|"The Dunwich Horror"|
The issue of Weird Tales in which "The Dunwich Horror" was first published.
|Author||H. P. Lovecraft|
|Published in||Weird Tales|
|Media type||Print (Magazine)|
|Publication date||April, 1929|
"The Dunwich Horror" is a horror short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written in 1928, it was first published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales (pp. 481–508). It takes place in Dunwich, a fictional town in Massachusetts. It is considered one of the core stories of the Cthulhu Mythos.
In the isolated, desolate, decrepit village of Dunwich, Massachusetts, Wilbur Whateley is the hideous son of Lavinia Whateley, a deformed and unstable albino mother, and an unknown father (alluded to in passing by mad Old Whateley, as "Yog-Sothoth"). Strange events surround his birth and precocious development. Wilbur matures at an abnormal rate, reaching manhood within a decade. Locals shun him and his family, and animals fear and despise him due to his odor. All the while, his sorcerer grandfather indoctrinates him into certain dark rituals and the study of witchcraft. Various locals grow suspicious after Old Whateley buys more and more cattle, yet the number of his herd never increases, and the cattle in his field become mysteriously afflicted with severe open wounds.
Wilbur and his grandfather have sequestered an unseen presence at their farmhouse; this being is connected somehow to Yog-Sothoth. Year by year, this unseen entity grows to monstrous proportions, requiring the two men to make frequent modifications to their residence. People begin to notice a trend of cattle mysteriously disappearing. Wilbur's grandfather dies, and his mother disappears soon afterwards. The colossal entity eventually occupies the whole interior of the farmhouse.
Wilbur ventures to Miskatonic University in Arkham to procure their copy of the Necronomicon – Miskatonic's library is one of only a handful in the world to stock an original. The Necronomicon has spells that Wilbur can use to summon the Old Ones, but his family's copy is damaged and lacks the page he needs to open the "door." When the librarian, Dr. Henry Armitage, refuses to release the university's copy to him (and, by sending warnings to other libraries, thwarts Wilbur's efforts to consult their copies), Wilbur breaks into the library at night to steal it. A guard dog, maddened by Wilbur's alien body odor, attacks and kills him with unusual ferocity. When Dr. Armitage and two other professors, Warren Rice and Francis Morgan, arrive on the scene, they see Wilbur's semi-human corpse before it melts completely, leaving no evidence.
With Wilbur dead, no one attends to the mysterious presence growing in the Whateley farmhouse. Early one morning, the farmhouse explodes and the thing, an invisible monster, rampages across Dunwich, cutting a path through fields, trees, and ravines, and leaving huge "prints" the size of tree trunks. The monster eventually makes forays into inhabited areas. The invisible creature terrorizes Dunwich for several days, killing two families and several policemen, until Armitage, Rice, and Morgan arrive with the knowledge and weapons needed to kill it. The use of a magic powder renders it visible just long enough to send one of the crew into shock. The barn-sized monster babbles in an alien tongue, then screams for help from its father Yog-Sothoth in English just before the spell destroys it, leaving a huge burned area. In the end, its nature is revealed: it was Wilbur's twin brother, though it "looked more like the father than Wilbur did."
In a letter to August Derleth, Lovecraft wrote that "The Dunwich Horror" "takes place amongst the wild domed hills of the upper Miskatonic Valley, far northwest of Arkham, and is based on several old New England legends — one of which I heard only last month during my sojourn in Wilbraham," a town east of Springfield.One such legend is the notion that whippoorwills can capture the departing soul.
In another letter, Lovecraft wrote that Dunwich is "a vague echo of the decadent Massachusetts countryside around Springfield — say Wilbraham, Monson and Hampden."Robert M. Price notes that "much of the physical description of the Dunwich countryside is a faithful sketch of Wilbraham," citing a passage from a letter from Lovecraft to Zealia Bishop that "sounds like a passage from 'The Dunwich Horror' itself":
When the road dips again there are stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes, and indeed almost fears at evening when unseen whippoorwills chatter and the fireflies come out in abnormal profusion to dance to the raucous, creepily insistent rhythms of stridently piping bullfrogs.
The physical model for Dunwich's Sentinel Hill is thought to be Wilbraham Mountain near Wilbraham.
Some researchers have pointed out the story's apparent connections to another Massachusetts region: the area around Athol and points south, in the north-central part of the state (which is where Lovecraft indicates that Dunwich is located). It has been suggested that the name "Dunwich" was inspired by the town of Greenwich, which was deliberately flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir,although Greenwich and the nearby towns of Dana, Enfield and Prescott actually were not submerged until 1938. Donald R. Burleson points out that several names included in the story—including Bishop, Frye, Sawyer, Rice and Morgan—are either prominent Athol names or have a connection to the town's history.
Athol's Sentinel Elm Farm seems to be the source for the name Sentinel Hill.The Bear's Den mentioned in the story resembles an actual cave of the same name visited by Lovecraft in North New Salem, southwest of Athol. (New Salem, like Dunwich, was founded by settlers from Salem—though in 1737, not 1692. )
The book Myths and Legends of Our Own Land (1896),by Charles M. Skinner, mentions a "Devil's Hop Yard" near Haddam, Connecticut as a gathering place for witches. The book, which Lovecraft seems to have read, also describes noises emanating from the earth near Moodus, Connecticut, which are similar to the Dunwich sounds decried by Rev. Abijah Hoadley.
Lovecraft's main literary sources for "The Dunwich Horror" are the stories of Welsh horror writer Arthur Machen, particularly "The Great God Pan" (which is mentioned in the text of "The Dunwich Horror") and "The Novel of the Black Seal". Both Machen stories concern individuals whose death throes reveal them to be only half-human in their parentage. According to Robert M. Price, "'The Dunwich Horror' is in every sense an homage to Machen and even a pastiche. There is little in Lovecraft's story that does not come directly out of Machen's fiction."
Another source that has been suggested[ citation needed ] is "The Thing in the Woods", by Margery Williams, which is also about two brothers living in the woods, neither of them quite human and one of them less human than the other.
The name Dunwich itself may come from Machen's The Terror, where the name refers to an English town where the titular entity is seen hovering as "a black cloud with sparks of fire in it".Lovecraft also takes Wilbur Whateley's occult terms "Aklo" and "Voorish" from Machen's "The White People".
Lovecraft also seems to have found inspiration in Anthony M. Rud's story "Ooze" (published in Weird Tales, March 1923), which also involved a monster being secretly kept and fed in a house that it subsequently bursts out of and destroys.
The tracks of Wilbur's brother recall those seen in Algernon Blackwood's "The Wendigo", one of Lovecraft's favorite horror stories.Ambrose Bierce's story "The Damned Thing" also involves a monster invisible to human eyes.
Lovecraft took pride in "The Dunwich Horror", calling it "so fiendish that [Weird Tales editor] Farnsworth Wright may not dare to print it." Wright, however, snapped it up, sending Lovecraft a check for $240 (equivalent to $3,573in 2019), the largest single payment for his fiction he had received up to that point.
Kingsley Amis praised "The Dunwich Horror" in New Maps of Hell, listing it as one of Lovecraft's tales that "achieve a memorable nastiness".Lovecraft biographer Lin Carter calls the story "an excellent tale... A mood of tension and gathering horror permeates the story, which culminates in a shattering climax". In his list of "The 13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories", T. E. D. Klein placed "The Dunwich Horror" at number four. Robert M. Price declares that "among the tales of H. P. Lovecraft, 'The Dunwich Horror' remains my favorite." S.T. Joshi, on the other hand, regarded "Dunwich" as "simply an aesthetic mistake on Lovecraft's part", citing its "stock good-versus-evil scenario". However, he has also noted that it is "richly atmospheric."
Although Lovecraft first mentioned "Yog-Sothoth" in the novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward , it was in "The Dunwich Horror" that he introduced the entity as one of his extra-dimensional Outer Gods. It is also the tale in which the Necronomicon makes the most significant appearance, and the longest direct quote from it appears in the text. Many of the other standards of the Cthulhu Mythos, such as Miskatonic University, Arkham, and Dunwich, also form integral parts of the tale.
A librarian named Armitage appears in Don Webb's short story "To Mars and Providence", an alternate history where a juvenile Lovecraft is influenced by the events of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds .
The biannual NecronomiCon Providence has a "Dr. Henry Armitage Memorial Scholarship Symposium", whose papers are printed by Hippocampus Press.
The Dunwich Horror and Others is the title of a collection of H. P. Lovecraft short stories published by Arkham House, containing what August Derleth considered to be the best of Lovecraft's shorter fiction. Originally published in 1963, the 6th printing in 1985 included extensive corrections by S. T. Joshi in order to produce the definitive edition of Lovecraft's works. The collection has an introduction by Robert Bloch, titled "Heritage of Horror", reprinted from the 1982 Ballantine collection, Blood Curdling Tales of Supernatural Horror: The Best of H.P. Lovecraft.
The stories included in The Dunwich Horror and Others are: "In the Vault", "Pickman's Model", "The Rats in the Walls", "The Outsider", "The Colour Out of Space", "The Music of Erich Zann", "The Haunter of the Dark", "The Picture in the House", "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Dunwich Horror", "Cool Air", "The Whisperer in Darkness", "The Terrible Old Man", "The Thing on the Doorstep", "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", and "The Shadow Out of Time".
The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared fictional universe, originating in the works of American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. The term was coined by August Derleth, a contemporary correspondent and protégé of Lovecraft, to identify the settings, tropes, and lore that were employed by Lovecraft and his literary successors. The name Cthulhu derives from the central creature in Lovecraft's seminal short story "The Call of Cthulhu", first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928.
The Necronomicon, also referred to as the Book of the Dead, or under a purported original Arabic title of Kitab al-Azif, is a fictional grimoire appearing in stories by the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story "The Hound", written in 1922, though its purported author, the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's "The Nameless City". Among other things, the work contains an account of the Old Ones, their history, and the means for summoning them.
Shub-Niggurath is a fictional deity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft. She is often associated with the phrase "The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young". The only other name by which Lovecraft referred to her was "Lord of the Wood" in his story The Whisperer in Darkness.
Arkham is a fictional city situated in Massachusetts. An integral part of the Lovecraft Country setting created by H. P. Lovecraft, Arkham is featured in many of his stories and those of other Cthulhu Mythos writers.
Azathoth is a deity in the Cthulhu Mythos and Dream Cycle stories of writer H. P. Lovecraft and other authors. He is the ruler of the Outer Gods, and may be seen as a symbol for primordial chaos.
Dunwich is a fictional village that appeared in the H. P. Lovecraft novella "The Dunwich Horror" (1929). Dunwich is located in the Miskatonic River Valley of Massachusetts, part of the region sometimes called Lovecraft Country. The inhabitants are depicted as inbred, uneducated, and very superstitious, while the town itself is described as economically poor with many decrepit or abandoned buildings.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a short horror novel by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in early 1927, but not published during the author's lifetime. Set in Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, it was first published in the May and July issues of Weird Tales in 1941; the first complete publication was in Arkham House's Beyond the Wall of Sleep collection (1943). It is included in the Library of America volume of Lovecraft's work.
"The Haunter of the Dark" is a horror short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft, written between 5–9 November 1935 and published in the December 1936 edition of Weird Tales. It was the last-written of the author's known works, and is part of the Cthulhu Mythos. The epigraph to the story is the second stanza of Lovecraft's 1917 poem "Nemesis".
Lovecraft Country is the New England setting used by H. P. Lovecraft in many of his weird fiction stories, which combines real and fictitious locations. This setting has since been elaborated on by other writers working in the Cthulhu Mythos. The phrase was not in use during Lovecraft's own lifetime. Instead the phrase Lovecraft Country was coined by Keith Herber for the Lovecraftian role-playing game Call of Cthulhu. The phrase is only one of many attempts to label the setting of Lovecraft's works, though with the 2020 HBO television series Lovecraft Country arguably the one gaining the most traction. Alternative phrases include Arkham County, Miskatonic County and the Miskatonic region.
"The Festival" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft written in October 1923 and published in the January 1925 issue of Weird Tales.
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A Shoggoth on the Roof is a parody of the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Published by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, it is credited to a member of the society who is referred to only as "He Who Must Not Be Named".
Lovecraft: A Look Behind the "Cthulhu Mythos" is a 1972 non-fiction book written by Lin Carter, published by Ballantine Books. The introduction notes that the book "does not purport to be a biography of H. P. Lovecraft", and instead presents it as "a history of the growth of the so-called Cthulhu Mythos."
A Cthulhu Mythos anthology is a type of short story collection that contains stories written in, or related to, the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror fiction launched by H. P. Lovecraft. Such anthologies have helped to define and popularize the genre.
"The White People" is a horror short story by Welsh author Arthur Machen. Written in the late 1890s, it was first published in 1904 in Horlick's Magazine, edited by Machen's friend A. E. Waite, then reprinted in Machen's collection The House of Souls (1906).
In Lovecraft's Shadow: The Cthulhu Mythos Stories of August Derleth is a collection of fantasy and horror short stories by American writer August Derleth. It was released in 1998 by Mycroft & Moran in an edition of 2,051 copies.
Cthulhu is a 2000 Australian low budget horror film that was directed, produced, and written by Damian Heffernan. It is mostly based on two Lovecraft stories, "The Thing on the Doorstep" and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. It stars Adam Somes as a young student that discovers that his best friend has become involved in a cult intent on raising Cthulhu. It screened at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, after which point it was purchased by Channel 9 for screening in Australia as part of their Australian content quota obligations. The film was also purchased by Trend Films in Italy for screening via their Satellite Television network.
The Dunwich Horror is a 1970 American supernatural horror film directed by Daniel Haller, and starring Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, and Ed Begley. A loose adaptation of the short story of the same name by H.P. Lovecraft, the film concerns a young female graduate student who is targeted by a man attempting to use her in an occult ritual taken from the Necronomicon. The screenplay was co-written by Curtis Hanson, while Roger Corman served as an executive producer on the film.
H. P. Lovecraft created a number of deities throughout the course of his literary career, including the "Great Old Ones" and aliens, such as the "Elder Things", with sporadic references to other miscellaneous deities whereas the "Elder Gods" are a later creation of other prolific writers such as August Derleth, who was credited with formalizing the Cthulhu Mythos.
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