HP Lovecraft was one of the greatest ever writers of terror-filled short stories. In this collection you will hear ten of his finest works read by acclaimed British actor, Rupert Degas. From mysterious hounds and dank dark caves, to strange family ties and a spectral ship.
Story One – The Beast In The Cave
A man touring Mammoth Cave separates from his guide and becomes lost. His torch expires and he is giving up hope of finding a way out in the pitch dark, when he hears strange non-human footsteps approaching him. Thinking it to be a lost mountain lion or other such beast, he picks up a stone and throws it toward the source of the sound. The beast is hit and crumples to the floor. The guide finds the protagonist back, and together they examine the fallen creature with the guide’s torchlight.
Story Two – Beyond The Wall Of Sleep
An intern in a mental hospital relates his experience with Joe Slater, an inmate who died at the facility a few weeks after being confined as a criminally insane murderer. During the third night of his confinement, Slater has the first of his “attacks”. He bursts from an uneasy sleep into a frenzy so violent it takes four orderlies to strait-jacket him. For nearly fifteen minutes he gives vent to an incredible rant. As an undergraduate, the intern had built but never tested a device for two-way telepathic communication. The device was designed around his principle that thought was ultimately a form of radiant energy. Heedless of any ethics, he attaches himself with Slater to the device as Slater lies near death. With the device switched on, he receives a message from a being of light whose experiences had been what were transmitted through the medium of Joe Slater.
Story Three – Cool Air
The tale opens up in the spring of 1923 with the narrator looking for housing in New York City, finally settling in a converted brownstone on West Fourteenth Street. Eventually, a chemical leak from the floor above reveals that the inhabitant directly overhead is a strange, old, and reclusive doctor. One day the narrator suffers a heart attack, and remembering that a doctor lives directly above, heads there, culminating in his first meeting with Dr. Muñoz. The doctor shows supreme medical skill and saves the narrator with a concoction of drugs, resulting in the fascinated narrator returning regularly to sit and learn from the doctor, his new friend. As their talks continue, it becomes increasingly evident that the doctor has an obsession with defying death through all available means.
Story Four – The Festival
The story is set at Christmas time: “It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind.” An unnamed narrator is making his first visit to Kingsport, Massachusetts, an “ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten.” The town he comes to, which shows little sign of habitation, seems centuries out of date. He locates his relatives’ house, which has an overhanging second story, and is greeted by an unspeaking old man with “flabby hands, curiously gloved,” and a “bland face” that he comes to suspect is “a fiendishly cunning mask”. This mysterious greeter directs him to wait next to a pile of old books that includes a Latin translation of the Necronomicon, wherein he discovers “a thought and a legend too hideous for sanity or consciousness.” At the stroke of 11, he is led outside to join a “throng of cowled, cloaked figures that poured silently from every doorway”, heading to the “top of a high hill in the centre of the town, where perched a great white church.” He follows the silent crowd, “jostled by elbows that seemed preternaturally soft, and pressed by chests and stomachs that seemed abnormally pulpy”, into the church. The procession enters a secret passageway below the crypt, eventually coming to “a vast fungous shore litten by a belching column of sick greenish flame and washed by a wide oily river that flowed from abysses frightful and unsuspected to join the blackest gulfs of immemorial ocean.” There they engage in a “Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him”, while “something amorphously squatted far away from the light, piping noisomely on a flute.”
Story Five – Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn & His Family
The story begins by describing the ancestors of Sir Arthur Jermyn, a British nobleman. His great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Wade Jermyn, had been an early explorer of the Congo region, whose books on a mysterious white civilization there had been ridiculed. He had been confined to an asylum in 1765. Lovecraft describes how the Jermyn family has a peculiar physical appearance that began to appear in the children of Wade Jermyn and his mysterious and reclusive wife, whom Wade claimed was Portuguese. Wade’s son, Philip Jermyn, was a sailor that joined the navy after fathering his son, and disappeared from his ship one night as it lay off the Congo coast. Philip’s son, Robert Jermyn, was a scientist who made two expeditions into the interior of Africa. He married a daughter of the (fictional) 7th Viscount Brightholme and fathered three sons, one of which, Nevil Jermyn, had a son, Alfred, who was Arthur Jermyn’s father. In 1852, Robert Jermyn met with an explorer, Samuel Seaton, who described “a grey city of white apes ruled by a white god”. Robert killed the explorer after hearing this, as well as all three of his sons. Nevil Jermyn managed to save his son Alfred before his death. Alfred Jermyn grew up to inherit his grandfather’s title, but abandoned his wife and child to join a circus, where he became fascinated with a gorilla “of lighter colour than the average”. He became its trainer, but was killed in Chicago after an incident in which he attacked the gorilla. Arthur Jermyn inherited the family possessions, and moved into Jermyn House with his mother. Arthur Jermyn is described as having a very unusual appearance, and supposedly the strangest in the line descended from Sir Wade Jermyn. Arthur became a scholar, eventually visiting the Belgian Congo on a research expedition, where he heard tales of a stone city of white apes and the stuffed body of white ape goddess, which had since gone missing. Returning to a trading post, Arthur talks to a Belgian agent who offers to obtain and ship the goddess’ body to him. Arthur accepts his offer and returns to England. After a period of several months, the body arrives at Jermyn House. Arthur begins his examination of the mummy, only to run screaming from the room and later commit suicide by dousing himself in oil and setting himself alight.
Story Six – The Alchemist
The story is recounted by the protagonist, Count Antoine de C-, in the first person. Hundreds of years ago, Antoine’s noble ancestor was responsible for the death of a dark wizard, Michel Mauvais. The wizard’s son, Charles le Sorcier, swore revenge on not only him but all his descendants, cursing them to die on reaching the age of 32. The protagonist recounts how his ancestors all died in some mysterious way around the age of 32. The line has dwindled and the castle has been left to fall into disrepair, tower by tower. Finally, Antoine is the only one left, with one poor servant, Pierre, who raised him, and a tiny section of the castle with a single tower is still usable. Antoine has reached adulthood, and his 32nd year is approaching. His servant dies, leaving him completely alone, and he begins exploring the ruined parts of the castle. He finds a trapdoor in one of the oldest parts. Below, he discovers a passage with a locked door at the end. Just as he turns to leave, he hears a noise behind him and sees that the door is open and someone is standing in it…
Story Seven – From Beyond
The story is told from the first person perspective of an unnamed narrator and details his experiences with a scientist named Crawford Tillinghast. Tillinghast creates an electronic device that emits a resonance wave, which stimulates an affected person’s pineal gland, thereby allowing them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality. Sharing the experience with Tillinghast, the narrator becomes cognizant of a translucent, alien environment that overlaps our own recognized reality. From this perspective, he witnesses hordes of strange and horrific creatures that defy description. Tillinghast reveals that he has used his machine to transport two of his house servants into the overlapping plane of reality. He also reveals that the effect works both ways, and allows the denizens of the alternate dimension to perceive humans. Tillinghast’s house servants were attacked and killed by one such entity, and Tillinghast informs the narrator that it is right behind him. Terrified beyond measure, the narrator picks up a gun and shoots it at the machine, destroying it.
Story Eight – The Hound
The story focuses around the narrator and his friend St. John, who have a sickly interest in robbing graves. They constantly defile crypts and often keep souvenirs of their nocturnal expeditions. Since they reside in the same house, they have the opportunity to set up a sort of morbid museum in their basement. Using the objects they collect from the various graves they have robbed, they organize the private exhibition. The collection consists of headstones, preserved bodies, skulls and several heads in different phases of decomposition. It also included statues, frightful paintings and a locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin. One day, they learn of a particular grave, which sparks a profound interest in them, an old grave in a Holland cemetery, which holds a legendary tomb raider within. One who was said to have stolen, many years ago, a “potent thing from a mighty sepulcher”. One night, they travel to this old cemetery where the ancient “ghoul” was buried. The thought of exhuming the final resting place of a former grave robber is irresistibly appealing to them. That, and the fact that the body had been buried several centuries before, drives them to travel such long distances to reach the site. Upon reaching the old cemetery, they notice the distant baying of a giant hound. They ignore it and begin their excavation. After a while of digging they hit a solid object in the ground. They clear the last of the dirt from it and happen upon a strange and elaborately made coffin. Upon opening the casket, they are surprised to find that after several centuries the remains are still intact. Several places, on the skeletal remains, seem torn and shattered, as if attacked by a wild animal. Yet the whole of the skeleton is still completely distinguishable. At that moment, they notice a jade amulet hanging from the “ghoul’s” neck. They examine it and after a bit of observation they recognize the amulet as one mentioned in “the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred”. They immediately know they must have the amulet at all cost. They remove it from the skeleton and flee to their homes. As they do, they notice once again the continuous sound of a hound’s baying in the distance. Even as they return home, strange sounds can be heard in their house, including the distant sound of the hound.
Story Nine – The Descendant
Lord Northam is a “harmlessly mad” Londoner who “who screams when the church bells ring.” Once a “scholar and aesthete” who studied at Harrow and Oxford, he has become “thin and grey and wrinkled” before his time and “seeks…not to think” through “books of the tamest and most puerile kind”. He only begins to explain the fear he lives under when confronted with a copy of the Necronomicon. “The Descendant” is a story fragment by H. P. Lovecraft, believed to have been written in 1927.
Story Ten – The White Ship
A lighthouse keeper named Basil Elton engages upon a peculiar fantasy in which a bearded man piloting a mystical white ship is found sailing upon a bridge of moonlight. Elton joins the bearded man on this ship, and together they explore a mystical chain of islands unlike anything that can be found on Earth. They travel to the majestic city of Thalarian, City of a Thousand Wonders. They pass Akariel, the huge carven gate, and navigate through the river Narg. They visit Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained. They finally settle in Sona-Nyl, Land of Fancy, where Elton spends a period of time living in what seems to be a perfect society. In his time in Sona-Nyl, Basil learns of Cathuria, the Land of Hope. Though no man truly knows where Cathuria is or what lies there, Elton is thrilled with the idea, and urges the bearded man to take him there; a request which the latter reluctantly obliges to. After a perilous journey to where the crew believes Cathuria to be, the ship instead finds itself at the edge of the world!