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ATTENTION ALL SCHOLARS!!!!


scholarFor some time now, I’ve wondered if there might be little caches of Hodgson letters squirreled about in various libraries and universities and the like.  So, I am issuing the call to all those readers of this blog to help me find them!

Seriously, the cause of Hodgson research and criticism has long suffered from a lack of primary sources such as letters and the such.  We need to find out if there are any out there which are available for scholars and historians to use.  This is a project that will benefit everyone looking to do research on/about Hodgson and those who want to read it!  And we’re not just looking for letters that Hodgson may have written but those by his family, friends, etc.

Please use all your resources.  Check everywhere you can!  Post your findings here in the comments section.  I will take all of them (hopefully, there will be some) and create a new page here on the blog listing these resources and those scholars who brought it to my attention.

The only collection I am aware of is the letters that form part of a collection at the Harry Ransom center at the University of Texas at Austin.  Anything else is fair game.

So, as Carnacki would say at the end of a story, “out you go!”

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A REAL TRIP TO THE SARGASSO?


Our good friend, Georges Dodds, sends in this interesting item which he found in an archive.  It is a news report regarding a Danish explorer’s attempts to penetrate the Sargasso Sea in 1871.  It reads as if it could have been a story written by Hodgson or H. P. Lovecraft.  Georges states that he found it “searching in a 19th century British newspapers archive” and we thank him for passing this very interesting item along to us.

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Monday, July 16, 1894; Issue 7848

SARGASSO’S SEAWEED SEA
EXPLORER LOSES HIS REASON.
A VENTURESOME AMERICAN

The Sargasso’ Sea is that portion of the mid-Atlantic east of the coast of Florida, about the centre of the triangle between the Azores, the Canaries, and Cape Verde Islands. It covers an area of fifteen degrees of north latitude and ten degrees of west longitude—a space seven times the area of France and larger than the whole basin of the Mississippi. Few ships ever pass near this unknown sea. Along its borders the great currents of the Atlantic meet and turn and swirl, forming great seaweed meadows as far as the eye can reach. Columbus himself skirted along the margin of this great, floating continent of _débris_ and seaweed, and he it was who named it the Sargasso Sea. The centre of the Sargasso Sea has been supposed to be a dead region of almost perpetual calm, without currents. The predominating vegetation, is the _fucus natans_. The only man who is reported to have attempted a visit to the heart of the Sargasso Sea is a Danish naturalist, who died twenty years ago in poverty. In June, 1870, so the tale goes, “he was on a wrecking schooner from Madeira Inagua, and on the voyage the vessel skirted the bank. The sight so fascinated him that he began devising apparatus for overcoming the obstruction of seaweed, earnestly believing that an exploration would settle the question of the island of St. Borondon if not that of the lost Atlanties. In 1871, while botanizing on one of the West India islands, he met an eccentric Englishman named Lisle, owner of a steam yacht. Mr. Lisle became interested, in the subject, and after making preparations the yacht started for the unknown sea. Professor Aukarswards’ apparatus, on which he relied the most, was a drum or hogshead with hoops inside, 10ft. in diameter at the centre and 8ft. long. The frame of the drum was of seasoned live oak, the hoops of hickory were bent with mathematical accuracy, and the planking of cedar was laid on and lapped clinker fashion, and fastened with copper. In the centre was an iron axle, the length of the drum, playing freely in a well-oiled axle at each end. To the centre of this axle was attached a stirrup, to which the water-breaker and provisions could be jung. On the inner surface of the drum cleats were nailed a foot apart. The operator put his machine into the water, and, holding on to the stirrup, climbed up the cleats like a tread-mill horse, the machine rolling forward with every step, propelled through the water by the overlapping of the edges of the drum’s skin. It was the obverse of an undershot mill-wheel. Its draft was only five inches in the water, and it could be worked on land or water. The drum could be balanced, trimmed, and steered with ease, and propelled at the rate of forty miles a day. Lisle and Auckarsward, on February 1 steamed into the sea on the yacht. On the 7th the weeds stopped further progress. The lead sunk only twenty fathoms, and the mast of a sunken ship was in plain sight; so steam was blown off, the fires banked, and the sea balloon or drum was gotten out of the hold ready for a trip, Lisle and the professor made a visit to the sunken vessel, a barqentine, the “Santa Maria de Toledo, of Cartagena, 1817.” The next day, February 8, Auckarsward started for the seaweed banks, Lisle agreeing to wait with the yacht twenty days, and signal rocket every night. He was provided with a compass, a quadrant, and provisions. The report that he made of his journey was as follows: —

”Eleven o’clock a.m.—Ship no longer in sight. Noon.—Sun very hot. Stopped to dine and rest. Legs very tired. Distance travelled fourteen miles and three quarters. Many turtles in sight, floundering about on the grass; grass so thick matted that little water is seen. Put my feet in it and tried to walk, but will not bear my weight. Sea birds (larus rudibundus, porcellaria, and some grallatores of unknown species) digging the seaweeds up with their bills in search of crustacea. How came these
waders here?.

“Six o’clock p.m.—Distance twenty-three miles. Tired out! Best here. Very little wave motion of the grass, but tide motion quite perceptible. Shall have to close my windows tonight. While at supper just now an enormous conger, as thick as my leg, looked in upon me as if he might do battle.

“Feb. 9, 5 a.m.—Rested well. But for the birds these sea meadows would be awfully desolate. Excepting some small pools on the surface of the weeds the water has entirely disappeared. Nothing but an illimitable level green everywhere.

“Three p.m.—Have just stopped to examine the bow of a vessel that protrudes above the weeds. She is sunk stern down, and the bow protrudes almost perpendicularly. I will not be believed when I say that a brass cannon, hanging to her bleached deck, the carriage long since rotted away, has the Spanish crown mark and the date 1625. Was this a galleon returning with treasure from Caracas or Darien, and captured by this treacherous Sargasso?

“Five p.m.—The bottom of the Tiber is thought to contain relics of priceless value and many ages, but this Sargasso Sea, if it could he searched, would yield more curious and valuable things still. Imprisoned here must be vessels of all the centuries from the time when the Phoenicians galleys sailed outside the Pillars of Hercules to the date of the missing brig from Boston to the Cape or to the River Plate. I do not like the looks of the heavens. A storm is brewing.

“7.30p.m.—Distance run, 27 miles; I am tired out and ill-prepared for the tornado that is coming. I wish I had brought a grapnel or even a boat-hook. My harpoon is useless. Heaven help me!

“10th, 1.30 a.m.—The storm about to break. I never saw such lightning, the thunder is awful, and the wind—I know how it will blow! I light my candle to write this. Should anything happen to me and this log be found—not likely—let it be known that I do not regret the end.

The above was the last entry in Auckarsward’s log for many days. In his narrative he said that the hurricane came, and, as he feared, the drum rolled before it with appalling rapidity. He had a light in his lantern. He sprang into the stirrup, lashed himself there, and clung to the axle, while the drum spun before the storm with sickening velocity. He was forced to put out his light. He closed his eyes, and had finally no consciousness of anything but clinging with desperate tenacity to his supports, of hearing the wind shriek and the thunder roar.

A sudden lull in the storm aroused him, after how long he could not say. He tore open a shutter and sprang out. The weeds were firm under his feet, but the storm was rushing up again. He put his shoulder against the drum, seeking to slow it around so as to be endwise to the gale. He lifted it; it came slowly. around, the storm struck him like a flail, the rain smote him—he had only time, as he felt himself lifted off his feet, to fling himself flat on his face, dig his hands and toes in the matted dead fucus, and so keep from being blown away like a feather. At last day broke. The rain had ceased. The tornado only survived in a chill north-east gale. He saw, low down, a clump of trees, four or five miles off. He walked towards them. They were mangroves, short, stunted, with a cocoa palm beginning to grow among them—an island forming in mid-ocean. It grew lighter. Half a mile off Auckarsward saw another and larger grove of mangroves. He approached it, and his heart beat high when he saw dashed at the roots of the tree the wreck of his drum. How he re-embarked and made his way out of the sea again, undergoing a series of hardships and narrow escapes no less exciting than before, is another weird chapter it this astonishing narrative of adventure. Lisle found him a maniac and all but dead. Auckarsward recovered his reason, and in May, 1872, returned to the United States to arrange for a series of explorations of the Sargasso Sea. He believed that there was a solid island in the heart of the Sargasso banks, and that in the masses of external fucus are cushioned the wrecks of ages still keeping their treasures of gold and silver and jewels.

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Hodgson Influenced?


1 space sargassoStepping away from the poetry for a bit and this paperback cover caught my eye.  Does anyone out there know this novel?

This looks to be an early 1960s paperback and was written by Andre Norton.  Of course, anything with the word ‘Sargasso’ in it is going to catch my eye but a science fiction novel.  And the tagline, “Trapped in the graveyard of lost spaceships”, definitely caught my interest.

So does anyone know this novel and, if so, could you say that it is Hodgson inspired?  I’d be curious if this is an updating of sorts of WHH’s stories “From the Tideless Sea” into a science fiction setting.

The cover artwork is by Ed Emshwiller who, apparently, did quite a number of paperback covers during this period.

Any information would be appreciated and, as always, credited here!

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100!!!!!!


100posts11This marks the 100th posting on the William Hope Hodgson Blog!

Back when I started this blog, several people questioned if there would be enough material to keep it going.  It wasn’t an entirely unjustified question.  After all, Hodgson doesn’t have as much devoted to him as, say, Lovecraft does.  But I felt that, whatever material I did have was important enough to present.

WHHHodgson is kind of the underdog in weird literature.  Doesn’t get a lot of press.  Guillermo del Toro isn’t lining up to direct a move based on THE NIGHT LAND.  There isn’t a convention devoted to Hodgson taking place in Blackburn.  There aren’t even any comic books doing “Hodgsonian” tales.

When I was a small press publisher back in the 1990s, I had a table at a local convention/show where I was selling my Hodgson reprints as well as a couple of Machen books and others.  The convention’s GOH was Neil Gaiman who was kind enough to stop by the table and talk a bit.  We chatted about Machen for a few minutes and gave him complimentary copies of my Machen books but, when I tried to interest him in the Hodgson, he wasn’t biting.  He just wasn’t all that keen on WHH…even when I was trying to give him FREE copies.  I’ve gotten that reaction a lot.

I guess that kind of stuck with me over the years as an example of Hodgson being the “Rodney Dangerfield” of weird fiction.  “He don’t get no respect!”

Through the years, that has always been one of the driving forces behind my efforts.  I want Hodgson to get more respect both from the readers and the literary circles.  WHH will never reach the stature of a Poe or Lovecraft (nor would even I say he deserves to be elevated so far) but there is much in WHH to enjoy and study.

This staged photo of WHH at a ship's wheel was used in his lectures about life at sea.

This staged photo of WHH at a ship’s wheel was used in his lectures about life at sea.

That was one of the reasons why I started this blog because there was no place on the internet to get a lot of this information.  You might get a bit here and there but it wasn’t centralized.  I wanted there to be a place where everyone could come to get old and new material and find out what’s going on in the world of Hodgson.

I hope that I have succeeded in that endeavor.

As we enter 2013, there are already new things in store for Hodgson and his fans.  Some new books are scheduled to come out and WHH is finally getting some of that critical attention that has been denied him for so long.

Hopefully, this year will see the publication of a new collection of Hodgson criticism and studies edited by Massimo Berruti and published by Hippocampus Press called VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND.  It is an anthology of some old pieces and a lot of new ones as well.  I am happy to say that I will be represented in this volume by several articles and am honored to be included.

One of the most important items in VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND will hopefully be the long-awaited Hodgson Bibliography which S. T. Joshi, Mike Ashley and I have been working on for well over 10 years now.  It is already over 100 pages long and covers international appearances as well as English.  It has been an invaluable resource in my own work and I look forward to sharing it with others.

A early photo of WHH.  I am not sure of the year but probably roughly around 1903 or so.

A early photo of WHH. I am not sure of the year but probably roughly around 1903 or so.

Already this year we have seen a new paperback of Hodgson stories from Night Shade Books called THE GHOST PIRATES AND OTHERS edited by Jeremy Lassen.  This has marked the first appearance by WHH in an inexpensive, mass produced paperback in several years.  Hodgson also was mentioned in S.T. Joshi’s two volume history of weird literature; UNUTTERABLE HORROR.

Later this year, Centipede Press will be releasing a collection of Hodgson stories compiled by S. T. Joshi.  I do not know the full contents of this book yet but I do know that it will contain the text of the original edition of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND.  Unfortunately, given the tendency of Centipede Press to produce expensive items, I fear it will not be cheap but I am sure that it will be a very attractively pro1 sargassoduced book.

In addition, 2013 will see the first issue of SARGASSO: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies.  This will be a yearly publication highlighting new articles about Hodgson as well as Hodgson inspired art and stories.  I’ve already gotten a number of submissions and am expecting new articles by some of the biggest names in Hodgson criticism.

carnackiAnother project which I’m putting together is a special, 100th anniversary edition of CARNACKI.  This will be a deluxe edition, reprinting the original texts along with annotations.  With luck, I hope to have it available by November.  Going along with that, I would like to announce a collection of all-new Carnacki tales!  I’m opening this up to submissions today, with this post, in the hopes that everyone will spread the word!  I am looking for new tales of Carnacki in the Hodgson tradition so I encourage all of our writers out there to submit a story.  Details are still being negotiated so keep watching the blog for more announcements.

Already I am looking forward to the future.  Within the last 20 years, Hodgson has made great strides in critical and reader popularity.  Virtually all of his major fiction is now available either through e-books, print-on-demand or free online sites.  The next steps are to increase availability of his poetry and non-fiction so that, for new readers, everything is available.  This is a major difference from just a few years ago when it was difficult to easily find even Hodgson’s novels.  Today, we can state that Hodgson is better known and read than ever before.

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

And there is still so much more to learn!  Genealogy research has barely been touched and there is a great need for more study about Hodgson’s own life, opinions and beliefs.  Plus Hodgson has suffered from one major disadvantage: there has yet to be a full, book-length critical study of his works.  I hope to change this in the future.

It’s been a great 100 posts and I hope everyone will still around for the next 100!!

(I’d like to thank everyone who has helped with this blog over the last 100 posts.  I could not have done it without your overwhelming support and I humbly thank you all.  Whether you have contributed materials, shared knowledge, spread the word or just read the blog regularly, you are why I keep going and posting week after week.  I may be the person behind the blog but it is really for all of you.)

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Say What?


It’s one of the most perplexing statements Hodgson ever made about his writing and, 100 years later, we’re still not sure exactly what he meant.

In the preface to his novel, THE GHOST PIRATES, Hodgson writes:

This book forms the last of three.  The first published was “The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig'”; the second “The House on the Borderland”; this, the third, completes what, perhaps may be termed a trilogy; for, though very different in scope, each of the three books deals with certain conceptions that have an elemental kinship.  With this book, the author believes that he closes the door, so far as he is concerned, on a particular phase of constructive thought.

Just what does Hodgson mean by this?

It’s difficult to think of these three novels as being a connected trilogy of anything, certainly not in the sense that we have come to consider the definition of a ‘trilogy’ today.  There are no recurring characters.  The plots are all vastly different as was Hodgson’s writing styles.

“Boats” is definitely closer to an adventure story than the other two.  The shipwrecked crew of the ‘Glen Carrig’ face terror after terror before becoming stranded in the Sargasso Sea and finally escaping.  “The Ghost Pirates” is superficially a tale about a haunted ship but nudges into science fiction with Hodgson writing that the boat was an area between worlds that had become ‘thin’.  While “The House on the Borderland” is a science fiction blend that is best defined as a series of interconnected nightmares.

Where, then, is the common thread?

This is one of the few statements about his writing that we have from Hodgson.  Given that it references the other two novels as being ‘previously published’, we can assume that it was written for the first edition of THE GHOST PIRATES in 1909.  So Hodgson is specifically excluding THE NIGHT LAND from this grouping despite, as we have seen previously, THE NIGHT LAND was likely the very first novel Hodgson wrote.

Hodgson states that these three share an “elemental kinship”.  What could this mean?

Webster’s Dictionary provides the following definition of ‘elemental’:

1
a : of, relating to, or being an element; specifically : existing as an uncombined chemical element

b (1) : of, relating to, or being the basic or essential constituent of something : fundamental <elemental biological needs> (2) : simple, uncomplicated <elemental food>

c : of, relating to, or dealing with the rudiments of something : elementary <taught elemental crafts to the children>

d : forming an integral part : inherent <an elemental sense of rhythm>

2
: of, relating to, or resembling a great force of nature <the rains come with elemental violence> <elemental passions>
Of these, I think that 1d is the closest to what Hodgson meant: “forming an integral part”.  Meaning that there is an integral part in all three of these novels that is similar.   But what is it about these three books that is ‘similar’ considering that their plots are so diverse?
I believe that the kinship that Hodgson is speaking of relates to the existence of other realities that are infringing upon ours or which we unknowingly cross into.  It is this unknown that the shipwrecked crew of the ‘Glen Carrig’ unwittingly sail into while, in THE GHOST PIRATES, another type of reality is seeping through the boat into what we believe to be ‘reality’.  In THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND, the barriers between realities break down as shown by the narrator’s trip into the future and the attack by the swine creatures from below.  When considered from this viewpoint, the novels share much with the Carnacki stories that are often concerned with attacks from ‘outside forces’.
Is this what Hodgson was referring to in his preface?  Perhaps… but, as with so much about Hodgson’s life and thoughts, we will never know for sure.

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Review: MILTON’S CHILDREN


milton_cover_200-02It’s difficult to write anything new in horror.  Many readers have grown jaded from a lifetime of reading and television and movies.  They’re seen it all and read it all.  It’s the smart writer that understands that and, instead of ignoring it, embraces such a history.  Jason V. Brock is one such writer.

In his new novella, MILTON’S CHILDREN, Brock evokes echoes of many that have come before.  There is Poe here, some Lovecraft, winks and nods to films like KING KONG and even a taste of William Hope Hodgson.  When you hear about an Arctic expedition, you can’t help but think of AT THE MOUNTAIN OF MADNESS and even THE THING.  Normally, such a comparison would come up lacking for the new material but Brock manages to capitalize on that shared expectation and expand it.  Unlike other authors who might downplay such echoes, Brock not only accepts them but points them out as well.

The best weird fiction isn’t just about something ‘horrific’.  It has several layers that enhance the reading experience and invite multiple re-readings.  MILTON’S CHILDREN is such a work.  While, at its heart, it is an adventure story about men facing unbelievable terrors, it is also an allegory about man and his place, not just in the universe, but on this planet he claims to own.

MILTON’S CHILDREN is an energetic story that keeps the reader moving quickly, giving them just enough time to let an idea sink in before launching into the next one.  It is a tale not to be missed by true lovers of weird literature and one that will stay with you long after the last sentence is read.  And in the end, that is the best and truest test.

The basic scenario is one that would be familiar to most fans of Hodgson’s work: expedition/ship comes across island with strange creatures.  What Brock does with that concept makes MILTON’S CHILDREN truly unique and sure to be enjoyed by fans of WHH.

MILTON’S CHILDREN is available from Bad Moon Books and can be ordered here.  I highly recommend it and Brock’s many other works as well.

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Review: GHOST PIRATES AND OTHERS


Hodgson_GhostPiratesLast month, Night Shade Books published a new paperback collection of Hodgson stories titled THE GHOST PIRATES AND OTHERS: THE BEST OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON… but IS it?

It’s been seven years since the last paperback collection appeared which was ADRIFT ON THE HAUNTED SEAS in 2005 so the time is right for a new anthology.  This volume contains the short novel, THE GHOST PIRATES, and eleven short stories along with an introduction by the book’s editor, Jeremy Lassen.  It was Night Shade Books and Lassen who brought us the landmark 5 volume edition of the COMPLETE FICTION OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON so it is gratifying to see them continue to promote Hodgson’s works with this new selection.

THE GHOST PIRATES has an interesting publication history in America in that, unlike his other novels, it was not published in mass market paperback form in the 60’s or 70’s.  That is, not as it’s own title.  It was included in another anthology, HORRORS UNSEEN (Berkley, 1974), which was edited by Sam Moskowitz.  It’s only magazine publication was in an abridged form in FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES in March, 1944.  As such, it’s especially pleasing to find this reprinted in a new edition.

The remaining stories are something of an odd selection.  They are:

A Tropical Horror
The Sea Horses
The Searcher of the End House
The Stone Ship
The Voice in the Night
Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani
The Mystery of the Derelict
We Two and Bully Dunkan
The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder
Demons of the Sea
Out of the Storm
***
Most of these concern the sea in some aspect with only “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani” and “The Searcher of the End House” being different.  The choice of these two stories is somewhat odd but still keeping in the horror genre and I maintain that “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani” is one of WHH’s best stories.  As Lassen states in his introduction, “This book gathers together a sampling of Hodgson’s styles and works” and it certainly does accomplish that goal.  However, I would question the choice of “The Searcher of the End House” as I personally consider this to be one of the weaker tales but perhaps Lassen wanted to pick a lesser known Carnacki story for newer readers.  Perhaps this is also the reason for the exclusion of “The Derelict” which is one of Hodgson’s most well known stories.
***
The introduction by Lassen is unfortunately short; barely 2 and a half pages.  Of course, I would have preferred a longer essay with possibly more discussion about the stories and their importance to Hodgson’s work.  Lassen doesn’t say anything really new but it is a good introduction for readers unfamiliar with Hodgson and I am hoping that they will be attracted to this book for that reason.
***
In the end, THE GHOST PIRATES AND OTHERS: THE BEST OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON succeeds admirably as a book for new readers of WHH.  If you’ve been reading Hodgson, you probably have these stories already so will get little from it but it is a great way to convert new readers!
***
You can order the book here.  Previously, I’ve found some Night Shade Books available at Barnes & Noble but that is hit or miss.  It can also be ordered from the B&N website.  Order a copy and give it to a friend who hasn’t had the good fortune to discover Hodgson!

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CARNACKI #6: “The Thing Invisible”


carnacki 1(Spoiler warning!  This blog posts discusses plot details in the story, “The Thing Invisible”.  If you have not read this story yet, you can do so here.)

We come now to the sixth, and final, Carnacki story to appear in a magazine during Hodgson’s lifetime.  “The Thing Invisible” was published in the January, 1912, issue of The New Magazine.   It was also the last story to be included in the book collection of Carnacki stories that first appeared in 1913.   It is significant to note that there was a space of 18 months between the publication of this story and June, 1910’s, appearance of “The Searcher of the End House” (which was the last Carnacki story to appear in The Idler).  I have several theories as to why this may have been so which I will take up after the story recap.

After dinner with his friends, Carnacki reveals that he has just returned from South Kent where he was called for a most interesting case.  Sir Alfred Jarnock’s estate has a chapel which has a reputation for being haunted.  There is a legend that if any enemy were to enter the chapel after nightfall, they would be attacked by a dagger which rests over the altar.  Just another curious folktale that would have been ignored had a recent, dangerous, incident not have happened.

One Sunday, after service, the Rector had been talking with Sir Jarnock and Jarnock’s eldest son while the butler was going about extinguishing the candles.  Remembering that he had left his small prayer book on the Communion table, the Rector called to the butler to retrieve it.  As the three men looked towards the butler, he opened the small chancel gate and, before their eyes, was struck by the dagger.

“The Rector’s version was clear and vivid, and he had evidently received the astonishment of his life. He pictured to me the whole affair—Bellett, up at the chancel gate, going for the prayer book, and absolutely alone; and then the blow, out of the Void, he described it; and the force prodigious—the old man being driven headlong into the body of the Chapel. Like the kick of a great horse, the Rector said, his benevolent old eyes bright and intense with the effort he had actually witnessed, in defiance of all that he had hitherto believed.”

The butler survived the attack as the blade missed his heart but broke his collarbone.  It was then that Jarnock’s eldest son, George, had sent for Carnacki.  Sir Jarnock’s nerves had gotten the better of him and he appeared unable to deal with the situation.

After arriving, Carnacki makes his usual exact examination of the place and even spends three days painstakingly inspecting the roof.  He comes to the conclusion that there is no way for someone to hide in the chapel which is problematic as all witnesses, including the butler, claim that there was no one at all near him when the attack occurred.

“Above the altar hangs the ‘waeful dagger,’ as I had learned it was named. I fancy the term has been taken from an old vellum, which describes the dagger and its supposed abnormal properties. I took the dagger down, and examined it minutely and with method. The blade is ten inches long, two inches broad at the base, and tapering to a rounded but sharp point, rather peculiar. It is double-edged.

“The metal sheath is curious for having a crosspiece, which, taken with the fact that the sheath itself is continued three parts up the hilt of the dagger (in a most inconvenient fashion), gives it the appearance of a cross. That this is not unintentional is shown by an engraving of the Christ crucified upon one side, whilst upon the other, in Latin, is the inscription: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will Repay.’ A quaint and rather terrible conjunction of ideas. Upon the blade of the dagger is graven in old English capitals: I WATCH. I STRIKE. On the butt of the hilt there is carved deeply a Pentacle.”

Finally speaking to Sir Jarnock, Carnacki proposes that he spend the night in the chapel to which Sir Jarnock completely refuses.  It is Sir Jarnock’s habit to lock the chapel every evening so that none would risk harm and he would not yield on this point especially after what had happened to the butler.

Undaunted, Carnacki decides to make an impression of the key when he borrows it the following day and have a duplicate made in secret.  He sets up his camera and takes a picture of the quite chapel in daylight.  Carnacki then goes into town to develop the plate and have the duplicate key made.

That night, Carnacki sneaks into the chapel.  In preparation, he dons several pieces of plate mail over which he wears a shirt of chain mail ‘borrowed’ from the Jarnock’s Armory.  He carries with him a lantern and his gun.

“Now it would be silly to say I did not feel queer. I felt very queer indeed. You just try, any of you, to imagine yourself standing there in the dark silence and remembering not only the legend that was attached to the place, but what had really happened to the old butler only a little while gone, I can tell you, as I stood there, I could believe that something invisible was coming toward me in the air of the Chapel. Yet, I had got to go through with the business, and I just took hold of my little bit of courage and set to work.”

Carnacki resets his camera and re-examines the chapel again to no avail.  He takes another picture of the chapel with the use of his flash and then sits down in one of the pews to wait.  As the evening wears on, he hears odd noises like the sound of a metallic ‘clank’ from the direction of the altar and soft steps near him.  The dark and the quiet bear down on him:

“Suddenly my courage went. I put up my mailed arms over my face. I wanted to protect it. I had got a sudden sickening feeling that something was hovering over me in the dark. Talk about fright! I could have shouted if I had not been afraid of the noise…. And then, abruptly, I heard something. Away up the aisle, there sounded a dull clang of metal, as it might be the tread of a mailed heel upon the stone of the aisle. I sat immovable. I was fighting with all my strength to get back my courage. I could not take my arms down from over my face, but I knew that I was getting hold of the gritty part of me again. And suddenly I made a mighty effort and lowered my arms. I held my face up in the darkness. And, I tell you, I respect myself for the act, because I thought truly at that moment that I was going to die. But I think, just then, by the slow revulsion of feeling which had assisted my effort, I was less sick, in that instant, at the thought of having to die, than at the knowledge of the utter weak cowardice that had so unexpectedly shaken me all to bits, for a time.”

When nothing happens, Carnacki recovers his courage.  He turns on his lantern but sees nothing amiss or worrying so shuts it off and sits for awhile more in the dark.

His nerves fading, Carnacki becomes convinced that he is hearing a slithering sound near the camera and shines his lantern to find nothing there.  Standing up, he is determined to see if the dagger has moved and walks up to the chancel gate to find that the dagger is no long in the scabbard above the altar.

Afraid that it might be floating about somewhere near, he steps up the gate and, as he opens it, is struck mightily in the chest by the dagger!  Thrown backward, he loses his gun and the lantern smashes on the floor.  Panic stricken, Carnacki runs blindly down the aisle, knocking over his camera and out the door.

In his room, Carnacki regains his calm and examines his armor.  The dagger had pierce both the chain and plate armor and left a scratch on his chest.  With a chill, Carnacki realizes that it had been pointed at his heart.

At dawn the next morning, Carnacki returns to the chapel and examines his equipment.  The lantern is shattered but his gun is untouched and the camera only  slightly damaged.  The dagger is lying in the aisle.

With a sudden, unreasoned action, I jumped forward and put my foot on it, to hold it there. Can you understand? Do you? And, you know, I could not stoop down and pick it up with my hands for quite a minute, I should think. Afterward, when I had done so, however, and handled it a little, this feeling passed away and my Reason (and also, I expect, the daylight) made me feel that I had been a little bit of an ass. Quite natural, though, I assure you! Yet it was a new kind of fear to me. I’m taking no notice of the cheap joke about the ass! I am talking about the curiousness of learning in that moment a new shade or quality of fear that had hitherto been outside of my knowledge or imagination. Does it interest you?

Carnacki cleans up and takes the plates out of the camera before heading back to town.  He wakes up the local photographer who grants Carnacki access to his darkroom.  The first plate he develops is of the chapel, taken with the flash but there is nothing unusual in the picture.  The second plate is of what had been in the camera at the time of the attack with the lens open.  It is Carnacki’s hope that something might have imprinted upon the unexposed plate.  Although the second plate shows some shapes which could have been the dagger, they are too vague to be sure.  It is while examining the other photo that Carnacki makes an exciting discovery.

Arriving back at the castle, Carnacki is told that Sir Jarnock is unwell and would prefer that no one enter the chapel without him.  George Jarnock states that it is in keeping with his father’s personality as he would never allow anyone into the chapel.

Carnacki sneaks off and conducts some experiments in the chapel which confirm his suspicions.  He gets George to come with him and they bring a dummy dressed in plate armor to the chapel.  Although surprised when Carnacki produces a key, George says nothing.

16_thingThey place the dummy in the same position where the butler had been attacked.  When George makes a motion to open the chancel gate, Carnacki warns him that he is in danger and to step away.  George steps away to the left and Carnacki, well to the right of the dummy, leans it forward so that it presses on the chancel gate which springs open.  Suddenly, the dummy is stuck by a tremendous blow and thrown to the floor where it lays with the dagger buried in the armor.

Carnacki shows George how the trick was done.  A section of the left hand gatepost has a hinge which, when pressed down, opens a gap in the floor into which the post fits snugly with a click.  Carnacki then takes the dagger and places it in a hole in the post, point upward.  Then, pressing further, the section lifts back up, covering the dagger and closing the hole in the floor.  It is nothing more than a trap set for an unsuspecting enemy.

The case is resolved when Sir Jarnock confesses to setting the trap every night out of habit and that, the day of the butler’s injury, had set it too early.  The hole, Carnacki surmises, was used in previous ages to hide valuables and, indeed, that is where Sir Jarnock has hidden his late wife’s jewelry.

As there was no permanent injury with the butler recovering, the affair is hushed up and the chapel retains it’s ‘haunted’ reputation.

“The Thing Invisible” is definitely one of Carnacki’s weakest cases as written by Hodgson.  Not only is there no supernatural cause but the ‘haunting’ itself is handled poorly and is hardly interesting.  Compare this to other stories where even the manufactured hauntings are more dramatic and we can see why this story lacks.   The only ‘fear’ comes as Carnacki sits alone in the chapel and even this is not as effective as in other stories.

In addition, there is no mention of any of Carnacki’s previous cases (like there are in other stories), the Sigsand Manuscript, or even the SaaaMaaa Ritual.  In some ways, it seems as if this case happened to a completely different Carnacki!  None of his investigative techniques are used here such as sealing the doors or placing wires to determine if anyone else is walking nearby.

It is for this reason that I feel that this is quite possibly the first Carnacki story written by Hodgson.  The story feels as if Hodgson is working his way towards the ‘Carnacki’ that we grow to know in the other stories and even some of his prose style is reminiscent of early works.  In addition, the beginning is written in such as way as to set up the formula for the later stories.  It explains the narrative frame far more than the later tales do and reads like an introduction to the series.

I believe that it was for this reason that August Derleth chose this story to lead the 1947 collection whereas, in the original 1913 edition, it is the last story in the book.  Although I can understand this reasoning, I feel that, in some ways, it is a mistake to lead with this weaker story.  Someone new to Carnacki might read this tale and wonder what all the fuss is about and not bother to read any further.  Far better to maintain either the original collection’s order (with the three additional stories added) or place this story closer to the middle when the strength of the other stories will prop up it’s deficiencies.

I feel that it is likely that The Idler rejected this story and maybe even for the same reasons I’ve just noted.  Perhaps they also felt that this was a ‘weaker’ story.  This would explain the time gap between the Idler appearances and this story later in The New Magazine.  My conclusion is that Hodgson had to shop this story around before finding it a home and that would not happen until 1912.  This was the last Carnacki story to appear in Hodgson’s lifetime.  We don’t know exactly when Hodgson stopped writing stories about his “ghost-finder” but others, like Sam Moskowitz, believe that at least “The Hog” was written closer to Hodgson’s death in 1918.  It is yet another Hodgson question that we will never be able to fully answer.

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A Blog Post and Bits & Pieces


There is a very excellent post about Hodgson at the blog, “Roles, Rules & Rolls“.  Although the blog is devoted to role-playing games, the author provides a wonderful essay titled: “Fungi and Swine: William Hope Hodgson’s Disgust Morality”.   This is very informative reading and highly recommended.  I wonder if there might be any RPG modules out there that are Hodgson based or influenced?  Thanks to Andy Robertson for pointing out this great article and make sure you read the comments there too!

DID YOU KNOW…

That there was a character on the popular TV show LOST who was named “Captain Gault”?  Reportedly a shady ship captain, did he owe more than his name to Hodgson’s smuggler?

That the only son born to infamous Satanist Anton LaVey was named Satan Xerxes CARNACKI LaVey?

That, according to one source, Hodgson once proposed to his publisher that they build a life size boat, fill it with pirates and use it on the streets of London as a promotional campaign for one of his books?

CARNACKI, THE GHOST-FINDER was the only book to get more than one printing during Hodgson’s lifetime?

Hodgson’s widow never remarried?

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Lose Yourself in SARGASSO!


Ok, so I’m not the greatest when it comes to slogans!  I’m open to any suggestions!

I’ve just received the logos for the SARGASSO magazine and I couldn’t wait to share them with everyone.  They are amazing!  More excellent work from famed artist Jason Eckhardt, they will grace the cover and contents page of every issue.  I will also feature them in the SARGASSO webpage which I am currently working on and hope to get up and running by the end of the year.

Here is Jason’s cover logo:

Image

I love the color and the skull!  This will be featured prominently on every cover in color!

For the inside, contents page, Jason has done something more elaborate:

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Another excellent job by Mr. Eckhardt!

Regarding SARGASSO, I’d like to remind those that have promised material that time is moving ever forward.  While I have gotten many superb pieces of art and a few stories, I am still waiting on articles.  So, remember, the deadline is March 30th and that will be here sooner than you know it!  I want this magazine to be a repository of premiere scholarship about WHH but that won’t happen without your support!  Sorry, but I gotta crack the whip a bit here!  SARGASSO depends on your support not just as readers but contributors.  Let’s show all those upstarts out there that ol’ WHH is worthy of serious attention too!

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Filed under Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson