First published back in June of 1985, ‘H.P. Lovecraft Omnibus 3: The Haunter Of The Dark’ was the third and final volume into Harper Collins Publishers’ trilogy of anthologies collecting together much of the work of US horror author H.P. Lovecraft.

The book begins with a brief four page introduction that was written by fellow writer and publisher August Derleth in June of 1950 which gives a short overview of Lovecraft’s upbringing, his early reception, his influences and his recurring themes; in particular his elaborate Cthulhu Mythos that has found its way within many of his most praised offerings.

This third omnibus contains the following short stories:

The Outsider – 8 Pages
He has been alone for so long, he can no longer recall anyone else.  His memories of how he came to be in this godforsaken castle have long since perished.  He has no recollection of who he is, where he might be, or any attribution towards his past.  He is truly alone and that is all that he can remember.

His surroundings are equally as bleak and foreboding.  No natural light can be seen anywhere in the gloomy castle where he spends the entirety of his existence.  His only knowledge of life outside of the vast stone walls of this castle is through the many books that line the inner castle walls.  Outside, amongst the vast forest of aged trees, a great tower can be seen extending upwards, out of the clawing canopy of the overbearing treeline.

And now, when he feels he can no longer take this never-ending depressive solitude, he decides to attempt to climb the colossal tower – or die trying.  Inside, after the spiralling stone staircase comes to an abrupt end, he has no option but to climb the remaining distance using footholds and gaps in the stone walls.  Eventually he makes it to the top of the tower.  His head pressed against the stone ceiling that with effort shifts, allowing him to clamber up into the room beyond.

And here, with the brilliant glare of the moon shining in through the gated break in the stone way, he finally feels natural light upon his body.  But upon looking out into the world outside, a terrible understanding of his previous existence will come crashing down upon him.  For he is and always has been an outsider...

First published back in April of 1926 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short story ‘The Outsider’ is a bleak and downtrodden tale, with a foreboding sense of utter isolation and solitary existence seeping out from what seems to be every single word within the tale.  Written in the first-person-perspective of our tragic narrator, the tale incorporates a miserable sense of childlike ignorance, causing a great sense of utter disorientation to set into the very fabric of the tale.  And from when our narrator finally escapes from his underground world, the tale suddenly takes to a startlingly skittish pace, with the twist-ending becoming more and more predictable as the tragic tale blindly pushes onwards.  And indeed, Lovecraft ends with a momentous unveiling of the truth behind the poor wretch’s fate – which although not entirely a surprise in itself, still ends the tale on a excellently executed note.

The Rats In The Walls – 25 Pages
In July of 1923, after deciding to move from his home in Massachusetts into his ancestral estate in England known as Exham Priory, Delapore soon realises that the recently restored grand estate has a few issues attached to it.  The single most annoying issue, for both himself and his nine cats, was the sound of rats frantically scurrying about inside the many walls of the property.  Already troubled by haunting dreams, and having set numerous traps to no avail, Delapore decides that he must explore the crypt located in the property’s sub-cellar.  A crypt which has Delapore’s favourite cat, Nigger-Man, frantically clawing at the base of a large central altar.  An alter that, once opened up with the help of a team of archeologists, reveals a secret passageway descending into the dark and eerie depths below...

First published back in March of 1924 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, ‘The Rats In The Walls’ is another one of those shorts that has been adapted on a number of occasions and has remained one of the most referenced and well-loved shorts by this prolific short story writer.  The tale is quite a slow-burner, spending much of the first third dealing with the ins and outs of Delapore’s ancestry.  Indeed, detailing the complexities of the man’s family links to the property end up taking an (overly) prominent role within the entirety of the tale, which at times begins to  feel a bit too restraining on the otherwise escalating tension.  But it’s the clinging atmosphere of the piece that really gets to the reader.  An atmosphere that just builds and consumes the writing, making the first two-thirds of the tale read like a ticking-time-bomb.  And then the unnerving revelation of what actually lies underneath the huge property hits the reader square in the face and from here until the end is a magnificent story of an imagination let to roam the wilderness of madness.  An incredible read.

Pickman’s Model – 17 Pages
Richard Upton Pickman was a painter of incredible talent.  His ability to paint and portray his subjects was unquestionable.  But it was the choice of subject that this painter chose to entertain within his vivid and disturbing paintings that eventually caused him to lose his membership with the famous Boston Art Club.  Indeed, as his friend, Thurber, later found out after visiting the artist’s studio, Pickman was a man who indulged in the most horrendous and demonic of fantasies.  Pictures displaying despicable images of terrible horrors and the grotesquely perverse surround the many walls of his personal gallery.  But that was not the worst aspect of the visit.  As Thurber retells his story back to his friend Eliot, he ponders the true meaning of that small piece of paper that he forgetfully took from the artist’s studio, and further what the eventual fate of the now missing artist was...

First published back in October of 1927 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, ‘Pickman’s Model’ has since become one of the many well-known short stories by Lovecraft that has been referenced, adapted and cited when detailing the great author’s work.  The story is written in the form of a monologue from the first-person narrative of the character of Thurber towards the story’s audience surrogate – the (unspeaking) character of Eliot.  From this slightly-unusual writing technique, the proceeding story becomes a slowly creeping mystery, within which Thurber gradually explains his great worries of his artist friend’s eventual fate, building to a dramatic but somewhat blinded admission of something truly horrific.  Atmospherically the short works incredibly well (as always).  It’s one of those creepy, quietly-sinister stories that manages to claw away deep under your skin.  The horror itself is referenced but never openly displayed (unlike with the subject matter of Pickman’s vivid paintings).  And this works incredibly well.  Along with the interesting style of delivering this eerie story, the tale is an absolute triumph of haunting fiction to suitably chill your blood.

The Call Of Cthulhu - 38 Pages
Francis Wayland Thurston first learned of Cthulhu, the Great Old Gods, and the cult that worships them, from his great-uncle George Gammell Angell.  From Angell’s notes, Thurston read about an artist’s sculpture of an ungodly beast, with a grotesquely scaly body and a hideous tentacled head.  A demonic abomination that the artist declared he had dreamed up in vivid detail and had since reproduced in his work.

A further transcript that Thurston reads through tells of a statue that had been obtained from the wooded swamps south of New Orleans when the police raided a supposed voodoo gathering there.  The strange and ghoulish statue was described as similar to that of the artist’s sculpture (from the previous transcript).  Furthermore, on its pedestal like base, Thurston reads that a number of strange and unfathomable characters had been inscribed.  Furthermore, upon raiding the squatter community, the police found the disfigured corpses of the local women that had gone missing, who were at the centre of a sacrificial ritual that had been performed by the many male followers of this evil cult.  Brainwashed cultists who chanted around the dead women’s bodies in a strange and ungodly tongue – with the word ‘Cthulhu’ at the very centre of their chanting.

Already sufficiently disturbed by his findings, Thurston continues with his own investigation into this strange and unnerving cult.  Research which eventually leads him to an article from an Australian newspaper detailing the discovery of a derelict ship found floating in the Pacific Ocean, completely abandoned other than for one sole survivor – a Norwegian sailor named Gustaf Johansen.  After the terrified man had been recused, he tells of a cult that attacked his fellow shipmates, killing almost all of them.  However, it’s only after the untimely death of Johansen that Thurston learns of the horrifying truth behind what happened to the crew of the schooner, Emma.  A terrible and nightmarish fate that befell those that happened upon an uncharted island, where the beast that connects all of these terrible stories has been awakened...

First published back in February 1928 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s ‘The Call Of Cthulhu’ is a particularly segmented piece of fiction, constructed from three singular stories surrounding a Cthulhu Cult, and only later going on to the first-hand experience of Thurston, the man whose manuscript ties together all of the stories.  Although very piecemeal in its construction, the final converging of the separate stories into one (quite unnerving) conclusion has one hell of a punch to it.  Indeed, Lovecraft’s mythos comes on leaps and bounds in this short alone, telling of the Great Old Gods and the brainwashed cultist following that extends from these powerful old gods.  Okay, so it’s certainly not Lovecraft’s most accomplished achievement, nevertheless the short still has plenty in there to send shivers down the spine and once again wrap the reader up in a terrifying world where colossal beasts still reside.

The Dunwich Horror - 55 Pages
In the out-and-back village of Dunwich in Massachusetts, young teenager Wilbur Whateley lives a lonely and isolated life, his disturbing appearance and accelerated-growth cementing his life as an outcast.  Having taken to learning the dark rituals of witchcraft from his grandfather, Whateley decides that he must acquire a copy of the infamous Necronomicon to enable him to open a doorway for the Great Old Ones to return to the world.  And in their sorcery, young Whateley and his grandfather have become the guardians and providers for a constantly growing beast from the netherworlds.

To assist him with his ploy in opening a doorway for the Great Old Ones, Whateley travels to Miskatonic University where he believes a copy of the infamous Necronomicon is held at the library.  But when Whateley is refused the loan of the hefty tome, he takes to desperate measures, and attempts to steal the book whilst breaking into the library after hours.  However, his late night theft quickly goes badly wrong.

Meanwhile, back in Dunwich, a strange invisible entity which Wilbur Whateley and his grandfather have been hiding away in their isolated shack, has grown progressively bigger and bigger, until it has finally outgrown the Wahteley farmhouse.  Left unchecked, the colossal invisible beast begins to run rampage, leaving behind the shattered remains of the Whateley farmhouse in its wake.  And all of a sudden. Dunwich has a powerful beast capable of heinous destruction on the loose…

First published in April 1929 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Durwich Horror’ is one of the principal additions to the author’s Cthulu Mythos; incorporating a number of the key elements that underpin the main aspects that hold together his strange and elaborate mythos.

The short is an odd little grower, with the introduction of the Whateley household making a ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) like impression on the reader from the outset.  As the storyline gradually unfolds, and young Wilbur goes off to try and obtain a copy of the Necronomicon, so too a whole new unveiling of supernatural-cum-sci-fi horror begins to occur.  Indeed, the invisible beast that grows to gigantic proportions, to then set off on a monstrous rampage, is strangely unnerving – being both invisible and incredibly destructive.

The short ends in a surprisingly run-of-the-mill good-wins-over-evil way, which feels out of sorts with Lovecraft’s usual fashion of ending with s bitterly downbeaten conclusion.  That’s not to say that this particular ending doesn’t work.  It does.  And it wraps the short up nicely, whilst keeping the reader on their toes once again.

The Whisperer In Darkness – 82 Pages
Upon reading about strange sightings of unknown and unidentifiable objects seen floating on the waters during the Vermont flood of 1927, the Assistant Professor of English at Miskatonic University, Albert N Wilmarth, responds to the claims with his own down-to-earth view of the supposed sightings.  Upon the publication of these particularly sceptical views, Wilmarth receives back a letter from a Mr Henry Wentworth Akeley, who declares has absolute proof of the existence of a strange race of beings at his isolated farmhouse near Townshend, Vermont.

The correspondence between the two men continues, until it becomes apparent that Akeley’s letters are being intercepted by members of the secretive race.  Suddenly his out-of-the-way farmhouse is being targeted by a band of armed attackers, slaughtering a number of Akeley’s guard dogs in the process.  The situation has become very dangerous for Akeley.  And now, after prolonged correspondence with the man whose life may well be in jeopardy, Wilmarth accepts Akeley’s invitation to visit him – and finally see for himself the truth behind this hidden race...

First published in August of 1931 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Whisperer In Darkness’ starts off in a particularly detached manner, having the details of this interwoven race provided via written correspondence to our protagonist and narrator.  As the story develops, so does a growing feeling of unease surrounding the truth behind this man’s claims.  From a reasonably slow and cautiously-paced start, the novel takes an action-rich jump when Akeley’s home comes under attack.  And it’s in the aftermath of this gunfight that the real chills of the short set in.  Wilmarth’s apprehensive visit to Akeley’s abode is a tense and nervous affair, with an instant atmosphere of danger taking root from the moment he arrives.  And Lovecraft plays on this uneasy feeling perfectly; bringing it to an absolute pinnacle whereupon the sudden twist revelation ends the tale in a triumphant fashion.

The Colour Out Of Space - 36 Pages
It was in the Blasted Heath in the wild hills of Arkham, Massachusetts, that he eventually pieced together the disturbing story of what went on there after a meteorite crashed into the grounds of local farmer, Nahum Gardner, back in June of 1882.  The tragic story that later befell Gardner and his family following the impact of the meteorite is something that has lived with the local man, Ammi Pierce, ever since.  A story that has shunned him from the other townspeople, and in turn made him quite mad.  A story surrounding a rock that gradually shrank until there was nothing left but a strange colour from outside of our own spectrum, along with a poising of the ground that surrounded it.  And slowly but surely, when the crops grow back inedible and then die off, so follows the livestock and eventually the poisonous curse that came down from space takes its effect upon Nahum Gardner and his poor family...

First published back in September of 1927 within the monthly science fiction magazine ‘Amazing Stories’, Lovecraft’s short story ‘The Colour Out Of Space’ has remained one of the author’s most popular pieces of work along with being his personal favourite offering.  Written in the first-person-perspective of our curious narrator, the tale is quite slow to unfold, with Ammi Pierce’s story taking on a gradual pace; cautiously setting down a picture of the surrounding area and the lives of the Gardner family.  And indeed, the after effects of the meteorite are very gradual, only after a good portion of the short has already gone by does the tale take on a decidedly nasty note.  But when it does, it does with absolute gusto.  And as everything around the Gardner residence goes sour, so the madness and unveiling horror of the matter becomes increasingly evident, until the final discoveries send the short off with a bitter and darkly sinister note.  An absolute classic piece of Lovecraft fiction.

The Haunter Of The Dark - 30 Pages
The late Robert Blake was a writer and painter who enwrapped his creative work in fantastical images and explorations of the horrific and the equally bizarre.  And in his lifelong devotion to the strange and the perverse, Blake found his way to Providence, on Rhode Island, where his ghastly death brought his inquisitive life to an abrupt end.  But there remains more than just the mystery of the man’s death.  Blake’s diary speaks of a terrible and unbelievable story, as the man uncovered texts and secrets of secret cults and long-forgotten deities.  His diary speaks of horrors beyond the wildest imagination, which have existed in the farthest depths of darkness for countless eons.  And with Blake’s death, Doctor Ambrose Dexter starts to realise the horrifying truth behind the dead man’s words...

First published in ‘Weird Tales’ magazine back in December of 1936, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Haunter Of The Dark’ was a direct sequel to Robert Bloch’s earlier short story ‘The Shambler From The Stars’ that was published in ‘Weird Tales’ in September of 1935.  In Bloch’s story, a character who was clearly based on Lovecraft himself, met with an early death.  Lovecraft joined in with the goodhearted nature of this, killing Bloch off in his sequel under the character name of Robert Blake.  Bloch replied to this with one final part to the trilogy of stories in ‘The Shadow from the Steeple’ from September of 1950.

As a story, ‘The Haunter Of The Dark’ is an elaborate read, spending much of its time wallowing in the intricacies of the secret mythos that is being detailed through Blake’s diary.  As the tale delves deeper and deeper into the imaginative and unnerving fantastical world, so the cold tension starts to gradually mount.  It’s a slow story, which prefers to create a web of occultist weirdness, rather than to take the reader along a particularly action-rich or energetic path.  But it works.  And together with Bloch’s preceding and later stories, makes for a dark and imaginatively twisted tale of ancient gods and powerful cults.

The Thing On The Doorstep - 33 Pages
After shooting his best friend, Edward Derby, in the head six times within his cell at Arkham Sanitarium, Daniel Upton hopes that in writing down the events that led up to the shooting, it will hopefully prove his innocence of coldblooded murder.  Upton begins his account with Edward Derby’s meeting, blossoming relationship, and eventual marriage with the somewhat odd young lady, Asenath Waite.  Following their matrimonial joining, Derby’s friends start to notice changes in him.  And it’s then that Derby first confesses to Upton that something strange is occurring.  He believes that Asenath’s father, the late Epharim Waite, may not actually be dead.  Derby’s seemingly crazed paranoia worsens, with his belief that Ephraim has somehow infiltrated his wife’s body.  Derby is more than afraid, he’s absolutely terrified of his wife and the possession that he believes has taken over her.  And it’s a maddening fear that will eventually lead to his incarceration and then Upton’s shooting of this painfully troubled man...

First published in ‘Weird Tales’ magazine back in January of 1937, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Thing On the Doorstep’ is an eerie tale of escalating paranoia to the point where the horrifying ramblings of a disturbed man may actually have some real bearing on the truth.  And as these fears of a strange possession worsen, so the tension and explosive horror that’s been lurking behind the tale comes to the absolute forefront.  Divided up into five chapters, the tale’s momentum escalates as each chapter goes by, with the final two chapters being much lengthier, more involved, and displaying much more in the way of stark and unreserved horror.  Quite simply – the short is another example of how utterly talented Lovecraft was at producing nerve-chilling horror.

The Music Of Erich Zann - 11 Pages
Having become painfully low on funds, the young university student had no choice but to take the only accommodation that he saw he would be able to afford.  Along a street which he had never come across before, named the Rue d’Auseil, he found that the small apartment was located in a near-deserted old building.  After moving into the premises, the student learns of an old German tenant named Erich Zann who lives on the top floor.  A strange and mute man, whose enchanting tones on the viol, during the hours of darkness, are beyond anything that the inquisitive student has ever heard before.  Music that seems otherworldly...and perhaps it is just that...

First published in ‘National Amateur’ back in March of 1922, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Music Of Erich Zann’ is a much more toned down affair than a great deal of the author’s other work.  Indeed, the short plays much more with the atmosphere and an unnerving and downright eerie coldness towards the setting of the tale, with ‘something-that’s-just-not-quite-right’ always lurking at the back of the reader’s mind.  Written in hindsight from the first-person-perspective of our unnamed student, the story utilises the notion of innocent inquisitiveness within new surroundings, which leads the reader to a wonderfully otherworldly conclusion.  Another stunning piece of work, and one that shows the incredible versatility of the author.

The Lurking Fear - 26 Pages
After hearing tales of a ‘lurking fear’ which dwelt in the shunned and deserted Martense mansion atop the weathered Tempest Mountain, he couldn’t refuse an excursion up to the deserted premises – even with it set in such an out-of-the-way location.  Taking along two muscular guides – George Bennett and William Tobey – he eventually arrives at the mansion amidst a raging lightening storm.  However, after setting up camp in the deserted building, the three men begin to feel incredibly tired and soon fall asleep.  And it’s then, whilst the lightning flashes across the landscape around the sleeping group, that our inquisitive explorer wakes up to find he is suddenly alone.  Not only that, but a demonic presence seems to have made itself known within the Martense Mansion and the surrounding ground.  Death is lurking in the shadows and sudden flashes of Tempest Mountain...

First published in ‘Home Brew’ monthly magazine in four instalments between January of 1923 and April of 1923, Lovecraft’s classic short story ‘The Lurking Fear’ embraced a particularly strong horror theme, with ghastly images and a particularly traditional element of terror and suspense dominating the storyline.  Indeed, written in the first-person-perspective of our unnamed narrator (a usual technique for Lovecraft), the tale explorers the creeping horror of the tale via a ‘behind-the-eyes’ perspective, which helps to thrust the chilling horror of the situation onto the reader.  Furthermore, as the tale is separated into four separate instalments, Lovecraft has purposefully ensured that there is enough action and suspense within each one to keep the reader gripped.  As such, the story has one of the most active storylines, crammed to the rafters with intense energy, recurring suspense and exciting twists and turns.  Trust me, this is one rollercoaster of a creeping-horror-ride!

The Picture In The House
- 10 Pages
It was during a downpour of particularly heavy rain in November of 1896, whilst on a quest for genealogical data amongst the people of the Miskatonic Valley, that the traveller found himself on an apparently abandoned road on his way to Arkham.  Seeking refuge from the chilling rain, the traveller enters what he presumes is an empty and abandoned old house.  However, inside the shelter of the tumbledown shack, he encounters a ragged old man who apparently still resides there.  An old man who speaks in a long-forgotten dialect that our traveller struggles to understand.  But most eerie of all, is the man’s obvious fascination with an old engraving depicting in gruesome detail a butcher’s shop of the cannibal Anziques.  A picture that has the old man longing for something more...

First published in the ‘National Amateur’ in July of 1919, Lovecraft’s ‘The Picture In The House’ is a strangely eerie tale that plays with the instantly uneasy premise of finding yourself in an unknown locale with a strange individual who is quickly becoming a growing worry.  Indeed, Lovecraft puts a great deal of weight into building the creepy atmosphere within the decrepit old shack.  The old man is fleshed-out to an absolute tee.  And with the somewhat open-ended conclusion, Lovecraft keeps the reader’s imagination whirring with the horrific possibilities of what had been going on in that very house prior to our traveller’s unexpected arrival.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth
- 82 Pages
As a direct result of his ordeals within the ruined fishing village of Innsmouth in Massachusetts, an investigation commenced into the townsfolk and the troubling customs that were said to be practiced there.  For his harrowing experience in Innsmouth came about whilst seeking out and collating genealogical data within New England.  And so, arriving into the fishing village by way of the local bus service, our investigating traveller observes a freakish trait that he associates with the Innsmouth people.  A trait that has them look almost fish-like in appearance.  Finding a young clerk from nearby Arkham receptive to his questions, he starts to gather what information he can on the people and the town of Innsmouth.  A conversation that offers up the name of Zadok Allen – a local drunk whose loose tongue (when adequately lubricated) could prove to be very helpful to the curious investigator’s cause.  But the stories he hears from this crazed old drunk seem too farfetched to be believed.  Stories of great old gods known as the Deep Ones who live deep beneath the sea and are worshipped by the devoted townsfolk.  Stories of strange ceremonies and sacrifices to the gods.  Stories that chill the traveller’s blood.  And stories that are beginning to look like they have some truth behind them, after the traveller finds himself left stranded in Innsmouth for the most terrifying night of his life...

First published back in April of 1936, Lovecraft’s classic tale ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ was the only offering by the author to be published on its own and not as part of a periodical.  Furthermore, the tale has later been thought of as the author’s defining piece of work, becoming very possibly the best known tale by Lovecraft and very possibly the most highly revered.  And very rightly so.  The story is probably the most accomplished and resolved offering, with a truly terrifyingly oppressive atmosphere that haunts the reader throughout.  It’s claustrophobic and crammed with suspense.  There are bursts of intense nail-biting action and desperate fights for survival.  And perhaps most unnerving of all is Lovecraft’s near-believable incorporation of his Dagon-worshipping cult.  You’ll probably never want to step foot into a quaint little fishing-village again.

The Shadow Out Of Time - 80 Pages
For five long years, Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee had been subjected to what he deemed to be strange hallucinations and disorientating dreams which had left him believing that he had lost his mind.   Visions of vast landscapes unknown to human eyes and a city that is surely no part of any modern-day human society.  For five long years Peaslee suffered these visions; feeling somehow led about his existence by an unknown force.  Quite simply, Nathaniel Peaslee didn’t feel that he was in fact himself.  He felt like his body was being used by others.  And in turn, he himself had been cast out of his human shell and given the sight of another being.  But now, after so many years had passed by, Peaslee can finally face the truth of the matter and uncover the terrifying reality of a distant race that has infiltrated humanity in such a quietly undercover way...

First published in ‘Astounding Stories’ back in June of 1936, Lovecraft’s story ‘The Shadow Out Of Time’ is a complex and elaborate one, playing with extreme paranoia and the daunting revelation that something otherworldly is in fact to blame.  Indeed, the story bares many resemblances to Jack Finney’s novel ‘The Body Snatchers’ (1954), with a first-person-perspective narration adding a wealth of disorientating fear and confusion into the unfolding revelations.  The story is set after the period of our narrator’s ‘possession’ and so looks back upon the ordeal with an eerie sense of unavoidability.  There is a great sense of helplessness along with a desperation for answers, that carries the complexities of the storyline along well.  Okay, so there may be a little too much behind the story to make it completely chilling.  But it has its weird sci-fi charm that manages to ensnare the reader in Lovecraft’s magnificently bizarre world.  And it’s certainly one that should not be missed.

The anthology runs for a total of 544 pages.

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