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Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (1973)

by Algernon Blackwood

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390849,864 (4.07)33
Thirteen great stories by foremost British 20th-century supernaturalist: "The Willows," "The Wendigo," "Ancient Sorceries," others.

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It's really hard to beat a Blackwood ghost story. ( )
2 vote Lndlindsey | Mar 9, 2018 |
Except for "The Wendigo" I just couldn't get into this. The stories start out interesting but tend to fizzle out as they reach the end. ( )
  jameshold | Jul 22, 2017 |
The bleak, ancient, charnel terrors of a Canadian backwood in the loneliness of a brutal winter; the fever-pitch horror of an apartment tenanted by a vague memory of something ‘other’ and dripping with disease; the vicious portent of things not yet transpired, when seen through the eyes of a troubled and unwilling ‘accessory’ to tragedy; a haunted woodland; a peculiar, abandoned house—Algernon Blackwood’s spellbinding hand weaves each of these, the mundane as much as the startlingly original, into dark jewels of unwavering elegance. Never presumptuous, and yet always the portrait of sophistication, Blackwood’s brooding visions are full of the stuff of nightmare: and yet also dreamy, uncertain testimonies to the merciless and mystic facets of a Nature so close to man, and yet so incredibly distinct from him.

Favorites of mine here, in a collection more easily available and more diverse than other Blackwood offerings, include: ‘The Listener,’ which I would consider the most overwhelmingly unnerving and supremely horrifying tale I’ve ever read; ‘Accessory Before the Fact’ and ‘The Empty House,’ both popular Blackwood tales, which operate on more typical ‘supernatural’ levels than the more complex musings found elsewhere in this collection, but are nonetheless especially engrossing and quite scary; and ‘The Wendigo,' which is so blackly atmospheric that, a hundred years after being penned, it still resonates deeply on a level that is difficult to touch in the hearts of men and women who live so far removed from the Nature explored here.

Algernon Blackwood is, by a hair, my favorite author of the short story, and a singular treasure for readers of Weird fiction and the Gothic alike, who will experience a profound and moving admiration for what is truly the horror story elevated to art: there is terror here, certainly, but it is a terror that can only be explained as ‘beautiful’ in its own strange and otherworldly way. Never cliché, a master of atmosphere, and a glowing icon of the genre, Blackwood is required reading. ( )
6 vote veilofisis | Feb 12, 2011 |
I mostly liked reading this collection of stories by Algernon Blackwood. There was a number of creepy moments, and the stories that stood out for me include "Max Hensig," "The Other Wing," "Keeping His Promise" (which quite spooked me!) and "The Wendigo." ( )
1 vote thioviolight | Mar 3, 2009 |
With the thirteen stories presented in "Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood", the author takes what could be the typical ghost story and, while not turning it on its ear, engulfs the reader with a full sense of terror. Not because the stories are filled with blood, death, monstrous demons with fiery eyes and long sharp teeth dripping with saliva. Blackwood creates atmosphere, offering a detailed sense of time and place which turn them into an integral part of the story, almost like characters themselves. Many of his stories feature Nature as an antagonist, when man suddenly finds himself crossing into its unknown and forbidden territories. in The Willows, the trees surrounding a small sand island in the middle of the Danube seem almost alive with murmurings and movement to the two men trapped on its shores for two nights. And in Ancient Lights, the forest through which Mr. Thomas must cross in order to reach a small red house appears to toy with him, trees seeming to move to block his path or the trail circling back to his point of entry into the forest.

He also explores the physical and mental terror that the main characters feel, such as in "Max Hensig" when the protagonist Williams begins seeing the poisoner Hensig almost everywhere he goes in New York, as if he were trailing him, waiting to spring his murderous plan into action. With each new sighting, Williams' fright increases until toward the end of the story, he's in full blown terror, and the readers are dragged right along with him.

What I also enjoy about these stories is that the protagonists always have some sort of psychical connection to the events about to take place, such as the immediate, unwarranted dislike of Hensig when Williams first meets him in prison; the feeling that the premonition Martin experiences in "Accessory Before the Fact" as he walks along a road was not meant for him but for another traveler; the hunger that Miss Gould senses calling from a dead patch of earth in her Master's garden in "The Transfer". I think we've all experienced something akin to that at one point or another, a certain sense that tries to warn us about something, but we don't know what it is exactly or how to interpret it so we ignore it. This link just adds to the terror.

Of course, Blackwood also throws in a few traditional tales which still manage to scare the pants off any reader: "The Empty House" which deals with a certain house in which no one will stay for a long period of time; or "The Wendigo" which thrusts a Native American legend upon the minds of two woodsman in the late 1800's.

Fantastic tales, all of them, just waiting to send a few shivers up and down your spine. ( )
3 vote ocgreg34 | Oct 12, 2008 |
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Thirteen great stories by foremost British 20th-century supernaturalist: "The Willows," "The Wendigo," "Ancient Sorceries," others.

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The Willows
Secret Worship
Ancient Sorceries
The Glamour of the Snow
The Wendigo
The Other Wing
The Transfer
Ancient Lights
The Listener
The Empty House
Accessory before the Fact
Keeping His Promise
Max Hensig
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