by The Librarian
Imagine Sherlock Holmes as a supernatural detective. Over 100 years ago, British author William Hope Hodgson created Carnacki, an occult detective who lives in a bachelor flat in London. Carnacki is called to investigate strange phenomena. The stories are narrated by Carnacki’s friend, Dodgson.
In one story, he is asked to investigate a room in a mansion that is emitting an eerie whistling sound. In another story he is called to look into the legend of a ghostly horse that is said to haunt any first-born female of the family who seeks to get married. In yet another, Carnacki investigates the haunting of his mother’s house. Sometimes the situations end up having rational explanations, while other times the explanations are truly supernatural.
Carnacki was a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes. The original stories were first published in The Idler, an illustrated monthly magazine in Britain, similar to The Strand Magazine, in which the Sherlock Holmes stories were published. They were published between 1910 and 1912 and were put together as a book in 1913. More of this popular series would likely have been written had it not been for the early death of its author.
William Hope Hodgson, the popular young writer published a great deal of essays, short fiction and novels in the genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror. Besides the Carnacki stories, his most famous work was The House on the Borderland, which tells the story of a recluse in an old house that stood on the border between two realities. That book was listed by H.P. Lovecraft as among his greatest influences and is also well worth the reader’s attention.
Hodgson served in the British Army during World War I and was unfortunately killed by an artillery shell in the Fourth Battle of Ypres in April of 1918. He was eulogized in The Times in May of that year, but unfortunately over time his works went out of print and were mostly forgotten. His career was one of many great ones brought to a premature end in the war. If he had lived a full life, there is no telling how much more he would have accomplished.
His works did, however, make occasional comebacks through the years in certain circles and the character has not been entirely forgotten. For example, the BBC dramatized one of the stories from this book, The Horse of the Invisible, in its 1970 series, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. In 2002, Carnacki shows up beside the Second Doctor in a Doctor Who novella called Doctor Who: Foreign Devils. He has also appeared in a number of other stories by various authors through the years, and in Simon Green’s current Ghost Finders series, the Ghost Finders work for the Carnacki Institute.
A 2003 reprinting of Carnacki the Ghost Finder is available at amazon.com and can be downloaded for free on Kindle. If you’re looking for a good haunting read, I highly recommend this one!
Check out other mystery and fantasy related articles, reviews & short stories in our Books & Tales category.