“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft
Though Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s (1890-1937) name is now synonymous with weird fiction and existential horror, that wasn’t always true. Lovecraft had a difficult life. His father died when he was very young, and as a child, he suffered from frequent illnesses. His adult years were no easier. His wife spent several years in a sanitarium, and Lovecraft struggled with feelings isolation and often failed to make a steady income. To survive these trials, Lovecraft escaped into the pulp fiction of the day and eventually began writing his own works. The mythos that he created has inspired writers, filmmakers, and artists of all kinds for over a century.
In honor of All Hallows’ Eve and this most spooky of seasons, I want to share some of his best stories below. Clicking on any of the titles will take you to the full text of the respective pieces.
— — —
If people know any of Lovecraft’s work, they typically know The Call of Cthulhu. The tale traces Francis Wayland Thurston’s investigation of the mysterious death of his great-uncle. Thurston soon learns that his great-uncle had stumbled across a cult dedicated to bringing a mysterious creature known as Cthulhu into the world. The story provides a great introduction into Lovecraft’s mythology.
The Haunter of the Dark is a tale that modern readers may find familiar. The story follows writer Robert Blake as he explores an abandoned church. While there, he stumbles across remnants of a cult known as the Church of the Starry Wisdom. When Blake accidentally summons a monster using one of the cult’s artifacts, he and the townsfolk must try to contain the creature or die trying.
In The Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft explores the fictional town of Dunwich, Massachusetts where something strange prowls in the night. The local Whateley family is known to perform dark rites, but when Lavinia Whateley gives birth to a child of unknown parentage, the entire town is thrown into danger. Together three professors from a nearby university unite in attempt to defeat this new evil.
In this short story published after Lovecraft’s death, madness has befallen young Charles Dexter Ward. As a doctor desperately tries to determine what has happened to his charge, he slowly learns that history has a terrible way of coming back to haunt us and that one of Ward’s long dead ancestors may have influence beyond the grave.
— — —
To learn more about Lovecraft, check out The H.P. Lovecraft Archive, which is the most thorough online resource I’ve seen on the author and his mythos. It contains the full texts of over 100 of Lovecraft’s works, fun facts, letters, and other paraphernalia.
I’d also love to hear about some of your favorite Lovecraftian experiences. The mythology has trickled into so many aspects of popular culture that it is difficult to keep track of them all.
Image Attribution: H.P Lovecraft, Sketch of Cthulhu, 1934.