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dalnewt
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Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror"

[ Edited ]

"The Dunwich Horror"  was written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1928. It was first published in 1929 within an issue of Weird Tales. The majority of the action occurs in a fictional town within Massachusetts named Dunwich.  (See Wikipedia at The Dunwich Horror.) 

 

Apparently Lovecraft's main literary inspiration for the tale is two stories by a British horror writer named Arthur Machen, entitled The Great God Pan (which is mentioned in the text of "The Dunwich Horror") and "The Novel of the Black Seal". Both Machen stories concern individuals whose death throes reveal them to be only half-human in their parentage. Lovecraft apparently took particular pride in "The Dunwich Horror," calling it "so fiendish that [Weird Tales] editor Farnsworth Wright may not dare to print it."

 

Authority is conflicted as to geographical sources for the story. Wikipedia sites letters written by Lovecraft to support the supposition that the setting is based upon the Massachusetts countryside around Springfield--Wilbraham in particular is mentioned; and, the physical model for Dunwich's Sentinel Hill is believed to be Wilbraham Mountain near Wilbraham.

 

Despite letters written by Lovecraft indicating that, "The Dunwich Horror" was inspired by Wilbraham, a town east of Springfield,  (where Lovecraft heard legends including the notion that whippoorwills can capture the departing soul), Lovecraft later identified Dunwich as being located in the area around Athol and points south, in the north-central part of the state. It has been suggested that the name "Dunwich," was inspired by the town of Greenwich, which was deliberately flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir(Note, Greenwich and the nearby towns of Dana, Enfield and Prescott were not submerged until 1938.)

 

(A Lovecraft scholar named Donald R. Burleson points out that several names included in the story—including Bishop, Frye, Sawyer, Rice and Morgan—are either prominent Athol names or have a connection to the town's history. Athol's Sentinel Elm Farm seems to be the source for the name Sentinel Hill. The Bear's Den mentioned in the story resembles an actual cave of the same name visited by Lovecraft in North New Salem, southwest of Athol.) 

 

Literary criticism to the story appears mixed. (See The Dunwich Horror and The Dunwich Horror - CthulhuWiki.) A cursory search of more recent blogs/reviews indicates that some would list The Dunwich Horror among the greatest horror stories of all time. (See

The Dunwich Horror - H.P. Lovecraft.)


In any case, it certainly represents a major contribution to the Cthulhu Mythos. Although Yog-Sothoth is first mention in the novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, it was in "The Dunwich Horror" that Lovecraft introduced the entity as one of his extra-dimensional Old Ones. Further, although the Necronomicon is first mentioned in The Nameless City, the most significant reference and longest direct quote from it appears within the story text. Furthermore, many other Cthulhu Mythos standards, (such as Miskatonic University, Arkham and Dunwich), are featured within the tale.

 

I really enjoyed this story. In particular I liked the really creepy setting, the repugnant atmosphere created by the inbred and ignorant populace, the pervading sense of unknowable evil and the revolting description of the Horror. I found the following quote about the story very insightful:

What’s interesting here, as with so many early horror tales, is that Lovecraft creates evil not by revealing action directly but by atmosphere and appeal to our primitive revulsion reflex. Lovecraftian evil is not something created by moral degeneracy (though he does talk of that), but rather by sheer alieness, an atmosphere of ignorance and most of all a lurking dread. (See Review of The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 1: The Dunwich ....)

 

I will attempt to summarize the story in follow-up post(s). Note, it's quite a long story and my patience wanes, so please excuse me if my summary post(s) is/are somewhat cursory. Note, anyone can add their summary(ies)/comment(s) about the story.

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dalnewt
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter I

[ Edited ]

The Dunwich Horror begins with a quote from Charles Lamb concerning the eternal existence of archetypal monsters within the human psyche.

These terrors are of older standing. They date beyond body—or without the body, they would have been the same [....]  [I]t predominates in the period of our sinless infancy [....] [A]  probable insight into our ante-mundane condition, and a peep at least into the shadowland of pre-existence.

 

The story is written in the third person by an unknown narrator. The first chapter masterfully creates the foreboding atmosphere and setting. The tale begins with a description of the "lonely and curious" countryside in south central Massachusetts where:

"The ground gets higher, and the brier-bordered stone walls press closer and closer against the ruts of the dusty, curving road. The trees of the frequent forest belts seem too large, and the wild weeds, brambles and grasses attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions. At the same time the planted fields appear singularly few and barren; while the sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation."

 

The unsettling descriptions continue. Other humans are described as "[G]narled solitary figures spied now and then on crumbling doorsteps or on the sloping, rock-strewn meadows." "Those figures are so silent and furtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be better to have nothing to do." Then, the geographical features increase the weirdness with hill summits "too rounded and symmetrical" featuring "sky silhouettes" crowned with  "queer circles of tall stone pillars." The vaguely threatening landscape continues with: 

Gorges and ravines of problematical depth intersect the way, and the crude wooden bridges always seem of dubious safety. When the road dips again there are stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes, and indeed almost fears at evening when unseen whippoorwills chatter and the fireflies come out in abnormal profusion to dance to the raucous, creepily insistent rhythms of stridently piping bull-frogs. The thin, shining line of the Miskatonic's upper reaches has an oddly serpent-like suggestion as it winds close to the feet of the domed hills among which it rises.

 

Then, the first glimpse of the town of Dunwich is described.

"As the hills draw nearer, one heeds their wooded sides more than their stone-crowned tops. Those sides loom up so darkly and precipitously that one wishes they would keep their distance, but there is no road by which to escape them. Across a covered bridge one sees a small village huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, and wonders at the cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that of the neighbouring region.

 

Dunwich's historical connection with "[W]itch-blood, Satan-worship and strange forest presences" is mentioned as is the retrogression of the inbred and 'repellantly decadent' populace.

"They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligence is woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests, and deeds of almost unnameable violence and perversity. The old gentry, representing the two or three armigerous families which came from Salem in 1692, have kept somewhat above the general level of decay; though many branches are sunk into the sordid populace so deeply that only their names remain as a key to the origin they disgrace."

 

"No one, even those who have the facts concerning the recent horror, can say just what is the matter with Dunwich; though old legends speak of unhallowed rites and conclaves of the Indians, amidst which they called forbidden shapes of shadow out of the great rounded hills, and made wild orgiastic prayers that were answered by loud crackings and rumblings from the ground below. [....]"

 

................................

 

"Other traditions tell of foul odours near the hill-crowning circles of stone pillars, and of rushing airy presences to be heard faintly at certain hours from stated points at the bottom of the great ravines; while still others try to explain the Devil's Hop Yard—a bleak, blasted hillside where no tree, shrub, or grass-blade will grow. Then, too, the natives are mortally afraid of the numerous whippoorwills which grow vocal on warm nights. It is vowed that the birds are psychopomps lying in wait for the souls of the dying, and that they time their eerie cries in unison with the sufferer's struggling breath. If they can catch the fleeing soul when it leaves the body, they instantly flutter away chittering in daemoniac laughter; but if they fail, they subside gradually into a disappointed silence."

 

"These tales, of course, are obsolete and ridiculous; because they come down from very old times. Dunwich is indeed ridiculously old—older by far than any of the communities within thirty miles of it. [....] Industry did not flourish here, and the nineteenth-century factory movement proved short-lived. Oldest of all are the great rings of rough-hewn stone columns on the hilltops, but these are more generally attributed to the Indians than to the settlers. Deposits of skulls and bones, found within these circles and around the sizeable table-like rock on Sentinel Hill, sustain the popular belief that such spots were once the burial-places of the Pocumtucks; even though many ethnologists, disregarding the absurd improbability of such a theory, persist in believing the remains Caucasian."

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dalnewt
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Re:The Dunwich Horror: Chapters II - III

[ Edited ]

Wilbur Whateley, a dark and goatish looking infant, was born on Candlemas, February 2, 1913, amid a cacophonous screaming from the surrounding hills and the raucous barking of dogs. Wilbur was born to Lavinia Whateley:

[O]ne of the decadent Whateleys, a somewhat deformed, unattractive albino woman of thirty-five, living with an aged and half-insane father about whom the most frightful tales of wizardry had been whispered in his youth.

 

The boy's paternity was unknown and, eventually, caused speculation among the townsfolk of Dunwich. Lavinia was:

"A lone creature given to wandering amidst thunderstorms in the hills and trying to read the great odorous books which her father had inherited through two centuries of Whateleys, and which were fast falling to pieces with age and wormholes. She had never been to school, but was filled with disjointed scraps of ancient lore that Old Whateley had taught her."

 

She lived with her father, known for his reputation with black magic, in a remote, dilapidated and half-abandoned farmhouse. The townsfolk were completely unaware of the birth until Old Whateley came into town and talked in vague terms of his new grandson declaring, " Let me tell ye suthin—some day yew folks'll hear a child o' Lavinny's a-callin' its father's name on the top o' Sentinel Hill"

 

Old Whateley started buying cattle which displayed an alarming rate of mortality, illness and wounds. Lavinia resumed her hill wandering; and, the infant, known to the townsfolk as "the black brat" grew at a phenomenal rate.

 

At three moths, the child was the size of a one-year old. Soon thereafter, Silar Bishop, (of the 'undecayed' Bishops), reported seeing the boy sprinting through the underbrush with his mother on Halloween a short time before a great blaze was seen at midnight on the top of Sentinel Hill. At first Silas reported his impression that both were entirely unclothed, but later statements about the boy wearing a strange fringed belt and a pair of dark trunks or trousers were made. The boy was never seen in public unclothed. Indeed, he was always appeared with tightly buttoned attire despite the ragged clothes and squalid appearance of his mother and grandfather.

"His facial aspect, too, was remarkable for its maturity; for though he shared his mother's and grandfather's chinlessness, his firm and precociously shaped nose united with the expression of his large, dark, almost Latin eyes to give him an air of quasi-adulthood and well-nigh preternatural intelligence. He was, however, exceedingly ugly despite his appearance of brilliancy; there being something almost goatish or animalistic about his thick lips, large-pored, yellowish skin, coarse crinkly hair, and oddly elongated ears."

 

With his grandson's birth, Old Whateley began repairing the unused portions of his farmhouse. Although three ruined lower rooms had always been sufficient, he restored the upper story. Despite his occasional incoherent babbling, his carpentry was sound. The only sign of his madness was the boarding up of all the upper story windows except for one, facing the hill in the rear of the house. It had been made into a solid plank door that connected to a wooden walkway leading down to the ground. Despite the newly repaired upper story, he also outfitted a room for his new grandson on the main floor. He lined the room with strong, firm shelving and arranged, in careful order, all ancient rotting books and parts of books which had previously been indecorously scattered in odd corners of his house.  

 

Wilbur continued his unnatural growth. At one and four months old, he was the size of a four year old and could read the mouldering tomes Old Whateley had given to him. At four and one-half he looked like a fifteen year old. A visitor to the house would often find Lavinia alone with the sounds of ponderous footsteps echoing from the sealed upper floor. No one was ever allowed to look upon the second story rooms, and it was assumed that Whateley and his grandson were engaged in some sort of pursuit on the upper floor.

 

During the war of 1917, a survey was taken of the residents which led to newspaper articles in the Boston Globe and Arkham Advertiser about Wilbur's precociousness. Earl Sawyer accompanied the reporters and cameramen, and reported the presence of a queer stench trickling down from the sealed upper spaces. He was reminded of the strange stench that wafted about the Whateley tool shed after it was suddenly put in order immediately before the building spree . 

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carusmm
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Re:The Dunwich Horror

The tale is told at great pace and is a beauty.  I loved it.

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dalnewt
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Re: Re:The Dunwich Horror


carusmm wrote:

The tale is told at great pace and is a beauty.  I loved it.


Me too--Now if I could only finish the summary. The next portion is saved on my regular apple computer and neither safari nor explorer (thru aol) can access the boards at present. Right now I'm on my husband's laptop. I'm going to try to download firefox to my Apple later tonight or maybe tomorro. If sucessful I should be able to continue with the chapter summaries.  

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Desert_Brat
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Re: Re:The Dunwich Horror

See what happens when you take the wrong road around Arkham? This story is the fifth in the Mythos lineup. It has the first mention of one of the outer gods, Yog-Sothoth.

 

It also has more on our favorite book from the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, yup, the good old Necronomicon. You see, Wilbur only has an imperfect copy of Dr. Dee's English version. He wants to find a real copy to fill in the missing information in his. So Wilbur goes in search of the Necronomicon. But he's looking for a particular version, Olaus Wormius' Latin version -- but not just an ordinary Wormius Latin version, it has to be the one printed in Spain in the 17th century. And it just so happens there is a copy at the university library.

 

I found it interesting that there were two separate factions of the Dunwich founding families, the original, unspoiled faction and the decadent faction. What was even more wry was that the unspoiled founding families established Dunwich after they fled Salem in 1692. Could there have been a bigger hint? For those taking notes, 1692 was the start of the Salem witch trials.

 

The description of the dying Wilbur on the libary floor simply conjures horror. And we certainly find out what the "fringe belt" was all about.

 

I can't quite zero in on the significance of turning the church into a general store after the priest disappeared. Anyone else have any ideas?

 

"The townsfolk were completely unaware of the birth until Old Whateley came into town and talked in vague terms of his new grandson declaring, " Let me tell ye suthin—some day yew folks'll hear a child o' Lavinny's a-callin' its father's name on the top o' Sentinel Hill."

 

Boy, I snapped on this the minute the crowd began hearing an almost human voice while the three professors were chanting. The voice was soon known to be crying out: Yog-Sothoth. Surprise!

 

Oh, and for all of you non-UK folks, Dunwich is pronounced Doon-itch. :smileywink:

A lifelong reader, now may my life be long enough to catch up on my reading!
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dalnewt
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapters IV - V

[ Edited ]

On Lamas Night, 1924 Dr. Houghton of Aylesbury was summoned to the Whateley farmhouse by Wilbur. The doctor found Old Whateley gravely ill with a labored heartbeat and stertorous breathing. A rhythmical surging or lapping reminiscent of the waves on a beach from the sealed upper portions of the house disquieted the doctor. But, he was completely disturbed by chattering of a legion of whippoorwills that diabolically timed their cries to the wheezing gasps of the dying man. Near one O-clock, Old Whateley gained consciousness and choked out these few words to his grandson:

 

"More space, Willy, more space soon. Yew grows—an' that grows faster. It'll be ready to serve ye soon, boy. Open up the gates to Yog-Sothoth with the long chant that ye'll find on page 751 of the complete edition, an' then put a match to the prison. Fire from airth can't burn it nohaow."

"Feed it reg'lar, Willy, an' mind the quantity; but dun't let it grow too fast fer the place, fer ef it busts quarters or gits aout afore ye opens to Yog-Sothoth, it's all over an' no use. Only them from beyont kin make it multiply an' work... Only them, the old uns as wants to come back..."

 

In an hour the throaty death rattle came, and Dr Houghton drew shrunken lids over the glazing grey eyes as the tumult of birds faded imperceptibly to silence. The hills rumbled faintly, Lavinia sobbed, and Wilbur chuckled in a heavy bass voice, “They didn't git him.”

 

Through the years Wilbur grew contemptuous of his mother, finally forbidding her to go to the hills with him on May Eve and Halloween.  In 1926 the poor creature complained to Mamie Bishop of being afraid of him.

 

That Hallowe'en the hill noises sounded louder than ever, and fire burned on Sentinel Hill as usual; but people paid more attention to the rhythmical screaming of vast flocks of unnaturally belated whippoorwills, which seemed to be assembled near the unlighted Whateley farmhouse. After midnight their shrill notes burst into a kind of panicked cachinnation, which filled all the countryside, and not until dawn did they finally quiet down. Then they vanished, hurrying southward where they were fully a month overdue. What this meant, no one could quite be certain till later. None of the country folk seemed to have died—but poor Lavinia Whateley, the twisted albino, was never seen again.


Wilbur became a scholar of rare, forbidden books, and was quietly known to correspond with many librarians in distant places. In 1925 he was a full six and three-quarters feet tall. The population of Dunwich dreaded and hated Wilbur connecting him with certain youthful disappearances. He silenced suspicion with the same curious old gold his grandfather had used to purchase cattle and through sheer physical intimidation.

 

The following winter Wilbur made his first trip outside of the Dunwich region. His widespread correspondence had not supplied him with the loan of a book he desperately wanted, so he set out in person, shabby, dirty, bearded, and uncouth of dialect, to consult the nearest copy of the book at Miskatonic.

 

Almost eight feet tall, and carrying a cheap new valise from Osborne's general store, the dark and goatish gargoyle appeared one day in Arkham in quest of the dreaded volume kept under lock and key at the college library—the hideous Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred in Olaus Wormius' Latin version, as printed in Spain in the seventeenth century. He had never seen a city before, but had no thought save to find his way to the university grounds; where indeed, he passed heedlessly by the great white-fanged watchdog that barked with unnatural fury and enmity, and tugged frantically at its stout chain.

 

Wilbur brought with him the priceless but imperfect copy of Dr Dee's English version that his grandfather had bequeathed him. The librarian, Henry Armitage (A.M. Miskatonic, Ph.D. Princeton, Litt.D. Johns Hopkins) allowed Wilbur access to the text after Wilbur admitted he was interesting in discovering a certain passage that would have come on the 751st page of his own defective volume. Wilbur admitted that he was looking for a kind of formula or incantation containing the frightful name of Yog-Sothoth, but that he was puzzled by discrepancies, duplication and ambiguities.

 

As Wilbur copied the chosen formula, Dr Armitage looked over his shoulder translating the Latin into English.


    

Nor is it to be thought (ran the text as Armitage mentally translated it) that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They had trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man's truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones whereon Their seal is engraved, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.

 

Associating the text with the rumors concerning Wilbur Whateley’s birth and probable matricide, Armitage felt a wave of fright. The bent and goatish giant “seemed like the spawn of another planet or dimension; like something only partly of mankind, and linked to black gulfs of essence and entity that stretch like titan phantasms beyond all spheres of force and matter, space and time.” Wilbur raised his head and began speaking with a resonance that, “[H]inted at sound-producing organs unlike the run of mankind's.”

 

"Mr. Armitage," he said, "I calc'late I've got to take that book home. They's things in it I've got to try under sarten conditions that I can't git here, en' it 'ud be a mortal sin to let a red-tape rule hold me up. Let me take it along, Sir, an' I'll swar they wun't nobody know the difference. I dun't need to tell ye I'll take good keer of it. It wan't me that put this Dee copy in the shape it is...."
 

 

Abruptly Wilbur cut off his request noting the firm denial in Armitage’s face. A crafty look came over Wilbur, and he took his leave of the librarian saying, "Maybe Harvard won’t be as fussy as yew be.”  As Armitage heard the savage yelping of the great watchdog, he studied Whateley’s gorilla-like lope across the campus. Then, he ruminated about the lore about, “Unseen things not of earth—or at least not of tridimensional earth—rushed foetid and horrible through New England's glens, and brooded obscenely on the mountain tops.” He sensed the presence of “some terrible part of the intruding horror” and glimpsed “a hellish advance in the black dominion of the ancient” nightmare.

 

Shuddering with disgust, Armitage locked away the Necronomicon. The room still reeked. “As a foulness shall ye know them,” Armitage quoted.  He recognized the odor as identical to the reek that sickened him at the Whateley farmhouse less than three years before. He thought of the goatish and huge Wilbur and laughed mockingly at the village rumors of his parentage. 
 

 

“Inbreeding?” Armitage muttered half-aloud to himself. "Great God, what simpletons! Show them Arthur Machen's Great God Pan and they'll think it a common Dunwich scandal! But what thing—what cursed shapeless influence on or off this three-dimensional earth—was Wilbur Whateley's father? Born on Candlemas—nine months after May Eve of 1912, when the talk about the queer earth noises reached clear to Arkham—what walked on the mountains that May night? What Roodmas horror fastened itself on the world in half-human flesh and blood?"

 

In the weeks following Dr Armitage set about collecting all possible data on Wilbur Whateley and the formless presences surrounding Dunwich. He communicated with Dr. Houghton of Aylesbury and was informed of Old Whateley’s last words. He closely examined relevant portions of the Necronomicon and clues of that Whateley’s nature and design to unleash a  terrible evil slowly emerged. Conferring with students of archaic lore in Boston, and corresponding with many other scholars elsewhere, Armitage passed through “varied degrees of alarm to a state of really acute spiritual fear.” As the summer continued, he began to feel a vague conviction that, "[S]omething ought to be done about the lurking terrors of the upper Miskatonic valley, and about the monstrous being known to the human world as Wilbur Whateley.”

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dalnewt
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter VI

[ Edited ]

Armitage issued keen warnings to all librarians having charge over various copies of the Necronomicon . He later heard of Whateley's trip to Cambridge and futile request to copy or borrow the book from the Widener Library. Although shockingly nervous at Cambridge, Wilbur appeared almost equally eager to get back home.

 

In early August the sound of half-mad growls and barks followed by a piercing and inhuman scream roused half the sleepers in Arkham, including Armitage. Quickly dressing and hurrying outside, Armitage heard the shrilling of the library’s burglar-alarm. When he arrived outside of the building, he viewed an open window yawning “black and gaping in the moonlight.”  From within the barking and  screaming faded to “a mixed low growling and moaning.” Armitage waved back the gathering crowd, motioned to Professor Warren Rice and Dr. Francis Morgan to accompany him and unlocked the library vestibule. While entering, he suddenly perceived the loud and rhythmic piping of a chorus of whippoorwills among the shrubbery that ebbed and flowed like the last breaths of a dying man. Then, he was assaulted by a frightful stench that he immediately recognized.

 

Following the sound of whining, the three men crossed the hall to the small genealogical reading room. Armitage hesitated before turning on the light, but then snapped the switch. One of the three men shrieked. Lying on its side, a bent form over nine feet long lie in a pool of greenish-yellow ichor.   Shredded bits of shoe leather apparel were scattered about the room. An empty canvas sack lay under the window, and a pistol with a bent cartridge lay near the central desk. The universities' watchdog, with its  paws upon the figure’s chest, loomed above. But it was the sight of the felled being that commanded the men’s attention.

 

A glance revealed that it was partly human with manlike hands and head. Although its features bore the goatish and chinless stamp of the Whateleys, the being’s torso and lower limbs were mind-numbingly alien. The chest was encased in the leathery, reticulated hide of a crocodile. The back was piebald yellow and black in a pattern vaguely suggestive of a snake. A coarse black fur covered the lower torso and limbs. Greenish-grey tentacles with red sucking mouths protruded from the abdomen and pulsed a slightly deeper green with every struggled breath. A rudimentary eye encased in a kind of pinkish, ciliated orbit was deep set within each hip. Instead of a tail, the being had a rear trunk appendage ringed with purple and marked with a rudimentary mouth or throat.  No blood painted scene, rather a greenish yellow liquid pooled below the being and trickled from its form.

 

The being began to mumble in foreign syllables. In disjointed fragments evidently taken from the Necronomicon, Armitage made out something like, “N'gai, n'gha'ghaa, bugg-shoggog, y'hah: Yog-Sothoth, Yog-Sothoth ....”  They mumblings trailed off and the whippoorwills shrieked in rhythmical crescendos of unholy anticipation. The gasping halted and the dog raised its head and gave a lugubrious howl.

 

Suddenly, the great black eyes of the being caved in appallingly, and the shrill cries of the whippoorwills suddenly ceased. Against vast clouds illuminated by the moon, the feathery watchers rose and frantically raced from sight chased by what they had previously sought for prey. The dog abruptly rose, gave a frightened bark, and leaped out the window. A cry arose from the gathering crowd outside and Armitage shouted that no one would be admitted until after the police or medical examiner arrived. The windows were placed high enough to screen the interior scene from the crowd, and Armitage carefully pulled dark curtains over each window. Meanwhile the men watch as the form on the floor shrank and disintegrated before their eyes. Armitage reflected that the human part of Wilbur Whateley must have been very small, for no skull or bony skeleton was left behind. By the time the medical examiner entered the room, only a sticky, whitish mass remained to mark the passing of Wilbur Whateley.

 

The formalities attending the death of Wilbur were followed by the authorities although all abnormal details were withheld from the record and the press. Branches of the Whateley family were notified, and Wilbur’s property was inventoried and cataloged. No one would enter the reeking farmhouse that surged with lapping sounds. The contents of the shed where Wilbur had been living after gutting the remainder of the house were taken into custody. From among the deceased’s possessions, a journal in a completely alien language was found. Eventually, that journal and all Whateley’s books were handed to Armitage. No trace of the ancient gold paid out by Old Whateley and. later, Wilbur was found.

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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter VII

[ Edited ]

On the night of September 9 the horror broke loose amid the frantic barking of dogs and trembling hills surrounding Dunwich. Early morning risers caught the scent of an awful stench, and the hired boy from the Corey cottage frantically entered the kitchen after retrieving cattle from a high meadow. In imperfect English, he blurted out a tale of felled trees, bent shrubbery and gouged-out earth as if a house had passed over and through the landscape. He also described huge circular prints impressed deeply into the ground bearing lines like the veins of a giant leaf.

 

When Mrs. Corey started telephoning the news, she soon learned that the son of the housekeeper at Bishop farm had seen the same type of huge swath-like path gauged through the foliage as well as the gigantic round prints. The boy couldn’t sleep the night before because of the loud screaming of whippoorwills from Cold Spring Glen. Then, he had heard the ripping sound of wood, as if a giant box crate were being opened. In the morning he found the timbers of the Whateley house scattered about the farmyard and the surviving lower floor covered in a black, tarry and reeking substance. That same reeking, tar-like substance covered the round prints and ran from the remaining floor level into the ground below. The boy found the Bishop cattle in an upper meadow. Half the herd were missing, and the other half looked drained with running sores and lacerations. Eventually three-quarters of the village men followed the barn-like trail and monstrous prints from the Whateley ruins to the precipitous ravine of Cold Spring Glen.

 

“Whatever had burst loose upon the world had assuredly gone down into the great sinister ravine; for all the trees on the banks were bent and broken, and a great avenue had been gouged in the precipice-hanging underbrush. It was as though a house, launched by an avalanche, had slid down through the tangled growths of the almost vertical slope. From below no sound came, but only a distant, undefinable foetor; and it is not to be wondered at that the men preferred to stay on the edge and argue, rather than descend and beard the unknown Cyclopean horror in its lair. Three dogs that were with the party had barked furiously at first, but seemed cowed and reluctant when near the glen.”

 

No man or dog would pursue the horror into the ravine. That evening the villagers barricaded themselves in their homes and secured their livestock within their barns. About two in the morning a frightful stench and the barking of dogs awakened the household of Elmer Frye who lived at the eastern corner of Cold Spring Glen. As the family listened they could hear a sort of muffled swishing or lapping sound from outside.

 

“Mrs Frye proposed telephoning the neighbors, and Elmer was about to agree when the noise of splintering wood burst in upon their deliberations. It came, apparently, from the barn; and was quickly followed by a hideous screaming and stamping amongst the cattle. The dogs slavered and crouched close to the feet of the fear-numbed family. Frye lit a lantern through force of habit, but knew it would be death to go out into that black farmyard. The children and the women-folk whimpered, kept from screaming by some obscure, vestigial instinct of defense which told them their lives depended on silence."

 

"At last the noise of the cattle subsided to a pitiful moaning, and a great snapping, crashing, and crackling ensued. The Fryes, huddled together in the sitting-room, did not dare to move until the last echoes died away far down in Cold Spring Glen. Then, amidst the dismal moans from the stable and the daemoniac piping of the late whippoorwills in the glen, Selina Frye tottered to the telephone and spread what news she could of the second phase of the horror.”

 

The next day the villagers discovered:

“Two titan swaths of destruction stretched from the glen to the Frye farmyard, monstrous prints covered the bare patches of ground, and one side of the old red barn had completely caved in. Of the cattle, only a quarter could be found and identified. Some of these were in curious fragments, and all that survived had to be shot.”

 

The villagers went into full panic mode gathering in small, indecisive knots incapable of determining any course of action. That evening the barricading resumed with related families banding together. But nothing occurred except for some hill noises. As the next day dawned, some entertained the furtive hope that the horror had passed.

 

“When night came again the barricading was repeated, though there was less huddling together of families. In the morning both the Frye and the Seth Bishop households reported excitement among the dogs and vague sounds and stenches from afar, while early explorers noted with horror a fresh set of the monstrous tracks in the road skirting Sentinel Hill. As before, the sides of the road showed a bruising indicative of the blasphemously stupendous bulk of the horror; whilst the conformation of the tracks seemed to argue a passage in two directions, as if the moving mountain had come from Cold Spring Glen and returned to it along the same path. At the base of the hill a thirty-foot swath of crushed shrubbery saplings led steeply upwards, and the seekers gasped when they saw that even the most perpendicular places did not deflect the inexorable trail. Whatever the horror was, it could scale a sheer stony cliff of almost complete verticality; and as the investigators climbed round to the hill's summit by safer routes they saw that the trail ended—or rather, reversed—there.”

 

“It was here that the Whateleys used to build their hellish fires and chant their hellish rituals by the table-like stone on May Eve and Hallowmass. Now that very stone formed the centre of a vast space thrashed around by the mountainous horror, whilst upon its slightly concave surface was a thick and foetid deposit of the same tarry stickiness observed on the floor of the ruined Whateley farmhouse when the horror escaped. Men looked at one another and muttered. Then they looked down the hill. Apparently the horror had descended by a route much the same as that of its ascent. To speculate was futile. Reason, logic, and normal ideas of motivation stood confounded….”

 

“Thursday night began much like the others, but it ended less happily. The whippoorwills in the glen had screamed with such unusual persistence that many could not sleep, and about 3 A.M. all the party telephones rang tremulously. Those who took down their receivers heard a fright-mad voice shriek out, 'Help, oh, my Gawd! ...' and some thought a crashing sound followed the breaking off of the exclamation. There was nothing more. No one dared do anything, and no one knew till morning whence the call came. Then those who had heard it called everyone on the line, and found that only the Fryes did not reply. The truth appeared an hour later, when a hastily assembled group of armed men trudged out to the Frye place at the head of the glen. It was horrible, yet hardly a surprise. There were more swaths and monstrous prints, but there was no longer any house. It had caved in like an egg-shell, and amongst the ruins nothing living or dead could be discovered. Only a stench and a tarry stickiness. The Elmer Fryes had been erased from Dunwich.”

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dalnewt
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter VIII

[ Edited ]

Throughout the remaining summer, Armitage was tackling the translation of Whateley’s journal. All the linguists had given up on it, but Armitage was convinced that, regardless of the alien language, the characters in the journal operated as some sort of cipher for English.

 

“Dr Armitage knew, from the repeated failures of his colleagues, that the riddle was a deep and complex one; and that no simple mode of solution could merit even a trial. All through late August he fortified himself with the mass lore of cryptography; drawing upon the fullest resources of his own library [….], and in time became convinced that he had to deal with one of those subtlest and most ingenious of cryptograms, in which many separate lists of corresponding letters are arranged like the multiplication table, and the message built up with arbitrary key-words known only to the initiated. The older authorities seemed rather more helpful than the newer ones, and Armitage concluded that the code of the manuscript was one of great antiquity, no doubt handed down through a long line of mystical experimenters. Several times he seemed near daylight, only to be set back by some unforeseen obstacle. Then, as September approached, the clouds began to clear. Certain letters, as used in certain parts of the manuscript, emerged definitely and unmistakably; and it became obvious that the text was indeed in English.”

 

On the evening of September second Dr Armitage read for the first time a continuous passage of Wilbur Whateley's diary couched in a style clearly showing the mixed occult erudition and general illiteracy. The first long passage, dated November 26, 1916 and written by a child of three and one half who looked like lad of twelve or thirteen, read as follows:

 

“Today learned the Aklo for the Sabaoth (it ran), which did not like, it being answerable from the hill and not from the air. That upstairs more ahead of me than I had thought it would be, and is not like to have much earth brain. Shot Elam Hutchins's collie Jack when he went to bite me, and Elam says he would kill me if he dast. I guess he won't. Grandfather kept me saying the Dho formula last night, and I think I saw the inner city at the 2 magnetic poles. I shall go to those poles when the earth is cleared off, if I can't break through with the Dho-Hna formula when I commit it. They from the air told me at Sabbat that it will be years before I can clear off the earth, and I guess grandfather will be dead then, so I shall have to learn all the angles of the planes and all the formulas between the Yr and the Nhhngr. They from outside will help, but they cannot take body without human blood. That upstairs looks it will have the right cast. I can see it a little when I make the Voorish sign or blow the powder of Ibn Ghazi at it, and it is near like them at May Eve on the Hill. The other face may wear off some. I wonder how I shall look when the earth is cleared and there are no earth beings on it. He that came with the Aklo Sabaoth said I may be transfigured there being much of outside to work on.”

 

When morning dawned, Armitage was in a cold sweat of terror. “He had not left the manuscript all night, but sat at his table under the electric light turning page after page with shaking hands as fast as he could decipher the cryptic text.” His wife brought him breakfast from the house but he could scarcely eat as he continued to read. He read on and on. Lunch and dinner were brought to him, but he could only choke down small amounts of food. “Toward the middle of the next night he drowsed off in his chair, but soon woke out of a tangle of nightmares almost as hideous as the truths and menaces to man's existence that he had uncovered.” On the morning of September fourth, Professor Rice and Dr Morgan insisted on seeing Armitage. Later in the day they departed in a tremulous, ashen-grey state.

 

“That evening Armitage went to bed, but slept only fitfully. Wednesday—the next day—he was back at the manuscript, and began to take copious notes both from the current sections and from those he had already deciphered. In the small hours of that night he slept a little in an easy chair in his office, but was at the manuscript again before dawn. Some time before noon his physician, Dr Hartwell, called to see him and insisted that he cease work. He refused; intimating that it was of the most vital importance for him to complete the reading of the diary and promising an explanation in due course of time. That evening, just as twilight fell, he finished his terrible perusal and sank back exhausted. His wife, bringing his dinner, found him in a half-comatose state; but he was conscious enough to warn her off with a sharp cry when he saw her eyes wander toward the notes he had taken. Weakly rising, he gathered up the scribbled papers and sealed them all in a great envelope, which he immediately placed in his inside coat pocket. He had sufficient strength to get home, but was so clearly in need of medical aid that Dr Hartwell was summoned at once. As the doctor put him to bed he could only mutter over and over again, “But what, in God's name, can we do?'’


Dr Armitage slept, but was partly delirious. He gave no explanation to Hartwell, but in  calmer moments spoke of the imperative need of a long conference with Rice and Morgan.

 

“His wilder wanderings were very startling indeed, including frantic appeals that something in a boarded-up farmhouse be destroyed, and fantastic references to some plan for the extirpation of the entire human race and all animal and vegetable life from the earth by some terrible elder race of beings from another dimension. He would shout that the world was in danger, since the Elder Things wished to strip it and drag it away from the solar system and cosmos of matter into some other plane or phase of entity from which it had once fallen, vigintillions of aeons ago. At other times he would call for the dreaded Necronomicon and the Daemonolatreia of Remigius, in which he seemed hopeful of finding some formula to check the peril he conjured up.”


”Stop them, stop them” he would shout. '”Those Whateleys meant to let them in, and the worst of all is left! Tell Rice and Morgan we must do something—it's a blind business, but I know how to make the powder... It hasn't been fed since the second of August, when Wilbur came here to his death, and at that rate...”


“But Armitage had a sound physique despite his seventy-three years, and slept off his disorder that night without developing any real fever. He woke late Friday, clear of head, though sober with a gnawing fear and tremendous sense of responsibility. Saturday afternoon he felt able to go over to the library and summon Rice and Morgan for a conference, and the rest of that day and evening the three men tortured their brains in the wildest speculation and the most desperate debate. Strange and terrible books were drawn voluminously from the stack shelves and from secure places of storage; and diagrams and formulae were copied with feverish haste and in bewildering abundance. Of scepticism there was none. All three had seen the body of Wilbur Whateley as it lay on the floor in a room of that very building, and after that not one of them could feel even slightly inclined to treat the diary as a madman's raving.”



“Opinions were divided as to notifying the Massachusetts State Police, and the negative finally won. There were things involved which simply could not be believed by those who had not seen a sample, as indeed was made clear during certain subsequent investigations. Late at night the conference disbanded without having developed a definite plan, but all day Sunday Armitage was busy comparing formulae and mixing chemicals obtained from the college laboratory. The more he reflected on the hellish diary, the more he was inclined to doubt the efficacy of any material agent in stamping out the entity which Wilbur Whateley had left behind him—the earth threatening entity which, unknown to him, was to burst forth in a few hours and become the memorable Dunwich horror.
”


Monday was an infinity of research and experimentation. Further readings of the monstrous diary brought about various changes to the plan, but Armitage knew that a large amount of uncertainty and flexibility must remain. By Tuesday Armitage had a definite line of action mapped out, and intended to travel to Dunwich within a week. Then, on Wednesday, he was shocked by a facetious little press release within a cramped corner of the Arkham Advertiser. It reported that the bootleg whisky of Dunwich had risen up a record-breaking monster. Stunned, Armitage telephoned Rice and Morgan. Far into the night they discussed their plans. The next day was a whirlwind of preparation. “Armitage knew he would be meddling with terrible powers, yet saw that there was no other way to annul the deeper and more malign meddling which others had done before him.”

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dalnewt
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Re: Re:The Dunwich Horror

[ Edited ]

Desert_Brat wrote:

See what happens when you take the wrong road around Arkham? This story is the fifth in the Mythos lineup. It has the first mention of one of the outer gods, Yog-Sothoth.

 

It also has more on our favorite book from the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, yup, the good old Necronomicon. You see, Wilbur only has an imperfect copy of Dr. Dee's English version. He wants to find a real copy to fill in the missing information in his. So Wilbur goes in search of the Necronomicon. But he's looking for a particular version, Olaus Wormius' Latin version -- but not just an ordinary Wormius Latin version, it has to be the one printed in Spain in the 17th century. And it just so happens there is a copy at the university library.

 

I found it interesting that there were two separate factions of the Dunwich founding families, the original, unspoiled faction and the decadent faction. What was even more wry was that the unspoiled founding families established Dunwich after they fled Salem in 1692. Could there have been a bigger hint? For those taking notes, 1692 was the start of the Salem witch trials.

 

The description of the dying Wilbur on the libary floor simply conjures horror. And we certainly find out what the "fringe belt" was all about.

 

I can't quite zero in on the significance of turning the church into a general store after the priest disappeared. Anyone else have any ideas?

 

"The townsfolk were completely unaware of the birth until Old Whateley came into town and talked in vague terms of his new grandson declaring, " Let me tell ye suthin—some day yew folks'll hear a child o' Lavinny's a-callin' its father's name on the top o' Sentinel Hill."

 

Boy, I snapped on this the minute the crowd began hearing an almost human voice while the three professors were chanting. The voice was soon known to be crying out: Yog-Sothoth. Surprise!

 

Oh, and for all of you non-UK folks, Dunwich is pronounced Doon-itch. :smileywink:


I'll finish the summary later. It's tiring and my copy function isn't working well. Plus, I can't use the indent function anymore w/in my posts, and it's irritating to be unable to designate direct quotes from book by indentation.

 

I immediately connected up the founding of Dunwich by the original families with the Salem witch trials, but I don't think witchcraft, per se, has anything to do with distinguishing the 'decayed' from 'undecayed' branches of the families. Further, the story benignly mentions that Old Zebulon Whateley makes "suggestions about rites that ought to be practiced on the hill-tops." The story goes on to explain that, "[Zebulon] came [from] a line where tradition ran strong, and his memories of chantings in the great stone circles were not altogether connected with Wilbur and his grandfather." 

 

Instead of witchcraft, I think that the deterioration of the families is linked to in-breeding, ignorance and isolation.  Plus, the story starts out with a description of the hills as being haunted by unseen spirits and providing a site for strange rituals by Indians long before the land was settled. That geographical location may have caused or contributed to the decay in Old Wizard Whateley's family branch. Wilbur's journal indicates that he conversed with unseen Elder Things, and apparently one impregnated Lavinia. So, it's not a stretch to infer that the Elder Things cultivated Old Whateley and taught him how to modify incantations.

 

IMO, the conversion of the church into the general store indicates that community had apparently abandoned participation in any organized religion and, perhaps, has lost its reverence for religion.

 

For me the physical description of dying Wilbur on the library floor was horrifying, but Wilbur's death at the jaws of a mere watchdog was anticlimactic. What kind of a 'monster' dies by dog bite? Wilbur turned out to be quite a whimp in the end, IMO. Over eight feet tall with tentacles, and he still couldn't kill a dog. Very disappointing!

 

Is that how Dunwich is really pronounced? Americans, like myself, have a very literal way of pronouncing our consonants and syllables.:smileytongue: Add to that the idiosyncratic dialect of this remote fictional community in Massachusetts.

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Desert_Brat
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Re: Re:The Dunwich Horror


dalnewt wrote:

...I immediately connected up the founding of Dunwich by the original families with the Salem witch trials, but I don't think witchcraft, per se, has anything to do with distinguishing the 'decayed' from 'undecayed' branches of the families...

 

...Plus, the story starts out with a description of the hills as being haunted by unseen spirits and providing a site for strange rituals by Indians long before the land was settled. 

 

...IMO, the conversion of the church into the general store indicates that community had apparently abandoned participation in any organized religion and, perhaps, has lost its reverence for religion.

 

...but Wilbur's death at the jaws of a mere watchdog was anticlimactic. What kind of a 'monster' dies by dog bite?


From your Wiki reprint post on Chapter 1 above:

"Dunwich's historical connection with "[W]itch-blood, Satan-worship and strange forest presences" is mentioned as is the retrogression of the inbred and 'repellantly decadent' populace.

"They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligence is woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests, and deeds of almost unnameable violence and perversity. The old gentry, representing the two or three armigerous families which came from Salem in 1692, have kept somewhat above the general level of decay; though many branches are sunk into the sordid populace so deeply that only their names remain as a key to the origin they disgrace."

 

For a long time, the general thought on the Salem witch trials was based in fear and of decadence falling into complete debauchery. Descriptions often included reference to wild orgies of sexual congress between members, family members and creatures of the unknown. Many accusations of witchcraft of the time were based on wantoness and sexual indecency, as opposed to spellcasting.

 

Perhaps the vague description of the rituals practiced by the indigenous peoples points to the reason why the families who fled Salem settled in that particular area. Rituals were already a matter of lore and might thus hide any subsequent practices of the founding families. These founding families probably kept their practices at a low volume so they would go mostly unnoticed by outsiders. But after some time, the natural course of debauchery took its toll on some of these families and thus the differentiation between the spoiled and unspoiled, or decayed and undecayed.

 

Upon further reflection, I think perhaps the conversion of the church into a general store was one of Lovecraft's slights at organized religions. Despite is masterful tales of horror, Lovecraft himself vehemently disavowed any belief in the paranormal (see reference below). He also became an athiest and materialist. I think the fact that an ordinary watchdog could kill the monstrous Wilbur is more a statement from a materialist's view that the ordinary often conquers the outrageous. However, the terms 1692 and Salem are quite often found in couched and outright references in Lovecraft's work.

 

When description of the mountains crowned with stone pillars first appeared, I had to wonder if the pillars had statuettes on top of them. But it goes on to describe these as columns of stone in a circuluar pattern. Immediately this brings to mind Stonehenge, which, at the time, was believed to be a site of druid ritual.


The Dunwich Horror has been the basis for more things than we can probably count: movies, radio programs, games, toys and maybe even fashion. :smileywink: Anyone who is familiar with this tale can find bits and pieces of it in almost every work of horror today. The Jersey Devil, by James F. McGloy and Ray Miller, Jr., is almost step-by-step a retelling of The Dunwich Horror.

 

Here is an excellent article about Lovecraft, by Daniel Harms, published in the 2004 edition of ForteanTimes:
"...To begin with, it’s clear that Lovecraft himself had no belief whatsoever in the occult. As a youth, he had come to doubt the Christian faith of his family, and explored the beliefs of the Greeks, Muslims, Egyptians, and Hindus. None of these satisfied him, and he turned to atheism and scepticism as the only possible alternatives. In 1925, he wrote to his friend Clark Ashton Smith, saying: "I am, indeed, an absolute materialist so far as actual belief goes; with not a shred of credence in any form of supernaturalism – religion, spiritualism, transcendentalism, metempsychosis, or immortality". Anyone who wrote to him asking if the gods and occult tomes mentioned in his stories were real would receive a polite letter stating his disbelief in such notions."


http://www.forteantimes.com/features/profiles/153/hp_lovecraft.html


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dalnewt
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Re: Re:The Dunwich Horror

[ Edited ]

Desert_Brat wrote:

dalnewt wrote:

...I immediately connected up the founding of Dunwich by the original families with the Salem witch trials, but I don't think witchcraft, per se, has anything to do with distinguishing the 'decayed' from 'undecayed' branches of the families...

 

...Plus, the story starts out with a description of the hills as being haunted by unseen spirits and providing a site for strange rituals by Indians long before the land was settled. 

 

...IMO, the conversion of the church into the general store indicates that community had apparently abandoned participation in any organized religion and, perhaps, has lost its reverence for religion.

 

...but Wilbur's death at the jaws of a mere watchdog was anticlimactic. What kind of a 'monster' dies by dog bite?


From your Wiki reprint post on Chapter 1 above:

"Dunwich's historical connection with "[W]itch-blood, Satan-worship and strange forest presences" is mentioned as is the retrogression of the inbred and 'repellantly decadent' populace.

"They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligence is woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests, and deeds of almost unnameable violence and perversity. The old gentry, representing the two or three armigerous families which came from Salem in 1692, have kept somewhat above the general level of decay; though many branches are sunk into the sordid populace so deeply that only their names remain as a key to the origin they disgrace."

 

For a long time, the general thought on the Salem witch trials was based in fear and of decadence falling into complete debauchery. Descriptions often included reference to wild orgies of sexual congress between members, family members and creatures of the unknown. Many accusations of witchcraft of the time were based on wantoness and sexual indecency, as opposed to spellcasting.


 

 

dalnewt wrote:

 

There's no question that Lovecraft used the general mystery and moral approbation surrounding witchcraft to add to the story's creepy atmosphere. Old Whateley is referred to as Old Wizard Whateley "about whom the most frightful tales of magic had been whispered in his youth". Further, the gossips of Dunwich recalled that, "he shrieked the dreadful name of Yog-Sothoth in the midst of a circle of stones with a great book open in his arms before him."

Further the story refers to the Necronomicon as a dreadful book. Nonetheless, a form of witchcraft is utilized by the librarian Armitage to defeat the horror and save the world. Logically what Lovecraft set up is a scenario in which arcane ritual and knowlege of the mystical/supernatural can be used to either call forth evil or defeat it.    

 

I think Lovecraft used whatever he could to establish an atmosphere of lurking dread and alienness. To feed this atmosphere, he added witchcraft and a degenerate indigenous population, but his man focus is the sheer pall of threatening strangeness woven into the setting that extends from the hills to the lowest ravines and is reflected in the fireflies, whippoorwills and wildly growing foliage.

 

I do think that the witchcraft element was emphasized by later stories and films that built upon the Dunwich Horror or used the Lovecraft's backwoods New England setting (e.g. see August Derleth's Witches' Hollow which takes place in an area west of Lovecraft's fictional Arkham.)

 

I don't know why Lovecraft felt the need to add a deteriorated population to the story. I suppose it feeds into the degeneracy exhibited by Old Whateley and his family. Note, within The Picture in the House, Lovecraft wrote that, "the true epicure of the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteem most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous." (See Lovecraft Country and Wikipedia's Lovecraft Country.)

 

Excluding Old Whateley and his family, I didn't see any evidence of this degeneracy within the supporting village characters. Admittedly they were ignorant and slow witted, but beyond stupidity and ignorance, no moral degeneracy was displayed.

 

 


 

Desert_Brat wrote:

 

Upon further reflection, I think perhaps the conversion of the church into a general store was one of Lovecraft's slights at organized religions. Despite is masterful tales of horror, Lovecraft himself vehemently disavowed any belief in the paranormal (see reference below). He also became an athiest and materialist. I think the fact that an ordinary watchdog could kill the monstrous Wilbur is more a statement from a materialist's view that the ordinary often conquers the outrageous. However, the terms 1692 and Salem are quite often found in couched and outright references in Lovecraft's work.


dalnewt wrote:

 

You may be right. Lovecraft apparently didn't hold any religious beliefs. But in this story I think that the tale of the disappeared preacher and use of the church as a store is chiefly used to show that the village had become isolated from society and, perhaps, held no belief in god and/or reverence for organized religion.

 


Desert_Brat wrote:

 

When description of the mountains crowned with stone pillars first appeared, I had to wonder if the pillars had statuettes on top of them. But it goes on to describe these as columns of stone in a circular pattern. Immediately this brings to mind Stonehenge, which, at the time, was believed to be a site of druid ritual.


 

dalnewt wrote:

 

The stone circle on Sentinel Hill certainly called Stonehenge and supposed druid rituals to mind.  And, Lovecraft added an altar stone, (perhaps from the Incan or Aztec sources), calling up images of human sacrifice. 

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dalnewt
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The Dunwich Horror: Chapter IX

Friday morning Armitage, Rice and Morgan drove to Dunwich arriving in early afternoon. They examined the ruins of the Fry farm, saw the gigantic prints and tarry residue, viewed the surviving Bishop cattle and interviewed the villagers. The saw the trail up and down Sentinel Hill and noted the altar stone on its top. The were apprised that five policemen from Aylesbury had arrived earlier, but when the men sought out the policemen all they found was an empty car in the Frye yard.

 

 

The villagers who accompanied the men had no explanation until old Frank Hutchins turned pale and pointed to the dank deep hollow of Cold Spring Glen. Gawd,” he gasped, “I telled ’em not ter go daown into the glen, an’ I never thought nobody’d dew it with them track an’ that smell an’ the whippoorwill a-screechin’' daown thar in the dark o’ noonday….”

 

The men knew that night would shortly fall bringing the monstrosity up from the glen. Armitage rehearsed the formulae he’d memorized and clutched an alternative one he’s written on paper. He checked that the flashlight worked. Rice removed a metal sprayer ordinarily used for combating insects from a valise. Morgan uncased a big game rife that he insisted on bringing despite his colleague’s warning that no material weapon would be effective against the horror.

 

As the shadows lengthened, the men informed the villagers of their intention to stand guard over the Frye ruins near the glen. Shaking their heads, the villagers hurried away anxious to get home and bolt their doors. The hills rumbled that night and the whippoorwills piped threateningly. Periodically the wind swept up out of Cold Spring Glen bringing a touch of the same ‘foetor’ that the men smelled when standing over the monstrous ruin Wilbur Whateley.  But the terror did not appear.

 

The morning rose with a wan light. During the grey, bleak day a drizzle became a heavy rain. The men were undecided about what to do. Sheltering in one of the remaining Frye outbuildings, they debated the wisdom of waiting or pursuing the terror down in the glen. The rain waxed, and the men were assaulted by peals accompanied by flashes of lightning. Darkness fell and the men heard a babble of voices from the direction of the road. Then a group of about a dozen running, shouting and whimpering male villages came into view.

 

One of the villagers relating that a boy trying to bring down a herd of cattle after a close lightning strike had seen the trees bending at the mouth of Cold Spring Glen opposite to where they stood now. The boy had never been able to see what caused the trees to bend, but he heard a swishing, lapping sound and eventually spotted the huge prints, tarry residue and smelled the distinctive stench. Near the road he saw the trees and brushes bending in a broad swath ahead of him, but couldn’t see what was causing it.

 

Another village man interrupted telling Armitage and his group about the Bishop housekeeper and her frenzied report made over the party line. First she reported seeing the trees bend on the road beside the house. Then, she yelled that she heard an odd puffing and stomping sound like an elephant and smelled an awful stench. She screamed that the shed had suddenly caved in and that the picket fence crumpled to pieces. Listeners could hear Seth Bishop and the housekeeper’s son yelling in the background as the housekeeper shrieked that something invisible was hitting the house again and again. Then, the voices and noise over the line went dead. The village man said that they’d just come from the Bishop place. There was no house remaining and the yard reeked with the same stench and showed the same black tarry residue. At that point Armitage said:


'We must follow it, boys." He made his voice as reassuring as possible. "I believe there's a chance of putting it out of business. You men know that those Whateleys were wizards—well, this thing is a thing of wizardry, and must be put down by the same means. I've seen Wilbur Whateley's diary and read some of the strange old books he used to read; and I think I know the right kind of spell to recite to make the thing fade away. Of course, one can't be sure, but we can always take a chance. It's invisible—I knew it would be—but there's powder in this long-distance sprayer that might make it show up for a second. Later on we'll try it. It's a frightful thing to have alive, but it isn't as bad as what Wilbur would have let in if he'd lived longer. You'll never know what the world escaped. Now we've only this one thing to fight, and it can't multiply. It can, though, do a lot of harm; so we mustn't hesitate to rid the community of it. We must follow it—and the way to begin is to go to the place that has just been wrecked. Let somebody lead the way—I don't know your roads very well, but I've an idea there might be a shorter cut across lots. How about it?"

 

The villagers pointed out a cross-field shortcut to the Bishop place. As the Arkham men forged ahead, the villagers trailed behind. From the scene of the Bishop destruction, all followed the unmistakable prints that led past the Whateley ruin to the wide cut swath leading up to the summit of Sentinel Hill. Armitage produced a pocket telescope and passed it to the younger, keener-eyed Morgan. Morgan gazed thru the telescope and cried out sharply. Then, he handed the scope to the native Earl Sawyer while pointing out a particular spot on the hill. Sawyer yelled out, “Gawd almighty, the grass an’ bushes is a’movin! It’s a-going up—slow-like—creepin’—up ter the top this minute, heaven only knows what fur!” The village men lost their courage and started questioning Armitage. It was one thing to follow a nameless entity, but another thing to actually find it.

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dalnewt
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The Dunwich Horror: Chapter X

[ Edited ]

The three Arkham men, (old, white-bearded Dr. Armitage; stocky, iron-grey Professor Rice; and, lean, youngish Dr. Morgan), ascended the mountain. They left the telescope with the frightful group of villagers that remained on the road below. It was a hard ascent, and Armitage had to be helped more than once. Above the toiling group, the great swath trembled as its hellish maker ascended with snail-like deliberation.

 

The Arkham party detoured from the swath and attained a subordinate peak that overlooked the entity's path at a point considerably ahead of where the shrubbery was now bending. Corey took the scope and cried out that Armitage was adjusting the sprayer that Rice held before him. The crowd stirred and recalled that the sprayer was expected to give the unseen horror a moment of visibility. Some of the men closed their eyes, but Curtis Whateley snatched back the telescope straining his vision. He saw that the party’s point of vantage had an excellent chance of spreading the powder.

 

Those without a telescope saw an instant flash of grey cloud about the size of a moderately large building near the top of the mountain. Peering through the telescope Curtis Whateley shrieked and dropped the telescope in ankle deep mud. He reeled and crumpled to the ground moaning, “Oh, oh, great Gawd . . . that . . . that. . . .” A pandemonium of questioning ensued. Curtis eventually choked out:


“Bigger’n a barn . . . all made o’squirmin’ ropes . . hull thing short o’shaped like a hen’s egg bigger’n anything with dozens o’ legs like hogsheads that haff shut up when they step . . . nothin’ solid abaout it—all like jelly, an’ made o’ sept’rit wrigglin’ ropes pushed clost together  . . .  great bulgin’ eyes all over it . . . ten or twenty maouths or trunks a-stickin’ aout all along the sides, big as stove-pipes, an’ all a-tossin’ an’ openin’ an’ shuttin’. . . all grey, with kinder blue or purple rings . . . an’ Gawd in Heaven – that Haff face on top! . . . “

 

With that exclamation, Curtis lost consciousness. The village men carried him to the grassy roadside,  Henry Wheeler rescued the telescope, wiped the mud from it and discerned three tiny figures running toward the summit. The piping noise of enumerable whippoorwills erupted with an evil note of expectancy from  the deep valley below.  Earl Sawyer grabbed the scope and reported that three small figures stood on the uppermost ridge level with altar stone but a considerable distance from it. One figure seemed to be raising its hands above its head at rhythmic intervals, and the crowd soon heard a faint, half-musical sound from the distance. The chant was accompanied by gestures. Henry Wheeler snatched back the scope and whispered, “I guess he’s sayin’ the spell.” The whippoorwills piped more wildly in an irregular rhythm out of pace with the ritual above.

 

Suddenly the sun dimmed and a sound rumbled from the sky above and ground below. Lightning flashed, and the chanting of the Arkham men became unmistakable. Wheeler saw through the glass that all the Arkham men were now raising their arms in rhythmic incantation. The frantic barking of dogs was heard from a distant farmhouse.

 

A purplish darkness born of a spectral deepening of the sky’s blue pressed down upon the rumbling hills. Lightning flashed again brighter than before, and the crowd noticed a mistiness gathering about the altar-stone. The whippoorwills continued their irregular cries, and the Dunwich men braced themselves against the imponderable menace of the supercharged atmosphere.

 

In a ghastly, infra-bass timbre, a loud, deep, voice cracked out from the altar stone:

 

“Ygnaiih  . . . Ygnaiih . . .  thfthkh’ngha . . . Yog-Sothoth . . .  Ybthnk . . . h’ehye—n’grkdl’lh….” 

 

Then, it stopped as if some frightful struggle was going on. The villagers saw the Arkham men waving their arms furiously in strange gestures. Then the in-human voice boomed out again:


Eh-y-ya-ya-yahaah—e'yayayaaaa... ngh'aaaaa... ngh'aaa... h'yuh... h'yuh... HELP! HELP! ...ff—ff—ff—FATHER! FATHER! YOG-SOTHOTH!...

 

A deafening peal split the air and earth. A single lightning bolt shot from the purpled zenith to the altar stone. A great concussion wave of nameless force and indescribable stench swept down the hill to all the countryside. Men were hurled off their feet and almost asphyxiated by the stench. Trees, grass and brush were whipped into a fury and, then, turned a sickly yellow-grey. Dogs howled from a distance, and the bodies of dead whippoorwills fell across the land.   

 

The Arkham men slowly descended the mountain as the sunshine returned. Solemnly they approached the villagers who were reduced to a state of cowed quivering. In answer to garbled questions from the natives, Armitage answered.

 

“The thing has gone for ever,” Armitage said. “It has been split up into what it was originally made of, and can never exist again. It was an impossibility in a normal world. Only the least fraction was really matter in any sense we know. It was like its father—and most of it has gone back to him in some vague realm or dimension outside our material universe; some vague abyss out of which only the most accursed rites of human blasphemy could ever have called him for a moment on the hills.”

 

In the brief silence that followed, Curtis Whateley, who had regained consciousness, moaned and burst out saying:

 

“Oh, oh, my Gawd, that haff face—that haff face on top of it... that face with the red eyes an' crinkly albino hair, an' no chin, like the Whateleys... It was a octopus, centipede, spider kind o' thing, but they was a haff-shaped man's face on top of it, an' it looked like Wizard Whateley's, only it was yards an' yards acrost....”

 

Then he paused and spoke aloud again:

 

Fifteen year' gone," he rambled, '"heered Ol' Whateley say as haow some day we'd hear a child o' Lavinny's a-callin' its father's name on the top o' Sentinel Hill...”

 

Joe Osborn interrupted and asked, “What was it anyahow, an however did young Wizard Whateley call it aout o’ the air it come from?” And, Armitage again responded:

 

“It was—well, it was mostly a kind of force that doesn't belong in our part of space; a kind of force that acts and grows and shapes itself by other laws than those of our sort of Nature. We have no business calling in such things from outside, and only very wicked people and very wicked cults ever try to. There was some of it in Wilbur Whateley himself—enough to make a devil and a precocious monster of him, and to make his passing out a pretty terrible sight. I'm going to burn his accursed diary, and if you men are wise you'll dynamite that altar-stone up there, and pull down all the rings of standing stones on the other hills. Things like that brought down the beings those Whateleys were so fond of—the beings they were going to let in tangibly to wipe out the human race and drag the earth off to some nameless place for some nameless purpose.”

 

”But as to this thing we've just sent back—the Whateleys raised it for a terrible part in the doings that were to come. It grew fast and big from the same reason that Wilbur grew fast and big—but it beat him because it had a greater share of the outsideness in it. You needn't ask how Wilbur called it out of the air. He didn't call it out. It was his twin brother, but it looked more like the father than he did.”

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dalnewt
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter X

I really like the creepy atmosphere, the buildup and the other-dimensional monsters created by Lovecraft in this story. I also like the mystery about the entity in the Whateley farmhouse. I knew it was some kind of a monster, but I really wasn't sure about its origin.

 

Did anyone suspect that the Horror would turn out to be Wilbur's brother? I knew that the Horror came when Wilbur was born, (after all that's when Old Whateley started gutting the upstairs),  but I had no idea that the Horror would turn out to be Wilbur's brother.

 

This story differed from some of the other Lovecraft tales by basically having a positive ending to a confrontation with one of Lovecraft's monsters. I liked the ending, but I still prefer Lovecraft ending where the human pay a price for having knowledge of other-dimensional entities.

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carusmm
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter X


dalnewt wrote:

I really like the creepy atmosphere, the buildup and the other-dimensional monsters created by Lovecraft in this story. I also like the mystery about the entity in the Whateley farmhouse. I knew it was some kind of a monster, but I really wasn't sure about its origin.

 

Did anyone suspect that the Horror would turn out to be Wilbur's brother? I knew that the Horror came when Wilbur was born, (after all that's when Old Whateley started gutting the upstairs),  but I had no idea that the Horror would turn out to be Wilbur's brother.

 

This story differed from some of the other Lovecraft tales by basically having a positive ending to a confrontation with one of Lovecraft's monsters. I liked the ending, but I still prefer Lovecraft ending where the human pay a price for having knowledge of other-dimensional entities.


I agree.

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KristyR
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter X

I really liked the creepiness at the beginning of the story.  The mood he was able to create is palpable - it's as if you are there experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells with the narrator.  It is amazing how many other stories came to mind as I was reading, how many authors and movie producers must have been influenced by Lovecraft!  

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KristyR
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter X

I was surprised that the watchdog was able to take out Wilbur.  That just didn't seem right.  

 

He was even able to make the birds and fireflies sinister.  How is it even possible to make fireflies seem sinister????

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dalnewt
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Re: The Dunwich Horror: Chapter X

[ Edited ]

 


KristyR wrote:

I was surprised that the watchdog was able to take out Wilbur.  That just didn't seem right.  

 

He was even able to make the birds and fireflies sinister.  How is it even possible to make fireflies seem sinister????



I absolutely loved how Lovecraft used the New England legend of whippoorwills as psychopomps and converted those unassuming nightbirds into menacing soul eaters that appear at the time of death and chitter in time with the labored breathing of the dying. Lovecraft makes them villains that presumably consume the soul at death. (See Wikipedia on the meaning of Psychopomp.) In reality, whippoorwills are small, unassuming birds. (See Wikipedia at whippoorwills.) The birds nocturnal habits presumably led to the legend about ushering the souls of the dead to the afterlife, but Lovecraft turned them into a multitudinous flock of little raucous villains. 

 

I wonder if anyone else has used whippoorwills or fireflies to create a spooky atmosphere?