Welcome back to another Blind Read! This time we’re delving into a wonderfully classic haunted house story, with a Lovecraftian twist.
This is the story of the Shunned House, and Lovecraft finds yet another way to tell a story in a unique way. We know of the narrator’s experience there. Lovecraft tells that up front. A young man who is scared terribly by something that he cannot explain.
Then we delve into the history of the house, to try to garner a better explanation of what actually happened there. The reasoning jumps around from spirits, to demons, to vampires, to werewolves. Each person who had some kind of supernatural experience in the Shunned House have experienced something different.
The story gives some wonderfully Gothic imagery. I had a vivid image of Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” in both visceral description, as well as tonality. We find a house with a history and delve into something altogether different than we possibly expected. Poe’s story is a Gothic tragedy, but Lovecraft’s is wonderfully cosmic.
Then the story evolves. It becomes much more like Richard Matheson’s “Hell House”, where we have a scientific study, instead of a supernatural study (Hell House is one of the singularly most terrifying stories I’ve ever read, just so you know).
“We were not, as I have said, in any sense childishly superstitious, but scientific study and reflection had taught us that the known universe of three dimensions embraces the merest fraction of the whole cosmos of substance and energy.” pp 128 “At The Mountains of Madness” Dey Rey 1982.
There is so much going on in this sentence. First, we know that the narrator and his uncle are not walking into anything with a superstitious bend. They intend on using facts to find the truth of the mystery of the Shunned House. However, they recognize that science has it’s limitations and the answer that they are looking for could potentially be beyond the walls of our known dimensional world.
Then we get down into the house and discover that the story has evolved again. Now we come to the realization that we are in a Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The narrator talks about the “fungus ridden earth” and how there is a green and yellow phosphorescent glow. Thus far in my blind reads I have found that this is the most consistently mentioned precursor to a cosmic horror. This green and yellow light shows that a cosmic creature is around. Immediately it becomes less about a ghost story, and into a completely different area.
Then we come upon the most horrible section (or should I say beautifully horrible?) of any Lovecraft story I have read thus far. The phosphorescent pile is actually part of a creature that is sucking the life force out of the humans it comes into contact with. This is the reasoning for the vampire and werewolf descriptions. The creature is taking on horrible visages of other creatures to both feed and to incapacitate its victims. It was suddenly at this point that I realized this could very well be Stephen King’s inspiration for “IT”. A cosmic alien who shows people what they fear and eats their life force.
This is without a doubt one of my favorite stories I’ve read thus far. I think only “In the Walls of Eryx” comes close to this one. It’s a bit longer than most of the stories, but it’s succinct, and it changes what you think it’ll be multiple times throughout the exposition. I think if I were to recommend any one story to someone looking to get into Lovecraft I would tell them to start on this story.
What do you think?
What a beautifully dark and Gothic tale this was. Gorgeous in scope and so much more than a Poe tale. We follow along a couple of grave robbers who search the world for the best loot from their exhumations. Until they come across a seemingly great score in Holland. They take a medallion and are chased around the world by the specter of some supernatural hound.
The first thing that hits you with this story is the language. It is probably the most beautifully told stories I’ve read from Lovecraft yet. He takes his time and delicately lays the foundations slowly, unveiling the booty the grave robbers have purloined. Then he describes the need for further exploration. The desire and greed for more. Then once the medallion is revealed, we go on a roller coaster of horror, with danger in every step.
Particularly of interest to me was the fact that we get such a glimpse of the Necronomicon. We get a description of what the book looks like and a bit of it’s terrible contents, and what is more compelling is that these two gallants were using the Necronomicon to search out new items.
That being said, I have to think there is some meaning behind the name St. John, the narrators companion. He is one of the main drivers of the story as he is the one who actually takes the medallion and is the first in the Hound’s catastrophic path.
Another interesting aspect of this story is the Hound itself. We find out at the end of the story that when the narrator exhumes the grave again, that the skeleton that was originally buried in, he finds the medallion back around the skeletons neck, but now the skeleton has grown fangs and has a strange phosphorescent glow from its eyes. There is also hair and skin attached to the bones. Was this a grave of a priest to some great dog god?
Then we have the Jade connection. I can only assume that the phosphorescent glow was a green glow, which hearkens back to “The Doom that came to Sarnath”, and the strange green glow that was sent down from the moon. Did they awaken a moon god?
Then there is the Necronomicon to consider (not to mention it’s supposed immolation. Could this really be the end of the Necronomicon? I wonder where in the chronology this story fits in). This was written by the infamous mad Arab Alhazred, who was purportedly a demonologist. Could the demons be connected to the Great Old Ones? Is this a separate deific scale to worry about in the Lovecraftian ethos?
What do you think?