Sunday, 31 October 2010
HORROR WEEK: Can this thing really protect me?
Thomas Carnacki is the most famous creation of Edwardian writer William Hope-Hodgson. Essentially a supernatural detective, or ‘ghost finder’, Carnacki specialises in the arcane, and his cases are fascinating in the way they mix science and the supernatural, the paranormal with the more common place.
In some stories, for example, Carnacki battles with ageless, malevolent forces from other dimensions; in others, his adversaries are gangs of thieves, or unbalanced young men who fake hauntings to divert attention from their own nefarious activities.
Carnacki’s main defences against evil are ancient rituals from ‘The Sigsand Manuscript’ and the use of his patented ‘Electric Pentacle’, a Heath Robinson jumble of valves and bulbs that keeps otherworldly entities out, or in, until they can be banished back to whence they came. In a later story, the pentacle is retooled to project the spectrum as, apparently, manifestations can be combated using the correct combination of colours.
Genuinely chilling at times, always interesting, the stories have always remained in print and are easy to find wherever books are sold. In recent years, Carnacki has been revived, both in serious and satirical stories, and has appeared as a member of Alan Moore’s ‘League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ as well as a companion to the second Dr. Who in one of the hundreds of spin off books that the series has inspired.
Sadly, Cranacki has only appeared on screen once, to my knowledge, in a single episode of the excellent early seventies show ‘The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes’.
‘Rivals….’, which has recently been released in two DVD sets, presented a series of cases from the raft of Victorian and Edwardian detectives who would have been contemporaries to Arthur Conan Doyle’s deathless creation. It’s a great programme, and I will return to it here in the future. For now, here’s a clip from the Carnacki episode, ‘The Horse Of The Invisible’, where Carnacki (underplayed nicely by Donald Pleasence) demonstrates to Betty Spencer the three key attributes needed to combat the spooky equine apparition that threatens her and her fiancee: patience, the electric pentacle and a sense of humour.