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Angel of Mons
Arthur Machen

Angel of Mons
Arthur Machen
Arthur Machen was born in 1863 in Wales. He wrote several fantasy books, most notably The Hill of Dreams (1907) and Far Off Things (1922) but was best known for his tales of horror and the supernatural. During World War I, he wrote "The Bowman," a story about how St. George and his ghostly archers rescue the British army and slaughter the Germans. He died in 1947.

ISFDB Bibliography
"The Bowmen" by Arthur Machen

Past Feature Reviews
An article by Robert Manchester


Nearly Ninety-years Old and Still Going Strong!

During the First World War the writer Arthur Machen published a short story about divine intervention at the disastrous British retreat at Mons. He called his tale "The Bowmen," but it was soon taken up as the "Angel of Mons" and became the first Urban Myth.

And this old chestnut is still going strong.

Recently, newspapers in Britain and the U.S. reported that British film director Tony Kaye had acquired film footage of the genuine angel! The can of film, originally shot be a William Doidge, had apparently been bought for 15 in an antique shop in Wales.

As Machen himself once said, the more outrageous the lie, the more likely it is to be believed: Tony Kaye's friend and neighbour Marlon Brando was said to be keen to star in a drama alongside the original footage of the Angel in a film that would possess all the ingredients of a Titanic-style blockbuster.

After the story appeared in the Sunday Times, film-maker Chris Morris set out to investigate, and his findings were presented in The Making of an Urban Myth: The Angel of Mons on Radio 4 in October 2002. The trail led him from the unlikely antique shop that was meant to have sold the can of film all the way to a public relations executive in London, who informed Morris that the Barbara Walters programme in the U.S. had offered $500,000 for the first rights to show the material.

Finally, Chris Morris met Danny Sullivan, an architect and Earth Mysteries writer, who had bought the film from the shop. Why, wondered Morris, could no trace of a William Doidge be found in military records? Sullivan obligingly explained: 'He was a complete invention. There's never been any film.' Sullivan said he engineered the whole elaborate story and created Doidge 'just to have a bit of a laugh, really'.

Quite why Tony Kaye lent his name to the deception remains unclear, and whether Sullivan's explanation is the whole truth has yet to be established. The owner of the antique shop maintains that a can of film labelled 'Angel' was sold.

What is clear is that after Variety and the Los Angeles Times ran stories the spoof, awareness of the "Angel of Mons" story has been raised in the world's foremost entertainment capital. Kaye has apparently since fallen out with Marlon Brando (after his dressing up as Osama bin Laden offended the star); but the Hollywood machine, eager for another Titanic, may yet capitalise on the story. The London PR executive said New Line Cinema (the company behind the Lord of the Rings epic) may be involved in the project.

During his lifetime, Arthur Machen could not persuade the public that the story of the "Angel of Mons" was a fiction derived from his own pen. And even if he were alive today there would be those in Hollywood that would refuse to listen.

Copyright © 2003 Robert Manchester

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