a terrorist explosion. The family returns to Vermont, but finds the house filled with memories and they move to Philadelphia.
1961- Coney publishing of Minnesota publishes the Claverack Hillsdale Mysteries comic book.
1963- Desperate for money, the family allows a comic book publisher called Best Comics to license the Hillsdale storyline for five years. The comic introduces the victorian occultist to a new generation, and also creates several critical elements of the mythos as we now know them (such as Claveracks red sunglasses and Jitney's behind the scenes control of Wall Street). Generally assumed to be legendary cartoonists Jack Kirby and Alex Raymond (working under pseudonyms Herbert West and Michael Carter) a stable of freelancers contribute to this period of Hillsdale history. Additional licenses are signed with all comers and the collectibles industry capitalizes on a formerly close held license. Click here to view some items from my personal collection.
1964- The Claverack Hillsdale saturday morning cartoon is introduced into syndication and gathers a cultish following, as well as drawing fire from right wing religious leaders who saw the cartoon as promoting paganism. It is driven off the air after just one season and has never been broadcast again. Plans exist to release a DVD at some time in the near future.
1965- Best Comics goes out of business after being prosecuted by the State of Georgia for the publication of materials dangerous to minors. The owner, one Morris Plattsburg, was planning to appeal the decision, but was pushed off of a subway platform and killed. Left without the income from the license and the property deemed too hot to touch, the Hudson family had no choice but to sell their property in New York and Philadelphia and return to the familial haven in Vermont.
1967- Ancram Hudson the fifth matriculates at the Crowborough State University in Vermont. He drops out after the first semester and makes his way to Haight street in San Francisco, California.
1968- In the Red Eye Press magazine Tuned In, Claverack Hillsdale short stories begin to appear. These mark the turning point for the mythos. These stories are the first postmodern Claverack stories and treat the character in a non contemporaneous manner. Hudson breathes life into the franchise and soon the paperback publisher Oracle Books signs the young writer into a 5 year contract for six novels.
1969- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Cult of Personality.
Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Power of Money.
1971- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Destinys' Man. Also in New York city, the first Claverack Hillsdale Convention is organized at Madison Square Garden.
1973- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Digital Messiah.
1974- Ancram Hudsons' Claverack Hillsdale in: Stranger from the Stars.
1975- Hudson marries his common law wife Moonbeam Watson in an alternative wedding at a commune in Oregon. He lives off of his books earnings, and signs a deal for a paerback reissue of his family franchises entire catalog of novels.
1976- Hudson invests his earnings in several young computer companies in silicon valley. Over the course of the next five years, he purchases offering price stock in Microsoft, Dell, Compaq, Intel, QualComm, and Apple. By 1981, he is the first Ancram Hudson who is wealthy enough to not be forced to write.
1978- Ancram Hudson the sixth is born at the family estate in Townshend, Vermont.
1983- Ancram the fifth is found dead behind the wheel of his car. He appeared to have asphyxiated and carbon monoxide poisoning is blamed. Moonbeam Hudson, who has gone back to her given name of Marian takes over the running of the franchise, but without new content, the franchise falls on hard times.
1990- With the birth of the internet, Hillsdale fans begin to unite and communicate. Fan pages begin to propagate and a collectors market begins as baby boomers begin to buy pieces of their childhood. At a sale at Sothebys, the poster from the 1937 feature film The Occultist is sold to a private collector for $11,000.