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Dr. Saragoli and the Crimson Skull

Lake cinema, Johannesburg, 1941 –

the Saturday morning matinee featured

Paramount News (“the eyes and ears of the world”),

a cartoon or two, followed by the main feature

we had been waiting for – another episode

of “The Crimson Skull”. Punctuated by Dr. Saragoli’s

hollow laugh which sent shivers of fear through

our 11-year old heads and stomachs, we watched

transfixed through one cliff-hanging episode

after another.


Saragoli’s hollow laugh, his black cloak topped

with a grinning crimson skull, followed us years

afterwards, echoing through moonless streets,

hiding behind creaking wardrobe doors, wherever

friendly faces of people were not around, we heard

Saragoli and his hollow laugh.


Somehow it left me with a taste for horror – voodoo,

ghost stories, tales of invading aliens. A strange mixture

of fascination and revulsion. Over the years I have

become accustomed to a world of atrocities, terrorists

and war. Often I turn off the news with its daily dose of

evil. But sometimes, in the depths of my mind, in winter

or after midnight, I still hear Saragoli and his hollow laugh

and shiver back to 1941once more.

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© Johnmichael Simon



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