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5.0 out of 5 stars Bone Chilling Tales of the Strange
Algernon Blackwood writes some very creepy stories. Born in 1869 to a ruling class family in Kent, England, Blackwood failed to live up to the expectations of his ultra religious parents. After attending the University of Edinburgh, the young man headed to Canada, then a part of the British Empire. In Canada Blackwood failed at several different endeavors, including an...
Published on May 14 2003 by Jeffrey Leach

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3.0 out of 5 stars Victorian-era horror
I did enjoy these stories, but wanted to warn the potential reader that they may find them highly dated. His ideas are based on the psychoanalysis of the time, relying heavily on Roscrucians, 19th century spiritual faddishness, and the like (a la Crowley or Dion Fortune.) Although well written, with a great sense of scene, our more jaded King era readers or anyone up...
Published on Jan. 24 2000 by crosenbe


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5.0 out of 5 stars Bone Chilling Tales of the Strange, May 14 2003
By 
Jeffrey Leach (Omaha, NE USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
Algernon Blackwood writes some very creepy stories. Born in 1869 to a ruling class family in Kent, England, Blackwood failed to live up to the expectations of his ultra religious parents. After attending the University of Edinburgh, the young man headed to Canada, then a part of the British Empire. In Canada Blackwood failed at several different endeavors, including an attempt at journalism, running a milk farm, and managing a bar. Algernon then went to New York City where he lived in penniless isolation. It was here that the future novelist encountered the seedy side of humanity, including dangerous criminals, con men, and other assorted unsavory types. Most people, when confronted with such a bleak atmosphere, would give up in frustration. Blackwood did not; he caught a break when a wealthy individual hired him as a private secretary. His eventual return to England led to the start of his writing career, a career as the premier author of supernatural fiction.
This compilation of Blackwood stories, compiled by E.F. Bleiler in the early 1970s, contains several of Blackwood´¿s most lauded tales. The stories vary in length from fifty pages to less than ten pages. The title of Bleiler´¿s collection, ´¿Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood,´¿ is more than a little misleading. There are only three stories dealing with spirits from beyond the grave here, and only one of those, ´¿The Listener,´¿ is truly creepy. The best stories in this book, without a doubt, are two of the lengthier contributions: ´¿The Willows´¿ and ´¿The Wendigo,´¿ which must rank as the eeriest stories ever written. Blackwood has the amazing ability to introduce not only deep sensations of terror, but to sustain and build that terror throughout the story. Every fan of horror must read Algernon Blackwood at some point.
The first story, ´¿The Willows,´¿ sets the tone for the book. Two men sailing down the Danube River become trapped on an island during a flood. Immediately, strangeness rears its ugly head. The men sense that all is not right in their surroundings. Huge winds buffet the island, followed by unexplainable internal sensations of deep fear. Supplies start to disappear and the willow trees in the area seem to move of their own accord. A mysterious hole in the canoe means the men will have to stay on the island longer than planned. Blackwood never explains exactly what plagues the two travelers, but he does hint at dark forces that are attempting to force themselves into our world. This yarn ranks high on the shudder meter.
The second story that makes this collection worth owning is ´¿The Wendigo.´¿ There are no ghosts rattling chains in this tale. Blackwood instead introduces the reader to a group of men on a hunting trip in the remoteness of backwoods Canada. Two of the men head out to a region that local Indians claim is haunted by a Wendigo, a creature who lifts men right off the ground and feeds off of them. This story is fantastic, arguably one of the best horror stories ever written. If you have ever gone out into the woods at night, far from the safety of home, you will instantly recognize the dark terror suffered by Simpson as he looks for the vanished guide Defago. I get chills just thinking about this story.
A third story worth noting is ´¿The Listener,´¿ a ghost yarn set in a rundown house in London. A struggling writer rents a room in this old residence, but slowly realizes something is amiss in his new digs. He gets intense headaches, becomes aware of strange footsteps in the house, and notices that someone (or something) is watching him while he sleeps. There are great scenes in this story, and the final line uttered by one of this man´¿s friends is about as unsettling as things get in this genre. For those who enjoy a great ghost story, ´¿The Listener´¿ promises to deliver the goods. Blackwood tells the story through journal entries jotted down by the protagonist, allowing the reader of the story to get a sense of passing time and increasing weirdness.
These three stories are the best of the lot, but by no means the only effective chillers chosen for inclusion by Bleiler. For example, ´¿Max Hensig´¿ is about a murderer hunting down a journalist who had the gall to make disparaging comments about him in the city paper. There is nothing supernatural about ´¿Max Hensig,´¿ but it is a great story well worth reading. Other stories deal with nature run amuck or the appearance of devils and demons. There is something for everybody in this great book.
Every story in the book starts the same way. One of the main characters quickly realizes that something is terribly wrong, usually through what we recognize as a ´¿sixth sense´¿ or a ´¿gut feeling,´¿ an extrasensory perception that tells us we are in big trouble. Having his characters recognize the ´¿wrongness´¿ of a situation is exactly what Blackwood set out to do. His interest was not in Wendigos or ghosts as much as it was in how man perceives these unknowns. Blackwood often ends his stories with no firm resolutions, with nothing more than speculation about what happened. This adds to the general sense of uneasiness.
Blackwood must have influenced later writers like H.P. Lovecraft. Unfortunately, there are no clear successors to Algernon Blackwood alive today. Modern horror relies on gruesome scenes and neat plotlines that wrap up as neatly as a Christmas gift. Gore is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it is a substitute for suspense and clever writing there is a big hole that needs filling. This English author neatly closes that gap with great stories full of suspense and eeriness. More Blackwood, I say!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wanderers Through the Borderlands, Aug. 28 2002
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This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
This is hardly a comprehensive collection of Blackwood's work - nor, as the title suggests, does it contain all of his best - but it is certainly representative of the author's best-known and most influential stories, and the price is right.
The lesser portion of the book contains some of Blackwood's earlier and more negligible stories, though even most of these are elevated by their style. The greater portion is devoted to his novellas of cosmic terror, where wanderers in various borderlands encounter The Unknown - in one form or another. The most famous, leading off the collection, is "The Willows," which H. P. Lovecraft - upon whose subsequent development this story shows - called the best horror story written. In it, a pair of voyagers down the Danube come to rest on an island that seems somehow to be tenanted by invisible entities from some other dimension that plan on keeping at least one of the travelers permanently with them. It reads a great deal like Lovecraft's "Shadow Over Innsmouth," and, if anything, is a great deal creepier for the insidious tenuosness of its horrors.
Similarly, "The Wendigo" finds a pair of hunters in the Canadian wilderness stalked by a never-seen creature from Indian folklore, which spirits one of them away in the night to a terrible fate. Another traveler finds himself drawn into wintry isolation by "The Glamour of the Snow." A middle-aged student returns to the much-changed school of his youth in the German woods, where he is preyed upon by wraiths who practice "Secret Worship." A tourist discovers the distant French village in which he has unwittingly become trapped is the site of "Ancient Sorceries."
Perhaps the crowning gem in this collection is the rarely reprinted novella "Max Hensig," which is not a conventional ghost story at all, but a brilliant crime thriller worthy of Alfred Hitchcock, in which a newspaper reporter is stalked by an acquitted homicidal psychopath who has targeted him for murder owing to his stance against him in the press.
Great reading, especially for fans of the horror genre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wanderers Through the Borderlands, Aug. 28 2002
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This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
This is hardly a comprehensive collection of Blackwood's work - nor, as the title suggests, does it contain all of his best - but it is certainly representative of the author's best-known and most influential stories, and the price is right.
The lesser portion of the book contains some of Blackwood's earlier and more negligible stories, though even most of these are elevated by their style. The greater portion is devoted to his novellas of cosmic terror, where wanderers in various borderlands encounter The Unknown - in one form or another. The most famous, leading off the collection, is "The Willows," which H. P. Lovecraft - upon whose subsequent development this story shows - called the best horror story written. In it, a pair of voyagers down the Danube come to rest on an island that seems somehow to be tenanted by invisible entities from some other dimension that plan on keeping at least one of the travelers permanently with them. It reads a great deal like Lovecraft's "Shadow Over Innsmouth," and, if anything, is a great deal creepier for the insidious tenuosness of its horrors.
Similarly, "The Wendigo" finds a pair of hunters in the Canadian wilderness stalked by a never-seen creature from Indian folklore, which spirits one of them away in the night to a terrible fate. Another traveler finds himself drawn into wintry isolation by "The Glamour of the Snow." A middle-aged student returns to the much-changed school of his youth in the German woods, where he is preyed upon by wraiths who practice "Secret Worship." A tourist discovers the distant French village in which he has unwittingly become trapped is the site of "Ancient Sorceries."
Perhaps the crowning gem in this collection is the rarely reprinted novella "Max Hensig," which is not a conventional ghost story at all, but a brilliant crime thriller worthy of Alfred Hitchcock, in which a newspaper reporter is stalked by an acquitted homicidal psychopath who has targeted him for murder owing to his stance against him in the press.
Great reading, especially for fans of the horror genre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Ghost Stories, June 6 2002
By 
D. Davison (Columbia, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
This is a wonderful anthology of Algeron Blackwood's Stories. The Willows and The Wendigo are two of my all-time favorites. There are some rare gems that are missing from the collection, such as The Kit-bag and The Scamp; and I don't think the novella Max Hensig was an appropriate closing to a book of "Ghost Stories".
I must also admit that I'm not a fan of psychic investigator John Silence. I think that horror tales lose a lot when there is a pseudo-scientific attempt to rationalize the events at the end. However, the writers of the Victorian and Edwardian period were enchanted by spiritualism. And some of the barmy explanations of the occult can be mildly amusing (such as the re-occurring notion that places suck up the bad influences of previous happenings like tobacco smoke, and project them on the mind like a camera lucida), but it becomes tedious when this sort of twaddle goes on and on for a dozen pages or so.
But in truth, you're not going to find a more comprehensive anthology of Blackwood's ghost stories, which is both in print and affordable, than this Dover edition.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Supernatural horror at its best, Feb. 25 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
There are thirteen stories in this book, and while only four of them really stand out, they are all certainly worth reading. Don't let the title fool you, by the way. I can't give you any numbers-it's been a while since I've read some of the stories-but I would say that less than half of the stories are "ghost stories," at least in the traditional sense. One of the stories-"Max Hensig"-isn't even about the supernatural, neither "The Willows" or "The Wendigo"-which most people seem to consider his best works-involve ghosts. The four stories I think really shine, by the way, are "The Willows," "The Wendigo," "The Listener," and "Max Hensig." If you want to know what they're about, you'll have to read them, but I will say that "The Listener" is the only ghost story of the four. Although King, Lovecraft, and Blackwood are all "horror" writers, fans of the first two should realise that Blackwood's style is completely different. He builds horror through suspense, not blood and gore, an art that modern horror writers seem to have lost (actually, King has shown that he can write horror without blood (although he does include a lot of it in most of his books), and Lovecraft is such a lousy writer that I can't actually remember if he uses it to any great extent. To be honest, I used those two because they were the only "modern" horror writers I could think of. Although Lovecraft isn't really that modern.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed Fiction That Will Change Your Life, Dec 5 2000
By 
R. MCCOSKER (California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
It's unfortunate that this collection of unequalled horror and suspense pieces goes by the name "ghost stories." In fact, there are almost no ghosts to be found in this book. Blackwood (1869-1951), who must rank as one of the greatest English language fiction writers ever, is also one of literature's best-kept secrets, a genius who exquisitely married mind-bending metaphysical revelation with unbearable suspense.
Calling these "ghost stories" is like calling Moby Dick a "fishing tale" or Les Miserables a "detective story" -- it simply doesn't begin to reveal the scope and depth of what is contained. It's hard to compare Blackwood with any other writer, because he was so unique. He was a major influence on H. P. Lovecraft, but was vastly more compelling, subtle and profound. You might think of him as Hermann Hesse meets a maturer version of H. P. Lovecraft.
The place to start in the collection is with Blackwood's hallmark stories, The Willows and The Wendigo. They could just as well be titled The Camping Trip From Hell and The Hunting Trip From Hell respectively, and I do mean Hell. Presumably the movie The Blair Witch Project drew its inspiration from those metaphysical shockers, in comparison to which The Blair Witch Project is just a romp in the woods (no pun intended!).
Yet Blackwood is not difficult to follow or to begin to understand. His prose ceaselessly crackles with sublime, cumulative thrills on every page. A suggestion: Read Blackwood slowly, without distractions, so you can savor and ponder every line. You won't be disappointed, but be prepared to never look at the world quite the same again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A few thoughts on Algernon Blackwood, May 22 2000
By 
V. N. Dvornychenko (Rockville, MD) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) was a fascinating writer. Although he wrote in other forms-novels, children stories, and an autobiography, for example-it is his horror/supernatural stories that have most endured. His "The Willows" (included in this anthology) is often singled out as the best English-language supernatural story.
His writing career was long, spanning about 1905-1945, with peak productivity about 1910. Because of this long career, his earlier and later works have a noticeably different "feel," the earlier works having a decidedly Edwardian cast. Taking 1910 as the benchmark, Blackwood's writing falls about halfway between the pioneers in the horror/supernatural genre (Mary Shelley, John Polidori, et al) and the present. Blackwood lived for extended periods in the US and Canada, but most of his writing occurred in England, his birthplace. He left no stylistic direct descendant, though Lovecraft is often mentioned.
If there is a single theme connecting Blackwood's supernatural writings, it is the Platonic idea that "ordinary" reality is but a fašade. Behind this fašade lie other realities, awesome, but imperfectly accessible to the human mind. Of course many religions share this idea. But whereas their "other reality" is vastly superior to the one we know, Blackwood's is grimmer and darker.
Blackwood serves up this idea in several flavors: 1) alien creatures from another dimension (The Willows), 2) elementals or animistic spirits (Glamour of the Snow, The Transfer, Ancient Lights), 3) devil-worshiping monks (Secret Worship), 4) people and entire towns with secret lives (Ancient Sorceries), 5) conventional ghost stories (The Empty House, The Other Wing, Keeping His Promise), 6) Jekyll/Hyde duality (Max Hensig). A few stories, such as The Wendigo, are hard to characterize, seemingly falling into several of the above.
To what extent must a writer actually believe his/her ideas to be effective? Does a ghost-story writer need to believe in ghosts? Not consciously perhaps, but on some level almost certainly. Apropos of this, much has been made of Blackwood's Sandemanian background. An extreme Calvanistic sect, the Sandemanians place great emphasis on sin and perdition. In adult life Blackwood appeared to reject these teachings, and turn to other religions. (In fairness to that religion: the great Michael Faraday appeared to be a contented life-long Sandemanian.)
Yet, it is probable that highly emotional ideas, learned early in childhood, can never be completely expunged. Such ideas, in one form or another, appear to become permanent dwellers of the persons psyche. Attempts to expunge them only result in the temporary breaking of the bonds these ideas have with other parts of the mind. The ideas themselves however refuse to stay isolated, and constantly strive to form new meaningful connections. It is possible that this striving can become a great source of creativity.
This ceaseless striving may also explain some inconsistencies in Blackwood's works. Consider: the effectiveness of his masterpiece, The Willows, lies in its premise of an intelligence so utterly alien that "it has nothing to do with us." Vastly powerful and amoral, this intelligence cares nothing about mankind and mankind's affairs. While it is not expressly hostile, neither can it be propitiated in any known way. As a result, humans are reduced to utter insignificance. Yet toward the end of the story this intelligence is seemingly "propitiated" by a human "sacrifice." How so? If human lives are nothing to this intelligence, why not 10,000 victims - or none at all? Could Old Testament ideas of sacrifices and burnt-offerings be intruding?
Does this anthology really contain all the best ghost stories of Blackwood? Yes, by and large, it does! However, Blackwood was quite prolific, so it would be very easy to compile a second anthology nearly as good as the first. (Perhaps Dover can be convinced of the merits of this.) Two personal favorites that I would like to see included in such a collection are "The Strange Adventures of a Private Secretary in New York," a kind of werewolf story in which the lycanthropy appears to be induced by chemical experiments - and "The Doll," quite possibly the inspiration for Chucky. (Rev. A, Feb. 2004)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, Dec 16 1999
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This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
Algernon Blackwood ranks with M.R. James and Sheridan LeFanu as one of the three best writers of ghost stories in the English Language. In the Dover collection under review the stories " The Willows " and the " Wendigo " best illustrate Blackwood's talent for taking an ordinary event i.e., a canoe trip in " The Willows " and a hunting expedition in " The Wendigo " and gradually revealing the supernatural landscape into which the characters have unwittingly trespassed. Implicit in Blackwood's work is a notion akin to Melville's " mask of appearance " that ordinary experience is a mere crust beneath which lies the truly supernatural and terrible reality that is human existence. In " The Willows " Blackwood's characters discover a rent in the fabric of ordinary experience that is truly terrifying and in " The Wendigo " Blackwood demonstrates what happens when one tries to return from a fall through that crust. Blackwood is a metaphysician in the same sense that Melville and Hawthorne and Dostoevsky are metaphysicians. These writers show us the depths beneath ordinary experience which we seldom visit, and as Blackwood shows us, for good reason.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Two great classics, Dec 8 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
The title is a little misleading, since it hints at creaky old victorian tales about spectres haunting the houses where they died. Anyone stumbling blindly into this volume will therefore be shocked by "The Willows" and "The Wendigo", two of the best horror stories ever written. Most people today don't find the idea of ghosts terribly scary because they are so easy to understand (spirits of the dead). "The Willows" is frightening because the forces involved are almost impossible to understand! And "The Wendigo" will scare you away from wintry forest landscapes (and probably most of Canada) for a good long while!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good campfire tales, Aug. 2 2001
This review is from: Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (Paperback)
These short stories are not exactly ghost stories (well some are) but good creepy tales that are great to read. They are not the general genre of horror, there's no full scale slaughter or people dangling anywhere but are eerie stories full of suspense. Some are a bit wordy, not as in diction, but as in over explaining the scene. This helps build the suspense most of the time, but in a few of the stories it slows things down a little too much. Blackwood has a great style for setting vivid backgrounds and characters that make his stories just so readableand and likable, that I think most people will like it.
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Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood
Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood by Algernon Blackwood (Paperback - June 1 1973)
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