The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder

William Hope Hodgson
The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder Cover

The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder


Although he had his predecessors, Sherlock Holmes' appearance in the 1880's set the pattern for the scientific investigation of crime. It did not take long for an occult element to be added to the genre. Algernon Blackwood anthologized is John Silence stories in 1908. In 1913, William Hope Hodgson collected his tales of Carnacki, the Psychic Detective.

Hodgson relates his stories in fine Edwardian style. An unnamed narrator is part of a group of gentlemen who assemble when summoned to the London home of their friend Carnacki. After a fine dinner with excellent wine, they retire to the smoking room for cigars, port, and Carnacki's latest adventure. He has a reputation as an investigator of supernatural phenomena. In the stories collected here, he often finds the events to be hoaxes, cover-ups of criminal activities, or the actions of a spurned suitor. But then there are those incidents of the unmistakably supernatural. "The Whistling Room" is one of the great horror stories of the early twentieth century. Other incidents involve phantom horses, floating daggers, and a very unpleasant hog. Carnacki approaches his investigations with the combined forces of modern science and occult knowledge. He uses cameras and recording devices, but also draws pentagrams and when things get really dicey he assembles the "electric pentacle." He has also trained himself in esoteric practices. In naming these sources, Hodgson eschews the jumble of unpronounceable consonants favored by Lovecraft and company for the uncanniness of extended vowels. Carnacki is a devotee of the rituals of Saaamaaa. He is also never without a pistol.

For fans of Edwardian ghost fiction, these tales are a real find. Others may find them a bit creaky. But Carnacki's heirs live on in television programming as various as The X Files and Ghosthunters International, not to mention the ongoing Paranormal Activity franchise. This is a genre that never loses its appeal.