“The Adventure of the Green Skull” — Mark Valentine

Mark Valentine is the author of the novels In Violet Veils, Masques and Citadels, and, with John Howard, The Rite of Trebizond, which are about an “aesthetical occult detective” and are collectively known as the Tales of The Connoisseur. He is the editor of the psychic sleuth anthologies The Black Veil and The Werewolf Pack. He also edits Wormwood, a journal of fantasy, supernatural and decadent literature, and writes regularly for Book & Magazine Collector about neglected authors.

A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that returns to terrorize the living, often in retribution for some wrong visited on that person in life. Wrongs done create ghosts, and many wrongs were committed against the workers of London in the early days of industrialization. Many of these deprivations were chronicled by the author Charles Dickens, who was so traumatized by the time he spent working in a dangerous, squalorous blacking factory that for the rest of his life he wore gloves and washed his hands constantly. The Sadler Committee once interviewed a young man named Matthew Crabtree, who testified that he had started work in a factory at the age of eight, commonly worked sixteen-hour days, and was beaten severely for the slightest infraction. He also testified that in all his years in the factory, not an hour had passed that you couldn’t hear one of the child workers wailing. Many people don’t realize that the thick, impenetrable London fogs that we associate with Sherlock Holmes were a result of terrible air pollution. The Victorian Age was romantic, but it was also a dark time, when business interests were totally unrestrained.