‘The Stolen Body’ by H.G. Wells

Wells, H.G. 1898

The Stolen Body by H.G. Wells, 1898

The magic trick:

Great subject matter for a story

Written around the same time as Wells’s excellent The Invisible Man, “The Stolen Body” shares much with that novella. There is more than a little of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde too. This story is not nearly as interesting as either of those touchstones, though. The magic trick is in the subject matter – the mysterious and terrifying notion of soul transference. It’s a great place to start a story, right? I can’t claim that this piece does much with such an auspicious beginning (the plot gets bogged down in expository writing; too much of the action happens “offscreen”), but at least the potential was there. And that’s quite a trick on Wells’s part.

The selection:

It had been arranged that an attempt should be made to photograph any phantasm seen, but Mr. Vincey had not the instant presence of mind to snap the camera that lay ready on the table beside him, and when he did so he was too late. Greatly elated, however, even by this partial success, he made a note of the exact time, and at once took a cab to the Albany to inform Mr. Bessel of this result.

He was surprised to find Mr. Bessel’s outer door standing open to the night, and the inner apartments lit and in an extraordinary disorder.

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