In the the later 1950's I read a story in one of the cheap SF magazines which were around then. The story featured an alien artefact that looked like a smooth curved stone or pebble. In the story it was picked up and the human inclination was to stroke it, and its feeling was so good that it entranced or hypnotised the human who then became a victim in some way.
It was as if it was a pacifier for adult humans which they could not resist.

Any ideas about what the story was called and when, and where it was published? I was only a young kid then and used to swap magazines with friends.

  • 2
    Many thanks. I had not realised my memory was that good .. I was about 7 y/o when I read it. Looking for a copy of the text I came across this article which references both the story and a contemporary French sculptor - and his work does look like one of Hypnoglyphs described.
    – John N.
    Mar 5, 2022 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like "The Hypnoglyph", a short story by John Ciardi, first published in July 1953 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Your memory of the story is pretty accurate. An explorer has an alien artifact in his collection created by an alien race with extraordinarily developed tactile senses. A human touching it feels an irresistable compulsion to stroke it, and eventually becomes completely hypnotised by the sensation. The explorer recounts to a colleague how he acquired it, and his companion gradually falls into a trance.

At the end the explorer's wife enters:

and it becomes clear she is of the alien race, and is preparing to devour the hypnotised man.

  • I recall using Ciardi's textbook How Does a Poem Mean back in high school. I had already read this short story, but I never made the connection. The story is an absolute gem. Pity he didn't write more SF and less poetry! Mar 5, 2022 at 14:43

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