The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
Steven King called the The Great God Pan as, “Maybe the best [horror story] in the English Language. King was right. It’s a creepy little book, but well worth the read. Published in 1894, The Great God Pan is about 84 pages long. It has the feel of coming across an old manuscript of which you have to decipher. It is a horror story told with the same pacing as a Sherlock Holmes adventure with plenty of narrative, newspaper articles, and personal journals to carry the story along. The following quote was placed on the cover of the book:
“There are things lost and forgotten in obscure parts of the newspaper.” — Arthur Machen
If you want to update this quote just add a few words at the end.
“…in obscure parts of the newspaper and the internet.”
Arthur Machen was the pen-name of Arthur Llewellyn Jones, a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction.
In the book, the protagonist Mr. Clarke visits a Dr. Raymond that has invited his friend to witness an operation on a girl in his employ. He describes the procedure as, “…slight lesion in the grey matter, that is all just a trifling rearrangements of cells…” When Mr. Clarke expresses concern that any miscalculation would be disastrous, the doctor responds, “I rescued Mary from the gutter, and from almost starvation, when she was a child; I think her life is mine, to use as I see fit.” I recommend this book to any Women’s Studies Class to tear apart the obvious mysogyny. However, this is just one of the things that make this book so scary.
Dr. Raymond conducts brain surgery to unleash what he describes as, “…the world of matter, and the world of spirit.” Dr. Raymond wants the girls to gaze upon the spirit world. “To look upon the Great God Pan.” He conducts the operation, and reduces the patient to an hopeless idiot. Dr. Raymond reveals how little he cares for his patient by the following lines: “…she is an hopeless idiot. However, it could not be helped; and, after all, she has seen the Great God Pan.”
Men in the 1800s could be such creeps.
I was already shuddering at this point. I have the hindsight of history to guide me. Flipping through an odd book at the library, I saw a photo of a woman fighting off two nurses as she realizes that she is about to be given a lobotomy. Now, that was scary. That was horror. Lobotomy is a procedure that severs the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain causing the victim/patient to apathy, passivity, lack of initiative, poor ability to concentrate, and a generally decreased depth and intensity of their emotional response to life. Lobotomizing someone is equal to the caveman practice of drilling holes in the skull to see what was there. It was simply bad science. And with the invention of drugs, the practice was dubbed irrelevant. My fear, my nightmare, it was employed liberally to get rid off family members that became ‘nuisances.’
In the story of ‘The Great God Pan’ Mary the patient / victim bears a child that upon growing up gets her revenge of the male specie. She bears a child that grows up to have power over the male specie. Helen Vaughn has breached that “world of matter and spirit.” And seems to have some interesting childhood friends. We follow Helen through newspaper articles, and second hand accounts. It seems a power has been unleashed on the world. Helen gets some goodly revenge upon the patriarchy.
This is a Sherlock Holmes, with a twist of Poe. dipped in an Homeric vat of Circe.