Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween Reading - Classical - John Silence and A Psychical Invasion

It seems anything goes in terms of Halloween scares these days. I saw one haunted house ad the other day promising an alien abduction experience.

I guess on one level that is a legitimate route to go for chills. Alien abuductions do seem to be a modern re-imagining of myths. More or less scientific underpinnings replace tales of magical faries swiping humans. Creatures with big eyes from other planets at least fit the popular conception of what's possible.

(I've long suspected vet visits for my cats seem to them like an alien abuduction. They're whisked in strange containers to a room with bright lights where strangers conduct rectal probes and administer mysterious injections.)

Give me spooky over transporter beams any day
I'm a purist, though. For Halloween I'd rather have spooky scares.

As far as haunted house reading, one of my favorites is A Psychical Invasion by Alernon Blackwood. It features his early version of Kolchak and Fox Mulder, Dr. John Silence.

Silence is a physician as well as investigator, and in "Invasion" he faces a very creepy house. Written in an age when interest in spiritualism was high, it's in fact a sort of bridge between out -and-out folklore and science, if you use the term science loosely.

In some ways it seems ahead of its time, since it was originally published in 1908. Dr. Silence is called on to assist a young humorist who's essentially dropped acid, long before Timothy Leary's influence.

A man under the influence
His young client explains he was hoping for a mind expanding experience that might improve his imagination. Under the influence he's been hearing colors and talking to bookcases and generally getting all psychedelic.

Unfortunately, a dark force also drifts in those realms of consciousness, so he's not able to write funny stuff any longer.

Instead he's constantly compelled to draw a hideous face.

After hearing him out, Silence decides to de-haunt his house and takes a couple of spiritually-sensitive animals in to assist.

He has no easy time of it, as the fabulously eerie experience unfolds with fog and strange sounds and much more.

To me it's a perfect Halloween tale to be read by candlelight.

Read all of the John Silence adventures in The Complete John Silence Stories


Charles Gramlich said...

I remember this story. It's a great one.

site said...

Pretty effective piece of writing, thanks for the post.

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