The Lonesome Place
The Lonesome Place is a short story written by famed Science Fiction writer August Derleth. The story is part of a compilation of short stories in the book Lonesome Places. Published in 1962, by Arkham House Publishing, "The Lonesome Place" tells the story of two young boys terrorized by a mysterious creature who they believe lives in an abandoned grain elevator in their small town.
The Lonesome Place is told through the eyes of Steve, the narrator, and his best friend, Johnny Newell. The two boys are very scared of the dark and they believe that there is something living in the lonesome place. The lonesome place is an old grain elevator surrounded by tall trees and many piles of wood from the lumber yard that surrounds it. The story begins with the narrator's Mother asking her son to run errands for her before dinner at twilight. In order for the boy to get to the local grocery shop he needs to cross through the old lumber yard and past the lonesome place. At first sight, the lumber yard seems harmless enough, but after the sun goes down and the stars peep out into the sky the lumber yard becomes a place where shadows lurk and screams are drowned in darkness and never heard again. In the book it says Johnny and the narrator tend to run by the lonesome place when unable to avoid it because of the scary creature that they believe lives there. Both have their own hair-raising stories of going past the lumber yard and grain elevator at night. Johnny tells the narrator how the creature almost got him the night before, showing his ripped shirt as evidence of his close escape; the narrator returns with a tale of how he heard it knock over some lumber during his own trip through. The narrator has never seen the creature, but can feel its presence.
When the boys run past the dark place their hearts race and their imagination runs wild. As they compare their experiences they conjure up a monster with big clawed feet, scales, a long tail and yet has no face. This creature waits for fearful children on which to prey. The creature is also able to climb the tree and lie in the trees. The creature also is known to lay by the lumber but the children can’t see the creature because it’s so dark in The Lonesome place.
When the grain elevator is torn down and the boys are all grown up and become less fearful of the Lonesome Place, the monster waits for other fearful boys and girls in the dark. Many of the boys take their dates here because the lumber yard is so creepy for the girls. When Bobby Jeffers is killed by being mauled by some type of animal, the narrator and Johnny believe they are responsible for the boy's death, since they had left that conjured monster free to feed on another child's fear. They felt that they should have done something about it when they were younger. Now that Bobby is dead the boys feel guilt for creating the monster out of their own fears.
- The Uncanny The story opens with the confession of a murder by the narrator and ends in a questionable death.
- Unreliable narrator The writer uses an unstable narrator to peruse their mysterious psyche to make the story unreliable and bothersome.
- Domestic abjection Derleth uses the safety of a small town as a way to create the strange within the familiar.
In the chilling tale of "The Lonesome Place", two young boys compare terrifying stories of some unidentified creature that lives in an abandoned grain elevator. Although neither of the boys ever have a believable close encounter their imagination drives them and the story to unthinkable places.
Uncannily, the story starts off with the unidentified narrator confessing to a murder, one that he committed. By the end of the story, the reader realizes that the crime really wasn't an act of murder, rather it was the act of apathy by keeping silent about a long-time secret lurking in the shadows of the community. Set in a small town, the story is grounded in real life with science-fiction like events. The boys felt they killed Bobb, but they didn't. They just felt because they created this creature with their imagination that they should have done something about it before they grew up and forgot about the creature. Derleth, a well-acclaimed Science Fiction writer, brings these themes and ideas into his Gothic writing. The monster is part of Gothic Fiction and is also part Science Fiction. In his book, "Writing Fiction" Derleth describes writing for the masses by keeping the story "true to life". Derleth was one of the editors for HP Lovecraft, a well-known author who wrote, " we must give (a fictional novel) the most elaborate possible approach."
Derleth does just that in "The Lonesome Place". Not only is the story centered in the reality of a suburban community but is also uses two young seven-year-old boys (the heroes) who have one fear and it's the dark. Who couldn't relate to that? which makes this story so real to all of us because everyone was or is afraid of the dark at one time or another.
In the beginning of the story the narrator confesses to being guilty of murder an uncanny opening because the reader isn't expecting it. This beginning leaves the reader feeling anxious and nervous. Is he unstable? Is his fear so paralyzing that he is unable to function in the real life? An unreliable narrator is another theme throughout American Gothic Fiction.
Another theme that is so prevalent in Gothic literature is the theme of using domesticity as a way to create horror and terror. This theme is most prevalent in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper". Charlotte Perkins tells a story where, by yellow wallpaper, drives a woman to insanity. In "The Lonesome Place", Derleth uses a domestic, small town as a backdrop which has a grain elevator and an abandoned lumber yard. This presents a similar backdrop of many suburban lives. This setting is one distinction that separates American and English Gothic literature. English Gothic uses Gothic Architecture in its castles, churches and mansions for the dark settings for monsters and ghosts to prey, whereas American Gothic, devoid of castles and mansions, relies on more colonial settings. Drawing from the child's imagination, Derleth creates fantastic shadows and depths to every dark corner to create the creature's features. The reader never actually sees the creature but are forced to use their imagination, much like the two main characters. Using a Gothic-like atmosphere, the unstable narrator, and a monster that thrives in our nightmares, Derleth plays on one of the most natural and ordinary fear that almost everyone understands, the fear of loneliness and what lurks in the dark.
Author August Derleth is an acclaimed Science Fiction author that uses is vast background to create chilling tales in Gothic Literature. "The Lonesome Place" is no different. In the The Sidney Williams Journal "The Lonesome Place" is hailed as "one of the perfect chiller stories that focuses on the imagination."
- August Derleth
- American Gothic Tales edited by Joyce Carol Oates
- Gothic Fiction
- Lonesome Places
- Science Fiction
- Berenbaum, Linda. The Gothic Imagination: Expansion in Gothic Literature and Art. Associated University Presses, 1982.
- Derleth, August. Writing Fiction. Greenwood Press Publishers, 1946.
- Smit, Alan. American Gothic Fiction. Contiuum, 2004.
- Oates, Joyce. American Gothic Tales. Penguin Group, 1996.
- Williams, Sidney. In a Lonely Place-August Derleth. August 26, 2006.<>.