(Wizard Homepage)


First episode, taken from The Wizard issue: 1381 August 2nd 1952.

Overnight in the heart of London, a plant has sprung up.

It’s already 300 feet high—and still growing.

Only one man knows the deadly menace of the monster—

but no one will believe him!


Clive Fulton paused in the doorway of the big hothouse as a wave of warm air met him. The air was dry, arid, like the air from the desert. Fulton, a tall, lean man, with a thin face and quiet way of speaking, glanced at the thermometer on a nearby panel, and was satisfied that the temperature was just right. He checked the humidity register, and nodded in approval. Something nudged his leg from behind, and he looked down to see Chips, his liver-and-white spaniel, one of his two dogs, Gordon, his smooth fox terrier, was grubbing in a heap of mould nearby. Fulton snapped his fingers at it in a signal to follow him. Man and dogs passed inside the hothouse and the door was closed. Clive Fulton’s dogs always accompanied him on his morning tour of his establishment. They were rarely away from his heels. Now they trotted ahead, up and down the aisles between the beds and benches where grew some of the craziest looking plants that nature had created. They were of all shapes and sizes, some as grotesque as fanciful monsters, some covered with vicious looking spines, some with the most gorgeous flowers imaginable in blossom. They were all cactus plants. Clive Fulton not only collected cactus plants from all over the world, but he grew them for sale on the market, and he had the biggest known assembly of cactus plants in all Britain. Now’ as he slowly walked the length of the vast hothouse, his keen eyes missed nothing. He paused to test the dryness of the soil under some beaver-tail cactus that had produced huge red flowers with yellow centres. He looked at a great tangle of prickly-pear which showed many buds on the edges of the leaves. He walked around a detached bed in which grew some saguaros, giant cactus from the American deserts. Already much taller than himself. Here was a clump of elephant-ear cactus, and here the gorgeous Mexican star cactus with its flower of gold. But there were hundreds of other smaller varieties, little twisted pieces of stem that looked as though they had no life in them. Fulton knew differently. He knew that, given time, these fragments of dry rot would give forth stems and leaves of intricate shape. It was almost impossible to kill a cactus. They could grow where nothing else could grow. Many of these specimens he had dug up with his own hands in the far deserts of the earth. Others had been sent to him by collectors in many foreign countries. Altogether he had over a thousand varieties on his cactus farm, and in this hothouse were the rarest of them all. In one corner an artificial sunlamp blazed down upon a cactus about the size of a large pineapple. It had no flower, but was covered with long, red, needle sharp spines. It was marked off in segments, and at the top there was a small hole the shape of a human mouth. There were spikes inside the hole resembling teeth. When he glimpsed this plant Clive Fulton moved over to it, and his eyes glowed with satisfaction. He believed he was the first person ever to bring a Chola Diabolo to England and get it growing. The Demon Chola, as the Indians in the remote Arizona Desert called it, was very rare even out there, and Fulton had spent three months trying to find a specimen to bring home.

The Chola had been no larger than an orange when he had got it, but it was growing every day. It seemed incredible that anything could grow so fast. He guessed that this was because there was always a good deal of moisture in the hothouse air, and the demon Chola had always been starved of water in its own country. He bent over it cautiously, for he knew its spines were poisonous. For that reason he had close mesh railings around the plant to prevent his dogs from nosing too close. “I wonder how big you will grow?” he mused. “One old Indian told me he had seen one of you ten feet high, and that it could kill horses by shooting out its spines. I wonder if he was telling me a tale?” Fulton turned away, and as he did so a yelp came from the spaniel at his heels. He turned and saw that it was biting at its flank, but thought little of it, merely gesturing for both dogs to follow. A moment later there was a yelp from the fox terrier, and when he again turned Fulton saw the dog rubbing at its face with a paw, going round and round in a frenzy as it did so. “What’s the matter with you two?” he demanded, and just then something flashed through the air and struck in the loose portion of his sleeve. It was an inch long red spine, no thicker than a needle. He leapt back, for he had recognised it at once. It was one of the spines from the Demon Chola. One of the segments of the cactus had jerked outwards and hurled several of its spines a distance of three or four yards. He could see some of them on the clean concrete pathway. Even as Fulton realised what was happening, the spaniel gave a moan, stiffened, and fell on its side. “Gordon, come here!” called Clive Fulton, but it was too late. The fox terrier reared up, stiffened, and also fell on its side. It, too, was dead. Fulton had faced death in many parts of the world, but now he retreated rapidly down the pathway, for he knew that both the dogs had been hit by poisonous spines from the cactus. The shooting out its spines was true after all. He had always believed it to be a legend, but here was proof. Although this particular cactus was less than a foot in height, it had already killed two dogs. The Demon Chola must be destroyed. He dare not allow the Chola to live any longer. One of his men might be the next victim, and his would be the responsibility. Very carefully he plucked the spine from his sleeve. His own escape had been close. Then he went to look for some form of protective covering to wear. He found a thick rubber raincoat that covered him from neck to foot. He was already wearing leather leggings and boots. He needed something for his head, and fetched a fencer’s helmet from the house. On his hands he put heavy leather gloves that the spines could not penetrate. Thus clad, he picked up a spade and approached the Chola. It was perfectly still. Nothing could have looked more innocent, but there were his two dogs to show that death lay in those red spines. He had decided that the only safe thing would be to dig the cactus up and burn it in the furnace, but the moment he drove the spade into the earth there was a miniature explosion.

Two of the segments of the cactus whipped out at right angles, and a score of red spines rattled on Fulton’s “armour,” some of them reaching the close mesh helmet over his head. He jumped back. The cactus was quivering. He saw that two of the spines had stuck in the edge of a nearby wooden bench, which testified to the force and speed with which they were projected. He aimed a slicing blow at the cactus with the spade. Immediately other segments of the plant opened, and scores of spines flew in all directions, but Fulton smashed at the plant. The edge of the spade cut out big segments of the horrible plant, and a white, milky liquid oozed forth. Fulton continued to slash and stab at the cactus until nothing remained of it but a number of white and purple fragments on the earth. Even then he was not satisfied. He dug down and took up the tough root of the plant. He got a box and collected all the pieces he could find and piled them in, then carried these to the furnace that heated the hothouse, and burnt them. Half a dozen trips he made between the spot where the Chola had grown and the furnace, bringing more fragments each time. Finally he was convinced that he had destroyed every particle of the sinister cactus, and removed his mask to mop his face and breathe more freely. He shook all the loose spines from his coat and swept these up, burning them as well. He searched around for stray spines, and was satisfied that he had not left one behind. Only then did he glance at his watch and remember that he had less than an hour to keep an appointment in London, on the far side of Hyde Park. It would mean hard driving to get there on time. What he did not know was that, in stepping back after that first vicious blow at the Chola, he had trodden on a small, triangular piece of fibrous substance that had been detached from the plant. This had stuck to the heel of his boot, and now as he strode from the hothouse and called over one of the men, explaining briefly what had happened and asking him to bury the dogs, he carried this little piece of cactus with him. It remained on his boot until he reached the spot where his car was parked in the graveled drive. There the fragments of the plant fell off and lay in the path of one of the front wheels. Clive Fulton got into the car and drove off at once. He was shaken by his recent adventure, but he would have time to compose himself before meeting his important customer in London. The front wheel of the car passed over the fragment of the Demon Chola that lay among the gravel. One solitary red spine was attached to this piece of cactus, and it stuck into the tyre between two of the studs. Hidden there, the fragment was carried Londonwards.


It was two weeks later that one of the head gardeners stood contemplating the huge heap of rotting leaves and other garden waste that had been piled not far from the superintendent’s lodge in the middle of London’s Hyde Park. Leaves from all over the park had been brought there in the autumn, and the pile had rotted down to a height of about a dozen feet. It was good compost. Presently he shouted to two of the other men. “Jim, Fred, take a dozen barrow loads of this stuff over to that new flower bed by the open air café,” he ordered, and strolled away. Ten minutes afterwards he was hastily summoned by an agitated Jim, who said that Fred had been hurt. Fred was lying on the ground near a half filled barrow. He was groaning, and his face was ashen. On his right hand was a small scratch. “There’s something in there,” he declared, pointing at the big heap of rubbish that had been disturbed. “There’s a great, round thing, and it’s covered with long spikes. I scratched my hand on one of them, and not I fell as though my heart’s going to jump out of my chest,” Even as he spoke, the heap of rubbish seemed to stir. Masses of decayed leaves and rotting grass rolled down the near side and revealed a monstrous shape. The men jumped back in dismay, pulling Fred with them, but their eyes were only for the thing under the rubbish. The growth was fully ten feet high, shaped like a giant pineapple, but was covered with spines several inches long, red in colour. The thing was divided into shallow segments, and the main portion of the body was a yellow-green colour. “Whew!” ejaculated the head gardener. “What’s this? Where’d it come from? How’d it get there?” “It grew there, I reckon,” whispered the other man, “and it’s growing still. Now the light’s got it you can almost see it swell. How did it get there in the first place? It looks—” A gurgling noise from Fred made them turn hurriedly. He had been forgotten this past minute, and now it was too late to do anything for him. He was in the act of falling back after trying to attract their attention. He was dead when they reached his side. The gardeners looked at one another in horror. “Dead! Poisoned by that scratch!” gasped the head gardener. “Run for the superintendent. No, we’ll carry Fred to the lodge. Keep away from that plant. We ought to put a guard over it so that nobody touches it.”


He bellowed to a distant worker, who came running over to see what excitement was about, and whose eyes bulged when he saw Fred and the evil looking plant in the background. “Keep watch over this, Sam, and don’t touch it, or let anyone else touch it,” ordered the head gardener. “Those spikes are poisonous.” Five minutes later the plant was surrounded by a group that contained two policemen, six park keepers, a soldier, and nearly a dozen passers-by who had been drawn by the evident excitement of the others. Everyone kept his distance. Already the thing seemed larger than when it had been first discovered. That is was swelling and stirring was proved by the way it shed the covering of decayed leaves and other garden refuse that had clung to it. For the first time it could be seen in its entirety, over ten feet high, about eight feet in diameter at the bottom, but tapering somewhat at the top. The segments ran from top to bottom. On the outside of the segments glistened the wicked, red spines. A police car arrived on the scene, and an Inspector took charge. He ordered all casual onlookers back, and suggested that the gardeners and park keepers should erect a temporary fence round the monster. Materials were hurriedly brought, and the fence was built, although even before it was finished it was obvious that the thing was threatening to outgrow the space left for it inside the fence. Nobody had ever seen anything grow as quickly. It was actually possible to see it growing, and all the time the red spines grew longer and thicker. Within an hour there were five thousand people surging around the police cordon, and newspaper reporters had arrived on the scene. In the late midday editions of the newspapers there appeared headlines:

“The Thing In Hyde Park. What Is It?

Mysterious Arrival Poisons Gardener.

Kew Experts Called In.”

Over their lunch thousands of Londoners read of the weird intruder, and many of them resolved to take a walk through the park on their way home at five o’clock. But those who hurried from their offices at five o’clock to try to get a glimpse of the Thing, as it was now generally called, found that most of the Park was now barred to the public. Police in force were stationed all along the riding road on the north and east sides, with instructions to refuse admittance. Westbourne Gate and Victoria Gate were guarded. Nobody was allowed across the bridge over the Serpentine. More than half of Hyde Park had been closed. It was inevitable that rumours should spread. It was said that a dozen policemen had died when trying to smash up the Thing. By the time darkness came there must have been a quarter of a million people milling around the outside of Hyde Park, or trying to see across from the Kensington Gardens side of the Serpentine. Traffic blocks had formed in all the approaches, and all the police force not on duty were called out by an emergency summons. Military lorries with searchlights mounted were seen to enter the Park, and shortly afterwards a great pool of light was formed around the Thing. From the upper windows in Park Lane it was possible to see a huge, bulbous shape standing about fifty feet high. Khaki-clad figures and hundreds of policemen formed a cordon around it, and there were reports that tanks had been summoned. In spite of the fact that rumour greatly exaggerated, matters out there in the centre of the Park were serious enough. The Thing continued to grow so fast that it was impossible to keep a fence around it. Experts had been summoned from Kew Gardens, where in hothouses, plants from all over the world were cultivated. But none of the experts could identify the strange monster in Hyde Park.


Troops had been brought from Wellington Barracks, and their Commanding officer debated with Government officials whether an attempt should be made to destroy the Thing. There were arguments for and against this. Some said that except for the accidental poisoning of the gardener, the Thing had done no harm. It was a freak of nature, and should be treated as such. It would be a wicked shame to destroy something which might well become of world interest. Other said there was no knowing how dangerous the Thing would become, and that it would be wiser to destroy it now. In the end it was decided to wait until daylight, when further advice and ruling would be sought. A little later came torrential rain, teeming down on the assembled crowds and dampening their curiosity as well as soaking them to the skin. They began to drift away, and by midnight only the police, the soldiers, and a number of newspapermen were left to watch the behaviour of the Thing that had caused such a stir.



Those people who were within sight of Hyde Park that following morning must have rubbed their eyes when they looked from their windows, for when the wet mists rolled away and the sun began to break over a rain soaked city, something unbelievable was to be seen. The Thing had increased in size overnight a thousand-fold! It was three hundred feet high, and covered several acres of ground. It was plainly visible from Bayswater and from Knightsbridge. It looked like some fantastic pagoda covered with glistening spines, and it was still growing. Chief Detective Inspector Houston, of Scotland Yard, had been summoned to the scene about four o’clock in the morning. The Home Office was getting worried, and had called for his report. He found hundreds of policemen and Guardsmen who were continually widening their cordon to allow for the swelling of the Thing they were trying to confine. At two o’clock in the morning the Thing had overlapped the Superintendent’s lodge and had flattened it. Hundreds of willing hands had helped to salvage the furniture and other contents, but the lodge and the outbuildings had now vanished beneath that monstrous, spiky shape. Now the Park Police Station was threatened, and records and papers were being removed. On the other side the swelling monster was encroaching on the Bird Sanctuary, and hundreds of terrified birds of all types had taken to the wing. Some of them in their flight had flown against the Thing, and had been scratched on those sharp spines. They lay dead on the ground nearby, further evidence that the spines were tipped with a deadly poison. Detective Inspector Tom Houston got the latest reports and walked round the Thing with some of his colleagues. Heavy machine-guns and bazookas had been brought up in readiness for an all-out assault on the Thing if the order came. “It seems incredible that any plant can grow so fast,” muttered Houston. “What do the experts from Kew say?” “That it is outside their range of experience, and that they know of no plant like this,” he was told. “I wish the authorities would make up their minds whether they want it destroyed or not,” growled the Chief Inspector. “I’ve no doubt the army could make a good job of getting rid of it with explosives.” “That’s just what they can’t decide,” said his colleague. “The authorities are scared of the Thing, yet they want to see how big it will grow. There is no doubt that if it lives on, it will draw hundreds of thousands of tourists.” Tom Houston snorted again. “It doesn’t seem to be a matter of it living, but of it stopping growing. It must already be a thousand feet across. If this goes on, Hyde Park will be fully occupied by our strange visitor. Have the authorities thought of that?” he asked. “How many policemen shall we need to make sure nobody scratches himself on one of those spines?”


As Londoners poured out to their day’s work the streets around Hyde Park became the scene of the biggest traffic block ever known. All over Britain people were listening to radio reports of the strange monster. The newspapers were bringing out one edition after another, announcing the latest growth of the Thing, and giving photographs of it. One enterprising paper had sent a photographer over the top in a helicopter. Not only had he got some remarkable photos of the scene in Hyde park, but he had been the first to see the toothed “mouth” that existed in the slightly tapered top of the Thing. This started a new mass conjecture. Were the experts right in saying the Thing was a plant growth? Was it not possible that it was a living monster of some unclassified animal type? A shiver of apprehension went through London at the thought. The Hyde Park Police Station was at last reached by the expanding sides of the Thing, and shortly afterwards the walls collapsed under the pressure. Then a Cabinet Minister arrived and made a personal inspection. Tom Houston showed him round and gave it as his opinion that every effort should be made to destroy the Thing. The Cabinet Minister looked dubious. “This is the strangest thing that has happened in years, Inspector,” he said. “We must not be over hasty. After all, except for that one unfortunate man, nobody has suffered more than inconvenience. In any case, how is it proposed to destroy it?” Tom Houston nodded to the grim, khaki clad figures in the background. “Bazookas, high explosives in the form of charges, and flame throwers,” he replied. “The Guards’ Colonel thinks they would make short work of it.” “Hm-m!” grunted the Cabinet Minister, and drove away without giving any decision. It rained again, and this seemed to increase the rate of the Thing’s growth. Then the new café and the Rangers’ Lodge were threatened by the bulging menace. Crowds of men carried everything portable away from the danger zone, and always the cordon was forced to open out further. There seemed to be no limit to the expansion of the Thing. Down in Surrey at his cactus farm, Clive Fulton heard the radio reports and read the morning papers. He ran for his car and drove rapidly towards London. Long before he neared Hyde Park he sensed the excitement in the city and met the increased traffic. Thousands of other country motorists had decided to have a day in London to see the strange Thing that was in all the news. Thicker and thicker grew the congestion, until finally Clive Fulton had to leave his car and go on foot. That last part of the journey Fulton was able to move only at a snail’s pace through the dense crowd. Many people in London were off work that day. Shops in the vicinity of Hyde Park remained closed because their owners and assistants had gone to see the Thing. All vehicular traffic had been long since stopped on all fours sides of the Park. It was not until midday that Clive Fulton reached the upper window of a hotel near Lancaster Gate. He had had to register there for a room before he could get in, even though he had no intention of staying there. All the upper rooms were packed with people who were looking out over the Park from the windows. Fulton managed to work his way to the front at last, and borrowed a pair of field glasses. He focussed them, took one long look at the gigantic shape in the centre of the Park, and turned pale. “Just as I feared,” he muttered under his breath. “It’s a Chola, right enough—a Demon Chola. The crowds don’t realise their danger!”


Fulton handed back the glasses, scrambled out of the room, and was soon struggling through the crowds in the streets, vainly trying to find a taxi cab that could take him to Scotland Yard. But it was not until he had walked almost all the way there that he found a cab. The driver informed Fulton that he believed the Thing was a secret weapon sent over here by some enemy power to disrupt the capital. Scotland Yard was the scene of great activity. Reserves of police were being called out, and every available man was being combed out of the offices to help with the traffic problem. It was feared that crooks would take advantage of the general confusion and excitement. Clive Fulton had some difficulty in getting into Scotland Yard. It was only his perseverance that gained him a moment with the desk sergeant. “I must see someone in authority,” insisted the cactus farmer. “It is about that Thing in Hyde Park. It is urgent.” “Yes, sir,” agreed the patient sergeant, “but I’m afraid you’ve chosen a bad day for it. Everyone is very busy. Come back tomorrow.” “Tomorrow may be too late!” exclaimed Fulton. “I want to tell all I know about that cactus now!” “Cactus, sir, what cactus?” asked the sergeant, sighing, for he had been pestered with cranks claiming to know all about the Thing for ten hours past. “The Thing, as they call it, is none other than a Chola Diabolo, a species of cactus from Arizona,” declared Clive Fulton. “It is a highly dangerous plant, one of the most deadly in the world.” “How do you know so much about it, sir?” demanded the sergeant doubtfully. “Because that is my line! Because I am responsible for the Thing being there!” insisted Fulton. “That is what I want to explain. It is my fault the Chola is there in Hyde Park, and I want to give all possible information about it.” The sergeant shrugged. He was accustomed to cranks confessing to all manner of things, but he thought it more than usually eccentric that someone should say they were responsible for the Thing being in Hyde Park. “Very good, sir. Please wait in this room. I’ll try to get in touch with someone higher up,” he said. “Then please hurry!” persisted Fulton. “At any moment that Chola might start to rain death in all directions. It could kill thousands of people—thousands!” “In here please, sir,” murmured the sergeant, and held open the door of a small room. “I’ll try to find someone.” Clive Fulton was in a fury of exasperation. He knew that he was not believed.

THE MONSTER IN HYDE PARK 8 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1381 – 1388 (1952)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2007