The Haunter of the Dark

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"The Haunter of the Dark"
Author H. P. Lovecraft
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror short story
Published in Weird Tales
Publication type Periodical
Media type Print (Magazine)
Publication date December, 1936

"The Haunter of the Dark" is a horror short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in November 1935, and published in the December 1936 edition of Weird Tales (Vol. 28, No. 5, p. 538–53). It is part of the Cthulhu Mythos, and it is a sequel to "The Shambler from the Stars", by Robert Bloch. Bloch later wrote a third story in the sequence, "The Shadow from the Steeple", in 1950. The epigraph to the story is the second stanza of Lovecraft's 1917 poem "Nemesis".

Inspiration[edit]

Lovecraft wrote this tale as a sequel and reply to "The Shambler from the Stars" (1935) by Robert Bloch, in which Bloch kills the Lovecraft-inspired character. Lovecraft returned the favor in this tale, killing off Robert Harrison Blake (aka Robert Bloch).[1] Bloch later wrote a third story, "The Shadow from the Steeple" (1950), to create a trilogy.[2]

In Blake's final notes, he refers to "Roderick Usher", an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", which Lovecraft described in "Supernatural Horror in Literature" as featuring "an abnormally linked trinity of entities...a brother, his twin sister, and their incredibly ancient house all sharing a single soul and meeting one common dissolution at the same moment." An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia suggests that this interpretation is the key to understanding the ending of "The Haunter of the Dark": "[W]e are to believe that the entity in the church--the Haunter of the Dark, described as an avatar of Nyarlathotep--has possessed Blake's mind but, at the moment of doing so, is struck by lightning and killed, and Blake dies as well."[3]

Plot summary[edit]

The story takes place in Providence, Rhode Island and revolves around the Church of Starry Wisdom. The cult uses an ancient artifact known as the "Shining Trapezohedron" to summon a terrible being from the depths of time and space.

The Shining Trapezohedron was discovered in Egyptian ruins, in a box of alien construction, by Professor Enoch Bowen before he returned to Providence, Rhode Island in 1844. Members of the Church of Starry Wisdom in Providence would awaken the Haunter of the Dark, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, by gazing into the glowing crystal. Summoned from the black gulfs of chaos, this being could show other worlds, other galaxies, and the secrets of arcane and paradoxical knowledge; but he demanded monstrous sacrifices, hinted at by disfigured skeletons that were later found in the church. The Haunter of the Dark was banished by light and could not cross a lighted area.

The Shining Trapezohedron is a window on all space and time. Described as a "crazily angled stone", it is unlikely to be a true trapezohedron because of the Old Ones' penchant for bizarre non-Euclidean angles. It was created on dark Yuggoth and brought to Earth by the Old Ones, where it was placed in its box aeons before the first human beings appeared. After the passing of the Old Ones, during the final stages of the lower Triassic period, the trapezohedron was salvaged from the ruins of their cyclopean cities by the serpent people of Valusia. Eventually, after the bloody extermination of the serpent people at the hands of the advancing pre-human hordes of Lomar, the device found its way into the possession of the primitive men of Lemuria, Atlantis and in later cycles the Pharaoh Nephren Ka of Egypt until at last it was unearthed and brought to New England.

After the death of Robert Blake, who came to grief after discovering the Shining Trapezohedron and deciphering texts about it from ancient evil cults, the artifact was removed from the black windowless steeple where it was found by a Dr. Dexter and thrown into the deepest channel of Narragansett Bay. It was expected to remain there, under the eternal light of the stars, forever; yet, Robert Bloch's sequel, "The Shadow from the Steeple", proved that Nyarlathotep had cheated Dexter, forcing him to peer into the stone and throw the stone into the bay, where the eternal darkness of the depths gave the Haunter the power to remain perpetually free; it used this power to merge with Dr. Dexter and make him one of the world's leading nuclear scientists-in charge of atomic investigation for warfare.

Nyarlathotep appears in this story as the "three-lobed burning eye", a huge bat-winged creature, with a burning tri-lobed eye appearing unseen from the Trapezohedron. Blake realizes the horror can only travel in the dark. When a storm and power blackout envelop the city, he scribbles down his findings, concluding the story with his terrified record of what he can only glimpse of the approaching beast. "I see it-- coming here-- hell-wind-- titan-blur-- black wings-- Yog-Sothoth save me-- the three-lobed burning eye..."

Characters[edit]

Robert Blake[edit]

Robert Harrison Blake is a fictional horror writer who first appears, unnamed, in Robert Bloch's 1935 story "The Shambler from the Stars". In Lovecraft's sequel, "The Haunter of the Dark", Blake dies while investigating the Starry Wisdom cult of Enoch Bowen. Lovecraft modeled Blake on Bloch, but also gave him characteristics that evoke Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft himself.

Lovecraft indicated in his letters with then-young writer Robert Bloch, that the character Robert Blake was an intentionally thinly veiled gesture at killing off one of his friendly correspondents. In 1936, Bloch published story that continued the professional fun, in which Blake did not actually die, but was possessed by Nyarlathotep, and kills off a character based on Lovecraft.[4][5][6]

Blake's death is the starting point for another sequel by Bloch, "The Shadow from the Steeple" (1950). Blake's fiction is referred to in Ramsey Campbell's “The Franklyn Paragraphs” (1973) and Philip José Farmer's “The Freshman” (1979).

Lovecraft's tale names five stories written by Robert Blake: "The Burrowers Beneath"; "Shaggai"; "The Stairs in the Crypt"; "In the Vale of Pnath" and "The Feaster from the Stars" which as Robert M. Price has pointed out are friendly spoofs of tales written by Robert Bloch (for more info see Price's anthology The Book Eibon (Chaosium, 2002, p. 191). Author Lin Carter wrote stories which are pastiches of either Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith utilising all five titles.

Brian Lumley borrowed the title The Burrowers Beneath for his first novel (1974). Fritz Leiber also used the title "The Burrower Beneath" for a story which became "The Tunneler Below" and finally "The Terror from the Depths" (in Disciples of Cthulhu Cthulhu Mythos anthology). Robert M. Price has also used the title "The Burrower Beneath" for a story set in the Eibonic mythos of Clark Ashton Smith - see Price's anthology The Book of Eibon (Chaosium, 2002).

Leigh Blackmore's poem "The Conjuration" (in his collection Spores from Sharnoth and Other Madnesses, P'rea Press, 2008) was inspired by the title "The Feaster from the Stars". Blackmore's story "The Stairs in the Crypt" (not to be confused with Lin Carter's story of the same title) was also inspired by the name of Robert Blake's tale.

Enoch Bowen[edit]

In Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark", Enoch Bowen is a renowned occultist and archaeologist who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1843, Bowen earned some measure of fame when he found the tomb of the unknown pharaoh Nephren-Ka. A year later, Bowen mysteriously ceased his archaeological dig and returned to Providence where he founded the Church of Starry Wisdom. He dies circa 1865. He also appears in "The Shadow from the Steeple", Robert Bloch's sequel to "The Haunter of the Dark".

Ambrose Dexter[edit]

In "The Haunter of the Dark", he is referred to only as "superstitious Doctor Dexter", who threw the Shining Trapezohedron into "the deepest channel of Narragansett Bay" after the death of Robert Blake.

In "The Shadow From the Steeple", Bloch's sequel, the darkness of the bay's bottom gives Nyarlathotep the power to possess Dr. Dexter (who is given the first name of Ambrose). The possessed Dr. Dexter takes a position on a nuclear physics team developing advanced nuclear weapons.

Connections with other tales[edit]

  • The Shining Trapezohedron is mentioned as having been fashioned on Yuggoth, an outpost of the Mi-Go mentioned in "The Whisperer in Darkness".
  • "It (i.e. The Shining Trapezohedron) was treasured and placed in its curious box by the crinoid things of Antarctica", suggesting a connection with the Elder Things from At the Mountains of Madness.
  • The Serpent Men of Valusia also held possession of the Shining Trapezohedron at one point, connecting it to the Kull tales of Robert E. Howard.
  • The "catacombs of Nephren-Ka" are mentioned as the haunt of ghouls in "The Outsider", and Nephren-Ka is mentioned as the Pharaoh who built a temple with a lightless crypt to the Shining Trapezohedron "did that which caused his name to be stricken from all monuments and records".
  • The events of this story are alluded to in The Illuminatus! Trilogy, in which they are depicted as having actually happened, and Lovecraft's story having been inspired by them.
  • The Shining Trapezohedron, along with several other aspects of "The Haunter of the Dark" and Lovecraftian horror in general, are central to the plot Edward Lee's 2009 book, "Haunter of the Threshold."

Critical Reception[edit]

The horror historian R. S. Hadji included "The Haunter of the Dark" on his list of the most frightening horror stories.[7]

Adaptations[edit]

  • Gene Colan illustrated a ten-page comic-book adaptation in Marvel's Journey into Mystery #4 (1973).
  • John Coulthart illustrated another version of the story in 1988 that was reprinted in The Haunter of the Dark: And Other Grotesque Visions in 1999.
  • Robert Cappelletto took elements of the story for his 2009 feature film Pickman's Muse.[8]
  • Phil Browne adapted the story into an animated (machinima) film in 2011.[9]

References[edit]

  • Lovecraft, Howard P. "The Haunter of the Dark" (1936) in The Dunwich Horror and Others, S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1984. ISBN 0-87054-037-8. Definitive version.
  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1999) [1936]. "The Haunter of the Dark". 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.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Carter, Lin. Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1972. pp. 116–7
  2. ^ Carter, Lin. Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1972. pp. 123.
  3. ^ S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, p. 106.
  4. ^ Harms, Daniel. "Nyarlathotep" in The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.), pp. 218–222. Oakland, CA: Chaosium, 1998. ISBN 1-56882-119-0
  5. ^ Lovecraft, Howard P. "The Haunter of the Dark" (1936) in The Dunwich Horror and Others, S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1984. ISBN 0-87054-037-8
  6. ^ The H. P. Lovecraft archive
  7. ^ R. S. Hadji, "The 13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories", Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July–August 1983, p. 63.
  8. ^ Robert Cappelletto (co-producer, writer, director, cinematographer) (2009). Pickman's Muse (Motion picture). Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  9. ^ Phil Browne (Producer, writer, director, cinematographer) (2011). The Haunter Of The Dark (Motion picture). 

External links[edit]