THE BLIND SPOT
By Austin Hall And Homer Eon Flint
Introduction By Forrest J Ackerman
THE LURE AND LORE OF "THE BLIND SPOT"
BY FORREST J ACKERMAN
The Blind Spot opens with the words: "Perhaps it were just as well to
start at the beginning. A mere matter of news." Suppose I use them in
the same sense:
A mere matter of news: The first instalment of this fabulous
featured in Argosy-All-Story-Weekly for May 14, 1921. Described as a
"different" serial, it was introduced by a cover by Modest Stein. In
the foreground was the profile
of a girl of another dimension--ethereal,
sensuous, the eternal
feminine--the Nervina of the story. Filmy
crystalline earrings swept back over her bare shoulders. Dominating the
background was a huge flaming
yellow ball, like our Sun as seen from the
hypothetical Vulcan--splotched with murky, mysterious
There was an ancient quay, and emerging from the ultramarine waters
about it a silhouetted metropolis
of spires, domes, and minarets. It was
1921, and that generation
thus received its first glimpse
of the alien
landscape of The Blind Spot and the baroque beauty of an immortal
The authors? Homer Eon Flint was already a reigning favourite with
post-World-War-I enthusiasts of imaginative
literature, who had eagerly
devoured his QUEEN OF LIFE and LORD OF DEATH, his KING OF CONSERVE
ISLAND and THE PLANETEER. Austin Hall was well known and popular for his
ALMOST IMMORTAL, REBEL SOUL, and INTO THE INFINITE.
Then came this epoch-making collaboration. When Mary Gnaedinger launched
Famous Fantastic Mysteries magazine she early presented THE BLIND SPOT,
and printed it again in that magazine's companion
These reprints are now collectors' items, almost unobtainable,
the story has long been out of print. Rumour says an
unauthorised German version
of THE BLIND SPOT, has been published in
book form. There is another book called THE BLIND SPOT, and also a
magazine story, and a major movie studio
was to produce a film of the
same title. However, here is presented the only hard-cover version
the only BLIND SPOT of consequence
to lovers of fantasy.
Who wrote the story? When I first looked into the question, as a 15 year
old boy, Homer Eon Flint (he originally
spelled his name with a "d")
was already dead of a fall into a canyon. In 1949 his widow told me: "I
think Homer's father contributed that middle name"--the same name (with
slightly different spelling) that the Irish poet George Russell took
as his pen-name, which became known by its abbreviation AE. Mrs. Flindt
said of Flint's father: "He was a very deep thinker, and enjoyed reading
heavy material." Like father, like son. "Homer always talked over his
ideas with me, and although I couldn't always follow his thoughts it
seemed to help him to express them to another--it made some things come
more clearly to him."
Flint was a great admirer
of H. G. Wells (this little
grandmother-schoolteacher told me) and had probably read all his works
up to the time when he (Flint) died in 1924. He had read Doyle and
Haggard, but: "Wells was his favourite--the real thinker."
Flint found a fellow-thinker in Austin Hall, whom he met in San
Jose, California, while working
at a shop where shoes were repaired
electrically--"a rather new concept
at the time." Hall, learning
Flint lived in the same city, sought him out, and they became fast
friends. Each stimulated the other. As Hall told me twenty years ago of
of THE BLIND SPOT:
"One day after we had lunched together, I held my finger up in front of
one of my eyes and said: 'Homer, couldn't a story be written about that
blind spot in the eye?' Not much was said about it at the time, but four
days later, again at lunch, I outlined the whole story to him. I wrote
the first eighteen chapters; Homer took up the tale as 'Hobart Fenton'
and wrote the chapters about the house of miracles, the living death,
the rousing of Aradna's mind, and so forth, up to 'The Man from Space,'
where once again I took over."
To THE BLIND SPOT Hall contributed a great knowledge of history and
anthropology, while Flint's fortes were physics and medicine. Both had a
great fund of philosophy
at their command.
When I met Hall (about four years older than Flint) he was in his
fifties: a devil-may-care old codger (old to a fifteen-year-old, that
is) full of good humour
for a youthfuladmirer
journeyed far to meet him. He casually referred to his 600 published
stories, and I carried away the impression
of one who resembled both
and in looks that other fiction-factory of the time, Edgar
Finally: Several years ago, before I knew anything about the present
volume, I had an unusual
experience. (At that time I had no reason to
think THE BLIND SPOT would ever become available
as a book, for the
location of the heirs proved a Herculean task by itself; publishers had
long wanted to present this amazing
novel but could not do so until I
located Mrs. Mae Hall and Mrs. Mabel Flindt.) While, unfortunately, I
did not take careful notes at the time, the gist of the occurrence
I visited a friend whose hobby (besides reading
fantasy) was the
occult, who volunteered to entertain
me with automaticwriting
the ouija-board. Now, I share Lovecraft's scepticism towards the
it as at best a means of amusement. When the
question arose of what spirits we should try to lure to our planchette,
the names of Lovecraft, Merritt, Hall, and Flint popped into my
pixilated mind. So I set my fingers on the wooden
heart and, since my
host was also a Flint admirer, we asked about Flint's fatal accident.
The ouija spelled out:
There followed something about being held up by a hitch-hiker. Then Hall
(or at least some energy-source other than my own conscious
through too, and when I asked if he had left any work behind he replied:
Y-E-S--T-H-E L-A-S-T G-O-D-L-I-N-G
Later I asked his son about this (without revealing the title) and Javen
Hall told me of the story his father had been plotting when he died: THE
HIDDEN EMPIRE, or THE CHILD OF THE SOUTHWIND. Whatever was pushing the
planchette failed to inform me that when I found Austin Hall's son and
widow, they would put into my hands an unknown, unpublished fantasy
novel by Hall: THE HOUSE OF DAWN! Some day it may appear in print.
Meanwhile you are getting understandably impatient
unknown realm of the Blind Spot. Be on your way, and bon voyage!
FORREST J ACKERMAN, Beverley Hills, Calif.
Perhaps it were just as well to start at the beginning. A mere matter of
All the world at the time knew the story; but for the benefit of those
who have forgotten I shall repeat it. I am merely giving it as I have
taken it from the papers with no elaboration and no opinion--a mere
statement of facts. It was a celebrated
case at the time and stirred the
world to wonder. Indeed, it still is celebrated, though to the layman
It has been labelled and indexed and filed away in the archives of the
profession. To those who wish to look it up it will be spoken
of as one
of the great unsolved mysteries of the century. A crime that leads two
ways, one into murder--sordid, cold and calculating; and the other into
the nebulous screen
that thwarts us from the occult.
Perhaps it is the character
of Dr. Holcomb that gives the latter. He was
a great man and a splendid thinker. That he should have been led into a
maze of cheap necromancy is, on the face, improbable. He had a wonderful
mind. For years he had been battering down the scepticism that had
bulwarked itself in the material.
He was a psychologist, and up to the day the greatest, perhaps, that we
have known. He had a way of going out before his fellows--it is the way
of genius--and he had gone far, indeed, before them. If we would trust
Dr. Holcomb we have much to live for; our religion is not all hearsay
and there is a great deal in science still unthought of. It is an
unfortunate case; but there is much to be learned
in the circumstance
that led the great doctor into the Blind Spot.
On a certain foggy morning in September, 1905, a tall man wearing a
in one hand a small satchel of dark-reddish
leather descended from a Geary Street tram at the foot of Market Street,
San Francisco. It was a damp morning; a mist was brooding over the city
blurring all distinctness.
The man glanced about him; a tall man of trim lines and distinctness
and a quick, decided
step and bearing. In the shuffle
passengers he was outstanding, with a certain inborn grace that without
the blood will never come from training. Men noticed and women out of
instinct cast curious furtive glances and then turned away; which was
as the man was plainly
old. But for all that many
ventured a second glance--and wondered.
An old man with the poise of twenty, a strange face of remarkable
features, swarthy, of an Eastern cast, perhaps Indian; whatever
certainty of the man's age there was still a lingering suggestion
of splendid youth. If one persisted in a third or fourth look this
suggestion took an almost certain tone, the man's age dwindled, years
dropped from him, and the quizzical smile that played on the lips seemed
a foreboding of boyish
We say foreboding because in this case it is not mistaken
Foreboding suggests coming evil; the laughter
of boys is wholehearted.
It was merely that things were not exactly as they should be; it was not
natural that age should be so youthful. The fates were playing, and in
this case for once in the world's history their play was crosswise.
It is a remarkable
case from the beginning
and we are starting from
facts. The man crossed to the window of the Key Route ferry and
purchased a ticket for Berkeley, after which, with the throng, he passed
the turnstile and on to the boat that was waiting. He took the lower
deck, not from choice, apparently, but more because the majority of his
fellow passengers, being men, were bound in this direction. The same
chance brought him to the cigar-stand. The men about him purchased
cigars and cigarettes, and as is the habit of all smokers, strolled off
relish. The man watched them. Had anyone noticed his eyes
he would have noted a peculiar
colour and a light of surprise. With the
prim step that made him so distinctive
to the news-stand.
"Pardon me; but I would like to purchase one of those." Though he spoke
perfect English it was in a strange manner, after the fashion of one
who has found something that he has just learned
how to use. At the
same time he made a suggestion
with his tapered fingers indicating the
tobacco in the case. The clerk looked up.
"A cigar, sir? Yes, sir. What will it be?"
"A cigar?" Again the strange articulation. "Ah, yes, that is it. Now
I remember. And it has a little sister, the cigarette. I think I shall
take a cigarette, if--if--if you will show me how to use it."
It was a strange request. The clerk was accustomed to all manner of
men and their brands of humour; he was about to answer in kind when he
looked up and into the man's eyes. He started.
"You mean," he asked, "that you have never seen a cigar or cigarette;
that you do not know how to use them? A man as old as you are."
The stranger laughed. It was rather resentful, but for all that of a
hearty taint of humour.
"So old? Would you say that I am as old as that; if you will look
The young man did and what he beheld
is something that he could not
for: the strange conviction
of this remarkable
man; of age
melting into youth, of an uncertain
freshness, the smile, not of sixty,
but of twenty. The young man was not one to argue, whatever
he was first of all a lad of business; he could merely acquiesce.
"The first time! This is the first time you have ever seen a cigar or
The stranger nodded.
"The first time. I have never beheld
one of them before this morning. If
you will allow me?" He indicated a package. "I think I shall take one of
The clerk took up the package, opened the end, and shook out a single
cigarette. The man lit it and, as the smoke poured out of his mouth,
held the cigarette tentatively in his fingers.
"Like it?" It was the clerk who asked.
The other did not answer, his whole face was the expression of having
just discovered one of the senses. He was a splendid man and, if the
word may be employed of the sterner sex, one of beauty. His features
were even; that is to be noted, his nose chiselled straight and to
perfection, the eyes of a peculiar
sombreness and lustre almost burning,
of a black of such intensity
as to verge into red and to be devoid
pupils, and yet, for all of that, of a glow and softness. After a moment
he turned to the clerk.
"You are young, my lad."
"You are fortunate. You live in a wonderful age. It is as wonderful as
your tobacco. And you still have many great things before you."
The man walked on to the forward part of the boat; leaving the youth,
who had been in a sort of daze, watching. But it was not for long. The
whole thing had been strange and to the lad almost inexplicable. The man
was not insane, he was certain; and he was just as sure that he had not
been joking. From the start he had been taken by the man's refinement,
intellect and education. He was positive
that he had been sincere. Yet--
The ferry detective
happened at that moment to be passing. The clerk
made an indication
with his thumb.
"That man yonder," he spoke, "the one in black. Watch him." Then he told
his story. The detective
laughed and walked forward.
It was a most fortunate
incident. It was a strange case. That mere act
of the cigar clerk placed the police on the track and gave to the world
the only clue that it holds of the Blind Spot.
had laughed at the lad's recital--almost any one had a
patent for being queer--and if this gentleman had a whim for a certain
brand of humour
that was his business. Nevertheless, he would stroll
The man was not hard to distinguish; he was standing
on the forward deck
facing the wind and peering through the mist at the grey, heavy heave of
the water. Alongside of them the dim shadow of a sister ferry screamed
its way through the fogbank. That he was a landsman was evidenced by his
way of standing; he was uncertain; at every heave of the boat he would
shift sidewise. An unusually
heavy roll caught him slightly
and jostled him against the detective. The latter held up his hand and
caught him by the arm.
"A bad morning," spoke the officer. "B-r-r-r! Did you notice the Yerbe
Buena yonder? She just grazed us. A bad morning."
The stranger turned. As the detective
caught the splendid face, the
glowing eyes and the youthful
smile, he started much as had done the
cigar clerk. The same effect of the age melting into youth and--the
officer being much more accustomed to reading
men--a queer sense of
latent and potent
vision. The eyes were soft and receptive but for
all that of the delicate
strength and colour that comes from abnormal