Christopher Banham

Route & Number: Green 27

Date / Time: Sunday 3rd July: 11 – 11.45am

Location:  Horsforth Library

Event: As part of Horsforth’s Walk of Art he will be talking about the pernicious world of penny dreadfuls, and reading blood-curdling extracts from The Skeleton Crew.

First serialised between 1866 and 1867 by the Newsagents’ Publishing Company and Edwin J. Brett, The Skeleton Crew, or, Wildfire Ned was among the finest and most popular ‘penny dreadful’ weeklies. These cheap fictitious periodicals, characterised by bloodthirstiness, violence and crime, whether set in grim contemporary London or at thrilling junctures in British history, proved phenomenally popular amongst the boys of Britain in the mid nineteenth century.

In The Skeleton Crew, boy hero Edward Warbeck, the eponymous Ned, pursues a quest to defeat a band of murderous skeletons, led by the indefatigable Death-wing. Contemporary occultist A. E. Waite described this bloodthirsty tale as “suggestive of a film produced by the inmates of Bedlam” with a storyline “in a state of nightmare”.

Republished for the first time in November 2015, edited by Christopher Banham and Elizabeth Stearns, this new edition contains a critical introduction, explanatory footnotes, extensive contextual material, and the full text of the contemporary stage version of the story as performed at the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton. The original vivid, and often terrifying, illustrations are also reproduced.

Christopher Banham is a historian and teacher based in Horsforth, UK. His published works span the subjects of Victorian history, literature, culture and society. The Skeleton Crew is his latest publication, a transatlantic collaboration with fellow devotee of the genre, Elizabeth Stearns. As part of Horsforth’s Walk of Art he will be talking about the pernicious world of penny dreadfuls, and reading blood-curdling extracts from The Skeleton Crew.

The Skeleton Crew is published by Victorian Secrets, and is available to buy from Amazon in paperback and bargain Kindle formats, http://www.victoriansecrets.co.uk/book/the-skeleton-crew-or-wildfire-ned/. A copy is also available for loan from Horsforth Library.

Chris Banham

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