Nightgaunts (also Night-Gaunt or night-gaunt) are a fictional race in the Cthulhu Mythos and is also part of H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle. The creatures appear in the poem "Night-Gaunts" and the novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, both by Lovecraft. Nightgaunts were inspired by Lovecraft's childhood nightmares.
Nightgaunts have a vaguely human shape, but are thin, black, and faceless. Their skin is slick and rubbery. They sport a pair of inward-facing horns on their heads, and have clawed hands and a long barbed tail which is used to "tickle" their victims into submission. They can fly using a set of membranous wings. They make no sound.
Nightgaunts are associated with at least two of the Cthulhu Mythos' deities. Lovecraft's own writings, notably "The Strange High House in the Mist", list them as the servants of Nodens, "Lord of the Great Abyss" (a relatively benevolent but still incredibly alien entity among Lovecraft's pantheon). Brian Lumley instead associated them with the creature Yibb-Tstll, noting that they "suckle" at the creature's "black breasts" - suggesting that they possess a mouth, which would seem to contradict Lovecraft's description of them as "faceless", although it is possible that the creature's mouths are somehow concealed, or that Lumley was speaking metaphorically.
Night-gaunts guard Ngranek, an infamous mountain on the isle of Oriab in the Dreamlands. They sometimes capture unwary climbers, tickling them into submission with their claws and barbed tails, and carry them to the lower reaches of the Dreamlands. Nightgaunts are sometimes used as steeds by the ghouls of the deeper Dreamlands, but do not like to fly over bodies of water.
Occurrences in pop culture
- In the computer game Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero, if the player sleeps in unsafe areas of the forest at night, the game will instantly end with a message saying “Looks Like the Night Gaunt Got You.” The accompanying illustration shows a dark silhouette of an unhorned humanoid.
- In the computer game The Battle for Wesnoth, the Nightgaunt is a level 3 undead unit evolved from the Shadow, which in turn is evolved from the Ghost. It appears as a dark, ghostly figure wearing a red and white mask and having a large set of claws on its hands. The Nightgaunt is able to conceal itself from enemies at night and also has the backstab ability when attacking.
- Nightgaunts are referred to in The Sandman comic book, issue 38 ("The Hunt"). The narrator/protagonist claims that he is kin to the Nightgaunt and Dwarrow, and as such has neither allegiance to nor fear of anything.
- Toy Vault released a Nightgaunt plush among its other Lovecraftian-based plushes.
- In the video game Wild Arms, one of the boss characters is named the "Night Gaunt," though its form isn't consistent with Lovecraft's description.
- Two Nightgaunts appear in Infogrames' 1992 videogame Alone in the Dark, guarding a staircase.
- In the novel Idlewild by Nick Sagan, the main character, Halloween, creates nightgaunts to serve as his IVR (Immersive Virtual Reality) minions.
- The Rudimentary Peni song, "Nightgaunts", from the Cacophony album.
- In the webcomic Rhapsodies, Providence, Rhode Island's fictional Major League Baseball team is named the Night-Gaunts
- In The Graveyard Book, a 2008 novel by Neil Gaiman, night-gaunts appear in Chapter 3 ("The Hounds of God"), there is also a brief mention in Chapter 7.
- In the light novel Haiyoru! Nyaroku-san night-gaunts are the main antagonists through the anime.
- Night Gaunts are a ska hip-hop band from New Zealand.
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- Lovecraft, Howard P.  (1985). "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath". In S.T. Joshi (ed.). At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels (7th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-038-6.
- Pearsall, Anthony B. (2005). The Lovecraft Lexicon (1st ed. ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Pub. ISBN 1-56184-129-3.
- Lovecraft once wrote in a letter to a friend: "When I was 6 or 7 I used to be tormented constantly with a peculiar type of recurrent nightmare in which a monstrous race of entities (called by me 'night-gaunts'—I don't know where I got hold of the name) used to snatch me up [and] carry me off... Undoubtedly I derived the [creatures' appearance] from the jumbled memory of Doré drawings (largely the illustrations to 'Paradise Lost') which fascinated me in waking hours." (Pearsall, "NIGHTS-GAUNTS", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 301.)