Pseudopod 325: Entrance And Exit / The Terror Of The Twins

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.



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“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.””

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“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.”

Pseudopod 302: Singing By The Fire

by Jamieson Ridenhour

“Singing by the Fire” is original to Pseudopod, though an earlier version was briefly available on the author’s website as a piece of free fiction. This story is directly inspired a decade of recurring snake nightmares and by a masterful little poem by North Carolina poet Robert Morgan, called “Mountain Bride” -but that near-decade of snake dreams underpins it like venom. He has recently had the story accepted for publication in the print anthology Hunting Ghosts, forthcoming from Black Oak Media (see link).

Jamieson Ridenhour is the author of the comedy werewolf murder-mystery Barking Mad (Typecast 2011) and creator of the short horror films Cornerboys and The House Of The Yaga. He used to live in a log cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, though one with electricity. He now lives in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Your reader this week is the Nathan Lowell, who you may know from Escape Pod #357: Connoisseurs of the Eccentric.

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“‘I don’t know that I’d call it a ghost story,” Whithers said, looking at the reflected firelight caught in his brandy glass. “I don’t think I really believe in ghosts. It’s been twenty-five years, now.’ He fell silent again, studying his drink.

We leaned forward, eagerly awaiting his next words. A potluck feast of grilled salmon, tomato and basil couscous, and oven-fresh bread was digesting comfortably in our stomachs as we settled round the fire in our accustomed places. The chairs in Whithers’ townhouse were soft and leathery. The rosy feeling in our cheeks and bellies was a combination of good food, wood smoke, and an amiable brandy that Patterson’s wife Deirdre had brought back from Ireland last fall.

The weather had suggested ghost stories; the storm outside was one of those summer gullywashers that swept down from the mountains unannounced, outing power and flooding streets. When the power had gone out we had scurried to find candles and hurricane lamps, and the fitful illumination put us in the mood for some spectral entertainment. Not that we needed any encouragement. Our monthly get-togethers often turned towards the ghostly, but until this particular night Whithers had stayed out of the story-telling sessions, becoming withdrawn and sullen when talk turned ghoulish. So when Henderson asked Withers for a ghost story, his acquiescence had surprised us all.

‘I feel sort of silly talking about this,’ he continued, not looking up. ‘I’ve never told anyone but Melinda, and I don’t think she believed me. But I assure you it is true. It’s the strangest thing that ever happened to me.’

We stayed silent, not wanting to break Whithers’ train of thought for fear he would reconsider. The candles and fireplace combined with the lightning outside to create a weird shifting of shadows across Whithers’ face as he continued.”

Pseudopod 300: The Step

by E.F. Benson

“The Step” was originally published in 1925 and later collected in MORE SPOOK STORIES (1930)

Edward Frederic Benson (1867-1940) was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury and member of a distinguished and eccentric family. After attending Marlborough and King’s College, Cambridge where he studied classics and archaeology, he worked at the British School of Archaeology in Athens. One of our greatest humorists, he achieved great success at an early age with his first novel, DODO (1893). He was a prolific author writing over a hundred books: serious novels, ghost stories, plays and biographies. But he is best remembered for his MAPP & LUCIA comedies written between 1920 and 1939 and other comic novels such as PAYING GUESTS and MRS. AMES. He became mayor of Rye, the Sussex town that provided the model for his fictional Tilling, from 1934 to 1937.

Benson was also known as a writer of (mainly grisly, though occasionally humorous) ghost stories, which frequently appear in collections. Not as scholarly as M.R. James, Benson captures life in a rapidly modernizing Edwardian age, but one still prey to spirits and monsters. H. P. Lovecraft spoke highly of Benson’s works in his SUPERNATURAL HORROR IN LITERATURE most notably of his story “The Man Who Went Too Far.” A critical essay on Benson’s ghost stories appears in S.T. Joshi’s book THE EVOLUTION OF THE WEIRD TALE (2004).

Your reader this week is the Frank Key who was last heard here reading Pseudopod 261: Widdershins. You really should give his community radio show Hooting Yard On The Air a listen!

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“”Nice night, let’s walk,” said John. “Nothing like a walk when there’s liquid on board. Clears the brain for you and I must have a final powwow tonight, if you’re off to-morrow. There are some bits of things still to go through.”

Bill acquiesced. The cafes were all dosed, there was nothing very promising.

“Night life here ain’t a patch on Cairo,” he observed. “Everyone seems to go to bed here just about when we begin to get going. Not but what I haven’t enjoyed my stay with you. Capital good fellows at your dub and brandy to match.”

He stopped and ruefully scanned the quiet and emptiness of the street .

“Not a soul anywhere,” he said. “Shutters up, all gone to bed. Nothing for it but a powwow, I guess.”

They walked on in silence for a while. Then behind them, firm and distinct to John’s ears, there sprang up the sound of the footsteps, for which now he knew that he waited and listened. He wheeled round.

“What’s up?” asked Bill.

“Curious thing,” said John. “Night after night now, though not every night, when I walk home, 1 hear a step following me. 1 heard it then.”

Bill gave a vinous giggle.

“No such luck for me,” he said. “I like to hear a step following me about one of a morning. Something agreeable may come of it. Wish I could hear it. ”

They walked on, and again, clearer than before, John heard what was inaudible to the other. He told himself, as he often did now, that it was an echo. But it was odd that the echo only repeated the footfalls of one of them. As he recognized this, he felt for the first time, when he was fully awake, some sudden chill of fear. It was as if a cold hand closed for a moment on his heart, just pressing it softly, almost tenderly. But they were now close to his own gate, and presently it clanged behind them.”