Miskatonic University

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Miskatonic University is a fictional university located in Arkham, a fictional town in Essex County, Massachusetts. It is named after the Miskatonic River (also fictional). After first appearing in H. P. Lovecraft's 1922 story "Herbert West–Reanimator", the school appeared in numerous Cthulhu Mythos stories by Lovecraft and other writers. The story "The Dunwich Horror" implies that Miskatonic University is a highly prestigious university, on par with Harvard University, and that Harvard and Miskatonic are the two most popular schools for the children of the Massachusetts "Old Gentry". The university also appears in role-playing games and board games based on the mythos.


Lovecraft concocted the word Miskatonic from a mixture of root words from the Algonquian languages.[1][2] Place-names based on the Algonquian languages are common throughout New England. Anthony Pearsall believes that Lovecraft based the name on the Housatonic River[3] which extends from the Long Island Sound through the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and western Connecticut.

Daniel Harms suggests that Miskatonic is derived from the Misqat, a tribe descended from the Native Americans of Massachusetts.[4]


H. P. Lovecraft's hand-drawn map of Arkham, Massachusetts
A map of Arkham, Massachusetts, hand-drawn by Lovecraft

Miskatonic University is modeled on the northeastern Ivy League universities of Lovecraft's day, perhaps Brown University of his hometown Providence which Lovecraft himself wished to attend.[5] In Lovecraft's stories, the university's student body is implied to be all-male, much like northeastern universities of Lovecraft's time. The only female student mentioned is Asenath Waite, of Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1937).[6]

To represent Miskatonic University in their film adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness in 2009, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society chose Mount Holyoke College.[7] The film uses Pasadena City College for interior scenes of the school.[8] Alan Moore's 2015-17 comic Providence used Saint Anselm College as the "real" Miskatonic University.

Miskatonic University is famous for its collection of occult books. The library holds one of the very few genuine copies of the Necronomicon.[9] Other tomes include Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich von Junzt and the fragmentary Book of Eibon.

Miskatonic's medical school features in "Herbert West—Reanimator".

Interpretations by other authors and fans differ as to whether mystical and Mythos studies at the University are covert or overt. In the first interpretation, which follows Lovecraftian literary traditions, Miskatonic University is an apparently ordinary school whose occult undercurrent only occasionally breaks the surface. In the second, more common in comedic and RPG works (and in Miskatonic University paraphernalia), Mythos and strange elements are overtly displayed and form part of its campus identity.


Lovecraft's work[edit]

The following table lists the professors of Miskatonic University and their respective departments from Lovecraft's stories.[10]

Faculty (early 20th century)
Name Department Appearances
Dr. Henry Armitage Chief Librarian "The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Ferdinand C. Ashley Ancient History The Shadow Out of Time
Professor Atwood Physics At the Mountains of Madness
Professor Dexter Zoology The Whisperer in Darkness
Professor William Dyer Geology At the Mountains of Madness
The Shadow Out of Time
Professor Ellery Chemistry "The Dreams in the Witch House"
Professor Tyler M. Freeborn Anthropology The Shadow Out of Time
Dr. Allen Halsey Dean of the Medical School "Herbert West–Reanimator"
Professor Lake Biology At the Mountains of Madness
Dr. Francis Morgan Archaeology "The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Frank H. Pabodie Engineering At the Mountains of Madness
Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee Political Economy The Shadow Out of Time
Professor Wingate Peaslee Psychology The Shadow Out of Time
Professor Warren Rice Languages "The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Upham Mathematics "The Dreams in the Witch House"
"Old" Waldron College doctor "The Dreams in the Witch House"
Albert N. Wilmarth English and Folklore At the Mountains of Madness
The Whisperer in Darkness

Other authors' work[edit]

Name Department Appearances
Dr. Andrew Armitage Unstated The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie
Dr. Dan Cain Hospital Bride of Re-Animator
Randolph Carter Unstated "The New Traveller's Almanac"
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
Professor Alice Derleth Occult Sciences "The Collect Call of Cathulhu"
Dr. T.W. Erwin Mathematics "The Revolution's Fine" in The Avengers vol. 1, #83[11][12]
R. Gabor University Press The Fountains of Paradise chapter 11.
Dr. Graves Hospital Bride of Re-Animator
Dr. Carl Hill Medical School Re-Animator
Ms. Doris Horus Librarian (as of June 26, 1969) The Illuminatus! Trilogy
Professor Ted Klein Unstated "The Collect Call of Cathulhu"
Professor Lake Ocean biology The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu
Professor Seneca Lapham Anthropology The Lurker at the Threshold
Dr. Cyrus Llanfer Chief Librarian (following Armitage) "The Return of Hastur"
Professor Joshua N. Marsh Anthropology The Illuminatus! Trilogy
Professor Dominique 'Mo' O'Brien Philosophy The Atrocity Archives
The Jennifer Morgue
The Fuller Memorandum
Ward Phillips (I) First President (late 17th century) The Lurker at the Threshold
Ward Phillips (II) Chief Librarian (early 19th century) The Lurker at the Threshold
Professor Amos Piper Anthropology "The Shadow Out of Space"
Professor Laban Shrewsbury Anthropology and philosophy The Trail of Cthulhu
Keith Brian Swerdlov Archaeology Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars
Ebenezer Tillinghast Geology "The Smoker from the Shadows"
Dr. Henry West Necrobiology Splatterhouse (2010 video game)
Nathaniel Pickman Wingate Physics Kamillions
Professor Brightmeer Chemistry Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land
Horatio Kharon Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (based on The Man from Another Place)
Harlan Ellison Subnuclear Sciences Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated series finale "Come Undone"
Wilmarth Acker Anthropology Meddling Kids
Phillip Zollicoffer Professor of Biology Maplecroft, The Borden Dispatches book 1, by Cherie Priest
Dr. Damon Wells Dean of Anthropology SCP-4971

Reference guides[edit]

Chaosium Press published several guides to the 1920s Miskatonic University. The first was a lengthy section in 'Arkham Unveiled' (1990) by Keith Herber with others and put a full university setting around existing H. P. Lovecraftian Mythos references. The second was Miskatonic University (1995), a full-length book by Sandy Antunes. Subtitled 'Where Science Meets the Mythos', this edition tried to merge and reconcile the Chaosium setting of 'Arkham Unveiled', the original Mythos sources, and historical 'period' details derived especially from 1920s Boston University, while also adding new items to the setting. A copy of this out-of-print book is in Boston University's special collections archive, and Chaosium granted rights in 1997 to the Miskatonic University[13] website to reuse some of this material for their website. The third was a new edition of 'Miskatonic University' (2005) by 'Sam Johnson & friends' published in late 2005. This edition reworked the previous book and added more mystical and mythos game elements.


  1. ^ Lovecraft, Selected Letters III, p. 432.
  2. ^ Harms, Daniel (2008). The Cthulhu mythos encyclopedia (3rd ed.). Lake Orion, MI: Elder Signs Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-934501-05-4.
  3. ^ Pearsall, "Miskatonic River (Valley)", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 281.
  4. ^ Harms, "Miskatonic River", The Cthulhiana Encyclopedia, p. 194.
  5. ^ Ross Wells. 2002. EXploZion! iUniverse. p. 15
  6. ^ Pearsall, "Miskatonic University", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 281.
  7. ^ "Lights, Action, Horror at MHC". MHC News & Events. 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  8. ^ The Whisperer in Darkness. Dir. Sean Branney. 2011. DVD. Fungi, LLC, 2012. Special Features disc. "The Whisperer Behind the Scenes."
  9. ^ Lovecraft, Howard P (1980). A History of The Necronomicon. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press. ISBN 978-0-318-04715-7. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008 – via Mythos Tomes.
  10. ^ A History of The Necronomicon. ISBN 0-318-04715-2., pp. 281–2. (List of professors.)
  11. ^ Avengers #83 reviewed on the Bronzeagebabies website.
  12. ^ T.W. Erwin's profile at The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe
  13. ^ "Miskatonic University". website. 1997. Retrieved 2010-02-23.


  • Pearsall, Anthony B. (2005). The Lovecraft Lexicon (1st ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Pub. ISBN 978-1-56184-129-5.