The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Six stories, first published in The Idler in 1910 and New Magazine in 1910 and 1912, appeared in the original 1913 publication of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. Three additional stories were found among William Hope Hodgson’s papers after his death and were included in an expanded edition published in 1947. The nine stories are presented by a first-person narrator (Dodgson), one of a group of four friends to whom Carnacki reports on his occult investigations. Three of the stories (“The Thing Invisible,” “The Find,” and “The House Among the Laurels”) are mystery stories; two (“The Horse of the Invisible” and “The Searcher of the End House”) have apparently rational conclusions that are compromised by elements that cannot be explained by rational means.

The investigations often involve the animation of inert objects to cause bodily harm or create a sense of imminent threat to life or sanity. In “The Thing Invisible,” a knife displayed in a family chapel lives up to its reputation of striking murderously at enemies of the Jarnock family who enter the chapel at night. The door to the Grey Room in “The Gateway of the Monster” slams constantly at night while bedclothes are pulled from a bed and thrown into a corner of a room. Blood drips from the ceiling, sealed doors open, and candles and fires are extinguished in “The House Among the Laurels.” The floor of “The Whistling Room” puckers like a gigantic pair of lips and whistles until the sound rises to a “mad screaming note.”

More conventional occult manifestations involve the ghostly figures of a running boy and a woman in “The Searcher of the End House” and the thundering of the hooves of a gigantic, invisible horse that pursues the eldest child of a cursed family in “The Horse of the Invisible.” In “The Hog,” a gateway opens up to another dimension from which a monstrous creature attempts to break through onto our plane. In “The Haunted Jarvee,’” Carnacki attempts to “desensitize” a ship threatened by shadowy forces that attack it with the force of a raging, destructive storm.