Carnacki, The Ghost Finder
William Hope Hodgson
Part 1 out of 3
CARNACKI, THE GHOST FINDER
By William Hope Hodgson
THE GATEWAY OF THE MONSTER
In response to Carnacki's usual card of invitation to have dinner and
listen to a story, I arrived promptly at 427, Cheyne Walk, to find the
three others who were always invited to these happy little times, there
before me. Five minutes later, Carnacki, Arkright, Jessop, Taylor, and I
were all engaged in the "pleasant occupation" of dining.
"You've not been long away, this time," I remarked, as I finished my
soup; forgetting momentarily Carnacki's dislike of being asked even to
skirt the borders of his story until such time as he was ready. Then he
would not stint words.
"That's all," he replied, with brevity; and I changed the subject,
remarking that I had been buying a new gun, to which piece of news he
gave an intelligent nod, and a smile which I think showed a genuinely
good-humored appreciation of my intentional changing of the conversation.
Later, when dinner was finished, Carnacki snugged himself comfortably
down in his big chair, along with his pipe, and began his story, with
very little circumlocution:--
"As Dodgson was remarking just now, I've only been away a short time, and
for a very good reason too--I've only been away a short distance. The
exact locality I am afraid I must not tell you; but it is less than
twenty miles from here; though, except for changing a name, that won't
spoil the story. And it is a story too! One of the most extraordinary
things ever I have run against.
"I received a letter a fortnight ago from a man I must call Anderson,
asking for an appointment. I arranged a time, and when he came, I found
that he wished me to investigate and see whether I could not clear up a
long-standing and well--too well--authenticated case of what he termed
'haunting.' He gave me very full particulars, and, finally, as the case
seemed to present something unique, I decided to take it up.
"Two days later, I drove to the house late in the afternoon. I found it a
very old place, standing quite alone in its own grounds. Anderson had
left a letter with the butler, I found, pleading excuses for his absence,
and leaving the whole house at my disposal for my investigations. The
butler evidently knew the object of my visit, and I questioned him pretty
thoroughly during dinner, which I had in rather lonely state. He is an
old and privileged servant, and had the history of the Grey Room exact in
detail. From him I learned more particulars regarding two things that
Anderson had mentioned in but a casual manner. The first was that the
door of the Grey Room would be heard in the dead of night to open, and
slam heavily, and this even though the butler knew it was locked, and the
key on the bunch in his pantry. The second was that the bedclothes would
always be found torn off the bed, and hurled in a heap into a corner.
"But it was the door slamming that chiefly bothered the old butler. Many
and many a time, he told me, had he lain awake and just got shivering
with fright, listening; for sometimes the door would be slammed time
after time--thud! thud! thud!--so that sleep was impossible.
"From Anderson, I knew already that the room had a history extending back
over a hundred and fifty years. Three people had been strangled in it--an
ancestor of his and his wife and child. This is authentic, as I had taken
very great pains to discover; so that you can imagine it was with a
feeling I had a striking case to investigate that I went upstairs after
dinner to have a look at the Grey Room.
"Peter, the old butler, was in rather a state about my going, and assured
me with much solemnity that in all the twenty years of his service, no
one had ever entered that room after nightfall. He begged me, in quite a
fatherly way, to wait till the morning, when there would be no danger,
and then he could accompany me himself.
"Of course, I smiled a little at him, and told him not to bother. I
explained that I should do no more than look 'round a bit, and, perhaps,
affix a few seals. He need not fear; I was used to that sort of thing.
But he shook his head when I said that.
"'There isn't many ghosts like ours, sir,' he assured me, with mournful
pride. And, by Jove! he was right, as you will see.
"I took a couple of candles, and Peter followed with his bunch of keys.
He unlocked the door; but would not come inside with me. He was evidently
in a fright, and he renewed his request that I would put off my
examination until daylight. Of course, I laughed at him again, and told
him he could stand sentry at the door, and catch anything that came out.
"'It never comes outside, sir,' he said, in his funny, old, solemn
manner. Somehow, he managed to make me feel as if I were going to have
the 'creeps' right away. Anyway, it was one to him, you know.
"I left him there, and examined the room. It is a big apartment, and well
furnished in the grand style, with a huge four-poster, which stands with
its head to the end wall. There were two candles on the mantelpiece, and
two on each of the three tables that were in the room. I lit the lot, and
after that, the room felt a little less inhumanly dreary; though, mind
you, it was quite fresh, and well kept in every way.
"After I had taken a good look 'round, I sealed lengths of baby ribbon
across the windows, along the walls, over the pictures, and over the
fireplace and the wall closets. All the time, as I worked, the butler
stood just without the door, and I could not persuade him to enter;
though I jested him a little, as I stretched the ribbons, and went here
and there about my work. Every now and again, he would say:--'You'll
excuse me, I'm sure, sir; but I do wish you would come out, sir. I'm fair
in a quake for you.'
"I told him he need not wait; but he was loyal enough in his way to what
he considered his duty. He said he could not go away and leave me all
alone there. He apologized; but made it very clear that I did not realize
the danger of the room; and I could see, generally, that he was in a
pretty frightened state. All the same, I had to make the room so that I
should know if anything material entered it; so I asked him not to bother
me, unless he really heard or saw something. He was beginning to get on
my nerves, and the 'feel' of the room was bad enough, without making it
"For a time further, I worked, stretching ribbons across the floor, and
sealing them, so that the merest touch would have broken them, were
anyone to venture into the room in the dark with the intention of
playing the fool. All this had taken me far longer than I had
anticipated; and, suddenly, I heard a clock strike eleven. I had taken
off my coat soon after commencing work; now, however, as I had
practically made an end of all that I intended to do, I walked across to
the settee, and picked it up. I was in the act of getting into it, when
the old butler's voice (he had not said a word for the last hour) came
sharp and frightened:--'Come out, sir, quick! There's something going to
happen!' Jove! but I jumped, and then, in the same moment, one of the
candles on the table to the left went out. Now whether it was the wind,
or what, I do not know; but, just for a moment, I was enough startled to
make a run for the door; though I am glad to say that I pulled up, before
I reached it. I simply could not bunk out, with the butler standing
there, after having, as it were, read him a sort of lesson on 'bein'
brave, y'know.' So I just turned right 'round, picked up the two candles
off the mantelpiece, and walked across to the table near the bed. Well, I
saw nothing. I blew out the candle that was still alight; then I went to
those on the two tables, and blew them out. Then, outside of the door,
the old man called again:--'Oh! sir, do be told! Do be told!'
"'All right, Peter,' I said, and by Jove, my voice was not as steady as
I should have liked! I made for the door, and had a bit of work not to
start running. I took some thundering long strides, as you can imagine.
Near the door, I had a sudden feeling that there was a cold wind in the
room. It was almost as if the window had been suddenly opened a little.
I got to the door, and the old butler gave back a step, in a sort of
instinctive way. 'Collar the candles, Peter!' I said, pretty sharply,
and shoved them into his hands. I turned, and caught the handle, and
slammed the door shut, with a crash. Somehow, do you know, as I did so,
I thought I felt something pull back on it; but it must have been only
fancy. I turned the key in the lock, and then again, double-locking the
door. I felt easier then, and set-to and sealed the door. In addition, I
put my card over the keyhole, and sealed it there; after which I
pocketed the key, and went downstairs--with Peter; who was nervous and
silent, leading the way. Poor old beggar! It had not struck me until
that moment that he had been enduring a considerable strain during the
last two or three hours.
"About midnight, I went to bed. My room lay at the end of the corridor
upon which opens the door of the Grey Room. I counted the doors between
it and mine, and found that five rooms lay between. And I am sure you can
understand that I was not sorry. Then, just as I was beginning to
undress, an idea came to me, and I took my candle and sealing wax, and
sealed the doors of all five rooms. If any door slammed in the night, I
should know just which one.
"I returned to my room, locked the door, and went to bed. I was waked
suddenly from a deep sleep by a loud crash somewhere out in the passage.
I sat up in bed, and listened, but heard nothing. Then I lit my candle. I
was in the very act of lighting it when there came the bang of a door
being violently slammed, along the corridor. I jumped out of bed, and got
my revolver. I unlocked the door, and went out into the passage, holding
my candle high, and keeping the pistol ready. Then a queer thing
happened. I could not go a step toward the Grey Room. You all know I am
not really a cowardly chap. I've gone into too many cases connected with
ghostly things, to be accused of that; but I tell you I funked it; simply
funked it, just like any blessed kid. There was something precious unholy
in the air that night. I ran back into my bedroom, and shut and locked
the door. Then I sat on the bed all night, and listened to the dismal
thudding of a door up the corridor. The sound seemed to echo through all
"Daylight came at last, and I washed and dressed. The door had not
slammed for about an hour, and I was getting back my nerve again. I felt
ashamed of myself; though, in some ways it was silly; for when you're
meddling with that sort of thing, your nerve is bound to go, sometimes.
And you just have to sit quiet and call yourself a coward until daylight.
Sometimes it is more than just cowardice, I fancy. I believe at times it
is something warning you, and fighting _for_ you. But, all the same, I
always feel mean and miserable, after a time like that.
"When the day came properly, I opened my door, and, keeping my revolver
handy, went quietly along the passage. I had to pass the head of the
stairs, along the way, and who should I see coming up, but the old
butler, carrying a cup of coffee. He had merely tucked his nightshirt
into his trousers, and he had an old pair of carpet slippers on.
"'Hullo, Peter!' I said, feeling suddenly cheerful; for I was as glad as
any lost child to have a live human being close to me. 'Where are you off
to with the refreshments?'
"The old man gave a start, and slopped some of the coffee. He stared up
at me, and I could see that he looked white and done-up. He came on up
the stairs, and held out the little tray to me. 'I'm very thankful
indeed, sir, to see you safe and well,' he said. 'I feared, one time, you
might risk going into the Grey Room, sir. I've lain awake all night, with
the sound of the Door. And when it came light, I thought I'd make you a
cup of coffee. I knew you would want to look at the seals, and somehow it
seems safer if there's two, sir.'
"'Peter,' I said, 'you're a brick. This is very thoughtful of you.' And I
drank the coffee. 'Come along,' I told him, and handed him back the tray.
'I'm going to have a look at what the Brutes have been up to. I simply
hadn't the pluck to in the night.'
"'I'm very thankful, sir,' he replied. 'Flesh and blood can do nothing,
sir, against devils; and that's what's in the Grey Room after dark.'
"I examined the seals on all the doors, as I went along, and found them
right; but when I got to the Grey Room, the seal was broken; though the
card, over the keyhole, was untouched. I ripped it off, and unlocked the
door, and went in, rather cautiously, as you can imagine; but the whole
room was empty of anything to frighten one, and there was heaps of light.
I examined all my seals, and not a single one was disturbed. The old
butler had followed me in, and, suddenly, he called out:--'The
"I ran up to the bed, and looked over; and, surely, they were lying in
the corner to the left of the bed. Jove! you can imagine how queer I
felt. Something _had_ been in the room. I stared for a while, from the
bed, to the clothes on the floor. I had a feeling that I did not want to
touch either. Old Peter, though, did not seem to be affected that way. He
went over to the bed coverings, and was going to pick them up, as,
doubtless, he had done every day these twenty years back; but I stopped
him. I wanted nothing touched, until I had finished my examination. This,
I must have spent a full hour over, and then I let Peter straighten up
the bed; after which we went out, and I locked the door; for the room was
getting on my nerves.
"I had a short walk, and then breakfast; after which I felt more my own
man, and so returned to the Grey Room, and, with Peter's help, and one of
the maids, I had everything taken out of the room, except the bed--even
the very pictures. I examined the walls, floor and ceiling then, with
probe, hammer and magnifying glass; but found nothing suspicious. And I
can assure you, I began to realize, in very truth, that some incredible
thing had been loose in the room during the past night. I sealed up
everything again, and went out, locking and sealing the door, as before.
"After dinner, Peter and I unpacked some of my stuff, and I fixed up my
camera and flashlight opposite to the door of the Grey Room, with a
string from the trigger of the flashlight to the door. Then, you see, if
the door were really opened, the flashlight would blare out, and there
would be, possibly, a very queer picture to examine in the morning. The
last thing I did, before leaving, was to uncap the lens; and after that I
went off to my bedroom, and to bed; for I intended to be up at midnight;
and to ensure this, I set my little alarm to call me; also I left my
"The clock woke me at twelve, and I got up and into my dressing gown and
slippers. I shoved my revolver into my right side-pocket, and opened my
door. Then, I lit my darkroom lamp, and withdrew the slide, so that it
would give a clear light. I carried it up the corridor, about thirty
feet, and put it down on the floor, with the open side away from me, so
that it would show me anything that might approach along the dark
passage. Then I went back, and sat in the doorway of my room, with my
revolver handy, staring up the passage toward the place where I knew my
camera stood outside the door of the Grey Room.
"I should think I had watched for about an hour and a half, when,
suddenly, I heard a faint noise, away up the corridor. I was immediately
conscious of a queer prickling sensation about the back of my head, and
my hands began to sweat a little. The following instant, the whole end of
the passage flicked into sight in the abrupt glare of the flashlight.
There came the succeeding darkness, and I peered nervously up the
corridor, listening tensely, and trying to find what lay beyond the faint
glow of my dark-lamp, which now seemed ridiculously dim by contrast with
the tremendous blaze of the flash-power.... And then, as I stooped
forward, staring and listening, there came the crashing thud of the door
of the Grey Room. The sound seemed to fill the whole of the large
corridor, and go echoing hollowly through the house. I tell you, I felt
horrible--as if my bones were water. Simply beastly. Jove! how I did
stare, and how I listened. And then it came again--thud, thud, thud, and
then a silence that was almost worse than the noise of the door; for I
kept fancying that some awful thing was stealing upon me along the
corridor. And then, suddenly, my lamp was put out, and I could not see a
yard before me. I realized all at once that I was doing a very silly
thing, sitting there, and I jumped up. Even as I did so, I _thought_ I
heard a sound in the passage, and quite _near_ me. I made one backward
spring into my room, and slammed and locked the door. I sat on my bed,
and stared at the door. I had my revolver in my hand; but it seemed an
abominably useless thing. I felt that there was something the other side
of that door. For some unknown reason I _knew_ it was pressed up against
the door, and it was soft. That was just what I thought. Most
extraordinary thing to think.
"Presently I got hold of myself a bit, and marked out a pentacle
hurriedly with chalk on the polished floor; and there I sat in it
almost until dawn. And all the time, away up the corridor, the door of
the Grey Room thudded at solemn and horrid intervals. It was a
miserable, brutal night.
"When the day began to break, the thudding of the door came gradually to
an end, and, at last, I got hold of my courage, and went along the
corridor in the half light to cap the lens of my camera. I can tell you,
it took some doing; but if I had not done so my photograph would have
been spoilt, and I was tremendously keen to save it. I got back to my
room, and then set-to and rubbed out the five-pointed star in which I had
"Half an hour later there was a tap at my door. It was Peter with my
coffee. When I had drunk it, we both went along to the Grey Room. As we
went, I had a look at the seals on the other doors; but they were
untouched. The seal on the door of the Grey Room was broken, as also was
the string from the trigger of the flashlight; but the card over the
keyhole was still there. I ripped it off, and opened the door. Nothing
unusual was to be seen until we came to the bed; then I saw that, as on
the previous day, the bedclothes had been torn off, and hurled into the
left-hand corner, exactly where I had seen them before. I felt very
queer; but I did not forget to look at all the seals, only to find that
not one had been broken.
"Then I turned and looked at old Peter, and he looked at me,
nodding his head.
"'Let's get out of here!' I said. 'It's no place for any living human to
enter, without proper protection.'
"We went out then, and I locked and sealed the door, again.
"After breakfast, I developed the negative; but it showed only the door
of the Grey Room, half opened. Then I left the house, as I wanted to get
certain matters and implements that might be necessary to life; perhaps
to the spirit; for I intended to spend the coming night in the Grey Room.
"I go back in a cab, about half-past five, with my apparatus, and this,
Peter and I carried up to the Grey Room, where I piled it carefully in
the center of the floor. When everything was in the room, including a cat
which I had brought, I locked and sealed the door, and went toward the
bedroom, telling Peter I should not be down for dinner. He said, 'Yes,
sir,' and went downstairs, thinking that I was going to turn in, which
was what I wanted him to believe, as I knew he would have worried both me
and himself, if he had known what I intended.
"But I merely got my camera and flashlight from my bedroom, and hurried
back to the Grey Room. I locked and sealed myself in, and set to work,
for I had a lot to do before it got dark.
"First, I cleared away all the ribbons across the floor; then I carried
the cat--still fastened in its basket--over toward the far wall, and left
it. I returned then to the center of the room, and measured out a space
twenty-one feet in diameter, which I swept with a 'broom of hyssop.'
About this, I drew a circle of chalk, taking care never to step over the
circle. Beyond this I smudged, with a bunch of garlic, a broad belt right
around the chalked circle, and when this was complete, I took from among
my stores in the center a small jar of a certain water. I broke away the
parchment, and withdrew the stopper. Then, dipping my left forefinger in
the little jar, I went 'round the circle again, making upon the floor,
just within the line of chalk, the Second Sign of the Saaamaaa Ritual,
and joining each Sign most carefully with the left-handed crescent. I can
tell you, I felt easier when this was done, and the 'water circle'
complete. Then, I unpacked some more of the stuff that I had brought, and
placed a lighted candle in the 'valley' of each Crescent. After that, I
drew a Pentacle, so that each of the five points of the defensive star
touched the chalk circle. In the five points of the star I placed five
portions of the bread, each wrapped in linen, and in the five 'vales,'
five opened jars of the water I had used to make the 'water circle.' And
now I had my first protective barrier complete.
"Now, anyone, except you who know something of my methods of
investigation, might consider all this a piece of useless and foolish
superstition; but you all remember the Black Veil case, in which I
believe my life was saved by a very similar form of protection, whilst
Aster, who sneered at it, and would not come inside, died. I got the idea
from the Sigsand MS., written, so far as I can make out, in the 14th
century. At first, naturally, I imagined it was just an expression of
the superstition of his time; and it was not until a year later that it
occurred to me to test his 'Defense,' which I did, as I've just said, in
that horrible Black Veil business. You know how _that_ turned out. Later,
I used it several times, and always I came through safe, until that
Moving Fur case. It was only a partial 'defense' therefore, and I nearly
died in the pentacle. After that I came across Professor Garder's
'Experiments with a Medium.' When they surrounded the Medium with a
current, in vacuum, he lost his power--almost as if it cut him off from
the Immaterial. That made me think a lot; and that is how I came to make
the Electric Pentacle, which is a most marvelous 'Defense' against
certain manifestations. I used the shape of the defensive star for this
protection, because I have, personally, no doubt at all but that there is
some extraordinary virtue in the old magic figure. Curious thing for a
Twentieth Century man to admit, is it not? But, then, as you all know, I
never did, and never will, allow myself to be blinded by the little cheap
laughter. I ask questions, and keep my eyes open.
"In this last case I had little doubt that I had run up against a
supernatural monster, and I meant to take every possible care; for the
danger is abominable.
"I turned-to now to fit the Electric Pentacle, setting it so that each of
its 'points' and 'vales' coincided exactly with the 'points' and 'vales'
of the drawn pentagram upon the floor. Then I connected up the battery,
and the next instant the pale blue glare from the intertwining vacuum
tubes shone out.
"I glanced about me then, with something of a sigh of relief, and
realized suddenly that the dusk was upon me, for the window was grey and
unfriendly. Then 'round at the big, empty room, over the double barrier
of electric and candle light. I had an abrupt, extraordinary sense of
weirdness thrust upon me--in the air, you know; as it were, a sense of
something inhuman impending. The room was full of the stench of bruised
garlic, a smell I hate.
"I turned now to the camera, and saw that it and the flashlight were in
order. Then I tested my revolver, carefully, though I had little thought
that it would be needed. Yet, to what extent materialization of an
ab-natural creature is possible, given favorable conditions, no one can
say; and I had no idea what horrible thing I was going to see, or feel
the presence of. I might, in the end, have to fight with a materialized
monster. I did not know, and could only be prepared. You see, I never
forgot that three other people had been strangled in the bed close to me,
and the fierce slamming of the door I had heard myself. I had no doubt
that I was investigating a dangerous and ugly case.
"By this time, the night had come; though the room was very light with
the burning candles; and I found myself glancing behind me, constantly,
and then all 'round the room. It was nervy work waiting for that thing to
come. Then, suddenly, I was aware of a little, cold wind sweeping over
me, coming from behind. I gave one great nerve-thrill, and a prickly
feeling went all over the back of my head. Then I hove myself 'round with
a sort of stiff jerk, and stared straight against that queer wind. It
seemed to come from the corner of the room to the left of the bed--the
place where both times I had found the heap of tossed bedclothes. Yet, I
could see nothing unusual; no opening--nothing!...
"Abruptly, I was aware that the candles were all a-flicker in that
unnatural wind.... I believe I just squatted there and stared in a
horribly frightened, wooden way for some minutes. I shall never be able
to let you know how disgustingly horrible it was sitting in that vile,
cold wind! And then, flick! flick! flick! all the candles 'round the
outer barrier went out; and there was I, locked and sealed in that room,
and with no light beyond the weakish blue glare of the Electric Pentacle.
"A time of abominable tenseness passed, and still that wind blew upon me;
and then, suddenly, I knew that something stirred in the corner to the
left of the bed. I was made conscious of it, rather by some inward,
unused sense than by either sight or sound; for the pale, short-radius
glare of the Pentacle gave but a very poor light for seeing by. Yet, as I
stared, something began slowly to grow upon my sight--a moving shadow, a
little darker than the surrounding shadows. I lost the thing amid the
vagueness, and for a moment or two I glanced swiftly from side to side,
with a fresh, new sense of impending danger. Then my attention was
directed to the bed. All the covering's were being drawn steadily off,
with a hateful, stealthy sort of motion. I heard the slow, dragging
slither of the clothes; but I could see nothing of the thing that pulled.
I was aware in a funny, subconscious, introspective fashion that the
'creep' had come upon me; yet that I was cooler mentally than I had been
for some minutes; sufficiently so to feel that my hands were sweating
coldly, and to shift my revolver, half-consciously, whilst I rubbed my
right hand dry upon my knee; though never, for an instant, taking my gaze
or my attention from those moving clothes.
"The faint noises from the bed ceased once, and there was a most intense
silence, with only the sound of the blood beating in my head. Yet,
immediately afterward, I heard again the slurring of the bedclothes being
dragged off the bed. In the midst of my nervous tension I remembered the
camera, and reached 'round for it; but without looking away from the bed.
And then, you know, all in a moment, the whole of the bed coverings were
torn off with extraordinary violence, and I heard the flump they made as
they were hurled into the corner.
"There was a time of absolute quietness then for perhaps a couple of
minutes; and you can imagine how horrible I felt. The bedclothes had been
thrown with such savageness! And, then again, the brutal unnaturalness of
the thing that had just been done before me!
"Abruptly, over by the door, I heard a faint noise--a sort of crickling
sound, and then a pitter or two upon the floor. A great nervous thrill
swept over me, seeming to run up my spine and over the back of my head;
for the seal that secured the door had just been broken. Something was
there. I could not see the door; at least, I mean to say that it was
impossible to say how much I actually saw, and how much my imagination
supplied. I made it out, only as a continuation of the grey walls.... And
then it seemed to me that something dark and indistinct moved and wavered
there among the shadows.
"Abruptly, I was aware that the door was opening, and with an effort I
reached again for my camera; but before I could aim it the door was
slammed with a terrific crash that filled the whole room with a sort of
hollow thunder. I jumped, like a frightened child. There seemed such a
power behind the noise; as though a vast, wanton Force were 'out.' Can
"The door was not touched again; but, directly afterward, I heard the
basket, in which the cat lay, creak. I tell you, I fairly pringled all
along my back. I knew that I was going to learn definitely whether
whatever was abroad was dangerous to Life. From the cat there rose
suddenly a hideous caterwaul, that ceased abruptly; and then--too late--I
snapped off the flashlight. In the great glare, I saw that the basket had
been overturned, and the lid was wrenched open, with the cat lying half
in, and half out upon the floor. I saw nothing else, but I was full of
the knowledge that I was in the presence of some Being or Thing that had
power to destroy.
"During the next two or three minutes, there was an odd, noticeable
quietness in the room, and you much remember I was half-blinded, for the
time, because of the flashlight; so that the whole place seemed to be
pitchy dark just beyond the shine of the Pentacle. I tell you it was most
horrible. I just knelt there in the star, and whirled 'round, trying to
see whether anything was coming at me.
"My power of sight came gradually, and I got a little hold of myself; and
abruptly I saw the thing I was looking for, close to the 'water circle.'
It was big and indistinct, and wavered curiously, as though the shadow of
a vast spider hung suspended in the air, just beyond the barrier. It
passed swiftly 'round the circle, and seemed to probe ever toward me; but
only to draw back with extraordinary jerky movements, as might a living
person if they touched the hot bar of a grate.
"'Round and 'round it moved, and 'round and 'round I turned. Then, just
opposite to one of the Vales' in the pentacles, it seemed to pause, as
though preliminary to a tremendous effort. It retired almost beyond the
glow of the vacuum light, and then came straight toward me, appearing to
gather form and solidity as it came. There seemed a vast, malign
determination behind the movement, that must succeed. I was on my knees,
and I jerked back, falling on to my left hand, and hip, in a wild
endeavor to get back from the advancing thing. With my right hand I was
grabbing madly for my revolver, which I had let slip. The brutal thing
came with one great sweep straight over the garlic and the 'water
circle,' almost to the vale of the pentacle. I believe I yelled. Then,
just as suddenly as it had swept over, it seemed to be hurled back by
some mighty, invisible force.
"It must have been some moments before I realized that I was safe; and
then I got myself together in the middle of the pentacles, feeling
horribly gone and shaken, and glancing 'round and 'round the barrier; but
the thing had vanished. Yet, I had learnt something, for I knew now that
the Grey Room was haunted by a monstrous hand.
"Suddenly, as I crouched there, I saw what had so nearly given the
monster an opening through the barrier. In my movements within the
pentacle I must have touched one of the jars of water; for just where the
thing had made its attack the jar that guarded the 'deep' of the 'vale'
had been moved to one side, and this had left one of the 'five doorways'
unguarded. I put it back, quickly, and felt almost safe again, for I had
found the cause, and the 'defense' was still good. And I began to hope
again that I should see the morning come in. When I saw that thing so
nearly succeed, I had an awful, weak, overwhelming feeling that the
'barriers' could never bring me safe through the night against such a
Force. You can understand?
"For a long time I could not see the hand; but, presently, I thought I
saw, once or twice, an odd wavering, over among the shadows near the
door. A little later, as though in a sudden fit of malignant rage, the
dead body of the cat was picked up, and beaten with dull, sickening blows
against the solid floor. That made me feel rather queer.
"A minute afterward, the door was opened and slammed twice with
tremendous force. The next instant the thing made one swift, vicious dart
at me, from out of the shadows. Instinctively, I started sideways from
it, and so plucked my hand from upon the Electric Pentacle, where--for a
wickedly careless moment--I had placed it. The monster was hurled off
from the neighborhood of the pentacles; though--owing to my inconceivable
foolishness--it had been enabled for a second time to pass the outer
barriers. I can tell you, I shook for a time, with sheer funk. I moved
right to the center of the pentacles again, and knelt there, making
myself as small and compact as possible.
"As I knelt, there came to me presently, a vague wonder at the two
'accidents' which had so nearly allowed the brute to get at me. Was I
being _influenced_ to unconscious voluntary actions that endangered me?
The thought took hold of me, and I watched my every movement. Abruptly, I
stretched a tired leg, and knocked over one of the jars of water. Some
was spilled; but, because of my suspicious watchfulness, I had it upright
and back within the vale while yet some of the water remained. Even as I
did so, the vast, black, half-materialized hand beat up at me out of the
shadows, and seemed to leap almost into my face; so nearly did it
approach; but for the third time it was thrown back by some altogether
enormous, overmastering force. Yet, apart from the dazed fright in which
it left me, I had for a moment that feeling of spiritual sickness, as if
some delicate, beautiful, inward grace had suffered, which is felt only
upon the too near approach of the ab-human, and is more dreadful, in a
strange way, than any physical pain that can be suffered. I knew by this
more of the extent and closeness of the danger; and for a long time I was
simply cowed by the butt-headed brutality of that Force upon my spirit. I
can put it no other way.
"I knelt again in the center of the pentacles, watching myself with more
fear, almost, than the monster; for I knew now that, unless I guarded
myself from every sudden impulse that came to me, I might simply work my
own destruction. Do you see how horrible it all was?
"I spent the rest of the night in a haze of sick fright, and so tense
that I could not make a single movement naturally. I was in such fear
that any desire for action that came to me might be prompted by the
Influence that I knew was at work on me. And outside of the barrier that
ghastly thing went 'round and 'round, grabbing and grabbing in the air at
me. Twice more was the body of the dead cat molested. The second time, I
heard every bone in its body scrunch and crack. And all the time the
horrible wind was blowing upon me from the corner of the room to the left
of the bed.
"Then, just as the first touch of dawn came into the sky, that unnatural
wind ceased, in a single moment; and I could see no sign of the hand. The
dawn came slowly, and presently the wan light filled all the room, and
made the pale glare of the Electric Pentacle look more unearthly. Yet, it
was not until the day had fully come, that I made any attempt to leave
the barrier, for I did not know but that there was some method abroad, in
the sudden stopping of that wind, to entice me from the pentacles.
"At last, when the dawn was strong and bright, I took one last look
'round, and ran for the door. I got it unlocked, in a nervous and clumsy
fashion, then locked it hurriedly, and went to my bedroom, where I lay on
the bed, and tried to steady my nerves. Peter came, presently, with the
coffee, and when I had drunk it, I told him I meant to have a sleep, as I
had been up all night. He took the tray, and went out quietly, and after
I had locked my door I turned in properly, and at last got to sleep.
"I woke about midday, and after some lunch, went up to the Grey Room. I
switched off the current from the Pentacle, which I had left on in my
hurry; also, I removed the body of the cat. You can understand I did not
want anyone to see the poor brute. After that, I made a very careful
search of the corner where the bedclothes had been thrown. I made several
holes, and probed, and found nothing. Then it occurred to me to try with
my instrument under the skirting. I did so, and heard my wire ring on
metal. I turned the hook end that way, and fished for the thing. At the
second go, I got it. It was a small object, and I took it to the window.
I found it to be a curious ring, made of some greying material. The
curious thing about it was that it was made in the form of a pentagon;
that is, the same shape as the inside of the magic pentacle, but without
the 'mounts,' which form the points of the defensive star. It was free
from all chasing or engraving.
"You will understand that I was excited, when I tell you that I felt sure
I held in my hand the famous Luck Ring of the Anderson family; which,
indeed, was of all things the one most intimately connected with the
history of the haunting. This ring was handed on from father to son
through generations, and always--in obedience to some ancient family
tradition--each son had to promise never to wear the ring. The ring, I
may say, was brought home by one of the Crusaders, under very peculiar
circumstances; but the story is too long to go into here.
"It appears that young Sir Hulbert, an ancestor of Anderson's, made a
bet, in drink, you know, that he would wear the ring that night. He did
so, and in the morning his wife and child were found strangled in the
bed, in the very room in which I stood. Many people, it would seem,
thought young Sir Hulbert was guilty of having done the thing in drunken
anger; and he, in an attempt to prove his innocence, slept a second night
in the room. He also was strangled. Since then, as you may imagine, no
one has ever spent a night in the Grey Room, until I did so. The ring had
been lost so long, that it had become almost a myth; and it was most
extraordinary to stand there, with the actual thing in my hand, as you
"It was whilst I stood there, looking at the ring, that I got an idea.
Supposing that it were, in a way, a doorway--You see what I mean? A sort
of gap in the world-hedge. It was a queer idea, I know, and probably was
not my own, but came to me from the Outside. You see, the wind had come
from that part of the room where the ring lay. I thought a lot about it.
Then the shape--the inside of a pentacle. It had no 'mounts,' and without
mounts, as the Sigsand MS. has it:--'Thee mownts wych are thee Five Hills
of safetie. To lack is to gyve pow'r to thee daemon; and surelie to
fayvor the Evill Thynge.' You see, the very shape of the ring was
significant; and I determined to test it.
"I unmade the pentacle, for it must be made afresh _and around_ the one
to be protected. Then I went out and locked the door; after which I left
the house, to get certain matters, for neither 'yarbs nor fyre nor waier'
must be used a second time. I returned about seven thirty, and as soon as
the things I had brought had been carried up to the Grey Room, I
dismissed Peter for the night, just as I had done the evening before.
When he had gone downstairs, I let myself into the room, and locked and
sealed the door. I went to the place in the center of the room where all
the stuff had been packed, and set to work with all my speed to construct
a barrier about me and the ring.
"I do not remember whether I explained it to you. But I had reasoned
that, if the ring were in any way a 'medium of admission,' and it were
enclosed with me in the Electric Pentacle, it would be, to express it
loosely, insulated. Do you see? The Force, which had visible expression
as a Hand, would have to stay beyond the Barrier which separates the Ab
from the Normal; for the 'gateway' would be removed from accessibility.
"As I was saying, I worked with all my speed to get the barrier completed
about me and the ring, for it was already later than I cared to be in
that room 'unprotected.' Also, I had a feeling that there would be a vast
effort made that night to regain the use of the ring. For I had the
strongest conviction that the ring was a necessity to materialization.
You will see whether I was right.
"I completed the barriers in about an hour, and you can imagine something
of the relief I felt when I felt the pale glare of the Electric Pentacle
once more all about me. From then, onward, for about two hours, I sat
quietly, facing the corner from which the wind came. About eleven o'clock
a queer knowledge came that something was near to me; yet nothing
happened for a whole hour after that. Then, suddenly, I felt the cold,
queer wind begin to blow upon me. To my astonishment, it seemed now to
come from behind me, and I whipped 'round, with a hideous quake of fear.
The wind met me in the face. It was blowing up from the floor close to
me. I stared down, in a sickening maze of new frights. What on earth had
I done now! The ring was there, close beside me, where I had put it.
Suddenly, as I stared, bewildered, I was aware that there was something
queer about the ring--funny shadowy movements and convolutions. I looked
at them, stupidly. And then, abruptly, I knew that the wind was blowing
up at me from the ring. A queer indistinct smoke became visible to me,
seeming to pour upward through the ring, and mix with the moving shadows.
Suddenly, I realized that I was in more than any mortal danger; for the
convoluting shadows about the ring were taking shape, and the death-hand
was forming _within_ the Pentacle. My Goodness! do you realize it! I had
brought the 'gateway' into the pentacles, and the brute was coming
through--pouring into the material world, as gas might pour out from the
mouth of a pipe.
"I should think that I knelt for a moment in a sort of stunned fright.
Then, with a mad, awkward movement, I snatched at the ring, intending to
hurl it out of the Pentacle. Yet it eluded me, as though some invisible,
living thing jerked it hither and thither. At last, I gripped it; yet,
in the same instant, it was torn from my grasp with incredible and brutal
force. A great, black shadow covered it, and rose into the air, and came
at me. I saw that it was the Hand, vast and nearly perfect in form. I
gave one crazy yell, and jumped over the Pentacle and the ring of burning
candles, and ran despairingly for the door. I fumbled idiotically and
ineffectually with the key, and all the time I stared, with a fear that
was like insanity, toward the Barriers. The hand was plunging toward me;
yet, even as it had been unable to pass into the Pentacle when the ring
was without, so, now that the ring was within, it had no power to pass
out. The monster was chained, as surely as any beast would be, were
chains riveted upon it.
"Even then, I got a flash of this knowledge; but I was too utterly shaken
with fright, to reason; and the instant I managed to get the key turned,
I sprang into the passage, and slammed the door with a crash. I locked
it, and got to my room somehow; for I was trembling so that I could
hardly stand, as you can imagine. I locked myself in, and managed to get
the candle lit; then I lay down on my bed, and kept quiet for an hour or
two, and so I got steadied.
"I got a little sleep, later; but woke when Peter brought my coffee.
When I had drunk it I felt altogether better, and took the old man along
with me whilst I had a look into the Grey Room. I opened the door, and
peeped in. The candles were still burning, wan against the daylight; and
behind them was the pale, glowing star of the Electric Pentacle. And
there, in the middle, was the ring ... the gateway of the monster, lying
demure and ordinary.
"Nothing in the room was touched, and I knew that the brute had never
managed to cross the Pentacles. Then I went out, and locked the door.
"After a sleep of some hours, I left the house. I returned in the
afternoon in a cab. I had with me an oxy-hydrogen jet, and two
cylinders, containing the gases. I carried the things into the Grey
Room, and there, in the center of the Electric Pentacle, I erected the
little furnace. Five minutes later the Luck Ring, once the 'luck,' but
now the 'bane,' of the Anderson family, was no more than a little solid
splash of hot metal."
Carnacki felt in his pocket, and pulled out something wrapped in tissue
paper. He passed it to me. I opened it, and found a small circle of
greyish metal, something like lead, only harder and rather brighter.
"Well?" I asked, at length, after examining it and handing it 'round to
the others. "Did that stop the haunting?"
Carnacki nodded. "Yes," he said. "I slept three nights in the Grey Room,
before I left. Old Peter nearly fainted when he knew that I meant to; but
by the third night he seemed to realize that the house was just safe and
ordinary. And, you know, I believe, in his heart, he hardly approved."
Carnacki stood up and began to shake hands. "Out you go!" he said,
genially. And presently we went, pondering, to our various homes.
THE HOUSE AMONG THE LAURELS
"This is a curious yarn that I am going to tell you," said Carnacki, as
after a quiet little dinner we made ourselves comfortable in his cozy
"I have just got back from the West of Ireland," he continued.
"Wentworth, a friend of mine, has lately had rather an unexpected legacy,
in the shape of a large estate and manor, about a mile and a half outside
of the village of Korunton. This place is named Gannington Manor, and has
been empty a great number of years; as you will find is almost always the
case with Houses reputed to be haunted, as it is usually termed.
"It seems that when Wentworth went over to take possession, he found the
place in very poor repair, and the estate totally uncared for, and, as I
know, looking very desolate and lonesome generally. He went through the
big house by himself, and he admitted to me that it had an uncomfortable
feeling about it; but, of course, that might be nothing more than the
natural dismalness of a big, empty house, which has been long
uninhabited, and through which you are wandering alone.
"When he had finished his look 'round, he went down to the village,
meaning to see the one-time Agent of the Estate, and arrange for someone
to go in as caretaker. The Agent, who proved by the way to be a
Scotchman, was very willing to take up the management of the Estate once
more; but he assured Wentworth that they would get no one to go in as
caretaker; and that his--the Agent's--advice was to have the house pulled
down, and a new one built.
"This, naturally, astonished my friend, and, as they went down to the
village, he managed to get a sort of explanation from the man. It seems
that there had been always curious stories told about the place, which in
the early days was called Landru Castle, and that within the last seven
years there had been two extraordinary deaths there. In each case they
had been tramps, who were ignorant of the reputation of the house, and
had probably thought the big empty place suitable for a night's free
lodging. There had been absolutely no signs of violence to indicate the
method by which death was caused, and on each occasion the body had been
found in the great entrance hall.
"By this time they had reached the inn where Wentworth had put up, and he
told the Agent that he would prove that it was all rubbish about the
haunting, by staying a night or two in the Manor himself. The death of
the tramps was certainly curious; but did not prove that any supernatural
agency had been at work. They were but isolated accidents, spread over a
large number of years by the memory of the villagers, which was natural
enough in a little place like Korunton. Tramps had to die some time, and
in some place, and it proved nothing that two, out of possibly hundreds
who had slept in the empty house, had happened to take the opportunity
to die under shelter.
"But the Agent took his remark very seriously, and both he and Dennis the
landlord of the inn, tried their best to persuade him not to go. For his
'sowl's sake,' Irish Dennis begged him to do no such thing; and because
of his 'life's sake,' the Scotchman was equally in earnest.
"It was late afternoon at the time, and as Wentworth told me, it was warm
and bright, and it seemed such utter rot to hear those two talking
seriously about the impossible. He felt full of pluck, and he made up his
mind he would smash the story of the haunting, at once by staying that
very night, in the Manor. He made this quite clear to them, and told them
that it would be more to the point and to their credit, if they offered
to come up along with him, and keep him company. But poor old Dennis was
quite shocked, I believe, at the suggestion; and though Tabbit, the
Agent, took it more quietly, he was very solemn about it.
"It seems that Wentworth did go; and though, as he said to me, when
the evening began to come on, it seemed a very different sort of thing
"A whole crowd of the villagers assembled to see him off; for by this
time they all knew of his intention. Wentworth had his gun with him, and
a big packet of candles; and he made it clear to them all that it would
not be wise for anyone to play any tricks; as he intended to shoot 'at
sight.' And then, you know, he got a hint of how serious they considered
the whole thing; for one of them came up to him, leading a great
bullmastiff, and offered it to him, to take to keep him company.
Wentworth patted his gun; but the old man who owned the dog shook his
head and explained that the brute might warn him in sufficient time for
him to get away from the castle. For it was obvious that he did not
consider the gun would prove of any use.
"Wentworth took the dog, and thanked the man. He told me that, already,
he was beginning to wish that he had not said definitely that he would
go; but, as it was, he was simply forced to. He went through the crowd of
men, and found suddenly that they had all turned in a body and were
keeping him company. They stayed with him all the way to the Manor, and
then went right over the whole place with him.
"It was still daylight when this was finished; though turning to dusk;
and, for a while, the men stood about, hesitating, as if they felt
ashamed to go away and leave Wentworth there all alone. He told me that,
by this time, he would gladly have given fifty pounds to be going back
with them. And then, abruptly, an idea came to him. He suggested that
they should stay with him, and keep him company through the night. For a
time they refused, and tried to persuade him to go back with them; but
finally he made a proposition that got home to them all. He planned that
they should all go back to the inn, and there get a couple of dozen
bottles of whisky, a donkey-load of turf and wood, and some more candles.
Then they would come back, and make a great fire in the big fire-place,
light all the candles, and put them 'round the place, open the whisky and
make a night of it. And, by Jove! he got them to agree.
"They set off back, and were soon at the inn, and here, whilst the donkey
was being loaded, and the candles and whisky distributed, Dennis was
doing his best to keep Wentworth from going back; but he was a sensible
man in his way, for when he found that it was no use, he stopped. You
see, he did not want to frighten the others from accompanying Wentworth.
"'I tell ye, sorr,' he told him, ''tis of no use at all, thryin' ter
reclaim ther castle. 'Tis curst with innocent blood, an' ye'll be betther
pullin' it down, an' buildin' a fine new wan. But if ye be intendin' to
shtay this night, kape the big dhoor open whide, an' watch for the
bhlood-dhrip. If so much as a single dhrip falls, don't shtay though all
the gold in the worrld was offered ye.'
"Wentworth asked him what he meant by the blood-drip.
"'Shure,' he said, ''tis the bhlood av thim as ould Black Mick 'way back
in the ould days kilt in their shlape. 'Twas a feud as he pretendid to
patch up, an' he invited thim--the O'Haras they was--siventy av thim. An'
he fed thim, an' shpoke soft to thim, an' thim thrustin' him, sthayed to
shlape with him. Thin, he an' thim with him, stharted in an' mhurdered
thim was an' all as they slep'. 'Tis from me father's grandfather ye have
the sthory. An' sence thin 'tis death to any, so they say, to pass the
night in the castle whin the bhlood-dhrip comes. 'Twill put out candle
an' fire, an' thin in the darkness the Virgin Herself would be powerless
to protect ye.'
"Wentworth told me he laughed at this; chiefly because, as he put
it:--'One always must laugh at that sort of yarn, however it makes you
feel inside.' He asked old Dennis whether he expected him to believe it.
"'Yes, sorr,' said Dennis, 'I do mane ye to b'lieve it; an' please God,
if ye'll b'lieve, ye may be back safe befor' mornin'.' The man's serious
simplicity took hold of Wentworth, and he held out his hand. But, for all
that, he went; and I must admire his pluck.
"There were now about forty men, and when they got back to the Manor--or
castle as the villagers always call it--they were not long in getting a
big fire going, and lighted candles all 'round the great hall. They had
all brought sticks; so that they would have been a pretty formidable lot
to tackle by anything simply physical; and, of course, Wentworth had his
gun. He kept the whisky in his own charge; for he intended to keep them
sober; but he gave them a good strong tot all 'round first, so as to
make things seem cheerful; and to get them yearning. If you once let a
crowd of men like that grow silent, they begin to think, and then to
"The big entrance door had been left wide open, by his orders; which
shows that he had taken some notice of Dennis. It was a quiet night, so
this did not matter, for the lights kept steady, and all went on in a
jolly sort of fashion for about three hours. He had opened a second lot
of bottles, and everyone was feeling cheerful; so much so that one of the
men called out aloud to the ghosts to come out and show themselves. And
then, you know a very extraordinary thing happened; for the ponderous
main door swung quietly and steadily to, as though pushed by an invisible
hand, and shut with a sharp click.
"Wentworth stared, feeling suddenly rather chilly. Then he remembered the
men, and looked 'round at them. Several had ceased their talk, and were
staring in a frightened way at the big door; but the great number had
never noticed, and were talking and yarning. He reached for his gun, and
the following instant the great bullmastiff set up a tremendous barking,
which drew the attention of the whole company.
"The hall I should tell you is oblong. The south wall is all windows; but
the north and east have rows of doors, leading into the house, whilst the
west wall is occupied by the great entrance. The rows of doors leading
into the house were all closed, and it was toward one of these in the
north wall that the big dog ran; yet he would not go very close; and
suddenly the door began to move slowly open, until the blackness of the
passage beyond was shown. The dog came back among the men, whimpering,
and for a minute there was an absolute silence.
"Then Wentworth went out from the men a little, and aimed his gun at
"'Whoever is there, come out, or I shall fire,' he shouted; but nothing
came, and he blazed forth both barrels into the dark. As though the
report had been a signal, all the doors along the north and east walls
moved slowly open, and Wentworth and his men were staring, frightened
into the black shapes of the empty doorways.
"Wentworth loaded his gun quickly, and called to the dog; but the brute
was burrowing away in among the men; and this fear on the dog's part
frightened Wentworth more, he told me, than anything. Then something else
happened. Three of the candles over in the corner of the hall went out;
and immediately about half a dozen in different parts of the place. More
candles were put out, and the hall had become quite dark in the corners.
"The men were all standing now, holding their clubs, and crowded
together. And no one said a word. Wentworth told me he felt positively
ill with fright. I know the feeling. Then, suddenly, something splashed
on to the back of his left hand. He lifted it, and looked. It was covered
with a great splash of red that dripped from his fingers. An old Irishman
near to him, saw it, and croaked out in a quavering voice:--'The
bhlood-dhrip!' When the old man called out, they all looked, and in the
same instant others felt it upon them. There were frightened cries
of:--'The bhlood-dhrip! The bhlood-dhrip!' And then, about a dozen
candles went out simultaneously, and the hall was suddenly dark. The dog
let out a great, mournful howl, and there was a horrible little silence,
with everyone standing rigid. Then the tension broke, and there was a mad
rush for the main door. They wrenched it open, and tumbled out into the
dark; but something slammed it with a crash after them, and shut the dog
in; for Wentworth heard it howling as they raced down the drive. Yet no
one had the pluck to go back to let it out, which does not surprise me.
"Wentworth sent for me the following day. He had heard of me in
connection with that Steeple Monster Case. I arrived by the night mail,
and put up with Wentworth at the inn. The next day we went up to the old
Manor, which certainly lies in rather a wilderness; though what struck
me most was the extraordinary number of laurel bushes about the house.
The place was smothered with them; so that the house seemed to be
growing up out of a sea of green laurel. These, and the grim, ancient
look of the old building, made the place look a bit dank and ghostly,
even by daylight.
"The hall was a big place, and well lit by daylight; for which I was not
sorry. You see, I had been rather wound-up by Wentworth's yarn. We found
one rather funny thing, and that was the great bullmastiff, lying stiff
with its neck broken. This made me feel very serious; for it showed that
whether the cause was supernatural or not, there was present in the house
some force exceedingly dangerous to life.
"Later, whilst Wentworth stood guard with his shotgun, I made an
examination of the hall. The bottles and mugs from which the men had
drunk their whisky were scattered about; and all over the place were the
candles, stuck upright in their own grease. But in the somewhat brief and
general search, I found nothing; and decided to begin my usual exact
examination of every square foot of the place--not only of the hall, in
this case, but of the whole interior of the castle.
"I spent three uncomfortable weeks, searching; but without result of any
kind. And, you know, the care I take at this period is extreme; for I
have solved hundreds of cases of so-called 'hauntings' at this early
stage, simply by the most minute investigation, and the keeping of a
perfectly open mind. But, as I have said, I found nothing. During the
whole of the examination, I got Wentworth to stand guard with his loaded
shotgun; and I was very particular that we were never caught there
"I decided now to make the experiment of staying a night in the great
hall, of course 'protected.' I spoke about it to Wentworth; but his own
attempt had made him so nervous that he begged me to do no such thing.
However, I thought it well worth the risk, and I managed in the end to
persuade him to be present.
"With this in view, I went to the neighboring town of Gaunt, and by an
arrangement with the Chief Constable I obtained the services of six
policemen with their rifles. The arrangement was unofficial, of course,
and the men were allowed to volunteer, with a promise of payment.
"When the constables arrived early that evening at the inn, I gave them a
good feed; and after that we all set out for the Manor. We had four
donkeys with us, loaded with fuel and other matters; also two great
boarhounds, which one of the police led. When we reached the house, I set
the men to unload the donkeys; whilst Wentworth and I set-to and sealed
all the doors, except the main entrance, with tape and wax; for if the
doors were really opened, I was going to be sure of the fact. I was going
to run no risk of being deceived by ghostly hallucination, or mesmeric
"By the time that this was done, the policemen had unloaded the donkeys,
and were waiting, looking about them, curiously. I set two of them to
lay a fire in the big grate, and the others I used as I required them. I
took one of the boarhounds to the end of the hall furthest from the
entrance, and there I drove a staple into the floor, to which I tied the
dog with a short tether. Then, 'round him, I drew upon the floor the
figure of a Pentacle, in chalk. Outside of the Pentacle, I made a circle
with garlic. I did exactly the same thing with the other hound; but over
more in the northeast corner of the big hall, where the two rows of
doors make the angle.
"When this was done, I cleared the whole center of the hall, and put one
of the policemen to sweep it; after which I had all my apparatus carried
into the cleared space. Then I went over to the main door and hooked it
open, so that the hook would have to be lifted out of the hasp, before
the door could be closed. After that, I placed lighted candles before
each of the sealed doors, and one in each corner of the big room; and
then I lit the fire. When I saw that it was properly alight, I got all
the men together, by the pile of things in the center of the room, and
took their pipes from them; for, as the Sigsand MS. has it:--'Theyre must
noe lyght come from wythin the barryier.' And I was going to make sure.
"I got my tape measure then, and measured out a circle thirty-three feet
in diameter, and immediately chalked it out. The police and Wentworth
were tremendously interested, and I took the opportunity to warn them
that this was no piece of silly mumming on my part; but done with a
definite intention of erecting a barrier between us and any ab-human
thing that the night might show to us. I warned them that, as they
valued their lives, and more than their lives it might be, no one must
on any account whatsoever pass beyond the limits of the barrier that I
"After I had drawn the circle, I took a bunch of the garlic, and smudged
it right 'round the chalk circle, a little outside of it. When this was
complete, I called for candles from my stock of material. I set the
police to lighting them, and as they were lit, I took them, and sealed
them down on the floor, just within the chalk circle, five inches apart.
As each candle measured approximately one inch in diameter, it took
sixty-six candles to complete the circle; and I need hardly say that
every number and measurement has a significance.
"Then, from candle to candle I took a 'gayrd' of human hair, entwining it
alternately to the left and to the right, until the circle was
completed, and the ends of the hair shod with silver, and pressed into
the wax of the sixty-sixth candle.
"It had now been dark some time, and I made haste to get the 'Defense'
complete. To this end, I got the men well together, and began to fit the
Electric Pentacle right around us, so that the five points of the
Defensive Star came just within the Hair Circle. This did not take me
long, and a minute later I had connected up the batteries, and the weak
blue glare of the intertwining vacuum tubes shone all around us. I felt
happier then; for this Pentacle is, as you all know, a wonderful
'Defense.' I have told you before, how the idea came to me, after reading
Professor Garder's 'Experiments with a Medium.' He found that a current,
of a certain number of vibrations, _in vacuo,_ 'insulated' the medium. It
is difficult to suggest an explanation non-technically, and if you are
really interested you should read Carder's lecture on 'Astral Vibrations
Compared with Matero-involuted Vibrations below the Six-Billion Limit.'
"As I stood up from my work, I could hear outside in the night a constant
drip from the laurels, which as I have said, come right up around the
house, very thick. By the sound, I knew that a 'soft' rain had set in;
and there was absolutely no wind, as I could tell by the steady flames of
"I stood a moment or two, listening, and then one of the men touched my
arm, and asked me in a low voice, what they should do. By his tone, I
could tell that he was feeling something of the strangeness of it all;
and the other men, including Wentworth, were so quiet that I was afraid
they were beginning to get shaky.
"I set-to, then, and arranged them with their backs to one common center;
so that they were sitting flat upon the floor, with their feet radiating
outward. Then, by compass, I laid their legs to the eight chief points,
and afterward I drew a circle with chalk around them; and opposite to
their feet, I made the Eight Signs of the Saaamaaa Ritual. The eighth
place was, of course, empty; but ready for me to occupy at any moment;
for I had omitted to make the Sealing Sign to that point, until I had
finished all my preparations, and could enter the Inner Star.
"I took a last look 'round the great hall, and saw that the two big
hounds were lying quietly, with their noses between their paws. The fire
was big and cheerful, and the candles before the two rows of doors, burnt
steadily, as well as the solitary ones in the corners. Then I went 'round
the little star of men, and warned them not to be frightened whatever
happened; but to trust to the 'Defense'; and to let nothing tempt or
drive them to cross the Barriers. Also, I told them to watch their
movements, and to keep their feet strictly to their places. For the rest,
there was to be no shooting, unless I gave the word.
"And now at last, I went to my place, and, sitting down, made the Eighth
sign just beyond my feet. Then I arranged my camera and flashlight handy,
and examined my revolver.
"Wentworth sat behind the First Sign, and as the numbering went 'round
reversed, that put him next to me on my left. I asked him, in a low
voice, how he felt; and he told me, rather nervous; but that he felt
confidence in my knowledge and was resolved to go through with the
matter, whatever happened.
"We settled down to wait. There was no talking, except that, once or
twice, the police bent toward one another, and whispered odd remarks
concerning the hall, that appeared queerly audible in the intense
silence. But in a while there was not even a whisper from anyone, and
only the monotonous drip, drip of the quiet rain without the great
entrance, and the low, dull sound of the fire in the big fireplace.
"It was a queer group that we made sitting there, back to back, with our
legs starred outward; and all around us the strange blue glow of the
Pentacle, and beyond that the brilliant shining of the great ring of
lighted candles. Outside of the glare of the candles, the large empty
hall looked a little gloomy, by contrast, except where the lights shone
before the sealed doors, and the blaze of the big fire made a good honest
mass of flame. And the feeling of mystery! Can you picture it all?
"It might have been an hour later that it came to me suddenly that I was
aware of an extraordinary sense of dreeness, as it were, come into the
air of the place. Not the nervous feeling of mystery that had been with
us all the time; but a new feeling, as if there were something going to
happen any moment.
"Abruptly, there came a slight noise from the east end of the hall, and I
felt the star of men move suddenly. 'Steady! Keep steady!' I shouted, and
they quietened. I looked up the hall, and saw that the dogs were upon
their feet, and staring in an extraordinary fashion toward the great
entrance. I turned and stared, also, and felt the men move as they craned
their heads to look. Suddenly, the dogs set up a tremendous barking, and
I glanced across to them, and found they were still 'pointing' for the
big doorway. They ceased their noise just as quickly, and seemed to be
listening. In the same instant, I heard a faint chink of metal to my
left, that set me staring at the hook which held the great door wide. It
moved, even as I looked. Some invisible thing was meddling with it. A
queer, sickening thrill went through me, and I felt all the men about me,
stiffen and go rigid with intensity. I had a certainty of something
impending: as it might be the impression of an invisible, but
overwhelming, Presence. The hall was full of a queer silence, and not a
sound came from the dogs. _Then I saw the hook slowly raised from out of
its hasp, without any visible thing touching it._ Then a sudden power of
movement came to me. I raised my camera, with the flashlight fixed, and
snapped it at the door. There came the great blare of the flashlight, and
a simultaneous roar of barking from the two dogs.
"The intensity of the flash made all the place seem dark for some
moments, and in that time of darkness, I heard a jingle in the direction
of the door, and strained to look. The effect of the bright light passed,
and I could see clearly again. The great entrance door was being slowly
closed. It shut with a sharp snick, and there followed a long silence,
broken only by the whimpering of the dogs.
"I turned suddenly, and looked at Wentworth. He was looking at me.
"'Just as it did before,' he whispered.
"'Most extraordinary,' I said, and he nodded and looked 'round,
"The policemen were pretty quiet, and I judged that they were feeling
rather worse than Wentworth; though, for that matter, you must not think
that I was altogether natural; yet I have seen so much that is
extraordinary, that I daresay I can keep my nerves steady longer than
"I looked over my shoulder at the men, and cautioned them, in a low
voice, not to move outside of the Barriers, _whatever happened_; not even
though the house should seem to be rocking and about to tumble on to
them; for well I knew what some of the great Forces are capable of doing.
Yet, unless it should prove to be one of the cases of the more terrible
Saiitii Manifestation, we were almost certain of safety, so long as we
kept to our order within the Pentacle.
"Perhaps an hour and a half passed, quietly, except when, once in a way,
the dogs would whine distressfully. Presently, however, they ceased even
from this, and I could see them lying on the floor with their paws over
their noses, in a most peculiar fashion, and shivering visibly. The
sight made me feel more serious, as you can understand.
"Suddenly, the candle in the corner furthest from the main door, went
out. An instant later, Wentworth jerked my arm, and I saw that the candle
before one of the sealed doors had been put out. I held my camera ready.
Then, one after another, every candle about the hall was put out, and
with such speed and irregularity, that I could never catch one in the
actual act of being extinguished. Yet, for all that, I took a flashlight
of the hall in general.
"There was a time in which I sat half-blinded by the great glare of the
flash, and I blamed myself for not having remembered to bring a pair of
smoked goggles, which I have sometimes used at these times. I had felt
the men jump, at the sudden light, and I called out loud to them to sit
quiet, and to keep their feet exactly to their proper places. My voice,
as you can imagine, sounded rather horrid and frightening in the great
room, and altogether it was a beastly moment.
"Then, I was able to see again, and I stared here and there about the
hall; but there was nothing showing unusual; only, of course, it was dark
now over in the corners.
"Suddenly, I saw that the great fire was blackening. It was going out
visibly, as I looked. If I said that some monstrous, invisible,
impossible creature sucked the life from it, I could best explain the
way the light and flame went out of it. It was most extraordinary to
watch. In the time that I watched it, every vestige of fire was gone
from it, and there was no light outside of the ring of candles around
"The deliberateness of the thing troubled me more than I can make clear
to you. It conveyed to me such a sense of a calm Deliberate Force present
in the hall: The steadfast intention to 'make a darkness' was horrible.
The _extent_ of the Power to affect the Material was the steadfast
intention to 'make a darkness' was horrible. The extent of the Power to
affect the Material was now the one constant, anxious questioning in my
brain. You can understand?
"Behind me, I heard the policemen moving again, and I knew that they were
getting thoroughly frightened. I turned half 'round, and told them,
quietly but plainly, that they were safe only so long as they stayed
within the Pentacle, in the position in which I had put them. If they
once broke, and went outside of the Barrier, no knowledge of mine could
state the full extent of the dreadfulness of the danger.
"I steadied them up, by this quiet, straight reminder; but if they had
known, as I knew, that there is no certainty in any 'Protection,' they
would have suffered a great deal more, and probably have broken the
'Defense,' and made a mad, foolish run for an impossible safety.
"Another hour passed, after this, in an absolute quietness. I had a sense
of awful strain and oppression, as though I were a little spirit in the
company of some invisible, brooding monster of the unseen world, who, as
yet, was scarcely conscious of us. I leant across to Wentworth, and asked
him in a whisper whether he had a feeling as if something were in the
room. He looked very pale, and his eyes kept always on the move. He
glanced just once at me, and nodded; then stared away 'round the hall
again. And when I came to think, I was doing the same thing.
"Abruptly, as though a hundred unseen hands had snuffed them, every
candle in the Barrier went dead out, and we were left in a darkness that
seemed, for a little, absolute; for the light from the Pentacle was too
weak and pale to penetrate far across the great hall.
"I tell you, for a moment, I just sat there as though I had been frozen
solid. I felt the 'creep' go all over me, and seem to stop in my brain. I
felt all at once to be given a power of hearing that was far beyond the
normal. I could hear my own heart thudding most given a power of hearing
that was far beyond the normal. I could hear my own heart thudding most
extraordinarily loud. I began, however, to feel better, after a while;
but I simply had not the pluck to move. You can understand?
"Presently, I began to get my courage back. I gripped at my camera and
flashlight, and waited. My hands were simply soaked with sweat. I glanced
once at Wentworth. I could see him only dimly. His shoulders were hunched
a little, his head forward; but though it was motionless, I knew that his
eyes were not. It is queer how one knows that sort of thing at times. The
police were just as silent. And thus a while passed.
"A sudden sound broke across the silence. From two sides of the room
there came faint noises. I recognized them at once, as the breaking of
the sealing-wax. _The sealed doors were opening._ I raised the camera and
flashlight, and it was a peculiar mixture of fear and courage that helped
me to press the button. As the great flare of light lit up the hall I
felt the men all about me jump. The darkness fell like a clap of thunder,
if you can understand, and seemed tenfold. Yet, in the moment of
brightness, I had seen that all the sealed doors were wide open.
"Suddenly, all around us, there sounded a drip, drip, drip, upon the
floor of the great hall. I thrilled with a queer, realizing emotion, and
a sense of a very real and present danger--_imminent._ The 'blood-drip'
had commenced. And the grim question was now whether the Barriers could
save us from whatever had come into the huge room.
"Through some awful minutes the 'blood-drip' continued to fall in an
increasing rain; and presently some began to fall within the Barriers. I
saw several great drops splash and star upon the pale glowing
intertwining tubes of the Electric Pentacle; but, strangely enough, I
could not trace that any fell among us. Beyond the strange horrible noise
of the 'drip,' there was no other sound. And then, abruptly, from the
boarhound over in the far corner, there came a terrible yelling howl of
agony, followed instantly by a sickening, breaking noise, and an
immediate silence. If you have ever, when out shooting, broken a rabbit's
neck, you will know the sound--in miniature! Like lightning, the thought
sprang into my brain:--_IT has crossed the Pentacle._ For you will
remember that I had made one about each of the dogs. I thought instantly,
with a sick apprehension, of our own Barriers. There was something in the
hall with us that had passed the Barrier of the Pentacle about one of the
dogs. In the awful succeeding silence, I positively quivered. And
suddenly, one of the men behind me, gave out a scream, like any woman,
and bolted for the door. He fumbled, and had it open in a moment. I
yelled to the others not to move; but they followed like sheep, and I
heard them kick the candles flying, in their panic. One of them stepped
on the Electric Pentacle, and smashed it, and there was an utter
darkness. In an instant, I realized that I was defenseless against the
powers of the Unknown World, and with one savage leap I was out of the
useless Barriers, and instantly through the great doorway, and into the
night. I believe I yelled with sheer funk.
"The men were a little ahead of me, and I never ceased running, and
neither did they. Sometimes, I glanced back over my shoulder; and I kept
glancing into the laurels which grew all along the drive. The beastly
things kept rustling, rustling in a hollow sort of way, as though
something were keeping parallel with me, among them. The rain had
stopped, and a dismal little wind kept moaning through the grounds. It
"I caught Wentworth and the police at the lodge gate. We got outside, and
ran all the way to the village. We found old Dennis up, waiting for us,
and half the villagers to keep him company. He told us that he had known
in his 'sowl' that we should come back, that is, if we came back at all;
which is not a bad rendering of his remark.
"Fortunately, I had brought my camera away from the house--possibly
because the strap had happened to be over my head. Yet, I did not go
straight away to develop; but sat with the rest of the bar, where we
talked for some hours, trying to be coherent about the whole
"Later, however, I went up to my room, and proceeded with my photography.
I was steadier now, and it was just possible, so I hoped, that the
negatives might show something.
"On two of the plates, I found nothing unusual: but on the third, which
was the first one that I snapped, I saw something that made me quite
excited. I examined it very carefully with a magnifying glass; then I put
it to wash, and slipped a pair of rubber overshoes over my boots.
"The negative had showed me something very extraordinary, and I had made
up my mind to test the truth of what it seemed to indicate, without
losing another moment. It was no use telling anything to Wentworth and
the police, until I was certain; and, also, I believed that I stood a
greater chance to succeed by myself; though, for that matter, I do not
suppose anything would have taken them up to the Manor again that night.
"I took my revolver, and went quietly downstairs, and into the dark. The
rain had commenced again; but that did not bother me. I walked hard. When
I came to the lodge gates, a sudden, queer instinct stopped me from going
through, and I climbed the wall into the park. I kept away from the
drive, and approached the building through the dismal, dripping laurels.
You can imagine how beastly it was. Every time a leaf rustled, I jumped.
"I made my way 'round to the back of the big house, and got in through a
little window which I had taken note of during my search; for, of course,
I knew the whole place from roof to cellars. I went silently up the
kitchen stairs, fairly quivering with funk; and at the top, I went to the
left, and then into a long corridor that opened, through one of the
doorways we had sealed, into the big hall. I looked up it, and saw a
faint flicker of light away at the end; and I tiptoed silently toward it,
holding my revolver ready. As I came near to the open door, I heard men's
voices, and then a burst of laughing. I went on, until I could see into
the hall. There were several men there, all in a group. They were well
dressed, and one, at least, I saw was armed. They were examining my
'Barriers' against the Supernatural, with a good deal of unkind laughter.
I never felt such a fool in my life.
"It was plain to me that they were a gang of men who had made use of the
empty Manor, perhaps for years, for some purpose of their own; and now
that Wentworth was attempting to take possession, they were acting up the
traditions of the place, with the view of driving him away, and keeping
so useful a place still at their disposal. But what they were, I mean
whether coiners, thieves, inventors, or what, I could not imagine.
"Presently, they left the Pentacle, and gathered 'round the living
boarhound, which seemed curiously quiet, as though it were half-drugged.
There was some talk as to whether to let the poor brute live, or not; but
finally they decided it would be good policy to kill it. I saw two of
them force a twisted loop of rope into its mouth, and the two bights of
the loop were brought together at the back of the hound's neck. Then a
third man thrust a thick walking-stick through the two loops. The two men
with the rope, stooped to hold the dog, so that I could not see what was
done; but the poor beast gave a sudden awful howl, and immediately there
was a repetition of the uncomfortable breaking sound, I had heard earlier
in the night, as you will remember.
"The men stood up, and left the dog lying there, quiet enough now, as you
may suppose. For my part, I fully appreciated the calculated
remorselessness which had decided upon the animal's death, and the cold
determination with which it had been afterward executed so neatly. I
guessed that a man who might get into the 'light' of those particular
men, would be likely to come to quite as uncomfortable an ending.
"A minute later, one of the men called out to the rest that they should
'shift the wires.' One of the men came toward the doorway of the corridor
in which I stood, and I ran quickly back into the darkness of the upper
end. I saw the man reach up, and take something from the top of the door,
and I heard the slight, ringing jangle of steel wire.
"When he had gone, I ran back again, and saw the men passing, one after
another, through an opening in the stairs, formed by one of the marble
steps being raised. When the last man had vanished, the slab that made
the step was shut down, and there was not a sign of the secret door. It
was the seventh step from the bottom, as I took care to count: and a
splendid idea; for it was so solid that it did not ring hollow, even to a
fairly heavy hammer, as I found later.
"There is little more to tell. I got out of the house as quickly and
quietly as possible, and back to the inn. The police came without any
coaxing, when they knew the 'ghosts' were normal flesh and blood. We
entered the park and the Manor in the same way that I had done. Yet, when
we tried to open the step, we failed, and had finally to smash it. This
must have warned the haunters; for when we descended to a secret room
which we found at the end of a long and narrow passage in the thickness
of the walls, we found no one.
"The police were horribly disgusted, as you can imagine; but for my
part, I did not care either way. I had 'laid the ghost,' as you might
say, and that was what I set out to do. I was not particularly afraid of
being laughed at by the others; for they had all been thoroughly 'taken
in'; and in the end, I had scored, without their help.
"We searched right through the secret ways, and found that there was an
exit, at the end of a long tunnel, which opened in the side of a well,
out in the grounds. The ceiling of the hall was hollow, and reached by a
little secret stairway inside of the big staircase. The 'blood-drip' was
merely colored water, dropped through the minute crevices of the
ornamented ceiling. How the candles and the fire were put out, I do not
know; for the haunters certainly did not act quite up to tradition, which
held that the lights were put out by the 'blood-drip.' Perhaps it was too
difficult to direct the fluid, without positively squirting it, which
might have given the whole thing away. The candles and the fire may
possibly have been extinguished by the agency of carbonic acid gas; but
how suspended, I have no idea.
"The secret hiding paces were, of course, ancient. There was also, did I
tell you? a bell which they had rigged up to ring, when anyone entered
the gates at the end of the drive. If I had not climbed the wall, I
should have found nothing for my pains; for the bell would have warned
them had I gone in through the gateway."
"What was on the negative?" I asked, with much curiosity.
"A picture of the fine wire with which they were grappling for the hook
that held the entrance door open. They were doing it from one of the
crevices in the ceiling. They had evidently made no preparations for
lifting the hook. I suppose they never thought that anyone would make
use of it, and so they had to improvise a grapple. The wire was too fine
to be seen by the amount of light we had in the hall; but the flashlight
'picked it out.' Do you see?
"The opening of the inner doors was managed by wires, as you will have
guessed, which they unshipped after use, or else I should soon have found
them, when I made my search.
"I think I have now explained everything. The hound was killed, of
course, by the men direct. You see, they made the place as dark as
possible, first. Of course, if I had managed to take a flashlight just at
that instant, the whole secret of the haunting would have been exposed.
But Fate just ordered it the other way."
"And the tramps?" I asked.
"Oh, you mean the two tramps who were found dead in the Manor," said
Carnacki. "Well, of course it is impossible to be sure, one way or the
other. Perhaps they happened to find out something, and were given a
hypodermic. Or it is just as probable that they had come to the time of
their dying, and just died naturally. It is conceivable that a great many
tramps had slept in the old house, at one time or another."
Carnacki stood up, and knocked out his pipe. We rose also, and went for
our coats and hats.
"Out you go!" said Carnacki, genially, using the recognized formula. And
we went out on to the Embankment, and presently through the darkness to
our various homes.
THE WHISTLING ROOM
Carnacki shook a friendly fist at me as I entered, late. Then he opened
the door into the dining room, and ushered the four of us--Jessop,
Arkright, Taylor and myself--in to dinner.
We dined well, as usual, and, equally as usual, Carnacki was pretty
silent during the meal. At the end, we took our wine and cigars to our
usual positions, and Carnacki--having got himself comfortable in his big
chair--began without any preliminary:--
"I have just got back from Ireland, again," he said. "And I thought you
chaps would be interested to hear my news. Besides, I fancy I shall see
the thing clearer, after I have told it all out straight. I must tell you
this, though, at the beginning--up to the present moment, I have been
utterly and completely 'stumped.' I have tumbled upon one of the most
peculiar cases of 'haunting'--or devilment of some sort--that I have come
against. Now listen.
"I have been spending the last few weeks at Iastrae Castle, about twenty
miles northeast of Galway. I got a letter about a month ago from a Mr.
Sid K. Tassoc, who it seemed had bought the place lately, and moved in,
only to find that he had bought a very peculiar piece of property.
"When I got there, he met me at the station, driving a jaunting car, and
drove me up to the castle, which, by the way, he called a 'house shanty.'
I found that he was 'pigging it' there with his boy brother and another
American, who seemed to be half-servant and half-companion. It seems that
all the servants had left the place, in a body, as you might say, and now
they were managing among themselves, assisted by some day-help.
"The three of them got together a scratch feed, and Tassoc told me all
about the trouble whilst we were at table. It is most extraordinary, and
different from anything that I have had to do with; though that Buzzing
Case was very queer, too.
"Tassoc began right in the middle of his story. 'We've got a room in this
shanty,' he said, 'which has got a most infernal whistling in it; sort of
haunting it. The thing starts any time; you never know when, and it goes
on until it frightens you. All the servants have gone, as you know. It's
not ordinary whistling, and it isn't the wind. Wait till you hear it.'
"'We're all carrying guns,' said the boy; and slapped his coat pocket.
"'As bad as that?' I said; and the older boy nodded. 'It may be soft,' he
replied; 'but wait till you've heard it. Sometimes I think it's some
infernal thing, and the next moment, I'm just as sure that someone's
playing a trick on me.'
"'Why?' I asked. 'What is to be gained?'
"'You mean,' he said, 'that people usually have some good reason for
playing tricks as elaborate as this. Well, I'll tell you. There's a lady
in this province, by the name of Miss Donnehue, who's going to be my
wife, this day two months. She's more beautiful than they make them, and
so far as I can see, I've just stuck my head into an Irish hornet's nest.
There's about a score of hot young Irishmen been courting her these two
years gone, and now that I'm come along and cut them out, they feel raw
against me. Do you begin to understand the possibilities?'
"'Yes,' I said. 'Perhaps I do in a vague sort of way; but I don't see how
all this affects the room?'
"'Like this,' he said. 'When I'd fixed it up with Miss Donnehue, I looked
out for a place, and bought this little house shanty. Afterward, I told
her--one evening during dinner, that I'd decided to tie up here. And then
she asked me whether I wasn't afraid of the whistling room. I told her it
must have been thrown in gratis, as I'd heard nothing about it. There
were some of her men friends present, and I saw a smile go 'round. I
found out, after a bit of questioning, that several people have bought
this place during the last twenty-odd years. And it was always on the
market again, after a trial.
"'Well, the chaps started to bait me a bit, and offered to take bets
after dinner that I'd not stay six months in the place. I looked once or
twice to Miss Donnehue, so as to be sure I was "getting the note" of the
talkee-talkee; but I could see that she didn't take it as a joke, at all.
Partly, I think, because there was a bit of a sneer in the way the men
were tackling me, and partly because she really believes there is
something in this yarn of the Whistling Room.
"'However, after dinner, I did what I could to even things up with the
others. I nailed all their bets, and screwed them down hard and safe. I
guess some of them are going to be hard hit, unless I lose; which I don't
mean to. Well, there you have practically the whole yarn.'
"'Not quite,' I told him. 'All that I know, is that you have bought a
castle with a room in it that is in some way "queer," and that you've
been doing some betting. Also, I know that your servants have got
frightened and run away. Tell me something about the whistling?'
"'Oh, that!' said Tassoc; 'that started the second night we were in. I'd
had a good look 'round the room, in the daytime, as you can understand;
for the talk up at Arlestrae--Miss Donnehue's place--had made me wonder a
bit. But it seems just as usual as some of the other rooms in the old
wing, only perhaps a bit more lonesome. But that may be only because of
the talk about it, you know.
"'The whistling started about ten o'clock, on the second night, as I
said. Tom and I were in the library, when we heard an awfully queer
whistling, coming along the East Corridor--The room is in the East
Wing, you know.
"'That's that blessed ghost!' I said to Tom, and we collared the lamps
off the table, and went up to have a look. I tell you, even as we dug
along the corridor, it took me a bit in the throat, it was so beastly
queer. It was a sort of tune, in a way; but more as if a devil or some
rotten thing were laughing at you, and going to get 'round at your back.
That's how it makes you feel.
"'When we got to the door, we didn't wait; but rushed it open; and
then I tell you the sound of the thing fairly hit me in the face. Tom
said he got it the same way--sort of felt stunned and bewildered. We
looked all 'round, and soon got so nervous, we just cleared out, and I
locked the door.
"'We came down here, and had a stiff peg each. Then we got fit again, and
began to think we'd been nicely had. So we took sticks, and went out into
the grounds, thinking after all it must be some of these confounded
Irishmen working the ghost-trick on us. But there was not a leg stirring.
"'We went back into the house, and walked over it, and then paid another
visit to the room. But we simply couldn't stand it. We fairly ran out,
and locked the door again. I don't know how to put it into words; but I
had a feeling of being up against something that was rottenly dangerous.
You know! We've carried our guns ever since.
"'Of course, we had a real turn out of the room next day, and the whole
house place; and we even hunted 'round the grounds; but there was nothing
queer. And now I don't know what to think; except that the sensible part
of me tells me that it's some plan of these Wild Irishmen to try to take
a rise out of me.'
"'Done anything since?' I asked him.
"'Yes,' he said--'watched outside of the door of the room at nights, and
chased 'round the grounds, and sounded the walls and floor of the room.
We've done everything we could think of; and it's beginning to get on our
nerves; so we sent for you.'
"By this, we had finished eating. As we rose from the table, Tassoc
suddenly called out:--'Ssh! Hark!'
"We were instantly silent, listening. Then I heard it, an extraordinary
hooning whistle, monstrous and inhuman, coming from far away through
corridors to my right.
"'By G--d!' said Tassoc; 'and it's scarcely dark yet! Collar those
candles, both of you, and come along.'
"In a few moments, we were all out of the door and racing up the stairs.
Tassoc turned into a long corridor, and we followed, shielding our
candles as we ran. The sound seemed to fill all the passage as we drew
near, until I had the feeling that the whole air throbbed under the power
of some wanton Immense Force--a sense of an actual taint, as you might
say, of monstrosity all about us.
"Tassoc unlocked the door; then, giving it a push with his foot, jumped
back, and drew his revolver. As the door flew open, the sound beat out at
us, with an effect impossible to explain to one who has not heard
it--with a certain, horrible personal note in it; as if in there in the
darkness you could picture the room rocking and creaking in a mad, vile
glee to its own filthy piping and whistling and hooning. To stand there
and listen, was to be stunned by Realization. It was as if someone showed
you the mouth of a vast pit suddenly, and said:--That's Hell. And you
knew that they had spoken the truth. Do you get it, even a little bit?
"I stepped back a pace into the room, and held the candle over my head,
and looked quickly 'round. Tassoc and his brother joined me, and the man
came up at the back, and we all held our candles high. I was deafened
with the shrill, piping hoon of the whistling; and then, clear in my
ear, something seemed to be saying to me:--'Get out of here--quick!
"As you chaps know, I never neglect that sort of thing. Sometimes it may
be nothing but nerves; but as you will remember, it was just such a
warning that saved me in the 'Grey Dog' Case, and in the 'Yellow Finger'
Experiments; as well as other times. Well, I turned sharp 'round to the
others: 'Out!' I said. 'For God's sake, _out_ quick.' And in an instant I
had them into the passage.
"There came an extraordinary yelling scream into the hideous whistling,
and then, like a clap of thunder, an utter silence. I slammed the door,
and locked it. Then, taking the key, I looked 'round at the others. They
were pretty white, and I imagine I must have looked that way too. And
there we stood a moment, silent.
"'Come down out of this, and have some whisky,' said Tassoc, at last, in
a voice he tried to make ordinary; and he led the way. I was the back
man, and I know we all kept looking over our shoulders. When we got
downstairs, Tassoc passed the bottle 'round. He took a drink, himself,
and slapped his glass down on to the table. Then sat down with a thud.
"'That's a lovely thing to have in the house with you, isn't it!' he
said. And directly afterward:--'What on earth made you hustle us all out
like that, Carnacki?'
"'Something seemed to be telling me to get out, quick,' I said. 'Sounds a
bit silly, superstitious, I know; but when you are meddling with this
sort of thing, you've got to take notice of queer fancies, and risk being
"I told him then about the 'Grey Dog' business, and he nodded a lot to
that. 'Of course,' I said, 'this may be nothing more than those would-be
rivals of yours playing some funny game; but, personally, though I'm
going to keep an open mind, I feel that there is something beastly and
dangerous about this thing.'
"We talked for a while longer, and then Tassoc suggested billiards, which
we played in a pretty half-hearted fashion, and all the time cocking an
ear to the door, as you might say, for sounds; but none came, and later,
after coffee, he suggested early bed, and a thorough overhaul of the room
on the morrow.
"My bedroom was in the newer part of the castle, and the door opened into
the picture gallery. At the East end of the gallery was the entrance to
the corridor of the East Wing; this was shut off from the gallery by two
old and heavy oak doors, which looked rather odd and quaint beside the
more modern doors of the various rooms.
"When I reached my room, I did not go to bed; but began to unpack my
instrument trunk, of which I had retained the key. I intended to take one
or two preliminary steps at once, in my investigation of the
"Presently, when the castle had settled into quietness, I slipped out of
my room, and across to the entrance of the great corridor. I opened one
of the low, squat doors, and threw the beam of my pocket searchlight
down the passage. It was empty, and I went through the doorway, and
pushed-to the oak behind me. Then along the great passageway, throwing my
light before and behind, and keeping my revolver handy.
"I had hung a 'protection belt' of garlic 'round my neck, and the smell
of it seemed to fill the corridor and give me assurance; for, as you all
know, it is a wonderful 'protection' against the more usual Aeiirii forms
of semi-materialization, by which I supposed the whistling might be
produced; though, at that period of my investigation, I was quite
prepared to find it due to some perfectly natural cause; for it is
astonishing the enormous number of cases that prove to have nothing
abnormal in them.
"In addition to wearing the necklet, I had plugged my ears loosely with
garlic, and as I did not intend to stay more than a few minutes in the
room, I hoped to be safe.
"When I reached the door, and put my hand into my pocket for the key, I
had a sudden feeling of sickening funk. But I was not going to back out,
if I could help it. I unlocked the door and turned the handle. Then I
gave the door a sharp push with my foot, as Tassoc had done, and drew my
revolver, though I did not expect to have any use for it, really.
"I shone the searchlight all 'round the room, and then stepped inside,
with a disgustingly horrible feeling of walking slap into a waiting
Danger. I stood a few seconds, waiting, and nothing happened, and the
empty room showed bare from corner to corner. And then, you know, I
realized that the room was full of an abominable silence; can you
understand that? A sort of purposeful silence, just as sickening as any
of the filthy noises the Things have power to make. Do you remember what
I told you about that 'Silent Garden' business? Well, this room had just
that same _malevolent_ silence--the beastly quietness of a thing that is
looking at you and not seeable itself, and thinks that it has got you.
Oh, I recognized it instantly, and I whipped the top off my lantern, so
as to have light over the _whole_ room.
"Then I set-to, working like fury, and keeping my glance all about me. I
sealed the two windows with lengths of human hair, right across, and
sealed them at every frame. As I worked, a queer, scarcely perceptible
tenseness stole into the air of the place, and the silence seemed, if you
can understand me, to grow more solid. I knew then that I had no business
there without 'full protection'; for I was practically certain that this
was no mere Aeiirii development; but one of the worst forms, as the
Saiitii; like that 'Grunting Man' case--you know.
"I finished the window, and hurried over to the great fireplace. This is
a huge affair, and has a queer gallows-iron, I think they are called,
projecting from the back of the arch. I sealed the opening with seven
human hairs--the seventh crossing the six others.
"Then, just as I was making an end, a low, mocking whistle grew in the
room. A cold, nervous pricking went up my spine, and 'round my forehead
from the back. The hideous sound filled all the room with an
extraordinary, grotesque parody of human whistling, too gigantic to be
human--as if something gargantuan and monstrous made the sounds softly.
As I stood there a last moment, pressing down the final seal, I had no
doubt but that I had come across one of those rare and horrible cases of
the _Inanimate_ reproducing the functions of the _Animate_, I made a
grab for my lamp, and went quickly to the door, looking over my
shoulder, and listening for the thing that I expected. It came, just as
I got my hand upon the handle--a squeal of incredible, malevolent anger,
piercing through the low hooning of the whistling. I dashed out,
slamming the door and locking it. I leant a little against the opposite
wall of the corridor, feeling rather funny; for it had been a narrow
squeak.... 'Theyr be noe sayfetie to be gained bye gayrds of holieness
when the monyster hath pow'r to speak throe woode and stoene.' So runs
the passage in the Sigsand MS., and I proved it in that 'Nodding Door'
business. There is no protection against this particular form of
monster, except, possibly, for a fractional period of time; for it can
reproduce itself in, or take to its purpose, the very protective
material which you may use, and has the power to '_forme_ wythine the
pentycle'; though not immediately. There is, of course, the possibility
of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual being uttered; but it is
too uncertain to count upon, and the danger is too hideous; and even
then it has no power to protect for more than 'maybee fyve beats of the
harte,' as the Sigsand has it.
"Inside of the room, there was now a constant, meditative, hooning
whistling; but presently this ceased, and the silence seemed worse; for
there is such a sense of hidden mischief in a silence.
"After a little, I sealed the door with crossed hairs, and then cleared
off down the great passage, and so to bed.
"For a long time I lay awake; but managed eventually to get some sleep.
Yet, about two o'clock I was waked by the hooning whistling of the room
coming to me, even through the closed doors. The sound was tremendous,
and seemed to beat through the whole house with a presiding sense of
terror. As if (I remember thinking) some monstrous giant had been holding
mad carnival with itself at the end of that great passage.
"I got up and sat on the edge of the bed, wondering whether to go along
and have a look at the seal; and suddenly there came a thump on my door,
and Tassoc walked in, with his dressing gown over his pajamas.
"'I thought it would have waked you, so I came along to have a talk,' he
said. '_I_ can't sleep. Beautiful! Isn't it!'
"'Extraordinary!' I said, and tossed him my case.
"He lit a cigarette, and we sat and talked for about an hour; and all the
time that noise went on, down at the end of the big corridor.
"Suddenly, Tassoc stood up:--
"'Let's take our guns, and go and examine the brute,' he said, and turned
toward the door.
"'No!' I said. 'By Jove--_no!_ I can't say anything definite, yet; but I
believe that room is about as dangerous as it well can be.'
"'Haunted--_really_ haunted?' he asked, keenly and without any of his
"I told him, of course, that I could not say a definite _yes_ or _no_ to
such a question; but that I hoped to be able to make a statement, soon.
Then I gave him a little lecture on the False Re-Materialization of the
Animate-Force through the Inanimate-Inert. He began then to see the
particular way in the room might be dangerous, if it were really the
subject of a manifestation.
"About an hour later, the whistling ceased quite suddenly, and Tassoc
went off again to bed. I went back to mine, also, and eventually got
another spell of sleep.
"In the morning, I went along to the room. I found the seals on the door
intact. Then I went in. The window seals and the hair were all right; but
the seventh hair across the great fireplace was broken. This set me
thinking. I knew that it might, very possibly, have snapped, through my
having tensioned it too highly; but then, again, it might have been
broken by something else. Yet, it was scarcely possible that a man, for
instance, could have passed between the six unbroken hairs; for no one
would ever have noticed them, entering the room that way, you see; but
just walked through them, ignorant of their very existence.
"I removed the other hairs, and the seals. Then I looked up the chimney.
It went up straight, and I could see blue sky at the top. It was a big,
open flue, and free from any suggestion of hiding places, or corners.
Yet, of course, I did not trust to any such casual examination, and after
breakfast, I put on my overalls, and climbed to the very top, sounding
all the way; but I found nothing.
"Then I came down, and went over the whole of the room--floor, ceiling,
and walls, mapping them out in six-inch squares, and sounding with both
hammer and probe. But there was nothing abnormal.
"Afterward, I made a three-weeks search of the whole castle, in the same
thorough way; but found nothing. I went even further, then; for at night,
when the whistling commenced, I made a microphone test. You see, if the
whistling were mechanically produced, this test would have made evident
to me the working of the machinery, if there were any such concealed
within the walls. It certainly was an up-to-date method of examination,
as you must allow.
"Of course, I did not think that any of Tassoc's rivals had fixed up any
mechanical contrivance; but I thought it just possible that there had
been some such thing for producing the whistling, made away back in the
years, perhaps with the intention of giving the room a reputation that
would ensure its being free of inquisitive folk. You see what I mean?
Well, of course, it was just possible, if this were the case, that
someone knew the secret of the machinery, and was utilizing the knowledge
to play this devil of a prank on Tassoc. The microphone test of the walls
would certainly have made this known to me, as I have said; but there was
nothing of the sort in the castle; so that I had practically no doubt at
all now, but that it was a genuine case of what is popularly termed
"All this time, every night, and sometimes most of each night, the
hooning whistling of the Room was intolerable. It was as if an
intelligence there knew that steps were being taken against it, and piped
and hooned in a sort of mad, mocking contempt. I tell you, it was as
extraordinary as it was horrible. Time after time, I went
along--tiptoeing noiselessly on stockinged feet--to the sealed door (for
I always kept the Room sealed). I went at all hours of the night, and
often the whistling, inside, would seem to change to a brutally malignant
note, as though the half-animate monster saw me plainly through the shut
door. And all the time the shrieking, hooning whistling would fill the
whole corridor, so that I used to feel a precious lonely chap, messing
about there with one of Hell's mysteries.
"And every morning, I would enter the room, and examine the different
hairs and seals. You see, after the first week, I had stretched parallel
hairs all along the walls of the room, and along the ceiling; but over
the floor, which was of polished stone, I had set out little, colorless
wafers, tacky-side uppermost. Each wafer was numbered, and they were
arranged after a definite plan, so that I should be able to trace the
exact movements of any living thing that went across the floor.
"You will see that no material being or creature could possibly have
entered that room, without leaving many signs to tell me about it. But
nothing was ever disturbed, and I began to think that I should have to
risk an attempt to stay the night in the room, in the Electric Pentacle.
Yet, mind you, I knew that it would be a crazy thing to do; but I was
getting stumped, and ready to do anything.
"Once, about midnight, I did break the seal on the door, and have a quick
look in; but, I tell you, the whole Room gave one mad yell, and seemed to
come toward me in a great belly of shadows, as if the walls had bellied
in toward me. Of course, that must have been fancy. Anyway, the yell was
sufficient, and I slammed the door, and locked it, feeling a bit weak
down my spine. You know the feeling.
"And then, when I had got to that state of readiness for anything, I made
something of a discovery. It was about one in the morning, and I was
walking slowly 'round the castle, keeping in the soft grass. I had come
under the shadow of the East Front, and far above me, I could hear the
vile, hooning whistle of the Room, up in the darkness of the unlit wing.
Then, suddenly, a little in front of me, I heard a man's voice, speaking
low, but evidently in glee:--
"'By George! You Chaps; but I wouldn't care to bring a wife home in
that!' it said, in the tone of the cultured Irish.
"Someone started to reply; but there came a sharp exclamation, and then a
rush, and I heard footsteps running in all directions. Evidently, the men
had spotted me.
"For a few seconds, I stood there, feeling an awful ass. After all,
_they_ were at the bottom of the haunting! Do you see what a big fool it
made me seem? I had no doubt but that they were some of Tassoc's rivals;
and here I had been feeling in every bone that I had hit a real, bad,
genuine Case! And then, you know, there came the memory of hundreds of
details, that made me just as much in doubt again. Anyway, whether it was
natural, or ab-natural, there was a great deal yet to be cleared up.
"I told Tassoc, next morning, what I had discovered, and through the
whole of every night, for five nights, we kept a close watch 'round the
East Wing; but there was never a sign of anyone prowling about; and all
the time, almost from evening to dawn, that grotesque whistling would
hoon incredibly, far above us in the darkness.
"On the morning after the fifth night, I received a wire from here,
which brought me home by the next boat. I explained to Tassoc that I was
simply bound to come away for a few days; but told him to keep up the
watch 'round the castle. One thing I was very careful to do, and that
was to make him absolutely promise never to go into the Room, between
sunset and sunrise. I made it clear to him that we knew nothing definite
yet, one way or the other; and if the room were what I had first thought
it to be, it might be a lot better for him to die first, than enter it
"When I got here, and had finished my business, I thought you chaps would
be interested; and also I wanted to get it all spread out clear in my
mind; so I rung you up. I am going over again to-morrow, and when I get
back, I ought to have something pretty extraordinary to tell you. By the
way, there is a curious thing I forgot to tell you. I tried to get a
phonographic record of the whistling; but it simply produced no
impression on the wax at all. That is one of the things that has made me
feel queer, I can tell you. Another extraordinary thing is that the
microphone will not magnify the sound--will not even transmit it; seems
to take no account of it, and acts as if it were nonexistent. I am
absolutely and utterly stumped, up to the present. I am a wee bit curious
to see whether any of your dear clever heads can make daylight of it. _I_
He rose to his feet.
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