Horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a man who lived his life in fear—of people of other races and nationalities, of women, of reality itself. In a recent New York Review of Books write-up, Charles Baxter somewhat derisively characterizes Lovecraft as a disenchanted adolescent (and favorite of disenchanted adolescents), who “never really grew up. ‘Adulthood is hell,’ he once wrote in a letter.” Yet his fiction depicts more than a tormented adult world, but an entire universe brimming with nameless ancient horrors—and occasionally named ones like the creature Cthulhu, whose likeness he once sketched out in a letter to a friend.
The cephalopod-faced monster crystalizes Lovecraft’s disgust with reality in all its strangeness and, for him, all its variety. It’s a perfect image of alienation (just this past week we saw tongue-in-cheek speculation over whether octopuses are aliens; a plausible conceit) and presents us with an elemental uncanniness that characterizes his entire body of work. “Fiction like Lovecraft’s can be brutally hypnotic,” writes Baxter, “the young reader, intellectually undefended and easily shaken enters the writer’s fear-drenched universe and can’t easily get out of it.”
The Call of Cthulhu – Part 1
The Call of Cthulhu – Part 2
Whether you discovered Lovecraft as a young reader or an older one, you may have found yourself similarly entrapped by the horrors of his imagination. And you could count yourself in the company of not only hermetic, misanthropic, death-obsessed young men in punk bands but also of media friendly, death-obsessed writers like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates. And, of course, thousands upon thousands of horror fans across the world, including a great many actors, writers, and directors who over the years have adapted Lovecraft’s fiction as old-fashioned radio drama of the kind the author himself might have consumed while isolated from the wicked world in his New England home.
You can hear some choice examples here: at the top of the post we have Richard Coyle’s reading of the novella At the Mountains of Madness. (You can also hear his reading of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” here.) Next, we have a 1945 dramatization of “The Dunwich Horror,” performed by Academy Award-winning actor Ronald Colman. And then hear the infamous “Call of Cthulhu,” parts one and two, produced by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, who have recorded no small number of Lovecraft radio plays. Just above, listen to a reading of “Behind the Wall of Sleep” from old-time radio sci-fi readings archive Mind Webs (which we’ve covered in a previous post). Finally, below, listen on Spotify to the HP Lovecraft Radio Hour Vol 1, a collection of dramatized Lovecraft stories.
Should you happen to tear through these recordings and find yourself in desperate need of more to feed your Lovecraft obsession, fear not; you would have a very hard time exhausting all the options. The World’s Largest H.P. Lovecraft Audio Links Gateway, for example, delivers exactly what it promises. Should that expansive database somehow leave out a reading or dramatization, you’ll perhaps find it over at the H.P. Lovecraft Archive’s sizeable collection. And you must, if you’re a Lovecraft fan, visit the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, who host plenty of Lovecraft merch, and links to much more Lovecraft audio, including albums inspired by his work and a podcast.
And on the off chance you knew little or not at all of Lovecraft before reading this post, beware. You may, after listening to some of his weird tales of horror, come away a devoted Lovecraft cultist.