The Many Identities of Thomas Carnacki

Today, dear listener, we make a point, show off some fantastical art from the 1940s, and then mention a new book coming from that ace storyteller Willie Meikle. It’s all a bit Carnacki and William Hope Hodgson here again, for a brief moment. Oh, and the WHH covers gallery has been updated, under Weird Media (all art copyright its creators/owners).


I am Carnacki! No, I am Carnacki! The crowd erupts into a frenzy of self-sacrifice, at which point the Cistercian Abbot Amalric says “Kill them all. God will know which are his,” and then realises that he’s in the wrong film.

Meanwhile, thousands of Roman soldiers and a cohort of jobbing plumbers, who thought someone said ‘cisterns’, get out their copies of Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Finder and try to find out where they come in.


The Truth

Thomas Merton Carnacki, dubbed the Ghost Finder by the popular press, was a man troubled by the role in which he found himself. Much of his brusque procedure was designed to cover up his own awkwardness. His own lack of any dramatic psychic ability made him prone to nagging doubts, and his true interests were fine dining and exploring the new world of electrical inventions.

As everyone knows, Carnacki died a mysterious death in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. His funeral was held at Steeton, near Keighley, close to the rambling house which he maintained up there, Hathering. Some said at the time that the mistress of Hathering, a Miss Catherine Weatherhead, was also mistress to the Ghost Finder. This was never publicly confirmed.

In his will, Carnacki left 472 Cheyne Walk and its contents to his chronologer Henry Dodgson, veteran of the Boer Wars and illegitimate son of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. With some reluctance, Dodgson took on the mantle of the Ghost Finder, relying on other associates to make up for his lack of ab-natural knowledge. It was to be a mantle he never managed to shed, and the true tale unfolds through Mr John Linwood Grant’s series ‘Tales of the Last Edwardian’.

Despite the above being very clear, and a matter of public record, interfering folk such Joshua M Reynolds, Willie Meikle and Brandon Barrows (amongst others) have insisted on various re-interpretations of Carnacki’s life, and of those who followed him. Oh, their work is fine and dandy, and most enjoyable, but one wonders if they ever question the liberties they have taken.

For example, whilst Mr Reynolds has woven a charming succession of talented Royal Occultists, and Mr Meikle has added to the range of astonishing paraphernalia which might be employed in Ghost Finding, their bravado sometimes shocks. As for Mr Barrows, he is perhaps more restrained in his addition of further almost canonical events, but is no less culpable.


We are gracious, though. Joshua M Reynolds is rumoured to be gathering a new collection of his Royal Occultist stories, and is also available on Patreon for discerning folk.

And Brandon Barrows’ collection The Castle-Town Tragedy is now widely available on Amazon, after an initial limited edition release:

Castletownthe castle-town tragedy

We shall come back to Mr Meikle later below, but first – an interlude…

Famous and Fantastic

Let’s have some of those illustrations, from Famous Fantastic Mysteries. FFM was an American SF and fantasy pulp magazine, edited by Mary Gnaedinger and published between 1939 to 1953, first by the Munsey Company and then by Popular Publications.

Argosy_1906_04Incidentally, Frank Munsey, the Victorian founder of the former company, also started the famous Argosy magazine, which lasted until the late seventies.

FFM published a range of short stories and reprinted novels included G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, Rider Haggard’s The Ancient Allan, and works by Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and Arthur Machen.


In the process, it reprinted at least three works by William Hope Hodgson – his novels The Ghost Pirates and The Boats of the Glen Carrig, plus his story ‘The Derelict’. With illustrations.

  • December 1943. Cover by Lawrence Stevens. “King of the Gray Spaces” by Ray Bradbury, and other stories by J. Leslie Mitchell, William Hope Hodgson, and Robert W. Chambers. Illustrations by Hannes Bok.
  • March 1944. Cover and illustrations by Lawrence. “The Man Who Was Thursday (A Nightmare)” by G. K. Chesterton and “The Ghost Pirates” by William Hope Hodgson.
  • Volume 6 Number 5, June, 1945. Art and Cover by Lawrence. “The Boats of Glen Carrig” by William H. Hodgson, and “Even a Worm” by Henry Kuttner.

Lawrence, Lawrence Stevens and Lawrence Stern Stevens (1886-1960) were the same fellow. He did both covers and interiors for FFM at various times.


“He was most admired for his interior illustrations, which became his major activity when the aging Stevens was called upon to replace the great Virgil Finlay when the younger artist was drafted. Although faster, more versatile, and excellent at pen-and-ink stippling, he never achieved Finlay’s fame. Stevens’s finest work may be the dozens of interiors he did for Adventure from 1943 to 1954, though his interior illustrations for Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Startling Stories, Super Science Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories were also admired.”

(thanks also to for some of the art)


If anyone finds any more, do let us know.

Forthcoming Carnacki

Now, back to our authors, for we hear that author Willie Meikle, ever busy in multiple directions, has announced a brand new collection of his own Carnacki tales, to be released late 2017 by the Lovecraft ezine.



art m wayne miller

CARNACKI operates in shadowy occult realms, on the fringes of science, in places out of sight and out of mind of normal everyday people. But sometimes the darkness touches the lives of others in ways they cannot understand, and they find they need help – the kind of help that only Carnacki can provide.

In MR. CHURCHILL’S SURPRISE and INTO THE LIGHT Carnacki is called on to help a young Winston Churchill investigate a strangely empty German U-Boat captured in the North Sea, and in dispelling something that is lingering in a London inn that was home to a club of gentlemen seeking illicit pleasures and a path to power.

In FINS IN THE FOG and THE KING’S TREASURE, Carnacki again aids another Hodgson character, Captain Gault, in ridding him of a nemesis brought up from the deeps of the ocean intent on revenge, and in the salvage of a cursed treasure off the coast of Scotland.

In other tales you will meet an Egyptian amulet and the thing that protects it, a photographer whose pictures contain strange developments, a very strange occurrence on a cricket field, an old Edinburgh townhouse that is much more than it seems, and much more.

In these all new stories Carnacki helps old friends and new acquaintances in the never ending battle to keep the Great Beyond at bay.



We shall look forward to that. Naturally, a more accurate version of history will be found in Mr Linwood Grant’s novella A Study in Grey, his Last Edwardian stories and his forthcoming collection A Persistence of Geraniums, but let’s not quibble. You can also find further Hodgsonian goodness in books such Carnacki: The Lost Cases, and Sam Gafford’s fascinating Hope Hodgson journal Sargasso. Amazon UK and US links below.



All of the modern authors above will be found in the pages of Occult Detective Quarterly, Issue 2 of which is available on Amazon now (see right-hand sidebar). Additional details of Carnacki pastiches, follow-ups and so on can be found here:

carnacki – the second great detective

And that’s quite enough Ghost Finding for one day, we think.

Next time: We haven’t a clue – but there will be something weird…

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Lizzie Borden – Skipping the Dark Fantastic

Firstly, it was a hatchet not an axe, and no, Ms Borden did not deliver a series of eighty one deadly blows to her parents, despite what it says in the skipping rhyme. If she did it at all. Today we interview Christine Verstraete, author of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, sidestep into a couple of aspects of the Borden case itself, and generally do what we do. Oh, and we mention the forthcoming film as well.


So who’s the focus here? Lizzie Andrew Borden (1860 – 1927) became rather too famous for her own liking after being tried and acquitted for the murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. She may well have committed the crime, but the technical evidence was circumstantial, and there were other suspects. These included a local labourer, the Irish maid Bridget Sullivan, a suggested illegitimate son of Andrew Borden, and Lizzie’s maternal uncle. None of them, however, fitted the bill as well as Lizzie herself.

Lizzie Borden

Her father Andrew Borden was a rich man, but miserly and not always popular in the town. The Bordens had been landowners in the area for a very long time:

“In 1703, Benjamin Church, a prominent veteran of King Philip’s War, established a sawmill, a gristmill and a fulling mill on the Quequechan River. In 1714, Church sold his land, including the water rights, to Richard Borden of Tiverton and his brother Joseph. (This transaction would prove to be extremely valuable 100 years later, helping to establish the Borden family as the leaders in the development of Fall River’s textile industry.)” (Wiki)

His cheapskate ways and his second marriage, after the death of Sarah Borden, the mother of his children, caused friction. There were reasons for the Borden sisters, Lizzie and Emma, to dislike their step-mother Abby, whose family seemed to be benefiting over-much from money which should have eventually come to them. Widely covered in the press at the time, the case became one for considerable debate, especially in terms of sexuality and gender politics.

Eileen McNamara, of Brown University, argues that incest could have played a role, citing the extreme violence of the attacks—the first few blows were sufficient to kill each of the Bordens. She conjectures that if Lizzie or Emma were subject to abuse by their father, it would explain the apparent frenzy.

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty-one.

As we love a good complicated mystery, it’s probably worth mentioning that veteran author Ed McBain even covered the case with his own theory, involving a lesbian relationship between Lizzie Borden and the maid Bridget.

And Rafia Zakaria, writing in The Guardian earlier this year, discussed various interpretations subsequently put upon the Lizzie Borden affair:

“Where people had previously fixated on the binaries of guilt or innocence in Borden’s case, radical feminists focused on oppression and liberation. Lizzie was expiated – whether or not she was innocent.

“Where Lizzie’s contemporaries speculated about her criminality, and radical feminists about her oppression, this century just seems to enjoy the opportunity for kitsch and gore. In 2016, for instance, CA Verstraete suggested that Borden may have killed her parents because they were already dead, in her novel Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter.”

Not that feminism and gore need to be exclusive of each other in horror literature. Anyway, we’ll come to C A Verstraete in a second, as promised. We will add first that, in addition to written fictional, factual and even factional pieces on Lizzie Borden, the film industry had been there too, most recently in the TV movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (2014). Christina Ricci, who starred as Lizzie, described this version as “self-aware, campy, and tongue-in-cheek”.


Now there’s a new, far more serious film on its way, due late 2017, which is said to treat the matter more as a dark psychological drama, with a touch of the Gothic. As Lizzie features Chloë Sevigny as Lizzie Borden and Kristen Stewart as Bridget Sullivan, it seems likely that this version will explore the relationship between the two women in some depth. We expect a lot of intense staring.

Lizzie, coming 2017
Lizzie, coming 2017

But it’s interview time. Let’s go to someone who has put a very different twist on Lizzie Borden, and ask a few questions…

An Interview with Christine Verstraete


greydog: Christine, welcome to greydogtales. Maybe you could start by telling us how the idea of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter came to you. Flash inspiration, something you read, or a long, slow germination?

christine: Thanks for letting me stop by your blog! I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Lizzie Borden. And after looking at the autopsy photos and records, I realized another theory could be offered for why the victims had been so viciously killed – and repeatedly hit in the head… they’d turned into zombies. It made perfect sense.

greydog: It’s more persuasive than some of the other theories we’ve read. So, we’re back in 1892. What do you find are the challenges of writing period fiction? Did you seek a late Victorian ‘voice’, or did you opt for a more contemporary style?

christine: It’s pretty hard, and hard on the reader, I think, to stick with formal English, so I tried to use modern English but without modern words. I stuck in references to the time period as I could, but some of Lizzie’s actions were a bit more modern, perhaps. Of course, Victorian life wasn’t as staid behind closed doors as we think, so some of her actions could be possible. After all, it’s not everyday you’re facing the gallows—and fighting zombies. Kind of changes your perspective, I’d say.


greydog: You obviously researched the actual case. Did you get any feeling as to what actually happened, and if the real Elizabeth Borden did kill her parents?

christine: I did a lot of reading on the crimes, the news of the day, and of the inquest and trial transcripts. Though she is guilty, in a sense, in my version of events, I still can’t quite decide whether she did it or not. It certainly seems that way, but there’s no real evidence or proof. It’s all circumstantial…

greydog: Do you think there’s a ‘statute of limitations’ issue when drawing on real-life killings? Characters like The Ripper and Lizzie Borden belong to a time which seems distant enough for many writers, but is there a stage at which it becomes inappropriate to ‘go there’ for purely fictional purposes?

christine: I think once a crime is at least 100 years old, it does put it into a different time frame. It’s of the past century and open to more interpretation. Some crimes like say, the Black Dahlia murder while just as sensational, still seem too close in time. But maybe it’s more a feeling of a crime being more open to interpretation and fictional treatments once it’s at least a generation or more away.

greydog: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Jane Austen/zombie reworking by Seth Grahame-Smith, was a more parodic take, really. Is your Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter played straight?

christine: As straight as putting zombies in anything can be realistic, I suppose. But I did write it as if it is a real-life event. It’s the reason for the murders, and fits around the changes in Lizzie’s world with the real-life trial and a few other events in her life. I felt it important to not ignore the important and real parts in her life as that is what most people know about who Lizzie Borden is and was.

greydog: You also wrote GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, a contemporary piece. This is more of a Young Adult take, isn’t it?


christine: Yes, I wanted to try something different by showing a teen’s view and how her life changes when she turns part-zombie. So it’s ‘angsty’, and humorous, and full of quirks, and well, no, she doesn’t eat “that.”

greydog: The zombie theme runs and runs, much to our surprise. What do you see as its fascination?

christine: It has to be a contrast, a way of coping, to all the real-life horrors maybe? There’s so much going in on in our world today, so what better way to personify those things than with zombies? They’re the monsters in our life that can be seen and hopefully controlled when all else seems, and is, out of our control.

greydog: And what’s next from your pen? Is there more Borden to come?

christine: I loved writing about Lizzie and don’t want to give her up just yet. Coming out soon is The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden’s Fall River. This is a supernatural-flavored mystery novella set in Lizzie’s hometown, and told from the point of view of her doctor and neighbour. I also have been writing some short mysteries with her as the investigator. Then, of course, I have some ideas for a follow-up to Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter.


It’s a fun, scary world that I’m enjoying writing about and others seem to enjoy reading about, so, I’m happy and want to keep the readers happy, too!

greydog: Good luck with your continued explorations, and thanks for calling in.

Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is on offer until the 15th July.

About Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter:

Every family has its secrets…


One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become… zombies?




Over the next few days on greydogtales – The lurchers go to the seaside, and some more William Hope Hodgson scares. If you want to be warned which is which, subscribe for free via the top left hand corner…

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Ginger Nuts and Grey Dogs

Do you hit the ground, or does the ground hit you? Sadly this isn’t a lurcher post, but a thought or two on websites, reviews, exhaustion and other animals. Many will have heard that the redoubtable Jim McLeod has closed his UK review site, Ginger Nuts of Horror, which has been running for years. Jim prided himself on providing a wide range of review and features covering the horror genre, with especial attention paid to independent authors and ventures, who might not otherwise get decent coverage. It was unique in many ways, a major endeavour. And major endeavours are exhausting, even if you have an informal team behind you.

ginger nuts

Greydogtales is almost two years old, and in thinking about Ginger Nuts, there’s a lot of material to mull. Obviously, we never attempted to reach the height of what Jim did – we’re a quirky set-up which ignores many of the rules, but you can see how it starts to grind you down. We’ve often followed Ginger Nuts’ comments about the difficult aspects of the game, and had a few similar problems, though not on the same scale. To take a few examples…

a) People don’t always get that you have to work to pay the bills, and that the vast majority of these sites are done out of love (or occasionally obsession). They happen in the small hours between shifts, at times when you should be recovering, at times when you should be doing family and friend things. And they happen when you’re feeling ill, or depressed, if you can manage it.

b) Things run late, and sometimes a few of them never run. There are guests and other contributors who have their own lives, shocking though that is; book publicists who accidentally promise things they can’t deliver; publishers themselves who are great but who run late on their output schedule, and books or projects with which you just cannot click, however much you try. Or ideas that seemed great after an ale and playing with dog, but which don’t pan out the next day or the next week. A dozen reasons, sometimes more than one at once. We can get it wrong.

c) The communications network does your head in. Between multiple email accounts, forms, other projects, Tweets and Facebook, private messages and the occasional actual letter, it can take on the appearance of a thousand people all wanting you to do something – and do it now. Even if individually, they’re nice, easy-going people, en masse it gets scary.

d) People remind you of what you planned, and may even nag, but you haven’t got an immediate – or helpful – answer (see a, b, c and e). It’s not unreasonable – we all want our own work to be highlighted, pushed forward, held up in front of the world. We are You.

e) The technology collapses. Things get bugged, you can’t access your own site, the server slows or crashes… and it requires at least some design work to be readable. You get things sent which won’t open, even with a crowbar. Links die or move, and ought to be checked more often, and then your scanner won’t speak to your central heating system, or some such nonsense. This stuff eats up more time and temper.

So if you try to do something ambitious and well-meaning, it can bite. We empathise with sites who feel the pressure; we know what the cost can be (and yes, there can be a financial cost as well as an emotional one).

For greydogtales, if it don’t happen we live with it, and occasionally apologise. We occasionally mean it, too. We don’t have a team of reviewers. We have a handful of nice folk who help out greydog when the heat is on. We look at themes and ideas in people’s work, and interesting books that we’re offered – or which we come across by accident. Once in a while we get so excited that we ask for an ARC or review copy. And then we wish we had time to read it.

We post long, complicated features about dead writers, obscure philosophies, detectives, history, folklore and legends, because… no, we can’t remember why we do that. It’ll come to us.

Our other staple is the interview, and we won’t do one of those without reading some of the works, looking at the background and so on. We have no set list of questions, which makes each interview harder but usually more interesting. Makes it a slow process, as well.

In between the above, we still have plans for our most popular feature, Lurchers for Beginners and its spin-off articles. The Little Donkeys told us to keep doing those.

an author, being herded by little donkeys
an author, being herded by little donkeys

We mourn Ginger Nuts of Horror (unless it arises again one day, maybe), and we understand at least some of what makes websites a nightmare. And we can only wish Jim McLeod the very best.

Despite the fact that it would be a darned sight easier to potter along doing an author blog, we’re still here. So the oddity that is survives, to stagger on and do what it can to signpost new and interesting stuff in weird, horror and related fiction. And to mention lurchers a lot.

We’re simply… dogged (in any sense you want to take that).


Away from the wild glamour and prestige of heading greydogtales, the confused horror that is John Linwood Grant has put together his first collection. Except that it’s not supposed to be his first collection, which is more likely next year. A Persistence of Geraniums and Other Worrying Tales is a selection of strange stories, all set in the Edwardian era. Some are exclusive to the collection, and have never been published anywhere. It happened sort of by accident when he realised that he had a number of these tales in hand.


Geraniums contains murder, madness and the supernatural, but not necessarily all three at once. Illustrated delightfully by Paul Boswell, it should be out in the next month or so, and be available (in print at first) on Amazon, from Electric Pentacle Press. We may go on about this at more length in the future, because we’re running short of dog food.

Oh, and for those in the know, the collection will include the first print appearances of Mr Edwin Dry.

The Deptford Assassin is in town.

Over the next few weeks – lots of weird features and ‘sort of’ reviews’, plus we have some decent lurcher photos again, from their adventures, thanks to the camera finally agreeing to download them. Which was another cause for delays and temper…

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