AN extraordinary Blackburn writer left an impression on Edwardian England perhaps like no other.

William Hope Hodgson is perhaps best remembered by horror story aficionados.

But the tales penned by the former strongman influenced H P Lovecraft and have enjoyed many a revival.

An Essex-born priest's son, Hodgson ran away from home aged 13 to become a sailor. Later he would receive a Royal Humane Society award for rescuing a crewmate from shark-infested waters off the coast of New Zealand.

His peripatetic life saw him open The School of Physical Culture in Ainsworth Street, Blackburn, by 1899. His attention to rigour brought him into contact with Harry Houdini three years later at the Palace Theatre.

Houdini had a standing £25 handcuffs challenge - anyone who could successfully keep him bound would win the money. Hodgson approached the Palace Theatre stage with his own customised handcuffs and wrapped them around the legendary escapologist. Though Houdini struggled free, he complained the locks had been plugged, leaving his arms bruised and blue.

Hodgson abandoned physical education for literary pursuits, taking inspiration from Corporation Park for an early short story. He used a statue of Flora, standing in the park, as the model for a Hindu deity, come to life, in The Goddess of Death.

Later The House on the Borderland (1908) and The Night Land (1912) would excite Lovecraft, who cited the latter as "one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written".

Sadly Hodgson's life was cut short on a First World War battlefield, killed at Ypres in 1918. His wife Bessie ensured his literary works remained in print, earning him new fans like Iain Sinclair and China Mieville.