Hell House

The House on the Borderland

I am not superstitious; but I have ceased to deny that things happen in this old house—things that I cannot explain; and, therefore, I must needs ease my mind, by writing down an account of them, to the best of my ability; though, should this, my diary, ever be read when I am gone, the readers will but shake their heads, and be the more convinced that I was mad.

-Excerpt from The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson

The House on the Borderland

I do not want to do this; it is not a thing which I relish very much, and yet I do it nonetheless. Someone must . . .

. . . So I will take the plunge. I read a small line which described The House on the Borderland as being long-winded, or something like that. The story does goes on a tangent for about half of the book, and yet I find myself disagreeing with that statement.

It’s a tantalizing tale that William Hope Hodgson wrote. I’m sure, that if any of you had read the book as well, you would have wondered: what was he thinking?

Perhaps it’s another case where we’re best off not knowing what went on in the author’s mind. Or, perhaps it is the exact opposite?

A Book within a Book

Then I heard a cry from Tonnison; he was shouting my name, excitedly, and without delay I hurried along the rocky promontory to the ruin. I wondered whether he had hurt himself, and then the thought came, that perhaps he had found something.

I reached the crumbled wall and climbed ’round. There I found Tonnison standing within a small excavation that he had made among the débris: he was brushing the dirt from something that looked like a book, much crumpled and dilapidated; and opening his mouth, every second or two, to below my name.

-Excerpt from The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson

Some of you may not know this, but the actual story comes from a manuscript which two friends find. Once more, these are two friends on an expedition together. This time, however, they manage to stay out of trouble completely. I’m glad they did, and you would too, as it livens up an old formula.

Think about it: almost every classic horror story involves a group of men, usually friends, who end up saving the day.

The House on the Borderland is not even about the two men you read about in the beginning. It’s about a man, and there is no happy ending.

He doesn’t save the day.

He doesn’t save himself.

Art of the Inhuman

I’ve been reading fiction and fantasy since I was a child. That goes without saying that I am used to all of its tricks and gimmicks, most of all its creatures.

They don’t frighten me. In fact, some of them I’d sooner poke than run away from.

Why is that though? Have we simply forgotten how to alienate our audience from the unknown? It seems quite serious to me; the villains are villains for a reason, we’re supposed to hate them, not obsess over them. The same goes for those creatures which make their dwelling places deep inside the hidden spaces of the earth and the voids between the stars. These are the true aliens, and our minds have suddenly reduced them to warm, fuzzy pets.

The account of the man—who had lived in the house on the borderland—was a lesson on the ‘art of the inhuman’. When the first Swine-Thing lifted its snout to look over the window sill, I knew.

Perhaps it was hunger, as I had not eaten any lunch after work; instead of going home I went to the library. Why not? I had stopped at a park bench prior to begin the story. It was a beautiful day, after the rain . . .

. . . What was the rush?

Hunger had served to dull my logical mind allowing my natural, primordial self to come to the surface. As the Swine-Things began to attack the man’s home, I felt their true terror. And I was impressed. I thought to myself: Robert Jordan could not do that with his Trollocs or Myrddraal, who were really just rip-offs from JRR Tolkien (Orcs and Nazgul), who in turn ripped off those ideas from ancient legends and the like.

Of course, after I began thinking my logical mind woke up again. Pity. Nonetheless, a veil had been lifted for me, which I believe was the author’s intent. A piece of the puzzle had been laid out: disgust. Disgust will alienate someone from something, which they will in turn come to hate. In order to fully comprehend I needed to get away from myself.

Hell House

I read and read, and as I read I realized more and more that this was indeed a horrible house.

It almost begs the question: was the story really about the man, or was it really about the house he lived in?

Think about it. When the two friends first find the house, we already know that something is about. They know that something is wrong. The manuscript that they discovered only proved that inexplicable fear.

Presently, Tonnison began to talk.

“Look you,” he said with decision, “I would not spend the night in that place for all the wealth that the world holds. There is something unholy—diabolical—about it. It came to me all in a moment, just after you spoke. It seemed to me that the woods were full of vile things—you know!”

-Excerpt from The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

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