The Searcher of the End House

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William Hope Hodgson is possibly best known for the disturbing-on-so-many-levels novel The House on the Borderland (1908). He was a prolific writer of early weird fantasy and horror, and admired by many of his contemporaries, including H.P. Lovecraft.

What I know him best for, in addition to The House on the Borderland, are his short stories about the occult detective Thomas Carnacki. The Carnacki stories are notable among occult detective series, in that the alleged haunting that Carnacki is investigating will sometimes have a non-supernatural cause. It’s a bit like Scooby Doo meets Dr. Hesselius.

And like Dr. Hesselius, Carnacki takes a scientific approach to occult investigation. I like the Carnacki series, but I must confess that I’m not a big fan of Hodgson’s pseudo-scientific jargon. Carnacki’s chief reference is the fictional Sigsand Manuscript, which he quotes from in faux-Early English. There are numerous obscure references to the Saaamaaa Ritual, and passing, unexplained mentions Saiitii-type manifestations, and Aeiirii-type ones… rereading a few of the stories recently, I came across a scene where Carnacki recognizes an utterance of the “Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual” (but, but — how can he recognize it if it’s unknown??). I had to laugh.

The story I’ve picked for tonight’s winter tale is “The Searcher of the End House”, which takes place early in Carnacki’s career and is low on the technical jargon, but rich in good old-fashioned investigation. The Carnacki stories are narrated after the fact by Carnacki to a group of his friends, as they sit in Carnacki’s library after dinner. The “ghost story in the library” device is a classic format for the traditional winter tale (though of course, it needn’t be a library).

And then that night again my mother’s door was slammed once more just after midnight. I caught up the lamp, and when I reached her door, I found it shut. I opened it quickly, and went in, to find my mother lying with her eyes open, and rather nervous; having been waked by the bang of the door. But what upset me more than anything, was the fact that there was a disgusting smell in the passage and in her room.

Enjoy.


The 1913 edition of Hodgson’s collection Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder is available on Project Gutenberg. The 1947 edition included three additional stories.

The painting above is Moonlight, the Old House (1906), by Childe Hassam. Sourced from WikiPaintings.

8 thoughts on “The Searcher of the End House

  1. Thanks again for another fab recommendation. I’m trying to organize a short story project for next year and I’m scooping up all interesting short reads lately.

    Also, in regards to having a laugh at the pseudo-science jargon–have you ever read She? I don’t know if it is *exactly* the same but I felt myself laughing all of the time at that hogwash.

      • It was assigned in grad school and all of us slugged through it. The next week when we came to class to discuss it, we annoyingly found out it was assigned so the professor could just talk about how horrible it is (as I’m typing this, it all sounds much more amusing than it actually was).

        Although, for our final paper, I ended up writing a satire of it, which was different and fun compared to the normal academic paper.

  2. I’m really enjoying your winter tales series! Horror stories and winter make the perfect combination of chills and chills!

    At the risk of being charged with committing self-promotion, let me mention that I just posted a supernatural winter tale of own at http://timprasil.wordpress.com/ .

    “The Minister’s Unveiling” is the very first story of a series featuring an occult detective named Vera Van Slyke, my variation on Carnacki. The tale takes place in December, 1899, in a small town somewhere north of Boston, Massachusetts.

    And I’ll be posting 13 of Vera’s ghostly mysteries . . . eventually.

    • Glad you’re enjoying it! I always have fun picking the tales that I want to share.

      Thanks for mentioning the Vera Van Slyke story, too — I downloaded “The Minister’s Unveiling” the other day; I’m looking forward to reading it.

  3. Pingback: Cercatori di Spettri | strategie evolutive

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