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Carnacki the Ghost Finder by William Hope…
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Carnacki the Ghost Finder (1913)

by William Hope Hodgson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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408938,708 (3.72)1 / 37
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
It’s easy to mock the Carnacki tales.

They are not the first occult detective series. Hodgson seems to have created the character to cash in on the potential of a series character. The large number of magazines in 1910, when the first story was published, meant, unlike today, short fiction was usually better paying than writing novels. Carnacki was inspired by the success of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories, another occult detective series.

Carnacki’s tools seem somewhat ludicrous, even for the time. There’s a heavy patina of pseudoscience what with the occult significance of various colors and Carnacki’s famous Electric Pentacle, essentially a string of colored lights for magical defense.

The otherworldy is often signified by strings of repeated vowels: Carnacki’s go-to reference the Sigsand Manuscript and its Saaamaaa Ritual, the Incantation of Raaaeee, and the Aeiirii “forms of materialization”.

Yet the stories work.

A lot of that, as editor Davies notes in his concise and useful introduction, is that the nine stories are not formulaic. The solutions to the mysteries Carnacki is called into investigate are sometimes supernatural, sometimes involve human actions, and sometimes a combination of both. One story, “The Find”, doesn’t even have a hint of the occult or supernatural about it since Carnacki investigates the improdn bable appearance of a second copy of a very rare book.

There is a general formula to the stories. Each story has Carnacki relating his latest adventure in his house at 472 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea on London’s Embankment to his friends Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and the narrator Dodgson. At the end of each story, Carnacki kicks them out with some variation of “Out you go.”

Carnacki approaches all his investigations with the assumption human beings are behind the mysteries. Often that involves days, sometimes weeks, long investigation of buildings and, in “The Haunted Jarvee”, a ship. Carnacki makes heavy use of photography in his investigations, and Hodgson, before he turned to writing, was a keen photographer himself, sometimes lecturing on the subject. He frequently packs a revolver too, at one point contemplating shooting himself and another man to keep their souls away from malevolent forces from the “Outer Circle” in “The Hog”. That’s the longest Carnacki tale and another example of a weird, porcine menaces in Hodgson’s writings. It’s also the one where he develops his own cosmic mythology the most.

The occult mysteries are varied. A tale from Carnacki’s younger days, “The Searcher of the End House”, has the house where he lives with his mother seemingly haunted. A butler is stabbed by inhuman forces in “The Thing Invisible”. “The Gateway of the Monster”, “The House among the Laurels”, and “The Whistling Room” are all haunted house investigations. A spectral horse and a curse are the subjects of “The Horse of the Invisible”.

As Davies notes, to give too much away about these stories with plot summaries would take away the pleasure of Carnacki’s investigations and revelations.

Carnacki is an engaging narrator. He uses jaunty Edwardian slang. He’s not afraid to admit when he loses his nerve or bolts from the scene. After offering some explanation of events, he flatters his friends and the reader by often asking “Do you understand?” though I didn’t always. He’s perfectly willing to say when he doesn’t really have a complete explanation.

And, as John Linwood Grant has noted, all the technology and action of the Carnacki tales makes them much more readable than Blackwood’s John Silence series.

So spending time with the 174 pages of the Carnacki stories wasn’t boring or painful at all, so I’d recommend them if you’ve ever been curious about them. ( )
  RandyStafford | Mar 9, 2019 |
A very esoteric & seemingly aged collection of both ghost and crime stories, with a couple being positively Lovecraftian in character. Very formulaic with a lot of haunted house phenomena being the main story point which the stories rotate around these make for, in the main, fairly enjoyable reading. I liked them. I'm not sure if want to read them again and there are no real classics here. I enjoyed "the hog", particularly for its Cthulhoid referencing but I wasn't over awed but this one. ( )
  aadyer | May 18, 2017 |
Read this because Eugene Thacker uses some of it to good effect in In the Dust of This Planet.

I recommend several of the longer goodreads Carnacki reviews, which hit all the important points.

Odd to come at this after reading Lovecraft (or, for that matter, Ligotti). Unlike Lovecraft's heroes, Carnacki seems to have no special affinity for the otherworldly. He's a scientist, not a man of culture, and doesn't feel himself to be an outsider. There's nothing gothic or romantic about him, nor about the Hodgson's prose, which tends towards the slangy ("funk" for fear, most notably), as if he's, well, an Edwardian bro. He and his fellows seem to eat a lot of sandwiches, sometimes for breakfast, and their drink of choice is whiskey (try to imagine any of Lovecraft's characters having whiskey and sandwiches!). The prose gets weird only when Carnacki tries to describe the ab-human or ab-normal. Strangely enough, the usual breeziness works. We might characterize the difference from Lovecraft this way: in the Carnacki stories, being normal is no protection from the otherworldly. Even dull people might get it. The weirdness might be anywhere.

Except....the Carnacki stories suffer from the usual humanism of ghost stories. Here's where Lovecraft's totally inhuman monsters are an enormous improvement. If every ghost is the ghost of--or directed at--a human, moreover, if every ghost lurks in some fancy house or with some fancy family, then the stories' weirdness just doesn't go far enough. We're in a world in which certain deaths matter and most don't: not the deaths of nonhumans, and not even most human deaths. There's nothing here to shake humans out of their complacency, as they're reminded with every ghost that the same species and class divisions of their Edwardian world also order the otherworld. I'm reminded of a friend who believes she has a ghost in her apartment, and I wanted to know if it could be, say, a chicken ghost, or a trilobite: why should we, who are, I hope, not humanists, always require the ghost to be human?

Some favorite bits below, some admirable, some just...silly.

"Another hour passed, after this, in an absolute quietness. I had a sense of awful strain and oppression, as though I were a little spirit in the company of some invisible, brooding monster of the unseen world, who, as yet, was scarcely conscious of us."

"As the door flew open, the sound beat out at us, with an effect impossible to explain to one who has not heard it--with a certain, horrible personal note in it; as if in there in the darkness you could picture the room rocking and creaking in a mad, vile glee to its own filthy piping and whistling and hooning."

"In addition to wearing the necklet, I had plugged my ears loosely with garlic."

"There came a sense as of dust falling continually and monotonously, and I knew that my life hung uncertain and suspended for a flash, in a brief reeling vertigo of unseeable things."

"it was a true instance of Saitii manifestation, which I can best explain by likening it to a living spiritual fungus."

"And, indeed, as you are all aware, I am as big a skeptic concerning the truth of ghost tales as any man you are likely to meet; only I am what I might term an unprejudiced skeptic. I am not given to either believing or disbelieving things 'on principle', as I have found many idiots prone to be, and what is more, some of them not ashamed to boast of the insane fact."

"I buckled on the plate armor and found it extraordinarily uncomfortable, and over all I drew on the chain mail. I know nothing about armor [Note: You don't say?], but from what I have learned since, I must have put on parts of two suits. Anyway, I felt beastly, clamped and clumsy and unable to move my arms and legs naturally."

"By ten o'clock, I had everything arranged, with the two pitchforks and the two police lanterns; also some whisky and sandwiches. Underneath the table I had several buckets of disinfectant." ( )
1 vote karl.steel | Apr 2, 2013 |
I'm giving the book a four-star rating overall, but two of the stories, "The Gateway of the Monster" and "The Whistling Room," deserve five stars, and a few I'd give only three.

In Carnacki's investigations he comes across fakes, fakes combined with the ghosts, and Very Dangerous Supernatural Menaces that should make today's ghost hunters flee for their lives. (Of course, they couldn't flee for their lives in the story that takes place on an old ship, but they could choose whether to let whatever is there kill them or to jump overboard and drown. ) One story has no supernatural elements whatsoever, but it is a nice piece of detection.

"The Hog" puzzled me because I couldn't figure out why hogs were supposed to be so horrifying. Now that I've read the author's earlier work, THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND, with its humanoid swine monsters; Mr. Hodgson's choice of supernatural hogs is scarier.

Given when this book was written, it's nice that in the one story in which Carnacki's mother appears she's not shivering in a corner and wringing her hands while her son investigates. I love the thought of little Mrs. Carnacki with her fireplace poker in one hand and candle in the other, providing a rearguard to her son.

I'm glad there are plenty of reprint copies around now. It's certainly worth reading even though the stories are uneven in quality. I really, really wanted the book after reading the two best stories in anthologies and this was one of two editions I knew existed back in those pre-world wide web days. The only reason I was able to afford the Arkham House copy I found was that it had some water damage and was on sale for a third off.

If you like stories about hauntings and don't mind slightly old-fashioned language, this is a book you'll want in your collection.

By the way, if you read Bluetyson's review, he is using "fag" as slang for "cigarette," not as an insulting term for a homosexual man, so please don't complain. That review is written in British English, not American English. ( )
  JalenV | Oct 22, 2011 |
Carnacki is not just a ghost hunter he is a consultant for people with weird happenings. He is called in to help those with cursed objects, strange dreams, and unexplainable nightly occurrences. He relates his adventures to his friends in his parlor after dinner, then answers questions and ushers his friends out into the cold night.

Hodgson creates high tension when his Carnacki character first encounters the phenomenon. This is the best part of the short stories. Carnacki's investigations unveil either a real psychic threat or a hoax and he then acts accordingly. When it is real, the phenomenon goes beyond the normal ghost haunting and into the weird. His explanations at the end of the stories are sometimes a disappointment. At the end of the tale "The Hog", one of the tensest and strangest stories, he goes into a verbose explanation of the psychic world that should have caused his friends to either yawn and squirm or leave his home in utter bewilderment. I had to scan through those paragraphs which lasted about five kindle pages. ( )
  craso | Mar 13, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Hope Hodgsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Haberfield, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rey, LuisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sinclair, IainAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suster, GeraldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wheatley, DennisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Carnacki had just returned to Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. (The Thing Invisible)
In response to Carnacki's usual card of invitation to have dinner and listen to a story, I arrived promptly at Cheyne Walk, to find the three others who were always invited to these happy little times there before me. (The Gateway of the Monster)
This is a curious yarn that I am going to tell you, said Carnacki, as after a quiet little dinner we made ourselves comfortable in his cozy dining room. (The House Among the Laurels)
Carnacki shook a friendly fist at me as I entered, late. (The Whistling Room)
It was still evening, as I remember, and the four of us, Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and I looked disappointedly at Carnacki where he sat silent in his great chair. (The Searcher of the End House)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0722146132, Paperback)

1st Denis Wheatley Library of the Occult edition paperback, vg

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

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William Hope Hodgson's creation Thomas Carnacki was the original Ghostbuster. As a specialist in the Occult he was charged with investigating and ending hauntings. This is a collection of six of Hodgson's stories.

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