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Literature / The Howling Man

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"The Howling Man" is a short story written by Charles Beaumont in 1960. A young enough man by the name of David Ellington is pedaling through Europe when he has an accident. He ends up in St Wulframs an abbey run by a Father Jerome which seems nice except for the howls of a man kept prisoner inside of a cell. The man begs for help to be released and that he was wrongly imprisoned. Brother Jerome on the other hand insists he is none other than Satan himself. David Ellington unfortunately makes the wrong choice.

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The story was most famously adapted by Mr. Beaumont himself for an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959). Click here for the rundown of that version.

Tropes associated with this story

  • Adaptation Deviation: In the short story, David Ellington was uncertain for years whether he had truly released the Devil as the brothers claimed. All doubt is eliminated when he sees photographs of "the carpenter from Braunau am Inn" in the newspapers and his invasion of Poland plunges the world into war. Although it is not specifically stated, the implication is that the Devil assumed the identity of Adolf Hitler, who was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria. The brothers eventually recapture the Devil and imprison him in the monastery once again. In the television adaptation by Beaumont himself, Ellington immediately realizes both the truth and his mistake when the prisoner transforms himself into a traditional depiction of Satan and vanishes in front of his eyes. Many years later, Ellington captures the Devil but his housekeeper releases him. Furthermore, the television adaptation gives the monastery's location as simply Central Europe whereas the short story specifically states that it is in Germany. The short story also does not include the Staff of Truth.
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  • Badass Grandpa: Brother Jerome is old but in charge.
  • Belated Happy Ending: Ellington leaves St Wulframs upset with himself that he released the dDvil but he later receives a postcard from Brother Christophorus to tell them they recaptured him. At least for now.
  • Cassandra Truth: Brother Jerome, Christophorus and the others tell Ellington they have the Devil locked up but he doesn't believe them.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Jerome and his followers captured Satan himself. Unfortunately, it's never for long.
  • False Innocence Trick: The prisoner's best trick. Brother Jerome surmises that it preys on man's greatest weakness.
  • Fatal Flaw: Brother Jerome expresses regret for humanity's greatest flaws, all of which Satan can easily exploit.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The titular Howling Man is described several times by David Ellington as naked and hairy.
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  • I Have Many Names: “Otherwise known as the Dark Angel, Ahriman, Asmodeus, Belial, Diabolus...”
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Ellington inadvertently released the greatest evil in the world from its imprisonment.
  • Satan: He's here and he howls.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Unfortunately, disbelievers keep opening the can.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: When Ellington frees the prisoner, the prisoner paralyzes him with a Psychic Strangle before making his escape.
  • We Didn't Start the Führer: In the original story, the narrator later recognizes the Howling Man giving speeches in Germany.
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