The Lurking Fear

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"The Lurking Fear"
Author H. P. Lovecraft
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror short story
Published in Home Brew
Publication type Periodical
Media type Print (Magazine)
Publication date Jan-Apr, 1923

"The Lurking Fear" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft in the horror fiction genre. Written in November 1922, it was first published in the January through April 1923 issues of Home Brew.[1]

Origin[edit]

Like "Herbert West–Reanimator", earlier published in Home Brew, "The Lurking Fear" was solicited by editor George Julian Houtain expressly to be published as a serial. Unlike with "Herbert West", however, Houtain ran recaps of the story so far with each installment after the first, relieving Lovecraft of the need for objectionable repetition.

Plot summary[edit]

The story is split up into 4 chapters:

I. The Shadow On The Chimney[edit]

The narrator, hearing tales of a "lurking fear" upon Tempest Mountain in the Catskills, takes two men with him to investigate. They camp inside the deserted Martense mansion as a lightning storm approaches, and feeling strangely drowsy, they all fall asleep. The narrator wakes up to find both his companions missing, and in a flash of lightning sees a demonic shadow cast upon the fireplace chimney from a grotesque monster like the other one.

II. A Passer In The Storm[edit]

Continuing his investigation, the narrator teams up with Arthur Munroe, another journalist. The two find as much information as they can on the mansion and environs, until they find themselves trapped by yet another storm. Bunkered in a small cabin, they witness a bright flash of lightning. Arthur looks out the window to survey the damage. The narrator, curious as to why Arthur is still staring out the window, turns him to find his face chewed off.

III. What The Red Glare Meant[edit]

As the narrator digs open the grave of Jan Martense, he describes the history of the Martense family. Upon reaching the coffin, he continues to dig, and subsequently falls into a subterranean burrow. He crawls along, until he sees two eyes reflecting his torch-light in the darkness. Yet another lightning-strike causes the tunnel to cave in above the beast and the narrator has to dig his way to the surface. He spots a red glare in the distance that he learns was a cabin that the hillside squatters had set alight with one of the beasts inside.

IV. The Horror In The Eyes[edit]

The narrator continues to search for more clues, until it occurs to him that peculiar mounds of earth lead out in lines from the mansion. He finds a burrow entrance in the basement as another storm approaches. Finding a hiding place, he watches as countless creatures crawl from the hole. The narrator then sees one of the weaker members of the grotesque mob get attacked and eaten by one of its compatriots. He shoots one of the creatures as it straggles behind the rest of the pack using a clap of thunder to disguise the muzzle blast, and upon closer inspection, notices the creature's heterochromia and realizes that the deformed, hair-covered creature is in fact a member of the Martense family, who after many years of isolation have degenerated into apelike creatures.

Characters[edit]

The narrator[edit]

The unnamed narrator describes himself as "a connoisseur in horrors", one whose "love of the grotesque and the terrible... has made my career a series of quests for strange horrors in literature and in life."

He reports that following his encounter with the lurking fear, "I cannot see a well or a subway entrance without shuddering"—an example of the phobias that often afflict Lovecraft's protagonists as a result of their experiences.

George Bennett and William Tobey[edit]

Described by the narrator as "two faithful and muscular men...long associated with me in my ghastly explorations because of their peculiar fitness."

Arthur Munroe[edit]

A reporter who comes to the village of Lefferts Corners to cover the lurking fear, he is described as "a dark, lean man of about thirty-five, whose education, taste, intelligence, and temperament all seemed to mark him as one not bound to conventional ideas and experiences."

The name Munroe may derive from Lovecraft's childhood friends, the brothers Chester and Harold Munroe. Harold had gotten back in touch with Lovecraft a little more than a year before "The Lurking Fear" was written, and they had revisited a clubhouse they had constructed together as boys.[2]

Gerrit Martense[edit]

Gerrit Martense is "a wealthy New-Amsterdam merchant who disliked the changing order under British rule". He built the Martense mansion in 1670 "on a remote woodland summit whose untrodden solitude and unusual scenery pleased him." His descendants, who are "reared in hatred of the English civilisation, and trained to shun such of the colonists as accepted it," are distinguished by having one brown and one blue eye.

Martense is an old New Amsterdam name; there is a Martense Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, near Sonia Greene's apartment where Lovecraft stayed in April 1922.[3]

Jan Martense[edit]

Jan Martense is "the first of Gerrit's descendants to see much of the world"; he joins the colonial army in 1754, after hearing of the Albany Congress, a meeting that attempted to unite the North American colonies. When he returns to the Martense mansion in 1760, he is treated as an outsider by his family; he finds he can no longer "share the peculiarities and prejudices of the Martenses, while the very mountain thunderstorms failed to intoxicate him as they had before." When a friend looks for him in 1763, his relatives say that he had been struck by lightning and killed the previous autumn; when the friend, suspicious, digs up Jan's unmarked grave, he discovers "a skull crushed cruelly as if by savage blows."

Though acquitted of his murder, the Martenses are ostracized and the mansion appears to have been abandoned by 1810. Investigators in 1816 found the place more like an animal's den than a stately manor.

The Jans Martense Schenck house in Flatbush, built 1656, is the oldest surviving house in New York City.[4]

Robert Suydam in The Horror at Red Hook lives in a "lonely house, set back from Martense Street."

Reaction[edit]

Comparing it to Lovecraft's earlier story in Home Brew, Lin Carter said that while "The Lurking Fear" is "a more serious study in traditional horror, it lacks the light, almost joyous touch of 'Herbert West.'"[5] The book Science-Fiction:The Early Years describes the story as "digressive and clumsily written, perhaps because it was written for serial publication". [6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Straub, Peter (2005). Lovecraft: Tales. The Library of America. p. 823. ISBN 1-931082-72-3. 
  2. ^ Joshi and Schultz, pp. 160, 175-176.
  3. ^ Joshi and Schultz, pp. 59, 160.
  4. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 160.
  5. ^ Carter, pp. 28-29.
  6. ^ E. F. Bleiler and Richard Bleiler. Science-Fiction: The Early Years. Kent State University Press, 1990. (p.454). ISBN 9780873384162.

References[edit]

External links[edit]