Carnacki the Ghost Finder, No. 1
The Gateway of
William Hope Hodgson
(Thomas Carnacki, the famous investigator of "real" ghost
stories, tells here his incredibly weird experience in the
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-humoured 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 came 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
"'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
"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 apologised; but made
it very clear that I did not realise 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 any nastier.
"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
"'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 towards 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 the house.
"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 realise, 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
"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 dark-room
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 towards 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 realised 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, and went along the corridor,
in the half light, to cap the lense 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 been sitting.
"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
"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 centre of the floor. When
everything was in the room, including a cat which I had brought, I
locked and sealed the door, and went towards 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
"First, I cleared away all the ribbons across
the floor; then I carried the cat still fastened in its
basket over towards the far wall, and left it. I returned then to
the centre of the room, and measured out a space twenty-one feet in
diameter, which I sept 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 centre 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 marvellous '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
"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 realised 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 materialisation of an ab-natural creature is
possible, given favourable 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 materialised
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
"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 coverings 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 afterwards, 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 you
"The door was not touched again; but, directly
afterwards, 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 catterwaul, 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 towards 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 towards 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
endeavour 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
realised 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 afterwards, 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
neighbourhood 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 centre 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-materialised 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, over-mastering 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 centre 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
"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
"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
"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 can understand.
"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 centre
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 materialisation. 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,
onwards, 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 upwards
through the ring, and mix with the moving shadows. Suddenly, I
realised 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 realise 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, towards
the Barriers. The hand was plunging towards 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
"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 centre 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
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 realise 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.