Algernon Blackwood (March 14, 1869-December 10, 1951) was a very prolific (for his time) writer of Horror
short stories and novels as well as an early writer of the cosmic horror story
as well as a journalist and broadcasting narrator. His works combine the beauty of nature (often going into scenery porn
) with various gothic horror tropes
as well as creatures and folklore from various religions such as the wendigo
. His most famous work is probably "The Willows" which many consider his best. He also was an early influence on the occult detective
genre of fiction with his creation "Dr. John Silence" His work would occasionally play with a trope and feature black comedy
. In contrast to many other authors like him Blackwood had a genuine interest in the supernatural and actually worked as a paranormal investigator with a group of friends before he moved into writing.
Tropes appearing in Algernon Blackwood's works include:
- Body Horror:
- Happens to the man dragged off by the wendigo in "The Wendigo".
- "The Paper Man"
- Brain Bleach: The protagonist of "The Man Who Found Out" learned something so repellent from an ancient tablet that he had a hypnotist eliminate the abhorrent knowledge via Laser-Guided Amnesia.
- Creepy Doll: "The Doll"
- Don't Go in the Woods: A recurring theme.
- Drugs are Bad: In "A Psychical Invasion" they cause a man to get possessed by a ghost.
- Eldritch Abomination: Some are encountered in "The Willows," and they're literally incomprehensible. They produce a loud ringing sound, dig perfectly conical pits in the sand and in the body of the man they eventually kill, and although their presence can be felt they're invisible.
- Eldritch Location: The setting of "The Willows." More specifically, it's set in the remote countryside around the Danube River in Romania. And there's something just wrong about it. The characters speculate that an incomprehensible dimension that does not like humans somehow borders or touches it, but they never even come close to finding out the place's actual nature.
- Elemental Embodiment: "The Nemesis of Fire" features John Silence fighting against a Fire Elemental.
- Genius Loci:
- The setting of "The Willows" - or at least one of the things that is speculated about the setting.
- The forest around the protagonist's house in "The Man Whom the Trees Loved" is implied to be alive.
- Haunted House: "The Empty House" has a fairly typical example.
- He Also Did: In addition to his supernatural writing Blackwood was also a radio broadcaster and wrote a great deal of children's literature, literary fiction and propaganda.
- Human To Werewolf Footprints: In "The Wendigo", the prints of a man being dragged off by the monster become a copy of the monster's footprints—and grow further apart, until eventually they disappear.
- Magical Native American: "Running Wolf" has one that come back from the dead as a wolf and only the (white) protagonist can grant him release.
- Nature Spirit: Blackwood was fond of this trope; his variants tend to fall somewhere between The Fair Folk and Eldritch Abomination.
- Occult Detective: Dr. John Silence.
- Our Ghosts Are Different:
- "A Psychical Invasion"
- "The Empty House"
- "Running Wolf"
- Our Vampires Are Different: "The Singular Death of Morton"
- Our Werewolves Are Different:
- "The Strange Adventure of a Private Secretary in New York" has an example who behaves similar to a werewolf but never actually transforms.
- "The Camp of the Dog"
- Paranormal Investigation
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: In "The Man Who Found Out", an explorer discovers the long-lost Tablets of the Gods, reputed to explain the true purpose of human existence. Reading their translation causes him to lose the will to live, and the friend who inherits the Tablets destroys the text and has his own memory of reading it erased via hypnosis.
- Wendigo: "The Wendigo" is an influential early example of modern treatments of the concept.
- When Trees Attack:
- "The Man Whom the Trees Loved".
- In "The Willows," provided you take the view that the... things they encountered were spirits of the willow trees.
- Write What You Know: Many of Blackwood's stories take place in New York (where he lived for a time) or feature various fictional accounts of cases investigated by him when he was part of the Psychical Research Society or things he learned from The Hermetical Order of the Golden Dawn when he was part of them.