Arthur Machen Books That Explore The Supernatural, Occult And Other Gothic Tales

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Supernatural stories and gothic settings are the theme of Arthur Machen books.

Considered to be one of the most influential writers in the supernatural, occult and horror genres, Arthur Machen’s written works have been the inspiration behind many H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King novels.

Machen (rhymes with “blacken”) is referred to as a writer of mystic, fantasy and weird fiction. Born in Wales in 1863, he descended from a long line of clergyman, sat exams to attend medical school, but failed and decided to focus on writing. He published frequently in many literary magazines that were gothic or fantasy based.

The period of time that Machen wrote in is referred to as the literary decadence movement. It was used to describe a luxurious self-indulgence at the expense of moral and sexual traditions. At the core of several, if not all, of Machen’s stories is a decadent horror that often questions religion and faith in a grisly manner.

Featured below are several of Machen’s works, all of which are believed to be in the public domain.

Arthur Machen books

The Great God Pan (1894)

Without a doubt, this is Machen’s most famous book. Despite receiving criticism when it first published, it has been referenced in poetry, performed on stage and translated into French. Essentially, a doctor devises a way to expand his mind to the universe and encounters the god Pan. Here’s where things take a trip down Gore Lane. Machen throws in a botched brain surgery, a rape and suicide to raise the terror quotient for readers, thus forcing us to read with all the lights on.

The Hill of Dreams (1907)

This semi-autobiographical novel follows Lucian Taylor, a rector’s son, while he wanders the world searching for beauty in art, dream and through drug use, as well as love. Sadly, things change beauty becomes tarnished and replace with terror and an unavoidable mental breakdown. The Hill of Dreams has been described as decadent, a masterpiece and seductive.

The White People (1899) audio version

A horror short-story that follows a discussion on the nature of evil between two men one of who holds a mysterious green book lending verisimilitude to the tale. The green book is actually the diary of a young girl and it chronicles conversations with her nurse about ritual magic. Suspense steadily builds around the girl’s diary and the details it contains on occult practices.

Aklo, a fictional language invented by Machen, makes it first appearance in this book. It is said to have mystical powers connected to conjuring evil. H.P. Lovecraft used Aklo extensively in his Cthulu Mythos stories.

The Three Impostors (1895)

A collection of short tales interconnected via a framing narrative. Similar to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The New Arabian Nights, which is a collection of what appears to be unrelated short stories, Machen weaves three characters together in a series of vignettes. The most notorious and popular horror tales in this book are The Novel of the Black Seal and The Novel of the White Powder. The first is about a malevolent race of little people in the Welsh countryside and the second depicts a pharmacist that makes a concoction for a patient with horrifically gruesome results.

The Shining Pyramid (1895)  

Another exploration of the occult and ritual sacrifice, Machen chronicles two male characters, Vaughn and Dyson, and how one of them discovers some a series of odd symbols on his property. An investigation ensures leading them to witness an abominable rite involving some malformed savages from an underground tribe and a small girl. Graphic is an understatement.

The Terror (1917)

The plot of this novella revolves around the massive amount of deaths throughout the remote English villages caused by mysterious circumstances. Although each death appears to be unique the sheer volume creates suspicion that they must be connected. Like many of Machen’s tales, the workings of an occult seem to be involved.

What are some of the other Machen novels that you’ve read? Are there any favorites that you have. Share with us below.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via CC

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