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?
“At the time, his shrieks were confined to the repetition of a single, mad word of all too obvious source: “Tekeli-li Tekeli-li”
A single enigmatic word that has such a huge meaning.
I had originally meant to only read two chapters and separate this blog into two different sections, but I just couldn’t stop reading, and there are so many ideas bouncing around that I decided to codify them all into this single blog.
Spoilers ahead, so if you don’t want to read them stop here.
We follow our narrator and Danforth out of the horrible city built by the Shoggoth for the Great Old Ones, and when they make it out they find the lost dog and the young Missing Gedney.
They catch a strange stench and they find a cave down to what the narrator calls the abyss. They follow it down and they find some strange blind albino penguins, and continue past them…until they find some more of the specimens that Lake found, these ones alive. Terrified they run, and they can tell that something large and terrible is following after them. They turn and see that they are being chased by a Shoggoth. Danforth ostensibly goes mad, but they eventually get out.
There are a few points I want to focus on here:
- The Poe connection
- The Blind Albino penguins and evolution
- Anthropomorphism of Star Spawn
- Physiognomy (or lack there of) of the Shoggoth
First lets talk the Poe connection. Tekeli-li is taken from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which Poe references when the narrator hears the cry echo in the abyss.
1.First and foremost, We know that Poe had a large influence on Lovecraft in general, but what is interesting about this is how the entire novella of At the Mountains of Madness is modeled after this story. Poe set out to write a “realistic” story about a sea voyage gone wrong. Poe being Poe, some really crazy things happen. We have Lovecraft here, who is writing the story from the perspective of a scientific expedition. Everything is very logical and adhering to the scientific method throughout, until the end which takes a creepy turn…the same way Poe did in Pym. On top of that, Poe wrote about a connection with the theory of the Hollow Earth. Basically the theory that the earth is hollow and there are vast spaces and potentially civilizations in the middle of the earth. Sound familiar? In Lovecraft’s story we actually see one of these massive civilizations, and it goes way farther than that when the narrator and Danforth go into what is called the abyss. Oh did I mention that both stories take place in Antarctica?
2.Next we have the blind albino penguins. When I started reading this section I wondered what the point was. Why involve these creatures? Was it just a creepy factor to try and scare? A large creature comes out of the cave! Oh…wait…its a blind penguin. It seemed almost laughable at first. Then the more I thought about it the more brilliant it seemed. These penguins were the foreshadowing of something horrible coming. They have lived here for centuries, and down here in the abyss. That accounts for the fact that they are albino, for they very rarely see the sun. Why are they so large? The Shoggoth are huge, so if the penguins never evolved they would just get crushed (which they do anyway when a Shoggoth was incensed). Ok so we can intuit why the penguins are large and albino, but why blind? Is it just because they live in the caves? That could be, but they would probably just have evolved to be able to see in the dark. I think there is a much more sinister reason. We’ll discuss this in the last section.
3.Next Trypophobia, otherwise known as the fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps, or honeycomb holes. Lovecraft describes the architecture and the creation of the tunnels to be honeycombed, and he’s doing this for a multitude of reasons. The first is that he wants to give a little preamble to what the Shoggoth are. What kind of nightmare creatures create that type of pattern on purpose? Why is that the aesthetic that they want to look at? Which leads into the second reason, it gives the reader unease. This strange, abnormal pattern leaves many people on edge, and I would purport that Lovecraft suffered from trypophobia as well, which is why he was inclined to include it. The last is that it solidifies these creatures as being cosmic, or otherworldly. That is the kind of shape that one would not want around, but it may be something that makes the Great Old Ones long for home. Yet another reason to instill madness.
4.The anthropomorphism of the Star Spawn in the bas-reliefs. The Shoggoth make these statues almost in a recognizable theme. Except why is that? The Great Old Ones created the Shoggoth on our world. Whenever something is created, the idea of how it looks is relegated to the mind of the creator. Thus when things are created they are generally created in the image of the creator. The Shoggoths are no different. At the end of the story, Danforth, who read The Necronomicon to completion, mentions Yog-Sothoth. Now this is the first mention of this name in any story I have thus read, but just before he mentions this name (which I know is some sort of god in the Lovecraftian pantheon) he mentions proto-Shoggoth. This makes me believe that Yog-Sothoth actually created the Shoggoth in it’s image. Switching to the Shoggoth themselves, they lived as servants for many years, until they finally rose up against the Great Old Ones. As they lived as servants the Shoggoth watched the evolution of the planet, and how the creatures of the land actually became human from primordial ooze. I propose that this is why the Shoggoth rose up, they saw how humanity grew and took out on their own, and they saw what they could be, instead of servants. They thus created the images on the massive underground city based around their uprising. That’s why such an alien culture was legible and understandable from a couple of scientists.
5.Shoggoths are these horrible creatures. What Lovecraft does so well is that he never actually describes the creatures. He mentions that the star spawn have tentacle mouths, and that the Shoggoth have many eyes and are spherical but that’s really it. One of the most interesting descriptions came when the two are running away from their Shoggoth pursuer. Danforth has started to go mad, and is mentioning subway stations. The narrator finally understands and says that the reason is, the Shoggoth looked like a passing train. The shoggoth looked like a blur of steel and windows. The thing that sticks the most here is the world blur. Despite the fact that the Shoggoth wasn’t moving particullarly fast (they were able to out run it), it still looked like a blur. Was this because it was so hideous that our minds couldn’t comprehend it? Or is it because their features move so quickly that they are completely amorphous? This is the true Lovecraft horror. This is why Lovecraft works so well. You have these creatures that if they are described, then we can begin to understand them. When you keep it a mystery, and our minds have trouble categorizing things then unease bleeds in and the horror begins.
What do you think?
Talk about a revelation! Chapter 7 of this story gives so much of what I was looking for! It’s like a primer for Lovecraft.
Our brave explorers continue on their trek through the ancient cosmic city and through the frescoes and sculptures they tell a story of the Great Old Ones who once lived in the city. I will eventually have to go back and read through this chapter because there was so much here to consume.
First off, lets talk Shoggoth. I had thought that this was an actual god, or species of god, or something along those lines. What we find here is that the Shoggoths are actually creations of the Great Old Ones. They were “protoplasmic masses” that were brought together by the Great Old Ones to have slave labor. They were used to create the amazing city that the narrator and Danforth are exploring. The Shoggoths eventually rise up against the Great Old Ones, but were eventually put back down.
We also see a little about Cthulhu and it’s minions. They come down from the cosmos and attack the Great Old Ones. The narrator mentions these creatures as the humanoid Cthulhu spawn. There was a great war, and eventually peace broke out and the Cthulhu spawn was given the land, and the Great Old Ones and the Shoggoth took to the Ocean floor. That is until the Pacific waters rose and the great cities of the Cthulhu spawn were swallowed by the sea. From what I’ve gathered from other stories, the great city R’lyeh, where “all the cosmic octopi” lived is also the prison of Cthulhu itself (from info from the Shadow over Innsmouth). So here we have the origin (at least origin from our worldly perspective) of Cthulhu.
Then, much later, after the war with the Cthulhu spawn and the uprising of the Shoggoth, there came the Mi-go, partially fungoid, partially crustacean creatures. They also came down from the cosmos, and it seems as though they defeated the Great Old Ones, because the Great Old Ones tried to flee, but found that after so long, they could not leave the earth’s atmosphere. They thus fled to all portions of the world.
What is significant to this, is that now we have an understanding of the Great Old One’s reach and some of their capabilities. We also have now two different races besides these creatures, the Cthulhu spawn, and the Mi-go.
The Cthulhu spawn seems to be in the pacific ocean, with their few cities, including the fantastic R’lyeh. So the stories containing them, have to be in the south towards the Antarctic.
Then we have the Mi-go, who began in the Antarctic, but are known in the Himalayas, so they must have migrated during the ice age. Since the only information we have about them is that they flourish in cold environs, we must guess that any mention of the Mi-go to be surrounded by sub-zero temperatures. I imagine this information will be important for investigation later.
SO ultimately, we have people being born from the Great Old Ones. It is implied that our race may have started in this Antarctic city that the expedition has found. However we still have those transformation ideas. Transforming into a fish person. Transforming into an Ape. And transforming into a beast.
Since the Great Old Ones have relegated themselves to the Depths, then it is apparent that they have a direct correlation to the Fish transformation. As of right now I would argue that they also have the Ape transformation under their wing as well. I’m not sure where the beast transformation comes from.
Also we know that Cthulhu is empirically, NOT a Great Old One. This was something I was hazy on. Though I’m assuming that Dagon is one of the children, or lesser Great Old Ones, I have not gotten a name for any others as of yet.
Loving the story thus far, and can’t wait to see if there is any more Mythos in here.
Is there anything I missed?
What do you think?
Continuing the journey into the mountains of madness (chapters five and six). Our narrator and his cohort Danforth head out over the mountains to search out the mysteries of this strange antarctic world. There are sprawling descriptions of the landscape as they fly over it, but they eventually turn the corner and come across a terrible “Cyclopean city”. In this meaning that it is a huge city, all made from stones laid together, not using mortar. This adds to the mystery of the strange civilization, now abandoned. They eventually land down where they can and head into this strange and massive city.
They take samples of the stones, showing that the city is incredibly old, older than any known civilization. Older than the dinosaurs even. This is an interesting perspective for a geologist like our narrator is. If we take out all the horror aspect of this notion, it means an incredible find. Somehow there was a civilization of intelligent creatures, long before we have known to be evolved from apes.
This brings up an interesting notion of transformation to me. There have been many stories where the people in the stories have transformed into fish people, and ape people. A strange juxtaposition. As a writer, Lovecraft is probably trying to find transformative creatures that are terrifying, but if this is indeed the case why not transform people into crabs or some such? Or even Octopus people to give the tentacle nightmares of Cthulhu?
I think there is something deeper that Lovecraft is going for, which is coming to light through the reading of this story. People are descendants from apes, and even farther back, all life has developed from one celled organisms that transformed into amphibious creatures. Is Lovecraft saying with this story that we are all descendant from the Old Ones? Or is it that the Old Ones are transforming people back to the known quantity of what they knew when they had prevalence on our world?
If it’s the latter than there are potentially two different influences. Which of these beings were around during the time we were amphibious and which of them were around when we were Apes?
This story seems to be about the “Great Old Ones” (of which I’m sure will come to light the farther I get in the story, though there is already mention of them), and this was their city before us. Thus the Great Old Ones are beings like Dagon, and Cthulhu, because they are sea dwelling and such.
The strange thing is, this city is huge, but most of the rooms are small. Which means that despite the fact that the narrator talks about how the Great Old Ones came from the stars and the moon, there were other beings here as well. The beings that would house the 30 by 30 rooms that were no larger than 20 feet (Lovecraft goes into specific detail describing the layout of the city)…beings our size. Is it possible that in that ancient civilization there were mortal beings from another planet? Is the end game of this story to presuppose how Human’s came to be on the planet?
I’m over half way through the story with six chapters left, which means three more blogs (unless I get crazy into it and ignore work for a while). I’m excited to see if any of these theories come to light.
What do you think?
This is the first of the novellas by Lovecraft, that I’ve gone into. The organization and tentative handling of the pacing is an interesting elongation of what the short stories experience. This blind read recap comes from chapters 3 and 4, which basically covers the insinuation of something happening.
The crew goes to the destroyed encampment of Lake and they find that it has been completely devastated. It seems like it may have been from a weather event, but things are stranger than they seem. Plus there is a missing expedition member, Gedney, and a missing dog as well. Everyone else was killed, some in what looked like weather, though the circumstances are suspect, but there are some far greater horrors in store.
Many of the expedition members and dogs, were cut up with strange and horrible precision. Doctor precision.
The group makes a search for Gedney, and fly over the strange igneous rock, which doesn’t seem quite normal. In fact Lovecraft describes them as being like paintings of Nicholas Roerich. There is a strange feeling in the air.
Danforth and our narrator eventually go out over these peaks, frequently referred to as Mountains of Madness, and they come upon an “elder and utterly alien earth”.
To the best of my knowledge, these are the first real cliffhanger endings. Every chapter so far has left the reader with something to chew on, and come back to. This type of cliffhanger chapter end, has come into more prominence in writers like Dan Brown and James Patterson, and it’s interesting to see Lovecraft developing something like a 1930’s movie ending. It almost seems like when Flash Gordon is in the car and goes over the cliff, just to find next week, that he jumped out of the car at the last second. Lovecraft is just using his weird horror to elicit those feelings. Truly a master of atmosphere.
The chapters at times feel a bit plodding, but they slowly develop into one serious and terrifying event to end them. It almost feels like each chapter is a book to itself, and the whole novella is part of a series.
It is also interesting to see the narrator be an archaeologist, because the utterly alien horrors that are inherent to Lovecraft are coming from a place of empirical thought, which gives the horror a little more credence when it happens.
I’m going to read through two more chapters on Friday which will take me over halfway through the novella, so if you want to join me feel free!
Also a great way to get through this if you’re new to Lovecraft is to listen to Will Hart’s podcast of it:
Welcome back to another blind read. I’m tearing into “At The Mountains of Madness”, and have come across some interesting pieces that hook into the mythos, but there is one lingering question that I have as I get farther and farther into the cannon. How strictly are the stories connected to the Dreamlands, and what are in the mythos, and what are just weird tales? Thus far I have not come across anything that might be considered connected to the Dreamlands, except maybe “The White Ship”. I have one very obvious story that is coming up with “The Dream-Quest of unknown Kadath”, and one of the mythos with “Call of Cthulhu”. I am really going to enjoy reading some Derleth, to try and get a better understanding of how these are both connected and separated once I have finished the Blind Reads (as I understand that August Derleth is the one who truly created what is now considered the cannon).
This story surrounds the Miskatonic expedition, as it searches an unknown mountain range in Antarctica. There are some fun call backs so far with the ship called Arkham and our narrator mentioning that The Necronomicon is in the library of Miskatonic University.
Basically the first two sections of the story revolve around the findings of the mountains, and then within the mountains of some strange fossils. The fossils seem to come from 600 million years ago, but they are far more advanced than your average trilobite. They seem to be amphibious (another call back?) with gills, but they also have wings with strange striations.
The crew gets called up to the mountain range, with it’s strange rock striations and strange petroglyphs in areas so deep that they have to be hundreds of millions of years old.
If it weren’t for the tone of the novella, and the consistent call backs to how the fossils look like something described in The Necronomicon, this could just be a scientific journal about the findings of a paleontologist expedition.
There is also an interesting call back when Lake, one of the crew, calls the specimens they find “The Elder Ones”, based upon descriptions in The Necronomicon. There is great, hit you over the head with a hammer foreshadowing here.
But there is also great writing that brings you back for more. I’ll leave you with this example: “No wonder Gedney ran back to the camp shouting, and no wonder everyone else dropped work and rushed headlong through the biting cold to where the tall derrick marked a new-found gateway to secrets of inner earth and vanished aeons.”
What do you think?
I’ll be back next week for the next section of “At The Mountains of Madness”.
Wow, so much in such a short chapter. There is more in these last few pages than there had been in the previous 60, and truly, the majority of interest comes from the last two paragraphs of the story.
The narrator wakes from his faint, and headed back home. He continues on his investigation of his lineage when he finds that some of the story of old Obed Marsh, was actually his ancestors. The daughter who was married off to an Arkham man, was actually our Narrator’s great-Grandmother. He sees pictures and sees the “Innsmouth look”. He even finds out that an Uncle that he had committed suicide when he found out the truth. Our narrator buys a gun, thinking, that maybe he will do the same thing, but his heart isn’t in it. There is a strange draw back to the Innsmouth. Back to the Sea.
So earlier in the story, they were not trying to chase him. They did not tell him to go to the Gilman to trap him, they were bringing in one of their own.
The interesting point for the lore comes in the second to last paragraph. It is here that I have seen the first mention of Cthulhu being a “Deep One”, and that has to mean that Dagon is related in some way to Cthulhu. The narrator mentions that “the Deep Ones could never be destroyed, even through the palaeogean magic of the forgotten Old ones might sometimes check them.” So the Deep Ones are evil in some way, because another “forgotten power” is checking them.
In addition to this we have the first sight (through the narrators eyes) of a Shoggoth. I had previously thought these were a god in and of themselves, but the way they are described here, I think they are just a creature, as the narrator saw “a Shoggoth”. This probably has something to do with the third contract of the Order of Dagon, because the narrator says he saw the Shoggoth in a dream, then when he woke from the dream screaming, he had all of a sudden acquired the “Innsmouth Look”.
So there is transformation which can occur. There is also a distinct lineage connection, but I have to believe that there is still the ability for the transformation if there is no heritage of the Deep Ones. I’m sure more clarification will occur the more I read on, but that’s what my hypothesis is now.
And then there is the Shoggoth. From what I know of in the past, this is a creature that has many eyes and mouths (akin to a gibbering mouther in Dungeons and Dragons land), but apparently it also has some power. It seems to have transformed the narrator, both in body and in mind, as he had lost knowledge that he could not have gain otherwise. Either the Shoggoth is the method of transmutation, or it is the harbinger, just solidifying the knowledge that has already been transferred, by some ancient magic.
What do you think?
In any case, I cant wait to read on! I will be moving on to “At the Mountains of Madness” by Del Rey next. I will break the story up into approximately 25 page chunks so we can analyze each section, if you are reading along.
Join me tomorrow for the first 25!
We have now reached the denouement. The background of the story has lead our narrator to try and flee that horrible mind-bending mess that is Innsmouth.
When the chapter opens our narrator has decided to get out of dodge, and goes to get to the bus, only to be told by the odd bus driver, that despite travelling to Innsmouth without issue, there is suddenly a engine problem and the narrator will have to wait the night. Joe Sargent (the bus driver) tells our narrator to go to the Gilman to wait the night. He even tells our narrator that he will get a great room rate. They only charged him a dollar.
He waits the night away in his room and makes sure to lock and barricade the door. He even looks for an escape route, just because he is scared. Then late in the night there is a shuffling at the door, and someone knocks with increasing frequency when he doesn’t answer.
Our narrator gets scared and tries to flee through the hotel. There is a fairly large chase sequence which is a little jumbled (Lovecraft is a master of tone and atmosphere, not action), but the narrator flees out the window and through the streets to get out of Innsmouth.
He faints when he sees a large contingent of fish creatures gather in town, creatures nearly too abhorrent to describe.
There are a few interesting visuals in this portion of the book. The first is after he flees the Gilman, he tries to stay to the shadows, but he has to cross a street that has direct view of the waters, and he sees two different things of note. The first is a strange light, emanating from out over the sea of a color he cant quite pinpoint. And there is a churning of creatures coming to Innsmouth from the craggy rock that old Captain Obed frequented. This image of the churning waters with “bobbing heads and flailing arms” that “were alien and aberrant” in a way he could not conceive. This immediately brings about images of Cthulhu and the multi-tentacled beard. Though these are smaller creatures, and probably more related to Dagon.
The unholy light however, of a hue unknown. The moon is full and bright throughout the story, could it be the moon’s call? The moon has called creatures in previous stories, could this be the call, and answer that we have seen in previous stories?
Beyond that there is one more aspect of the story which is really provocative. There seem to be three different creatures in Innsmouth. We have creatures that are simian based, which we have seen in many different stories , we have fish creatures which walk beside the simian creatures, and then we have something dog like, or what I like to establish as “beasts”. The beasts are called from the moon in every other story, with the exception of “The Doom that Came to Sarnath” and there there are fish creatures which are called by the moon.
Are the beasts and the simian creatures (think “Arthur Jermyn” and “The Outsider”) the same thing? Could Innsmouth be Sarnath in this age?
With the completion of chapter V of this story (which will probably be tomorrow) I have now read through two Del Rey Lovecraft books, and will get started into the third. I would like to begin to get a timeline, or at least get to understanding the mythos and how they are connected on my own (and with the help of you all) without doing any research and see how my theories stack up.
What do you think?
The ravings of an old madman fill our minds through the next chapter of this story. Our narrator gets some bootleg alcohol and gets the elderly Zodak Allen to follow him to a spot by the sea where they can talk out of prying eyes. Zodak confirms a number of suspisions that I had previously while reading through, however he expounds more than expected and we are posed with more questions than he ended up answering.
Zodak tells of how Captain Obed brought the people of the Order of Dagon to the mainland, because he wanted to promote a healthy community. The mills were dying out and the fish were getting fewer and fewer, but he remembered an island where the people had abundance.
The people of this Island mated with fish people. Then twice a year they would sacrifice their young to Dagon in the sea, and they never ran out of fish. The offspring that came from the human fish relations, started out as human, then began to transform as they got older, to the point of transitioning completely and leaving land and heading for the sea. If we are to believe Zodak completely, then my previous theory is (mostly) out the window.
The interesting part of Zodak monologue to me, is the three Oaths of Dagon. We never find out what these are, but we know that the many people in town took the first two (which had something to do with not telling anyone outside the cult of the cult inter-workings). Zodak was wholly against taking the third Oath, which seems to me an Oath of body, soul and spirit. This could be how, beyond interbreeding, the entire town of Innsmouth has begun to transform. That third Oath, could be inviting the change into you.
We do know that the previous two oaths did give Zodak some knowledge however. He knows of Shoggoth. The mentions Cthulhu R’lyeh, which I’m pretty sure is the sunken city which is Cthulhu’s prison. What is interesting about this is that Cthulhu is imprisoned under the water and Dagon is a god of the water. Which means there is a definite connection there, and there is a connection with the Order of Dagon, because Zodak obviously learned this through his Oaths.
So now we have three deities in the mythos, concretely linked. Shoggoth, Cthulhu, and Dagon. Let’s see where this story leads us…
What do you think?
Join me next week for the last two chapters of The Shadow over Innsmouth.
Back again with the second section of “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.
The second portion of the story is a slow burn and an introduction to the town itself. We see a few different portions of the town, and how it is split up, between the poorer, more inhabited part of town and the richer, barren part of town.
When our narrator first comes to town on the bus, we get a brief glimpse of the bus driver, who holds all those same fish qualities that were described in the first section. The driver is quiet and subdued, but obviously is reticent to take our narrator, and outsider, to Innsmouth.
While driving in, the narrator notices that the old Masonic hall has been transformed into “The Esoteric order of Dagon”, which he believes is a sort of cult. He looks to the other side of the street and sees the church, which has a basement door open. He sees a shambling figure of a priest wearing a diadem that looks nearly identical to the one he saw with Miss Tilton in the first section.
There is mention throughout the story that the children of Innsmouth look mainly like real children (at least the few that our narrator sees). He postulates that if it is a blood disorder or a virus that changes the folks of this town to become more fishlike, then it happens after puberty. This is yet another feather in the cap for the transformation theory, and nearly codifies the theory. The more time they have exposed to Dagon, the more transformation occurs within them. Thus the children don’t have much transformation because they haven’t had much time in the church, or on the island itself, thus they haven’t transformed very much.
As the chapter progresses we hear of an old man in his 90’s who knows much about the town, and when he gets drunk is liable to talk about it. His name is Zodek Allen, and the narrator finds him on a bench at the end of the chapter. This is probably going to lead to Zodek telling of a few of the mysteries of Innsmouth in the next chapter.
Join me next week for the next portion of “The Shadow over Innsmouth!”
This series is a blind read of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. The idea is that I will read through the entirety of his published works and probably move onto a few successors (which will absolutely include August Derleth). That being said, I have only rudimentary knowledge of the Gothic and cosmic world of Lovecraft. Because of this There will be some pretty crazy theories coming through this blog, but it’s something I love to do, so if you have a better theory, or a clashing theory, please respond!
The Shadow Over Innsmouth is cut into 5 parts, so I’m going to dedicate a blog post for each section. The first is merely the set up; our narrator is planning a trip in New England and wants to find cheaper transportation so a ticket agent tells him that he can take a bus through Innsmouth, a port town that is nearly deserted. This first portion is basically about our narrator getting information about this strange little shady town, but he comes across a few interesting nuggets. The first comes from the ticket agent. Though he is an unreliable source, he tells the narrator that the people of Innsmouth are strange. That they come from a lineage of a sea Captain, Obed Marsh. Apparently Obed’s son married a strange girl, “a South Sea Islander” of strange physiognomy. Then the son of these two is Old Man Marsh, who married a girl from nearby Ipswitch.
The people of Innsmouth have an oddly fish-like appearance. they seem to be mostly bald with narrow heads, flat noses and bulgy eyes that never seem to shut, their necks are shriveled and creased up (gills), and their skin has a rough, or scabby look and feel to them. This is probably stemming from the “South Sea Islander” mother of Old Man Marsh.
What is strange about this is an intermarriage theme, which is held over from “Arthur Jermyn”, though in this story is seems to be fish related (we’ll get to that later), rather than ape related. I am still unsure of where the ape beasts come from, (I.E. what god they are related to), but it is apparent that the fish theme comes from Dagon.
So The Old Captain goes out to an island, just off the mainland, where no one else has seemed to go, but there are rumors that he has made contracts with devils out on that small island. If we go back to the short story “Dagon”, we will remember a seaman who crashed on an island with a strange monolith, and on that monolith were drawings of fish-men worshiping some sort of creature under the sea. He makes contact with them an nearly goes insane. Could it be that this is a similar island, that worshipers of Dagon have formed? Are these the devils that Obed Marsh has been communicating with?
It seems so. As the story progresses, we find that a person from Innsmouth made thier way to state street and pawned a tiara, then he died shortly thereafter (intentionally? Or by curse?). Our Narrator was shown this tiara by a curator who had it under a case. There are strange reliefs on the tiara, similar to the images we saw on the monolith in the story “Dagon”.
I’m particularly interested in the lineage of these peoples. Are they gradually being changed? It is said that the town only has about 400 people now (at the time of the telling of the story) and that it was far bigger before that. It doesn’t seem possible that the entire town was populated by the inter-species breeding of the Marshes. Could their dealings with Dagon be transforming the townsfolk? Or have other piscatorial denizens come to the town through Marsh’s worshiping and interbred with other townsfolk? We might find more clues in part 2…
What do you think?
Join me tomorrow for “The Shadow over Innsmouth” part 2!
What a beautiful, haunting story. This innocuous story, may very well be the most important of all the stories I have read thus far. It is the story of a person (probably a man) who has lived thier entire life in a castle. There are trees outside that cover all light, and he is too terrified to go far away. There is one tower in the castle that goes beyond the canopy of the trees, so one day he climbs the tower, and finds that he is in yet another building, yet this one is at ground level.
The ground level is the first shock of this story, but the more I dig into it, the narrator does not tell of thier childhood. It seems as though they just attained consciousness in the lower castle. Around them were bones and corpses of other humans, but this fact does not bother the narrator. In addition, the narrator understands (English?) language, but cannot speak it. The reason is given that there is no one to speak to.
Once the narrator gets above ground they wander for a while and see a church and another castle which looks much like the one he’s been living in underground. He smiles, because there is a party going on in the castle. He goes to join them, and when he gets there the entire party is terrified at his appearance (it is fairly obvious at the time, but it is solidified at the end of the story…the last shock), and they run away. The narrator thinks there is a presence in the room and looks around, eventually seeing a horrid creature. He tries to scream out in English, but all that comes out is “a ghastly ululation”, instead of any kind of human scream. The narrator also says this is the first and last thing he ever uttered. The narrator is looking in a mirror. He then leaves the castle and goes wandering through the night, calmed by the fact that he’s a monster, a creature of the night, so he will prowl like one.
First off. He has no childhood. He comes to memory as a being that can think and read. He also thinks that he’s a human, or that he once was. This means that he has undergone a transformation, and when he is woken, he is a creature. The fact that he’s interred underground could mean that his transformation was an affect of the Great Old Ones. maybe he was one of the previous narrators of one of the other stories, and he and his fellows were trapped in this tomb (they are the other corpses and skeletons), and for some reason he was transformed.
He has to go through great strides to get out of the underground castle, which could mean it was a castle build to honor the cthonians. There were efforts put into place to keep him in, inferring that he could be dangerous.
There seems to be a correlation between this story and “Arthur Jermyn” and “The Lurking Fear”. Arthur Jermyn has a man procreating with an ape like creature, and the Lurking Fear has an ape like creature (actually multiple ape like creatures), and in fact the narrator of the Outsider is described as ape like at one point. Could the White Ape from Arthur Jermyn actually be a woman who was transformed by the Great Old Ones? Are the Ape like creatures in all of Lovecraft, actually people who have been transformed and submit to their new proclivities? Because of how this story is framed, I think that’s the case, it is not creatures from another plane (at least these ape like creatures), or the moon, but in fact humans who have been influences by the madness of the Elder Gods, or the Great Old Ones and have been transformed into beasts.
What do you think?
Join me next week for a blind read through of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. Because of the length of the story, i will be doing it one section at a time, so this story will consist of five blind reads, and possibly a sixth to sum the experience.
This story gives great perspective on Lovecraft himself, and we get a sneak peek at the illustrious Randolph Carter.
What was so great about this story was getting to see what Lovecraft really felt about the construction of his stories. Carter, who is apparently a writer as well, has a long conversation with a friend of his about how to tell a story. His friend persists that there is no scientific was that anything in the scientific world could be unnamable. Any kind of creature would have to be contained within some sub-classification or genus, but then suddenly, at the end of the story, a creature of some sort comes out of an old house they have been sitting next to and attacks them. Manton, the friend has a mental break down because what he saw he cannot classify.
What gives the story a bit more depth is that it seems as though the subtext was that Manton stayed at the place where the story unfolds and saw something horrible when he was younger (which is probably the same creature he sees at the end of the story). The point is that he has spent his life trying to categorize to deny the horrible, un-categorizable thing he saw as a child.
Carter also seems to serve as a duplicate for Lovecraft himself. There is a theme that streams through Carter’s descriptions, which stream through all of the Lovecraft that I’ve read thus far.
This was a really great story on the essence of horror tales, and about the writing process in general.
What do you think?
Join me next Tuesday for a blind read of “The Outsider”
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?
Here is another connecting thread, assuming that Lovecraft meant to have his stories in the same world (which I tend to think he did).
The story follows our nameless narrator as he treads to Ireland to join his friend at his new estate in Kilderry. Denys Berry wants to drain a bog next to his mansion (dare I say castle? Our narrator does stay in a tower, and this would feed into a much more gothic scene.), but the locals are worried about something, and they leave when he mentions his plans. Eventually we have some very strange happenings, and virtually everyone dies, with the exception of our narrator.
There are a few interesting connectors in this story. The narrator makes mention of Grecian architecture buried in the bog. Again we have this marbleized Greek architecture which has now shown up in many tales. Does this have a connection? Were the Greeks and Romans influenced by the Great Old Ones? Were in fact (in the Lovecraft world) the Greek and Roman gods the Cthulhu pantheon? Was that how they had so much power and stretched their influence all the way up to the Germanic tribes of the British Isles?
The second connector is the moon. I haven’t seen the moon referenced for a while yet, however it is present here and is a determining factor (it’s even in the title!). In past stories the moon was a location for some kind of deity that sent creatures down to earth (Think The Doom that came to Sarnath). Could it be that the titular bog is actually a placeholder for the moon? The action all happens under the moon light, and is gone in the light of day. The only think we’re missing is the mysterious green light, that floats down from the moon, but that could be because of the Grecian influence. The only time the green light flows down was in the North Americas which were beyond the Grecian influence. Hopefully we’ll get some light (see what I did there?) shown on this in future stories.
What do you think?
Join me next Tuesday for a Blind Read of “The Hound”
Sorry for being late with this installment of the Blind Reads. I’m back on schedule so you can expect another one coming tomorrow!
This story, at first glance, seems like a fairly innocuous and straight forward horror story (for as much as Lovecraft has straightforward stories, that is). In fact there is a Twilight Zone episode (aired in 1963, this was, for me, the scariest of the Twilight Zone episodes. Check it out here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5rouxl
The basic premise is that a German u-boat takes down a British ship, then submerge. When they come back up, they find that (supposedly) one of the crewmen is dead and clenched onto the submarine. When they extricate him from the metal railing, they find that he has a marble statue, which they take. Then while they are throwing the body over the edge, a few of the sailors swear that the dead body opens his eyes. Then, another sailor swears that he swam away instead of just sinking.
The crew goes on and they all start to see and hear things that makes them go a little crazy. The submarine eventually has problems and sinks, seemingly surrounded by dolphins. Those dolphins follow them down to depths not known for dolphins, and as they sink the crew starts a mutiny. Eventually it is just the narrator and one other, and the other holds onto the marble statue and eventually goes crazy. He tells our narrator that he wants them to join him. The last of the crew leaves the submarine, far too low beneath the waters to live and kills himself. We think. Then as the submarine slides deeper into the waters, there is an Atlantean civilization there, complete with a temple that has the same face as the marble statue.
This is obviously a massive abridgment, but I wanted to get a few ideas out. The first is that of the marble statue. I have now read about marble and it’s use as channeling some otherworldly being in a few of these stories. It does not seem coincidental that the statue that corresponds to this buried temple is made of marble. The second is the city itself. We have a possible Atlantis in the world of Lovecraft, and because of the marble connection, this ties into the story, “The Tree”. Atlantis is an ancient city buried under the water, which would go along with the idea of the Great Old Ones being buried in the earth. This was probably a civilization that worshiped the Great Old Ones, and for some reason it was buried. Probably the same time that Cthulhu was put to rest in the earth.
Lastly we have these strange dolphins. I normally would have thought this just a strange story addition, but because of just reading “Arthur Jermyn” I think there may be more to this. Could these strange dolphins who don’t seem bothered by the intense pressure of being that deep in the ocean, actually be the denizens of this Atlantis? It seems to be so, because they seem to follow, during the story, but I would purport that they actually led U-29 to the city.
There is one more things that I cant quite figure, however. At the beginning of the story, there is a script that says that this manuscript was found on the coast of the Yucatan. There has to be meaning to this, because in every other story I’ve read Lovecraft just jumps into the story. There is no explanation for the reason behind the story. I have to think there is some significance to the Yucatan. Does anyone have any insight?
Join me tomorrow for a Blind read of The Moon-Bog!
Here, we jump into a story that at first glace seems to be traditional horror fare from Lovecraft. We have our monster hunter/ ghost hunter narrator (who is made to be unreliable because of his ambiguous motives. He is surrounded by death, and every person he recruits to help him dies, or mysteriously dispersal, but yet he soldiers on, for reasons unknown) who is seeking out his “Lurking Fear” whom he thinks is using an the old Martense Mansion as it’s diabolical abode.
He hires some muscle, whom he has been with before on different cases. And they go to the Mansion. While sleeping there, they disappear. Then he hires another man, and while they look out into the forest, the helper stands at the window and is unresponsive. When our narrator shakes him, thinking him asleep, he discovers that something ate his face off whilst he looked out the window.
Then our narrator is convinced that the perpetrator is the ghost of one of the previous residents of the Mansion, Jan Martense, whom supposedly died by lightning strike. Our narrator finds nothing during his exhumation except for ashes. But he does find a passageway, some deep tunnel that he sees a horrible paw of some unknown creature.
During this time there is another storm and a shack is burned to the ground. The squatters who lived there tell our narrator that a creature burned up in the shack and it had one victim. Searching the ashes, our narrator finds the squatter victim, and what looks like a human skull. Curious.
He goes back to the Mansion, and during another Thunder storm, he finds a tunnel, at the base of the chimney, and while he is standing there, hundreds and thousands of these creatures come out, some with tentacles, or just what look like tentacles. He shoots one as they exit and finds that they have the same genetic mis-colored eyes of the Martense’s.
Seems like a normal monster story, but then when we dig deeper we find that it is indeed a cosmic horror story.
The first an most obvious connection is the tentacles. This is a Lovecraftican trope, and though I haven’t seen it too much in his stories, the image of Cthulhu is enough.
The second is the fact that the monsters are Cthonic (meaning dwelling underground. Funny how that and Cthulhu are so similar, no?). The Elder Gods are buried in the earth and they await being awakened, so it bears to reason that their followers would dwell under the ground.
The final connection is in the lightning and thunder. Something that connects the heavens to the earth. The Outer Gods and the Elder Gods communicating…Or even coming to earth?
What makes all this so interesting is that, in the story, the creatures don’t begin to appear until Jan Martense is supposedly struck down by lightning. Could this be a ritual that the Martense clan had found? Did their ritual call down the lightning and thunder and transform their brood?
Provocative and fun stuff.
Join me on Thursday for a Blind Read Through of “Dagon” and let me know what you think!
This was the last story in the Del Rey edition of The Doom That Came to Sarnath, and it was a surprising one. There is a disclaimer on the first page that this story was written in conjunction with Harry Houdini, and what makes that so intriguing is that now we finally have a face for a narrator.
The story begins innocuously enough, with Houdini and his wife exploring Cairo, but progressively getting more and more bored with the watering down of the Egyptian culture in the tourism culture (this story takes place in 1910…it’s good to know that things don’t change). They find a new guide, a man named Abdul Reis el Drogman, and immediately his moniker, and thus his plausibility is called into question. “Reis” is apparently a name for someone in power. “Drogman” is apparently a “clumsy modification” of the name for the leader of the tourist parties “Dragoman”. He also looks suspiciously like a Pharaoh (This in and of itself is suspicious. How does one look like a Pharaoh? This is just Lovecraft’s clumsy, whimsical, and adorable foreshadowing).
They go around town and go on a few adventures, then they make mention that they don’t trust magic. That that has been cast down as evil. So a group of Arabs tie Houdini up (presumably to see if he can escape) and throw him down into a tomb.
Thus far this has been the longest of the stories that I’ve gone through the blind read. Throughout this story, nothing untoward had happened, and even when they throw him down the tomb, there are some strange happenings, but Houdini is in and out of consciousness, so there is a little call to unreliable narrator. Then Lovecraft comes in full force, and we see more of the creatures that Lovecraft is so known for in the last few pages. We also see one huge deity, of which we only see one single paw.
This goes along with the whole cannon of Lovecraft, I’m not sure exactly where this deity fits in yet, but it is a Cthonic creature, which follows with the established world.
This story also gives a certain credence to Lovecrafts mythos, because now it is the famous Harry Houdini who is experiencing the cosmic horror, even though the very last line, denies such experiences, by telling the audience that it was only a dream. Oddly enough this is the one story that I truly believe the narrator experienced it, specifically because he presupposes that it was a dream.
Join me again next Tuesday as I start doing a Blind Read of The Lurking Fear, also by Del Rey. We’ll jump right into the story “The Lurking Fear”
This was such a spectacular escape from the classic Lovecraftian stories. This is a Science Fiction/Horror story, that deals all together with the concepts of despair, fear and claustrophobia. This is also the first story in which the narrator actually dies in the story. There is very little to connect with the cannon in the narrative, but it is totally worth it. The only possible connection would be the main residents of Venus (where the story takes place), which are reptilian creatures with tentacles. These could be a form of a descendant of one of the Elder Gods.
The story follows our narrator, Kenton Stanfield, as he is on a quest to find a crystal on the surface of Venus. He travels through a jungle and eventually gets through it, and in a big open marsh he sees a body with the crystal he is looking for. When he approaches the body he finds an invisible wall. Eventually he finds his way past the wall and gets the crystal from the body, only to find that it wasn’t a wall at all, but an invisible labyrinth.
The rest of the story is a psychological profile in fear, and a brilliant one at that. If you have no interest in Lovecraft, this is the story for you to read, and if you love Lovecraft, then you must devour it!
Quite an interesting and lore building story. From the preface to the story it seems as though Lovecraft was very proud of the language of this story, but what goes far beyond the language is the depth of character and world building.
The story follows a young man named Iranon who is looking for the city of his youth. He tells everyone he meets that he is a Prince of Aira, and he is trying to find that city once more. He travels around and sees all of the world, and even though he is young, he experiences much, that is until the twist at the end.
I would portend that Iranon is actually the narrator of most of Lovecraft’s stories. He tells of Sarnath, he tells of ancient cities in Egypt (the nameless city), and other strange locals. He strangely doesn’t remember when these visits happened or much about them, just that he has been there.
Then at the end of the story we find out that he is much, much older than we initially thought (in fact much older than he himself thinks), and that there is a certain amount of madness in his personality.
Then we couple that with the fact that we very nearly never hear a narrators name, they just tell the story. The narrators of the stories we see all are unreliable, which partners with the madness of Iranon.
The world of Lovecraft just keeps getting better and better.
Join me next Tuesday for “The Crawling Chaos” blind read through.
This one was fun. Obviously, it was very heavily influenced by Poe (Tell Tale Heart comes to mind), but wonderfully unique and unutterably Lovecraftian. This was, thus far int he blind read through’s, the least literary. What the story has going for it is it’s horror, because it is by far the most horrific and terror filled story I’ve read by him.
Our narrator tells us of a friend of his, Crawford Tillinghast, who has gone a little off the reservation. Tillinghast invites our narrator to his house one evening and relates the story of what he has been working on.
He has recognized that the pineal gland can be altered to view the world for what it really is. To see beyond what we perceive. He creates a device he calls a resonance wave machine and turns it on. The whine creates a wave that gives the pineal gland an altered sense and the narrator begins to see jellyfish like creatures that surround him. We find out that Tillinghast had servants and the narrator thought they were dismissed, but we find out here that in fact one of the servants turned the light on when the Resonance Wave was turned on and creatures from beyond dissolved them. That is the plot of Tillinghast. He invited our narrator because he thinks the narrator held him back from his potential.
We find out that one of the horrible creatures that has the ability to dissolve is right behind the narrator and he shoots the Resonance Wave. The machine explodes, the creatures disappear and Tillinghast dies of apoplexy.
Not a whole lot to read into in this one. The interesting thing is that Tillinghast somehow tied the machine to his brain, and that’s why he suffered the stroke, because his pineal gland burst, this leads me to believe that if the narrator had shot Tillinghast instead of the machine the same outcome would have come about.
There seems to be a theme in Lovecraft where the Old and Elder Gods (and all their children) don’t really care about humans. They are so much greater and bigger than we can imagine that it is only when some human summons them that the havoc is wreaked. Even when they do this damage however, it is not of their malevolence (with the exception of Nyarlahotep), they are just going about their own business, but their norm is so far beyond and bizarre to our human sensibilities, that it destroys us.
Join me again tomorrow for another blind read through of The Festival. If you want to read along I’m reading “The Doom that came to Sarnath” by Del Rey.