Hear Dramatizations of H.P. Lovecraft’s Stories On His Birthday: “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Dunwich Horror,” & More

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

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

H.P. Lovecraft’s Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ries Free Online: Down­load Audio Books, eBooks & More

H.P. Lovecraft’s Mon­ster Draw­ings: Cthul­hu & Oth­er Crea­tures from the “Bound­less and Hideous Unknown”

Love­craft: Fear of the Unknown (Free Doc­u­men­tary)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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