WHH Short Fiction: “The Room of Fear”

Review: “The Room of Fear”, William Hope Hodgson, 1996.

Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Douglas A. Anderson suspects this was one of the first stories Hodgson wrote, and it was not published in his own time.

In some ways this is, with its giant spectral hands haunting a room, reminiscent of certain Carnacki tales (particularly “The Gateway of the Monster” and “The Whistling Room”) though this is not an occult detective story.

The protagonist, Willie Johnson, is eight and terrified to sleep in the night nursery alone. His mother says, and she seems to mean it, she would rather have a dead child than a cowardly one.

About a third of the way through the story, Hodgson switches from past to present tense.

Even after seeing the spectral hands in the nursery, Willie resolves to be brave, to lie terrified in the bed at night. But, when they seem to touch his face, he screams and goes catatonic.

The story concludes three years later. Willie is about to be let out of a mental asylum. He has recovered. His mother is now more sympathetic to being affected by fear, and no one uses the nursery any more.

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