Thomas Carnacki: the original ghost-buster

16 Sep

A few years ago Wordsworth Editions, a highly respected publishing house most famous for its range of classic literary fiction, published a line known intriguingly as Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural. This was a collection of works written by Victorian and Edwardian ghost story writers, including giants such as Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, M R James, H P Lovecraft and Rudyard Kipling as well as far less well known (but perhaps equally gifted, in this field at least) writers such as W F Harvey, Algernon Blackwood and Sir Andrew Caldecott. Their aim was to bring those works which have been forgotten undeservedly back to a mass audience for the acclaim that they deserve. Many of the short story collections that made up this line of Wordsworth editions had been out of print for decades, despite being some of the finest examples of the short story form in any genre. Sadly, the Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural are no longer being published, although there are still plenty available in the right bookshops (and online of course). I hope to talk about a number of the writers in this range in future posts but I thought I’d start with one of my favourites: William Hope Hodgson.

Hodgson led an interesting life long before he became a writer, running off to the sea at an early age and, amongst other things, teaching body-building to policemen! He published a number of weird tales in various magazines and wrote the bizarre (but brilliant) novel The House on the Borderland. But his most famous creation was Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, an Edwardian psychic detective who investigated all sorts of terrifying paranormal phenomena in the course of Hodgson’s short stories.In many ways the Carnacki stories have more than a flavour of Sherlock Holmes about them, with a clever protagonist who approaches each ‘ghostly’ case with a healthy dose of scepticism, utilising science to banish the supernatural or expose it as a hoax. This is part of the fun of the adventures of Carnacki, which often turn out to be nothing more than human skulduggery rather than genuine otherworldly manifestations. Of course, every now and again it turns out that the hauntings are all too chillingly real…

The Whistling Room is an archetypal case which you can click on to read but be warned, whilst the story initially seems almost light-hearted in tone, with the idea of a ‘haunted’ room that merely produces a whistling sound, the tone darkens and indeed the haunting and its explanation emerges as one of the most gruesome in the ghost-hunter’s casebook. Hopefully this will not put you off seeking out more tales by this talented but somewhat undeservedly neglected writer.

6 Responses to “Thomas Carnacki: the original ghost-buster”

  1. MonsterJournalist September 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    I love William Hope Hodgson! I think he’s one of the more underappreciated fantasy/horror writers out there, and I’m always happy to see someone promoting his work. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Janet September 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    Great blog, anilbalan, i went to Amazon and tried to open your book but it would not allow it… is that a new policy? I have two books on Amazon also.
    Hodgson is awesome ….
    so nice to find another ‘ghost’ lover … 🙂

    • anilbalan September 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      Thanks for the support and I didn’t know about the problems re: Amazon – will definitely look into this!

  3. Liz September 16, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    Hi Anil, You’re a dark horse! You certainly kept your interest in supernatural fiction hidden. I like M R James too but I hadn’t heard of Hodgson so should give him a go. I don’t have a Kindle yet so can’t download your book unfortunately.

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