As published in The House on the Borderland (Second Heathen Edition):

Welcome to our Second Edition of The House on the Borderland.

After recently revisiting our first edition of The King in Yellow and deciding that it was in desperate need of an overhaul, I decided that I would revisit all of our earlier books to gauge whether any others were also in need of upgrades, and Borderland shot to the top of that list. Hence this “Take Two.”

Full disclosure: I had never heard of The House on the Borderland until I went in search of interesting books that we could Heathen-ize. Swine-beasts? Travels to other dimensions? The destruction of the solar system? Hold up, when was this written? How had I not heard of this book?!

And what a book it is! I absolutely adore it.

So much so, that I’ve read it three times cover to cover, and spent many an hour editing its text. So many, in fact, that I stopped keeping track. Oh, God, the editing . . . days turned into weeks turned into months turned into “Has it been a year, really?”

I remember once, in Seventh Grade English, our teacher told us to place commas where you would naturally take a breath while speaking. At the time, that seemed to make perfect sense. Then, a year later, in Eighth Grade English, our teacher absolutely lost her mind when we explained what we had been taught. “No wonder your comma use is atrocious!” she screamed with exasperation, quickly followed with a terrifying growl and a wild, hair-pulling gesticulation to really drive home her incensed frustration.

Flash forward twenty-five years and I finally understood that frustration when reading Borderland for the very first time. Page after page, I wondered: was Hodgson taught that same thing and did he write this book while running a marathon? Comma comma comma, cheese and rice! A reviewer on Goodreads sums it up well: “this novel, features the, most ridiculous use, of the comma, in the English, language.” However, that same reviewer immediately follows that truth with another regarding the text as a whole: “it is impressively effective and fascinating as a horror tale.”

Effective and fascinating, indeed, which is why I’ve labored over the text for well over a year. Because I want you, dear reader, to adore this book as much as I do — and do so without tripping over a stray comma (or six) every other sentence.

What do I mean? Here’s but one example of the updates:

Original: I am not superstitious; but I have ceased to deny that things happen in this old house—things that I cannot explain; and, therefore, I must needs ease my mind, by writing down an account of them, to the best of my ability; though, should this, my diary, ever be read when I am gone, the readers will but shake their heads, and be the more convinced that I was mad.


Updated: I am not superstitious, but I have ceased to deny that things happen in this old house—things that I cannot explain; therefore, I must ease my mind by writing down an account of them, to the best of my ability; though, should this, my diary, ever be read when I am gone, the readers will but shake their heads and be the more convinced that I was mad.


My brother and I joke that we took The Comma House on the Semicolon Borderland and turned it into The House on the Borderland.

Even Terry Pratchett, in his review of the book, noted how wearisome the excessive punctuation could be: “The language is that stilted, labored form that makes most elderly horror writing such a tedious business to read.”1Pratchett, T. (1988). Horror: The 100 Best Books (p. 73). Carrol & Graff.

But, as you can see from the example above, our alterations are subtle and, we believe, vastly improve the flow of the story.

A Co-Heathen suggested I keep count of the commas I removed as that might be some interesting trivia to add here, and I thought so, too, until (much like the days spent editing) I lost track. The last tally was over two hundred. At that point, weeks into editing, I decided to just focus solely on the editing because so, many, commas. . . .

Additionally, I took issue with the chapter numbering of the original text. Since this is a story within a story — within another story, really, when you take into account Hodgson’s introduction and his various footnotes as Editor — it seemed more logical and natural to make Tonnison and Berreggnog’s portions of the story the Prologue and Epilogue since they bookend the main story. As a result, I’ve renumbered the chapters accordingly.

Concerning Hodgson’s 15 original footnotes, in the First Heathen Edition we numbered them so that they blended seamlessly with our footnotes, but with this Second Edition we have separated them from ours and identified them with asterisks.* We’ve also added a dozen new footnotes to this second edition, bringing the grand total to 61.

And if you own our First Edition, then congratulations! You own one of only 150 copies.

Speaking of tripping, you may have noticed that Alexis Lykiard referred to this book as a “drugless trip.” Certainly, if you have any experience with psychedelics, before or by the time you reach the end of the very first chapter the thought will likely occur to you: “Old dude be straight trippin’!” If not then, then most certainly by the time you reach Chapters 15 or 16. Once our old man is floating through the cosmos, I was reminded of the Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof recounting his first experience with LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide): “This thunderbolt catapulted me out of my body. First, I lost my awareness of my immediate surroundings, then the psychiatric clinic, then Prague [Czechoslovakia], and finally the planet. At an inconceivable speed, my consciousness expanded to cosmic dimensions. I experienced the Big Bang, passed through black holes and white holes in the universe, identified with exploding supernovas, and witnessed many other strange phenomena that seemed to be pulsars, quasars, and other cosmic events.”2“Stormy Search for the Self,” Yoga Journal (July/August 1990), pg. 57.

For me, this story reads as if Hodgson had some kind of psychedelic experience from which he drew to craft this spellbinding tale. Debatable, I’ll admit, but what a compelling topic to debate!

That notion absolutely influenced the direction in which I took the cover art: it’s trippy because this story is trippy and was most likely informed by a trippy experience.
But maybe you’ll disagree. If so, I hope you’ll debate me.

Regardless, if this is your first time reading Borderland, then I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have and do. And if you’ve read this book before and you’re now reading our version for the first time, then I hope our alterations make it even more enjoyable than you remember.


Sheridan Cleland


The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson (Heathen Edition)