THE DUNWICH HORROR
by H.P. Lovecraft
Background: First published in 1929 in Weird Tales, this story expands the Cthulhu mythos and takes place somewhere in Massachusetts. Lovecraft wrote in a letter to August Derleth that the story “takes place amongst the wild domed hills of the upper Miskatonic Valley […] and is based on several old New England legends” and that its location is “a vague echo of the decadent Massachusetts countryside.”
Lovecraft himself said the story was “so fiendish that [Weird Tales] editor Farnsworth Wright may not dare to print it.” He did, of course, for $240 ($2800 today… good god, if only I could make that much money on a single short story!).
I admit, I just wrote a story about a woman who is pregnant with something that is not quite human, and it was somewhat inspired by certain aspects of “The Dunwich Horror.”
What it’s about: In the town of Dunwich lives Wilbur Whateley, the son of a deformed albino woman and an unknown father (the name “Yog-Sothoth” gets thrown around though). He grows quickly and begins to study the Necronomicon, desiring to initiate the return of the “Old Ones,” including Yog-Sothoth. He and his grandfather seem to have captured an invisible dark presence at their farmhouse; it grows to a monstrous size as cattle begin to disappear, as does Wilbur’s mother.
Wilbur’s translated copy of the Necronomicon is not quite as good as he would like, so he goes to Miskatonic University to acquire an original Latin copy of the dark text. When the librarian refuses to give it to him, Wilbur breaks into the library at night to steal it, and a guard dog attacks and kills him. His corpse is found to be not completely human…
But it turns out that Wilbur Whateley is not the worst horror in Dunwich. The mysterious presence in the farmhouse eventually escapes, and the invisible beast gets loose in the town, leaving prints the size of tree trunks and attacking farm animals. In the end, we learn [SPOILER ALERT] that it is the twin brother of Wilbur Whateley, though it “looked more like the father than Wilbur did.”
Why it will keep you up at night: You read through the story knowing there’s something really off about Wilbur; he’s creepy and practicing dark magic, and he wants to revive the dormant old gods of Lovecraft’s mythology. That’s pretty sinister and in and of itself, but the punch in the gut is when the nature of the invisible monster is revealed: here you are, thinking Wilbur’s the Dunwich horror, and it turns out he was only the tip of the iceberg… his twin brother is much, much worse. The creep-factor goes up if you’re more scared of what you can’t see, since that thing is invisible (so you can only imagine the grotesqueries of its appearance), making it awfully hard to pin down and kill.