Tag Archives: the horse of the invisible


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!”


Filed under Carnacki, Hodgson

UPDATE: Carnacki, The New Adventures!



We’re quickly reaching the deadline for submissions for our new anthology, CARNACKI: THE NEW ADVENTURES!  The deadline is May 1, 2013 and we’ve gotten some great submissions already but we’re looking for more!  So I’m reprinting the info from the original post and asking everyone to spread the word far and wide!

At last it can be told!

An anthology of all-new stories about Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder is NOW OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS!

Later this year, to coincide with the first issue of SARGASSO (The Journal of Hodgson Studies), I will be publishing an all new collection of Carnacki stories and I am currently looking for submissions!

Carnacki remains one of Hodgson’s most popular creations with not only new stories about the character appearing but he has been included in comic books as well as novels from other writers.  I’m looking for a fresh crop of writers to tackle the stories of this intrepid Ghost-Hunter!

So here’s the details: stories should be between 3,000-6,000 words (anything longer, please query first); stories should feature Carnacki in some aspect; no explicit gore, violence or sex, please; payment will be in 2 contributors copies; DEADLINE for submissions is May 1, 2013 so, yes, this will be closing quickly.

CARNACKI: THE NEW ADVENTURES is planned for an August, 2013, release at the Necronomicon convention in Providence, RI.

Send your submissions (or questions) to me at: lordshazam@yahoo.com with the tag CARNACKI SUBMISSION in the subject line.

I look forward to reading all of these great new Carnacki stories and presenting to everyone an exciting new collection of tales about this timeless character.  Get your submissions in early!  William Meikle already did!

1 Comment

Filed under Carnacki, Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

ANNOUNCING: Carnacki, The New Adventures!

CARNACKI copyAt last it can be told!

An anthology of all-new stories about Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder is NOW OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS!

Later this year, to coincide with the first issue of SARGASSO (The Journal of Hodgson Studies), I will be publishing an all new collection of Carnacki stories and I am currently looking for submissions!

Carnacki remains one of Hodgson’s most popular creations with not only new stories about the character appearing but he has been included in comic books as well as novels from other writers.  I’m looking for a fresh crop of writers to tackle the stories of this intrepid Ghost-Hunter!

So here’s the details: stories should be between 3,000-6,000 words (anything longer, please query first); stories should feature Carnacki in some aspect; no explicit gore, violence or sex, please; payment will be in 2 contributors copies; DEADLINE for submissions is May 1, 2013 so, yes, this will be closing quickly.

CARNACKI: THE NEW ADVENTURES is planned for an August, 2013, release at the Necronomicon convention in Providence, RI.

Send your submissions (or questions) to me at: lordshazam@yahoo.com with the tag CARNACKI SUBMISSION in the subject line.

I look forward to reading all of these great new Carnacki stories and presenting to everyone an exciting new collection of tales about this timeless character.  Get your submissions in early!  William Meikle already did!


Filed under Carnacki, Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

The Copyright Volumes

awhhWilliam Hope Hodgson’s copyright volumes are something of an oddity.

If nothing else, WHH was well aware of copyrights and their importance.  This is shown several times in some of his articles for the Author magazine.  As a result, WHH had some limited run pamphlets published in America to establish his copyrights for certain material.

Those pamphlets were:

The Ghost Pirates, A Chaunty, and Another Story (1909)

Carnacki, the Ghost Finder and a Poem (1909)

The Captain of the Onion Boat (1911)

“Poems” and “The Dream of X” (1912)

Impressionistic Sketches (1913)

Cargunka and Poems and Anecdotes (1914)

These were all published by “R.H. Paget” which I believe to be something similar to what would today be known as “a vanity press”.  That is, it is my theory that WHH paid this company to publish the books in America and that he received no payment for these publications.  Then, WHH used them to secure his U.S. copyrights.

We have seen that WHH is somewhat concerned over others stealing his stories or ideas.  In a letter to Coulson Kernahan, WHH complains about another author (named only “C. L.”) using his Sargasso ideas in a story so it is not surprising that he felt the need to protect himself.

What is surprising is the material he decided to copyright.

spectralThe Ghost Pirates, A Chaunty and Another Story.

This contains an abridged version of the novel, “The Hell! Oo! Chaunty” and “The Thing Invisible”.  The abridgement of the novel is not the same version which appeared in Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1944.  This was reprinted by Ian Bell in Spectral Manifestations in 1984.  I presume that the Chaunty and the story are the same as their common versions.

Carnacki, The Ghost Finder and a Poem

This volume contained an abridgement of the stories “The Gateway of the Monster”, “The House Among the Laurels”, “The Whistling Room”, and “The Horse of the Invisible” into one story.  This was also reprinted by Ian Bell in Spectral Manifestations.  The poem was “Lost” which has appeared several times most recently in Jane Frank’s The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson (2005).


The Captain of the Onion Boat (1911)

Presumably this is a reprint of the original story which The Night Land and Other Romances which appeared most recently in the 4th volume of Night Shade Books, “The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson”.  To my knowledge, no copies of this exists today.


dream“Poems” and “The Dream of X” (1912)

This is an interesting booklet.  The poems consist of: “I Have Borne My Lord a Son”; “Bring Out Your Dead”; “I Come Again”; “The Song of the Great Bull Whale”; “Speak Well of the Dead”;  “Little Garments”; “The Sobbing of the Freshwater”; “O Parent Sea!”; “Listening”; “My Babe, My Babe”; “The Night Wind”; “Grey Seas are Dreaming of My Death”; and “Mutiny”.

The Dream of “X” is a radical abridgement of WHH’s monumental novel, The Night Land, down to a mere 20,000 words and essentially making it an entirely new work.  Sam Moskowitz discovered a copy of this and The Dream of “X” was published by Donald M. Grant in 1977.


Impressionistic Sketches (1913)

No copies of this booklet are known to exist and it is presumed lost.


Cargunka and Poems and Anecdotes (1914)

The final, known volume included “D.C.O Cargunka: The Bells of the Laughing Sally”, the essay “The Psychology of Species” and, according to scholar Douglas Anderson “ten poems and short two to four page summaries of twenty five short stories”.

This is a very interesting assortment indeed!

One has to wonder how successful these booklets would have been in securing American copyrights considering that two were abridgements of larger works while others were summaries of stories or combining them into one story.

But consider the material which he does include.   Out of the six titles, four include poems.  (We do not know the contents of Impressionistic Sketches but it is likely there was a poem or two in there.)  Obviously, WHH considered his poems as important to copyright protect as his fiction.

Then, there are only two of his four novels represented.  Where are copyright volumes for The House on the Borderland or The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”?  Did WHH not consider these important enough to protect or could there possibly be more copyright volumes out there waiting to be discovered?

Also, Carnacki and D.C.O. Cargunka are represented but not WHH’s other serial character, Captain Gault?  This is more likely due to the fact that the collection of those tales (Captain Gault: Being the Exceedingly Private Log of a Sea-Captain) actually obtained an American release from McBride & Sons in 1918.  It is also possible that, as no copyright editions appeared after 1914, WHH either reconsidered the need for them or simply could no longer afford them.

Clearly, the copyright volumes present an interesting and unique part of Hodgson’s work.


1 Comment

Filed under Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson


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.)


Filed under Carnacki, Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

A Guide to Hodgson Criticism

Sometimes I am asked what is the ‘best’ scholarly work on Hodgson to read?  Usually this comes from people who have read Hodgson’s writings and want to learn more about the man and his work.  Happily (or unhappily), unlike Lovecraft, there has not been so much work done on Hodgson as to be overwhelming.  Indeed, there is much yet to be done but, like everything, there is a beginning.  This list contains comments regarding the items which are purely my own opinion.

We must first divide this list into two parts: Biographical and Critical.  Although some contain elements of both, most fall firmly into one camp or the other.


There have been several significant biographical pieces on Hodgson.  It is due to them that we have what little information that we do today.

evertsThe earliest came from R. Alain Everts 1974’s, William Hope Hodgson: THE NIGHT PIRATE, Volume 2 .  This was the result of much individual research by Everts and interviews with Hodgson’s then surviving siblings.

Sam Moskowitz provided the longest and most detailed analysis with his essay which first appeared in three issues of Weird Tales in 1973 when he was that magazine’s editor.  These installments were combined into one article which served as the introduction to the important collection, Out of the Storm (Grant, 1975).

Both Everts and Moskowitz deserve reading.  However, they often disagree on various points.  Moskowitz, for example, claims that WHH had a good relationship with his parents while Everts refutes this.  Because much of this information is apocryphal, it cannot be independently verified at this point.  My belief is that much of the information both scholars quoted was gained from interviews they conducted with WHH family.  As such, we must adjust for faulty memories or the more typical tendency to ‘revise’ history to make it appear more palpable.  Read with an open mind.

PamperoMoskowitz would go on to pen two more forewords to the other two WHH collections from Grant that he edited.  Much useful information is contained in both.  In The Haunted Pampero (1991), Moskowitz describes the efforts of Hodgson’s widow to keep his work alive until her death in 1943.  In Terrors of the Sea (1996), Moskowitz’s introduction picks up after the death of Hodgson’s widow when the literary estate reverted to Hodgson’s sister, Lissie.  This essay is particularly interesting in that it describes how Lissie often did more harm than good albeit unintentionally as she did not understand publishing and contracts.

The next major biographical step would come with Jane Frank’s The Wandering Soul.  After Moskowitz’s death in 1997, Frank and her husband purchased Moskowitz’s Hodgson collection which Jane Frank used to put together this anthology of WHH’s non-fiction and essays.

In addition to an excellent essay covering Hodgson’s life and career, Frank presents several unpublished WHH items that have significant impact on our knowledge of Hodgson’s life.  These include the lectures “A Sailor and His Camera” and “Ship’s Log”.  Recently, Frank has mentioned that she still has some unpublished items from Moskowitz’s files and is searching for a publisher for them.


One of the earliest examples of Hodgson Criticism is H. P. Lovecraft’s essay, “The Weird Work of William Hope Hodgson”.  This was originally published in The Phantagraph in 1937 and then later in H. C. Koenig’s amateur magazine, The Reader and Collector (1944).  This essay was reprinted in full on this blog here.  Lovecraft had taken the portions on Hodgson that he had included in his revised essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, and expanded them in this article.

That issue of The Reader and Collector marked the first time that serious critical attention had been focused on Hodgson.  Through the kind generosity of Koenig’s son-in-law, Gene Biancheri, we have reprinted that issue in it’s entirety on this blog.  The issue included essays by Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Koenig, E. A. Edkins and Ellery Queen.

Arkham House, 1946.

Arkham House, 1946.

In 1947, Koenig provided the introduction to Arkham House’s edition of House on the Borderland which was the first time many readers had read anything about Hodgson.

For the next several decades, the bulk of Hodgson Criticism would primarily be contained in introductions to various reprints of his work.  Many library encyclopedias and indexes would appear in the 1970s and 80s which would include sections on Hodgson but would be priced beyond the means of most readers.

In 1987, Hodgson enthusiast Ian Bell would self publish William Hope Hodgson: Voyages and Visions which would collect many significant essays on Hodgson.  It was the most significant gathering of scholarly articles on Hodgson since 1944’s Reader and Collector.

Recently, academic scholars have taken up the Hodgson banner.  Writers such as Emily Alder and Kelly Hurley have placed articles in volumes published by Cambridge University Press and others.

I would be remiss if I did not at least mention my own article, Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson”, which was first published in 1992.  In it, I provided evidence that Hodgson’s novels were published in the reverse order of publication which changes many conceptions about Hodgson and his work.  I reprinted the essay on this blog here.

These are, to my mind, the primary sources that one should read for a basic understanding of Hodgson Criticism.  In an earlier post, I provided a more detailed listing of what was published and when which can be read here.

There is a great deal more work left to be done on Hodgson.  To date, he has not even received a book length analysis of his life and work.  In many ways, the field of Hodgson Criticism is as unexplored as many of the locales in his stories.  This needs to be corrected.–Sam Gafford

Leave a comment

Filed under Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

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.


Filed under Carnacki, Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

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!


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?


Filed under Carnacki, Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

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:


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:


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!


Filed under Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson


(Spoiler alert!  This post will discuss plot points of the story “The Gateway of the Monster”.  If you haven’t read it, you can read it online here before reading the rest of this post.)

Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder, is arguably William Hope Hodgson’s most famous creation.  Since his first appearance in 1910, Carnacki has gone on to be featured in new stories by other authors including William Meikle and appears in various comics such as Alan Moore’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN.

Carnacki appeared in six stories that were published in Hodgson’s lifetime and these were collected into an anthology that first appeared in 1912.  Later, when August Derleth was putting together a new collection of Carnacki stories, Hodgson expert H. C. Koenig presented him with three ‘unpublished’ stories to bring the number of Hodgson tales up to nine.  These nine stories would comprised all other Carnacki collections that followed.

The very first Carnacki story to appear was “The Gateway of the Monster” which was in the January, 1910, issue of The Idler.  Sam Moskowitz has this to say about The Idler:

He interested Robert Barr, editor of The Idler, in the series for which he would be paid about $33 apiece.  The Idler, founded in 1891 by Jerome K. Jerome and Robert Barr, had for some years been a prestige literary magazine in England, but eventually Jerome broke off from it and Barr carried on alone.  It had been sliding down hill, and would not long survive the year’s end.  Hodgson’s stories were hardly designed to lengthen The Idler’s life span.  (OUT OF THE STORM, p 79)

At this point in time, it is not possible for us to determine the order in which Hodgson wrote the Carnacki stories.  Therefore, we are forced to use the order of publication.  With “The Gateway of the Monster”, we are introduced not only to Carnacki but several of his trademark methods as well.

The story begins with the narrator, Dodgson (a veiled literary doppelganger of Hodgson) arriving at Carnacki’s house in London for dinner after receiving “the usual summons”.  This refers to an invitation from Carnacki for dinner and then to hear about the Ghost-Hunter’s latest exploit.  After making the error of asking about the case during dinner (a cardinal sin with Carnacki), the group finishes dinner and gathers around Carnacki for his story.

Without much introduction, Carnacki tells about being consulted by Anderson, a man with an ancestral home (“less than 20 miles from here”) that has a ‘haunted room’.  Every night, the door to ‘the Grey Room’ is slammed for hours on end and, in the morning, the sheets and covering on the bed are found thrown into the left corner of the room.  Carnacki learns that the room has a history extending back over a hundred and fifty years when an ancestor of Anderson’s and his wife and child were strangled in it.

Carnacki travels to the house where he is joined by the butler, Peters, who has a great fear of the haunted room.  Undaunted by the growing evening, Carnacki proceeds to place seals over the windows, walls, pictures, fire-place and closets.  As he works, the butler nervously appeals to him to leave the room and Carnacki himself begins to feel uneasy.  “Near the entrance I had a sudden feeling that there was a cold wind in the room.”

Finally, Carnacki seals the doors to the rooms with candle wax.  During the night, he hears the slamming of a door and goes into the passage but he cannot go further.  “There was something precious unholy in the air that night.”

In the morning, Carnacki finds that all of the door seals are intact, except for the door to the Grey Room.  Inside, nothing is disturbed other than the bundle of bed linens thrown onto the floor.  Carnacki knows that he has a legitimate case now.

On his orders, the butler and maids clear the room of everything except for the bed.  Then, after a careful examination, determines that “some incredible thing had been loose in the room during the past night”.  Carnacki seals the room again and sets up a camera which he ties to the doorknob so that, should anyone open the door, the camera would capture the picture of the culprit.

That night, as Carnacki watched and waited, the door to the Gray Room is opened and slammed again in the light of the camera’s flash.  As he stares, he feels the danger coming closer:

“For some unknown reason, I knew it was pressed up against the door, and it was soft.  That was just what I thought.  Most extraordinary thing to imagine, when you come to think of it!”

Carnacki quickly draws a pentacle around himself on the floor and sits there, listening to the door slam over and over again throughout the night.  In the morning, the camera yields a picture that shows only a half-opened door.

Determined, Carnacki goes to town and gathers supplies for an overnight stay in the room.  Without Peters knowledge, Carnacki locks himself into the Grey Room and proceeds to construct his ‘protections’.  They consist of a chalk circle, the outside of which is smudged with garlic.  Then, Carnacki constructs a ‘water-circle’ just within the chalk circle while making “the Second Sign of the Saaamaaa Ritural.  He also draws a chalk pentacle which he reinforces with an “Electric Pentacle” which is a series of lighted tubes that reinforces the chalk pentacle.  The idea for this, Carnacki explains, he got from reading Professor Garder’s “Experiments with a Medium” and which Carnacki believes has the ability to separate the material from the “Immaterial”.

What follows is a haunting sequence as Carnacki is attacked by the force that inhabits the Grey Room.  It begins with the slow pulling off of the bed linen but eventually results in Carnacki being besieged by a giant hand!  Even worse, the force seems to be influencing Carnacki as he very nearly breaks the protection several times.  Nerves on edge, Carnacki forces himself not to move until the morning when he flees the room.

Exhausted, Carnacki examines the room the next day and removes his equipment.  Inspired, he examines the area where the bedclothes are always thrown and discovers a ring hidden behind the skirting.  Certain that he has discovered the source of the haunting, Carnacki believes the ring to be the fabled “luck ring” of the Andersons.  The ring had been handed down through the family for generations but only with the stipulation that it never be worn.  Eventually, of course, a drunken Anderson wagers to wear the ring with the result that his wife and child are found strangled in the bed.  Suspected of the murder, Anderson vows to spend the night in the room himself and is found strangled the next morning.  Since that time, no one had slept in the Gray Room.

That night, Carnacki builds his protections around himself and the ring, thinking that the giant hand would appear outside and attempt to retrieve the ring.  He is mistaken, however, as the hand begins to materialize inside the circle.  Terrified, he tries to flee the room:

“I fumbled idiotically and ineffectually with the key, and all the time I stared, with the fear that was like insanity, toward the Barriers.  The hand was plunging towards me; yet, even as it had been unable to pass into the pentacle when the ring was without; so, now that the ring was within it had no power to pass out.  The monster was chained, as surely as any beast would be, were chains riveted upon it.”

The next day, Carnacki melts the ring in a furnace and the haunting is over.  Carnacki shows his friends the lump of metal that had once been the ring and then, “stood up and began to shake hands.  ‘Out you go!’ he said, genially.”

Already in this first story, much of the pattern is established.  Carnacki summons his friends to dinner, tells them a story and then tosses them out.  His behavior is less than cordial.  This is often one of the main criticisms against Carnacki but, like Sherlock Holmes, is actually one of his most endearing features.  We never really learn much about Carnacki and his history.  Like many of Hodgson characters, he is a blank.  This is often not appreciated by critics:

The cardinal weakness of Hodgson’s Carnacki series was an almost total lack of visualization of the main character and a story frame for the introduction of the stories so weak that they can only be construed as deliberate pot boilers.  It is only in a few of the stories that Hodgson regains integrity in the heat of narration.  (OUT OF THE STORM, p 80)

I respectfully disagree.  Carnacki, as portrayed by Hodgson, is not the true center of the plot.  It is always the case which he is investigating that is the most important feature.  This falls flat sometimes especially when the case turns out not to be supernatural.  However, I believe that Carnacki’s ‘blankness’ was deliberate by Hodgson and meant to be able to allow the reader to put themselves into his place.

Also, we see already Carnacki’s techniques.  He uses an unusual combination of occult ritual and science.  Being a photographer himself, it is not surprising that Carnacki is also one and he uses the camera on a number of cases.  This, combined with his ‘Electric Pentacle’ brings him neatly into the 20th century.  Here we already see the “Saaamaa Ritual”  as well as the “Sigsand Manuscript” which is Hodgson’s equivalent to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.   The “Electric Pentacle” is devised by Carnacki after reading Professor Garder’s “Experiments with a Medium” which cuts a Medium off from the Immaterial by surrounding them “with a current of a certain number of vibrations in vacuum.”  This makes Carnacki truly unique in his application of then-modern scientific principles in support of occult practices.

During his talk, Carnacki makes mention of two previous cases which Hodgson does not record; “The Black Veil” and “The Noving Fur”.  It is during “The Black Veil” case that Aster, who sneered at Carnacki’s defense, perished.  These echo the many ‘unrecorded’ cases which Holmes refers to throughout his adventures.

There is little in terms of internal dating that one can do with the Carnacki stories.  They take place in a nebulous, post-Victorian world and make no reference to each other.  This makes it nearly impossible to say which came first.  There is only one tale, “The Searcher of the End House”, which takes place in Carnacki’s past which would place it before all the other stories.

Like Dodgson and the others, when we receive that invitation from Carnacki, we come.

(The artwork used in this post comes from this stories original appearance in The Idler and was by Florence Briscoe.)


Hodgson, William Hope.  CARNACKI, THE GHOST-FINDER.  Sauk City, WI: Mycroft & Moran, 1947.

Hodgson, William Hope.  OUT OF THE STORM, edited by Sam Moskowitz.  West Kingston: RI: Donald M. Grant, 1975.

1 Comment

Filed under Carnacki, Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson