Freud's "The 'Uncanny'" (available online at ricorso.net or archive.org) includes this summary of an unidentified short story:

In the middle of the isolation of war-time a number of the English Strand Magazine fell into my hands; and, among other somewhat redundant matter, I read a story about a young married couple who move into a furnished house in which there is a curiously shaped table with carvings of crocodiles on it. Towards evening an intolerable and very specific smell begins to pervade the house; they stumble over something in the dark; they seem to see a vague form gliding over the stairs—in short, we are given to understand that the presence of the table causes ghostly crocodiles to haunt the place, or that the wooden monsters come to life in the dark, or something of the sort. It was a naïve enough story, but the uncanny feeling it produced was quite remarkable.

Freud, S. (1919). The ‘Uncanny’. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII (1917-1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works, 217-256. Trans. Alix Strachey. pp. 244–245.

What short story is this? Freud says he read it during World War I. Since The Strand Magazine was published from January 1891 on, the story could have been published any time over the 27 year span between then and 1918.

Freud's essay was originally written in German. So when he writes "English Strand Magazine", this might refer to language rather than country, and the story might have been in the American edition of the magazine, which was published 1891–1916.

Since the Strand Magazine is available at the Hathi Trust and at the Internet Archive, a link to the story would be great!

1 Answer 1


The short story appears to be Inexplicable by L. G. Moberly, published in the Strand Magazine in December 1917.

In the article Visualising the Unseen: Supernatural stories and Illustration in The Strand, Emma Liggins summarises the story as:

L. G. Moberly’s “Inexplicable,” a sinister story about a haunted suburban house infested by supernatural alligators, used the uncanny to recall the inexplicable trauma of participation. Materialising from an ornate occasional table carved with lifelike images of their scaly bodies, the half-invisible alligators symbolise the dangers of imperial endeavour as well as the irruption of repressed memories of service abroad. Slithering around the servants’ bedrooms at night and tripping up Hugh (the narrator’s husband) and his guest by twining around their legs, the supernatural creatures bring the horrors of war into the heart of suburbia.

Liggins, Emma. "Visualising the unseen: Supernatural stories and illustration in The Strand". Victorian Periodicals Review vol. 52 issue 2 (2019): 365-387. ISSN 0049-6189. https://doi.org/10.1353/vpr.2019.0022. Downloaded from https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/625021/ 30 December 2023.

The story is available from the Internet Archive, on p 572 of the 1917b archive of the Strand Magazine.

Title page of "Inexplicable" by J.G. Moberly from the Strand Magazine.

Moberly, L. G. “Inexplicable.” Illustrated by Dudley Tennant. Strand Magazine 54 (December 1917): 572–581. Accessed at archive.org 30 December 2023.

  • 1
    Fantastic! How did you find it so quickly?
    – verbose
    Dec 30, 2023 at 12:39
  • 4
    Searching for "crocodiles" and "Strand Magazine" led me to Liggins' article, which identified the short story, and then it was simple to locate it in the Internet Archive. Dec 30, 2023 at 12:46

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