The Lashing Dangers of Miss Northcott

John Barrington Cowles by A.C. Doyle (1890)

This week May 22 is Doyle’s birth date.

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   May 22, 2013

What is it about a beautiful woman that hints of danger?  And why is this danger so irresistible to men?  Maybe it’s the Greek myths embedded in our subconscious, the sirens (part human, part bird) who lured men by their rippling and mesmerizing song. We are reminded that a man can easily succumb to the purple-darkened seduction of a woman.  Maybe some men love to play the victim to great beauty and obsession. Maybe some women love to play the siren. Sirens were not just luring men for sexual pleasure, they were man-eating beasts. Doyle certainly loved to play with this theory and he wrote with a rich haunting effect in John Barrington Cowles.

Our central character is a dreamy sort of man, highly strung, a professional in anatomy and physics, and lives a rather solitary life. In an art gallery, Cowles meets a ravishing woman, “white as marble,” in a dark dress and white fur. Miss Kate Northcott is described as a “real Greek type.” Ah-hem, Greek? When Odysseus found he couldn’t resist the siren’s song, in order to prevent jumping to his death into the water, he tied himself to the mast of the ship! Perhaps Cowles should have done the same.

Not only does this story produce supernatural intrigue, romance, and mystery, but there’s just the slightest hint of erotica (a whip and a Scottish terrier)–at least as much as Doyle could sensibly write in the Victorian 1890s, but it’s there if you like to read between the lines as I do.

Miss Northcott is quite feminine, clever, even a dash masculine for flavor, but more to the point Miss Northcott can switch on a steely gaze. Does Cowles become bewitched? Does he become her obsessed victim? Meet Miss Northcott with “white fingers” and “lips inclined to thinness.”

Read the full text at Readbookonline:

As a bonus for A.C. Doyle’s birth date, I’ve added a podcast. Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles is most famous, but there are other stories about hounds.  How about  Lovecraft’s The Hound. This short story is narrated by Lawrence Santoro at Tales to Terrify. Lawrence has a five-minute introduction and then reads this exciting story that has a werewolf, vampire, giant bats, a dead wizard and more …


I’ll be on The Author’s Corner for a radio interview, Roxboro, North Carolina on May 23, Thursday night at 9:30 pm EASTERN time, with host Elaine Raco Chase. Call in and chat on blog talk radio:


Filed under demons, fiction, horror, literature, mysteries, occult, paranormal, short stories, supernatural, suspense, tales of terror, weird tales

2 responses to “The Lashing Dangers of Miss Northcott

  1. We stumbled over here coming from a different web address and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so now i am following you.
    Look forward to looking into your web page again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome and happy to have you here as a follower at my Tuesdays Tale of Terror. Not only do I love to read short stories (and write them and write supernatural mystery novels), but I love to share my discoveries of old and new stories. Thank you for posting. I’m always interested in getting to know my fellow readers.


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