Algernon Blackwood was born in 1869 in Kent, England to a prosperous family. He became interested in the occult at a young age, which would later become evident in his writing. He rebelled against his family in his early twenties, moving to Canada and America to pursue various jobs. He worked as a dairy farmer, a hotel proprietor, an actor, and a reporter for The New York Sun, where he investigated numerous haunted houses. He eventually returned to England to write several collections of ghost stories and radio programs. In 1947, he began telling ghost stories on BBC TV and was dubbed ‘The Ghost Man’. He received a knighthood in 1949. His classic tale “The Doll” (1946) was adapted for an episode of the television anthology series ‘Rod Serling’s Night Gallery’. This story of a cursed doll sent to a British Colonel in retribution for dark deeds he committed in India is one of the series highlights. Blackwood died in December of 1951.
1- “The Empty House” (1906) – A man is goes to his elderly aunt’s house because she asked him to help her explore a nearby haunted house. Realizing her mind is set on the task, he agrees. The build up of nervous excitement and intimidating atmosphere of the place is palpable in Blackwood’s narrative as they approach and enter the dark, vacant place.
2- “Keeping His Promise” (1906) – A student cramming all night to study for an exam the following morning is disturbed by a visitor. He’s surprised to find a disheveled, childhood friend he had not seen for seven years at the door. He appears pale and starving. The student feeds him and lets him sleep, while continuing to study in a different room. Later when he checks on his friend, he’s nowhere to be found, yet the loud rhythmic sounds of his breathing remains. The reason for the mysterious visit goes back to the early days of their friendship.
3- “A Case of Eavesdropping” (1906) – A man rents a room in a house that has been partitioned create an extra room. He’s the only tenant but keeps hearing loud, violent arguments in the next room.
4- “The Wood of the Dead” (1906) – A man traveling through a town encounters a mysterious older gentleman who speaks lyrically of the area. The older man tells him to come to a place he calls “The Wood of the Dead” later that night, and he will teach him something of his purpose for being there. This older man, who has an aura of secret knowledge about him, vanishes when the traveler isn’t looking. When he asks the maid about the mysterious man and his “Wood of the Dead”, she tells him the strange history attached to both.
5- “A Suspicious Gift” (1906) – A poor, but generous journalist is visited by a strange man who says he’s been sent to deliver 100 thousand dollars to him from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. This mysterious benefactor says he’s doing so because the benefactor is aware of his great need for it. All is not as it at first appears in this crime story.
6- “The Willows” (1907) – A pair of friends take an ill advised canoe trip down a section of the Danube River during flood season and encounter bad weather before docking on an island filled with willows. Strange things begin to occur, and the two thrill seekers become trapped there. They witness bizarre events that seem brought about by a powerful unearthly presence. This is widely considered a classic of horror fiction due to how subtlety it moves from obscure hints something is not right to the fearful, awe-inspiring things that happen near the end.
7- “The Kit-bag” (1908) – A defense attorney’s secretary asks his employer if he can borrow a kit-bag for his upcoming vacation over the Christmas holidays after successfully defending a grisly murder case which deeply disturbed him. The D.A. agrees to have one sent up to his room. The bag he receives is beat up and stained. After it arrives, strange things begin to occur. He notices the bag slump over to form a representation of the murderer’s face, as he hears footsteps approaching his room.
8- “Wendigo” (1910) – This novella is a masterpiece of setting and atmosphere. A group travels into the Canadian forest to hunt. The descriptions of the vast wooded wilderness are tremendous, as is the creeping sense of dread that something ominous lays in wait ahead. The trouble starts when the group splits up. A strange odor serves as precursor to a force that seeks to overwhelm them. Here is a brief example of Blackwood’s ability to set a scene.“Deep silence fell about the little camp, planted there so audaciously in the jaws of the wilderness. The lake gleamed like a sheet of black glass beneath the stars. The cold air pricked. In the draughts of night that poured their silent tide from the depths of the forest, with messages from distant ridges and from lakes just beginning to freeze, there lay already the faint, bleak odors of coming winter. White men, with their dull scent, might never have divined them; the fragrance of the wood fire would have concealed from them these almost electrical hints of moss and bark and hardening swamp a hundred miles away.” A truly eerie story of horror set amongst the vastness of nature.
9- “The Transfer” (1912) – A different take on the vampire tale. A man, who’s able to absorb the energy, ideas and prosperity of those around him to his own benefit, comes across a mysterious dead spot of ground. The dead spot is also hungry, drawing the two forces into conflict.
10- “The Whisperers” (1914) – A writer who needs sterile, empty rooms to compose his stories, gets invited to do so at a house with just such a room. Inside the room he’s assailed by a multitude of whispers that fight to control his imagination. The source of the rooms haunting is a truly original idea.
11- “The Other Wing” (1915) – A young boy who lives in a sprawling estate believes an entity representing Sleep visits his room at night to check on him. This sets him on a quest to find where ‘Sleep’ and its children ‘Dreams’ stay during the daylight hours. He starts to believe they live in the closed off ‘other wing’ of the house he calls ‘The Nightmare Corridor’. The lord of this corridor and why he is stuck there are all part of the mystery in this tale of childhood fantasy.
12- “The Valley of the Beasts” (1921) – A cruel hunter and his Indian servant track an enormous Bull Moose into a beautiful valley. The Indian refuses to go into the area despite the hunter’s brutal attempts to force him. The Indian sneaks away during the night but leaves the hunter a small, carved totem for protection inside what he refers to as ‘The Valley of the Beasts’. The cruel hunter proceeds without him to find an intensely beautiful and serene place, where the animals display no fear of him. For awhile he forgets his mission in the valley, but when his mind starts to clear things turn much darker.