The Haunting of Toby Jugg

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First edition (publ. Hutchinson)

The Haunting of Toby Jugg is a 1948 psychological thriller novel on an occult theme by Dennis Wheatley, incorporating Wheatley's usual themes of satanic possession and madness, in what was at that time a fresh situation: a disabled British airman recovering from his experiences in the last stages of World War II, in which he played a part in the bombardment of Germany.

Toby is the heir to a vast fortune and stands to inherit his grandfather's business empire on his twenty-first birthday. Toby's mother died in childbirth and his father and grandfather were killed in the same aircraft accident, leaving his Uncle Paul and Aunt Julia as his only living relatives. While taking part in a bombing raid on Cologne, he is shot in the back. The resulting injury means Toby is paralysed below the waist and uses a wheelchair. At first he goes to live with his uncle and aunt but later is sent to convalesce in Wales with his old school teacher who is also a family friend. It is at this point that the book, which is written as a diary, begins. Toby is being haunted by a many-legged, evil and shadowy presence that the young airmen comes to believe is the Devil himself. Helmuth Lisicky, the man in charge of the castle in Wales where Toby is taken to recuperate, proves to be a member of a Satanist brotherhood and sends manifestations against Toby such as a plague of spiders. At first Toby thinks he is hallucinating and then going mad, a view shared by his guardian; finally he believes himself to be at the centre of a sinister plot to cheat him out of his inheritance.

A film based on the book was written and directed by Chris Durlacher.[1] It was produced as a drama by the BBC in 2006, as The Haunted Airman, and aired on BBC Four on 31 October 2006, at 22:00 GMT.[2] The Haunted Airman received predominately negative reviews from critics and filmgoers alike. David Nusair's review for reelfilm identified the inadequacy of the plot: "... The end result is a hopelessly uninvolving piece of work that is unlikely to appeal to even the most ardent Pattinson fan, with the short running time unable to disguise the aggressively underdeveloped nature of its pointless premise." But The Stage praised the production, considering it a "very disturbing, beautifully made and satisfyingly chilling ghost story." [3], however, panned the film, calling it "an excruciatingly boring junker". The script of the film vastly simplifies the plot of the book and drops the whole Satanist subtext of the novel - Helmuth Lisicky of the novel is here the oily Dr Hal - leaving the apparently supernatural manifestations open to question, as to whether they are genuinely supernatural or simply a result of Toby's paranoia.


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