Escape Artists



ATTENTION: NEW FORUM THEME Please see here for details:

Author Topic: PC125: The Whistling Room  (Read 13882 times)


  • Bill Peters, EP Assistant
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2938
  • Part-Time Psychopomp.
on: October 05, 2010, 05:37:38 PM
PodCastle 125: The Whistling Room

Featuring Carnacki, the Ghost Finder

by William Hope Hodgson

Read by Paul S. Jenkins

“‘The whistling started about ten o’clock, on the second night, as Ibsaid. 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.

Rated PG: For Things That Whistle in the Night
« Last Edit: October 29, 2010, 04:30:49 AM by Heradel »

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4880
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
Reply #1 on: October 06, 2010, 01:43:52 AM
It was pretty nice, but I found my attention wandering.  I suspect the slightly archaic style was to blame; I find it much easier to read such circumlocutions than to listen to them.  (Though I do enjoy reading them.)

Mirrorshards: Very Short Stories
100 Words.  No more.  No fewer.  Every day.
Splinters of Silver and Glass - The Mirrorshards Book


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • My Blog
Reply #2 on: October 06, 2010, 02:24:43 PM
I found my attention wandering while I was listening to the story. 
The narration was good, clear and well paced.
I think this story didn't sit well on its own. It kept referring to other events in the main character's life that were not shown, so I kept thinking I should have started with an earlier story.


Wilson Fowlie

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1472
    • The Maple Leaf Singers
Reply #3 on: October 06, 2010, 03:30:53 PM
I found this to be a very satisfying ghost tale, and I may well look up some of the Carnacki stories, as Ann suggested.

Unlike the previous two commenters, I had less trouble with this story holding my attention than I have had with some stories (I had to rewind a few times in "Some Zombie Contingency Plans", despite Norm's very good narration).  As a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and something of an Anglophile, I found the language to be pleasantly mass-y, if you see what I mean - dense, meaty, thick and rich, like a good homemade beef stew.

It may also have been my comfort with the Holmesian style that made me not mind the references to Carnacki's earlier adventures.  It's entirely possible that some of those adventures were never written - several of the Holmes stories refer to adventures that Conan Doyle never published, maybe even never wrote down. (Several, maybe even all of them, have had 'unofficial' versions written by later chroniclers.)

To me, references to earlier adventures that the narrator (but not necessarily the reader) knows about makes the storytelling more true to life, as that's what you'd do if you were telling the story yourself ("That latest bug I fixed? It was just like that one time we had a non-key field in the database a couple of years ago, remember?").

I really liked the explanation of the origin of the whistling room itself, though I felt that the names of the ancient Irish kings were maybe too foreign for audio (i.e. not easily remembered or differentiable) - I had trouble keeping track of which was which and from which one the fair Irish lass was descended.

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Reply #4 on: October 06, 2010, 06:37:45 PM
I really liked this one.  Sometimes the Lovecraftian (this predates Lovecraft, but Lovecraftian is such a good adjective) prose loses me, but not this time.

Great narration, good story.  One wonders whether is would have been more suited for Pseudopod, but I listen to all three podcasts so it's all the same to me.


  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #5 on: October 06, 2010, 06:44:58 PM
Sing with me now: who you gonna call? Carnacki! Bum bum bum budadum. DA-da DA-da DA-da bum bum budadum. DA-da DA-da DA-da bum bum budadum...

Man, I loved this story. I wasn't bugged by the slightly archaic language - in fact, it made the setting more alive for me - but then again, I'm a big fan of Lovecraft and I was a religion major in college, so I'm used to slogging through inscrutable text. In this story, was most impressed with the thematic density. The picture of Carnacki the science-positive ghost-hunter - incredulous, skeptical, brave, rational, insightful - using electric pentacles alongside ancient abhuman incantations, is inspiring. I was particularly interested in the way Hodgson presented a world much like the one Lovecraft would later explore, but significantly less depressing. Like all good ghost stories, The Whistling Room was human-centric; the haunting was caused by human passions, long curdled into something hideous and terrifying. I also enjoyed the small, subtle nod towards theism. "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" (Free eBooks + Kindle = Awesome). The combination of hideously powerful Outer Things and a concept of human strength and a human god is pretty exciting.

Ever wanted to punch Cthulhu in the face? I get the feeling that Carnacki can.

Or, to put it more bluntly, I want this to be my game, and I want Carnacki to be my character. This is always a good sign.

I've already downloaded everything of Hodgson that I can find on the internet, including Carnacki the Ghost Finder and The Night Land, but is there any chance of hearing more Hodgson on Podcastle soon?
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 06:47:58 PM by ElectricPaladin »

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 24
Reply #6 on: October 06, 2010, 07:29:01 PM
I both liked and was kinda "eh" about this one.

He used the word "queer" fifteen times - I know, I know, it meant something different back then.  That's not the issue.  I just wish he'd nabbed a thesaurus before launching into descriptions of how odd and preternatural that room seemed, instead of saying there was something queer about it so often.  It's a decent enough adjective, but not very specific.

The references to the earlier adventures also seemed a little odd to me, because of the tone.  "Why, it was there I found the Red Mask, propped against my bedstand in much the same manner as the Spear of the Ancients from my excursion to Spain, as-you-well-know."  He's consistently redundant in this way, not alluding to past adventures that the Hodgson fan can knowingly smile at, but rather kind of hinting with a cudgel.

I did like that he states that a large number of his cases wind up a wash, magically speaking, and the hauntings he's sent to look into are bunkum.  I'm not against a down the rabbithole mentality about the supernatural, where everything's off once you know where to look.  I liked Neverwhere and the Dresden Files (and the hundreds of other fantasy works that use this).  But I really felt that Hodgson's approach of including the rational world into his investigative approach was novel, pretty effin' brilliant, and sadly underused nowadays.

Another thing that I found a little "eh" was the lack of strong characters.  The rollicking pacing kept this story moving, and the author was pretty able in that department I think - no mind wandering from me, I think it was going at a good clip the whole way.  But I realized just how badly he'd floundered the characters when I went to write this big ole, clearly blowhard-y and overlong review... I couldn't remember the name of anyone besides Carnacki, nor the physical description of even one of 'em.  I knew that Tassoc (I had to look him up) enjoyed a belt of liquor or three, but that's about it.  The characters just didn't come alive for me at all.

I very much liked the story for the reveal at the end about the source of the whistling, its overall snappy conversational tone that very much recalled to me Dupin and Holmes, and the eerie ambiance the story establishes.

I also really liked how after recounting a magical principle to the narrator, he ends with "Am I clear?"  As heard by a modern dude, it seemed offensive, but I think Carnacki's brusqueness was maybe less discourteous back in the day, when men were men and women were cleaning.

The reading was good, and I'm sorry I don't have more to say on it after writing so much about the story itself.  Heckuva good job.

I swear, I did like it, I just wish we could've summoned Hodgson's ghost to tighten this up for a modern audience.


  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
    • Journey Into... podcast
Reply #7 on: October 06, 2010, 07:52:11 PM
I quite liked this tale.  Kudos to Podcastle for unearthing this classic character from the public domain.  I had never heard of Carnacki before (maybe in passing references that I didn't understand), and it seems shocking because he is so cool.  It seems like he should be more commonly known.  I suppose the Sherlock Holmes correlation is obvious, but I kept thinking C.S.I Paranormal.  I love "classic tales" because they are so full of words that we don't hear day-to-day in the modern world, like "abnatural" (I love that one) or "abhuman", and those are just the ones that stand out the most.  I like the archaic idioms as well.

And I always love to hear Paul S. Jenkins read.  He's fantastic!

Facehuggers don't have heads!

Come with me and Journey Into... another fun podcast


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Reply #8 on: October 06, 2010, 11:14:14 PM
Horror fiction has evolved over the last century. No one in this story who was investigating the haunting ever got hurt in any way other than to lose some sleep because of a noisy neighbor, and who hasn't had that experience. nowadays someone would be hung from the middle of the room by a piano wire at the very least. This was a refreshing change from the norm. and not norm sherman. he rocks.


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Reply #9 on: October 06, 2010, 11:47:45 PM
Another thing that I found a little "eh" was the lack of strong characters.  The rollicking pacing kept this story moving, and the author was pretty able in that department I think - no mind wandering from me, I think it was going at a good clip the whole way.  But I realized just how badly he'd floundered the characters when I went to write this big ole, clearly blowhard-y and overlong review... I couldn't remember the name of anyone besides Carnacki, nor the physical description of even one of 'em.  I knew that Tassoc (I had to look him up) enjoyed a belt of liquor or three, but that's about it.  The characters just didn't come alive for me at all.

I assumed that the lack of strong characters other than Carmacki was because you as the reader/listener are getting this story third-hand. Cormacki lived it and told it to the narrator who is now relating it to us, it seems unlikely that the narrator has met everyone in the story and Cormacki is more interested in telling his friends about his brush with ancient mysteries than in giving descriptions of clothing or mannerism.

I enjoyed the story quite a bit, but I think that's mostly because it's a style that I don't read much of on my own, I tend to find the prose a bit much to slog through unless I'm reading aloud. I was expecting a bit more of a pay off in the end, not just the voice of his guardian angel (or whatever) coming down through the veils of reality to save him from certain doom at the hands of the evil spirit of a wronged satirist. It seemed like kind of a let down.


  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
Reply #10 on: October 07, 2010, 12:03:28 AM
I enjoyed this; Carnacki put me in mind of a Joe Nickell type of character with his open-minded skepticism.

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 287
Reply #11 on: October 07, 2010, 01:22:44 AM
I really, really liked this story.  I've never heard of the author before, but I'll be looking into more of his work.  I like him better than Lovecraft and he's much more comprehensible than Poe. 


  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 35
Reply #12 on: October 07, 2010, 02:00:42 AM
I just couldn't get into it.


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Reply #13 on: October 07, 2010, 05:50:32 AM
I liked this, but I'm always a sucker for early pulp wierd fiction. Like some posters above, I loved the archaic language


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Reply #14 on: October 07, 2010, 01:06:20 PM
I'd say this was a somewhat badly writen story made excellently enjoyable by a great narration.

(my inconsequential gripes being mainly with the flat know-it-all character of Carnacki and the quick blundering forward of his tale)

thank you for making this bad but classic tale undeservedly enjoyable / Peter


  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8657
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #15 on: October 07, 2010, 01:39:07 PM
This one was all right.  It had some cool elements.  Particularly the fact that I didn't know whether the whistling would be natural or unnatural in origin--a lot of times you have a pretty good idea just from the source.  When I read Poe, I expect something unnatural.  When I watch Scooby Doo, I expect the most innocent-seeming person from Act I to be dressed up in the monster costume (with the frequency that this occurred on that cartoon, you'd think there'd be more news stories about people dressed up in monster costumes to scare their rivals).

I don't mind archaic language itself, as I love reading Wells, Poe, and other classics, but the constant references to previous cases, and the third-hand retelling dulled down the tension of the story significantly and kept the descriptions very vague.

Overall, it was pretty good.  I wouldn't mind reading another Carnacki story to see if another would be better.


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • The Discordian Group
Reply #16 on: October 07, 2010, 07:34:04 PM
I enjoyed this one a lot.  It reminded me a lot of some of the Call Of Cthuhlu role playing games I have played in the past.  I think that Paul S. Jenkins wonderful accent added that much more to the atmosphere of the story.


  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Reply #17 on: October 07, 2010, 08:26:42 PM
I totally heart old detective type stories. the supernatural element just made it better.
loved the narration, very well done all round :)
where can I find myself an electric pentacle?


  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1740
    • Who Doesn't Love Stories?
Reply #18 on: October 08, 2010, 12:31:05 AM
i was totally engrossed in this story from beginning to end  ;D i've never heard of Carnacki but I will be looking for more.


  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Reply #19 on: October 08, 2010, 02:59:43 AM
Interesting story, I was curious to see more of how the protagonist got into the spiritualist business. Generally, if I wanted a classic story, I'd go to the Classic Tales podcast, but this really felt like it belonged on Podcastle, a good choice for the holiday season.