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Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood

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A woman of snow ... a midnight caller keeping his promise ... forests where Nature is deliberate and malefic ... enchanted houses ... these are the beings and ideas that flood through this collection of ghost stories by Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951). Altogether 13 stories, gathered from the entire corpus of Blackwood's work, are included; stories of such sheer power and i A woman of snow ... a midnight caller keeping his promise ... forests where Nature is deliberate and malefic ... enchanted houses ... these are the beings and ideas that flood through this collection of ghost stories by Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951). Altogether 13 stories, gathered from the entire corpus of Blackwood's work, are included; stories of such sheer power and imagination that it is easy to see why he has been considered the foremost British supernaturalist of the twentieth century. Blackwood's ability to create an atmosphere of unrelieved horror and sustain it to the end of the story is almost unsurpassed. “The Willows” — which has been called by H.P. Lovecraft the finest supernatural story — is a typical example of Blackwood's art: slowly and surely Blackwood draws the reader into a world of shadows, nuances and unearthly terror. Blackwood was also a master at evoking feelings of mysticism and cosmic experience; dealing with such ideas as interpenetrating levels of existence and pantheistic elemental powers, he expanded the content of supernatural literature enormously. But even the more traditional elements of horror stories such as ghosts and haunted houses are handled with such energy and feeling that they rise far above their predecessors. Drawing on serious Oriental thought, modern psychology and philosophy, Algernon Blackwood introduced a sophistication to the horror story that — with a few exceptions — it was devoid of before. The results are stories that are not only guaranteed to chill, but stories that have something to say to the intelligent reader. Contents: - The Willows (1907) - Secret Worship (1908) - Ancient Sorceries (1908) - The Glamour of the Snow (1911) - The Wendigo (1910) - The Other Wing (1915) - The Transfer (1911) - Ancient Lights (1914) - The Listener (1907) - The Empty House (1906) - Accessory before the Fact (1914) - Keeping His Promise (1906) - Max Hensig (1945)


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A woman of snow ... a midnight caller keeping his promise ... forests where Nature is deliberate and malefic ... enchanted houses ... these are the beings and ideas that flood through this collection of ghost stories by Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951). Altogether 13 stories, gathered from the entire corpus of Blackwood's work, are included; stories of such sheer power and i A woman of snow ... a midnight caller keeping his promise ... forests where Nature is deliberate and malefic ... enchanted houses ... these are the beings and ideas that flood through this collection of ghost stories by Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951). Altogether 13 stories, gathered from the entire corpus of Blackwood's work, are included; stories of such sheer power and imagination that it is easy to see why he has been considered the foremost British supernaturalist of the twentieth century. Blackwood's ability to create an atmosphere of unrelieved horror and sustain it to the end of the story is almost unsurpassed. “The Willows” — which has been called by H.P. Lovecraft the finest supernatural story — is a typical example of Blackwood's art: slowly and surely Blackwood draws the reader into a world of shadows, nuances and unearthly terror. Blackwood was also a master at evoking feelings of mysticism and cosmic experience; dealing with such ideas as interpenetrating levels of existence and pantheistic elemental powers, he expanded the content of supernatural literature enormously. But even the more traditional elements of horror stories such as ghosts and haunted houses are handled with such energy and feeling that they rise far above their predecessors. Drawing on serious Oriental thought, modern psychology and philosophy, Algernon Blackwood introduced a sophistication to the horror story that — with a few exceptions — it was devoid of before. The results are stories that are not only guaranteed to chill, but stories that have something to say to the intelligent reader. Contents: - The Willows (1907) - Secret Worship (1908) - Ancient Sorceries (1908) - The Glamour of the Snow (1911) - The Wendigo (1910) - The Other Wing (1915) - The Transfer (1911) - Ancient Lights (1914) - The Listener (1907) - The Empty House (1906) - Accessory before the Fact (1914) - Keeping His Promise (1906) - Max Hensig (1945)

30 review for Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This is an excellent collection of tales, the best of which defy the limiting label of "ghost story." Blackwood is an excellent, old-fashioned stylist, and although his leisurely development may frustrate a few contemporary readers, I advise them to keep their patience, for the slow build-up leads to cumulative horror. The first five stories--more than half the book--are major works, essential reading for any lover of the Weird Tale. Two of them ("Secret Worship," "Ancient Sorceries") feature obs This is an excellent collection of tales, the best of which defy the limiting label of "ghost story." Blackwood is an excellent, old-fashioned stylist, and although his leisurely development may frustrate a few contemporary readers, I advise them to keep their patience, for the slow build-up leads to cumulative horror. The first five stories--more than half the book--are major works, essential reading for any lover of the Weird Tale. Two of them ("Secret Worship," "Ancient Sorceries") feature obscure locations with evil histories (a remote boys' religious school, a small French village) where forces attempt--through a link our hero has with that past--to draw him downward to destruction. The other three ("The Willows," The Wendigo,' "The Glamour of the Snow") reveal a malevolence close to the heart of Nature herself. "The Willows" and "The Wendigo" are particularly fine, and should be read by everyone who admires good short fiction. The stories I have not mentioned--that make up the second half of the book--vary in quality, but they are all well-written and every one is worth your time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    It's an interesting collection containing the most famous horror stories by Algernon Blackwood. Written nearly a century ago tales, to contemporary reader may seem a bit old-fashioned, because they don’t shock us with pictures of bloody monsters and hideous specters, don’t dazzle us with cheap tricks but try to capture something in fact elusive. Blackwood masterfully builds an strange atmosphere, unfolding sinister aura gradually creates a mood of growing horror. The stories can be divided into t It's an interesting collection containing the most famous horror stories by Algernon Blackwood. Written nearly a century ago tales, to contemporary reader may seem a bit old-fashioned, because they don’t shock us with pictures of bloody monsters and hideous specters, don’t dazzle us with cheap tricks but try to capture something in fact elusive. Blackwood masterfully builds an strange atmosphere, unfolding sinister aura gradually creates a mood of growing horror. The stories can be divided into two categories. First one, where the source of fear seem to be seemingly ordinary objects. Oh, the old dismal house, abandoned somewhere in the suburbs, an obscure alley with cats lurking in the darkness, some rustling, whispering, shadows on the walls, strange odors. States we experience sometimes waking up in the middle of the night, uncertain whether this feeling is made by dream or we actually heard something. The second category is inseparably connected with nature. Not nature. But Nature. Because Blackwood’s Nature is a wild, incomprehensible and impenetrable. While the man is just a helpless plaything in its hands, stray wanderer, an intruder in the primeval forest. They say that snowy Canadian wilderness is a place where one can meet a strange creature native to the Indian legend and covered with willows island on the Danube may be a gateway to another world. You never know. However one thing seems to be certain. From now you'll never feel light-heartedly resting in the shade of the trees.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Terrific collection of Blackwood's best-known tales, including "The Willows" and "The Wendigo." Calling these thirteen tales "ghost stories" may be something of a misnomer, as Blackwood is hard to classify -- perhaps "supernatural tale" would be more appropriate. In his most effective tales, he slowly draws the reader into a downward spiral of dread and terror, creating a palpable sense of a malevolent unknowable or unspeakable something. This ability to arouse and sustain terror is what is trul Terrific collection of Blackwood's best-known tales, including "The Willows" and "The Wendigo." Calling these thirteen tales "ghost stories" may be something of a misnomer, as Blackwood is hard to classify -- perhaps "supernatural tale" would be more appropriate. In his most effective tales, he slowly draws the reader into a downward spiral of dread and terror, creating a palpable sense of a malevolent unknowable or unspeakable something. This ability to arouse and sustain terror is what is truly remarkable about Blackwood's writing. It's remarkable that he keeps the reader's spellbound attention while essentially simply describing a psychological sort of unwinding or inchoate impressions. I love these affordable Dover editions of ghost, detective, and supernatural stories and have many of them. This one has a foreword by the excellent critic and editor E.F. Bleiler.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Pam Baddeley

    This is a collection of the most famous of Algernon Blackwood's spooky stories, plus a concluding one, 'Max Hensig' which is non-supernatural and deals with a reporter's brush with the psychopathic killer of the title, quite interesting in its own right. The book opens with 'The Willows', a long story which some have stated is the best ghost story in the English language. I wouldn't agree; for a start, it isn't about ghosts but about the encounter of two men, travelling to the source of the Danub This is a collection of the most famous of Algernon Blackwood's spooky stories, plus a concluding one, 'Max Hensig' which is non-supernatural and deals with a reporter's brush with the psychopathic killer of the title, quite interesting in its own right. The book opens with 'The Willows', a long story which some have stated is the best ghost story in the English language. I wouldn't agree; for a start, it isn't about ghosts but about the encounter of two men, travelling to the source of the Danube, with forces from another dimension. The setting is a remote marshy area covered in stunted willow bushes, and in the course of the story, the willows take on something of the nature of the inimical force which threatens the two men. I found it a bit slow, and its chief interest lay in my conviction that it must have influenced H P Lovecraft, a well-read man, because it is surely the earliest example (the 1907 credit is of its first collection in another anthology, so it is earlier than that) of a story about the intrusion into our dimension of hostile forces alien to humankind - a theme which became Lovecraft's entire oeuvre. Other stories, such as 'Ancient Sorceries' and 'Secret Worship' concern those who worship traditional sources of evil, such as the devil Asmodeus. A hapless protagonist is drawn into a situation where he feels an irrestible attraction to a place or person, sometimes both - in 'Ancient Sorceries' and 'Glamour of the Snow' the person in question is a femme fatale who exercises an almost literally fatal attraction. The portrayal of witchcraft is always traditionally satanic in nature; far from the nature worship of the modern Wiccan religion which antedated Blackwood's stories. Other tales are more varied - 'The Listener' concerns an impoverished magazine article writer who takes rooms because they are cheap and finds out why, and 'He Kept His Promise' is about a student who is cramming for his exams when an old friend arrives, sadly transformed. In 'Ancient Lights' a staid officeworker is pixie-lead in an old wood, and an equally unadventurous character on a walking holiday is brought face to face with a moral dilemma in 'Accessory Before the Fact'. 'The Empty House' is the most traditional ghost story in the collection, in which the protagonist is asked to accompany his plucky but elderly aunt who wants support when she spends the night in a local haunted house. 'The Transfer' is unusual in that it is the only story with a female protagonist: a governess who witnesses the visit of her employer's brother, a psychic vampire who leaches vitality from all around him, but who finally meets his match in a rather mystical fashion. And 'The Other Wing' is from the viewpoint of a young boy, although it is rather confusing at first, implying that the boy is an invalid - he isn't - and then that he is much younger than eight or nine; but it does capture well the attempt by a child to make sense of strange phenomena by inventing his own story about it to tell himself. Some of the stories fall a bit flat with non-conclusive endings: 'Ancient Sorceries', already mentioned, is one of a series Blackwood apparently wrote where someone tells their tale to a "psychic doctor" called John Silence, and trails off rather flatly. However, even where they strike a modern reader as a bit slow or predictable, or lacking an impactful ending, they nevertheless are usually good at evoking an atmosphere of creepy awareness of the supernatural. Not the final story in the book, but the one I most enjoyed was the first Blackwood story I ever read, 'The Wendigo'. Despite last reading this as a child, I still remembered certain striking details. The story holds a strange power and tellingly, is set in the great outdoors of remote Canada. Blackwood was a great explorer of wildernesses which still existed in the early Twentieth Century, Canada being one, and in 'The Wendigo' he evokes the remote loneliness and power of the forests and the strangeness of its denizens. Loosely based on a Native American mythological character, this story still creates shivers, though it is necessary to overlook the stereotypes of the era, including the somewhat condescending portrayal of the Native American cook and general dogsbody. Given the mixture of stories and their varying success for me, my overall rating for the collection is 3 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Quentin Wallace

    This was my first exposure to Blackwood's writing, and it won't be my last. Really good ghost stories in the literary vein. My favorites were The Willows and The Wendigo, mainly because of the settings. Blackwood can take the ghost story out of the haunted house (although he does those too) and put them right in the middle of the forest and make them so very unsettling. As with any collection of this sort, some stories are better than others, but there was really nothing that I disliked. It was a This was my first exposure to Blackwood's writing, and it won't be my last. Really good ghost stories in the literary vein. My favorites were The Willows and The Wendigo, mainly because of the settings. Blackwood can take the ghost story out of the haunted house (although he does those too) and put them right in the middle of the forest and make them so very unsettling. As with any collection of this sort, some stories are better than others, but there was really nothing that I disliked. It was all readable and some were downright chilling. The final story in the volume, Max Hensig, was probably my least favorite, but even it had its own appeal. If you are a fan of classical ghost stories, then be sure to pick this volume up. You won't be disappointed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Uncle

    “My interest in psychic matters has always been the interest in questions of extended or expanded consciousness.”-Algernon Blackwood, 1938. Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, a selection of some of his most famous tales, was originally published in 1973, though the stories themselves first appeared in the early 1900s. The avuncular, Edwardian tone of Blackwood’s writing suggests stories told by firelight by an elderly bachelor uncle. His wordiness, seemingly quaint and old-fashioned, actu “My interest in psychic matters has always been the interest in questions of extended or expanded consciousness.”-Algernon Blackwood, 1938. Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, a selection of some of his most famous tales, was originally published in 1973, though the stories themselves first appeared in the early 1900s. The avuncular, Edwardian tone of Blackwood’s writing suggests stories told by firelight by an elderly bachelor uncle. His wordiness, seemingly quaint and old-fashioned, actually prolongs and intensifies the slowly-building terror of his ghostly tales. Comparisons between Blackwood and his more famous contemporary, M. R. James, are inevitable. Both were masters of the creepy story, but with significant differences. Instead of conventional hauntings, Blackwood was more interested in the mystical. The stories in this collection are more likely to deal with ancient forces, existing seemingly beyond human understanding. It is no wonder that Blackwood was an important influence on the later American writer, H.P. Lovecraft. A famous example of this type of story, “The Willows”, concerns two hearty outdoorsman who, during a storm, are forced to encamp on a small island where they slowly become aware of an ancient, malign presence there. Even the island’s trees seem hostile, and are apparently capable of moving around and regrouping to disorient and confuse the men. “The Wendigo”, set in Northern Canada, and first published in 1910, is likely the first appearance in popular literature of the bloodthirsty monster of the Algonquins. In “The Glamour of the Snow” a young man becomes dangerously fascinated by a mysterious woman who seems to be the essence of winter itself. Yet Blackwood was capable of writing good traditional ghost stories. Haunted house stories may seem a bit dated to today’s readers, but Blackwood’s “The Empty House” is still a surprisingly intense and scary example of this form. One of my favorite stories in the collection is “The Other Wing”. This story concerns a young child who becomes aware of something unusual occurring in his family’s ancestral mansion, but does not realize he is interacting with ghosts. Algernon Blackwood is particularly well-known for his genius for creating atmosphere, and using it with slow deliberation to keep the reader in a prolonged state of fear and dread. Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood should be a required text for readers interested in the evolution of twentieth century supernatural writing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    It’s my favorite time of year, and I’m not talking about election season. Actually, I’m a huge fan of Halloween, for a lot of reasons. It’s my favorite holiday, not just because I’m a pagan, but because it falls in one of the most beautiful seasons of the northern hemisphere this time of year, when leaves start to turn colors and litter the yard and a crisp coolness is in the air. There’s also the whole candy and costumes thing, too, which I love, but what I really love is that this is the perfe It’s my favorite time of year, and I’m not talking about election season. Actually, I’m a huge fan of Halloween, for a lot of reasons. It’s my favorite holiday, not just because I’m a pagan, but because it falls in one of the most beautiful seasons of the northern hemisphere this time of year, when leaves start to turn colors and litter the yard and a crisp coolness is in the air. There’s also the whole candy and costumes thing, too, which I love, but what I really love is that this is the perfect time for ghost stories. I love horror movies, and I love reading horror fiction, but I honestly don’t spend as much time as I’d like reading horror, mainly because I just get caught up in other stuff. (It’s the downside for having eclectic tastes in reading.) But I’ve always had a love for the genre, starting with my first Stephen King novel back when I was in middle school. (“The Stand”, immediately followed by “It”) King was the gateway to other writers like Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe. I graduated on from there to more “literary” horror writers like Shirley Jackson, Octavia Butler, Bram Stoker, Rudyard Kipling, Mary Shelley. Even writers who aren’t known particularly for horror have written books which have made my favorite lists in horror: Toni Morrison (“Beloved” is, at its heart, a creepy ghost story.), George Orwell (There is nothing more horrifying than a good dystopic future, and “1984” is one of the best and most horrifying.), and Roberto Bolano (I was left with an unsettling “WTF?” feeling after reading “2666”, and while I’m not sure what happened in it, it was undoubtedly a horror novel, albeit an incredibly poetic one.) I’ve read a lot of horror, and I’ve seen a lot of horror movies in my 45 years, so I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of the genre. While I do happen to love gratuitous blood and gore in my fiction, as in film, I tend to be a lot more discriminating nowadays. I steer clear of what is commonly called “torture porn” in movies, mainly because that kind of depravity is less horror than it is simply shock value violence. It’s the lame and lazy attempt at scares, the equivalent to the cat jumping out of a closet or the killer popping up behind a victim. It’s also too close to reality: I don’t need to be reminded that there are sick fucks in the world who will torture and kill for some perverted sense of fun. Lately, my tastes in horror have reverted back to a simpler time, when things that really scared me were the childhood fears of shadows moving across the wall at night, or creaky boards in old houses, or that sense (the “sixth” one, according to M. Night Shyamalan) that an unseen presence is nearby, preceded by the hairs on the back of my neck popping up. Lately, I am less interested in blood and guts and more into a sense of the supernatural, a feeling of cosmic dread, which is why Lovecraft has always held a special place in my (twisted) heart. While not a particularly great writer, Lovecraft was a brilliant creator of dark worlds populated with ideas and concepts that often went beyond the traditional sense of the supernatural. Not constrained by a Judeo-Christian mythos or ideology, Lovecraft felt that there were, certainly, supernatural forces bigger than us operating in the universe, but that they were older than, and more powerful than, our notions of God or ancient deities. He called them “Old Ones”, and they had ravaged the universe long before our solar system was even a spinning mass of debris, and the only reason they hadn’t destroyed us yet is because we were simply too tiny and inconsequential to be a blip on their radar. Lovecraft, of course, got his sense of the weird and spooky from somewhere. In interviews, Lovecraft referenced, as inspiration, Victorian-era horror writers such as J.S. Le Fanu, M.R. James, and Algernon Blackwood. Sadly, many of these writers are rarely read anymore. In the case of James, for instance, it is perhaps due to the fact that he created so many of the horror fiction cliches that we take for granted today that reading him is almost like reading basic templates of novels or stories by subsequent, and better, horror writers. Blackwood, a ridiculously prolific writer (he published over 50 novels, plays, short story collections, and children books in his lifetime), was considered a major influence on Lovecraft, and it’s easy to see why. “Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood”, compiled and edited by E.F. Blieler and published in 1973 by Dover Publications, is a short but intense collection of ghost stories by Blackwood. Bleiler, himself, in his introduction, admits that Blackwood’s body of work is so huge as to be unable to include all of his best stuff, and that many of his best works were too long to be included in a compilation. Nevertheless, the selection is impressive. If anything, the book makes me want to find more of Blackwood’s published works, many of which are, unfortunately, out of print. The opening story, “The Willows”, is so overtly Lovecraftian one would think it was written by Lovecraft himself. The story takes place during a long canoe trip down the Danube. Two (unnamed) friends, ostensibly college buddies (although so little is actually revealed about either character, almost purposefully), set up camp on a desolate piece of land somewhere between Vienna and Budapest. On the first night, both men witness what they first think is a corpse floating down the river but may have been just an otter flopping about in the water. They also see what could have either been a man standing on a barge, waving his hands at them as if warning them about something, or debris in the shape of man with outstretched arms. The trip goes downhill from there. As the story progresses, an inexplicable dread creeps into each man’s psyche, brought on by horrifying but unrecognizable noises and the sense that the creepy willow trees are alive and moving around at night. Things go from bad to worse, and all the while, the men exchange theories to explain their plight, most having to do with the growing knowledge that they’ve stumbled upon a soft spot in our world that is a gateway into another world, an alternate dimension in which otherworldly and horrible creatures abide, and they have nothing but hatred and evil designs upon the world of man. This story is, by far, the creepiest story of the bunch, and it’s a great opener for the other twelve stories. Two stories involve Blackwood’s recurring character, John Silence, a psychic detective who pits himself in cases involving strange, supernatural aspects. In one story, “Secret Worship”, he saves a man who comes to visit his old boarding-school only to find that it is now run by a Satan-worshipping cabal of former faculty members and students, who may be the undead. In another, “Ancient Sorceries”, a man consults Mr. Silence about an incident in a French town in which everyone turned into cats at night, a fact that Silence nonchalantly explains away as simply being indicative of an entire town of witches and warlocks, because everyone knows that a witch’s most prominent familiar is that of the cat. Of course. Some of the stories are more run-of-the-mill haunted house stories, but they are all expertly executed and guaranteed to give one the heebie-jeebies. The last story, “Max Hensig”, is out of place in that it is the only one that does not have anything to do with the supernatural, but it is nevertheless still creepy as hell. Blackwood was a journalist for a short time in New York City, and he had obviously seen some shit. In the story, the protagonist, Williams, is a journalist who is covering the trial of a German doctor accused of poisoning his wife. The doctor insists he is innocent, and while the general public seems to be split on it, Williams is sure the guy’s a killer, and his articles don’t hide his feelings. (It was, apparently, acceptable for journalists to editorialize far more in stories than it is today. Either that, or editors were just completely worthless back then.) When Hensig is set free due to a technicality, Williams’s world is turned upside down. Word on the street is that Hensig is after the journalist, and soon Williams is seeing the German doctor everywhere. Hensig is a joyfully creepy and charismatic psycho, who predates Hannibal Lector by about seventy years. It wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas Harris used this story as inspiration for his classic character in “The Silence of the Lambs”. I certainly can see Anthony Hopkins playing Dr. Hensig. If you’re looking for some good old-fashioned scares and ones that will certainly leave that slow crawl of dread down one’s spine, it would behoove one to check out the stories of Blackwood. Happy Halloween!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I picked up this book because I had read, more than once, that "The Willows" is considered by many to be the best ghost story ever written. I'm not sure that I would agree. A well-written tale that had me feeling a little "edgy" at times, it didn't really sustain itself for me. I realize that many might confuse the "ghost" story with a "horror" story, and they are not necessarily the same (though they can be), but a ghostly presence ought to run a shivver up my spine, and this didn't, though per I picked up this book because I had read, more than once, that "The Willows" is considered by many to be the best ghost story ever written. I'm not sure that I would agree. A well-written tale that had me feeling a little "edgy" at times, it didn't really sustain itself for me. I realize that many might confuse the "ghost" story with a "horror" story, and they are not necessarily the same (though they can be), but a ghostly presence ought to run a shivver up my spine, and this didn't, though perhaps it came close.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    "the willows" is so scary i was reading it aloud to my wife and she made me stop before i finished. then i walked the dog and the dog kept looking over his shoulder and stopping, he was petrified. also, Blackwood has a tremendous vocabulary, it's fun to look up words like "rosacrutian."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ann Schwader

    An excellent introduction to Blackwood for those who – like me – either haven’t read this notable British writer much, or possibly haven’t read him at all. Most of the stories here (other than “Max Hensig,” a crime tale with psychic overtones) were written before 1916, and combine traditional slow-burn horror with some of the finest atmospherics around. Two of the longer tales – “The Willows” and “The Wendigo” – are weird fiction classics, and worth the very reasonable price of this collection An excellent introduction to Blackwood for those who – like me – either haven’t read this notable British writer much, or possibly haven’t read him at all. Most of the stories here (other than “Max Hensig,” a crime tale with psychic overtones) were written before 1916, and combine traditional slow-burn horror with some of the finest atmospherics around. Two of the longer tales – “The Willows” and “The Wendigo” – are weird fiction classics, and worth the very reasonable price of this collection all by themselves. The rest ring a wide variety of changes on the traditional ghost story. Some are distinctly horrific (I found “Secret Worship,” “The Listener,” and “The Empty House” particularly disturbing), while others focus on the pure experience of being haunted Blackwood’s style is thoroughly English -- literary & “chewy.” His endings might be a little quiet for modern tastes, but he delivers some serious chills along the way.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike Yell

    Calling Blackwood's tales ghost stories, it has been written, is like calling Melville's Moby Dick a fish story. One of my favorite shot stories anthologies to pick up between novels, the imaginative journey these stories take you on is amazing. "The Willows," "The Glamour of the Snow," and "The Windigo" are standouts, but all of these 13 stories are incredible!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nomadman

    An excellent collection of some of Blackwood's best short stories, and a fine companion piece to Penguin Classic's Ancient Sorceries (though a couple of the stories overlap). Only a weaker second half prevents me from rating this five stars, but it's a minor quibble, and if you're looking to sample Blackwood for the first time, or acquire a nice if non-comprehensive 'best of' collection, then you can't really go wrong.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Not sure if I should mark this read or did-not-finish. I did get through three of the stories in this compilation, and enjoyed the world building and the eery tone Blackwood created, but in every one I was disappointed by the ending. I think it was a reflection of the time in which it was written, but I don't want my ghost stories to end with pseudo-scientific rationalizations; if I wanted that, I'd read science fiction. Also, maybe two of the three stories involved actual ghosts, and one of tho Not sure if I should mark this read or did-not-finish. I did get through three of the stories in this compilation, and enjoyed the world building and the eery tone Blackwood created, but in every one I was disappointed by the ending. I think it was a reflection of the time in which it was written, but I don't want my ghost stories to end with pseudo-scientific rationalizations; if I wanted that, I'd read science fiction. Also, maybe two of the three stories involved actual ghosts, and one of those two only counts if you consider reincarnation as a type of ghost story. So, saying goodbye to Blackwood and continuing my search for another great (spooky, not gross) Gothic horror author, preferably one with a thing for ghosts.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Brown

    Went thru a period where I tried to catch all the old masters of the macabre and found most very tame as compared to Lovecraft and some of his followers. But after more reading it was obvious that where HPL was of one sort, the writers like Blackwood were more subtle and in the end more terrifying and frightening.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Some of these tales simply didn't age well, but that is not the case with Blackwood's two classics, "The Willows" and "The Wendigo," both of which have lost none of their fearful, imaginative power.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    The Willows is one of the great masterpiece of horror, and many of the other stories in this collection are well worth reading, although Blackwood relies a bit much on concepts of the occult rather than pure horror. Well worth reading and a required text of the genre.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    Stunning and completely underrated storyteller. I highly recommend this collection to anyone who's a fan of horror, suspense, and well-written literature.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    It's really hard to beat a Blackwood ghost story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Creepy. Master of atmosphere. Guy can spook with a phrase.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dani Tomlin

    the beauty of the wildnerness, the terrible mystery of spiritual and physical human intimacy, a piercing observation of animal behaviours, the fear of the unseen - but felt - unsaid but known. if you search for subtle, poetic use of language bound in suspense and a frisson of fear, set in imaginary places and ideas, yet which are somehow fully believable stories, then blackwood is the man. his words take me to all the places he conjours up from his life and travels and the haunting intuitions of the beauty of the wildnerness, the terrible mystery of spiritual and physical human intimacy, a piercing observation of animal behaviours, the fear of the unseen - but felt - unsaid but known. if you search for subtle, poetic use of language bound in suspense and a frisson of fear, set in imaginary places and ideas, yet which are somehow fully believable stories, then blackwood is the man. his words take me to all the places he conjours up from his life and travels and the haunting intuitions of his mind. a magical conveyer of atmosphere, he's closer to m r james than anyone. there is an authentic but sublimely heightened realism to the weirdness he writes, that pours over normal earth-bound happenings. this is not gore or horror nor does it have a philosophical agenda that overwhelms narratives (thinking of lovecraft). no, these are sometimes terrifying, but always elegant, engrossing mesmerising tales. i miss my friend reading them aloud every year in the run up to christmas, her soft calm voice cooly telling the eerie stories. for me they feel as if they move beyond ghost stories into literature, to something finer and more expansive, and yet remain rooted in the classic form of the short story by a generally unknown writer, but one who knows how to pitch it perfectly. if this is what you seek, i promise they will stay with you and keep calling you back. a perfect winter present for the deep thinking, imaginative soulmate in your life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I don't think I've ever read anything by Algernon Blackwood before, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of ghost stories. To start with, he has one of the coolest names ever, especially for a ghost story writer. I thought at first that it must be a pen name, but it was apparently his real name. This was a collection of assorted ghost stories. In a forward written by Blackwood for a previous edition, he makes the distinction that these are ghost stories not horror stories. There are no I don't think I've ever read anything by Algernon Blackwood before, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of ghost stories. To start with, he has one of the coolest names ever, especially for a ghost story writer. I thought at first that it must be a pen name, but it was apparently his real name. This was a collection of assorted ghost stories. In a forward written by Blackwood for a previous edition, he makes the distinction that these are ghost stories not horror stories. There are no masked psychos or chopped up bodies. Instead, these stories focus on the supernatural or at least the unexplained. One thing I really enjoyed was that the characters often go through spooky situations in a realistic way; they find themselves in an eerie situation and proceed to attempt to rationalize everything they see and hear all the while becoming increasingly frightened. None of the stories were too bizarre, and it was easy to follow along on the adventures. Many of these stories were at least partially inspired by events experienced by Blackwood during his extensive travels throughout Europe and North America. His writing style also adapted depending on the setting. The diction used in the contemporary New York setting for "Max Hensig" was distinctive from that used in the Black Forest setting of "Secret Worship." His descriptions were amazing. Written with an effortless prose, I had no trouble picturing each scene whether it was a medieval town in France or the Canadian wilderness. Take, for instance, this quote from "The Glamour of the Snow:" “Like a forest rose the huge peaks above the slumbering village, measuring the night and heavens. They beckoned him. And something born of the snowy desolation, born of the midnight and silent grandeur, born of the great listening hollows of the night, something that lay 'twixt terror and wonder, dropped from the vast wintry spaces down into his heart-- and called him. Very softly, unrecorded in any word or thought his brain could compass, it laid its spell upon him. Fingers of snow brushed the surface of his heart. The power and quiet majesty of the winter's night appalled him....” There is a certain timelessness to Blackwood's work. These stories were written over a century ago, but they did not feel dated the way many older works do. I also thoroughly enjoyed his diverse vocabulary, which included words such as fecundity, dishabille, and serried. I get a similar feeling when reading most older works. I am not sure if I am simply drawn to those particular works that feature more diverse vocabulary or if the standard for writing was simply higher in those days. I liked "The Glamour of the Snow" the best and "Ancient Sorceries" the least mainly because that piece seemed a little drawn out and the "cat-like" analogy was over-used. Overall, I really enjoyed this collection of stories. I can definitely see how much Blackwood influenced the genre. I will end with one more quote: "'It is, alas, chiefly the evil emotions that are able to leave their photographs upon surrounding scenes and objects,' the other added, 'and who ever heard of a place haunted by a noble deed, or of beautiful and lovely ghosts revisiting the glimpses of the moon? It is unfortunate. But the wicked passions of men's hearts alone seem strong enough to leave pictures that persist; the good are ever too lukewarm.'"

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dennis D.

    Back in the day, stories like these were categorized as weird fiction. They are not all ‘ghost stories’ in any strict sense, but most have some glint of the supernatural about them. I was reminded throughout of the last collection of stories that I read from this era, Science Fiction by Gaslight: A History and Anthology of Science Fiction in the Popular Magazines, 1891-1911, because in addition to the narrative of the stories themselves, half the entertainment value was in reading contemporary f Back in the day, stories like these were categorized as weird fiction. They are not all ‘ghost stories’ in any strict sense, but most have some glint of the supernatural about them. I was reminded throughout of the last collection of stories that I read from this era, Science Fiction by Gaslight: A History and Anthology of Science Fiction in the Popular Magazines, 1891-1911, because in addition to the narrative of the stories themselves, half the entertainment value was in reading contemporary fiction set in the early 20th century. My favorites: THE WILLOWS: Two buds take a boat ride up the Danube. What could go wrong? (you'll find out) THE GLAMOUR OF THE SNOW: a terrific ghost story! THE WENDIGO: super-creepy! MAX HENSIG: not remotely a ghost story, but an entertaining thriller nonetheless. The meh: ACCESSORY BEFORE THE FACT: a man has a premonition that comes true. Cool story, bro. SECRET WORSHIP: What the hell, editor? A primary character here is ‘psychic doctor’ John Silence, a recurring character of author Blackwood’s that reads like a ghost-busting Sherlock Holmes. But because this collection doesn’t include the first-ever John Silence story, the ending is very confusing. John Silence appears in such a fashion that would be surprising and impactful, only if you, the 21st century reader, knew who he was.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Thanks to my son-in-law for loaning me this book! These are some delightfully chilling ghost stories, written in a style that you just don't see much, any more. I love a good ghost story, and am quite fond of the short story genre, so this is a doubly good offering. These stories were written between 1906 and 1938. The Willows relates the tale of a couple of friends on a boating trip on the Danube, and their encounter with an other-worldly presence in middle of a desolate area of small islands po Thanks to my son-in-law for loaning me this book! These are some delightfully chilling ghost stories, written in a style that you just don't see much, any more. I love a good ghost story, and am quite fond of the short story genre, so this is a doubly good offering. These stories were written between 1906 and 1938. The Willows relates the tale of a couple of friends on a boating trip on the Danube, and their encounter with an other-worldly presence in middle of a desolate area of small islands populated with willow trees. Secret Worship is a tale of a man who returns to an old school which he attended as a child. He finds a little bit more than he expected, and narrowly escapes with his life. Ancient Sorceries made me think of Cat People, as a traveler gets sidetracked in a small village. In The Glamour of the Snow, a man encounters a ghostly woman on a skating rink. She leads him to a near death experience on a mountain. The Wendigo deals with the famous mythical beast in the wild as a group of moose hunters have a wild night or two. The Other Wing is a lovely sort of haunted house story, dealing with a section of a mansion that no one goes into any more. The Transfer is a creepy story about a plot of land in the garden that needs to suck the life out of humans. Ancient Lights is a delightful story about a man trying to take a shortcut through a small wooded area. The small wooded area has other ideas. The Listener relates a man's encounter with a ghostly presence in his rented room. A rather smelly ghostly presence. Cats also figure heavily in this story. In The Empty House, a man and his elderly aunt spend the night in a house that has a reputation of being haunted, as a murder occurred there some years ago. This story reminds me of Stephen King's 1408. Accessory Before the Fact is a tragic tale of a man and his opportunity (through a kind of supernatural vision) to save a man's life. Keeping His Promise is a rather classic type of ghost story, dealing with a vow made (with blood) between two friends. The final story, Max Hensig is not a "ghost story" (and this is explained in the introduction), but is still a chilling crime story, and is, in some ways, more terrifying than all of the ghost stories in the book. This is a marvelous book! I recommend it to all fans of the classic ghost story.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    I find it quite strange that I’ve never actually read any of Algernon Blackwood’s stories until now; he was, after all, one of the most prominent ghost story/weird fiction writers of the Edwardian period. Also, he has the coolest name ever - I think anyone with a name like Algernon Blackwood is probably born to write spine-tingling tales. I decided to treat my first encounter with Blackwood’s fiction with the respect that I felt it deserved: reading one story by lamplight just before bed every ni I find it quite strange that I’ve never actually read any of Algernon Blackwood’s stories until now; he was, after all, one of the most prominent ghost story/weird fiction writers of the Edwardian period. Also, he has the coolest name ever - I think anyone with a name like Algernon Blackwood is probably born to write spine-tingling tales. I decided to treat my first encounter with Blackwood’s fiction with the respect that I felt it deserved: reading one story by lamplight just before bed every night, and only when I was completely alone. And, yes - some nights I had difficulty sleeping! There are some wonderfully creepy stories in this collection, and Blackwood’s real strength lies in his ability to expertly convey the sense of despair and creeping terror in his characters once they start to realise that something just isn’t quite as it should be. Isolation and a feeling of distant detachment from the rest of humanity is a constantly recurring theme. I get the impression that Blackwood must have been - quite literally - a scream on camping trips; I imagine many a sleepless night in wind-whipped tents (listening for any sounds beyond the ordinary) for those hapless souls unfortunate enough to have sat around a late night campfire with this man. But, for all the good, there’s also the not so good, sadly. Some of the tales on offer here simply haven’t aged all that well, and were quite forgettable. I’d certainly recommend that everyone with an interest in the genre give Blackwood’s more memorable works a go (and, as his writing has now become part of the public domain in the UK, you can find quite a lot of it available for free on the internet), but I don’t think I would be able to consider his full body of fiction to be as essential as say, M. R. James or H. P. Lovecraft - but the good stuff is easily as good as his contemporaries, and that’s still worth an awful lot.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John W.

    An excellent group of stories of the supernatural. These stories seem more than just "ghost stories" although there are unexplained elements in each of the stories. The first story, "The Willows," manages to create a supernatural atmosphere based on a trip on to an island on a fast flowing river. Other stories such as "The Other Wing," and "Ancient Lights" are shorter and somewhat more intense.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eugene

    Revisiting any number of tales read many years ago. The Willows, and of course The Wendigo, are the signature stories for Blackwood in these later days, but I was more taken by a few of the shorter entries, notably Secret Worship, Ancient Sorceries, Ancient Lights, and Keeping His Promise. These are not strictly speaking "ghost stories" so much as tales of psychological terror. E.F. Bleiler in his introduction makes some comparison to M.R. James, which is in my humble opinion sacrilege, James be Revisiting any number of tales read many years ago. The Willows, and of course The Wendigo, are the signature stories for Blackwood in these later days, but I was more taken by a few of the shorter entries, notably Secret Worship, Ancient Sorceries, Ancient Lights, and Keeping His Promise. These are not strictly speaking "ghost stories" so much as tales of psychological terror. E.F. Bleiler in his introduction makes some comparison to M.R. James, which is in my humble opinion sacrilege, James being the ultimate writer of this sort of tale. That said, Blackwood looms large in this genre, and I enjoyed revisiting his neighborhood.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    a few of the stories were standout great, but mostly I skimmed it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Stuffy, but very good.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Sawyer

    Five stars for "The Willows" and "The Wendigo," docked one star because I can't remember a single thing about any of the other stories five years after reading them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

    I didn’t finish, but didn’t feel compelled to. Some of the stories were good (Willows, Secret Worship) others predictable and drawn out beyond belief.

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