The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

Aside from the horror classics of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “The Call of Cthulhu” among one of Lovecraft’s most famous and known stories is “The Dunwich Horror”. The story is often criticized by scholars for being somewhat “formulaic” and for being the exception in Lovecraft’s ideas of an indifferent cosmos and humans being infinitely insignificant in the eyes of the universe.

Rather, the story is a classic battle between good and evil and is one of the few stories in which a hero is seen defeating the villain, although the triumph is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Without spoiling too much, since I heavily encourage people, especially horror fans, to read the story, the tale is of the terror that is Wilbur Whateley and his family.

Born to the deformed albino Lavinia Whateley, they lived in Dunwich. Mainly isolating themselves from the rest of the world, Wilbur was obviously something else. Reaching maturity by the age of ten and being an eight foot, misshapen being who caused dogs around him to go into frenzies, Wilbur was being groomed by his grandfather, Old Whateley, in what many townsfolk presumed to be dark magic.

Progressively, their house increases in size as Old Whateley and Wilbur add more floors and enlarge it, to accommodate for… something. They shy away from people but routinely go to the top of Sentinel Hill to chant in odd hours before hiding away. It all goes downhill when Old Whateley dies, and Lavinia mysteriously disappears.

Overall, while the story is very in line with further rounding the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole, it is quite different from Lovecraft’s typical stories. This is more focused on humans and despite how little the great cosmos thinks of them, they were able to vanquish the horrible monstrosity, although the true threat still lurks in the dark periphery that humans are not allowed to glimpse into.

It feels real, Dunwich feels real, the terror of what characters go through feels real. It is the unspeakable terror that desecrates a small town. It lurks in the night but is preceding something far, far worse.

Nevertheless, humans prevented what would have been a global disaster, even if it may inevitably be temporary. While the story may not necessarily be about this triumph, but rather that we will never truly know the extent and power to which beings beyond us possess, and how many people are willing to give their devotion and whole life to it.

This is one of Lovecraft’s more accessible stories if you will. It is weird, yet grounded in his unconventional reality, and is an interesting mix of science fiction and horror. He gives vivid descriptions of the area and surroundings, immersing you into it, allowing you to visualize what types of horrors will befall this tiny outskirt village.

It is not like his typical stories, it has appeal for larger audiences, is weirder and almost surreal than his bone-chilling horror and is among his more popular works. He makes many exceptions to his rules and theories on this universe and mythos he has created, and although “The Dunwich Horror” bends that, it is done so to a great effect. A wonderful tale is created in the process, and his pantheon of horrors is expanded.

-Farrah M.

Th Dunwich Horror and other tales from H.P. Lovecraft are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart

H.P. Lovecraft brought horror fiction into existence with his tales of eldritch monsters and otherworldly beings. Now, editor Ross E. Lockhart has compiled The Book of Cthulhu, a collection of short stories, as a tribute to the Cthulhu Mythos story cycle first created by Lovecraft himself. The book is an anthology of short horror stories with a variety of topics yet all containing the familiar dread of Lovecraft.

The unique genre is Lovecraftian horror, which features the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. Within his stories of the occult, Lovecraft was famous for using dread instead of shock and gore. Instead of trying to scare the reader through cheesy ghost stories or bloody axe killers, Lovecraftian literature creates feelings of insignificance, helplessness, and awe. A common theme is the insignificance of humanity. Humans are merely specks of dust in the vast universe, completely at the mercy of ancient or even ageless beings. Aliens and elder gods from different worlds and dimensions exist that could annihilate humankind on a whim. Lovecraft’s universe holds creatures so monstrous and beyond comprehension that even knowledge of them drives men to insanity.

The authors from The Book of Cthulhu continue Lovecraft’s tradition. The first short story, Andromeda Among the Stones, highlights the best aspects of Lovecraft. A family by the edge of the sea must sacrifice everything to guard a portal against the eldritch beings on the other side. Out of all of the stories in the anthology, this short story perhaps best embodies Lovecraft’s sense of awe and dread of the unknown.

My personal favorite story is A Colder War, set in the Cold War era. The world’s superpowers attempt to understand and harness the alien beings as weapons. These elder gods trivialize humanity’s nuclear arms and ultimately threaten to consume this world and other worlds.

The Book of Cthulhu is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read that will put earthly matters into perspective. Although the stories are sometimes hit or miss, each author offers their own style infused with Lovecraft, making it a varied and interesting anthology. The stories often require the reader to grasp the context very quickly, and it often feels as if the short stories are lacking exposition. On the other hand, this adds to the mysterious atmosphere that Lovecraft was so famous for. The anthology is a proper modern tribute to Lovecraft that will leave readers feeling a little tinier than before.

-Phillip X.