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"Things Invisible": 'Human' and 'Ab-Human' in Two of Hodgson's Carnacki Stories

"Things Invisible": 'Human' and 'Ab-Human' in Two of Hodgson's Carnacki Stories

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Published by Leigh Blackmore
Essay on two Carnacki stories by Wiliam Hope Hodgson which use the 'invisible' in different ways within a horror context.
Essay on two Carnacki stories by Wiliam Hope Hodgson which use the 'invisible' in different ways within a horror context.

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Published by: Leigh Blackmore on Aug 02, 2013
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08/04/2013

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176
THINGS INVISIBLE:‘HUMAN’ AND ‘AB-HUMAN’ IN TWOOF HODGSON’S CARNACKI STORIES
By Leigh
B
l
a
c
kmo
reIntroduction: Carnacki and the Critics
H. P. Lovecraft considered that the work collectedin William Hope Hodgson’s
Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder 
falls conspicuously below the level of the other  books. We find here a more or less conventionalstock figure of the “infallible detective” type—the progeny of M. Dupin and Sherlock Holmes, andthe close kin of Algernon Blackwood’s John Si-lence—moving through scenes and events badlymarred by an atmosphere of professional“occultism”. A few of the episodes, however, areof undeniable power; and afford glimpses of the peculiar genius characteristic of the author.
1
Lovecraft also comments on Carnacki in a letter toClark Ashton Smith (September 30, 1934):
1
H. P. Lovecraft, “The Weird Work of William Hope Hodgson,”
 Phan
a- grap
h
5, No. 5 (February 1937): 5–7; rpt.
 Reader and Collector 
3, No. 1 (June1944): 5–6. Later incorporated in Ch. 9 of “Supernatural Horror in Litera-ture”; see
The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature
79.
 
177
Well—as you see, I surelyhave become a premier Hodgson fan! Do you knowanything about W. H. H.and his career? Koenig tellsme he was killed in the war.All told, I believe that no- body but Blackwood canequal or surpass him in cap-turing the exact shades
of 
t
h
e cosmic horror mood inall their actual details. Buthe was uneven—again like Blackwood.
Carna
cki
i
s
very weak, artificial, and stereotyped as a wholedespite the strong points which you justly
 po
i
n
t
ou
t
.
(
Selected Letters
5.41)Lee Weinstein is muchmorecom plim enta r ycom plim ent a r ytowards theCarnacki stories in his generally positive 1980 essay on Hodgson,“The First Literary Copernicus”:Hodgson’s mythos achieves itsfullest development in
Carnackithe Ghost-Finder 
(1910), a collec-tion of stories about one of theearliest psychic detectives. Car-nacki often refers to, in the courseof his investigations, a volumecalled the
Sigsand MS 
. This book, or manuscript,is supposed to have been written about the 14thcentury. Quotations from it, scattered throughoutthe stories, indicate that it is concerned with“Monsters of the Outer World,” and defensesagainst them. In other words, it is very much likethe
 Necronomicon
. Using information from the
 
178
Sigsand MS 
., Carnacki devel-ops a defensive circle contain-ing a pentacle and certain“signs of the Saaamaaa Rit-ual.” Within this chalk ci
cle
h
e places an electric pentacle,suggested by another fictitious book, Prof. Garder’s
 Experi-ments With a Medium
. Whilestanding within these defen-sive barriers, a person is pro-tected from various “powers of the Unknown World,” such asthe “Outer Monstrosities” andthe “Aeiirii forms of semi-materialization.” The defenseis not good against “Saiitii phenomena,” however,since these can “reproduce (themselves) in or taketo (their) purposes the very protective material youmay use.” They involve “the very structure of theaether-fibre itself,” we are told in the story “TheWhistling Room.” In the same story we learn thatthe Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual, used by the “Ab-human priests in the Incantationof the Raaaee,” may be uttered by the inscrutableProtective forces which “govern the spinning
of 
t
h
e outer circle and intervene between the humanand the Outer Monstrosities. . . . At the end
of 
Th
e Hog” is a lengthy explanation of the Outer Monstrosities. The Earth is surrounded by a
nOu
te
Circle 100 thousand miles up and 5–10 mil-lion miles in thickness, which spins opposite toEarth’s rotation, and consists of extremely rarefiedmatter. Out of it breed the Outer Monstrosities,which are million mile clouds of force, in the sameway that sharks are bred out of the ocean. Thesemonsters chiefly desire the psychic entity of man.

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