both by Algernon Blackwood
“Entrance And Exit” was originally published February 13, 1909 in The Westminster Gazette and republished in TEN MINUTE STORIES in 1914. “The Terror Of The Twins” was originally published November 6, 1909 in the same newspaper and republished in 1910 in THE LOST VALLEY AND OTHER STORIES.
ALGERNON HENRY BLACKWOOD, CBE (1869–1951) was an English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator. He was born in Shooter’s Hill, Kent, England and, after schooling in Europe, Blackwood’s father sent him to Canada in 1887 on business. From Canada, Blackwood moved to New York City, which was a less agreeable experience. He said of New York: “I seemed covered with sore and tender places into which New York rubbed salt and acid every hour of the day.” He was surrounded by criminals and other undesirables, and his roommate stole much of his money. He was sick and in poverty most of the time, and he was framed for arson. His jobs in New York included reporter for the Evening Sun and the New York Times. Blackwood returned to England in 1899. During the ensuing years, he traveled throughout Europe. His travels included a trip on the Danube River and camping on an island near Bratislava, which he used as a setting for possibly his most famous story, “The Willows”, praised by H.P. Lovecraft and others. In 1900 he joined the secret occult society the Order Of The Golden Dawn. It wasn’t until 1906, when Blackwood was in his late 30s, that he had his first major publication, which was a collection entitled THE EMPTY HOUSE AND OTHER GHOST STORIES. Two years later, his fame was assured with his stories of John Silence, a psychic investigator, and he spent the rest of his life writing, traveling extensively (he acted as an undercover agent for British military intelligence in World War I). In 1934, at 65 years of age, Blackwood started a new career by reading ghost stories on BBC radio, which enjoyed immense popularity. Two years later, he started appearing regularly on television. He retired in 1940 to Kent and continued preparing radio productions. He was made a Commander in the Order of the British Empire in 1949.
After a life in which he received a modest income from his writing, Algernon Blackwood died in 1951.
You have two readers this week!
“Entrance And Exit” was read for you by David Rees-Thomas, the co-editor of Waylines Magazine, which can be found here. Issue 2 just came out March 1st! Check it out!
“The Terror Of The Twins” was read for you by Simon Meddings, who is a writer and director at Martian Creative, a company creating audio books, plays, podcasts and scripts for televison. Click the link under their name for a listen! Simon ALSO also runs the Waffle On Podcast with his friend Mark all about classic television shows and films from around the world. Available on itunes, Stitcher radio and direct at Podbean.
“These three — the old physicist, the girl, and the young Anglican parson who was engaged to her — stood by the window of the country house. The blinds were not yet drawn. They could see the dark clump of pines in the field, with crests silhouetted against the pale wintry sky of the February afternoon. Snow, freshly fallen, lay upon lawn and hill. A big moon was already lighting up.
‘Yes, that’s the wood,’ the old man said, ‘and it was this very day fifty years ago — February 13 — the man disappeared from its shadows; swept in this extraordinary, incredible fashion into invisibility — into some other place. Can you wonder the grove is haunted?’ A strange impressiveness of manner belied the laugh following the words.
‘Oh, please tell us,’ the girl whispered; ‘we’re all alone now.’ Curiosity triumphed, yet a vague alarm betrayed itself in the questioning glance she cast for protection at her younger companion, whose fine face, on the other hand, wore an expression that was grave and singularly rapt. He was listening keenly.
‘As though Nature,’ the physicist went on, half to himself, ‘here and there concealed vacuums, gaps, holes in space (his mind was always speculative; more than speculative, some said), through which a man might drop into invisibility — a new direction, in fact, at right angles to the three known ones — higher space, as Bolyai, Gauss, and Hinton might call it; and what you, with your mystical turn’ — looking toward the young priest — ‘might consider a spiritual change of condition, into a region where space and time do not exist, and where all dimensions are possible — because they are one.””
“That the man’s hopes had built upon a son to inherit his name and estates — a single son, that is — was to be expected; but no one could have foreseen the depth and bitterness of his disappointment, the cold, implacable fury, when there arrived instead — twins. For, though the elder legally must inherit, that other ran him so deadly close. A daughter would have been a more reasonable defeat. But twins — ! To miss his dream by so feeble a device — !
The complete frustration of a hope deeply cherished for years may easily result in strange fevers of the soul, but the violence of the father’s hatred, existing as it did side by side with a love he could not deny, was something to set psychologists thinking. More than unnatural, it was positively uncanny. Being a man of rigid self-control, however, it operated inwardly, and doubtless along some morbid line of weakness little suspected even by those nearest to him, preying upon his thought to such dreadful extent that finally the mind gave way. The suppressed rage and bitterness deprived him, so the family decided, of his reason, and he spent the last years of his life under restraint. He was possessed naturally of immense forces — of will, feeling, desire; his dynamic value truly tremendous, driving through life like a great engine; and the intensity of this concentrated and buried hatred was guessed by few. The twins themselves, however, knew it. They divined it, at least, for it operated ceaselessly against them side by side with the genuine soft love that occasionally sweetened it, to their great perplexity. They spoke of it only to each other, though.
‘At twenty-one,’ Edward, the elder, would remark sometimes, unhappily, ‘we shall know more.’ ‘Too much,’ Ernest would reply, with a rush of unreasoning terror the thought never failed to evoke — in him. ‘Things father said always happened — in life.’ And they paled perceptibly. For the hatred, thus compressed into a veritable bomb of psychic energy, had found at the last a singular expression in the cry of the father’s distraught mind.”