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The Great God Pan

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  10,407 ratings  ·  955 reviews
The Great God Pan" is a novella written by Arthur Machen. A version of the story was published in the magazine Whirlwind in 1890, and Machen revised and extended it for its book publication (together with another story, "The Inmost Light") in 1894. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual conten ...more
Paperback, 82 pages
Published January 1st 1995 by Creation Books (first published 1890)
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James Absolutely ! It's haunting, and powerful, and horrifying, because of what it suggests, much more than because of what it states. Machen makes every se…moreAbsolutely ! It's haunting, and powerful, and horrifying, because of what it suggests, much more than because of what it states. Machen makes every sentence count. (less)
Cynthia Fisher I wouldn't recommend it for readers under the age of 18. There isn't any sexual content, but the subject matter may be disturbing.…moreI wouldn't recommend it for readers under the age of 18. There isn't any sexual content, but the subject matter may be disturbing.(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!
Reading this book was a bit like eating a salad made with bottled dressing instead of one made with virgin olive oil (view spoiler) and a spike of balsamic or wine vinegar for piquancy. It was almost there, you could see that there was definitely flavour in there somewhere, bu ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Whatever the hell was going on with the society when this was published. This, a sensation? Underwhelming. Thank God I live now not then: I would have died bored out of my mind!
Too whimsical for me. Reads like a cross of Hawthorne with Poe with just a tad of Lovecraft (who might have been a diligent follower of Machen, at a later date) and several notes from Merezhkovsky (of all autors!) added into the mix. Though in the case of Merezhkovsky it is not clear who influenced who (even if this was n
Nov 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As good as advertised, called by Stephen King to be perhaps the greatest horror story in English. Not sure about that, but I can see how influential this may have been. Really weird and has allusions to myth. First published in 1890, this is after Poe but before Lovecraft, creating something of a bridge between masters of the horror genre.

This has all the elements of a great story and created a benchmark for what makes a horror story.

J.G. Keely
My favored definition of wisdom has always been 'a recognition of one's limits', and as such, wisdom is vital for writers. When an author knows their capabilities and their flaws, they are in prime position to write a story which takes advantage of their strengths and mitigates their weaknesses.

Yet what is preferable for an artist: to stay within the bounds of their skill, or to work to always to exceed them? The first sort will be able to create precise and deliberate works of mastery, while th
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
For Reasons, a guy named Raymond wants to experiment on putting a person into some sort of altered state. Mary was, like, super poor, and he took her in and fed her, so this is fair, he says. She agrees because of Stockholm-syndrome-like loyalty to this creep. Bad idea genes abound here, and then-- Mary and Raymond are basically out of the narrative.

Again with a really destitute person in the street, Herbert, an old school chum of Villiers. No, you're not supposed to know who Villiers is. Does h
Eddie Watkins
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Great God Pan is a succinct gem of horror and mystery; a kind of spiritual variation on classic tales of lycanthropy; though its effectiveness depends on one’s sensitivity to, and belief in, the potential horrors of the very real though unseen forces beneath material manifestation.

A scientist, a self-proclaimed practitioner of transcendental medicine, cuts into a young woman's brain to heighten her spiritual awareness; but instead Pan, the wild nature spirit, or rather the tremendous invisib
*Read for Class*

I'm glad I had to re-read this for the final, because it's definitely not a 2-star read like my previous rating.
Kat  Hooper
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Written in 1894, Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan is a short novel which was highly influential to H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. King, in fact, said The Great God Pan is “…one of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language. Mine isn’t anywhere near that good…” The Great God Pan used to be hard to find, but is now available free on the Kindle (and at other public domain e-book outlets) and is easily read in one dark and
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a strange little story, sold as paganism, with a touch of sexuality. It had a supernatural feel, that left me holding my breath in anticipation. Unfortunately, due to the confusing nature of the book, it also left me holding my head in confusion more than once. I was initially intrigued by the story, but midway through it morphed into a Sherlock style detective case, before getting back to the mystical elements that made it unique. Overall it was a good idea, but poorly executed.
The Great God Pan is one of Arthur Machen's earliest works, and also his most popular. Upon release it was widely denounced as decadent and depraved, although it has since influenced countless writers of horror and weird fiction, from H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King.

Machen was a bohemian fellow, deeply opposed to science and modernity; he held a belief that the real world is just a veil behind which another world is hidden, infinitely more strange, mysterious and magical. The Great God Pan is set
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, short-fiction
The reason Machen remains influential among modern horror writers is quite evident in his most famous tale, The Great God Pan. While not the as shocking and decadent as his contemporary critics said it was, it is still quite disturbing as Machen tells this story about evil seductions and hidden deities. Machen seems to have a strong interest in the mystical (he hung around with Alister Crowley) and strong pantheistic leanings. Yet while contemporary Algernon Blackwood wrote about the same areas ...more
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror-gothic
Arthur Machen’s 1894 novella The Great God Pan is probably his best-known work. Machen himself was an interesting character, a devout Anglo-Catholic with an intense dislike for just about everything modern, as well as a fascination with paganism. His books embody a kind of personal mythology, dealing with the continued existence of a mysterious ancient race, a race that has supposedly given rise to various legends about fairies and so forth.
The theme of The Great God Pan is typical of Machen’s
Nate D
19th century neurobiology as means of "lifting the veil" of consensus reality as mediated by flawed senses, and terrible repercussions of both this hidden knowledge and what may cross back through such lifted veils. An influence on Lovecraft, apparently (obviously), and as such it could be improved somewhat by, rather than just telling us that things are cripplingly horrifying, actually giving us some more of the specifics. Of course, the merits of the unknown, suggestion, etc -- so it still rat ...more
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Please note I have this story 3.5 stars and rounded it to 4 stars on Goodreads.

I initially picked this to read for my classic horror square, but read something else instead. I still think this is a good short story to read that is not too gory for the non-horror reader group.

Written in 1894, "The Great God Pan" created a hysterical stir for being seen as degenerate writing that depicted sexual situations that just were not talked about in polite circles.

I guess those Victorians were super sensi
Paul E. Morph
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I was in a minor car accident this morning (nothing serious, just a bad case of whiplash) and I'm on diazepam, so apologies in advance if this makes even less sense than my normal 'reviews'...

The Great God Pan is, apparently, a seminal work of horror fiction. I've been reading horror fiction all my life, though, and I'd never even heard of it until Stephen King mentioned it (I forget where; did I mention I'm on diazepam?)

It's actually not bad at all. While I was reading it, I was thinking 'this
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
I quite liked this story by Arthur Machen. I liked the air of mystery, but harrowing menace he created. Apparently the doctor's experiments in piercing the veil had some very bad effects. There was a subtle element of dark sexuality in this story, handled very elegantly. I like that much is left for the reader to discern in this story. Many of those people who see what should have been left hidden don't live long afterward, and I was encouraged to draw my own conclusions about that horror they w ...more
Leo Robertson
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a review of this newly polished and edited version, brought out by Unnerving.

The story itself is awesome. The prose of the original, however, is dire. It rambles on and on for ages, fails to just get to the point, frequently contains speeches instead of dialogue and more, and this is key: without good reason.

The clunkiness of Machen's prose is generally inexcusable, and Generous has done a great cleanup job on this story, with love and care, with the aim of securing more readers for it.
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, horror
I envy the people who got to read this when it was first published. Then it would have had quite an impact, I think.

The Great God Pan is a great story. If you like a story within a story concept (in this case add a couple of more layers), you may find this really enjoyable. I saw its parts as a collection of circles, each encompassing the next, and each representing a fragment in a larger story.

In short, The Great God Pan opens with a scientist dabbling in the occult opening a door
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
Picking up the old horror classics and working my way through them, I hope to find some real gems that do better than contemporaries. Of course, fiction is fiction and it always changes with time; all styles die. It had the feel of all good ghost stories, without actually being a ghost story. I had to compare it with similar titles, like Prometheus Unbound, or Dracula, and it just felt tired.

Not bad, just not very revealing or deep. It's a good book for a day you want to relax and flow into a s
Quentin Wallace
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suppose this story was just a little over my head. This has been called "possibly the greatest horror story ever written" by Stephen King himself, and while I did enjoy it, I surely didn't see it as the greatest ever.

This was written in the 19th century, and Lovecraft always cited this story as one of his inspirations. I could definitely see elements of Lovecraft's style here. I don't really know how to go into detail about the story without spoilers, so let's just say it deals with Pan and is
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
“In every grain of wheat there lies hidden the soul of a star.”

Dr. Raymond believes in a reality beneath the frail flesh of this world from which you draw breath. Beneath the beauty, the fluttering creatures of passing color, under the trickling waters refracting rays of sunlight, a deeper essence lies. He calls it “The Great God Pan.” He wants to find an entrance to this deeper place, so he performs an experiment on Mary. When he drills a hole in her head, she sees. The terror cripples her mind
The Nerdwriter
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sorry I've been away so long. My long-form reading has always come in fits and starts. I get very excited about reading, devour a handful of books, then become distracted and lose focus. Months will go by without completing a book -- and in these periods I'm usually reading many at once, failing to make significant progress on any. My work requires me to read tons of articles and essays and academic journals. It can be hard to find time or motivation to sit down with a book. What's worse, over t ...more
Michael Jandrok
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’ll freely admit that I am one of those notorious people who read footnotes and references and bibliographies, always searching for additional source material and other types of obscure nuggets of information that really only serve to make me a pretentious bore at parties. Ok, that part probably isn’t correct….truth be told, I’m actually a lot of fun at parties, although my knowledge of esoterica makes me a tricky opponent at some of the more oddball parlor games. As luck would have it, it was ...more
I've been hearing of Machen's work for years now, but never got around to reading him. I live in a small, Canadian town, and finding his work around here is near impossible. When I got my Kindle, all that changed. Suddenly, I had all the classic books I yearned for, including Machen.

I hesitated, though. What if my expectations were raised too high? What if I were let down? I have, after all, heard a lot of great things about Machen from authors of whom I admire. Great writers like Caitlin R. Kie
I read this as part of the #sassyreads readalong in May and I have to say it gave me quite a few giggles. this isn't the sort of novella I would typically choose for myself, it has gothic sex and horror all blended in together, but I did actually enjoy it.

This follows the story of a young woman who sees the Great God Pan after a nasty experiment by a rather detestable man. From this point on she's forever altered and various odd and creepy situations begin to arise.

I don't want to give mush more
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story starts out with a chilling account of a sort of "brain operation" in order to transcend barriers and enable the recipient to be able to view the great god Pan. After this, the narration jumps about--introducing us to other key characters within different scenes and times. The common thread, of course, ties back to Pan and the profound effect he has on the sensibilities of ordinary humans.

This classic was considered a bit scandalous in it's time, but very tame by today's comparisons. Pe
Noran Miss Pumkin
This vintage story, is like a bad 50's B/W Monster movie-where you never get s good look at the beastie. Never could figure out what evil vileness the women did to drive men to their deaths. It had great potential, but just did not deliver, then nor now. ...more
Jerry Jose
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This classic felt like a concatenated version of Robert W Chambers' 'The King in Yellow' with a supernatural detective feel similar to that of 'The Horror at Red Hook'. Loved it.

The Great God Pan can be passed as an aftermath of Hodgeson's 'Baumoff Explosive', with a very similar science fiction rationale that blurs the line between conventional supernatural and the cosmic sense of lovecraftian horror. But Machen's account, unlike Lovecraft's, lacks the existential sense. There is dreadness, edg
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
I enjoyed reading this little horror story. Not really creepy according to nowadays standards, but interesting to read due to its minimalistic style.

I picked it up as a group read without any knowledge of author/time/history of horror novels. Reading through some of the reviews here on GR it was quite an influential work and would be appreciated more in context. It made me curious to learn more about the era/genre.
Jim Dooley
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No less an authority than Stephen King cites this story as a major influence on his work. Learning that, it immediately caused me to sit up and take notice.

It is amazing the breadth of the narrative in such a relatively compact number of pages. In fact, for those who have wanted to explore the impact of H. P. Lovecraft without being bogged down in arcane description and use of words requiring a trip to the dictionary every few minutes, I would highly recommend this tale. It is haunting, intrigu
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Arthur Machen was a leading Welsh author of the 1890s. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. His long story The Great God Pan made him famous and controversial in his lifetime, but The Hill of Dreams is generally considered his masterpiece. He also is well known for his leading role in creating the legend of the Angels of Mons.

At the age of eleven, Machen

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“We know what happened to those who chanced to meet the Great God Pan, and those who are wise know that all symbols are symbols of something, not of nothing. It was, indeed, an exquisite symbol beneath which men long ago veiled their knowledge of the most awful, most secret forces which lie at the heart of all things; forces before which the souls of men must wither and die and blacken, as their bodies blacken under the electric current. Such forces cannot be named, cannot be spoken, cannot be imagined except under a veil and a symbol, a symbol to the most of us appearing a quaint, poetic fancy, to some a foolish tale. But you and I, at all events, have known something of the terror that may dwell in the secret place of life, manifested under human flesh; that which is without form taking to itself a form.” 28 likes
“In every grain of wheat there lies hidden the soul of a star.” 20 likes
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