Authors: Sam Gafford
Edited by Sam Gafford
CARNACKI: The New Adventures
© 2013 by Sam Gafford
© 2014 by Ulthar Press
Cover illustration by M. S. Corley
Logo by M. S. Corley
All Rights Reserved
Published by Ulthar Press
Introduction by Sam Gafford……………………………….….4
CARNACKI: CAPTAIN GAULT’S NEMESIS
A GASLIGHT HORROR
P. V. Ross……………………………………………..41
CARNACKI AND THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE
THE SPAR: A STORY OF CARNACKI
THE BRAES OF THE BLACKSTARR
Robert E. Jefferson……………………………………81
THE MAGICIAN’S STUDY
HOW THEY MET THEMSELVES
Charles R. Rutledge………………………………….108
THE HAUNTING OF TRANQUIL HOUSE
THE GHOSTS OF KUSKULANA
Amy K. Marshall…………………………………….140
A JOB FOR CARNACKI
Robert M. Price………………………………...……159
AUDIENCE WITH THE GHOST-FINDER
M. J. Starling………………………………………...174
arnacki, the Ghost-Finder, first appeared in the pages of the
magazine more than a hundred years ago. I often wonder what the readers of that magazine must have thought about this strange, almost rude character.
After all, his personality was certainly not very pleasant.
Perhaps his creator, William Hope Hodgson, had hoped to meld the famous crankiness of Sherlock Holmes with his idea of a ‘ghost detective,’ and this was the result.
Carnacki is often
brusque and gruff to others. He invites his friends over for dinner and a story and then tosses them out with a terse, “Out you go!” He often speaks down to others as if they cannot understand what he means and is even sometimes terrified by his own cases. Carnacki is clearly not the type of man one would invite over for a quiet spot of tea on a Sunday afternoon.
, this irascible character has managed to cling onto a literary life long after his creator lost his own life in World War I. So what is it about him that appeals to new writers even today?
Carnacki was an early version of the ‘occult dete
ctive,’ a subgenre that was beginning to gain popularity in the early years of the twentieth century. Joining J. S. Le Fanu’s Dr. Martin Hesselius and Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence, Carnacki was unique in the fact that he used ‘modern’ science in his investigations. Unlike other occult detectives, Carnacki did not rely completely on ancient grimoires or spells and rituals but added a more scientific procedure to his cases.
Upon beginning an investigation, Carnacki would make extensive physical examinations of the locations that could often take days to complete.
Afterward, he would use the new technology of photography to catch either spirits or hoaxers in the act. If future action were needed, Carnacki would employ his famous ‘electric pentacle,’ which was a series of colored vacuum tubes that would serve as a barrier between him and the forces from the ‘outer dimensions.’
Hodgson died in 1918 after having written only nine Carnacki stories.
They were collected in a new edition by the small press publisher Mycroft & Moran (a division of Arkham House) in 1947. Since its appearance in paperback in 1974, it’s rarely been out of print and is available today from several ebook publishers as well as from print-on-demand distributors.
The only thing that overshadows this accomplis
hment is the fact that Carnacki himself has taken on a life of his own
Hodgson’s stories. Other writers began to pen tales of Carnacki’s adventures, while still more began to use Carancki as a character in their own stories.
F. Kidd and Rick Kennett wrote four new stories about Carnacki’s adventures in the 1992 collection
No. 472 Cheyne Walk: Carnacki, the Untold Stories.
This volume was augmented to twelve stories in an Ash-Tree Press reissue in 2000. William Meikle continued the trend with his own collection,
Carnacki: Heaven and Hell
(2011). Various other writers have contributed Carnacki stories to anthologies, such as Barbara Hambly’s “The Adventure of the Antiquarian’s Niece” in
Shadows over Baker Street
. This would soon become a trend as Carnacki started appearing as a ‘guest-star’ in other books: he was featured alongside Sherlock Holmes in Guy Adams’s
Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God
(2012) and beside Doctor Who in Andrew Cartmel’s novella
Doctor Who: Foreign Devils
Carnacki made it into comic books as well
, appearing in Alan Moore’s
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century
. Carnacki continues to be referenced in such comics as Warren Ellis’s
(2008) and even in the young adult novel series
by Simon R. Green, where the heroes work for the ‘Carnacki Institute.’
Clearly there was something about this ‘Ghost-Finder’ that would not lie down and go away.
So what better way to celebrate Carnacki than with a series of all
Within these pages, Carnacki faces entirely different challenges such as a mysterious object hidden deep within a smuggler
’s ship in William Meikle’s “Carnacki: Captain Gault’s Nemesis”; Carnacki crosses swords with Josh Reynolds’s occult detective Charles St. Cyprian in “Monmouth’s Giants”; meets an American president in Robert Pohle’s “Carnacki and the President’s Vampire”; fights off nameless curses in “A Gaslight Horror” and “The Spar: A Story of Carnacki”; solves cases of hauntings in “The Magician’s Study” and “The Haunting of Tranquil House”; investigates the baneful curse that befalls a clergyman in Robert M. Price’s “A Job for Carnacki”; and even travels to Alaska aboard a train that is more than it seems in Amy K. Marshall’s “The Ghosts of Kuskulana.” These stories, each unique, captures the spirit of Hodgson’s creation while exposing the Ghost-Finder to new dangers and adventures. We are also honored to present the first play written about Carnacki especially for the stage by playwright M. J. Starling,
Audience with the Ghost-Finder,
which brings the chills into a new medium.
For a hundred years, Carnacki has thrilled and amazed us. This collection shows us that there are still more chills to come. Who knows when next the call will go out for CARNACKI, THE GHOST-FINDER?
was late in reaching Chelsea that Friday night in September, a combination of an overzealous manager in the bank and delays caused by the intensive flooding of the day before. All day I had been hearing tales of woe from residents in dwellings that were either too close to the river or too low-lying to escape. The Thames was still perilously near to its highest point as I hurried along the Embankment, but the tide was ebbing now and the city had survived the worst of it.
Cheyne Walk had come through with no apparent difficulties, and Carnacki was his usual ebullient self through another excellent supper. I had quite forgotten the flooding by the time we settled in our chairs in the parlo
ur and got drinks charged and smokes lit. Carnacki, however, soon brought the recollection back to mind as he started his latest tale.
“I trust you are all warm,” he began, “if not entirely dry. I am afraid I have to take some of the blame for that, although I assure you, the matter was entirely beyond my control from the very start.
“Our tale begins, not yesterday, but early on Wednesd
ay evening, and it started, as all good tales do, very simply, with a knock on my front door. I knew immediately this was no casual caller, for the old brass knocker was struck against the woodwork most firmly, ensuring that the sound could not be mistaken for anything but a caller who would not be leaving the doorstep until he was answered.
“I opened the door to a seafaring man of uncertain age and provenance. He had the leathery, beaten skin of a habitual sailor, the requisite heavy twill jacket, and, as he entered, the rolling, balanced gait of a seasoned deck-walker in heavy seas. At first I took him for a fo
reigner, as his black hair showed thick curls under his cap, and his eyes were deep blue and most piercing. But when he spoke it was in perfect English, albeit with the slightest trace of an accent that I couldn’t quite place at that moment.
“‘You’ll be the man I’m after,’ he said. ‘I have a proposition for you, Mr. Carnacki. How do you feel about a bit of an adventure?’
“Now you chaps know me, I’m not a man to turn away anyone with such an enticing opening gambit. I showed him through to the parlour, sat myself down in this very chair, and, over what proved to be rather a lot of my best Scotch, heard the man out. I will tell you the tale as I was told it, although I will omit some of his more colourful language, for I fear our seaman did not just walk like a sailor, he also had the vocabulary of one.
“He introduced himself as Captain Gault. The name tickled something at the back of my mind, but I left it there for later rumination and paid him my full attention.
’m not what you’d normally call a superstitious man,’ he began. ‘But when you’ve spent as much time at sea as I have, you come to realise that there’s more to life than just death and taxes. And I hear you are also of like mind, which is why I have sought you out, Mr. Carnacki. I seem to have taken on a cargo that I cannot unload, and it is vexing me something right sore. My boat is sat at dock in Greenwich as we speak. The cargo is down in the darkest hold, and my men won’t touch it for love nor money. I tried offering some coin around in the bars down at the dock, but even then, once they’d started down into the hold, they came up and out again right sharpish, and word soon spread. My boat is cursed, plain and simple. And if you don’t help me, Mr. Carnacki, sir, I will be broke, and boatless, afore the week is out.’
it will be obvious to you chaps as it was to me that the good Captain had omitted a lot of detail that could be deemed relevant to the task at hand. But even as he sat there drinking my best Scotch, he refused to be drawn on the particulars, merely insisting that the thing could not be easily explained, but that all would be made clear if I would only accompany him to Greenwich and see for myself.
“I was of more than half a mind to throw him out on his ear, for I had not had my supper and was feeling rather cranky. But I was also intrigued, so I pressed him further for more information. At first I thought he was going to leave of his own accord, then he seemed to come to a decision and spoke just one word, b
ut it was enough to ensure that when he headed for the door, I would follow eagerly.
“The word was
“The captain was obviously less strapped for hard cash than he had intimated, for there was a carriage waiting at the curb, a handsome high one at that. I climbed up beside him, and after he instructed the driver to head for Greenwich, we set off at a fair clip along the Embankment.
“My mind was a whirl of speculation. I wondered why an old sea salt would come to me with a tale involving an ancient Babylonian deity. I wondered what form this ‘
curse’ had taken, and how it was affecting his vessel. And I wondered whether I would be able to partake of any supper that evening or whether I was going to go hungry.
“As it turned out, the c
aptain had ideas of his own in that direction. We were crossing London Bridge and had been sitting smoking in silence for a good quarter of an hour, when he suddenly poked his head out of the window and shouted new instructions to the man up top. It was windy at that point so I failed to catch what was said, but several minutes later we were driven into Borough Market and the carriage came to a halt outside The Market Porter.
“‘I could hardly drag you
out without seeing to your well-being,’ Gault said as we entered the tavern. ‘Come, let me buy you one of the best pork pies in the city.’
“Over an ale and an admittedly very fine piece of pie, he filled in more of his story; just a scrap or two, but enough to give me food for thought as we set of
f on the final leg of the journey.
“‘I picked it up in
Corfu,’ he said, without saying what
might be. ‘And I wish to God that I’d left it there. But the chaps at the British Museum will pay a pretty penny for it—enough to cover my costs on this and the next trip. So I need your help. All you can give me.’
“By the time we arrived in
Greenwich it was almost nine, and I had already resigned myself to a late return home. The carriage deposited us beside a rather handsome wooden three-master with auxiliary steam engines. The name was clearly visible, but meant nothing to me.
“‘She’s Dundee built,’ Gault said proudly. ‘And she’ll sail through any weather thrown at her . . . if she’s allowed.’
“He led me up a long gangplank and on
to what felt like a dead, empty vessel.
“‘The crew has, to a man, taken lodgings in the town tonight,’ Gault said, somewhat apologetically. ‘Come, Carnacki. Let me show you what has them so fearful
—what we have here that requires your particular skills.’
“The deck echoed with our footsteps. It might have been only my imagination working overtime, but there seemed to be a depth and resonance to the sounds that should not be present, a sinister timbre that
spoke of an underlying dread. I do believe I was starting to understand the crew’s reticence, and perhaps even envy them their lodgings ashore, as I followed Gault down into the bowels of the boat and down into a long dark hold that smelled of rum, stale beer, and fish.
“At first I thought the whole space to be empty, but as we walked forward towards the prow the hold na
rrowed, the keel closing in on either side and the smell of fish becoming ever stronger. The echoes took on a deep bass tone, seeming to ring like a church choir raised in song. Every part of me now wanted to flee to clearer air and silence, a blue funk that threatened to turn my legs to jelly. But Gault kept moving, and my pride would not allow me to do otherwise.
“At the very narrowest part of the hold we finally came to our destination.
“At first I took it to be Egyptian, for it had the look of a sarcophagus of that country’s ancient past. But on closer inspection I saw that this was a far cruder structure, little more than a cube of stone, rudely carved in a script I had never before encountered. And as we got nearer I became aware of something else. The
of dread was stronger still here; an almost physical presence . . . and it was something that I recognised—something I knew. A denizen of the Outer Darkness was in residence.
“‘Can you feel it?’ Gault said.
“I was almost too afraid to speak. I nodded in reply.
“‘Go ahead. Touch it,’ the c
“I can assure you chaps, the last thing I wanted to do just then was to get any closer to the thing, but I had come this far. The time for circumspection was long past. I stepped forward and put my hand on the stone. I received an instant impression of clamminess and moi
“And then I was gone; just gone, transported to a place where I drift
ed in deep cold waters, waiting . . . just waiting. I felt no sense of urgency, no need to be doing anything other than drift and wait.
“I may even have been there yet had Gault not taken it upon himself to
slap me, hard, about the face.
“I am afraid to say that I was in something of a daze at this point, and I remember little of the next few minutes, until I came to my senses sitting in a leather armchair in a well-appointed cabin with a glass of rum in my hand. Gault sat in a chair opposite. He passed me a most welcome cheroot that I struggled to light with trembling hands, and then without preamble started to speak, filling in the parts of his tale he had omitted earlier.
“‘The thing has plagued our dreams since the start back
from Corfu, and the crew has been without sleep for many days. There have been mutterings of mutiny since the beginning of the month, and last night matters came to a head. Three crewmen took it upon themselves to rid us of our tormentor.
“‘At least, they tried.
“‘Their screams in the dark alerted me to their plight, and I was first to enter the hold. It is hard to describe the fear that gripped me as I saw the carnage the thing had wrought on my men. It was obvious that they had lifted the casket, probably intending to throw it overboard. But someone had dropped his end—that much is also obvious from a crack you may have spotted in the leftmost edge. I can only surmise that the jolt opened the casket—and let the beast out.
“‘What did not need conjecture was the fate of the men after that.
“‘A black ooze lay over the bodies like a wet blanket—one that seethed and roiled as if boiling all across the surface. Pustules burst with obscene wet
and flesh melted from bone even as the men screamed and writhed in agony.
“‘Their pain did not last long. All too soon the blac
kness seeped in and through them until even their very bones were liquified and, with the most hideous moist
drank up by the beast, which was now three times larger than previously. It opened itself out, like a black crow spreading its wings, the tips touching each side of the hold walls.
“‘All along the inside surface of the
wet mouths opened, and the air echoed with a plaintive high whistling in which words might be heard if you had the imagination to listen.
“‘My every instinct told me to turn and flee. But there was nowhere to escape to except the sea itself, and that was a choice no sailor would make. Instead I stood my ground while
Massa, stout coxswain that he is, brought forth some firebrands. Only then did the thing seem to cower and retreat. I called for a barrel of pitch and tried to hold the beast at bay with a brand until aid might arrive. My adversary had other ideas. Now that it was free of the casket its powers had increased.
“‘The grip on my mind grew stronger.
“‘I saw vast plains of snow and ice where black things
amid tumbled ruins of long dead cities. My head swam, and the walls of the hold melted and ran. The firebrand in my hand seemed to recede into a great distance until it was little more than a pinpoint of light in a blanket of darkness, and I was alone, in a vast cathedral of emptiness.
“‘A tide took me, a swell that lifted and transported me, faster than thought, to the green twilight of ocean depths far distant.
“‘I realised I was not alone. We floated, mere shadows now, scores—nay, tens of scores of us—in that cold silent sea. I was aware that other sailors were nearby, but I had no thought for anything but the rhythm, the dance. Far below us, Cyclopean ruins shone dimly in a luminescent haze. Columns and rock faces tumbled in a non-Euclidean geometry that confused the eye and brooked no close inspection. And something deep in those ruins knew we were there.
“‘And while our slumbering god dreamed, we danced for him, there in the twilight, danced to the rhythm.
“‘We were at peace.
“‘A flaring pain jolted me back to sanity. I smelled burning hair, but took several seconds to note that it was my own hand that had
been seared. The coxswain had broken the hold on me by touching his firebrand to my skin.
“‘I had no time to thank him, for the beast had e
ncroached closer to me while I dreamed, and even now threatened to engulf me.