I’d followed him here to a rundown flop house in the South Side of Chicago. I don’t think I have to tell you, this is not the place I’d like to be after dark. Then again the life of a private detective is never done. At least my protégé, Malcolm, was with me.
The tenement was just what you’d expect. It was filthy, both of bodily fluid and dirt. Stains covered the walls and strange ochre blotches littered the staircase. We ascended to what I hoped was an easy snatch and grab arrest.
We were after Dr. Jack Griffin. A man once reported missing, but recently showed his face…well I guess I can’t say that, now can I? He appeared, but his skin was covered in heavy duty bandages. He announced himself as he robbed the bank. Told everyone he was the illustrious Dr. Jack Griffin.
The guards chased him to the alleyway, but all they found was a trench coat, some shoes and socks, and a large swath of Ace bandages.
So how do I know it was Dr. Griffin, you ask? I took finger prints. It was a slam dunk match. I followed the trail here. Through the years, I’ve found it’s better to sneak up on your prey, so I decided to come at night. I regret that decision.
“Keep your eyes peeled. If you have to shoot, aim for the legs,” I told Malcolm. I made sure my voice was lower than the creaks of the staircase. No point in announcing our visit.
He nodded in response. Good lad, keeping quiet.
We reached the room in question. The door was ajar, so I held my hand out, indicating Malcolm should wait outside. Be prepared in case Griffin tried to escape by way of the stairs.
The room was a sight of horrors. I dared not engage the lamp, because what I saw was enough. It wasn’t a living space, but a laboratory. There were cages lining the walls with dead rotting creatures, and the ones who were alive were so emaciated they might as well be dead. Rats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, you name it. The smell was unbearable.
I slowly pressed the hammer back on my .38 special, wincing as it clicked into place. I moved through the room past lab equipment and what I can only describe as an autopsy table – mid procedure. I could swear that the temperature in this room was far cooler than it was in the hallway, but there was a notable absence of the monotonous drone of fans.
I observed a door with light emanating from behind it. I creeped over to it, pausing only once when the floorboards creaked beneath me. I was sweating profusely despite the cool temperature, the moisture ran down my forehead as I reached for the door handle to this door. I gripped it tightly and took a deep, silent breath.
The door was ripped from my hands and swinging open, revealing a stark bedroom. It had a single bed, upon which was the score from the bank. I lifted my pistol, bracing it with my off hand, and swung it around the room. I was sure Griffin opened the door and I was also sure he knew I was here.
But the room held nothing but the bed and the cash.
I took a few steps in, my arms rigid, holding the gun aloft. I bent at my waist and leading with the gun, peered beneath the bed. Nothing. I stood and looked back into the laboratory and saw what I could only describe as a figure running through the room.
“Griffin! Show yourself!” I yelled. Sneaking was useless. He knew we were there.
I somehow lost him in the room and I was suddenly overcome with horrid nausea. How could anyone live like this?
“Get ready to die,” a voice whispered in my ear. I could feel hot breath on my skin and I broke out in gooseflesh.
I spun around, nearly firing my gun. There was nothing. I must have imagined it.
“Fool,” That hot whisper assaulted my other ear.
I twisted again, this time firing. The bullet went through the wall out into the Chicago air.
The door to the hallway burst open and I caught a glimpse of Malcolm as his expression turned to surprised horror. I can’t explain what happened, but it look like he was pulled back, as though he were a vaudevillian actor being pulled off the stage by a hook. Although, there was no backstage for Malcolm. He went tumbling backwards down the staircase. I heard him scream then I heard a crunch followed by silence. I still could see nothing.
“Show yourself you coward!” I screamed.
Laughter echoed through the room. I feel that he was there with me and I have no idea how he was able to knock Malcolm down the stairs without me seeing.
“I must continue my research.”
The whisper was directly behind me. I felt his fingernails slide through my hair.
I twisted, flailing blindly with my fists. More laughter to my right.
“I thought I was curing cancer.”
He bit my ear lobe. I screamed and pulled away. I felt violated. Something as intimate as a bite. How had he gotten so close?
“But this is something so much more.”
I felt a punch in my stomach.
“So I must continue my research.”
I looked down. It was not a punch. It was a knife. I felt a hand cradle me but saw nothing. I watched as it unlevered itself from my stomach and slammed home again and again into my torso. The knife was moving of its own volition. How was this possible?
“By any means necessary.”
I could see blood spill down the handle of the blade. It covered what looked like a hand. A towel flew up from the table next to my body, as my sight began fading to black. It wiped the hand, and as the blood soaked the towel, the mystery hand it was wiping evaporated. It was the last thing I saw.
Welcome back to another Blind Read! By the looks of things, I will have made it through all of Lovecraft by the end of the year. SO…If you have an author that you’d like to discuss, or have trouble reading let me know! Maybe they can be the next author covered in this series.
“At length, being avid for new strange things and held back by neither the Kingsporter’s fear nor the summer boarder’s usual indolence, Olney made a very terrible resolve.”
This story is a connector of the Dreamlands stories. In it we have a house perched on top of a tall cliff, with the only doorway leading out to the abyss of the cliff. Inside the house we have a protector. Someone who spends eternity guarding the world from the other gods and the incursion of the Dreamlands into our reality. We are enabled to see this house because our intrepid adventurer, whom out of curiosity and a lust for life, finds a way up to “The Causeway” and meets this caretaker.
We start the story describing the harbor town of Kingsport. Right from the very first paragraph we are given knowledge that the people of Kingsport know there are strange dealings around them. The feel of the town is one of mysticism. The fantastic nostalgia for a simpler time. A time when older gods ruled the world and people only wanted for basic survival. There was no rat race, but a desire for simplicity and knowledge. This is the core of Lovecraft, both person and writings. He believed in simplicity, and loathed materialism. You can see this starkly in his portrayals of cities like New York, as he yearns to stay in his protected, almost mythical, section of New England.
Thomas Olney, our main character, is new to Kingsport and he hears stories about the house from sailors and an old bearded man in town. He can occasionally catch glimpses of it as well through the thick mists that circle the craggy cliff it sits upon. His curiosity overwhelms him and he decides that the’s going to take the trip up to it. It is a dangerous and arduous journey, but eventually he gets there and finds that the only ingress to the house are the closed windows, and a door that opens out over the cliff. He hears someone approach and hears the door creak open, so he hides beneath the sill of a window, only to be pulled into the house. The man who pulled him into the house is young and bearded and he is reminiscent of the grouchy old man in the village who seems to know about this house.
The bearded man tells stories to Olney; “…and heard how the kings of Atlantis fought with slippery blasphemies that wriggled out of rifts in the oceans floor, and how the pillared and weedy temple of Poseidonis is still glimpsed at midnight by lost ships…”
This is both a reference to R’lyeh, the city where Cthulhu is buried in slumber, and Dagon, one of the pantheon of lesser gods and linked with Poseidon. In other stories there is mention that the god like men of Atlantis fought off the Elder Gods, Cthulhu being one of them. Where they couldn’t defeat them, they buried R’lyeh, the lost city, and trapped Cthulhu within the earth. Dagon is the fish god, and still calls creatures from the sea in a slow effort to gain back control. See The Shadow over Innsmouth.
Olney is also told of older things: “Years of the Titans were recalled, but the host grew timid when he spoke of the dim first age of chaos before the gods or even the Elder Ones were born, and when the other gods came to dance on the peak of Hatheg-Kla in the stony desert near Ulthar, beyond the River Skai.”
There is a lot to unpack there, but basically we have the establishment of what Lovecraft himself called “Yog-Sothothery”, later to be coined “The Cthulhu Mythos” by August Derleth, one of Lovecraft’s closest friends and writing partners. The other gods were first; terrible creatures and malevolent in nature. The Elder Ones came later. Creatures like Azathoth. Then later, came the deep ones like Cthulhu. The River Skai also has importance in the Dreamcycle as we see in the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and other stories.
Shortly after describing this, something comes to the door of the house. The bearded man hurries and locks the door, then goes around the house and shutters all the windows. It’s a suspenseful scene as he tells Olney to get low and be quiet. “And the bearded man made enigmatical gestures of prayer…“. The bearded man is setting wards against shadows that are gathering in the room, “For there are strange objects in the great abyss, and the seeker of dreams must take care not to stir up or meet the wrong ones.”
All of this information, plus numerous mentions of dreams and dream seekers, leads me to believe that this house is a way point. This house, in between Kingsport and Arkham, is an thin place that connects the dream world to the real world. The keeper, the bearded man, must be careful not to let these ancient horrors through the world. He gives the information to Olney, just like he gave it to The Terrible Old Man (Lovecraft even capitalized this honorarium in the story) so many years before. They get just enough information to be afraid of the house, and potentially keep others away. Olney never goes back, and in fact he loses some of his natural curiosity because of the shock of the experience, and eventually moves away. But still that Strange High House in the Mist stays and guards against the others from transcending into our world.
What do you think?
May 29, 2020 | Categories: Blind Read, Blog, Essay, Uncategorized | Tags: #author, #blindread, #blog, #essay, #fiction, #H.P.Lovecraft, #horror, #horrorfiction, #literature, #lovecraft, #shortstory, #writing | Leave a comment
Ignorance is the foundation for Evil. Ignorance, not in derogatory terms, but in it’s definition; a lack of knowledge, is the cause of the greatest of all issues.
Welcome back to another Blind Read! Today we’re tackling an introduction to Randolph Carter, in the short vignette, and we’re covering the nature of evil, and how in Lovecraft, it always seems as though a willed ignorance is the cause of much of the horror.
The Statement of Randolph Carter has our titular character telling officials of what happened to his friend Harley Warren.
It seems as though Mr. Warren delved into strange occult books. He was fascinated with something, and kept digging deeper and deeper. He searched the world for the book that would tell him what he was looking for, and eventually he found it. Carter says that many of the books he is looking at are in Arabic, proving that he is looking for some ancient knowledge, but that the book that holds the secrets are in a language that Carter doesn’t understand.
Carter helps Warren carry equipment to a site, but when the open the tomb Warren turns to Carter, with confidence, and tells him that he is to stay there. That Carter’s sensibilities are too soft to experience what is down in the catacombs of the tomb.
Warren heads down and clicks on a phone, so that he can communicate with Carter. Warren eventually finds what he’s looking for, but realizes that he’s made a mistake. Whatever it is that he was looking for is far worse, far more powerful, far more demented, than what he anticipated. He screams and screams for Carter to run, that it’s too late for Warren to save himself, but Carter could get out.
Carter promises to save Warren, but cant bring himself to go down into the tomb. Eventually he hears a voice that tells carter “You fool. Warren is dead!”
I’ll get to the idea of ignorance, but first there is something that has been happening in quite a few Lovecraft stories which had been bothering me; in many of the stories, the narrator of the story passes out from fear before they get a glimpse of the true horror that is coming for them. Why is it that these Elder creatures and beasts are letting these people live? They come upon them, helpless, but they always let them go to tell their story. This is useful for Lovecraft to tell his tales, but is there a thematic reason for this benevolence?
I think there may be more to it. How else could all these old books like The Necronomicon be written? The knowledge had to have been obtained for the first time somehow. Could it be that the Elder Gods allowed some man to write down this knowledge? Or could it be that they want the knowledge to get out?
There is another possibility…do they have a moral code? I have always assumed that the Elder Gods have a chaotic nature, but do they not attack people that don’t wish to delve into their secrets? Do they stop their rampage when they find something helpless? Are they like the Predator? An alien creature who is a hunter, who never kills when the prey is helpless? There seems to be some credence to this theory.
So if the Elder Gods are indeed this way, then why would anyone strive to find their secrets? Is it just curiosity? Power? Which brings me to my next point. It seems like the cause of much of the issues that begin in Lovecraft, happens when ignorance takes over.
These brash adventurers, who with to go after this forbidden knowledge, are in fact ignorant of what the knowledge they seek really means. In every story these men find these books and seek their knowledge. What we infer is that these men see that there is hidden power or knowledge and that’s where they stop. It is their ignorance of what is actually going on that causes their deaths.
So are the Elder Gods actually evil? Or are they only trying to stop the ignorant from accessing knowledge (like strange angles that will enable you to travel to another dimension), that they are not ready for?
What do you think?
April 23, 2018 | Categories: Blind Read, Blog, Essay, Uncategorized | Tags: #arabic, #author, #blog, #essay, #fiction, #horror, #horrorfiction, #hplovecraft, #literature, #lovecraft, #short, #writer, #writing | 1 Comment
Back for another Blind Read. I am trying to keep honest to the Blind Reads and not do research on the side to gather connections, but if my memory serves me correct, Dagon is one of the lesser gods in the Lovecraft pantheon. That makes this story very interesting to me because this story could have wide ranging implications for the building of the Mythos (or apparently as Lovecraft called it, Yog-Sothothery. It was actually August Derleth that coined the phrase Cthulhu Mythos).
The story follows our narrator during WWI, as his ship was taken by a German sea-raider ship. He escaped them and found his way to a strange, unknown of island in his dinghy. As he explores the island, he finds a strange monolith with images carved that are humanoid, but fish-like. They have webbed hands and feet, they have large eyes and large lips, and they are huge, nearly the size of a whale.
As he stands there one of these creatures comes out of the sea and hugs the monolith, then prays to it.
The narrator immediately thinks of Dagon, who is an ancient fish god.
What is provocative about this story is that there have been small connections in the past with figures like Nyarlathotep, which make a connection with our actual world. The difference, however is that in every previous story I’ve read the characters in the stories are fictional, in a real setting. This is an actual god that people have worshiped in the past, and here Lovecraft uses the same name and adopts it as his own. Thus bringing his pantheon into our cultural reality.
There are two different ways to look at the story. One is that the creature that comes out of the sea is a disciple of Dagon, and the monolith is what it prays to in supplication to Dagon. This event keeps Dagon as a god, and now we have a race of cthonic creatures, whom live under the sea and live under Dagon’s rule.
The other way to read it (and this is what i believe Lovecraft intended) is that the creature that comes out of the sea IS Dagon. This is a much more horrific idea. This means that this creature, which made the narrators mind break (“I think I went mad then”) at the mere sight of it, is actually supplicating to something more than itself. So this creature which in our real life mythology is considered a god, has a being so much more powerful than it (Cthulhu himself?) that it prays through the form of the monolith.
What do YOU think?
Join me next Tuesday for another blind read of “The White Ship”.
October 19, 2017 | Categories: Blind Read, Blog, Essay, Uncategorized | Tags: #blog, #dagon, #essay, #fiction, #fish, #H.P.Lovecraft, #literature, #lovecraft, #mythology, #mythos, #writing, author | 1 Comment
This fun little ditty was a page out of Poe. Thus far this was the most linear and straightforward story, and obviously something that Lovecraft knocked out one dreary evening. Very little appears of his Mythos cycle, or of his cosmic horror, except for a few sentences in the middle of the story.
Ostensibly this story is about the town of Ulthar, who loves cats. There is one crotchety old couple that will kill any cat that comes near them in the night, but the town folk are too scared of them to approach or do anything about them, so they continue their nefarious deeds.
Then we have a strange caravan with strange drawings come through the town. The people are odd and are interested in buying odd things, and there is a young boy names Menes, who’s parents died “in the plague” and he has a cat whom he loves and makes him happy in their absence.
That night the cat that Menes loves so much disappears and the towns folk blame the old man and woman in the cabin in the forest. Menes prays and meditates in a language the people don’t understand, and many of them feel as though there are strange symbols and creatures in the sky and in the trees, but the narrator says that sometimes “…nature is full of such illusions to impress the imaginative.”
All the cats disappear in town the next day and the old couple is blamed, but then the cats come back, full and lethargic.
The mayor checks on the old couple, only to find two skeletons picked clean.
Here is Lovecrafts genius. In the first paragraph he states that cats are “the soul of antique Aegyptus…” and that they have vast knowledge beyond our understanding. The boy in the town was named Menes who was a Pharaoh of Egypt around 5000 BCE. Here we have the link to the fictional Nyarlathotep from millennia ago, and one can assume that this caravan was indeed a troupe following Nyarlathotep, as Menes calls upon his Old Gods power (which looks very similar to how it looked in the story “Nyarlathotep”).
At this point I assume that all of these stories are told within the same headspace, and not necessarily meant to coalesce, however the more I dig and the more I read, the more it seems as though there is connection.
Join me next week for the next blind read through “Hypnos” as we get deeper in the the mythos of Lovecraft.
August 11, 2017 | Categories: Blind Read, Blog, Essay, Uncategorized | Tags: #author, #blog, #cats, #essay, #fiction, #horror, #horrorfiction, #hplovecraft, #literature, #lovecraft, #writing | Leave a comment
This was the first story from the “Dunsany” period and probably the first iteration of his eventual shift into the Cosmic Horror genre. Published in 1919 (full of mis-spellings and embellishments), this story tells of the city of Sarnath in the land of Mnar. Sarnath was built next to a river, near the Ancient City of Ib. The city of Ib, as we find out from the extremely old and archaic writings on brick walls of another ancient city and parchments, is housed by strange beings, who are green and have a green halo, and bulging eyes and flabby lips. These beings are mute and supposedly descended through this green mist (which occasionally also surrounds the moon) from the moon to create the city of Ib next to the still green lake.
The primitive warriors of Sarnath decide that they hate the minions of Ib because they are disturbing looking and worship Bokrug, a water lizard. They kill all the creatures of Ib and push them into the lake. They destroy the city of Ib, and keep only the green statue of Bokrug. Soon the high priest of Sarnath (Taran-Ish) dies, with an expression of great horror and writes on the sea-green stone idol of Bokrug the word…DOOM.
The city moves on and goes through decades of prosperity, mining out precious stones and living richly, until one day, during a ceremony commemorating the destruction of Ib, a mist floats down from the moon to the still lake, and green creatures come forth and destroy Sarnath.
Lovecraft is obviously describing Inuit’s when he talks about Sarnath and it’s peoples. The land of Mnar, has some Norse inclinations as well. The reason I say this is because the green haze must indicate the Northern Lights, which seem to emanate from the heavens and descend upon earth. Then at the end of the story Aryan men go to view the ruins of Sarnath (showing Lovecraft’s prejudices, since they were the only people on earth with enough courage to view the ruins), indicating that it is a different location than Europe.
The story attempts to pull its horror from the fear of religion and the bible once again, and I’ll be curious to see if that is indicative of all the Dunsany stories, or if it’s a theme throughout. The Ultimate story is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Babel themes, mixed in with a little Old Testament, good old, God fearing idol worship. The people of Sarnath are being punished for their worship of a false god and their love and lust of the material, and then the Ancient Ones come back for retribution with their strange descendants, the creatures of Ib.
Because this is a blind read through and I haven’t read any Lovecraft before I dont know if Bokrug is part of the mythos cycle of Gods, but I would probably argue that it should be at least a lesser god.
For purposes of categorization, Bokrug will be a lesser god, based in Greenland area. We’ll see if that has any bearing on the future stories.
June 29, 2017 | Categories: Blind Read, Blog, Essay, Uncategorized | Tags: #author, #blog, #essay, #fiction, #horror, #horrorfiction, #hplovecraft, #literature, #lovecraft, #writer, #writing | 1 Comment