Tags: anima loci

The Bad Places

Can places be bad luck or cursed? I have heard of a house in the 6th Ward here in Helena, where there have been four or five suicides in the same house, by different owners/renters.

I am looking at the aspects of place in Helena and in the area, not just "haunted places," but places that have their own "luck," stories, folklore, character that is "good" or "bad," lucky or tragic. Like you know there are certain "black spots" on highways where there are an unusual number of accidents for no real reason. Places in the mountains that feel good or bad. The psychology of the environment. Places that have a definite feeling you can't help noticing.

Certain neighborhoods have a definite reputation, some of which are tied to the socioeconomic trends of the population, sometimes tied to history. The old red light district for example, or a few blocks on Rodney, have troubled reputations. I am, again, not talking only about crime, or about hauntings, or poverty...but a combination of all these things. Of course some families can live in certain "troubled areas" and have wonderful lives too. Some places are "home" no matter what happens of course.

NAUD / NIDHOGG

In some places marked by ill-fortune and poverty, there is a lack, an emptiness. This is symbolized in the rune Naud, as described by Uncle Thor's post on Naud.

Uncle Thor has words of wisdom relating to Nidhogg, the Wyrm at the Root of the World-Tree, and how It relates to such places and people. Areas of urban blight and need are in the clutches of Nidhogg, and all one can do is flee such a place or be mired further, and succumb to Naud. I know. It knows my name well, and I battle daily with the Wyrm here on Rodney Street.

"Low Life/High Life

An episode of the Twilight Zone began by describing the main character as "...a cheap man, a nickel-and-dime man". He was a man who went for a pittance, always aiming at the bottom of the barrel. There are people who do set their sights very low. Policemen have told me that one sign of a criminal's status is the places he robs. Low-lifes invariably go for low-paying targets. Armed robbery is armed robbery, no matter what the take. The penalty is severe. Low-lifes will risk a long sentence for the spoils of a neighborhood liquor store. Those higher up the scale will go for bigger targets. Either way, the penalty is the same.

Would you take a chance on twenty years in jail, just for $200? Probably not - but some folks would! A low-life looks for easy gains and short-term benefits. He's never concerned with possible long-term results. His own benefit comes before anyone or anything else, and that benefit need not be a lot. The low-life will chance a lot, just to get a little.

Several years ago, I ran into a nasty personal and financial setback. Because of it, the only lodging I could afford was in a rooming house. It wasn't the greatest place to be, but it was a place to sleep while I went about the business of improving my circumstances. About 1/3 of the people living there were folks recovering from some sort of setback. The rest were lifetime rooming-house habitues. Some of them moved to the local park when the weather got warmer. Though I didn't spend enough time in the place to get to know people, I did notice a few things. The lifetime low-lifes would stake their entire lives, just to "get over" for five or ten dollars. They rarely worried about later consequences. They never thought farther than three days ahead - and usually never considered even the next two hours. These people, like toddlers, thought only of instant gratification. There was no balancing of value or priority. The immediate and long-term result of such limited thinking was a lifetime of nickel-and-dime living!

I had never seen a sorrier bunch in my life! No friends, no family, and they would sell out their buddies in an instant if it would net them an extra three dollars!

These folks weren't poor - they were low. Being low kept them poor. Their sights were set so low that their was no room for improvement. Greed ran their lives; they would sell their souls for the chance to steal a nickel. On top of that, they were always trying to present themselves as "great people" who had either fallen on "bad luck" or someone was against them.

It is amazing how people can live right down the hall from each other and be worlds apart. The building superintendent told me one day that it was like having two different nationalities: temporary guests and lifetime tenants.

I figured that Nidhogg's folks only lived on the lower end of the economic ladder, but later discovered otherwise. The term for their attitude is "niggardly". Look that word up in the dictionary. It might better be written "Nidhoggly". The mindset pinches pennies, proclaims generosity, and takes whatever it can get away with. Most comical is the facade of respectability, all the while betrayed by greed-grime. Greed is grimy, just like the Wyrm! In the hands of Nidhogg's denizens, things get a misshapen priority: easy nickels become gold doubloons while honest wages are treated like wooden nickels.

The Eddas and Sagas speak poorly of the cheap host. This was not just condemnation of social flaws, but an appraisal of grimy attitudes. (In the Sagas, it is assumed that the reader can figure some things out for himself, based on a description of a character's actions.) No facade can stand for long; Nidhogg's friends are always revealed as Wyrm-folk.

Beware the Wyrm's people! That is the time-tested warning. The Havamal often warns of one's choice of company, with good reason! There are people who will plunder their "friends". Then, of course, mindsets are infectious. Those who descend to the company of low-lifes tend to become low-lifes. Call it "mental contamination".

The lesson is clear- keep your sights high and maintain your sense of priorities. The Runes can help - but the real focus is on you. Nobody has to be a bum, and even the worst can learn to overcome his low aim. Our Tradition teaches us the values of dignity. By raising our sights, we raise ourselves." (http://www.thortrains.com/UncleThors/utmvol2a.htm)

Uncle Thor is a great source of Northern knowledge and wisdom and should be read by more folks.

ALFREKA / GAST

This is different than Alfreka, although I believe that the condition of a place being Alfreka is what lays the possibility of Naud/Nidhogg:.

ALFREKA (Germanic/Norse): Destroyed; condition of having the spirit [alf = elf (nature spirit), sim. landvaettir/landwights] driven from the land. Akin to GAST (Germanic/Saxon): barren land, from which the earth spirit has been driven (East Anglian/Saxon: Pennick), "when the spiritual beings of the land are driven away, complete desacralization, anima loci destroyed."

The condition of the land as Alfreka or Gast can be a result from too-powerful On-lay (intentional historical action/behavior) maintained over a long period; the ultimate result of on-lay in direct conflict with the Anima Loci (the Spirit of the Place, sim. to Genius Loci) is a place becoming Alfreka/Gast.

Alfreka/Gast conditions of a place can also result from physical destruction, as when a holy hill is bulldozed away, a hole for a metro station is excavated where there once was a holy place, or mining almost anywhere. Mining can also release some pretty unpleasant chthonic forces. When the actual locus (physical location) of the spirit exists no more, there is thus no anima. This is common in cities where the natural ground level has been abolished or extensively altered. It also occurs when streams or rivers are rechanneled, dammed, etc. In Helena and much of the surrounding mountains, although much may appear "natural," extensive mining, both placer mining and hardrock mining (deep mines), as well as quarrying and moving and damming streams, rendered many sites Alfreka/Gast.

If a place is rendered Alfreka/Gast, although the intelligence/nature spirit is evicted (perhaps even destroyed), this does not entirely destroy the önd (life-energy, Chinese: chi/qi, Ioway: ni) present there. The önd then becomes subject to whatever other influences are there, good or bad (however one wishes to define them). Thus, if a church is built on such a site, the önd is subject to and shaped by the religion of that church and the actions/rituals of the people who attend it. If a slaughterhouse or jail is built on such a gast/alfreka site, the önd is subject to and shaped by the actions of the butcher and the slain animals or the jailer and the prisoners. Without the oversight and control of the Anima Loci, the Genius Loci, or the Landwights/Landvaettir, the altered önd can thus also attract uncontrolled but compatible energies, spirits, individuals. This is rarely beneficial or to the good of those who reside there.

However this presents us with a hopeful corollary. Since there can be an on-lay put upon an alfreka site, it is also possible construction of an on-lay can be the means to do geomantic remedial work at alfreka places.

If a place has only been partly altered and not rendered fully alfreka through removal of the locus, then human actions can accelerate return of the full influence of anima loci. To do this:

1. Remove deteriorating on-lay remnants. This is essentially a magical or ritual act (series of actions), but must also include the removal of related physical elements of the on-lay. So for example, if one were to attempt to heal a mining site, not only would there be removal of the astral/etheric imprints, one must also remove the machinery, the chemicals, and repair the disturbances, soil, etc.

2. Replace with harmonious artifacts and activities.

3. Neutral remains (not related to the actions that rendered the place alfreka), if any, should stay as witness to the orlog of place. We are not erasing memory but healing the land so life can return to it. So a path or an archaeological site unrelated to the destruction can remain as a layer. Orlog (history) will aways be present but dwindling of the effects of being made alfreka can be accelerated and obliterated through these kinds of actions, then anima loci can be reintegrated and shine through again.

Now if the locus has been utterly destroyed or removed, then one will have to be truly a reconstructive surgeon at a new level, creating a new locus to encourage the return of the original Anima Loci (if that is even possible) or a new Genius Loci, and it may not only not work, but can even backfire. Ok, it will usually backfire. Sometimes you just have to cauterize the stump.

For related materials, check out my posts on:
Sacred Sites and the Genius Loci
Angry Land
and of course my working Geomantic Glossary.

Everything is Alive (Ficino)

"There will be some men or other, superstitious and blind, who see life plain in even the lowest animals and the meanest plants, but do not see life in the heavens or the world ... Now if those little men grant life to the smallest particles of the world, what folly! what envy! neither to know that the Whole, in which 'we live and move and have our being,' is itself alive, nor to wish this to be so."
-Marsilio Ficino, De Vita Libri Tres, 1489

Places "Good" and "Bad"

Dick Halloran explains to Danny Torrance about "shining" and how not only some people "shine," but some places "shine" too. Like the Overlook Hotel. About how some places are to be left alone, like Room 237.



For me, "The Shining" was another lens I could use to look at one of the major themes in my life, why I went into archaeology and landscape architecture, how tied together are my Indian ways, art, Catholicism, animism, nature, personal experiences, European paganism, and paranormal/hauntings... one of the questions I am still wrestling with... what makes a place "good" or a place "bad"...the essential feel and character of a place and what happens there, the Genius Loci.

Before one can even begin to discuss such things, one must deal with one's philosophy, on what constitutes reality according to one's worldview. Objectivity vs Subjectivity, hermeneutics, etc. If one can agree on the basis for argument/exploration, one can proceed. If not, there is no point in trying to proceed. For example, is there an absolute shared reality that can be discussed? Or is everything ultimately subjective? I mean, look at God. For some people, the ultimate reality, the Source of all that is. For some people, a fairy tale or a delusion. Certainly the existence of God cannot be proven to the satisfaction of a dogmatic materialist. For me, absolute reality does exist, and God exists, but I cannot prove either. However, those are the assumptions from which I proceed.

I do think what people do affects a place, and how they interpret it as well. However, I do not think that is the only thing. Different people may go to a wild and untraveled place, and two different people at two different times who have not spoken to each other may feel their hair raise and feel very unwelcome (the word "panic" is derived from the god Pan). And only later while comparing notes on a hike do they learn the place affected them both similarly.

Feng Shui is the Chinese cultural approach to the topic. There are other cultures with other approaches too, Native American, various European cultures (both preChristian and postChristian), etc. Genius Loci for example is a Roman notion, and the Romans imposed their temples on preRoman sites in Celtic Britain for example, and later the Roman Catholics built cathedrals on those same sites. There are two basic "schools" of feng shui...landscape school and compass school, though most practitioners use both. I am more focused on landscape school, as its fundamental elements can be compared with nonChinese systems, although it is still based in Chinese cultural symbolism (dragon lines, tortoise mountain, etc.). Compass school uses the lo-pan (Chinese compass) with its Chinese astrological symbolism, numerology, etc. and so is less comparable with nonChinese observations. Flying Star is the most popular feng shui system currently as I understand it. The "black hat" type is kind of a New Age takeoff from the authentic schools.

Personally, I am not that interested in the furniture, room design, etc. I am more interested in the landscape and the site.

Sacred Sites and the Genius Loci

"The Astral Light, being the instrument of life, naturally collects at living centers; it cleaves to the kernel of plants as to the heart of man (and by heart we understand, in magic, the great
sympathetic), but it identifies itself with the individual life of the existence which it animates. We are, in fact, saturated with this light and continually project it to make room for more; by this projection the personal atmosphere is created. The settlement and polarization of this light about a center produces a living being; it attracts all the matter necessary to perfect and preserve it. It is the first physical manifestation of the Divine Breath. God creates it eternally, and man, in the image of the Deity, modifies and apparently multiplies it in the reproduction of his species." - Paul Foster Case

Here when Case is talking about "The Astral Light," it is also spoken of as electromagnetism, (the more scientific term) energy at the atomic level which manifests and organizes as matter. It can be thought also of as chi, the life force, ki, prana, ni (Siouan), etc.

Just as in the seed of a plant or the heart of a human being, locations (loci) where electromagnetism/life force collects, this electromagnetic energy cleaves to a geographic location (loci) and is identified with the life force/chi/ni (or kan) of a location (anima loci). It identifies itself with the individual life of the physical location (loci) it animates (anima loci).

The settling and polarization (positive and negative charges, yang and yin, light and dark) of this energy (using the word "light" can seem confusing here) about a geographic center (defined by a particular location: stone, mountain, tree, etc., or by particular boundaries) produces a living being-- the genius loci, the Spirit of Place (Landspirit, Landvaettir).

This Place-Being attracts all the matter necessary to perfect and preserve it, which gives the peculiar feeling of "completeness" (health - wholeness) as a microcosm (a miniature model of the world) that sacred sites have. Actually, that ALL places have in their natural state to one degree or another, it's just that recognizably sacred sites have that much more of it. Or when such sites are physically destroyed or otherwise harmed to the point of the place being made spiritually barren, alfreka, the absence of that feeling of health/wholeness/completeness.

These Place-Spirit locations, sacred sites with their genius loci, are saturated with this life-force, or electromagnetism, or chi, or ni/mana/orenda/kan. And these places continually project it to make room for more. This is like a living river, where the water is always moving, old water moving out and new water coming in. But if people try to dam that river and control it, the water becomes stagnant, sediments collect, and eventually the water disappears or turns very nasty. This is what one might call "angry land."

The projection of the power/energy (chi etc.) of a sacred place is what gives it that aura of holiness (again, see the connection with health, wholeness, holiness, all derived from the same root word of completion and the whole). Why people feel that power of a sacred place, feel energized and helped, and why such places can heal (or if the wrong things are done, become ill or even angry, and can possibly harm rather than heal).

Such places are supplied the Life and maintained by the Creator/God/Wakanda-- by Grandfather ...and by Grandmother-- At the scale of the Earth, the anima loci becomes the anima mundi, and the genius loci is the genius mundi, aka Grandmother Earth, aka Mother Earth (Gaia, and innumerable other names).

Now these Places/Place Spirits have their own purposes in the grand design, their own origins and destinies, roles and responsibilities. Yet some interfere with this, as mentioned above. It seems 99% of the time, people interfere/harm/impede such places, either by outright destruction or by "loving it to death" (whether through recreational use or by inappropriate spiritual practices --like New Agers messing about with heiau in Hawai'i).

And yet, it is possible for us to take another route: sometimes to help (removing wastes, toxins, etc.) like a doctor, removing the infection, cleaning the wound, and stitching it back together so it can heal...while retaining professionalism and a positive bedside manner.

And if a place has not been wounded, perhaps (and this seems so RADICAL to many, who must always mess with things and people)...how about we leave such Places alone...and perhaps never go there, but let it work out its own destiny and role given to it by the Creator?

Notes on Time and Place

Notes for free association

Thomas More invented the word "Utopia"... he formed it from Ancient Greek words:
Eu topos = Good place
Ou topos= No place
Utopia= "the good place that is no place"

Cacotope or Cacotopia is the opposite of Utopia, from
kakos (κακός) topos = a place that is foul, evil, bad
also more frequently heard today is dystopia
A dystopia (from Ancient Greek: δυσ-: bad-, ill- and Ancient Greek: τόπος: place, landscape)
One might say that dys- expresses more of a feeling of difficulty, in its badness
while kakos is intrinsically evil, depraved, loathsome

So dystopian landscape is a difficult landscape, that the resources have been stripped, and it is hard to live there; there is a feeling of destruction from human acts
While a cacotopian landscape is plain old bad, evil, rotten

Time is a one-dimensional quantity used to sequence events, to quantify the durations of events and the intervals between them, and (used together with space) to quantify and measure the motions of objects. Time is quantified in comparative terms (such as longer, shorter, faster, quicker, slower) or in numerical terms using units (such as seconds, minutes, hours, days). It is measured using a clock.

Time is one of the seven fundamental physical quantities in the International System of Units. The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos."

CHRONOS (Ancient Greek: Χρόνος)
Sequential, quantitative time. Measured time. In Greek mythology, Chronos in pre-Socratic philosophical works is said to be the personification of time. His name in Modern Greek also means "year" and is alternatively spelled Chronus (Latin spelling). In Ioway, this type of time would be bigundhe, from bi (sun) + gundhe (to indicate, measure). The Wheel and Seasons of the Year is of Chronos.

KAIROS (Ancient Greek: καιρός)
An ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment).
A moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens. Qualitative nature of time. The appointed time. Kālá (Sanskrit: काल, IPA: [kɑːˈlə], time) denotes a fixed or right point in time (compare rtu, kairos). Ritu (ṛtú) in Vedic Sanskrit refers to a fixed or appointed time, especially the proper time for sacrifice (yajna) or ritual in Vedic Religion


PLACE

CHORA, CHOROS
oldest Greek word for place, -region, country, space. Subjective, sacred, irrational, immanent space. The meaning, eternal aspect rather than the physical container. Love of "home" and "country" is chorophilia.

TOPOS
Topos (τόπος, Greek 'place' from tópos koinós, common place; pl. topoi), in Latin locus (from locus communis). Location, objective features of a place. The container, rather than the meaning or energy. Love of the physical place is topophilia.

MORPHAI- fire, air, water, earth (shapes, characters, forms)
DYNAMEIS- hot, dry, wet, cold (powers, qualities)
PATHE- feelings, passions

"Myth is a natural expression of what may be grasped by bastard reasoning." Walter 123

Nostalgia: lit. 'Painful return home.' A sentimental, useless longing for places and situations no longer available.

Numen, numina (numinous) - presence, 'nodding', the power of a spirit present in places and objects. A sacred grove (nemus) is named for the numen there.
Ond: Norse
Wod: Anglo-Saxon
Yoruba: ase
Japanese: kami
Algonquian: manitou
Ioway: wakanda (specifically, as in other Siouan languages 'kan')

Genius loci - Anima loci - Anima mundi

Angry Land: Haunted Powerplants, Reservoirs, and More

Our modern world is dependent on continual resource development and building things, making reservoirs, roads, power plants and more. Like some haunted houses that become haunted because they were built on land that was already haunted, these places that are part of our infrastructure always have problems. The Denver Airport is one such place, as is the Red Hill (and many others) in Hawaii. There are certain highways and roads that run through troubled areas that have more than their share of accidents. So much attention is focused on haunted houses and legend tripping these days, that these troubled areas, bad campgrounds, etc. don't seem to get as much attention.

Sometimes these lands become "alfreka," land barren of the Powers originally at the site. But sometimes, such Powers are too strong to be driven off, and just get very, very unhappy. Angry land.

I was reading up on Somerset (England) folklore and came across the story of a reservoir that was always having trouble in its construction, and the water always murky, and this was attributed by local people to the fact there had been a murder and the victim had been buried in the location.

"Water that runs where blood be spilled
Do never run clear though a lake be filled."

And here is a bit more from an article in 1963:

"As in the case of the Clatworthy Lake, I received many hints of
disaster in the years preceding the Station's erection, but decided
to remain quiet and listen, until in 1963 I have heard such beliefs
openly voiced in several localities. The elderly, and not so elderly,
find a ghoulish pleasure in recounting the accidents and dangers
attendant on its building. One or two grim watchers have tallied
up deaths and near-deaths at one a year since the beginning of the
desecration. Of these they say, 'Ah! They won't stop till there's
seven.' Are these victims to placate the River Severn or the vengeful
pixy-people? An answer to modern boasting about the triumphs
of science is: 'You and I won't be here come a hundred years time.
But They'll have 'en! Hundred years be nothing to They. They
can bide.'

The same belief in ancient places resenting the rush and racket
of modernity is quite widely held among hill-people. The unparallelled
winter of 1962/3 was attributed by some to the anger
of nature-spirits. At Crowcombe, there was fifteen feet of snow,
and the village was cut off by road for several weeks. Deer, sheep
and ponies were fed by helicopters. One old farmer said to me,
looking out over the western hills, with the rash of holiday camps
and bungalows over their feet, and the curve of the Severn coast
broken by the Hinckley Point Power Station: 'The hills is getting
angry. These may still be about in a hundred years - if that! The
hills, they've been a standing vor thousands, and they don't care
about being disturbed by noisy ways. They'll put up with we so
long as we'm quiet-minded, but they vulish lot as is allus in a girt
hurry-push, they'll all have to go. They hills don't want 'en, and
you'll zee, they won't have 'en.' "

[For those that have trouble making out dialect-writing: The hills are getting angry. These [power stations] may still be about in a hundred years - if that! The hills, they've been standing there for thousands, and they don't care about being disturbed by noisy ways. They'll put up with us so long as we're quiet-minded, but those foolish lot that are always in a big hurry-push, they'll all have to go. They hills don't want them, and you'll see, they won't have them.]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
("Watching Folklore Grow," by R. L. Tongue.Folklore, Vol. 75, No. 2, Summer 1964, pp. 110-112.)

Land damaged by such construction and earthmoving is damaged, and for SOME places, no amount of re-seeding or restoration will make the place 'right' again. It will be an angry place, and bad things will happen there.

Look around, think about the idea of Angry Land.

"And what does the land feel after so many decades of abuse? This is not the kind of land that's likely to great human visitors, no matter how well-intentioned, with joy in its heart. It does not say "Welcome home, feral human! We missed you!" This land is suspicious. This land wants nothing to do with us. This land is angry land, and it does not want sympathy and tears." (http://ranprieur.com/land/aug06.html)

Geomantic Studies, Shamanism, and Animism: Feng Shui

This is the first of a series of posts looking at selections from European, Native American and Chinese geomantic systems, along with the Shamanic worldview (the previous post), landscape history, bioregionalism, and animism, especially the concept of the Genius Loci (Spirit of Place) and Anima Mundi (Life of the Earth) -aka Hina Maya (in Ioway: Mother Earth).

I want to work out some of the connections, the contrasts and common ground. See if I can begin to integrate this into something useful (Ioway: wiumpi= useful, something-with-which-something-good-is-done/made). I will be looking at mostly examples from the places I know best because I have lived there: Montana, Iowa, Alaska, New Mexico, and Hawaii.

FENG SHUI

Feng Shui is probably the best-known geomantic system today. For twenty-plus years years I have studied Feng Shui, the ancient land compass schools, as a practical art of Taoism. To do feng shui correctly, you really have to practice within the proper Chinese traditional cultural system, to subscribe to -and practice- the entire worldview, including Chinese Taoist philosophy, astrology, elements, symbolism, the I-ching, etc.

The following is an excellent program on traditional Chinese Feng Shui.



Enjoy the program. It is really worth watching.

Animism and Bad Rooms

Animism isn't all sweetness and light. We know houses and rooms in houses can be haunted.

But the form of those hauntings can be so intense that it is as if the room itself has its own form of life. And not a pleasant form either. Here I am not talking about spooky feelings in a room, or seeing a shadow or apparition. Here I am talking about when the room itself comes alive.

The following is excerpted from borky's comment at Loren Coleman's Twilight Language blog. I was reading about a 9-year old kid named Montana Lance (!!??!!) killing himself in a bathroom by hanging himself...

...in the '60s, (in Liverpool, in the UK), when I was 8, my school, Tiber Street Junior's, made this great display of installing what was SUPPOSED to be a brand new cloakroom.

Anyway, not long after this took place, I found myself alone in this cloakroom with a pair of twin boys from the year below, celebrated throughout the school for having extremely trendy Beatle-style haircuts.

Anyway, that day we started playing tick, and ducking out of the reach of one of the "Terrible Twins", (as me and my younger sister'd dubbed them), I inadvertently smacked into one of the coat hooks.

To the amazement of the three of us, the whole section the hook was part of seemed to momentarily come alive with cold fury and loathing - almost as if, if only it could, it would've ripped itself up by its foundations and chased us off down the street - at which point a sort of miniature lightning bolt, about two-and-a-half to three inches long arced out of the hook and shocked my hand.

Then, even as we us stood there, jaws gaping and paralysed on the spot, keeping one eye on the coat hook and glancing back and forth at each other wondering what to do next, the three of us were terrified to hear this coat hook, in the utterly hideous voice of a thoroughly nasty old man snarl, "Ah, now you didn't know we could do that, did y', y'little sh*t!" at which point I ran back to class, shaking like a leaf, and the twins ran straight out the school, their parents subsequently refusing to bring them back.

Now, whatever you make of that story, it's all very well for some people to say oh, people're always seeing and hearing things that aren't there, as if somehow that's both the explanation and the 'cure', but I'm aware of adults who, under the well-intentioned onslaught of "it's all in your head", went on to kill themselves over far milder experiences than that; but - God! - until now, it'd never occurred to me kids might be taking that option, too, (if not something far worse, given other data available to me).


I just don't know what to make of it. A cloakroom coming alive and then talking like that. The world is surely a dark and mysterious place.


This reminded me just now of a story I read in my teens about another animated room, called "The Whistling Room." I read it in a book called "Hauntings: Tales of the Supernatural" (see cover, here). It was illustrated by Edward Gorey, that fantastic artist of the macabre. I did a search (thank God I remembered the actual title of the story!) and found it.

Carnacki the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson. Author of "The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig,'" "The House on the Borderland," "The Ghost Pirates," etc.

No. 3
THE WHISTLING ROOM
From The Idler, March, 1910


(Thomas Carnacki, the famous investigator of "real" ghost stories, tells here the results of his peculiar and weird investigations in The Whistling Room)

Carnacki shook a friendly fist at me, as I entered, late. Then, he opened the door into the dining-room, and ushered the four of us — Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and myself — in to dinner.

We dined well, as usual, and, equally as usual, Carnacki was pretty silent during the meal. At the end, we took our wine and cigars to our usual positions, and Carnacki — having got himself comfortable in his big chair — began without any preliminary:—

"I have just got back from Ireland, again," he said. "And I thought you chaps would be interested to hear my news. Besides, I fancy I shall see the thing clearer, after I have told it all out straight. I must tell you this, though, at the beginning — up to the present moment, I have been utterly and completely 'stumped.' I have tumbled upon one of the most peculiar cases of 'haunting' — or devilment of some sort — that I have come against. Now listen.

"I have been spending the last few weeks at Iastrae Castle, about twenty miles north-east of Galway. I got a letter about a month ago from a Mr. Sid K. Tassoc, who it seemed had bought the place lately, and moved in, only to find that he had bought a very peculiar piece of property.

"When I got there, he met me at the station, driving a jaunting-car, and drove me up to the castle, which, by the way, he called a 'house-shanty.' I found that he was 'pigging it' there with his boy brother and another American, who seemed to be half-servant and half-companion. It seems that all the servants had left the place, in a body, as you might say; and now they were managing among themselves, assisted by some day-help.

"The three of them got together a scratch feed, and Tassoc told me all about the trouble, whilst we were at table. It is most extraordinary, and different from anything that I have had to do with; though that Buzzing Case was very queer, too.

"Tassoc began right in the middle of his story. 'We've got a room in this shanty,' he said, 'which has got a most infernal whistling in it; sort of haunting it. The thing starts any time; you never know when, and it goes on until it frightens you. All the servants have gone, as you know. It's not ordinary whistling, and it isn't the wind. Wait till you hear it.'

" 'We're all carrying guns,' said the boy; and slapped his coat pocket.

" 'As bad as that?' I said; and the older boy nodded. 'It may be soft,' he replied; 'but wait till you've heard it. Sometimes I think it's some infernal thing, and the next moment, I'm just as sure that someone's playing a trick on me.'

" 'Why?' I asked. 'What is to be gained?'

" 'You mean,' he said, 'that people usually have some good reason for playing tricks as elaborate as this. Well, I'll tell you. There's a lady in this province, by the name of Miss Donnehue, who's going to be my wife, this day two months. She's more beautiful than they make them, and so far as I can see, I've just stuck my head into an Irish hornet's nest. There's about a score of hot young Irishmen been courting her these two years gone, and now that I'm come along and cut them out, they feel raw against me. Do you begin to understand the possibilities?'

" 'Yes,' I said. 'Perhaps I do in a vague sort of way; but I don't see how all this affects the room?'

" 'Like this,' he said. 'When I'd fixed it up with Miss Donnehue, I looked out for a place, and bought this little house-shanty. Afterwards, I told her — one evening during dinner, that I'd decided to tie up here. And then she asked me whether I wasn't afraid of the whistling room. I told her it must have been thrown in gratis, as I'd heard nothing about it. There were some of her men friends present, and I saw a smile go round. I found out, after a bit of questioning, that several people have bought this place during the last twenty-odd years. And it was always on the market again, after a trial.

" 'Well, the chaps started to bait me a bit, and offered to take bets after dinner that I'd not stay six months in the place. I looked once or twice to Miss Donnehue, so as to be sure I was "getting the note" of the talkee-talkee; but I could see that she didn't take it as a joke, at all. Partly, I think, because there was a bit of a sneer in the way the men were tackling me, and partly because she really believes there is something in this yarn of the Whistling Room.

" 'However, after dinner, I did what I could to even things up with the others. I nailed all their bets, and screwed them down hard and safe. I guess some of them are going to be hard hit, unless I lose; which I don't mean to. Well, there you have practically the whole yarn.'

" 'Not quite,' I told him. 'All that I know, is that you have bought a castle with a room in it that is in some way "queer," and that you've been doing some betting. Also, I know that your servants have got frightened and run away. Tell me something about the whistling?'

" 'Oh, that!' said Tassoc; 'that started the second night we were in. I'd had a good look round the room, in the daytime, as you can understand; for the talk up at Arlestrae — Miss Donnehue's place — had made me wonder a bit. But it seems just as usual as some of the other rooms in the old wing, only perhaps a bit more lonesome. But that may be only because of the talk about it, you know.

" 'The whistling started about ten o'clock, on the second night, as I said. Tom and I were in the library, when we heard an awfully queer whistling, coming along the East Corridor —— The room is in the East Wing, you know.

" ' "That's that blessed ghost!" I said to Tom, and we collared the lamps off the table, and went up to have a look. I tell you, even as we dug along the corridor, it took me a bit in the throat, it was so beastly queer. It was a sort of tune, in a way; but more as if a devil or some rotten thing were laughing at you, and going to get round at your back. That's how it makes you feel.

" 'When we got to the door, we didn't wait; but rushed it open; and then I tell you the sound of the thing fairly hit me in the face. Tom said he got it the same way — sort of felt stunned and bewildered. We looked all round, and soon got so nervous, we just cleared out, and I locked the door.

" 'We came down here, and had a stiff peg each. Then we got fit again, and began to think we'd been nicely had. So we took sticks, and went out into the grounds, thinking after all it must be some of these confounded Irishmen working the ghost-trick on us. But there was not a leg stirring.

" 'We went back into the house, and walked over it, and then paid another visit to the room. But we simply couldn't stand it. We fairly ran out, and locked the door again. I don't know how to put it into words; but I had a feeling of being up against something that was rottenly dangerous. You know! We've carried our guns ever since.

" 'Of course, we had a real turn-out of the room next day, and the whole house-place; and we even hunted round the grounds; but there was nothing queer. And now I don't know what to think; except that the sensible part of me tells me that it's some plan of these Wild Irishmen to try to take a rise out of me.'

" 'Done anything since?' I asked him.

" 'Yes,' he said — 'watched outside of the door of the room at nights, and chased round the grounds, and sounded the walls and floor of the room. We've done everything we could think of; and it's beginning to get on our nerves; so we sent for you.'

" By this, we had finished eating. As we rose from the table, Tassoc suddenly called out:— 'Ssh! Hark!'

"We were instantly silent, listening. Then I heard it, an extraordinary hooning whistle, monstrous and inhuman, coming from far away through corridors to my right.

" 'By G—d!' said Tassoc; 'and it's scarcely dark yet! Collar those candles, both of you, and come along.'

"In a few moments, we were all out of the door and racing up the stairs. Tassoc turned into a long corridor, and we followed, shielding our candles as we ran. The sound seemed to fill all the passage as we drew near, until I had the feeling that the whole air throbbed under the power of some wanton Immense Force — a sense of an actual taint, as you might say, of monstrosity all about us.

"Tassoc unlocked the door; then, giving it a push with his foot, jumped back, and drew his revolver. As the door flew open, the sound beat out at us, with an effect impossible to explain to one who has not heard it — with a certain, horrible personal note in it; as if in there in the darkness you could picture the room rocking and creaking in a mad, vile glee to its own filthy piping and whistling and hooning. To stand there and listen, was to be stunned by Realisation. It was as if someone showed you the mouth of a vast pit suddenly, and said:— That's Hell. And you knew that they had spoken the truth. Do you get it, even a little bit?

"I stepped back a pace into the room, and held the candle over my head, and looked quickly round. Tassoc and his brother joined me, and the man came up at the back, and we all held our candles high. I was deafened with the shrill, piping hoon of the whistling; and then, clear in my ear, something seemed to be saying to me:— 'Get out of here — quick! Quick! Quick!'

"As you chaps know, I never neglect that sort of thing. Sometimes it may be nothing but nerves; but as you will remember, it was just such a warning that saved me in the 'Grey Dog' Case, and in the 'Yellow Finger' Experiments; as well as other times. Well, I turned sharp round to the others: 'Out!' I said. 'For God's sake, out quick.' And in an instant I had them into the passage.

"There came an extraordinary yelling scream into the hideous whistling, and then, like a clap of thunder, an utter silence. I slammed the door, and locked it. Then, taking the key, I looked round at the others. They were pretty white, and I imagine I must have looked that way too. And there we stood a moment, silent.

" 'Come down out of this, and have some whisky,' said Tassoc, at last, in a voice he tried to make ordinary; and he led the way. I was the back man, and I know we all kept looking over our shoulders. When we got downstairs, Tassoc passed the bottle round. He took a drink, himself, and slapped his glass down on to the table. Then sat down with a thud.

" 'That's a lovely thing to have in the house with you, isn't it!' he said. And directly afterwards:— 'What on earth made you hustle us all out like that, Carnacki?'

" 'Something seemed to be telling me to get out, quick,' I said. 'Sounds a bit silly-superstitious, I know; but when you are meddling with this sort of thing, you've got to take notice of queer fancies, and risk being laughed at.'

"I told him then about the 'Grey Dog' business, and he nodded a lot to that. 'Of course,' I said, 'this may be nothing more than those would-be rivals of yours playing some funny game; but, personally, though I'm going to keep an open mind, I feel that there is something beastly and dangerous about this thing.'

"We talked for a while longer, and then Tassoc suggested billiards, which we played in a pretty half-hearted fashion, and all the time cocking an ear to the door, as you might say, for sounds; but none came, and later, after coffee, he suggested early bed, and a thorough overhaul of the room on the morrow.

"My bedroom was in the newer part of the castle, and the door opened into the picture gallery. At the East end of the gallery was the entrance to the corridor of the East Wing; this was shut off from the gallery by two old and heavy oak doors, which looked rather odd and quaint beside the more modern doors of the various rooms.

"When I reached my room, I did not go to bed; but began to unpack my instrument-trunk, of which I had retained the key. I intended to take one or two preliminary steps at once, in my investigation of the extraordinary whistling.

"Presently, when the castle had settled into quietness, I slipped out of my room, and across to the entrance of the great corridor. I opened one of the low, squat doors, and threw the beam of my pocket searchlight down the passage. It was empty, and I went through the doorway, and pushed-to the oak behind me. Then along the great passage-way, throwing my light before and behind, and keeping my revolver handy.

"I had hung a 'protection belt' of garlic round my neck, and the smell of it seemed to fill the corridor and give me assurance; for, as you all know, it is a wonderful 'protection' against the more usual Aeiirii forms of semi-materialisation, by which I supposed the whistling might be produced; though, at that period of my investigation, I was quite prepared to find it due to some perfectly natural cause; for it is astonishing the enormous number of cases that prove to have nothing abnormal in them.

"In addition to wearing the necklet, I had plugged my ears loosely with garlic, and as I did not intend to stay more than a few minutes in the room, I hoped to be safe.

"When I reached the door, and put my hand into my pocket for the key, I had a sudden feeling of sickening funk. But I was not going to back out, if I could help it. I unlocked the door and turned the handle. Then I gave the door a sharp push with my foot, as Tassoc had done, and drew my revolver, though I did not expect to have any use for it, really.

"I shone the searchlight all round the room, and then stepped inside, with a disgustingly horrible feeling of walking slap into a waiting Danger. I stood a few seconds, waiting, and nothing happened, and the empty room showed bare from corner to corner. And then, you know, I realised that the room was full of an abominable silence; can you understand that? A sort of purposeful silence, just as sickening as any of the filthy noises the Things have power to make. Do you remember what I told you about that 'Silent Garden' business? Well, this room had just that same malevolent silence — the beastly quietness of a thing that is looking at you and not seeable itself, and thinks that it has got you. Oh, I recognised it instantly, and I whipped the top off my lantern, so as to have light over the whole room.

"Then I set-to, working like fury, and keeping my glance all about me. I sealed the two windows with lengths of human hair, right across, and sealed them at every frame. As I worked, a queer, scarcely perceptible tenseness stole into the air of the place, and the silence seemed, if you can understand me, to grow more solid. I knew then that I had no business there without 'full protection'; for I was practically certain that this was no mere Aeiirii development; but one of the worst forms, as the Saiitii; like that 'Grunting Man' case — you know.

"I finished the window, and hurried over to the great fireplace. This is a huge affair, and has a queer gallows-iron, I think they are called, projecting from the back of the arch. I sealed the opening with seven human hairs — the seventh crossing the six others.

"Then, just as I was making an end, a low, mocking whistle grew in the room. A cold, nervous pricking went up my spine, and round my forehead from the back. The hideous sound filled all the room with an extraordinary, grotesque parody of human whistling, too gigantic to be human — as if something gargantuan and monstrous made the sounds softly. As I stood there a last moment, pressing down the final seal, I had no doubt but that I had come across one of those rare and horrible cases of the Inanimate reproducing the functions of the Animate. I made a grab for my lamp, and went quickly to the door, looking over my shoulder, and listening for the thing that I expected. It came, just as I got my hand upon the handle — a squeal of incredible, malevolent anger, piercing through the low hooning of the whistling. I dashed out, slamming the door and locking it. I leant a little against the opposite wall of the corridor, feeling rather funny; for it had been a narrow squeak. . . . 'Theyr be noe sayfetie to be gained bye gayrds of holieness when the monyster hath pow'r to speak throe woode and stoene.' So runs the passage in the Sigsand MS., and I proved it in that 'Nodding Door' business. There is no protection against this particular form of monster, except, possibly, for a fractional period of time; for it can reproduce itself in, or take to its purpose, the very protective material which you may use, and has the power to 'forme wythine the pentycle'; though not immediately. There is, of course, the possibility of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual being uttered; but it is too uncertain to count upon, and the danger is too hideous; and even then it has no power to protect for more than 'maybee fyve beats of the harte,' as the Sigsand has it.

"Inside of the room, there was now a constant, meditative, hooning whistling; but presently this ceased, and the silence seemed worse; for there is such a sense of hidden mischief in a silence.

"After a little, I sealed the door with crossed hairs, and then cleared off down the great passage, and so to bed.

"For a long time I lay awake; but managed eventually to get some sleep. Yet, about two o'clock I was waked by the hooning whistling of the room coming to me, even through the closed doors. The sound was tremendous, and seemed to beat through the whole house with a presiding sense of terror. As if (I remember thinking) some monstrous giant had been holding mad carnival with itself at the end of that great passage.

"I got up and sat on the edge of the bed, wondering whether to go along and have a look at the seal; and suddenly there came a thump on my door, and Tassoc walked in, with his dressing-gown over his pyjamas.

" 'I thought it would have waked you, so I came along to have a talk,' he said. 'I can't sleep. Beautiful! Isn't it!'

" 'Extraordinary!' I said, and tossed him my case.

"He lit a cigarette, and we sat and talked for about an hour; and all the time that noise went on, down at the end of the big corridor.

"Suddenly, Tassoc stood up:—

" 'Let's take our guns, and go and examine the brute,' he said, and turned towards the door.

" 'No!' I said. 'By Jove — NO! I can't say anything definite, yet; but I believe that room is about as dangerous as it well can be.'

" 'Haunted — really haunted?' he asked, keenly and without any of his frequent banter.

"I told him, of course, that I could not say a definite yes or no to such a question; but that I hoped to be able to make a statement, soon. Then I gave him a little lecture on the False Re-Materialisation of the Animate-Force through the Inanimate-Inert. He began then to see the particular way in the room might be dangerous, if it were really the subject of a manifestation.

"About an hour later, the whistling ceased quite suddenly, and Tassoc went off again to bed. I went back to mine, also, and eventually got another spell of sleep.

"In the morning, I went along to the room. I found the seals on the door intact. Then I went in. The window seals and the hair were all right; but the seventh hair across the great fireplace was broken. This set me thinking. I knew that it might, very possibly, have snapped, through my having tensioned it too highly; but then, again, it might have been broken by something else. Yet, it was scarcely possible that a man, for instance, could have passed between the six unbroken hairs; for no one would ever have noticed them, entering the room that way, you see; but just walked through them, ignorant of their very existence.

"I removed the other hairs, and the seals. Then I looked up the chimney. It went up straight, and I could see blue sky at the top. It was a big, open flue, and free from any suggestion of hiding places, or corners. Yet, of course, I did not trust to any such casual examination, and after breakfast, I put on my overalls, and climbed to the very top, sounding all the way; but I found nothing.

"Then I came down, and went over the whole of the room — floor, ceiling, and walls, mapping them out in six-inch squares, and sounding with both hammer and probe. But there was nothing abnormal.

"Afterwards, I made a three-weeks search of the whole castle, in the same thorough way; but found nothing. I went even further, then; for at night, when the whistling commenced, I made a microphone test. You see, if the whistling were mechanically produced, this test would have made evident to me the working of the machinery, if there were any such concealed within the walls. It certainly was an up-to-date method of examination, as you must allow.

"Of course, I did not think that any of Tassoc's rivals had fixed up any mechanical contrivance; but I thought it just possible that there had been some such thing for producing the whistling, made away back in the years, perhaps with the intention of giving the room a reputation that would ensure its being free of inquisitive folk. You see what I mean? Well, of course, it was just possible, if this were the case, that someone knew the secret of the machinery, and was utilizing the knowledge to play this devil of a prank on Tassoc. The microphone test of the walls would certainly have made this known to me, as I have said; but there was nothing of the sort in the castle; so that I had practically no doubt at all now, but that it was a genuine case of what is popularly termed 'haunting.'

"All this time, every night, and sometimes most of each night, the hooning whistling of the Room was intolerable. It was as if an intelligence there, knew that steps were being taken against it, and piped and hooned in a sort of mad, mocking contempt. I tell you, it was as extraordinary as it was horrible. Time after time, I went along — tip-toeing noiselessly on stockinged feet — to the sealed door (for I always kept the Room sealed). I went at all hours of the night, and often the whistling, inside, would seem to change to a brutally malignant note, as though the half-animate monster saw me plainly through the shut door. And all the time the shrieking, hooning whistling would fill the whole corridor, so that I used to feel a precious lonely chap, messing about there with one of Hell's mysteries.

"And every morning, I would enter the room, and examine the different hairs and seals. You see, after the first week, I had stretched parallel hairs all along the walls of the room, and along the ceiling; but over the floor, which was of polished stone, I had set out little, colourless wafers, tacky-side uppermost. Each wafer was numbered, and they were arranged after a definite plan, so that I should be able to trace the exact movements of any living thing that went across the floor.

"You will see that no material being or creature could possibly have entered that room, without leaving many signs to tell me about it. But nothing was ever disturbed, and I began to think that I should have to risk an attempt to stay the night in the room, in the Electric Pentacle. Yet, mind you, I knew that it would be a crazy thing to do; but I was getting stumped, and ready to do anything.

"Once, about midnight, I did break the seal on the door, and have a quick look in; but, I tell you, the whole Room gave one mad yell, and seemed to come towards me in a great belly of shadows, as if the walls had bellied in towards me. Of course, that must have been fancy. Anyway, the yell was sufficient, and I slammed the door, and locked it, feeling a bit weak down my spine. You know the feeling.

"And then, when I had got to that state of readiness for anything, I made something of a discovery. It was about one in the morning, and I was walking slowly round the castle, keeping in the soft grass. I had come under the shadow of the East Front, and far above me, I could hear the vile, hooning whistle of the Room, up in the darkness of the unlit wing. Then, suddenly, a little in front of me, I heard a man's voice, speaking low, but evidently in glee:—

" 'By George! You Chaps; but I wouldn't care to bring a wife home in that!' it said, in the tone of the cultured Irish.

"Someone started to reply; but there came a sharp exclamation, and then a rush, and I heard footsteps running in all directions. Evidently, the men had spotted me.

"For a few seconds, I stood there, feeling an awful ass. After all, they were at the bottom of the haunting! Do you see what a big fool it made me seem? I had no doubt but that they were some of Tassoc's rivals; and here I had been feeling in every bone that I had hit a real, bad, genuine Case! And then, you know, there came the memory of hundreds of details, that made me just as much in doubt again. Anyway, whether it was natural, or ab-natural, there was a great deal yet to be cleared up.

"I told Tassoc, next morning, what I had discovered, and through the whole of every night, for five nights, we kept a close watch round the East Wing; but there was never a sign of anyone prowling about; and all the time, almost from evening to dawn, that grotesque whistling would hoon incredibly, far above us in the darkness.

"On the morning after the fifth night, I received a wire from here, which brought me home by the next boat. I explained to Tassoc that I was simply bound to come away for a few days; but told him to keep up the watch round the castle. One thing I was very careful to do, and that was to make him absolutely promise never to go into the Room, between sunset and sunrise. I made it clear to him that we knew nothing definite yet, one way or the other; and if the room were what I had first thought it to be, it might be a lot better for him to die first, than enter it after dark.

"When I got here, and had finished my business, I thought you chaps would be interested; and also I wanted to get it all spread out clear in my mind; so I rung you up. I am going over again to-morrow, and when I get back, I ought to have something pretty extraordinary to tell you. By the way, there is a curious thing I forgot to tell you. I tried to get a phonographic record of the whistling; but it simply produced no impression on the wax at all. That is one of the things that has made me feel queer, I can tell you. Another extraordinary thing is that the microphone will not magnify the sound — will not even transmit it; seems to take no account of it, and acts as if it were non-existent. I am absolutely and utterly stumped, up to the present. I am a wee bit curious to see whether any of your dear clever heads can make dayling of it. I cannot — not yet."

He rose to his feet.

"Good night, all," he said, and began to usher us out abruptly, but without offence, into the night.

A fortnight later, he dropped each of us a card, and you can imagine that I was not late this time. When we arrived, Carnacki took us straight into dinner, and when we had finished, and all made ourselves comfortable, he began again, where he had left off:—

"Now just listen quietly; for I have got something pretty queer to tell you. I got back late at night, and I had to walk up to the castle, as I had not warned them that I was coming. It was bright moonlight; so that the walk was rather a pleasure, than otherwise. When I got there, the whole place was in darkness, and I thought I would take a walk round outside, to see whether Tassoc or his brother was keeping watch. But I could not find them anywhere, and concluded that they had got tired of it, and gone off to bed.

"As I returned across the front of the East Wing, I caught the hooning whistling of the Room, coming down strangely through the stillness of the night. It had a queer note in it, I remember — low and constant, queerly meditative. I looked up at the window, bright in the moonlight, and got a sudden thought to bring a ladder from the stable-yard, and try to get a look into the Room, through the window.

"With this notion, I hunted round at the back of the castle, among the straggle of offices, and presently found a long, fairly light ladder; though it was heavy enough for one, goodness knows! And I thought at first that I should never get it reared. I managed at last, and let the ends rest very quietly against the wall, a little below the sill of the larger window. Then, going silently, I went up the ladder. Presently, I had my face above the sill and was looking in alone with the moonlight.

"Of course, the queer whistling sounded louder up there; but it still conveyed that peculiar sense of something whistling quietly to itself — can you understand? Though, for all the meditative lowness of the note, the horrible, gargantuan quality was distinct — a mighty parody of the human, as if I stood there and listened to the whistling from the lips of a monster with a man's soul.

"And then, you know, I saw something. The floor in the middle of the huge, empty room, was puckered upwards in the centre into a strange soft-looking mound, parted at the top into an ever changing hole, that pulsated to that great, gentle hooning. At times, as I watched, I saw the heaving of the indented mound, gap across with a queer, inward suction, as with the drawing of an enormous breath; then the thing would dilate and pout once more to the incredible melody. And suddenly, as I stared, dumb, it came to me that the thing was living. I was looking at two enormous, blackened lips, blistered and brutal, there in the pale moonlight....

"Abruptly, they bulged out to a vast, pouting mound of force and sound, stiffened and swollen, and hugely massive and clean-cut in the moon-beams. And a great sweat lay heavy on the vast upper-lip. In the same moment of time, the whistling had burst into a mad screaming note, that seemed to stun me, even where I stood, outside of the window. And then, the following moment, I was staring blankly at the solid, undisturbed floor of the room — smooth, polished stone flooring, from wall to wall; and there was an absolute silence.

"You can picture me staring into the quiet Room, and knowing what I knew. I felt like a sick, frightened kid, and wanted to slide quietly down the ladder, and run away. But in that very instant, I heard Tassoc's voice calling to me from within the Room, for help, help. My God! but I got such an awful dazed feeling; and I had a vague, bewildered notion that, after all, it was the Irishmen who had got him in there, and were taking it out of him. And then the call came again, and I burst the window, and jumped in to help him. I had a confused idea that the call had come from within the shadow of the great fireplace, and I raced across to it; but there was no one there.

" 'Tassoc!' I shouted, and my voice went empty-sounding round the great apartment; and then, in a flash, I knew that Tassoc had never called. I whirled round, sick with fear, towards the window, and as I did so, a frightful, exultant whistling scream burst through the Room. On my left, the end wall had bellied-in towards me, in a pair of gargantuan lips, black and utterly monstrous, to within a yard of my face. I fumbled for a mad instant at my revolver; not for it, but myself; for the danger was a thousand times worse than death. And then, suddenly, the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual was whispered quite audibly in the room. Instantly, the thing happened that I have known once before. There came a sense as of dust falling continually and monotonously, and I knew that my life hung uncertain and suspended for a flash, in a brief, reeling vertigo of unseeable things. Then that ended, and I knew that I might live. My soul and body blended again, and life and power came to me. I dashed furiously at the window, and hurled myself out head-foremost; for I can tell you that I had stopped being afraid of death. I crashed down on to the ladder, and slithered, grabbing and grabbing; and so came some way or other alive to the bottom. And there I sat in the soft, wet grass, with the moonlight all about me; and far above, through the broken window of the Room, there was a low whistling.

"That is the chief of it. I was not hurt, and I went round to the front, and knocked Tassoc up. When they let me in, we had a long yarn, over some good whisky — for I was shaken to pieces —, and I explained things as much as I could, I told Tassoc that the room would have to come down, and every fragment of it burned in a blast-furnace, erected within a pentacle. He nodded. There was nothing to say. Then I went to bed.

"We turned a small army on to the work, and within ten days, that lovely thing had gone up in smoke, and what was left was calcined, and clean.

"It was when the workmen were stripping the panelling, that I got hold of a sound notion of the beginnings of that beastly development. Over the great fireplace, after the great oak panels had been torn down, I found that there was let into the masonry a scrollwork of stone, with on it an old inscription, in ancient Celtic, that here in this room was burned Dian Tiansav, Jester of King Alzof, who made the Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore of the Seventh Castle.

"When I got the translation clear, I gave it to Tassoc. He was tremendously excited; for he knew the old tale, and took me down to the library to look at an old parchment that gave the story in detail. Afterwards, I found that the incident was well-known about the country-side; but always regarded more as a legend, than as history. And no one seemed ever to have dreamt that the old East Wing of Iastrae Castle was the remains of the ancient Seventh Castle.

"From the old parchment, I gathered that there had been a pretty dirty job done, away back in the years. It seems that King Alzof and King Ernore had been enemies by birthright, as you might say truly; but that nothing more than a little raiding had occurred on either side for years, until Dian Tiansay made the Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore, and sang it before King Alzof; and so greatly was it appreciated that King Alzof gave the jester one of his ladies, to wife.

"Presently, all the people of the land had come to know the song, and so it came at last to King Ernore, who was so angered that he made war upon his old enemy, and took and burned him and his castle; but Dian Tiansay, the jester, he brought with him to his own place, and having torn his tongue out because of the song which he had made and sung, he imprisoned him in the Room in the East Wing (which was evidently used for unpleasant purposes), and the jester's wife, he kept for himself, having a fancy for her prettiness.

"But one night, Dian Tiansay's wife was not to be found, and in the morning they discovered her lying dead in her husband's arms, and he sitting, whistling the Song of Foolishness, for he had no longer the power to sing it.

"Then they roasted Dian Tiansay, in the great fireplace — probably from that selfsame 'galley-iron' which I have already mentioned. And until he died, Dian Tiansay ceased not to whistle the Song of Foolishness, which he could no longer sing. But afterwards, 'in that room' there was often heard at night the sound of something whistling; and there 'grew a power in that room,' so that none dared to sleep in it. And presently, it would seem, the King went to another castle; for the whistling troubled him.

"There you have it all. Of course, that is only a rough rendering of the translation of the parchment. But it sounds extraordinarily quaint. Don't you think so?"

"Yes," I said, answering for the lot. "But how did the thing grow to such a tremendous manifestation?"

"One of those cases of continuity of thought producing a positive action upon the immediate surrounding material," replied Carnacki. "The development must have been going forward through centuries, to have produced such a monstrosity. It was a true instance of Saiitii manifestation, which I can best explain by likening it to a living spiritual fungus, which involves the very structure of the aether-fibre itself, and, of course, in so doing, acquires an essential control over the 'material-substance' involved in it. It is impossible to make it plainer in a few words."

"What broke the seventh hair?" asked Taylor.

But Carnacki did not know. He thought it was probably nothing but being too severely tensioned. He also explained that they found out that the men who had run away, had not been up to mischief; but had come over secretly, merely to hear the whistling, which, indeed, had suddenly become the talk of the whole countryside.

"One other thing," said Arkright, "have you any idea what governs the use of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual? I know, of course, that it was used by the Ab-human Priests in the Incantation of Raaaee; but what used it on your behalf, and what made it?"

"You had better read Harzan's Monograph, and my Addenda to it, on Astral and Astarral Co-ordination and Interference," said Carnacki. "It is an extraordinary subject, and I can only say here that the human-vibration may not be insulated from the astarral (as is always believed to be the case, in interferences by the Ab-human), without immediate action being taken by those Forces which govern the spinning of the outer circle. In other words, it is being proved, time after time, that there is some inscrutable Protective Force constantly intervening between the human-soul (not the body, mind you,) and the Outer Monstrosities. Am I clear?"

"Yes, I think so," I replied. "And you believe that the Room had become the material expression of the ancient Jester — that his soul, rotten with hatred, had bred into a monster — eh?" I asked.

"Yes," said Carnacki, nodding, "I think you've put my thought rather neatly. It is a queer coincidence that Miss Donnehue is supposed to be descended (so I have heard since) from the same King Ernore. It makes one think some curious thoughts, doesn't it? The marriage coming on, and the Room waking to fresh life. If she had gone into that room, ever .. eh? IT had waited a long time. Sins of the fathers. Yes, I've thought of that. They're to be married next week, and I am to be best man, which is a thing I hate. And he won his bets, rather! Just think, if every she had gone into that room. Pretty horrible, eh?"

He nodded his head, grimly, and we four nodded back. Then he rose and took us collectively to the door, and presently thrust us forth in friendly fashion on the Embankment and into the fresh night air.

"Good night," we all called back, and went to our various homes. If she had, eh? If she had? That is what I kept thinking. (From: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/carnack3.htm)


And then finally, I recall the movie, "1408," about a room in a hotel that is more than plain old haunted. It is a very bad room.



When I worked doing historic preservation for the National Park Service, I often traveled to various parks, and stayed overnight in some sketchy local motels. Some were definitely creepy. But I in particular remember one motel near Fort Davis in Texas that I stayed in, in about 1998 or 1999.

This motel was one story, and made of several clusters of buildings, separated from each other by parking areas. There were probably 30 or so rooms, and you could park your car just outside the door to your room. The lot was dirt and the buildings were lit by red-orange neon lights under the eaves. I think there might have been one other car in the lot besides mine.

I went in and got a room, no reservation, plenty of vacancies. They grinned and gave me a room way in the back of the furthest cluster. Kind of odd since so many were empty closer up near the road and the office. Now I have stayed in hundreds of motels over the years, from traveling with family as a kid, working as an itinerant archaeologist, periods of nomadism, and finally work for the National Parks. Hundreds of them.

I got in the room. Normal, not fancy, a little TV. A little odd feeling but that's normal for many rooms. I took a shower and got into bed and turned off the light. A feeling of menace and panic overcame me and I jumped up and turned on the light. It was still there. This sinister feeling of threat. It was late, I was tired. I left the room lights on and after, thinking in the heavy silence, turned on the TV as well. I left them on all night, the TV and the lights. I slept, had bad dreams, and left in the morning. That has never happened to me before or since. It was not a spook. It was the room itself.

I wondered if there had perhaps been a murder or something in that room. Drugs? Weird sexual activities? But I read something on the Internet years later that made me wonder.

Apparently, some folks who are into the dark arts like to rent motel rooms for their "workings." Because when you do some kinds of things in a place, the fabric of that place changes, alters, is "stained." So these folks, use motel rooms as disposable places for their activities. And those rooms are marked forever by what happened there. They are no good.

In "American Exorcism" by Michael Cuneo, in which he tells the story of the case that provided the inspiration for the movie "The Exorcist," the two places where the exorcism took place, the residence of the family and the hospital room, were stained by what happened there. Soaked, stained by the darkness. Never usable again.

To be haunted, to be animated so intensely, that cloakroom, the whistling room, 1408, the motel room, the places of exorcism, takes more than the tragedy of a human death.

A Way of Connection

Besides being into "this kinda thing" which makes all of us walk in two worlds, I am also mixed blood Native American and EuroAmerican, so I walk in two worlds that way too.

I had my earliest white members of my family come over from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany, and the Netherlands beginning in the 1600s. Some went to New Amsterdam as among the first EuroSettlers there, others in the tidewater areas of Virginia and the Carolinas. Almost all of us were here by the early 1700s, and many fought in the Revolutionary War. The last member of my family to come from Europe was one man from Ireland who came from Cork during the potato famine in the 1840s.

I could never relate to the Ellis Island experience. We were here before the Statue of Liberty. Montanans often brag their family has lived here for 4 generations, but before that their grandparents came from Europe, usually in the 1880s or so. I don't have any relatives I know of in "The Old Country."

Honestly I don't know how to be anything OTHER than American, and tied to this land. I have no resonance with or knowledge of the gods of my European ancestors. I like reading about them but they have no reality for me in my practices, though my Ancestors do (I have been doing a lot of work connecting with Them).

Probably it is through the Ancestors and my work with the Land Spirits and Weather Spirits that I find common ground here. I have done and occasionally do natural magic, but mostly I try to just learn what They want to teach of Their own free wills. I observe, am grateful, listen, and act when it is called for, such as learning about a Plant I take new notice of, like Balsamroot now.

I was raised "bi-faith" Catholic and Native American, so I basically see "God" and "The Creator" as the same. I have great love and respect for Mary and for Mother Earth, but they are not the same for me. I talk to the Thunder, and the Rain and Snow, to the Sun, to the Wind, to particular Trees and Hills.

This particular valley I live in, is particular to only my own lifetime. My family moved here when I was a little kid.

There are multiplicities of Spirits here. This was the territory of tribes not my own, but they too moved here in and out, hundreds of years ago. Life is always in flux. But I do set out food for them, and tobacco for the Land Spirits, and I pour whiskey for the white people who lived here and died here long before I came here as well. If there is a special request, I try to do it.

I just see all the elements and spirits and material beings here (human, animal, plant) as a web of developing and interconnecting relationships, of a developing covenant, of reciprocity, and of friendship.

If friendship is not possible, and enmity arises, I try only to avoid at first (usually this is mostly human-problems, but there are spirits who don't want connection and that is their right too). But if after my retreat, if that isn't sufficient, and the Other (human or otherwise) keeps after me to seek my harm, then the gloves come off and it's on :-) And I may not win, I may even die, but the chickens WILL come home to roost for the other as well, this I guarantee.

Bad Places: "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood (1907) (Part 1)



If there was one horror story written for bioregional animists, this would be it! ;-) One of my favorite stories of all time. I read it for the first time in the 70s in high school and I still enjoy re-reading it. Blackwood creates a mood of oppression and gathering menace that is remarkable. Not for the slash and "Saw" gang, but if you like horror that begins to creep slowly along your spine... a very bad place to be indeed.


The Willows

by Algernon Blackwood
....

After leaving Vienna, and long before you come to Budapesth, the Danube enters a region of singular loneliness and desolation, where its waters spread away on all sides regardless of a main channel, and the country becomes a swamp for miles upon miles, covered by a vast sea of low willow-bushes. On the big maps this deserted area is painted in a fluffy blue, growing fainter in colour as it leaves the banks, and across it may be seen in large straggling letters the word Sumpfe, meaning marshes.
In high flood this great acreage of sand, shingle-beds, and willow-grown islands is almost topped by the water, but in normal seasons the bushes bend and rustle in the free winds, showing their silver leaves to the sunshine in an ever-moving plain of bewildering beauty. These willows never attain to the dignity of trees; they have no rigid trunks; they remain humble bushes, with rounded tops and soft outline, swaying on slender stems that answer to the least pressure of the wind; supple as grasses, and so continually shifting that they somehow give the impression that the entire plain is moving and alive. For the wind sends waves rising and falling over the whole surface, waves of leaves instead of waves of water, green swells like the sea, too, until the branches turn and lift, and then silvery white as their under-side turns to the sun.

Happy to slip beyond the control of the stern banks, the Danube here wanders about at will among the intricate network of channels intersecting the islands everywhere with broad avenues down which the waters pour with a shouting sound; making whirlpools, eddies, and foaming rapids; tearing at the sandy banks; carrying away masses of shore and willow-clumps; and forming new islands innumerably which shift daily in size and shape and possess at best an impermanent life, since the flood-time obliterates their very existence.

Properly speaking, this fascinating part of the river's life begins soon after leaving Pressburg, and we, in our Canadian canoe, with gipsy tent and frying-pan on board, reached it on the crest of a rising flood about mid-July. That very same morning, when the sky was reddening before sunrise, we had slipped swiftly through still-sleeping Vienna, leaving it a couple of hours later a mere patch of smoke against the blue hills of the Wienerwald on the horizon; we had breakfasted below Fischeramend under a grove of birch trees roaring in the wind; and had then swept on the tearing current past Orth, Hainburg, Petronell (the old Roman Carnuntum of Marcus Aurelius), and so under the frowning heights of Thelsen on a spur of the Carpathians, where the March steals in quietly from the left and the frontier is crossed between Austria and Hungary.

Racing along at twelve kilometres an hour soon took us well into Hungary, and the muddy waters -- sure sign of flood -- sent us aground on many a shingle-bed, and twisted us like a cork in many a sudden belching whirlpool before the towers of Pressburg (Hungarian, Poszony) showed against the sky; and then the canoe, leaping like a spirited horse, flew at top speed under the grey walls, negotiated safely the sunken chain of the Fliegende Brucke ferry, turned the corner sharply to the left, and plunged on yellow foam into the wilderness of islands, sand-banks, and swamp-land beyond -- the land of the willows.

The change came suddenly, as when a series of bioscope pictures snaps down on the streets of a town and shifts without warning into the scenery of lake and forest. We entered the land of desolation on wings, and in less than half an hour there was neither boat nor fishing-hut nor red roof, nor any single sign of human habitation and civilisation within sight. The sense of remoteness from the world of human kind, the utter isolation, the fascination of this singular world of willows, winds, and waters, instantly laid its spell upon us both, so that we allowed laughingly to one another that we ought by rights to have held some special kind of passport to admit us, and that we had, somewhat audaciously, come without asking leave into a separate little kingdom of wonder and magic -- a kingdom that was reserved for the use of others who had a right to it, with everywhere unwritten warnings to trespassers for those who had the imagination to discover them.

Though still early in the afternoon, the ceaseless buffetings of a most tempestuous wind made us feel weary, and we at once began casting about for a suitable camping-ground for the night. But the bewildering character of the islands made landing difficult; the swirling flood carried us in shore and then swept us out again; the willow branches tore our hands as we seized them to stop the canoe, and we pulled many a yard of sandy bank into the water before at length we shot with a great sideways blow from the wind into a backwater and managed to beach the bows in a cloud of spray. Then we lay panting and laughing after our exertions on the hot yellow sand, sheltered from the wind, and in the full blaze of a scorching sun, a cloudless blue sky above, and an immense army of dancing, shouting willow bushes, closing in from all sides, shining with spray and clapping their thousand little hands as though to applaud the success of our efforts.

"What a river!" I said to my companion, thinking of all the way we had travelled from the source in the Black Forest, and how he had often been obliged to wade and push in the upper shallows at the beginning of June.

"Won't stand much nonsense now, will it?" he said, pulling the canoe a little farther into safety up the sand, and then composing himself for a nap.

I lay by his side, happy and peaceful in the bath of the elements -- water, wind, sand, and the great fire of the sun -- thinking of the long journey that lay behind us, and of the great stretch before us to the Black Sea, and how lucky I was to have such a delightful and charming travelling companion as my friend, the Swede.

We had made many similar journeys together, but the Danube, more than any other river I knew, impressed us from the very beginning with its aliveness. From its tiny bubbling entry into the world among the pinewood gardens of Donaueschingen, until this moment when it began to play the great river-game of losing itself among the deserted swamps, unobserved, unrestrained, it had seemed to us like following the grown of some living creature. Sleepy at first, but later developing violent desires as it became conscious of its deep soul, it rolled, like some huge fluid being, through all the countries we had passed, holding our little craft on its mighty shoulders, playing roughly with us sometimes, yet always friendly and well-meaning, till at length we had come inevitably to regard it as a Great Personage.

How, indeed, could it be otherwise, since it told us so much of its secret life? At night we heard it singing to the moon as we lay in our tent, uttering that odd sibilant note peculiar to itself and said to be caused by the rapid tearing of the pebbles along its bed, so great is its hurrying speed. We knew, too, the voice of its gurgling whirlpools, suddenly bubbling up on a surface previously quite calm; the roar of its shallows and swift rapids; its constant steady thundering below all mere surface sounds; and that ceaseless tearing of its icy waters at the banks. How it stood up and shouted when the rains fell flat upon its face! And how its laughter roared out when the wind blew upstream and tried to stop its growing speed! We knew all its sounds and voices, its tumblings and foamings, its unnecessary splashing against the bridges; that self-conscious chatter when there were hills to look on; the affected dignity of its speech when it passed through the little towns, far too important to laugh; and all these faint, sweet whisperings when the sun caught it fairly in some slow curve and poured down upon it till the steam rose.

It was full of tricks, too, in its early life before the great world knew it. There were places in the upper reaches among the Swabian forests, when yet the first whispers of its destiny had not reached it, where it elected to disappear through holes in the ground, to appear again on the other side of the porous limestone hills and start a new river with another name; leaving, too, so little water in its own bed that we had to climb out and wade and push the canoe through miles of shallows.

And a chief pleasure, in those early days of its irresponsible youth, was to lie low, like Brer Fox, just before the little turbulent tributaries came to join it from the Alps, and to refuse to acknowledge them when in, but to run for miles side by side, the dividing line well marked, the very levels different, the Danube utterly declining to recognize the newcomer. Below Passau, however, it gave up this particular trick, for there the Inn comes in with a thundering power impossible to ignore, and so pushes and incommodes the parent river that there is hardly room for them in the long twisting gorge that follows, and the Danube is shoved this way and that against the cliffs, and forced to hurry itself with great waves and mush dashing to and fro in order to get through in time. And during the fight our canoe slipped down from its shoulder to its breast, and had the time of its life among the struggling waves. But the Inn taught the old river a lesson, and after Passau it no longer pretended to ignore new arrivals.

This was many days back, of course, and since then we had come to know other aspects of the great creature, and across the Bavarian wheat plain of Straubing she wandered so slowly under the blazing June sun that we could well imagine only the surface inches were water, while below there moved, concealed as by a silken mantle, a whole army of Undines, passing silently and unseen down to the sea, and very leisurely too, lest they be discovered.

Much, too, we forgave her because of her friendliness to the birds and animals that haunted the shores. Cormorants lined the banks in lonely places in rows like short black palings; grey crows crowded the shingle-beds; storks stood fishing in the vistas of shallower water that opened up between the islands, and hawks, swans, and marsh birds of all sorts filled the air with glinting wings and singing, petulant cries. It was impossible to feel annoyed with the river's vagaries after seeing a deer leap with a splash into the water at sunrise and swim past the bows of the canoe; and often we saw fawns peering at us from the underbrush, or looked straight into the brown eyes of a stag as we charged full tilt round a corner and entered another reach of the river. Foxes, too, everywhere haunted the banks, tripping daintily among the driftwood and disappearing so suddenly that it was
impossible to see how they managed it.

But now, after leaving Pressburg, everything changed a little, and the Danube became more serious. It ceased trifling. It was half-way to the Black Sea, within seeming distance almost of other, stranger countries where no tricks would be permitted or understood. It became suddenly grown-up, and claimed our respect and even our awe. It broke out into three arms, for one thing, that only met again a hundred kilometres farther down, and for a canoe there were no indications which one was intended to be followed.

"If you take a side channel," said the Hungarian officer we met in the Pressburg shop while buying provisions, "you may find yourselves, when the flood subsides, forty miles from anywhere, high and dry, and you may easily starve. There are no people, no farms, no fishermen. I warn you not to continue. The river, too, is still rising, and this wind will increase."

The rising river did not alarm us in the least, but the matter of being left high and dry by a sudden subsidence of the waters might be serious, and we had consequently laid in an extra stock of provisions. For the rest, the officer's prophecy held true, and the wind, blowing down a perfectly clear sky, increased steadily till it reached the dignity of a westerly gale.

It was earlier than usual when we camped, for the sun was a good hour or two from the horizon, and leaving my friend still asleep on the hot sand, I wandered about in desultory examination of our hotel. The island, I found, was less than an acre in extent, a mere sandy bank standing some two or three feet above the level of the river. The far end, pointing into the sunset, was covered with flying spray which the tremendous wind drove off the crests of the broken waves. It was triangular in shape, with the apex up stream.

I stood there for several minutes, watching the impetuous crimson flood bearing down with a shouting roar, dashing in waves against the bank as though to sweep it bodily away, and then swirling by in two foaming streams on either side. The ground seemed to shake with the shock and rush, while the furious movement of the willow bushes as the wind poured over them increased the curious illusion that the island itself actually moved. Above, for a mile or two, I could see the great river descending upon me; it was like looking up the slope of a sliding hill, white with foam, and leaping up everywhere to show itself to the sun.

The rest of the island was too thickly grown with willows to make walking pleasant, but I made the tour, nevertheless. From the lower end the light, of course, changed, and the river looked dark and angry. Only the backs of the flying waves were visible, streaked with foam, and pushed forcibly by the great puffs of wind that fell upon them from behind. For a short mile it was visible, pouring in and out among the islands, and then disappearing with a huge sweep into the willows, which closed about it like a herd of monstrous antediluvian creatures crowding down to drink. They made me think of gigantic sponge-like growths that sucked the river up into themselves. They caused it to vanish from sight. They herded there together in such overpowering numbers.

Altogether it was an impressive scene, with its utter loneliness, its bizarre suggestion; and as I gazed, long and curiously, a singular emotion began to stir somewhere in the depths of me. Midway in my delight of the wild beauty, there crept, unbidden and unexplained, a curious feeling of disquietude, almost of alarm.

A rising river, perhaps, always suggests something of the ominous; many of the little islands I saw before me would probably have been swept away by the morning; this resistless, thundering flood of water touched the sense of awe. Yet I was aware that my uneasiness lay deeper far than the emotions of awe and wonder. It was not that I felt. Nor had it directly to do with the power of the driving wind -- this shouting hurricane that might almost carry up a few acres of willows into the air and scatter them like so much chaff over the landscape. The wind was simply enjoying itself, for nothing rose out of the flat landscape to stop it, and I was conscious of sharing its great game with a kind of pleasurable excitement. Yet this novel emotion had nothing to do with the wind. Indeed, so vague was the sense of distress I experienced, that it was impossible to trace it to its source and deal with it accordingly, though I was aware somehow that it had to do with my realisation of our utter insignificance before this unrestrained power of the elements about me. The huge-grown river had something to do with it too -- a vague, unpleasant idea that we had somehow trifled with these great elemental forces in whose power we lay helpless every hour of the day and night. For here, indeed, they were gigantically at play together, and the sight appealed to the imagination.

But my emotion, so far as I could understand it, seemed to attach itself more particularly to the willow bushes, to these acres and acres of willows, crowding, so thickly growing there, swarming everywhere the eye could reach, pressing upon the river as though to suffocate it, standing in dense array mile after mile beneath the sky, watching, waiting, listening. And, apart quite from the elements, the willows connected themselves subtly with my malaise, attacking the mind insidiously somehow by reason of their vast numbers, and contriving in some way or other to represent to the imagination a new and mighty power, a power, moreover, not altogether friendly to us.

Great revelations of nature, of course, never fail to impress in one way or another, and I was no stranger to moods of the kind. Mountains overawe and oceans terrify, while the mystery of great forests exercises a spell peculiarly its own. But all these, at one point or another, somewhere link on intimately with human life and human experience. They stir comprehensible, even if alarming, emotions. They tend on the whole to exalt.

With this multitude of willows, however, it was something far different, I felt. Some essence emanated from them that besieged the heart. A sense of awe awakened, true, but of awe touched somewhere by a vague terror. Their serried ranks, growing everywhere darker about me as the shadows deepened, moving furiously yet softly in the wind, woke in me the curious and unwelcome suggestion that we had trespassed here upon the borders of an alien world, a world where we were intruders, a world where we were not wanted or invited to remain -- where we ran grave risks perhaps!

The feeling, however, though it refused to yield its meaning entirely to analysis, did not at the time trouble me by passing into menace. Yet it never left me quite, even during the very practical business of putting up the tent in a hurricane of wind and building a fire for the stew-pot. It remained, just enough to bother and perplex, and to rob a most delightful camping-ground of a good portion of its charm. To my companion, however, I said nothing, for he was a man I considered devoid of imagination. In the first place, I could never have explained to him what I meant, and in the second, he would have laughed stupidly at me if I had.

There was a slight depression in the centre of the island, and here we pitched the tent. The surrounding willows broke the wind a bit.

"A poor camp," observed the imperturbable Swede when at last the tent stood upright, "no stones and precious little firewood. I'm for moving on early to-morrow -- eh? This sand won't hold anything."

But the experience of a collapsing tent at midnight had taught us many devices, and we made the cosy gipsy house as safe as possible, and then set about collecting a store of wood to last till bed-time. Willow bushes drop no branches, and driftwood was our only source of supply. We hunted the shores pretty thoroughly. Everywhere the banks were crumbling as the rising flood tore at them and carried away great portions with a splash and a gurgle.

"The island's much smaller than when we landed," said the accurate Swede. "It won't last long at this rate. We'd better drag the canoe close to the tent, and be ready to start at a moment's notice. I shall sleep in my clothes."

He was a little distance off, climbing along the bank, and I heard his rather jolly laugh as he spoke.

"By Jove!" I heard him call, a moment later, and turned to see what had caused his exclamation. But for the moment he was hidden by the willows, and I could not find him.

"What in the world's this?" I heard him cry again, and this time his voice had become serious.

I ran up quickly and joined him on the bank. He was looking over the river, pointing at something in the water.

"Good heavens, it's a man's body!" he cried excitedly. "Look!"

A black thing, turning over and over in the foaming waves, swept rapidly past. It kept disappearing and coming up to the surface again. It was about twenty feet from the shore, and just as it was opposite to where we stood it lurched round and looked straight at us. We saw its eyes reflecting the sunset, and gleaming an odd yellow as the body turned over. Then it gave a swift, gulping plunge, and dived out of sight in a flash.

"An otter, by gad!" we exclaimed in the same breath, laughing.

It was an otter, alive, and out on the hunt; yet it had looked exactly like the body of a drowned man turning helplessly in the current. Far below it came to the surface once again, and we saw its black skin, wet and shining in the sunlight.

Then, too, just as we turned back, our arms full of driftwood, another thing happened to recall us to the river bank. This time it really was a man, and what was more, a man in a boat. Now a small boat on the Danube was an unusual sight at any time, but here in this deserted region, and at flood time, it was so unexpected as to constitute a real event. We stood and stared.

Whether it was due to the slanting sunlight, or the refraction from the wonderfully illumined water, I cannot say, but, whatever the cause, I found it difficult to focus my sight properly upon the flying apparition. It seemed, however, to be a man standing upright in a sort of flat-bottomed boat, steering with a long oar, and being carried down the opposite shore at a tremendous pace. He apparently was looking across in our direction, but the distance was too great and the light too uncertain for us to make out very plainly what he was about. It seemed to me that he was gesticulating and making signs at us. His voice came across the water to us shouting something furiously, but the wind drowned it so that no single word was audible. There was something curious about the whole appearance -- man, boat, signs, voice -- that made an impression on me out of all proportion to its cause.

"He's crossing himself!" I cried. "Look, he's making the sign of the Cross!"

"I believe you're right," the Swede said, shading his eyes with his hand and watching the man out of sight. He seemed to be gone in a moment, melting away down there into the sea of willows where the sun caught them in the bend of the river and turned them into a great crimson wall of beauty. Mist, too, had begun to ruse, so that the air was hazy.

"But what in the world is he doing at nightfall on this flooded river?" I said, half to myself. "Where is he going at such a time, and what did he mean by his signs and shouting? D'you think he wished to warn us about something?"

"He saw our smoke, and thought we were spirits probably," laughed my companion. "These Hungarians believe in all sorts of rubbish; you remember the shopwoman at Pressburg warning us that no one ever landed here because it belonged to some sort of beings outside man's world! I suppose they believe in fairies and elementals, possibly demons, too. That peasant in the boat saw people on the islands for the first time in his life," he added, after a slight pause, "and it scared him, that's all."

The Swede's tone of voice was not convincing, and his manner lacked something that was usually there. I noted the change instantly while he talked, though without being able to label it precisely.

"If they had enough imagination," I laughed loudly -- I remember trying to make as much noise as I could -- "they might well people a place like this with the old gods of antiquity. The Romans must have haunted all this region more or less with their shrines and sacred groves and elemental deities."

The subject dropped and we returned to our stew-pot, for my friend was not given to imaginative conversation as a rule. Moreover, just then I remember feeling distinctly glad that he was not imaginative; his stolid, practical nature suddenly seemed to me welcome and comforting. It was an admirable temperament, I felt; he could steer down rapids like a red Indian, shoot dangerous bridges and whirlpools better than any white man I ever saw in a canoe. He was a grand fellow for an adventurous trip, a tower of strength when
untoward things happened. I looked at his strong face and light curly hair as he staggered along under his pile of driftwood (twice the size of mine!), and I experienced a feeling of relief. Yes, I was distinctly glad just then that the Swede was -- what he was, and that he never made remarks that suggested more than they said.

"The river's still rising, though," he added, as if following out some thoughts of his own, and dropping his load with a gasp. "This island will be under water in two days if it goes on."

"I wish the wind would go down," I said. "I don't care a fig for the river."

The flood, indeed, had no terrors for us; we could get off at ten minute's notice, and the more water the better we liked it. It meant an increasing current and the obliteration of the treacherous shingle-beds that so often threatened to tear the bottom out of our canoe.

Contrary to our expectations, the wind did not go down with the sun. It seemed to increase with the darkness, howling overhead and shaking the willows round us like straws. Curious sounds accompanied it sometimes, like the explosion of heavy guns, and it fell upon the water and the island in great flat blows of immense power. It made me think of the sounds a planet must make, could we only hear it, driving along through space.

But the sky kept wholly clear of clouds, and soon after supper the full moon rose up in the east and covered the river and the plain of shouting willows with a light like the day.

We lay on the sandy patch beside the fire, smoking, listening to the noises of the night round us, and talking happily of the journey we had already made, and of our plans ahead. The map lay spread in the door of the tent, but the high wind made it hard to study, and presently we lowered the curtain and extinguished the lantern. The firelight was enough to smoke and see each other's faces by, and the sparks flew about overhead like fireworks. A few yards beyond, the river gurgled and hissed, and from time to time a heavy splash announced the falling away of further portions of the bank.

Our talk, I noticed, had to do with the far-away scenes and incidents of our first camps in the Black Forest, or of other subjects altogether remote from the present setting, for neither of us spoke of the actual moment more than was necessary -- almost as though we had agreed tacitly to avoid discussion of the camp and its incidents. Neither the otter nor the boatman, for instance, received the honour of a single mention, though ordinarily these would have furnished discussion for the greater part of the evening. They were, of course, distinct events in such a place.

The scarcity of wood made it a business to keep the fire going, for the wind, that drove the smoke in our faces wherever we sat, helped at the same time to make a forced draught. We took it in turn to make some foraging expeditions into the darkness, and the quantity the Swede brought back always made me feel that he took an absurdly long time finding it; for the fact was I did not care much about being left alone, and yet it always seemed to be my turn to grub about among the bushes or scramble along the slippery banks in the moonlight. The long day's battle with wind and water -- such wind and such water! -- had tired us both, and an early bed was the obvious programme. Yet neither of us made the move for the tent. We lay there, tending the fire, talking in desultory fashion, peering about us into the dense willow bushes, and listening to the thunder of wind and river. The loneliness of the place had entered our very bones, and silence seemed natural, for after a bit the sound of our voices became a trifle unreal and forced; whispering would have been the fitting mode of communication, I felt, and the human voice, always rather absurd amid the roar of the elements, now carried with it something almost illegitimate. It was like talking out loud in church, or in some place where it was not lawful, perhaps not quite safe, to be overheard.

The eeriness of this lonely island, set among a million willows, swept by a hurricane, and surrounded by hurrying deep waters, touched us both, I fancy. Untrodden by man, almost unknown to man, it lay there beneath he moon, remote from human influence, on the frontier of another world, an alien world, a world tenanted by willows only and the souls of willows. And we, in our rashness, had dared to invade it, even to make use of it! Something more than the power of its mystery stirred in me as I lay on the sand, feet to fire, and peered up through the leaves at the stars. For the last time I rose to get firewood.

"When this has burnt up," I said firmly, "I shall turn in," and my companion watched me lazily as I moved off into the surrounding shadows.

For an unimaginative man I thought he seemed unusually receptive that night, unusually open to suggestion of things other than sensory. He too was touched by the beauty and loneliness of the place. I was not altogether pleased, I remember, to recognise this slight change in him, and instead of immediately collecting sticks, I made my way to the far point of the island where the moonlight on plain and river could be seen to better advantage. The desire to be alone had come suddenly upon me; my former dread returned in force; there was a vague feeling in me I wished to face and probe to the bottom.

When I reached the point of sand jutting out among the waves, the spell of the place descended upon me with a positive shock. No mere "scenery" could have produced such an effect. There was something more here, something to alarm.

I gazed across the waste of wild waters; I watched the whispering willows; I heard the ceaseless beating of the tireless wind; and, one and all, each in its own way, stirred in me this sensation of a strange distress. But the willows especially; for ever they went on chattering and talking among themselves, laughing a little, shrilly crying out, sometimes sighing -- but what it was they made so much to-do about belonged to the secret life of the great plain they inhabited. And it was utterly alien to the world I knew, or to that of the wild yet kindly elements. They made me think of a host of beings from another plane of life, another evolution altogether, perhaps, all discussing a mystery known only to themselves. I watched them moving busily together, oddly shaking their big bushy heads, twirling their myriad leaves even when there was no wind. They moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible.

There they stood in the moonlight, like a vast army surrounding our camp, shaking their innumerable silver spears defiantly, formed all ready for an attack.

The psychology of places, for some imaginations at least, is very vivid; for the wanderer, especially, camps have their "note" either of welcome or rejection. At first it may not always be apparent, because the busy preparations of tent and cooking prevent, but with the first pause -- after supper usually -- it comes and announces itself. And the note of this willow-camp now became unmistakably plain to me; we were interlopers, trespassers; we were not welcomed. The sense of unfamiliarity grew upon me as I stood there watching. We touched the frontier of a region where our presence was resented. For a night's lodging we might perhaps be tolerated; but for a prolonged and inquisitive stay -- No! by all the gods of the trees and wilderness, no! We were the first human influences upon this island, and we were not wanted. The willows were against us.

Strange thoughts like these, bizarre fancies, borne I know not whence, found lodgment in my mind as I stood listening. What, I thought, if, after all, these crouching willows proved to be alive; if suddenly they should rise up, like a swarm of living creatures, marshalled by the gods whose territory we had invaded, sweep towards us off the vast swamps, booming overhead in the night -- and then settle down! As I looked it was so easy to imagine they actually moved, crept nearer, retreated a little, huddled together in masses, hostile, waiting for the great wind that should finally start them a-running. I could have sworn their aspect changed a little, and their ranks deepened and pressed more closely together.

The melancholy shrill cry of a night-bird sounded overhead, and suddenly I nearly lost my balance as the piece of bank I stood upon fell with a great splash into the river, undermined by the flood. I stepped back just in time, and went on hunting for firewood again, half laughing at the odd fancies that crowded so thickly into my mind and cast their spell upon me. I recalled the Swede's remark about moving on next day, and I was just thinking that I fully agreed with him, when I turned with a start and saw the subject of my thoughts standing immediately in front of me. He was quite close. The roar of the elements had covered his approach.

"You've been gone so long," he shouted above the wind, "I thought something must have happened to you."

But there was that in his tone, and a certain look in his face as well, that conveyed to me more than his usual words, and in a flash I understood the real reason for his coming. It was because the spell of the place had entered his soul too, and he did not like being alone.

"River still rising," he cried, pointing to the flood in the moonlight, "and the wind's simply awful."

He always said the same things, but it was the cry for companionship that gave the real importance to his words.

"Lucky," I cried back, "our tent's in the hollow. I think it'll hold all right." I added something about the difficulty of finding wood, in order to explain my absence, but the wind caught my words and flung them across the river, so that he did not hear, but just looked at me through the branches, nodding his head.

"Lucky if we get away without disaster!" he shouted, or words to that effect; and I remember feeling half angry with him for putting the thought into words, for it was exactly what I felt myself. There was disaster impending somewhere, and the sense of presentiment lay unpleasantly upon me.

We went back to the fire and made a final blaze, poking it up with our feet. We took a last look round. But for the wind the heat would have been unpleasant. I put this thought into words, and I remember my friend's reply struck me oddly: that he would rather have the heat, the ordinary July weather, than this "diabolical wind".

Everything was snug for the night; the canoe lying turned over beside the tent, with both yellow paddles beneath her; the provision sack hanging from a willow-stem, and the washed-up dishes removed to a safe distance from the fire, all ready for the morning meal.

We smothered the embers of the fire with sand, and then turned in. The flap of the tent door was up, and I saw the branches and the stars and the white moonlight. The shaking willows and the heavy buffetings of the wind against our taut little house were the last things I remembered as sleep came down and covered all with its soft and delicious forgetfulness.

Suddenly I found myself lying awake, peering from my sandy mattress through the door of the tent. I looked at my watch pinned against the canvas, and saw by the bright moonlight that it was past twelve o'clock -- the threshold of a new day -- and I had therefore slept a couple of hours. The Swede was asleep still beside me; the wind howled as before; something plucked at my heart and made me feel afraid. There was a sense of disturbance in my immediate neighbourhood.

I sat up quickly and looked out. The trees were swaying violently to and fro as the gusts smote them, but our little bit of green canvas lay snugly safe in the hollow, for the wind passed over it without meeting enough resistance to make it vicious. The feeling of disquietude did not pass, however, and I crawled quietly out of the tent to see if our belongings were safe. I moved carefully so as not to waken my companion. A curious excitement was on me.

I was half-way out, kneeling on all fours, when my eye first took in that the tops of the bushes opposite, with their moving tracery of leaves, made shapes against the sky. I sat back on my haunches and stared. It was incredible, surely, but there, opposite and slightly above me, were shapes of some indeterminate sort among the willows, and as the branches swayed in the wind they seemed to group themselves about these shapes, forming a series of monstrous outlines that shifted rapidly beneath the moon. Close, about fifty feet in front of me, I saw these things.

My first instinct was to waken my companion, that he too might see them, but something made me hesitate -- the sudden realisation, probably, that I should not welcome corroboration; and meanwhile I crouched there staring in amazement with smarting eyes. I was wide awake. I remember saying to myself that I was not dreaming.

They first became properly visible, these huge figures, just within the tops of the bushes -- immense, bronze-coloured, moving, and wholly independent of the swaying of the branches. I saw them plainly and noted, now I came to examine them more calmly, that they were very much larger than human, and indeed that something in their appearance proclaimed them to be not human at all. Certainly they were not merely the moving tracery of the branches against the moonlight. They shifted independently. They rose upwards in a continuous stream from earth to sky, vanishing utterly as soon as they reached the dark of the sky. They were interlaced one with another, making a great column, and I saw their limbs and huge bodies melting in and out of each other, forming this serpentine line that bent and swayed and twisted spirally with the contortions of the wind-tossed trees. They were nude, fluid shapes, passing up the bushes, within the leaves almost -- rising up in a living column into the heavens. Their faces I never could see. Unceasingly they poured upwards, swaying in great bending curves, with a hue of dull bronze upon their skins.

I stared, trying to force every atom of vision from my eyes. For a long time I thought they must every moment disappear and resolve themselves into the movements of the branches and prove to be an optical illusion. I searched everywhere for a proof of reality, when all the while I understood quite well that the standard of reality had changed. For the longer I looked the more certain I became that these figures were real and living, though perhaps not according to the standards that the camera and the biologist would insist upon.

Far from feeling fear, I was possessed with a sense of awe and wonder such as I have never known. I seemed to be gazing at the personified elemental forces of this haunted and primeval region. Our intrusion had stirred the powers of the place into activity. It was we who were the cause of the disturbance, and my brain filled to bursting with stories and legends of the spirits and deities of places that have been acknowledged and worshipped by men in all ages of the world's history. But, before I could arrive at any possible explanation, something impelled me to go farther out, and I crept forward on the sand and stood upright. I felt the ground still warm under my bare feet; the wind tore at my hair and face; and the sound of the river burst upon my ears with a sudden roar. These things, I knew, were real, and proved that my senses were acting normally. Yet the figures still rose from earth to heaven, silent, majestically, in a great spiral of grace and strength that overwhelmed me at length with a genuine deep emotion of worship. I felt that I must fall down and worship -- absolutely worship.

Perhaps in another minute I might have done so, when a gust of wind swept against me with such force that it blew me sideways, and I nearly stumbled and fell. It seemed to shake the dream violently out of me. At least it gave me another point of view somehow. The figures still remained, still ascended into heaven from the heart of the night, but my reason at last began to assert itself. It must be a subjective experience, I argued -- none the less real for that, but still subjective. The moonlight and the branches combined to work out these pictures upon the mirror of my imagination, and for some reason I projected them outwards and made them appear objective. I knew this must be the case, of course. I took courage, and began to move forward across the open patches of sand. By Jove, though, was it all hallucination? Was it merely subjective? Did not my reason argue in the old futile way from the little standard of the known?

I only know that great column of figures ascended darkly into the sky for what seemed a very long period of time, and with a very complete measure of reality as most men are accustomed to gauge reality. Then suddenly they were gone!

And, once they were gone and the immediate wonder of their great presence had passed, fear came down upon me with a cold rush. The esoteric meaning of this lonely and haunted region suddenly flamed up within me, and I began to tremble dreadfully. I took a quick look round -- a look of horror that came near to panic -- calculating vainly ways of escape; and then, realising how helpless I was to achieve anything really effective, I crept back silently into the tent and lay down again upon my sandy mattress, first lowering the door-curtain to shut out the sight of the willows in the moonlight, and then burying my head as deeply as possible beneath the blankets to deaden the sound of the terrifying wind.

As though further to convince me that I had not been dreaming, I remember that it was a long time before I fell again into a troubled and restless sleep; and even then only the upper crust of me slept, and underneath there was something that never quite lost consciousness, but lay alert and on the watch.

But this second time I jumped up with a genuine start of terror. It was neither the wind nor the river that woke me, but the slow approach of something that caused the sleeping portion of me to grow smaller and smaller till at last it vanished altogether, and I found myself sitting bolt upright -- listening.

Outside there was a sound of multitudinous little patterings. They had been coming, I was aware, for a long time, and in my sleep they had first become audible. I sat there nervously wide awake as though I had not slept at all. It seemed to me that my breathing came with difficulty, and that there was a great weight upon the surface of my body. In spite of the hot night, I felt clammy with cold and shivered. Something surely was pressing steadily against the sides of the tent and weighing down upon it from above. Was it the body of the wind? Was this the pattering rain, the dripping of the leaves? The spray blown from the river by the wind and gathering in big drops? I thought quickly of a dozen things.

Then suddenly the explanation leaped into my mind: a bough from the poplar, the only large tree on the island, had fallen with the wind. Still half caught by the other branches, it would fall with the next gust and crush us, and meanwhile its leaves brushed and tapped upon the tight canvas surface of the tent. I raised a loose flap and rushed out, calling to the Swede to follow.

But when I got out and stood upright I saw that the tent was free. There was no hanging bough; there was no rain or spray; nothing approached.

A cold, grey light filtered down through the bushes and lay on the faintly gleaming sand. Stars still crowded the sky directly overhead, and the wind howled magnificently, but the fire no longer gave out any glow, and I saw the east reddening in streaks through the trees. Several hours must have passed since I stood there before watching the ascending figures, and the memory of it now came back to me horribly, like an evil dream. Oh, how tired it made me feel, that ceaseless raging wind! Yet, though the deep lassitude of a sleepless night was on me, my nerves were tingling with the activity of an equally tireless apprehension, and all idea of repose was out of the question. The river I saw had risen further. Its thunder filled the air, and a fine spray made itself felt through my thin sleeping shirt.

Yet nowhere did I discover the slightest evidence of anything to cause alarm. This deep, prolonged disturbance in my heart remained wholly unaccounted for.

My companion had not stirred when I called him, and there was no need to waken him now. I looked about me carefully, noting everything; the turned-over canoe; the yellow paddles -- two of them, I'm certain; the provision sack and the extra lantern hanging together from the tree; and, crowding everywhere about me, enveloping all, the willows, those endless, shaking willows. A bird uttered its morning cry, and a string of duck passed with whirring flight overhead in the twilight. The sand whirled, dry and stinging, about my bare feet in the wind.

I walked round the tent and then went out a little way into the bush, so that I could see across the river to the farther landscape, and the same profound yet indefinable emotion of distress seized upon me again as I saw the interminable sea of bushes stretching to the horizon, looking ghostly and unreal in the wan light of dawn. I walked softly here and there, still puzzling over that odd sound of infinite pattering, and of that pressure upon the tent that had wakened me. It must have been the wind, I reflected -- the wind bearing upon the loose, hot sand, driving the dry particles smartly against the taut canvas -- the wind dropping heavily upon our fragile roof.

Yet all the time my nervousness and malaise increased appreciably.

I crossed over to the farther shore and noted how the coast-line had altered in the night, and what masses of sand the river had torn away. I dipped my hands and feet into the cool current, and bathed my forehead. Already there was a glow of sunrise in the sky and the exquisite freshness of coming day. On my way back I passed purposely beneath the very bushes where I had seen the column of figures rising into the air, and midway among the clumps I suddenly found myself overtaken by a sense of vast terror. From the shadows a large figure went swiftly by. Someone passed me, as sure as ever man did. . . .

It was a great staggering blow from the wind that helped me forward again, and once out in the more open space, the sense of terror diminished strangely. The winds were about and walking, I remember saying to myself, for the winds often move like great presences under the trees. And altogether the fear that hovered about me was such an unknown and immense kind of fear, so unlike anything I had ever felt before, that it woke a sense of awe and wonder in me that did much to counteract its worst effects; and when I reached a high point in the middle of the island from which I could see the wide stretch of river, crimson in the sunrise, the whole magical beauty of it all was so overpowering that a sort of wild yearning woke in me and almost brought a cry up into the throat.

But this cry found no expression, for as my eyes wandered from the plain beyond to the island round me and noted our little tent half hidden among the willows, a dreadful discovery leaped out at me, compared to which my terror of the walking winds seemed as nothing at all.

For a change, I thought, had somehow come about in the arrangement of the landscape. It was not that my point of vantage gave me a different view, but that an alteration had apparently been effected in the relation of the tent to the willows, and of the willows to the tent. Surely the bushes now crowded much closer -- unnecessarily, unpleasantly close. They had moved nearer.

Creeping with silent feet over the shifting sands, drawing imperceptibly nearer by soft, unhurried movements, the willows had come closer during the night. But had the wind moved them, or had they moved of themselves? I recalled the sound of infinite small patterings and the pressure upon the tent and upon my own heart that caused me to wake in terror. I swayed for a moment in the wind like a tree, finding it hard to keep my upright position on the sandy hillock. There was a suggestion here of personal agency, of deliberate intention, of aggressive hostility, and it terrified me into a sort of rigidity.

Then the reaction followed quickly. The idea was so bizarre, so absurd, that I felt inclined to laugh. But the laughter came no more readily than the cry, for the knowledge that my mind was so receptive to such dangerous imaginings brought the additional terror that it was through our minds and not through our physical bodies that the attack would come, and was coming.

The wind buffeted me about, and, very quickly it seemed, the sun came up over the horizon, for it was after four o'clock, and I must have stood on that little pinnacle of sand longer than I knew, afraid to come down to close quarters with the willows. I returned quietly, creepily, to the tent, first taking another exhaustive look round and -- yes, I confess it -- making a few measurements. I paced out on the warm sand the distances between the willows and the tent, making a note of the shortest distance particularly.

I crawled stealthily into my blankets. My companion, to all appearances, still slept soundly, and I was glad that this was so. Provided my experiences were not corroborated, I could find strength somehow to deny them, perhaps. With the daylight I could persuade myself that it was all a subjective hallucination, a fantasy of the night, a projection of the excited imagination.

Nothing further came in to disturb me, and I fell asleep almost at once, utterly exhausted, yet still in dread of hearing again that weird sound of multitudinous pattering, or of feeling the pressure upon my heart that had made it difficult to breathe.

The sun was high in the heavens when my companion woke me from a heavy sleep and announced that the porridge was cooked and there was just time to bathe. The grateful smell of frizzling bacon entered the tent door.

"River still rising," he said, "and several islands out in mid-stream have disappeared altogether. Our own island's much smaller."

"Any wood left?" I asked sleepily.

"The wood and the island will finish to-morrow in a dead heat," he laughed, "but there's enough to last us till then."

I plunged in from the point of the island, which had indeed altered a lot in size and shape during the night, and was swept down in a moment to the landing-place opposite the tent. The water was icy, and the banks flew by like the country from an express train. Bathing under such conditions was an exhilarating operation, and the terror of the night seemed cleansed out of me by a process of evaporation in the brain. The sun was blazing hot; not a cloud showed itself anywhere; the wind, however, had not abated one little jot.

Quite suddenly then the implied meaning of the Swede's words flashed across me, showing that he no longer wished to leave post-haste, and had changed his mind. "Enough to last till to-morrow" -- he assumed we should stay on the island another night. It struck me as odd. The night before he was so positive the other way. How had the change come about?

Great crumblings of the banks occurred at breakfast, with heavy splashings and clouds of spray which the wind brought into our frying-pan, and my fellow-traveller talked incessantly about the difficulty the Vienna-Pesth steamers must have to find the channel in flood. But the state of his mind interested and impressed me far more than the state of the river or the difficulties of the steamers. He had changed somehow since the evening before. His manner was different -- a trifle excited, a trifle shy, with a sort of suspicion about his voice and gestures. I hardly know how to describe it now in cold blood, but at the time I remember being quite certain of one thing -- that he had become frightened?

He ate very little breakfast, and for once omitted to smoke his pipe. He had the map spread open beside him, and kept studying its markings.

"We'd better get off sharp in an hour," I said presently, feeling for an opening that must bring him indirectly to a partial confession at any rate. And his answer puzzled me uncomfortably: "Rather! If they'll let us."

"Who'll let us? The elements?" I asked quickly, with affected indifference.

"The powers of this awful place, whoever they are," he replied, keeping his eyes on the map. "The gods are here, if they are anywhere at all in the world."

"The elements are always the true immortals," I replied, laughing as naturally as I could manage, yet knowing quite well that my face reflected my true feelings when he looked up gravely at me and spoke across the smoke:

"We shall be fortunate if we get away without further disaster."

This was exactly what I had dreaded, and I screwed myself up to the point of the direct question. It was like agreeing to allow the dentist to extract the tooth; it had to come anyhow in the long run, and the rest was all pretence.

"Further disaster! Why, what's happened?"

"For one thing -- the steering paddle's gone," he said quietly.

"The steering paddle gone!" I repeated, greatly excited, for this was our rudder, and the Danube in flood without a rudder was suicide. "But what --"

"And there's a tear in the bottom of the canoe," he added, with a genuine little tremor in his voice.

I continued staring at him, able only to repeat the words in his face somewhat foolishly. There, in the heat of the sun, and on this burning sand, I was aware of a freezing atmosphere descending round us. I got up to follow him, for he merely nodded his head gravely and led the way towards the tent a few yards on the other side of the fireplace. The canoe still lay there as I had last seen her in the night, ribs uppermost, the paddles, or rather, the paddle, on the sand beside her.

"There's only one," he said, stooping to pick it up. "And here's the rent in the base-board."

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that I had clearly noticed two paddles a few hours before, but a second impulse made me think better of it, and I said nothing. I approached to see.

There was a long, finely made tear in the bottom of the canoe where a little slither of wood had been neatly taken clean out; it looked as if the tooth of a sharp rock or snag had eaten down her length, and investigation showed that the hole went through. Had we launched out in her without observing it we must inevitably have foundered. At first the water would have made the wood swell so as to close the hole, but once out in mid-stream the water must have poured in, and the canoe, never more than two inches above the surface, would have filled and sunk very rapidly.

"There, you see an attempt to prepare a victim for the sacrifice," I heard him saying, more to himself than to me, "two victims rather," he added as he bent over and ran his fingers along the slit.

I began to whistle -- a thing I always do unconsciously when utterly nonplussed -- and purposely paid no attention to his words. I was determined to consider them foolish.

"It wasn't there last night," he said presently, straightening up from his examination and looking anywhere but at me.

"We must have scratched her in landing, of course," I stopped whistling to say. "The stones are very sharp."

I stopped abruptly, for at that moment he turned round and met my eye squarely. I knew just as well as he did how impossible my explanation was. There were no stones, to begin with.

"And then there's this to explain too," he added quietly, handing me the paddle and pointing to the blade.

A new and curious emotion spread freezingly over me as I took and examined it. The blade was scraped down all over, beautifully scraped, as though someone had sand-papered it with care, making it so thin that the first vigorous stroke must have snapped it off at the elbow.

"One of us walked in his sleep and did this thing," I said feebly, "or -- or it has been filed by the constant stream of sand particles blown against it by the wind, perhaps."

"Ah," said the Swede, turning away, laughing a little, "you can explain everything."

"The same wind that caught the steering paddle and flung it so near the bank that it fell in with the next lump that crumbled," I called out after him, absolutely determined to find an explanation for everything he showed me.

"I see," he shouted back, turning his head to look at me before disappearing among the willow bushes.

Once alone with these perplexing evidences of personal agency, I think my first thoughts took the form of "One of us must have done this thing, and it certainly was not I." But my second thought decided how impossible it was to suppose, under all the circumstances, that either of us had done it. That my companion, the trusted friend of a dozen similar expeditions, could have knowingly had a hand in it, was a suggestion not to be entertained for a moment. Equally absurd seemed the explanation that this imperturbable and densely practical nature had suddenly become insane and was busied with insane purposes.

Yet the fact remained that what disturbed me most, and kept my fear actively alive even in this blaze of sunshine and wild beauty, was the clear certainty that some curious alteration had come about in his mind -- that the was nervous, timid, suspicious, aware of goings on he did not speak about, watching a series of secret and hitherto unmentionable events -- waiting, in a word, for a climax that he expected, and, I thought, expected very soon. This grew up in my mind intuitively -- I hardly knew how.


continued in part 2