The talented ones, the believers and the dreamers are gone. John Silence, insane until the end. Aylmer Vance, a gentler soul – we buried what little we found. Thomas Carnacki, never seen again after that night at Roulston Scar. They risked their lives on a battery and a gun, or wielded half-truths and psychology against the dark. They lost, and their time is over.
Yet I am still here. I squat by a burning oil-drum in the wastelands of the estuary, and I look at the shadows as they play across John Canoe’s smooth black skin, at the gris-gris in his hands. He smiles, because he knows me, and what I am.
I am Henry Dodgson, the Last Edwardian.
john linwood grant
We continue our William Hope Hodgson festival with our last chunk focussing on his character Carnacki the Ghostfinder. WHH did write a lot of other good stuff, after all!
I mentioned in our last post that there were nine Carnacki stories in total. Only six stories were actually published in his lifetime. A seventh was submitted by his wife and published in 1929, eleven years after his death, while the eight and ninth were published by August Derleth in 1947. Four of the stories (1, 2, 3 and 5 below) were later combined by WHH to form a single tale which was to be issued as a pamphlet with an accompanying poem. This abbreviated version can be found in Sam Moskowitz’s collection The Haunted Pampero (1991).
Descriptions have been kept to a minimum. As you know, some of the stories have a less than supernatural explanation, but I’m not saying which…
1) The Gateway of the Monster (1910) The Idler
Carnacki is asked to look into a presence troubling an old house, where the Grey Room is subject to violent disturbances, with slamming doors and bedsheets torn away in the dark of night.
2) The House Among the Laurels (1910) The Idler
The derelict Gannington Manor in Ireland is reputed to be haunted, with two men found dead in there. Carnacki gathers locals and police to support his investigation of what is happening.
3) The Whistling Room (1910) The Idler
A personal favourite because of the rather nice imagery. A disturbing whistling sound troubles an Irish castle. Is this a real psychic presence or the work of disgruntled locals? Also my introduction to the word ‘hooning’, which I love.
4) The Searcher of the End House (1910) The Idler
Carnacki recalls an investigation from his past, when he looked into late night knocking, door slamming and stagnant smells at his mother’s house, a place which had a peculiar history of its own.
5) The Horse of the Invisible (1910) The Idler
The Hisgins family of Lancashire have a legend that any first-born daughter will be attacked by a ghostly horse if she begins courting. When the only first-born daughter in seven generations finds her fiancee assaulted, they fear that worse is to come and ask for Carnacki’s help.
6) The Thing Invisible (1912) The New Magazine
When the chapel attached to an old mansion in Kent appears to be haunted by a murderous dagger, the owner’s son calls Carnacki in to solve the mystery.
7) The Haunted Jarvee (1929) The Premier Magazine
Carnacki’s friend Captain Thompson invites him to sail on his ship, but there are rumours that the Jarvee is not a normal vessel. Mysterious shadows seem to converge on the ship, and there are fears that both ship and crew may be lost.
8) The Find (1947) Carnacki the Ghost Finder
The slightest of the nine stories. A book forgery which seems impossible has to be investigated.
9) The Hog (1947) Weird Tales
Perhaps the most disturbing Carnacki story. The Ghost Finder is faced with a client who has terrible nightmares and is seemingly being assailed by a powerful psychic force. New methods must be employed to deal with this terror.
There were no further Carnacki stories from Hodgson, but we will have more on those writers who have resurrected the Ghost Finder (in various forms) later in the month.
Our brief visual interlude is due to two recent greydogtales discoveries. The first is an artist with whom I’ve been in contact recently, one Sebastian Cabrol. Some of you will have noticed that the initial WHH covers gallery is now up and running (if you haven’t, it’s a drop-down under October Horror on the top menu). Sebastian has recently completed a cover and interior illustrations for a Spanish WHH reprint, and also produced the cover for a Spanish edition of The Night Land, published by Hermida Editores.
I loved the artwork (cover reproduced above), and also found much to admire on Sebastian’s website, which can be checked out here:
The second is La Brigade Chimerique, a French graphic series from 2009. I am forced to confess that when browsing past the title previously, I had made the stupid assumption that it was a translated version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s not. Written by Serge Lehman and Fabrice Colin, drawn by Gess and colored by Céline Bessonneau, it’s set in 1939 (I think) and includes characters from both history and fiction. Including one Thomas Carnacki.
I’m hoping to find out more before the end of the WHH blog-fest.
Now, back to Carnacki the Ghost Finder, and a note on why Tales of the Last Edwardian came into being.
I don’t generally write stories about Carnacki myself. There are others who have taken this path, and have done, or are still doing, a fine job of it (William Hope Hodgson: The Inheritors will cover this aspect). And I would rather sit back and read those than try my own hand at it. I have done the odd pastiche, but mostly for pleasure. My interest is slightly different.
Some twenty or more years ago, I was re-reading Carnacki, and for some reason (probably pale ale as usual) I found myself focussing not on the man himself but on those who turned up to listen to him – Dodgson, Taylor, Arkright and Jessop. I saw Cheyne Walk, and the flat where they dined, where they sat down to hear his latest case, and I wondered what the heck was going on.
Who were these four men who put up with brusque summons and a host who laid out rules for his dinner evenings? Why did they turn up, and what did they do when they weren’t waiting for a card from the occult detective? They must have had lives of their own, jobs, even, God forbid, emotional attachments. Was there a Mrs Taylor somewhere who gave Taylor’s dinner to the cat after being informed, without notice, that it was a ‘Carnacki night’?
I began to flesh out the four of them in my mind, trying to find even the vaguest clues in the stories. Having strolled around examining the older cemeteries of Keighley a few days before, I conceived a folly. What were Dodgson, Taylor, Arkright and Jessop without Carnacki? If he died on a case or disappeared in mysterious circumstances, what would happen? Keighley settled me on death. Carnacki was dead, and there would be a funeral.
Although the roots of some stories go back to the Second Boer War, Tales of the Last Edwardian truly begins with the funeral of Thomas Merton Carnacki in a small graveyard in West Yorkshire. None of his four friends understands why they have had to come north, or who else they will meet when they arrive. In fact, it turns out that they knew a lot less about him than they thought…
I left Carnacki in his canon, out of respect for old WHH. Nothing I write alters his recorded cases or turns him into a transvestite werewolf, a re-incarnation of John Dee or anything interesting like that. I merely read between the lines, and move on from there. With added women, emotions and other real-life things.
And so there are twelve Tales of the Last Edwardian stories in existence at the moment, either in completed or draft form, some out in the wide world, some under one of the lurchers, probably. They cover a period from 1899 to now, and are bound together by their connection, tenuous or direct, to one man.
Henry Dodgson, narrator, is not dead. I know why, and it’s not what you think. Really, it’s not. Far too aware of the psychic and occult world, Dodgson continues, however reluctantly, to face those threats from the Outer Monstrosities, manifestations, astral vibrations and other sources which imperil the human soul. He survived the gas clouds across Europe, the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and more. He is tired, yet he carries on…
He is the Last Edwardian
Please join us next time for The Voice of Horror, a feature on Wayne June and audio horror, with all sorts of snippets and goodies, including some I hadn’t heard myself until we started this condemned rollercoaster of William Hope Hodgson fun.