H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most influential authors of the last centuries. Creator of the Cthulhu universe and author of dozens of terrifying stories, with readers all over the world, Lovecraft influenced the most outstanding horror authors of the last century (Stephen King himself called him “the dark and baroque prince of 20th-century horror history”). If you want to delve into Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, here are some stories to start reading (and not sleep for sure):
The Dunwich Horror
Wilbur Whateley is a strange boy who matures at a much faster rate than other kids his age. He learns to read and write and becomes an adult within 10 years of his birth. His grandfather is said to be a sorcerer who teaches him witchcraft rituals and that, along with his scent, scares people and animals away from the village. Everyone becomes even more suspicious when the grandfather buys multiple pieces of cattle, but he doesn’t seem to have them anymore; on the contrary, they start disappearing. In The Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft discusses elements such as Arkham, the Miskatonic University, the Necronomicon, and Yog-Sothoth, which are central to the Cthulhu mythos.
In this short story, Lovecraft narrates in first person a man’s aversion to cold air, which for him is like sniffing the worst smell in the world. But this disdain is not gratuitous, and he himself tells the reasons: the time when he lived in an apartment in New York and met a strange doctor who was kept alive by the low temperatures.
This is one of H.P. Lovecraft’s first short stories written as an adult. Here he explores the experiences of a sailor attached to morphine. This has its roots in a terrible experience, which led him to meet a terrible nightmarish sea creature. Faced with a shortage the sailor will experience a real-life nightmare.
This is the story of Richard Upton Pickman, a brilliant artist who is rejected by his colleagues because of the grotesqueness of his work. When he mysteriously disappears, one of his friends relates what he saw during a visit to his home studio: a painting with a terrible image that has its inspiration in real life.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
This is Lovecraft’s only novel. It originally began as a short story, but he realized that Charles’ story was worth more than 50,000 words. Charles Dexter is a young man who disappears from a psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island, where he was staying after presenting a sudden and strange change in his behavior. The Ward doctor’s investigation finds that Charles’ disappearance has to do with Joseph Curwen, an alchemist, and necromancer whom he resurrected and who took his place.
This is the story of a man who lives alone in a decaying castle, covered by the shade of gigantic trees, and whose only knowledge of the outside world he has is obtained from the library he owns. One day, determined to break free, he discovers a trapdoor that leads him to a different world; he finds it fascinating but also discovers that it is more terrifying than he imagined.
The Music of Erich Zann
This is one of H.P. Lovecraft’s works that has nothing to do with the Cthulhu universe, but it is beautifully dark in its own right. In Paris, a college student moves into a modest apartment and meets Erich Zann, a violinist who plays strange melodies during the night. Zann, however, hides a secret in his music: something that prevents a dark and terrible destiny from taking hold of him.
The Lurking Fear
A reporter and a monster hunter go to Tempest Mountain, where an attack by an unidentified creature was recorded. With a village destroyed and its inhabitants lost without a trace, the narrator stays at the abandoned Martense Mansion along with two companions. Amidst haunting shadows, they discover what happened to the family that inhabited the place.
The Call of Cthulhu
H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous work served as the basis for the entire Cthulhu mythos and is a good starting point for those who begin to delve into his universe. In this story, the narrator, Francis Wayland Thurston, discovers the notes of his late uncle, in which he speaks of a strange entity that looks like a mixture of octopus, dragon, and human. It is soon revealed that there is an entire cult of Cthulhu and the city of R’lyeh, and those who know of them are in grave danger.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva