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The Great God Pan (1894)
Helen's story begins with an experimental neurosurgical procedure preformed by Dr. Raymond on a patient named Mary in the presence of her caretaker, Clarke, intended to enable her to experience an altered state of consciousness which, according to Dr. Raymond, the ancient Greeks called "seeing the great god Pan" which would enable her to see and interact with the spiritual world. Unfortunately, the procedure leaves Mary permanently braindead (which Dr. Raymond claims is a result of having seen the great god Pan). Raymond accepts responsibility and agrees to care for Mary as Clarke leaves despondent.
Unbeknownst to Clarke, Mary is discovered by Dr. Raymond to be mysteriously pregnant a short time later and eventually dies giving birth to something not entirely human.
Years later, Clarke, an amateur chronicler of the supernatural, learns of and unsettling reports from the village of Caermaen in the English countryside concerning a strange child named Helen V.
Helen took lodging with a local family at the request of a mysterious benefactor who paid them a great sum of money to care for her. At her benefactor's request, Helen was not required to attend school if she did not choose to, and allowed to wander the countryside and occupy herself as she saw fit. Most importantly, Helen was to be given her own bedroom and not to be disturbed while inside it.
Helen spent much of her time in the woods near the old Roman road that ran through town, and it was there that a young boy was driven to a prolonged hysterical episode after witnessing her conversing with a strange man. Once home, the boy seemed to be recovering until he is unexpectedly driven permanently insane after seeing a carving of a satyr's head and indicating that that was the man he saw.
Later, Helen befriends a local girl named Rachel who frequently accompanies her on her excursions to the woods, until Rachel's parents suddenly forbid the two to see each other anymore. After much pleading, they give in and lift the ban. However, Rachel returns from her next excursion in tears, apparently severely traumatized by something she saw while in the woods, but soon she enters the woods on her own and is never seen again.
Years later, London gentleman of leisure Mr. Villers happens upon a vagrant who he recognizes as his old friend Charles Herbert, who had also been wealthy and well bred when last they met. The visibly traumatized Herbert attributes his current emotional and financial state to his wife, Helen Vaughan, who he claims "corrupted [him], body and soul", and is later found to have committed suicide.
After leaving Herbert, Helen is rumored to have fled to somewhere in the Americas.
Acting on information given to him by his friend Mr. Austin, Villers decides to investigate, starting with the Herbert's old residence (Number 20, Paul Street, Tottenham Court Road), a shunned house in a neighborhood that has become a slum in the years since Herbert lived there. A mysterious death is said to have occurred on the property just before Herbert moved out. Though the official police report said the victim died of natural causes, the coroner confided to Austin off-the-record that the man had in fact died of fright. Upon entering the house, Villers is put on edge by the evil presence that engulfs the place, and by the time he reaches the room where the death occurs, it becomes so overwhelming that he is forced to flea out of fear that he might suffer the same fate, but not before recovering a stack of papers than included a hand-drawn portrait of Helen.
Villers later met with Clarke (unaware of his hobbies and his connection to Mary) and shows him the portrait. Though he doesn't say anything, Clarke is struck by the uncanny resemblance the portrait of Helen bears to Mary, and is unable to conceal his terror. Clarke later contacts Villers, urging him to cease his investigations and destroy the portrait.
Later, the artist Arthur Meyrick is reported have died of unknown causes in Buenos Ayres. Among the personal effects sent to Mr. Austin are a series of frightful drawings depicting fauns, satyrs, and aegipans, and a second portrait of of Helen Vaughan.
Later still, the Lord Argentine Charles Aubernon is found to have committed suicide shortly after dining at the home of Mrs. Beaumont, a woman of great wealth reported to have moved to London from South America. This turns out to be the first in a minor epidemic of mysterious suicides amongst London's wealthy, a number of whom are known to have visited Mrs. Beaumont shortly before taking their lives.
Villars later spots a woman who he recognizes as Helen leaving a house in a shady part of town. Upon investigating, Villars learns that Helen lived there for a time under the name Ms. Raymond before disappearing suddenly, only to resurface as Mrs. Herbert. A few years after her disappearance from the Herbert household, she moved back into the house, once again using the name Ms. Raymond, only to disappear once more some time later. Villars also uncovers a troubling manuscript detailing the unfortunate fates of those who happen to meet the Great God Pan.
Afterward, Villars decides to follow Helen, and subsequentially discovers that she and Mrs. Beaumont are one and the same.
Villars and Clarke decide to confront Mrs. Beaumont, aka Mrs. Herbert, aka Helen Vaughan, and are able to persuade her to commit suicide, "though the death was horrible. The blackened face, the hideous form upon the bed, changing and melting before your eyes from woman to man, from man to beast, and from beast to worse than beast, all the strange horror that you witness, surprises me but little."
It is later revealed that Helen is the daughter of Mary and some horrible, shapeless, primordial entity referred to as the Great God Pan.
Helen is described as being extraordinarily beautiful, with a beautiful voice to match, but at the same time utterly repulsive for reasons those who look upon her can never fully explain, with olive-colored skin and vaguely Italian features.
- Although the character is in the public domain in the United States, Australia, and Canada, in the UK, the country of origin, the copyright remains in effect until 2018.
- Helen Vaughan is shown to have used numerous aliases in her life, and it's left ambiguous if "Helen Vaughan" is her real name or just another alias. Mr. Herbert expresses the belief that she has no real name as he states, "only human beings have names," though this is never confirmed nor denied.