“The Great God Pan” Horror Novella Review

Welsh Author Arthur Machen was inspired to write this horror novella after a trip to the ruins of a pagan temple in Wales. The completed work was published in 1894, at the time “The Great God Pan” was given bad reviews due to implied sexual activity, however a lot of famous authors such as Lovecraft adored the story and by the 1920s it had been re-evaluated. Nowadays this mysterious tale of the supernatural is considered one of the greatest horror stories of all time, this review contains spoilers up until the last paragraph.

A man named Clarke witnesses a wierd experiment by his friend Dr. Raymond. Raymond wants to know if he can enable the brain to see the supernatural world. He performs a minor brain surgery on a young woman named Mary. Once the surgery is over Mary at first seems in awe of the new world she is perceiving but then she starts to freak out. The shock of whatever it is she sees leaves her struck in a paralyzed, vegetative state.

Several years later Clarke comes to learn of a strange girl named Helen who has apparently caused many odd happenings in her small town. She enjoys going out to the woods by herself all day and often takes neighborhood children along with her. During one of these outings she brings a young local boy along. He stumbles across her playing in a field with a scary naked man, when he later sees the image of a roman statue with a satyr head he becomes permanently disabled.

Helen develops a very strong friendship with a girl named Rachel. They go out and disappear into the woods several times. One day Rachel comes home with her clothes half torn off, freaking out. Rachel later wanders off into the woods and is never seen again.

More years pass, Helen grows up to be an absolute devil of a woman, all around her men are dying in one way or another. It turns out that she is the supernatural daughter of Mary. The male protagonists hunt Helen down and convince her to commit suicide before they expose her at which point she transforms several times before finally dying.

This story is eerie but a little too…how do I put this…harumph British. The style of writing is very similar to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this would be fine if “The Great God Pan” was only a mystery but it’s also supposed to be a frightening supernatural thriller. I also wish the author would have learned how to use a period, this book is filled to the brim with run-on sentences that can go on for up to half a page at a time. Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly see why this story was so beloved upon its rediscovery but it just wasn’t my thing. Still, if you’re a horror fan you should read this if only for its historical significance. (Image from Kobo.com)

Published by Zwahk Muchoney

I'm an eclectic author who hails from the city of Seattle.

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