CARNACKI THE GHOST-FINDER
William Hope Hodgson
I have always looked on William Hope Hodgson as one of the great masters of occult fiction, although he never achieved the fame that I felt was his due; even in the United States where his books sold better than they did in Britain.
This may in part be owing to his early death, as in April 1918, at the age of 41, he was killed on the Western Front while serving as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery.
His novels and collections of short stories published in Britain run to eight volumes, all of which we intend to include in this series; also two slim volumes of poems mainly about the sea, to which he was greatly drawn. There are, however, quite a number of other short stories by him that have been printed in the U.S. but never here.
This I learned from Mr. Randal Alan Kirsch of Washington, D.C., who was doing a research article on Hope Hodgson in the late 1960s. Having heard from a London bookseller that I had collected the author’s works in the 1920s and had now an almost unobtainable, complete set of first editions, Mr. Kirsch wrote to me asking for various particulars about them and, later, gave me the following information.
William Hope Hodgson was born on 15th November 1877. He was one of twelve children, seven of whom survived to become adults. The youngest, Christopher George, born 1890, was still living at Santa Cruz, California, in 1969, the year Mr. Kirsch wrote to me.
Carnacki the Ghost-Finder is typical of Hope Hodgson’s work. In the first story he remarks to the three friends whom he now and then invites to dinner and afterwards tells of his latest experience: ‘I view all reported “hauntings” as un-proven until I have examined into them; and I am bound to admit that ninety-nine cases out of a hundred turn out to be sheer bosh and fancy.’ He might well have added: ‘or cases in which gangs of criminals take measures to cause old houses to have the reputation of being haunted, so that no one will take them, and leave the gang to carry out their nefarious activities there without fear of being disturbed.’
Of the six investigations recounted in this book, some prove to be fake hauntings and others genuine satanic manifestations. But I defy the reader to tell which is which until he reaches the climax of the story. All of them have that quality of built-up suspense and terror of the unknown, which so greatly exceeds terror of the known, and makes Hope Hodgson’s tales real masterpieces of storytelling.