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Who Goes There? by John Campbell Junior

who-goes-there-book

Who Goes There? Read it read it.

Did you ever see the movie The Thing? I’m not talking about the upcoming remake, which I have, how you say, low hopes for. I’m talking about one with Kurt Russell (which was itself a remake of The Thing From Another World). It taught me two things: don’t do research in the Arctic, but, if you have to be out there, you need Kurt Russell to have your back.

Most people I’ve talked to about the movie Thing don’t know that it was based on a short story by John Campbell called Who Goes There?

But perhaps you haven’t seen the movie, or read the story. Allow me to help you fill in the vast chasms in your understanding.

Summary of Who Goes There?

Explorers in Antarctica find an alien spacecraft buried in the ice. How exciting! But…they also find a frozen alien creature which emits malevolent intentions as is unfortunately still alive, as they learn when the thing thaws out.

But worse yet, the alien can look like anyone on the ship, talk like anyone on the ship, and to a point, think like anyone on the ship.

So suddenly all these terrified, isolated men are stuck wondering which of them is a monster, and which are still human. It’s a fantastic setup for one of the most memorable scenes in all of my childhood: the blood test in the movie version.I had begged my parents to let me stay up late for once and watch the movie. They finally gave in and hoped that I’d learn a lesson.

I can’t remember exactly how, but the people in the story hypothesize that if they each give a blood sample, and then a hot needle is dipped into the blood, the blood of the infected/occupied human will react badly. Did it ever! That was the scene I got to see that night on TV. The lesson I learned? Better to sleep in your parent’s bed instead of your own–for as long as they’ll let you.

Who Goes There? is one of the finest short stories I have ever read; the fact that it’s a horror story is a pretty sweet bonus.

Who’s read it? I originally read it in the anthology Foundations of Fear.

Also, if you want the Who Goes There? PDF, a quick Google search will grant all your wishes that involve finding a PDF of this story.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Heather October 6, 2011, 6:04 am

    Oooooooooo, free PDF of spookiness! JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This one sounds fascinating, even though I usually avoid stuff set in cold climates–including actual cold climates! I know, I know, this from a knitter. . . am adding to the must-read/must-download list!

  • jared October 7, 2011, 7:55 am

    That’s an amazing story… and uncanny similarities to my first (and only) experience with this book and movie. As you, the first time I watched the movie was the Kurt Russel version, at my friends house on an overnight stay… I must have been 10 maybe? Grade school at least.

    I spent that night next to my friends parents bed on the floor. Haven’t been a big fan of horror movies since.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 7, 2011, 4:00 pm

      How funny! You probably made it back to your own bed about a dozen weeks before I did.