THE BLIND SPOT
THE BLIND SPOT
AUSTIN HALL AND HOMER EON FLINT
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
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
Fantastic Novels. These reprints are now collectors' items almost
unobtainable and otherwise 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 of 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 that 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 the origin 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
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 and indulgence for a youthful admirer
who had journeyed far to meet him. He casually referred to his 600
published stories and I carried away the impression of one who
resembled both in output and in looks that other fiction-factory
of the time Edgar Wallace.
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 was this:
I visited a friend whose hobby (besides reading fantasy) was the
occult who volunteered to entertain me with automatic writing and
the ouija-board. Now I share Lovecraft's scepticism towards the
supernatural regarding 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 mind) came 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 to explore that
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 news.
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 is forgotten.
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
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 black overcoat and bearing 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
of descending 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 natural inasmuch as the man was
plainly old. But for all that many ventured a second glance--and
An old man with the poise of twenty a strange face of remarkable
features swarthy of an Eastern cast perhaps Indian; whatever
the 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 laughter.
We say foreboding because in this case it is not mistaken diction.
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 with delighted 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 he advanced 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 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
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 quite account 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 his wonder; 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
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 these."
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 of pupils and yet for all
of that of a glow and softness. After a moment he turned to the
"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
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.
The detective 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 forward.
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 off-balance 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 intellect. He noted the pupils black
glowing of great size almost filling the iris and the whole
melting into intensity that verged into red. Either the man had
been long without sleep or he was one of unusual intelligence and
"A nasty morning" repeated the officer.
"Ah! Er yes--did you say it was a nasty morning? Indeed I do not
know sir. However it is very interesting."
"Stranger in San Francisco?"
"Well yes. At least I have never seen it."
"H-m!" The detective was a bit nonplussed by the man's evident
evasion. "Well if you are a stranger I suppose it is up to me to
come to the defence of my city. This is one of Frisco's fogs. We
have them occasionally. Sometimes they last for days. This one is
a low one. It will lift presently. Then you will see the sun. Have
you ever seen Frisco's sun?"
"My dear sir"--this same slow articulation--"I have never seen
your sun nor any other."
It was an answer altogether unexpected. Again the officer found
himself gazing into the strange refined face and wonderful eyes.
The man was not blind of that he was certain. Neither was his
voice harsh or testy. Rather was it soft and polite of one merely
stating a fact. Yet how could it be? He remembered the cigar
clerk. Neither cigar nor sun! From what manner of land could the
man come? A detective has a certain gift of intuition. Though on
the face of it outside of the man's personality there could be
nothing to it but a joke he chose to act upon the impulse. He
pulled back the door which had been closed behind them and re-
entered the boat. When he returned the boat had arrived at the
"You are going to Oakland?"
It was a chance question.
"No to Berkeley. I take a train here I understand. Do all the
trains go to Berkeley?"
"By no means. I am going to Berkeley myself. We can ride together.
My name is Jerome. Albert Jerome."
"Thanks. Mine is Avec. Rhamda Avec. I am much obliged. Your
company may be instructive."
He did not say more but watched with unrestrained interest their
manoeuvre into the slip. A moment later they were marching with
the others down the gangways to the trains waiting. Just as they
were seated and the electric train was pulling out of the pier the
sun breaking through the mist blazed with splendid light through
the cloud rifts. The stranger was next to the window where he
could look out over the water and beyond at the citied shoreline
whose sea of housetops extended and rose to the peaks of the first
foothills. The sun was just coming over the mountains.
The detective watched. There was sincerity in the man's actions.
It was not acting. When the light first broke he turned his eyes
full into the radiance. It was the act of a child and so it
struck the officer of the same trust and simplicity--and likewise
the same effect. He drew away quickly: for the moment blinded.
"Ah!" he said. "It is so. This is the sun. Your sun is wonderful!"
"Indeed it is" returned the other. "But rather common. We see it
every day. It's the whole works but we get used to it. For myself
I cannot see anything strange in the 'sun's still shining.' You
have been blind Mr. Avec? Pardon the question. But I must
naturally infer. You say you have never seen the sun. I suppose--"
He stopped because of the other's smile; somehow it seemed a very
superior one as if predicting a wealth of wisdom.
"My dear Mr. Jerome" he spoke "I have never been blind in my
life. I say it is wonderful! It is glorious and past describing.
So is it all your water your boats your ocean. But I see there
is one thing even stranger still. It is yourselves. With all your
greatness you are only part of your surroundings. Do you know what
is your sun?"
"Search me" returned the officer. "I'm no astronomer. I
understand they don't know themselves. Fire I suppose and a hell
of a hot one! But there is one thing that I can tell."
"Is the truth."
If he meant it for insinuation it was ineffective. The other
smiled kindly. In the fine effect of the delicate features and
most of all in the eyes was sincerity. In that face was the mark
of genius--he felt it--and of a potent superior intelligence. Most
of all did he note the beauty and the soft silky superlustre of
We have the whole thing from Jerome at least this part of it; and
our interest being retrospect is multiplied far above that of the
detective. The stranger had a certain call of character and of
appearance not to say magnetism. The officer felt himself almost
believing and yet restraining himself into caution of unbelief. It