Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood – Algernon Blackwood
Selected and introduced by E.F. Bleiber
These collected tales by Algernon Blackwood are not all traditional ghost stories but are supernatural in a larger sense. I had been familiar with his more famous tales in this collection, The Windego and The Willows which portray elemental powers – where natural geographies possess a conscious malevolent will. In The Glamour of the Snow, we find that same elemental will as swirling flakes materialize into a beautiful maiden and lure a man further from the safety and warmth of his mountain holiday hotel. In Secret Worship, a phantom boarding school in the German Alps calls to its alumni in order to continue its secret ceremonies of dark powers.
While the British author is famous for these weird tales and expanding the field of horror to encompass more (along with his contemporaries, Lovecraft, Machen), it is the traditional ghost stories in this book that intrigue me the most. My favorite, The Listener, is a tense ghost story that builds suspense in small steps and never lets up. A writer, seeking the seclusion of a quiet boarding house, finds no sanctity as he is slowly tormented and pushed to the edge of sanity by a malicious entity. The Empty House dares a young man and his aging aunt to stay the night and see the truth, in this epitome of the haunted house tale. The story increases intensity with every paragraph. I would highly recommend both of these tales to anyone who wants to read a good ghost story, write a ghost story, or just wants a chilling yarn to keep them awake at night.
Blackwood does not feel the need to explain the supernatural happenings in his fiction. He only presents them in the stories as fact and for the reader to accept that these things exist. Noting the impact of these stories as I read them, I shudder to think what his readers felt like when these tales were first published in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I imagine that many readers fostered little sleep and kept lanterns burning through the night. Don’t be misled by my analogy, these stories are timeless and will have the same impact today, for those who dare open the pages of this book.