Beyond time and spookiness.
Halloween is fast approaching, and I’m excited. Halloween is my favorite holiday. I don’t care if it falls on a Friday or a Monday. Whatever time of year, whichever day of the week, I’m celebrating it. Spooky costumes, tasty candy, and even a celebration of my Halloween wedding! (My wife and I had a Halloween-themed wedding a few years ago, because we both adore Halloween.) But sometimes spookiness just isn’t enough to celebrate Halloween. Sometimes horror isn’t even enough. Sometimes you have to go beyond spooky and horror to full-blown H.P. Lovecraft eldritch terror from the endless void between the stars!
Lovecraft’s monsters are among my favorite in literature. I love the entire pantheon in his mythos, but some more than others. So for today’s blog and in the spirit of Halloween, I’m going to tell you who my favorite Lovecraft stories and creatures are.
But before I get started, I’m going to get this out of the way: Cthulhu is not on this list. Now don’t get me wrong, I love The Call of Cthulhu and think Cthulhu itself is a fantastic concept. But Cthulhu’s popularity has made it less chilling for me, and for every cute Cthulhu plushie I see the creature’s edge gets dulled. So while I have nothing against The Call of Cthulhu, overexposure has dimmed its excitement for me.
THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK The titular monster in this story scared the hell out of me. Like an Iron Maiden song, I have a fear of the dark, so a creature that can only come out and hunt in total, complete darkness is a concept that shakes me to my core. The story’s doomed narrator describing the town’s lights going out one by one on a moonless night, and only hearing the terrible flapping of the approaching creature’s wings still gives me chills.
THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS The Mi-go are terrifying. This story is not only chilling, but it has some cool science fiction elements in regards to the Mi-go’s methods of transporting brains and consciousnesses across the stars. This one partially reads like a detective story, but it’s not lacking in elements of unknown horror and incomprehensible things. The big reveal at the story’s conclusion is one of my favorites in Lovecraft’s writings.
THE DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE It’s hard for me to single out individual things that make this story so creepy and fascinating. The entire story from start to finish is chilling and uneasy. The witch herself, the world to which poor Gilman finds himself transported, the method in which he travels there, and freaking Brown Jenkin, they all come together in a tapestry of terror that is one of my favorite Lovecraft tales. Ugh, freaking Brown Jenkin gives me the creeps.
THE DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH / THE SILVER KEY / THROUGH THE GATES OF THE SILVER KEY These three stories are, hands-down, my favorite of Lovecraft’s writings. Sometimes referred to as “The Dream Cycle,” it follows the adventures of lucid dreamer Randolph Carter and his various journey to find a lost city in another realm, the key to his dreams, and other physical dimensions. These stories have equal parts adventure and idealism, as well as the deep horror that Lovecraft is so famous for. For me, the Dream Cycle is a love letter to dreamers and adventurers, a lament for the loss of childhood ideals and happiness, and a speculation of what lies beyond our comprehension. Finally, my favorite monster of the Lovecraft mythos is a major player in the Dream Cycle.
You can keep your Cthulhus and your Dunwich Horrors and your Dagons and your Deep Ones and your Shoggoths and all of them. Nyarlathotep is my favorite of Lovecraft monsters because he has an active interest in human affairs. The great old ones like Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth and Azathoth are powerful and insane, but they likely won’t even notice you as they’re driving you to madness. Nyarlathotep is after you. He appears in all of the stories mentioned above, too! The Haunter of the Dark is a manifestation of Nyarlathotep! He appears to Gilman in The Dreams in the Witch House. The Mi-go chant his name in tones of worship and reverence. Nyarlathotep is all over Lovecraft’s writings. The Crawling Chaos is going to get you.
Man, I gave myself some chills remembering all this cool Lovecraft stuff. Halloween puts me in the mood to give myself a fright.