Tuesday Terror! The Gateway of the Monster by William Hope Hodgson

Ghost hunting…

So far this season all my spooky tales have involved women – one swooning victim and two rather more sassy heroines, so it’s about time to see how the men do when up against the supernatural. And who should be better able to cope than a ghost hunter? Here we will meet Carnacki the ghost finder, in this week’s…

The Gateway of the Monster
by William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson

Five men gather for dinner at the home of Carnacki, self-styled ghost-finder. As is a ritual on these evenings, after dinner Carnacki begins to tell the tale of his latest adventure. He had been contacted by a man named Anderson to investigate a haunted room in Anderson’s ancestral home…

Two days later, I drove to the house late in the afternoon. I found it a very old place, standing quite alone in its own grounds. Anderson had left a letter with the butler, I found, pleading excuses for his absence, and leaving the whole house at my disposal for my investigations.

Hmm! Well, Anderson is not showing the male of the species in a very brave light! However, the old butler, Peter, was able to give Carnacki some details of the haunting…

From him I learned more particulars regarding two things that Anderson had mentioned in but a casual manner. The first was that the door of the Grey Room would be heard in the dead of night to open, and slam heavily, and this even though the butler knew it was locked, and the key on the bunch in his pantry. The second was that the bedclothes would always be found torn off the bed, and hurled in a heap into a corner.

Anderson had already given Carnacki the horrible history of the Grey Room…

Three people had been strangled in it—an ancestor of his and his wife and child. This is authentic, as I had taken very great pains to discover; so that you can imagine it was with a feeling I had a striking case to investigate that I went upstairs after dinner to have a look at the Grey Room.

Examination of the room by daylight reveals nothing out of the ordinary, but during the night Carnacki, in his bedroom further down the corridor, is awakened by the banging of a door and, stopping only to light his candle, rushes out into the corridor…

Then a queer thing happened. I could not go a step toward the Grey Room. You all know I am not really a cowardly chap. I’ve gone into too many cases connected with ghostly things, to be accused of that; but I tell you I funked it; simply funked it, just like any blessed kid. There was something precious unholy in the air that night.

More male cowardice!

Old Peter begs Carnacki not to enter the Grey Room after darkness, but Carnacki is determined to find out what evil is hidden there, and determines to spend the night in the room. However, as an experienced ghost hunter, he takes precautions…

I returned then to the centre of the room, and measured out a space twenty-one feet in diameter, which I swept with a ‘broom of hyssop.’ About this, I drew a circle of chalk, taking care never to step over the circle. Beyond this I smudged, with a bunch of garlic, a broad belt right around the chalked circle…

There’s much more of this, including pentagrams and holy water and so on, and finally Carnacki settles himself in the centre of his circle and waits…

* * * * *

Well! This is nicely scary! There’s a lot more that happens in the lead-up to the night in the room than I’ve given above, and the actual events in the room are dramatic and tense. I must mention that there is a cat in the story which has (very) bad things happen to it, but it’s not shown graphically and isn’t dwelt on, so I didn’t find it as upsetting as I usually do when an animal is involved. The evil presence is done well, and we eventually learn why it’s coming to that particular room and what happened that led to the original stranglings. It’s not a traditional haunting – it has aspects of the “weird”; that is, of things and powers in nature or the cosmos that we puny humans cannot understand.

(All the illustrations I’ve used are from the original publication in The Idler, by Florence Briscoe)

Since it has everything you need to scare – haunted room, evil monstrous presence, dark night, arcane rituals – I was a bit puzzled as to why it didn’t terrify me and the porpy totally to the point of shrieking. And I realised it’s the first person narrative being given by the ghost hunter after the event. Knowing he obviously survives with body and mind intact rather reduces the tension. That small reservation aside, though, we raced through this and enjoyed it very much. I believe there are other Carnacki stories in this new collection of Hodgson’s weird tales from the British Library and we’re looking forward to them. And to be fair, Carnacki turned out to be very brave after all, even though he’s a man…

If you’d like to read this one online, here’s a link…

Enough to give the porpy a bad hair day…

Fretful Porpentine rating:   😮 😮 😮 😮

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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31 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Gateway of the Monster by William Hope Hodgson

    • He did hide behind the settee a couple of times during this! 🦔

      Ah, you got me wondering, and wiki tells me there was an old TV adaptation with Donald Pleasance playing Carnacki! Must check if any of them are on youtube… 😀

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  1. I have never read any of William Hope Hodgson’s work even though I have been told there be fantastic sea stories involved. Mehaps I shall read some this October. This post was excellent and I loved the illustrations. Thanks matey!
    x The Captain

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    • There are indeed! This collection is about half sea stories from the ones I’ve read so far, and includes the wonderful The Derelict, which was the first story I read of his a year or two ago, about people coming across a deserted ship mid-ocean. He was a sailor in real life, so they feel very authentic too – I think you’d love them!

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  2. There’s nothing like a creepy house with a haunted room for a good horror story, FictionFan. And this sounds very effectively depicted. You make an interesting point about the narrator. It really does make a difference who tells the story and when it’s told. That might have taken the edge off the terror, but it still sounds deliciously atmospheric.

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    • Yes, indeed, this story has all the standard elements of a good horror story but manages to keep them feeling fresh. I wonder if they deliberately did it that way so as to keep the horror level down a bit for Victorian audiences. A lot of the ones I’ve read are told by first-person narrators looking back.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds good and creepy! I think of all the interesting tales (and subsequent dares) that take place over cigars and port following dinner. (for the menfolk, at least) I’ll admit I can often enjoy a story all the more knowing the narrator has survived to tell it!

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    • Ha, yes! I was just reading another story last night in which a girl spent a night in a haunted room out of bravado – very unwise! 😱 This one is very good, and the first-person narrator definitely makes it just that bit less scary than it might have been otherwise. I quite like that too, but before I realised that was what was causing it, I couldn’t work out why this one wasn’t terrifying me more…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t he handsome?? When I went looking I was expecting one of these usual middle-aged Victorians with a huge moustache and beard – how refreshing! 😉 I don’t really like to be too terrified either, but I couldn’t work out why this one wasn’t as scary as it felt as if it should be till I realised it was the first person narrative. Thoroughly enjoyed it though!

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  4. I know the idea of a haunted room or wing is not uncommon in these older stories set in large manors but it made me giggle, thinking about what I would do if I had to shut off a haunted room in our 1000 square foot house! Very considerate of those ghosts to keep their hauntings to rich peoples’ houses.

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  5. I think it would help me, knowing that the brave man survives unscathed. Otherwise it sounds just too scary to contemplate. Especially knowing of the bad things involving the cat 😱 Porpy loooks pensive though. I’m not sure he coped well with this one. He may need some extra chocolate 🍫

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  6. Listen, it can’t be news to anyone that men aren’t as brave as women, I thought that was an understood fact by now? haha

    I do enjoy a story that’s told after the fact because it takes away the anxiety for me-just leaves me with the pure delight in the terror I know i’m going to experience 🙂 Sounds like a good one!

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    • Hahaha! I got caught by one of my very few male blog buddies and now I feel bad. But not scared! 😉

      Yes, I wondered if that’s why they do it that way – it definitely takes away just the edge of scariness, but there was still plenty left in this one…

      Liked by 1 person

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