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13 Days of Darkness Part 5 – Essential H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft was miserable during his life.  He never felt good about himself or anything he accomplished.  He died early and that spared him a long life of self-loathing and bad health.

However, during his short life, he wrote some of the most memorable horror fiction of all time, inspiring legions of  writers whose ranks continue to grow today. He liked to write about things with tentacles, about bizarre religious rites carried out by human priests who worship aliens, strange inter-breedings between humans and white apes, and so on.

Not a fun guy, but an unforgettable writer.

H.P.’s Strange Reality

Lovecraft’s stories revolved around the premise that the reality we know is thinly held together.  Behind everything we know lie horrors that would drive us insane if we even glimpsed them.  The mythology gets very long and winding throughout his many stories, but here’s the gist:

Long before Earth was populated by humans, it was inhabited by ancient Gods and monsters.  A few of them stuck around and might be living at the bottom of the ocean, among the glaciers of the Arctic, or in fishing villages on the Eastern coast of the United States.

Many of the tales involve an academic or a reporter going to investigate the doing of a cult and winding up making a terrible discovery.

Start here

1. The Call of Cthulhu

This might be the most famous of Lovecraft’s stories, and it might be my favorite.  It involves a sea-going expedition that doesn’t go so well.  This story led to what is called The Chtulhu Mythos, which essentially refers to the connected ongoing threads between much of his writing.

The final image is as good as it gets.

2. At The Mountains of Madness

An exploration of mountains in Antarctica reveals that something nasty happened to the previous band of adventurers.  As they try to figure out what happened, they stumble onto a hidden and ancient and massive city where strange things have happened and are apparently still going on.

Again, this story ends with a terrible, squishy bang.  I love it.

3. The Shadow Over Innsmouth

Like much of Shirley Jackson’s best short fiction, Lovecraft’s stories often center on strangers poking around towns full of citizens who don’t like nosy strangers.  Innsmouth is a fishing village full of people that don’t act the way decent folk should.

The imagery in this story is so vivid that it will have you smelling fish.


If you enjoy these two stories, you’ll be safe with about 90% of what Lovecraft wrote.  I have to be in a certain mood to want to read his stories.  Thankfully, I’m not in that mood too often.  But when I am, there’s nothing better.

The poor guy was a true original who never got to see how far his work would reach.

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  • Heather October 23, 2009, 7:11 am

    Josh, if you wanna smell like an instructor, student, or ancient underground reveller of Miskatonic University, you might be interested in checking out Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. They do home-made scents based on lots and lots of literature and poetry, and Lovecraft is one of their all-time faves. Check it out here (and no, I don’t work for these folks):


    I tried to copy and paste the link, but the stupid filters wouldn’t let me. But that’s ok. Hope you dig it. Find something nice for Janette! She’ll love you forever (which she already does) and she’ll smell nice too!

  • Casey Brazeal (North and Clark) October 23, 2009, 7:39 am

    I need to at least read some of this just so I can understand what people mean when they say Lovecraftian.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 23, 2009, 8:24 am

      Casey, any time someone’s name gets used as an adjective, they’re worth looking up. That’s why I know what CaseyBrazealian means.

  • Aubrey October 23, 2009, 8:05 am

    Josh – I am loving the Days of Darkness. We’re getting our home ready for a big night on the 31st mixing fright & baseball.

    Haven’t actually read Lovecraft, so I look him up in the catalog & find the only Lovecraft in my library is in Spanish, hmmmm… So I turn to the internet & find I can read his stories online. Though reading online is not quite as spooky as clutching a paperback in a corner of the house – it says a lot about the relationship between libraries and the internet.
    The site to which i refer:

    • Josh Hanagarne October 23, 2009, 8:26 am

      Aubrey, thanks for the heads up. I hate reading online and certainly can’t recommend it. Where do you live? A library only having Lovecraft in Spanish is strange, unless you live in Spanish speaking country.

      • Aubrey October 23, 2009, 8:54 am

        I am in NJ and though we do have a large collection of foreign language materials to accommodate our lingually diverse community, English is our primary language. Guess it’s just a freak lapse in the collection – will be placing a request today:)

        • Josh Hanagarne October 23, 2009, 11:45 am

          Freak lapse is right! Go throttle those librarians.

  • Tim October 23, 2009, 8:57 am


    I haven’t read anything by Lovecraft, but I’ve heard of him a lot over the years. If I’m not mistaken, a bunch of heavy metal bands I listened to back in the day seemed to be influenced by his imagery. And I’m pretty sure Metallica named one of their tunes Call of Cthulhu. Perfect reading for this time of year.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 23, 2009, 11:45 am

      Yeah, Metallica has a big instrumental back on Ride The Lightning, I believe.

  • Craig October 23, 2009, 11:36 am


    Check out the short story “the prodigy of dreams” by Thomas Ligotti…either an homage or a parody of HP at his best…or maybe both at once….


  • Derek October 23, 2009, 12:53 pm

    Yes, Lovecraft is brilliant at creating a truly chilling, alien atmosphere. “Rats in The Walls” is one of my favorites (among which are also the three you suggested).

  • Oleg Mokhov October 23, 2009, 5:46 pm

    Hey Josh,

    Book recommendations like this is why I’m loving WSL more and more. Personal development + expanding reading list? Sweet 🙂

    Lovecraft is one of those authors I knew about for the longest time but haven’t gotten around to reading anything by him yet. I even thought that his name was badass, but for some reason never checked him out.

    Perhaps you’ll be the push I need to start reading Call of Cthulhu. I even remember the first-person shooter game that was released a while ago.