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Home > Books > 31 Monstrous Failures #6: The Shunned House

31 Monstrous Failures #6: The Shunned House

October 6th, 2011

Author H.P. Lovecraft may have been one of the grand masters of horror fiction, but every once in a while his attempts to hint at vast, unknowable creatures from before the dawn of man took a crooked turn into the absurd.

One of Lovecraft’s tricks was to describe his terrible beasts as indescribable. He’d toss in a few words like “rugose,” “squamous” and “batrachian,” and allow the reader to fill in the picture.¬†Another was to focus on one physical feature, such as the “three-lobed burning eye” of the evil god¬†Nyarlathotep.

It’s the latter that resulted in the less-than-effective big reveal of the beast buried in the cellar of…

The Shunned House!

This is the actual house that provided the location for Lovecraft’s story, and it’s still standing on a street in Providence, Rhode Island.

Its fictional counterpart was more imposing, an abandoned structure with a malign presence that produced strange fungal growths and turned men into monsters. After witnessing the transformation and dissolution of his uncle, the protagonist of the tale decided to dig down to the source of the evil and dump several jars of sulfuric acid on it.

Suddenly my spade struck something softer than earth. I shuddered and made a motion as if to climb out of the hole, which was now as deep as my neck. Then courage returned, and I scraped away more dirt in the light of the electric torch I had provided. The surface I uncovered was fishy and glassy – a kind of semi-putrid congealed jelly with suggestions of translucency. I scraped further, and saw that it had form. There was a rift where a part of the substance was folded over. The exposed area was huge and roughly cylindrical; like a mammoth soft blue-white stovepipe doubled in two, its largest part some two feet in diameter. Still more I scraped, and then abruptly I leaped out of the hole and away from the filthy thing; frantically unstopping and tilting the heavy carboys, and precipitating their corrosive contents one after another down that charnel gulf and upon this unthinkable abnormality whose titan elbow I had seen.

That’s right; the “unspeakably shocking” thing that would haunt this man’s dreams until the day he passed from the Earth was a big elbow.

Oh well, they can’t all be Cthulhu.

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