M. R. James–Master of the English Ghost Story, a Must-See Documentary!

The Complete Horror Timeline–Part 2 of 3: Into the 20th Century (1900 – 1969)

100 horror haxan (Custom)

Image from the film, Häxan, a 1922 Swedish-Danish documentary-style silent horror film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen.

The Complete Horror Timeline

Part 2 of 3: Into the 20th Century (1900 – 1969)

Go to Part 1: Pre-20th Century * Go to Part 3: 1970 – 1999

Complete Bibliography


1902
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is published. As an exploration of the darker side of the soul it deserves mention, and is also considered the first twentieth century novel. Francis Ford Coppola moved the premise into Vietnam to see what would happen in 1979, whereas Nicholas Roeg’s telemovie (1994) was set in the original’s time period.

1902
‘The Monkey’s Paw’ is W. W. Jacobs’ contribution to the genre, and a significant one it is — probably the most famous short horror story, certainly of those written this century.

1904
The first collection from M. R. James, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, is published, heralding one of the most respected of this century’s horror authors, particularly in his speciality of the quiet but creepy ghost story.

1907
The Listener is published, a book of short stories by Algernon Blackwood containing his best-regarded work, ‘The Willows’. Blackwood was only one of a number of successful authors belonging to the Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult society created in 1888 by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, and whose most infamous member was Aleister Crowley. Other notable members were William Butler Yeats, Arthur Machen (debuting with ‘The Great God Pan’ in 1894), Lord Dunsany and the incredibly popular (in his time) Sax Rohmer who gave the world Dr Fu Manchu. This group represented not only most of the weird fiction originating in the UK at the time (one report lists Bram Stoker as a member), but is the last flourishing of English horror literature till James Herbert and Clive Barker [1984].

1908
Among the first experiments with film there were a number of gruesome and fantastic scenes, but the first real horror movie was probably William N. Selig’s 16 minute version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde [1885].

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“The Wild Man”—a Greek Fairy Tale

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Art by Todd Yeager.

Once upon a time there was a king and a queen, and they had an only son. This king was always sorrowful because he foresaw that, as he had neither soldiers nor money, if any other king were at any time to declare war against him, he would take away his kingdom from him. This worm continually gnawed him, and so his lips never smiled; and every day he walked out into the country to dispel the gloom which was in his heart.

One day as he was out walking, a monk met him on the road, and, seeing the king so moody, he asked him, “Sir King, what is the matter that thou art so sad? Always moody is your majesty!”

“Eh, my good monk,” says the king to him, “Every stick has its own smoke, you know. I am moody because one day I shall be undone; they will take from me all my towns, because I have no soldiers.”

“Oh! Is that why thou art sorrowful, my king? I will tell thee what to do. In a certain place there is a wild man whom all the world fears for his strength. Collect thy soldiers, and send them to seize him; and when thou possessest such a wild man, no king can menace thee.”

Then the king was somewhat heartened and said, “My good monk, I will give thee whatever thou may’st desire, if only this is accomplished and the wild man brought to me, as thou sayest.”

And when he returns to the palace, he calls immediately his twelve councillors and tells them what the monk had said to him. The twelve, when they heard his words, rejoiced on the one hand, but looked grave on the other, for how was it possible to bring that wild man?

So they said to the king, “O Sir King, thou sayest that in a certain place away in the wilderness is to be found a wild man; but we must see if it is possible to bring him hither. We see no easier way than that he who told thee of this man should himself bring him.”

The next day, accordingly, very early in the morning, the king gets up and goes to seek the monk; and when he had arrived at the same spot, the monk again presented himself, and said, “Eh, what hast thou done, my king?”

Then the king replies, “Alas, my good monk, I have done nothing. For I told my twelve, and they said to me that no other could bring him save he who had given me the tidings.”

“Very well, Sir King, if thou biddest me, I will bring him to thee. Give me forty thousand soldiers; make me a chain of copper weighing a hundred thousand kantars, and an iron cage each bar of which must be like a column; and then I will bring him to thee, otherwise nothing can be done.”

“I will gladly make for thee,” said the king, “anything thou askest me.”

And he takes him, and brings him to the palace, and at once gives orders to the Gypsies to collect all the copper in the city for the chain. In a week all is ready. And the monk takes the soldiers, the chain and the cage, and goes for the wild man; and after two or three months’ time they arrive at the place where he was to be found. The soldiers immediately set to work and encircled the mountain with the chain, and took every precaution against his escaping at any spot. They did in fact everything the monk told them. And about noontide they felt the mountain tremble, and from that they understood that the wild man was coming forth. They look this way and that, but see nothing; but when they look upwards, they see — my eyes! — they see coming down from the summit the wild man, a sight which made them tremble. But the monk encouraged them.

“Ah, my pallikars, let us seize the monster! Bring hither the chain!”

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