The Familiar

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Published: 1872
Language: English
Wordcount: 14,900 / 44 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 56.1
LoC Category: PR
Downloads: 2,627
Added to site: 2009.09.16 25295
Genres: Horror, Short Story

A revised version of The Watcher (1851). A sea captain, living in Dublin, is stalked by "The Watcher", a strange dwarf who resembles a person from his past. He starts to hear accusatory voices all about him, and eventually his fears solidify in the form of a sinister bird, a pet owl owned by his fiancée, Miss Montague.

Show Excerpt

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Proceeding now quite alone upon his homeward way he grew really nervous and uncomfortable, as he became sensible, with increased distinctness, of the well-known and now absolutely dreaded sounds.

By the side of the dead wall which bounded the college park, the sounds followed, recommencing almost simultaneously with his own steps. The same unequal pace -- sometimes slow, sometimes for a score yards or so, quickened almost to a run -- was audible from behind him. Again and again he turned; quickly and stealthily he glanced over his shoulder -- almost at every half-dozen steps; but no one was visible.

The irritation of this intangible and unseen pursuit became gradually all but intolerable; and when at last he reached his home his nerves were strung to such a pitch of excitement that he could not rest, and did not attempt even to lie down until after the daylight had broken.

He was awakened by a knock at his chamber-door, and his servant, entering, handed him several lett


Average Rating of 4.8 from 4 reviews: *****
Henry L. Ratliff

1872) Ghost / Horror / Short story

R: * * * * *

Plot bullets

  • A former sea Captain is being followed by someone or something.

  • It is not his imagination. Letters tell him to beware of where he walks.

  • And one familiar old shipmate, although vastly changed, is too often present, and referrers to himself as the Watcher.


This story is excellent. A creepy, Victorian gothic horror story. I'm glad there are more of these to read. Highly recommended.


As to be expected from J.S. Le Fanu, it was a great story. Keeps you intrigued until the last page.

C. Alan Loewen

The Familiar by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was part of an anthology entitled In a Glass Darkly, a collection of tales all sharing the theme as being posthumous papers of the occult detective Dr. Martin Hesselius.

The collection includes:

  • Green Tea
  • The Familiar
  • Mr Justice Harbottle (aka An Account of Some Disturbances in Aungier Street)
  • The Room in the Dragon Volant
  • Carmilla

All of the stories are available through ManyBooks.Net as stand alone stories.

The Familiar is actually a tale rewritten from an older one entitled The Watcher also available at Manybooks.Net.

In this version, a sea captain is haunted by a demon that may be the personification of his guilt from an incident in his past. The ending is rather open ended and open to various interpretations.

Craig Alan Loewen

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