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Story: Denny O'Neil
Art: Irv Novick and Dick Giordano
On the Neal Adams-drawn cover, the shadow of the darknight detective falls on Gothos Mansion, where Daphne Pennyworth flees for her life from the hounds of Elder Heathrow! (Holy Baskerville, Batman!)
In the darkness of the lonely countryside, there is only one source of light -- one which glows from the window in a mouldering structure -- and within, there is a young woman who fears for her own life -- while outside, the masked manhunter makes his way through the grounds as stealthfully as only he can! No other sound is heard, except for the tree limbs overhead... and a faraway noise which could be an wolf baying at the moon, or not! The darknight detective will soon find the source of evil when he discovers -- "The Demon of Gothos Mansion!
Alfred Pennyworth has just received a letter from his niece, Daphne -- who chose the acting profession! Now on vacation, and has accepted a job as a teacher for the children of Mr. Clifton Heathrow... but the faithful butler finds something very strange... Bruce agrees that there's something odd about the letter, and agrees that the Batman should check on Miss Pennyworth's welfare!
Two nights later, the masked manhunter finds himself in the mountains, and at a nearly-deserted estate which is miles away from the closest town -- Seeing two guards, he knows that he could sneak by them, but he wonders why anyone would bother having watchmen! (Holy Moore, Batman!) He steps forward and the two men mistake him for a giant bat -- if only for a moment! One holds an axe, while the other man lights up a torch! He is at Gothos Mansion, and they have no liking for visitors! When he turns to leave, the axe-man raises his weapon to strike! The axe doesn't fall too far, as the Batman was ready for the sudden attack!
The darknight detective is well-trained in the fighting arts -- and these two guards are no match for him! The axe-man is shoved against a tree, while the one with the torch fares little better with a sharp scythe!
The masked manhunter makes his way across the grounds, and leaps for an overhanging tree branch when he hears someone approaching... Elder Heathrow walks by, lighting the way for two other men carrying an altar! They are members of the Coven of Gothos Mansion... and on this night, after two hundred years, they will bring back the spirit of the demon Ballk! The three men continue on their way -- and Batman knows that Daphne Pennyworth is in the worst kind of trouble! He has heard of Ballk as one of the most evil creatures in mythology! Heathrow is the chief warlock and is quite insane -- (Holy Starlin, Batman!) In the darkness, the masked manhunter leaps for the only window which is lit at the mansion! (Holy This Old House, Batman!)
This where he will begin his search for Daphne Pennyworth! He climbs the bat-rope with smooth, swift motions! At the top, the darknight detective sees the young woman pounding her fists against a heavily locked door! She is ver glad to see him and tells him that she was made to wear some old clothes... kept in a locked room... and the two children she was to teach... they were actually a pair of dwarves! (Holy Snow White, Batman!)
Daphne has spent her time staring at some old oil paintings! The woman bears a close resemblence to her! Since Heathrow's men may have spotted the bat-rope, Batman prepares to break the rusty old lock! VA-REENK! He exits first and tells her to stay a few feet behind him! The house appears to be deserted and the coven must be getting ready for their festival! The next step finds the floor giving way... and even the masked manhunter is unable to react in time from the sudden fall!
Caught in a net, Batman can only stare at Elder Heathrow, who has a pair of pistols aimed at him! The two dwarves named Timos and Cynbee lower the net, then tie the detective's hands behind him! Heathrow explains that he has been placed on a device built by his great-great-grandfather to punish his household! The block is attached to weights beneath the floor -- which will drop down to the cellar! In fifteen minutes, the noose around his neck will tighten... hanging him!
Heathrow had been looking for a girl who was born at 12am on Halloween! If such a woman is sacrificed tonight, the demon Ballk will come back again! Daphne Pennyworth fits the requirements, and like his ancestor before him, Elder Heathrow plans on freeing Ballk! His parting words to the masked manhunter is of the ghostly maiden who died, and who still walks the grounds of Gothos Mansion! Batman finds it already hard to breathe! He won't last the fifteen minutes! (Holy Warhol, Batman!) His toes are barely touching the platform beneath, but he still has a chance... Seeing a torch, he begins to tense his neck muscles... to prevent strangulation...
He begins to swing forward... then backward... getting enough momentum... to reach the torch! After a twist, he uses his feet to bring the torch to the rope, and frees himself!
As the darknight detective takes a moment to recover, he sees a woman standing in the hallway! She tells him to hurry since the Ballk rites have started! (Holy Miranda, Batman!) For a moment, he thinks that it's Daphne before him, but she isn't! The girl agrees to lead him to her, though! As she leads him to the old chapel where the ceremony is to take place, Batman notices the hollow quality of her voice -- as if it were an echo! He finds her touch to be light, but -- firm! (Holy Secret, Batman!) The masked manhunter attributes his deductions to the effects of his near-hanging! He doesn't even know her name -- but he has found himself falling in... love! The chapel is before them... and the coven are inside! She can lead him no further! His is an important mission -- for they are the evil!
As she turns to leave, his hands caress her shoulders, and he asks her to wait for him! She will wait... but time is running out! Inside the chapel, the coven dance around the bound figure of Daphne Pennyworth! Elder Heathrow reminds his followers how he has recruited them from different lands, as the young girl is placed upon the altar! The pitchfork is in his hand, and Heathrow calls for Ballk to accept Daphne as his sacrifice! The chapel begins to grow cold -- as the torches begin to dim, and for a moment, darkness reigns over the congregation! From the darkness, a lone figure appears, and the scent in the air is that of sulphur -- The torches return to their full illumination, and... Elder Heathrow finds that Ballk wasn't able to make his party... but the Batman has! Even so, the madman seeks to serve the demon...
As he seizes the pitchfork from the dark elder, the elder commands his followers to help him! They begin to approach, but the darknight detective seizes Heathrow -- and hurls him into their midst! Now afraid for their own lives, the coven dissolves, and they race out into the night! Now alone... and abandoned by the demon and his followers -- the dark elder is ready for death...!
The masked manhunter checks the wrist for signs of a pulse, but there is none to be found! (Holy Jen Contino, Batman!) He unties Daphne and tells her to head for the mansion, where he'll join her in a moment! Outside the chapel, the Batman sees the mysterious woman waiting for him! When he asks her to come to him, she tells him that she can not! In defeating the coven, he has freed her! She turns and heads into the forest... with the darknight detective following her trail! He stops in his tracks, and sees what she has left for him on a tree! Under the full moon, he has found the oil painting... and begins to weep!
The cover by Neal Adams pays homage to the Golden Age stories of the Batman!
The story by Denny O'Neil has the darknight detective investigating a mystery which would soon having him questioning his very senses!
As illustrated by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, the Batman is quite a formidable figure!
Another relative of Alfred Pennyworth was his daughter, Julia, back in the Pre-Crisis D.C. Universe!
Girls named Daphne tend to find themselves in danger at haunted mansions!
Elder Heathrow bears some resemblance to the Demon's Head... Ra's Al Ghul!
The ghostly maiden, as rendered by Novick and Giordano, was the very thing to guide the masked manhunter on his appointed round with the coven!
On an episode of Star Trek, Kirk and crew met with Trelane (William Campbell), the Squire of Gothos!
The story is reminiscent of the Doctor Who adventure, "The Daemons," where the Fourth Doctor must save Jo Grant from the demon called Azal!
A '70s TV series which used oil paintings to introduce anthology mystery stories was "Night Gallery."
"The Review of Gothos Mansion!