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Written by Arthur Machen in 1894 and originally published in a magazine, The Great God Pan is known for being one of the prototypes of the Cosmic Horror Story. It was a huge influence on HP Lovecraft, who used it as the basis for his own story The Dunwich Horror, as well as for the deityShub-Niggurath. It is worth noting that the main themes of the story - the idea that there are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and horrors outside of our reality that we do not understand - are very Lovecraftian in nature, making these tropes older than you think.The Great God Pan is also considered byStephen King to be "one of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language." He has stated that 2008 novella N. was a "riff" on it.In Wales a scientist, Dr. Raymond, experiments on a woman named Mary to enable her to "see Pan". Sadly, her mind is broken and Clarke, who watched the experiment, gives up occultism. Cut to several years later in London, where another man named Villiers meets an old friend of his who was led to misery by his wife Helen Vaughan. Curious, Villiers begins investigating. Meanwhile, an alarming number of wealthy, prominent men are being driven to madness and suicide following their encounters with a mysterious woman known as Mrs. Beaumont. Though Clarke is initially hesitant to give him the information he needs, Villers soon learns that Mrs. Beaumont is indeed Helen Vaughan, the daughter of Mary and the pagan nature deity Pan.You can read it here.
"Yes, I married, Villiers. I met a girl, a girl of the most wonderful and most strange beauty, at the house of some people whom I knew. . . My friends had come to know her at Florence; she told them she was an orphan, the child of an English father and an Italian mother, and she charmed them as she charmed me. The first time I saw her was at an evening party. I was standing by the door talking to a friend, when suddenly above the hum and babble of conversation I heard a voice which seemed to thrill to my heart. She was singing an Italian song. I was introduced to her that evening, and in three months I married Helen. Villiers, that woman, if I can call her woman, corrupted my soul."
Eldritch Abomination: This version of Pan is definitely very different from the satyr god of Greek Mythology. In addition, it is strongly implied Pan is also the Celtic god Nodens, who would later join Lovecraft's works as one of his eldritch deities...
Austin said nothing, but nodded his head slightly; he still looked white and sick. Villiers pulled out a drawer in the bamboo table, and showed Austin a long coil of cord, hard and new; and at one end was a running noose. "It is the best hempen cord," said Villiers, "just as it used to be made for the old trade, the man told me. Not an inch of jute from end to end." Austin set his teeth hard, and stared at Villiers, growing whiter as he looked. "You would not do it," he murmured at last. "You would not have blood on your hands. My God!" he exclaimed, with sudden vehemence, "you cannot mean this, Villiers, that you will make yourself a hangman?" "No. I shall offer a choice, and leave Helen Vaughan alone with this cord in a locked room for fifteen minutes. If when we go in it is not done, I shall call the nearest policeman. That is all."
"It was an ill work I did that night when you were present; I broke open the door of the house of life, without knowing or caring what might pass forth or enter in. I recollect your telling me at the time, sharply enough, and rightly enough too, in one sense, that I had ruined the reason of a human being by a foolish experiment, based on an absurd theory. What I said Mary would see, she saw, but I forgot that no human eyes could look on such a vision with impunity. And I forgot, as I have just said, that when the house of life is thus thrown open, there may enter in that for which we have no name, and human flesh may become the veil of a horror one dare not express. I played with energies which I did not understand, and you have seen the ending of it."
"Everyone who saw her at the police court said she was at once the most beautiful woman and the most repulsive they had ever set eyes on. I have spoken to a man who saw her, and I assure you he positively shuddered as he tried to describe the woman, but he couldn't tell why."
"We know what happened to those who chanced to meet the Great God Pan, and those who are wise know that all symbols are symbols of something, not of nothing. It was, indeed, an exquisite symbol beneath which men long ago veiled their knowledge of the most awful, most secret forces which lie at the heart of all things; forces before which the souls of men must wither and die and blacken, as their bodies blacken under the electric current. Such forces cannot be named, cannot be spoken, cannot be imagined except under a veil and a symbol, a symbol to the most of us appearing a quaint, poetic fancy, to some a foolish tale. But you and I, at all events, have known something of the terror that may dwell in the secret place of life, manifested under human flesh; that which is without form taking to itself a form."