Lovecraft Sketch MWF: The Dunwich Horror

Lovecraft Sketch MWF: The Dunwich Horror

“The Dunwich Horror” was one of the first Lovecraft stories I read, along with “The Rats in the Walls”, in the 1940s-era anthology Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. It’s still one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, for the sheer craziness and awfulness of the monsters.

Like Cthulhu, the Dunwich Horror is great to draw. “That haff face on top” — that demonic, incongruous human element makes it so much grosser than if it were just an indistinct shoggoth-like blob of protoplasm. (Not that shoggoths aren’t great. Show me a person who doesn’t like shoggoths and I’ll show you a sad, lonely human being.) Another wonderful thing about the story is that it actually interacts with the ‘normal’ world around it — quite graphically — unlike many of Lovecraft’s stories where the creatures, however horrific they may look, are a DISTANT threat, secluded off in another space, another time, another dimension, or stuck in some underground city where they never quite emerge to wreck destruction. Anti-Derlethians may scoff at the good-vs-evil plotline, but it’s so satisfying to read a Lovecraft story where the monster (I say monster, because it literally is one in the teratological sense) wrecks stuff and knocks over fences and kills people!

For this drawing, I was inspired by the shapes of fungus, and by the sticky arms of sundews. The entity here is really a wobbly mass of jelly; the face is superficial, like a birthmark, and even the humanoid eyes on top are, perhaps, not really functional eyes, but just eye-like mouth orifices. It probably has no need for human eyes, the whole thing being really one giant sensory organism, touching everything and feeding on everything, held in a flattish ovoid shape only by Earth’s gravity.

Something I’ve often wondered is, Wilbur Whateley’s twin was born like he was, and maybe it looked more human when it was born, so did it have a name? What about Joe Bob?

Unfortunately, the left edge of this drawing got cut off when I scanned it, and I don’t have the original anymore. But you can see a camera photo of the whole thing, before the pencils were erased, on my commission a sketch page. Also, it’s Monday, so that means a new strip over at King of RPGs!

Discussion (16)¬

  1. helios1014 says:

    I disagree that this is a good vs. Evil story because if you look at that Necronomicon passage, it speaks of the old ones return as an inevitable event. All the action in the story ultimately amounts to is a temporary umbrella against the floods of time.

  2. Jason says:

    I’m just repeating the criticisms of people like S.T. Joshi who dislike the fact that, in “The Dunwich Horror”, there’s a clearly defined group of ‘good guys’ who heroically defend normalcy from the Alien Threat. As opposed to many Lovecraft stories where the hero can’t fight the Evil at all and just has a panic attack and faints or flings himself into a river or something. (Though there are other ones where the heroes put up a fight, like “The Shunned House” and “Dreams in the Witch House”… or even “Call of Cthulhu”, though, even more so than “The Dunwich Horror”, they imply that it’s all meaningless in the long run.) I don’t mind a bit of heroism myself, although more Lovecraft-level than Derleth-level.

  3. Ken Kobori says:

    Jason, this drawing would be perfect for a Lovecraftian Coloring Book. I’m sure most kids get tired of coloring in boring old pictures of ducks and bunnies…

  4. Jason says:

    @Ken – Actually, you’re the second person to suggest that to me…. hmm… ;)

  5. Ken Kobori says:

    I’m surprised no one has put one out before–it could be both subversive and funny. Unfortunately, my nieces are too old to be freaked out by such a product. Even more unfortunately, they encountered my Toy Vault Plush Cthulhu before reading HPL’s seminal story! As a result, they think of ‘Big C’ as being cute and cuddly; in vain I attempted to explain to them that Cthulhu is dangerous and intends to wipe out all life on earth when he wakes up. It was too late–the damage had been done. They still haven’t read the story.

  6. Jason says:

    I think if you were to chart the ‘generations of people discovering Lovecraft’, it would run like this:

    (1) original Weird Tales antediluvian generation
    (2) original Arkham House edition readers
    (3) 1970s Lovecraft boom (Ballantine books editions, paperbacks, HPL fanzines, etc.)
    (4) 1980s Call of Cthulhu RPG boom
    (5) Plush Cthulhu (the horror… the horror…)

  7. Ken Kobori says:

    I’m a third generation Lovecraft reader. I first encountered HPL in my fourth-grade classroom at school; the windowsills served as shelves for paperback books. Amongst them were an anthology containing “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, a Scholastic Book Club selection featuring a Deep One on the cover wearing late 19th century dress (seeing the artwork years later I have to admit it looks more humorous than terrifying). My mother was against me ordering this book, as I had been reading every ghost story collection in the children’s section of the local library. The librarian advised my mom that most kids went through such a phase and I would probably grow out of it in time. It’s 40 years later and she’s still waiting…

    I also encountered Lee Brown Coye’s Arkham House book “Three Tales of Horror” which illustrated HPL in a rather strange style. When I was finally able to purchase books by myself, Ballantine obligingly re-issued their Lovecraft collections in inexpensive paperback editions. I recall those “surrealisic face” covers with a great deal of affection. The Lovecraft fan club at my high school consisted of me and two of my friends. We would swap books and discuss arcane matters in the quad at lunchtime. After learning about the sonnet form in English class I actually composed one about R’lyeh…it’s terrible, of course, but at least I got the correct number of syllables in each line.

  8. Esn says:

    I fall under

    (6) the adaptations by Jason Thompson

  9. Ken Kobori says:

    I wonder how many readers HPL gained from the release of “Re-Animator” in the mid-80’s?

  10. SteveED says:

    I thought the Horror itself was invisible? perhaps this is a sonograph or a picture taken in the infrared or ultraviolet spectrum?

  11. Wyvern says:

    This is excellent! The single lines and lack of shading highlight the creature’s invisibility but fit beautifully with its brief visible moment after the Powder of Ibn Ghazi was blown over it. I’d always imagined its momentary appearance as a little like that of the Monster from the Id in the movie “Forbidden Planet”, only becoming partially visible as it tried to barrel its way through the force-field by the ship.

    As for the original appearance of the Horror soon after its birth, I’d guess it never looked at all human, even if it could be seen. The early part of Chapter III more than hints at this, since as soon as Wilbur was born, “one of the many tool sheds had been put suddenly in order, clapboarded, and fitted with a stout fresh lock.” After the upper storey of the farmhouse was as firmly restored and boarded-up early the following fall (Wilbur and the creature were then nineteen months old), the tool-shed was abandoned again, leaving only a “singular odour” within, “which could not come from anything sane or of this earth.” Seems even Old Man Whateley couldn’t face having the twin where he could see/sense it.

    I’d fall into your category 3, incidentally.

  12. Night-Gaunt says:

    I love “The Dunwich Horror” and wish someone would film it as written. Several pivotal scenes have been ignored altogether. The invisible monster hadn’t been addressed till “Forbidden Planet” in 1956. And later in “Night of the Demon” which also showed cloven hoof prints appearing in the soil. Jonny Quest did it with the appropriately named episode, “The Invisible Monster.”

    I don’t know if anyone had the capacity to see or film in the UV or IR ranges back in the 1920’s.

  13. Night-Gaunt says:

    We were told that Wilbur’s brother looked more like his father than he did. Also that once the transfiguration happens they will lose more of their human aspect.

  14. Yours is my favorite, because the human element makes it completely disgusting and horrifying…as you said. And, of course, I like how you added ideas about how it functions (I love it when people do that…). The shape is similar to those of the microorganisms “tiny water bears” ( This is ironic because a) they are the toughest creatures on the planet and can even survive in outer space & b) many other artists have done the same, but yours stands out.

    Received “Hyperborea: The Tale of Satampra Zeiros” in the mail…sooooooooooooo effing awesome.

  15. @Brian – Thanks, I’m glad you like it! :) I need to do some more Lovecraftian sketches soon, I have some I’ve been procrastinating on…

  16. @Jason No problem! No rush on the Lovecraftian sketches, but we’d all love to see them…some studies of Yog-Sothoth or Nyarlathotep, maybe?