I recently ran a poll listing 10 classic horror writers here at Horror Delve. After 139 votes were counted, Algernon Blackwood narrowly defeated M.R. James to claim the title of Horror Delve’s Favorite Classic Horror Writer (https://horrordelve.com/2016/04/09/and-the-winner-is/). I’ve covered several of his stories already (https://horrordelve.com/2013/09/22/algernon-blackwood/), but with his prolific output, there’s still plenty more to examine.
1. “The Listener” (1907) – This novella is told through a progression of entries in a writer’s journal as he describes the strange occurrences he encounters while renting a room in an old house in London. He repeatedly hears someone walking, or possibly crawling, outside the door of his room and always following elsewhere, just out of sight, to eavesdrop on him. Later, he hears something whispering to him as he sleeps and glimpses something hideous as he tries to learn the history of the house.
2. “The Insanity of Jones” (1907) – This novelette follows a mild mannered man who begins to recall events from a past life that leads him to realize that his ill-tempered boss is a reincarnation of his most despised enemy from a previous incarnation.
3. “Secret Worship” (1908) – A silk salesman traveling through Germany gets the desire to return to the Protestant school of his boyhood but finds the mannerisms of the Brothers there unsettling when he arrives. He often glimpses sinister smiles on their faces, and they seem unnaturally excited for his visit. This novelette, featuring Dr. John Silence, is yet another excellent, atmospheric tale by Blackwood.
4. “A Psychical Invasion” (1908) – Dr. John Silence, with the assistance of his cat Smoke and his dog Flame, investigates the case of a humor writer who’s being psychically oppressed in his house, wearing down his spirit and preventing him from being able to write. Dr. Silence uses his vast knowledge of the occult to get to the bottom of the psychic infestation and how to deal with it.
5. “Ancient Sorceries” (1908) – An unremarkable man impulsively exits the train he was traveling on when it stops at a small mountain town in France. The townspeople seem to be making a concerted effort to watch him without giving indication of doing so. He falls instantly in love with the innkeeper’s daughter and stays despite the subtle clues that something unnatural lurks behind the commonplace veneer of the town. This novelette has a Twilight Zone feel to it with lots of foreshadowing that things are not as they appear.
6. “Accessory Before the Fact” (1911) – A traveler has the premonition of a violent attack.
7. “The Man Whom The Trees Loved” (1912) – Another novella, this one finds a wife who worries her husband’s subtle obsession with trees is being accentuated by the arrival of a fellow nature fanatic. Their collective reverence seems to awaken something ancient among the trees.
8. “The Man Who Found Out” (1912) – A Professor manages to translate stone tablets of the gods and is irrevocably changed for the rest of his life by the horrific knowledge he obtains from it.
9. “The Glamour of Snow” (1914) – Following a heavy snow, a lonely, introverted man goes for a midnight skate alone on the ice near his hotel. There he encounters a graceful and mysterious woman who joins him. Although he can’t make out her features due to her heavy winter scarf and hat, he becomes smitten with her and hopes to see her again. This novelette is a masterpiece of quiet horror, elegantly written and utterly satisfying. Highly recommended!
10. “Ancient Lights” (1914) – A surveyor examines a wooded area that blocks the view from the landowner’s window that he wants removed. When the surveyor enters the ancient copse of trees, he sees and hears threatening things, trees shift their placement to strike him, and he loses his way as the path seems to alter itself while he tries to negotiate it.
Article by Matt Cowan