December Belongs To Cthulhu

12 Days of Lovecraft: “The Dunwich Horror”

Greetings from scenic Dunwich, Massachusetts, home of degenerate inbreds, a few standing stones, and unspeakable horrors from beyond! Read it here.

The Story:

Dunwich, a New England backwater populated chiefly by degenerate inbreds, is shocked when a “somewhat deformed” albino woman gives birth to a dark,  goatish son who proceeds to grow and mature at superhuman rates.

Cattle disappear, said deformed albino mom dies, as does her father, and the goatish boy, Wilbur, seeks out a copy of the Necronomicon more complete than his own. Thwarted by noble librarians, Wilbur eventually breaks into a university library and, shockingly for a figure of menace, is dispatched by the watchdog in short order. The noble librarians head to Dunwich where an invisible and very large horror is rampaging through the countryside wrecking stuff, and dispatch it with what appears to be very little effort, thus saving the entire earth from becoming Yog-Sothoth’s barren playground. Or something.

What’s Awesome:

Heroic librarians. Come on. Also, this time it’s not just some fishy creatures menacing one town: the future of the earth hangs in the balance. Wilbur’s preturnatural growth rate is creepy, and his journal entry really helps build suspense and horror. It’s also a tough task to describe a nightmarish horror from another dimension, but he actually does a great job with that here. When the invisible horror is briefly revealed, it’s described by a gibbering inbred in a way that actually provoked disgust and horror in me. All good stuff. Finally, though he doesn’t seem to have had the stones to play this out fully, this is basically an anti-gospel story where a woman is impregnated by a god and bears a child with supernatural powers. Only this time, it’s a malevolent God determined to strip earth of all life and do something with it, but we don’t know what. (Eat it, like Galactus? Melt it down and send it to Cash 4 Planets? Since ol’ Yog-Sothoth is thwarted, we’ll never know.)

What’s Horrible:

Once again there’s a really disturbing preoccupation with racial purity here. “The natives are now repellently decadent…They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding.”  Since one of these decadent natives interbreeds with a monster from another dimension, it seems pretty clear that, to H.P.’s way of thinking, one pretty much leads to the other. That is to say, without proper attention to the maintenance of racial purity, the race degrades and the world ends. Cue cuckoo clock sound.

There’s also some weirdness in the way the story is constructed. At the beginning of the story, we know that the Dunwich Horror is already over, so the fate of the world is never really in question. Also, in the climactic battle with the invisible horror, H.P. abandons his heroic librarians frantically working spells on a mountaintop and pulls us down to the bottom of the mountain with the decadent natives watching the proceedings through a muddy telescope. Again, this kinda kills the power of the moment, but I guess maybe it was the only way he felt he could work the description of a gibbering witness into the story.

Next time, we’ll investigate The Pretentious British Spelling—er, I mean, “The Colour Out of Space!


Illustration by Scott Altmann.

Seamus Cooper is the author of The Mall of Cthulhu. (Night Shade Books, 2009). He lives in Boston and is totally going to Harvard’s Widener Library this afternoon to check out their Necronomicon.

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