The Clock That Went Backward by Edward Page Mitchell (1881)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror October 18, 2016
If I were to ask you what is the earliest time travel story you know, most would say H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895). Or if you were a time travel fiction buff you might say Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). Are you a fan of Charles Yu’s Science Fiction Universe or authors like Robert Heinlein of the 1940s? Of course, you’ve heard of Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity and Stephen King’s 11/22/63.
I’m betting that this time travel short story will be a new one for you: The Clock That Went Backward.
We are in Sheepscot, Maine, with Aunt Gertrude when time turns. In Aunt Gertrude’s house is an old Dutch clock with a death-head transfixed by a two-edged sword at the top. No pendulum. The time is stuck at 3:15—always. Harry and his cousin are visiting Aunt Gertrude and this night sleeping upstairs—until noises are heard downstairs. They creep down the steps to find Aunt Gertrude with her withered cheek against the old clock, and kissing it. The hands of the clock begin to move backwards. And Auntie falls dead.
This had to have been a ground-breaking story at its time in 1881. Author Edward Page Mitchell’s name doesn’t come swiftly to mind when we think of time travel; he is one of the forgotten American science fiction authors. His stories were popular in the 1870s to 1890. Nearly all his stories were published anonymously in The Sun, a New York newspaper. And nearly all were occult, bizarre, ghostly, devilish, and about inanimate objects coming to life. The Crystal Man in 1881 hit readers long before Well’s The Invisible Man in 1897. Tachypomp was about a thinking computer. Mitchell was influenced by Poe and wrote over 25 short stories in his lifetime. He was known to have no desire for public recognition. Today Mitchell is considered one of our ‘lost giants’ in the science fiction genre of literature. Discovering Edward Page Mitchell is a treat and a privilege!
Listen to the Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb-ei6-DeMw
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