Again a fine story and a fine discussion.
Yes, this really is the type of Machen story I like (and I indeed had read it already before). And these type of stories are no doubt the ones Lovecraft got inspired by: the fear for the unknown/unknowable and the vagueness, typical to this type of weird fiction. I do think this story is much more lighter (and indeed sometimes quiet comical) in comparison with the darker stories (and essays in his Hieroglyphics) about the sublime / the ‘grail’ and the veil (a word Machen uses a lot).
To me, the best weird fiction keeps it vague, because it exactly is about the unknowable; but I understand readers that think of this as too easy or cutting corners. If the threat and vagueness is written down really evocative and suggestive, that’s enough for me to ponder and muse after reading it (and for inspiration for my own stories). As you said ‘the encountering of the unknown/unknowable’ is what makes weird just what it is, not what comes after it, or explaining the whole thing: ‘scooby-dooing’ or rationalizing such a tale would totally break it.
I liked your approach by comparing the story with detective stories. I admit with shame that I haven’t read a Sherlock Holmes tale yet (though of course I know most of the stories form several tv shows and movies). I look forward to Conan Doyle entering Elder Sign! I’m also interested in his other tales by the way (maybe some out of the collection ‘Tales of unease’ – I haven’t read it, but it looks interesting).
As I said some times in other forum posts: I really like the idea of a weird ‘hidden’ city beneath the superficial one. I will not again discuss this topic, as it has been covered already several times, but it’s one of the things Machen is very good at, in some of his other tales as well.
This is a shot across the bow at London's journalists:
[Dyson, talking about writing] "Our common reporter is a dull dog; every story that he has to tell is spoilt in the telling. His idea of horror and of what excites horror is so lamentably deficient. Nothing will content the fellow but blood, vulgar red blood, and when he can get it he lays it on thick, and considers that he has produced a telling article."
We might note that this story was written in the early 1890's, only a few years after the sensationalistic reporting of the Ripper murders.
If anyone is looking for a copy, here it is on Project Gutenberg:
It's part of a short story collection including 4 stories.
This story was so creepy! As I said on the air, I had mixed this up with A Fragment of Life and so put the "wrong" story on the ballot. But I'm glad I did!