Tuesday Terror! The Other Wing by Algernon Blackwood

Wandering along the Nightmare Passage…


I have a recurring dream that happens whenever I’m feeling particularly stressed, which fortunately is quite rare. It’s not a nightmare exactly but it feels unsettling. I believe it’s quite a common stress dream. It varies, but the fundamentals are always the same. I am in a big house, which I know in my dream though I don’t think it’s based on a real place. It’s not a spooky house, but it’s full of long corridors and odd corners that lead to rooms that are never used. Someone is lost, and I am looking for them – usually a cat or dog, but sometimes a relative or friend. That’s it – I look for them and I can’t find them. Nothing bad happens and there’s no reason in the dream to think it will. Still, the wandering, looking and not finding leaves me uneasy…

So when I tell you this story made the hair on the back of my neck rise, you’ll understand why…

Tuesday Terror 2

The Other Wing
by Algernon Blackwood

Algernon Blackwood
Algernon Blackwood

It used to puzzle him that, after dark, someone would look in round the edge of the bedroom door, and withdraw again too rapidly for him to see the face.

Young Tim is a boy of about eight or nine years old, living with his loving family and servants in a big old Elizabethan mansion. Since his older brother went off to boarding school, Tim has slept alone. He’s not exactly scared of his mysterious nighttime visitor – in fact, if anything he thinks of it quite affectionately. Even though some strange things happen at night…

When the coals settled with a soft and powdery crash, he turned his eyes from the curtains to the grate, trying to discover exactly which bits had fallen. So long as the glow was there the sound seemed pleasant enough, but sometimes he awoke later in the night, the room huge with darkness, the fire almost out — and the sound was not so pleasant then. It startled him. The coals did not fall of themselves. It seemed that someone poked them cautiously. The shadows were very thick before the bars.

Tim often wonders where his night visitors come from – where they spend their days. One day, after a conversation with his mother, he decides that they must live in the Other Wing – a wing of the great mansion long closed off, and forbidden to the children. So, of course, Tim has imagined all kinds of things about the Other Wing…

He believed it was inhabited. Who occupied the immense series of empty rooms, who trod the spacious corridors, who passed to and fro behind the shuttered windows, he had not known exactly. He had called these occupants, “they”, and the most important among them was “The Ruler.” The Ruler of the Other Wing was a kind of deity, powerful, far away, ever present yet never seen. And about this Ruler he had a wonderful conception for a little boy; he connected her, somehow, with deep thoughts of his own, the deepest of all. When he made up adventures to the moon, to the stars, or to the bottom of the sea, adventures that he lived inside himself, as it were — to reach them he must invariably pass through the chambers of the Other Wing. Those corridors and halls, the Nightmare Passage among them, lay along the route; they were the first stage of the journey.

So one day, when his parents are away, he sneaks past the servants and in through the green baize door that is usually closed, but on this day is mysteriously open, to search for the Ruler who, he now believes, is his midnight friend. And to his surprise, the Other Wing is exactly how he had imagined it… and he finds himself walking along the Nightmare Passage, carrying his grandfather’s old walking stick, until suddenly a door opens…

For the door opened with instant swiftness half an inch, a hand emerged, caught the stick and tried to draw it in. Tim sprang back as if he had been struck. He pulled at the ivory handle with all his strength, but his strength was less than nothing. He tried to shout, but his voice had gone. A terror of the moon came over him, for he was unable to loosen his hold of the handle; his fingers had become a part of it. An appalling weakness turned him helpless. He was dragged inch by inch towards the fearful door. The end of the stick was already through the narrow crack. He could not see the hand that pulled, but he knew it was gigantic. He understood now why the world was strange, why horses galloped furiously, and why trains whistled as they raced through stations…

* * * * * * *

Ooh, this is good! It’s brilliantly written to get just that sense of unease of things half-glimpsed and not fully seen or understood. Tim’s youth means he’s beautifully unscared of things that leave the adult reader shivering deliciously. It’s not at all horrible or gory – fear not for little Tim, he will survive unscathed! In fact, one could almost think the whole thing had been a nightmare, if it were not for the… but no, that would spoil the story! You shall just have to imagine the ending…

Or perhaps you’d like to read it for yourself – here’s a link. It’s a bit longer than usual – about 7,500 words, but it’s worth it. Genuinely spooky, but also quite fun, and Tim is a great little hero, full of courage and goodwill. One for those of us who prefer our spookiness to come with a feel-good ending…

Fretful Porpentine rating:  😯😯😯😯

Overall story rating:           😀😀😀😀😀

terrified porpentine


44 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Other Wing by Algernon Blackwood

  1. Oooh this sounds really good!! I’m going to have to read it later but I certainly will be coming back to it. Very clever to have a child as our main character – his curiosity rather than fear makes it all the more creepy!
    Aren’t dreams strange? I used to have a reoccurring one where I was rollerskating along a twisty path and all was fine, until the path suddenly became an incline and I go faster and faster… but I would wake up before I fell over or anything. Like yours, nothing particularly bad or scary but it makes you feel a bit odd afterwards. I used to have this as a child, so can only assume that once I started drinking wine, that cured it 😉

    • Yes, I liked little Tim’s normality – he was just an ordinary boy, instead of one of these sensitive souls that tend to turn up in ghost stories.

      The odd thing is that that’s nearly the only dream I ever remember. I must have other dreams, I suppose, but aside from a very occasional nightmare, I never remember anything about them, but this one is so familiar it almost feels as if I’m awake – I can actually be kinda aware that oh-oh, I’m having my stress dream again! Our minds are very weird places…

  2. This does sound deliciously eerie, FictionFan! And I like the description of the house very much, It’s the sort of place where you could imagine nearly anything. What also impresses me is the use of suggestion and hints of things lurking. I think that makes it all even scarier. And as for dreams? I’ve always found it fascinating what the mind can invent…

    • Yes, every big old mansion should really have one wing closed off – the possibilities are endless! I much prefer suggestion in horror to gore or other graphic stuff. It works so much better and I agree – it’s actually much scarier. Dreams are very weird – I often wish I remembered mine more but usually they fade within seconds of me waking. Perhaps that’s just as well though!

    • Yes, on the whole I prefer spooky mild horror like this where it all works out OK in the end – my soul can only take so much harrowing! This was great – I’ll definitely read more of his stories. 🙂

    • Definitely, though these spooks weren’t as gruesome as shrieking headless ladies, or blood-dripping knights! Yes, this was actually quite a cheery little story – spooky rather than scary. And little Tim was so normal and mostly unscared which made it fun…

      • I’m not all the way back. I still have several rounds of radiation and some little of this and that. But I have missed every one. We survived the hurricane which was not nearly as bad as many people did. My doctor thinks that most all of that will be over at the end of January and then I will be able to breathe and do something that I want to do. Missed you and all.

        • I’ve missed you too! Even though you’ve still got a way to go, I’m glad it’s all sounding optimistic, and I hope you’re feeling a little better – although I’m sure the radiation will still be making you feel rough. I should imagine the last thing you needed was a hurricane on top of everything else! Have you managed to get your blog sorted out?

          • I have I think four more weeks or less of the radiation. The hurricane just kissed here in the Forest. We went to my daughter for a couple of nights but not bad where we are.

            • One of the weeks is nearly done. I just can’t remember if it was three or four weeks. This business of heading to the doctor’s office every day is not my way of getting better. It is an hour one way and so much traffic. And they are working on the roads. Thanks for writing,

            • Every day? That must be totally exhausting. Are you able to drive there or do you have to negotiate public transport? Bear up, though, girl – you’re getting close to the finish line… 😀

            • I have a car that my daughter and her husband gave me because there is no other dependable form of getting to where one needs. Yes, every week day. Except today I had to trot over to the Cancer place to get hydrated and that was more important. Who new that Chemo would do such a thing?
              I will be back on Monday. I hope. We will get back but in what shape? I found George . He is not interested in coming home so I go visit him occasionally and I’m okay and he is okay . With all I am having to do it is probably good for him.

            • Well, that’s good, but it must be even more exhausting having to drive there and back. Poor you – it’s been a long haul, but hopefully you’ll soon be feeling that it’s all been worth it.

              Hmm… cats are really not the most loyal of creatures are they? However, I’m glad you know he’s OK – has he found a new home? One of my previous cats used to disappear for days at a time and I was always half-convinced he was living in two places and that when I had him, they worried, and when they had him, I worried! But I never knew for sure – perhaps he just liked living rough.

            • Cats are sneaky little things. And yes, I am beyond tired of driving. Someone is feeding some cats and he is moocher. I would like to be more aggressive but I am sure that would be the last time I saw him. I don’t have the energy to carry it further right now.Now the dog is complaining and wants dinner. Thank you for writer.

            • I was going to say perhaps he’d come home in the winter, but I don’t think you really get a lot of cold weather, do you? My two become more or less indoor cats between October and March every year, and even my previous two who were much wilder than these two would always spend more time with me when the weather turned bad. It is hard with cats – they pretty much decide for themselves. Maybe he’s just in a huff because you’re going out every day – perhaps he’ll come back once your life gets back to its normal routines.

            • All I can say is. Cats. He has a friend. I would not mind to have another one but now he has a friend and she would probably she will come, too.

            • Well, that would be nice, especially if they get along. I keep getting pairs because I think they’ll be company for each other and then they either hate each other or ignore each other! I agree – cats!

  3. How spooky is that – I too dream of being lost, or unable to get out of, a house which is familiar but unrecognisable, and I’m looking for somebody (of recent years, usually MiddleSister).
    I have a very vague memory of having read this story sometime in the distant past, but I’ll give it another go.

    • That is spooky indeed! I wonder if our houses look the same. I’m not trying to get out really – sometimes I’m in a hurry to go somewhere but can’t till I find the missing person/animal. And yes, I didn’t want to sound too morbid in my intro, but it’s usually MiddleSister or Mum or Soxy with me – though occasionally a living sibling pops in!

  4. This looks like a GOOD one … and I for one appreciate knowing ahead of time that little Tim survives! Too many stories these day, I think, put kids in jeopardy and let awful things happen to them. Perhaps someone thinks it’s easier to dispense with little characters, who knows? At any rate, ’tis nice seeing the Porpentine again — look at his little teefies!!

    • I thought I’d mention Tim’s survival – I know myself I’m put off stories where bad things happen to kids and you’re right – it happens way too often these days. But Tim is beautifully unconcerned by his experiences – being so young he doesn’t seem to have worked out you should be scared if a mysterious stranger turns up in your room at midnight, which keeps it nice and light despite the spookiness. The Porpentine enjoyed it… 😉

  5. This is just the kind of spooky story I enjoy – I’m not one for the wailing headless ghost but an ordinary little boy in a great big house (with closed rooms) and you can instantly see why that porcupine is fretful. Great choice and I’m now off to read the complete tale!

    • Yes, on the whole I prefer spooky to outright scary too – and the more gore the less scary I find it usually. This one was just right – spooky but fun. Hope you enjoy it as much as the porpy did!

  6. As a kid I once dreamed that I was looking for my friends in this distinct endless cave. I didn’t find them. About a decade later I had the exact same dream, but I knew I was looking for baby. I didn’t find it, but I found skeletons wearing the clothes friend had. Weirdest dream thing to ever happen to me.

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