The Spectral Hand by Jean Lorrain (1895)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror October 21, 2014
Consider yourself invited to an intimate dinner party among the elegant and artistic Parisian society at the home of Marquise de Strada, a woman of enduring beauty and flamboyance. Our narrator recounts the evening’s occult events in the Marquise’s drawing room. The guests decide to contact the spirit world. One of the guests, Henri, suggests they try a method of evocation called ‘the spectral hand.’ Beneath the flickering light of one lamp in the shape of an owl, this group attempts to conjure the dead.
“This is what must be done,’ Henri continued. ‘I shall attempt to invoke an invisible presence, requesting it to manifest itself by means of a sensation of coldness. Whichever one of us experiences that sensation most keenly is the one who is chosen to be summoned. His duty is to get up, and extend his hand into the gap between the curtains, into the dark void beyond.”
In terms of 19th century literature of the French Decadent Movement, author Jean Lorrain was well known. Openly homosexual and accused of perversity, bad taste, misogyny, anti-Semitism and much more, he wrote some thirty short stories, titles like The Glass of Blood, The Spirit of the Ruins, The Possessed, Prey to Darkness, The Locked Room. His most famous novel is Monsieur De Phocas. Sarah Bernhardt wrote to him “inside the abominably depraved being that you are, there beats the heart of a great artist, a genuinely sensitive and tender heart.”
A collection of his short stories is Nightmares of an Ether Drinker (which Lorrain was and presumably died of an overdose.)
Some readers consider Lorrain to be a breathtaking storyteller. How did you feel reading this short story? Could you tell the author was this dark?
Read The Spectral Hand in Late Victorian Gothic Tales (PDF, scroll to page 177, very short read)
Other Reading Web Sites to Visit
For Authors/Writers: The Writer Unboxed
Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic Authors.