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I want to identify a short story that inspired a Hellboy tale. The story Double Feature of Evil, by Mike Mignola (drawn by Richard Corben) features the short stories "Sullivan's Reward" and "The House of Sebek". Mignola says about Sullivan's Reward that it:

[...] owes a lot to a very strange short story by Belgian writer Jean Ray (1887-1964)-at least I think it does.

He claims not to remember the name of the story, but Mignola claims that he is positive the story is from Jean Ray.

In this story Hellboy meets a guy called Sullivan, who confesses to being a murderer. The thing is that he hasn't killed anyone; it is his house who does it.

Sullivan explains that due to his addiction to alcohol he lost everything (family, job, etc.) until one day a stranger who looked like a lawyer gives him the keys to a house and a lot of legal papers. When he visits this house he finds a skeleton in one of the rooms and then suddenly three gold coins fall from downstairs, despite the guy is alone in the house. He buries the skeleton in the back yard.

After receiving the legal papers Sullivan loses interest in alcohol, but the first night sleeping at the house he has strange dreams, the craving comes back and he starts

luring homeless people, shambling drunks and prostitues into the room where he found the skeleton. Each time one is locked in that room he receives three gold coins and the next morning a skeleton is all that is left from them in the room.

In this tale there is also an ominous picture of an old man, of whom Sullivan says

"I've gotten it into my head that he built this house and that he came by his money in some bad way."

At the end of the story Sullivan

locks Hellboy in the room. When he asks for his payment a massive pile of gold coins crushes Sullivan.

I have been trying to find the original story, but despite some of Jean Ray's stories having old houses as important elements of the story (Malpertius, Maison à Vendre ["House for Sale"], etc.) not many details match the

man-eating house that rewards the owner with three gold coins per victim element.

Since this Hellboy tale is just inspired by Jean Ray's, the original may or may not contain all of these elements. Mignola definitely gave it his touch. Or maybe I'm not conducting my research properly.

I would appreciate any help identifying the original Jean Ray story.

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    Having reviewed a number of translations and websites reviewing Jean Ray's work, there does not appear to be any single tale which relates to a house as a maleficent entry trading lives for gold. However, what Mignola might have done was to have translated Ray's tone and tenor for the nature of old and potentially terrifying houses which Ray's works resonated with. Malpertius is the strongest of those tales filled with magically bound gods in human form, dimensional tesseracts in the basement, and foreboding replete in every corner. I hope someone can do better than I. Good luck. – Thaddeus Howze Nov 19 '14 at 4:12
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    @Thaddeus, I'm afraid you might be right. Mignola claimed it was a short tale, and since Malpertius and House for Sale didn't really fit I was hoping there would be a story from which Mignola might have taken more than the Haunted House concept, but who knows. It is impossible to know what is Mignola's and what is Ray's influence. Maybe Mignola just took the trapped soul concept from House for Sale and the rest is his... Also, fell free to post that comment as an answer, since it may be a possible answer to this question, and thank you for the help . – Kreann Nov 19 '14 at 13:42
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Mignola was right : this is a tale from the great and late Jean Ray. The short story is called 'Storchhaus ou La Maison des Cigognes' (House of the Storks). It is difficult to find because it was not released in any "official" book by Ray. It only can be found in 'Les 25 meilleurs histoires noires et fantastiques' by Marabout.

As I am Belgian I don't know much about English printings of Ray's work but this is definitely the tale you're looking for.

Storchhaus ou La Maison des Cigognes is the story of Bill Cockspur who came by a key to a house. He gets rid of a previous owner who tried to kill him and throw his body through a door that lead to a strange flesh-like room. A few minutes after the room vomits the remnants of the owner. All is gone but bones. Then dozens of coins start to roll down the staircase.

Later Cockspur feeds another victim to the house but then goes seek the help of a captain friend of him (which happens to be the narrator): if the house gives him coins there must be a treasure somewhere. He asks the captain to help him find the treasure without having to feed the house. But meanwhile they both fall for the same girl and posptone the treasure hunt. Desperate for money Cockspur pushes the girl in the flesh room. The captain recognizes the girl's clothes on her skeleton and fights Cocksure, who ends up in the room as well. In the end the narrator sets the house on fire.

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Having reviewed a number of translations and websites reviewing Jean Ray's work, there does not appear to be any single tale which relates to a house as a maleficent entry trading lives for gold as it does in Sullivan's Reward.

  • However, what Mignola might have done was to have translated Ray's tone and tenor for the nature of old and potentially terrifying houses which Ray's works were famous for. The very tone of the piece is rich with the nature of Jean Ray's tales of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, another hallmark of his work.

  • Malpertius is the strongest of those tales filled with magically bound gods in human form, dimensional tesseracts in the basement, and foreboding replete in every corner. In Sullivan's Reward, the house is revealed to have the power to coerce a human into bringing it souls.

  • The horror is that eventually Sullivan succumbs to the dark force believing it cares for him and will reward him handsomely for a soul as incredible as Hellboy's. Hellboy proves too much for the summoned entity and the house rejects him trying to force him to leave. At this point the tale departs from Ray's style of subtle confrontation of divine or infernal forces and becomes all Mignola's bull-in-a-China-shop Hellboy.

Mignola's tale borrows from the atmosphere, the insistence of meeting for a meal (common in Ray's stories), the use of ordinary people as protagonists and the weird and unexplained as antagonists. He also had the inclusion of a supernatural house which mirrored more than one tale in Jean Ray's work and was reminiscent of Ray's love and hatred for his childhood home.

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