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The first writer that really scared me: Algernon Blackwood

Some things stick in our minds for decades.
I was eleven years old or thereabouts when I got my copy of the Italian version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghost Gallery, a collection of horror stories (not all of them dealing with ghosts) aimed at a younger audience. Having been raised on Scooby Doo, and an avid reader of The Three Investigators, the idea of a collection of ghost stories was pretty exciting – and I got the book for Christmas that year. It was 1978.

Now this was a case of wrong expectations – the spooky stories in the book were none like Scooby Doo or the Three Investigators, and if a couple were quite humorous, like the three entries from Robert Arthur, none of these stories had the rational solution and the real culprit behind the haunting being shown for a very human bad guy.
This was, probably for the first time in my life, the Real Thing.
These were scary stories.

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The Valley of the Beasts

ghost galleryYesterday it was Algernon Blackwood’s birthday… his 147th.
Blackwood was one of the great supernatural fiction authors – really one of the founding fathers of the genre.

I read my first Blackwood story, called The Valley of the Beasts, when I was about ten.
It was the last story in a book called Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghost Gallery, and it was like nothing I ever read before.

And so, to celebrate the work of an author I always loved, here’s the audio version of that story I read so many years ago.