“Does a night like this fill you with vague longings? Do you yearn to discover the secret of the universe-to know more than is good for man to know-perhaps to peer into the future?”
-Aylmer Vance, “The Invader”
Aylmer Vance, agent of the enigmatic Ghost Circle, made his first appearance on the nightmare stage in 1914. The creation of husband-and-wife writing team Alice and Claude Askew, Vance appeared in eight consecutive issues of The Weekly Tale-Teller between July and August. The stories-“The Invader”, “The Stranger”, “Lady Green-Sleeves”, “The Fire Unquenchable”, “The Vampire”, “The Boy of Blackstock”, “The Indissoluble Bond” and “The Fear”-ranged from grotesque to gentle, and are, by and large, of a slower pace than those featuring Vance’s contemporaries, such as Carnacki. Only one of the stories has been regularly anthologized (“The Vampire”), with the rest languishing in obscurity until the release of recent collections by Ash-Tree Press and Wordsworth Editions respectively.
Like John Silence, Vance inhabits an England of soft spiritual influence, where elementals, ancient memories and ghostly manifestations cling to the unseen corners and visit just long enough to inject the mundane with a booster shot of the strange. Unlike Carnacki’s Outer Monstrosities and Malign Visitors, the apparitions that Vance faces are utterly human in their aspect, if not their motivation. Death is no barrier to the desires of the flesh or the dreams of the determined, and it is when these elements intrude on the hard-won peace of the Edwardian mind that the Ghost-Seer must intervene.
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