Arkham

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For other uses, see Arkham (disambiguation).
A map of Arkham, Massachusetts
Detailed map of Lovecraft Country, showing one possible location of Arkham.

Arkham is a fictional city in Massachusetts, part of the Lovecraft Country setting created by H. P. Lovecraft and is featured in many of his stories, as well as those of other Cthulhu Mythos writers.

Arkham House, a publishing company started by two of Lovecraft's correspondents, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, takes its name from this city as a tribute.[1]

Arkham in Lovecraft's stories[edit]

The Thing on the Doorstep[2]


What lay behind our joint love of shadows and marvels was, no doubt, the ancient,
mouldering, and subtly fearsome town in which we live - witch-cursed, legend-haunted
Arkham, whose huddled, sagging gambrel roofs and crumbling Georgian balustrades
brood out the centuries beside the darkly muttering Miskatonic.

—HP Lovecraft

Arkham is the home of Miskatonic University, which figures prominently in many of Lovecraft's works. The institution finances the expeditions in both At the Mountains of Madness (1936) and The Shadow Out of Time (1936). Walter Gilman, of "The Dreams in the Witch House" (1933), attends classes at the university. Other notable institutions in Arkham are the Arkham Historical Society and the Arkham Sanitarium. It is said in "Herbert West—Reanimator" that the town was devastated by a typhoid outbreak in 1905.

Lovecraft's Crowninshield House in The Thing on the Doorstep was modelled on the real Crowninshield-Bentley House in Salem, Massachusetts.

Arkham's main newspaper is the Arkham Advertiser, which has a circulation that reaches as far as Dunwich. In the 1880s, its newspaper is called the Arkham Gazette.

Arkham’s most notable characteristics are its gambrel roofs and the dark legends that have surrounded the city for centuries. The disappearance of children (presumably murdered in ritual sacrifices) at May Eve and other "bad doings" are accepted as a part of life for the poorer citizens of the city.

Location[edit]

The precise location of Arkham is unspecified, although it is probably near both Innsmouth and Dunwich. However, it may be surmised from Lovecraft's stories that it is some distance to the north of Boston, probably in Essex County, Massachusetts.[3]

A more recent mapping of Lovecraft Country reinforces this suggestion, with Arkham being situated close to the location of Gordon College; in Lovecraft's work this would presumably be replaced by Miskatonic University itself. The real-life model for Arkham seems to be, in fact, Salem, its reputation for the occult appealing to one who dabbles in the weird tale.[4]

Arkham Sanitarium appears in the short story "The Thing on the Doorstep" and may have been inspired by the Danvers State Insane Asylum, aka Danvers State Hospital, located in Danvers, Massachusetts.[5] (Danvers State Hospital also appears in Lovecraft's stories "Pickman's Model" and The Shadow over Innsmouth.).

Appearances[edit]

Lovecraft's fiction[edit]

Note: dates are the year written.

Arkham first appeared in Lovecraft's short story "The Picture in the House" (1920)—the story is also the first to mention "Miskatonic". It also appears in other stories by Lovecraft, including:

Other authors[edit]

Arkham also appears in the Cthulhu Mythos tales of other writers since Lovecraft's death. Among them:

Other appearances[edit]

Literature[edit]

Film and television[edit]

Comics[edit]

Games[edit]

  • Arkham is a setting for roleplaying games based on the Mythos, such as Call of Cthulhu.
  • The third Shadow Hearts video game (Shadow Hearts: From the New World) features a visit to the fictional Arkham University, based in Boston, Massachusetts. H. P. Lovecraft himself appears as a professor at the university, conjuring up demons for the heroes to fight at their request.
  • Arkham is one of the antagonists in the video game Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, the father of "Lady". It is also noted that the character Arkham's alter ego is Jester, a character that closely resembles the DC comics character Joker and his mutated demonic form in one of the boss battles closely resembles the Cthulhu Mythos monstrosities.
  • In the web-based roleplaying game Urban Dead, there are two suburbs, named Old Arkham and New Arkham. Some players have even started to refer to a specific area as Miskatonic University.
  • Arkham Horror is a cooperative adventure board-game themed around H.P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. The game has players exploring the town of Arkham as they attempt to stop unmentionable horrors from spilling into the world.
  • MechWarrior 2 features a level named Arkham Bridge with a song so entitled.
  • The city of New Arcadia from Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is a spoof of Arkham.
  • In the game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, the main character, private detective Jack Walters, is admitted to the Arkham Mental Institution after seeing Yithian creatures and hence becoming seemingly insane during a raid of a Boston home.
  • In the stealth action game Batman: Arkham Asylum, gameplay takes place inside the Arkham Asylum Mental Health Care Facility. It also appears in its sequels Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Origins.
  • In the MMORPG World Of Warcraft: Wrath Of The Lich King, the monster 'Darkspeaker R'khem' is named after Arkham.
  • Splatterhouse (2010 video game) takes place in the setting of Arkham, Massachusetts.
  • There is a street called Arkham Avenue in Kingsmoth, the first Area of the MMORPG The Secret World.

Music[edit]

  • Grindcore band Discordance Axis have a song entitled Radiant Arkham.
  • Avant-garde rock artist Bob Drake's song, "Kaziah's Pet," is set in Arkham.
  • Deathrock band Rudimentary Peni not only makes a reference to Arkham in their song "Arkham Hearse", but also numerous other H. P. Lovecraft references throughout their musical catalogue.
  • Alt-country musician Ryan Adams wrote a song called "Arkham Asylum," which he and The Cardinals have performed live since September 18, 2006.
  • Heavy-metal band High on Fire mentions Arkham in a song entitled "The Face of Oblivion" on the album "Blessed Black Wings".
  • Hip Hop group Common Market (band) wrote a song called "Escaping Arkham"[6] one of five songs on the album "The Winter's End EP".

See also[edit]

Other fictional settings from the stories of H. P. Lovecraft:

References[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

  • Lovecraft, Howard P.
    • At the Mountains of Madness, and Other Novels (7th corrected printing), S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1985. ISBN 0-87054-038-6. Definitive version.
    • Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1987. ISBN 0-87054-039-4. Definitive version.
    • The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing), S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1984. ISBN 0-87054-037-8. Definitive version.

Secondary sources[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Harms, Daniel (1998). "Arkham". The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed. ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. p. 10. ISBN 1-56882-119-0. 
  • Joshi, S. T.; David E. Schultz (2001). "Arkham". An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-313-31578-7. 

Web sites[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cf. "About Arkham House" web site.
  2. ^ "Lovecraft, Howard P. (1999) [1933]. "The Thing on the Doorstep". In S. T. Joshi and Peter Cannon (eds.). More Annotated Lovecraft (1st ed.).". New York City, NY: Dell. ISBN 0-440-50875-4. With explanatory footnotes. 1999 (1933).  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  3. ^ The actual location of Arkham is a subject of debate. Will Murray places Arkham in central Massachusetts and suggests that it is based on the small village of Oakham. Robert D. Marten rejects this claim and equates Arkham with Salem, and thinks that Arkham is named for Arkwright, Rhode Island (which is now part of Fiskville). Lovecraft himself, in a letter to F. Lee Baldwin dated April 29, 1934, wrote that "[my] mental picture of Arkham is of a town something like Salem in atmosphere [and] style of houses, but more hilly [and] with a college (which Salem [lacks]) ... I place the town [and] the imaginary Miskatonic [River] somewhere north of Salem—perhaps near Manchester." (Joshi & Schultz, pp. 6–7.)
  4. ^ August Derleth stated in his writings: "Arkham ... was Lovecraft’s own well-known, widely used place-name for legend-haunted Salem, Massachusetts, in his remarkable fiction". (Cf. "About Arkham House" web site.)
  5. ^ Joseph Morales notes in his "A Short Tour of Lovecraftian New England" (web site) that Danvers "is mentioned in passing in some of Lovecraft's stories, and might also be the inspiration for HPL's fictional Arkham Sanitarium".
  6. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnB-gYeRT7U

External links[edit]