The Top Ten Stories of H.P. Lovecraft

by Mark McLaughlin

I’ve always loved the works of H.P. Lovecraft – even when I was a child. My mother used to drop me off at the library when she went shopping, and I’d spend the afternoon reading horror stories. The library’s fiction section held a lot of Arkham House story collections and anthologies, and so I read loads of stories by H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Robert Bloch, Carl Jacobi, Donald Wandrei, and many others. Reading those stories made me realize that when I grew up, I should also write weird stories … so I did, and still do.

Of all the authors I read back then, I enjoyed the works of Lovecraft the most. They were so awe-inspiring, so entrancing! Over the years, I’ve read each of his stories dozens of times. For the record, my favorite Lovecraft story is “The Dunwich Horror.” Back when I was a kid, I thought it was the best story ever written. As an adult, I now realize it’s heavy on exposition and light on character development, but hey, I still get a kick out of it.

I’m sometimes asked which HPL works are my favorites. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be his ten greatest tales. What do I mean by ‘greatest’? Basically, the list includes stories that display his incredible imagination to full advantage. My list does not include any of Lovecraft’s collaborative works. There are just too many to consider.

You will notice that some of Lovecraft’s classic stories are not on my list. Here are some notes on my process. “Dagon” is a fine story, but arguably, it’s a simpler version of the longer and more complex “The Call of Cthulhu.” By that same token, “The Festival” is in many ways, a shorter version of “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” in that both feature protagonists who experience adventures in which they learn their true origins.

Short stories like “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” “In the Vault,” “The Unnamable,” “The Hound,” “The Outsider,” “The Music of Erich Zann,” “From Beyond,” “The Cats of Ulthar,” “Cool Air,” “The Picture in the House,” and “Pickman’s Model” are outstanding, but they rely on twist/surprise endings and offer less depth than the top ten I’ve selected. Other short stories, like “The White Ship” and “The Terrible Old Man,” read more like vignettes or prose-poems than actual full-bodied stories.

Longer stories like “The Lurking Fear,” “The Rats in the Walls,” “The Horror at Red Hook,” “The Thing on the Doorstep,” “He” and “The Shunned House” are all well-developed, with more impact than the twist/surprise-ending stories I’d mentioned, but they are only marginally connected to Lovecraft’s more robust Cthulhu Mythos stories, which would be considered his greatest and most groundbreaking works.

“The Shadow Out of Time” would be No. 12 on this list. It is a majestic, wonderful story with a high degree of development, but it is told at a more leisurely pace than one usually expects from Lovecraft, and the twist at the end is not as impactful as many of his other endings.

“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” would be No. 11.  At 51,112 words, it’s Lovecraft’s only novel. It’s a grand tale of wizardry, reanimation of the dead, and ancient family secrets. It doesn’t have much Cthulhu Mythos content in it, and while a Lovecraft story does not require Mythos content to be entertaining, I still find his Mythos tales to be more enthralling and original. Plus, Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West–Reanimator” also concerns reanimation, and Herbert West is a more compelling character.

I now present the top ten, revealed in reverse order. I also provide the year in which each was written.

10. “The Whisperer in Darkness,” 1930: This 26,000-word novella is a blend of horror and science-fiction. It tells of a secret Earth colony of the Mi-go, a race of fungoid creatures from the planet Pluto, also known as Yuggoth. This story is highly imaginative and entertaining, and really, my only major gripe is that the aliens try to drug the protagonist’s coffee at one point. Really? Horrific fungoid creatures from outer space try to slip a guy a mickey? One has to remember, the story was written back in the era of pulp magazines, and in those stories, it wasn’t uncommon for a bad guy to engage in some sneaky mickey-slipping.

9. “Herbert West–Reanimator,” 1921-22: This story ran in six issues of a magazine. The narrative suffers from being divided into six segments, since there is some rehashing of plot elements from one segment to the next. In this tale, a medical genius has dev
eloped a serum to raise the dead. This story really has nothing to do with the Cthulhu Mythos, but I like how Lovecraft has crafted a zombie tale as a work of dark science-fiction … much like the original Frankenstein novel, actually. Lovecraft did much to combine horror and science-fiction in delightfully weird, inventive ways.

8. “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” 1926-27: This magical novella-length adventure tells of Randolph Carter, an adventurer who explores a fantasy dimension, the Dreamlands, to find a mysterious, beautiful city. This story deserves more attention from today’s readers, since it is wonderfully imaginative and exotic – so if you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check it out. The various domains of Oz pale in comparison to Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. The adventure provides numerous insights into the Cthulhu Mythos, including additional information on that brooding Lovecraftian deity, Nyarlathotep.

7. “The Dreams in the Witch House,” 1932: A cursory reading of this story might lead one to think it is simply about a boarding house haunted by a witch. But actually, the plot transcends any typical haunted house drama by revealing that the witch, Keziah Mason, travels through time and space with ease. Her wicked familiar, Brown Jenkin, is a hybrid creature with the body of a huge rat and a small, ghastly human face. This story is a compelling combination of Gothic menace and sci-fi/horror, and an avatar of Nyarlathotep makes a dramatic appearance.

6. “The Haunter of the Dark,” 1935: This is the tale of a young scholar who takes an interest in a sinister church, once part of an evil cult. The cult drew its power from an alien artifact known as the Shining Trapezohedron. Like “The Dreams in the Witch House,” this tale combines a haunted building story with far-flung science-fiction/horror concepts. Also like “Witch House,” this story provides insights into the horrendous nature of Nyarlathotep. This story is a sequel to Robert Bloch’s 1935 story, “The Shambler from the Stars.” In 1950, Bloch wrote “The Shadow from the Steeple,” a sequel to “The Haunter of the Dark.

5. “At the Mountains of Madness,” 1931: The novella “At the Mountains of Madness” concerns a bold Miskatonic University expedition to Antarctica. The explorers discover what is left of an ancient city, once populated by monstrous beings known as the Elder Things and their rubbery, shapeless servants, the Shoggoths. This story recounts how many of the creatures and races found in Lovecraft’s work first came to Earth, and so, is a valuable resource in understanding the overall history of these beings and their interactions on our planet. The Elder Things are fascinating, highly intelligent aliens, and it’s a pity that Lovecraft never expanded this tale into a longer novel.

4. “The Dunwich Horror,” 1928: In “The Dunwich Horror,” we meet Wilbur Whateley, a seemingly deformed young man who travels to Miskatonic University’s library on a questionable mission. He wants to read the Necronomicon, a book of ancient occult secrets. We soon learn that he is actually part-human, part-transdimensional deity, and that he is trying to carry out a monstrous agenda. We learn a lot about the Necronomicon and the deity Yog-Sothoth in this tale, and the descriptions of the outlandish Lovecraftian creatures (Wilbur and a certain relative) are priceless.

3. “The Colour Out of Space,” 1927: This is one of the finest tales ever written about the horrors of living in rural isolation. Lovecraft also addressed this theme in “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Picture in the House.” A meteorite hits the farm of Nahum Gardner, and a living alien color transfers from the meteorite into the soil, gradually poisoning the plants, animals and humans living on the property. The story is an excellent tale of a monstrous first encounter between humans and an alien presence, and it truly confirms that Lovecraft was an early master at combining science-fiction with horror. 

2. “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” 1931: This is certainly one of the best small-town-with-a-secret stories ever written. As we learn more and more about the community of Innsmouth, we soon come to realize that its residents are in communication with forces of evil. But are they really evil? Like beauty, evil is clearly in the eye of the beholder. We also learn more about the Cthulhu Mythos in this story – and about human nature, too. This is an especially well-developed story and while the ending features a twist, it’s rather profound, and also one that most readers will not see coming.

1. “The Call of Cthulhu,” 1926: I find it amusing that “The Call of Cthulhu,” one of the greatest, most original horror stories ever written, was first published in Weird Tales magazine – but it wasn’t the cover story for that issue. The cover was devoted to a story entitled “The Ghost Table.” Poor Cthulhu had to ride in the back seat and let some haunted furniture take the wheel. “The Call of Cthulhu” certainly deserved the cover, since it is a wildly imaginative masterwork. It unveils the tale of a sleeping ancient entity, awakening in a temple at the bottom of the sea. Obviously, it is the definitive Cthulhu Mythos tale – a mystical, exciting adventure told in Lovecraft’s inimitable style.

I love Lovecraft’s work so much, I’ve made it a long-term goal to write a sequel (or prequel) to every major story he ever wrote. I’m not finished yet, but here is the progress I’ve made so far:

Lovecraft story: “The Shadow over Innsmouth”
My sequel: “The Tantalizing Taste You Will Never Forget” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: Horrors & Abominations: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Call of Cthulhu”
My sequel: “The Testament of Cthulhu” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: Horrors & Abominations: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “From Beyond”
My sequel: “The Curse of the Tillinghasts” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: Horrors & Abominations: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Rats in the Walls”
My sequel: “The Nightmare in Delapore Tower” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: Horrors & Abominations: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Whisperer in Darkness”
My sequel: “The Creature in the Waxworks” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: Horrors & Abominations: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Haunter of the Dark”
My prequel: “The Abominations of Nephren-Ka” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: Horrors & Abominations: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Cats of Ulthar”
My sequel: “The House of the Ocelot” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: The House of the Ocelot & More Lovecraftian Nightmares by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Terrible Old Man”
My sequel: “Another Terrible Old Man” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: The House of the Ocelot & More Lovecraftian Nightmares by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “At the Mountains of Madness”
My sequel: “Shoggoth Apocalypse” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: The House of the Ocelot & More Lovecraftian Nightmares by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Dunwich Horror”
My sequel: “The Surprising Sweetness of Their Blood” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.
Where the sequel can be found: The House of the Ocelot & More Lovecraftian Nightmares by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “Herbert West–Reanimator”
My sequel: “The Glorious Return of Herbert West” (co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.)
Where the sequel can be found: The House of the Ocelot & More Lovecraftian Nightmares by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

Lovecraft story: “The Dreams in the Witch House”
My sequels: “The Last Witch-House” and “Uncle Caesar”
Where the sequels can be found: The House of the Ocelot & More Lovecraftian Nightmares by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

If you’d like to see some of the Cthulhu Mythos books I’ve written over the years, you can check out my author’s page at Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Mark-McLaughlin/e/B008QCY4TC

Many of my latest tales of Lovecraftian horror, co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr., can be found in these collections:

HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos. Paperback available on Amazon:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1791560520/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1791560520/

THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT & More Lovecraftian Nightmares. Paperback available on Amazon:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1795518367/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1795518367/

NIGHTMARES & TENTACLES: 13 Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. Available on Kindle Unlimited:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09LRH6S4T/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09LRH6S4T/

I also wrote INJECTABLES: A NOVEL OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR, which is available as a paperback and on Kindle Unlimited:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08JVMS26R/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08JVMS26R/

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Book Review: “ORBGASM: An Erotic Pulp Sci-Fi Satyricon” by Sam Irvin

“ORBGASM: An Erotic Pulp Sci-Fi Satyricon” by Sam Irvin
Reviewed by Mark McLaughlin

Available as a paperback or on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/ORBGASM-Erotic-Pulp…/dp/B08MSVJCSR/

Really, the sizzling subtitle of this hefty paperback novel says it all. Right there, you are being told that the book is a decadent science-fiction adventure, no doubt loaded with shocking sexual scenarios (and it is – I’ve read the book). The author, Sam Irvin, is a veritable cornucopia of intelligent camp entertainment, from articles and books to TV shows and movies. Armed with all this knowledge, you are spared a few potentially awkward questions about ORBGASM, like “Would this novel be a good Christmas gift for my strait-laced, elderly Aunt Lydia?” Of course, you might want to buy her a copy anyway, if you think she really needs to know what she’d been missing out on, during her long years of abstinence and pious devotion.

Basically, the book is a zesty tale of close encounters of the naked kind, so make sure anybody to whom you give this book is an adult with an open mind and a saucy sense of humor. It’s about 290 pages long, so it will provide plenty of warm reading for the long winter nights ahead.

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CTHULHU 101: The Basics Of Lovecraft’s Fiction

by Mark McLaughlin

Because I’ve written so many Cthulhu Mythos stories over the years, people ask me questions about the creator of the Mythos, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. They may already know that he was an author from an earlier time (he was born in 1890 and died in 1937) and that his fiction is still being enjoyed by readers of classic horror and dark fantasy fiction. They ask which of his stories are the best ones to read to gain a better understanding of his work. “Where do I begin?” they ask. Launching into Lovecraft’s work for the first time can be daunting, since his tales are set in an elaborate fictional universe.

Discovering the works of H.P. Lovecraft is like finding a yellowed treasure map stuck in a dusty old book. The more you study it, the more you find yourself wondering: Could this be real? Have I come across something truly magical?

Lovecraft wrote wild, complex tales of fantasy, science-fiction and horror, and certainly, for many readers, they do seem magical. Lovecraft also possessed a talent for generating convincing details, creating a world that could seem surprisingly genuine, when combined with his fervent style. That’s why his stories are still being read today, and will be read for years to come.

Lovecraft was born August 20, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island. His most memorable stories appeared in Weird Tales and other horror and science-fiction pulp magazines, mostly in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were called pulp magazines because they were usually printed on a cheap grade of wood-pulp paper.

Lovecraft’s top stories include “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Call of Cthulhu,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” and “The Colour Out of Space.” If a person wants to read Lovecraft, those are great stories to start with, since they all contain a substantial amount of background information. Lovecraft also excelled at poetry, and his greatest achievement in that field was a sequence of sonnets known as “Fungi From Yuggoth.” The money he made from writing did little to support him, and he had to rely in part on a family inheritance. He died in poverty at age 46 on March 15, 1937.

Many of the protagonists in Lovecraft’s fiction were scholars, mystics and explorers. They didn’t seem to have or need day-jobs. You won’t find any hardware store owners, advertising executives, or interior decorators in his works. There are some female characters in Lovecraft’s stories, but not many. That may be because there weren’t many women in his life, though he did work with some female writers in his role as a ghost-writer. He eventually married one of his writer friends – a businesswoman named Sonia Greene. It was a short-lived marriage, but they cared deeply for each other.

Most of Lovecraft’s stories are set in the fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts, home of the equally fictional Miskatonic University. Arkham is loosely based on Salem, Massachusetts. Lovecraft’s best-known fictional character is undoubtedly the creature Cthulhu, a cosmic entity introduced in the story “The Call of Cthulhu,” which appeared in Weird Tales in 1928. Cthulhu was a gigantic monstrosity of alien origins. His scaly, bulbous head featured a beard of tentacles, and his flabby, dragon-like body included long wings and fierce talons.

Lovecraft’s friend, writer August Derleth, named Lovecraft’s monster-mythology the Cthulhu Mythos. The mythos included multiple creatures divided into specific groups – the Outer Gods, the Great Old Ones, the Great Ones, and the Elder Gods. The Outer Gods are ruled by the daemon-sultan Azathoth, who holds court at the center of the cosmos. His entourage includes Yog-Sothoth, who co-rules with Azathoth and appears as a mass of iridescent globes. The messenger of the court is Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. The court of Azathoth includes the female nature deity Shub-Niggurath, known as the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.

Other deities in the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft include the Great Old Ones, a group of ancient, alien entities who once ruled the Earth and have since become dormant, but can still make their influence felt. The most prominent of these deities is the aforementioned Cthulhu, who sank with his temple on the island of R’lyeh to the ocean floor. But someday, it is said, when the stars are right, the island will rise again and Cthulhu will again roam the Earth, to plague the populace with his madness.

The Great Ones are the minor gods of Earth who rule the Dreamlands – the domain of dreams, mentioned in many Lovecraft stories. The deity Nyarlathotep protects the Great Ones. When Nyarlathotep visits our world, he sometimes appears as a tall man who resembles an Egyptian Pharaoh. He can also take on many other appearances – mostly monstrous.

After Lovecraft’s death, August Derleth tried to arrange Lovecraft’s deities, and some of his own creations, into groups of good vs. evil, or even the elements of earth, air, fire and water. His Elder Gods were supposed to be ‘good’ gods. But, Lovecraft’s creations were never meant to be neatly divided into good and evil forces, like Christian angels and demons. With the possible exception of the more sophisticated Nyarlathotep, the majority of Lovecraft’s entities were amoral and bestial.

At the center of most of Lovecraft’s stories is the Necronomicon, a fictional chronicle and guide to mythology and magic. The book made its premiere in Lovecraft’s 1924 story, “The Hound.” Allegedly, anyone who read the book went mad because of its arcane content. According to Lovecraft, the author of the Necronomicon was Abdul Alhazred, a reclusive poet of the deserts who worshiped Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.

The name ‘Abdul Alhazred’ was actually a pseudonym that a very young Lovecraft enjoyed using after reading 1,001 Arabian Nights. Many readers of Cthulhu Mythos tales have believed the Necronomicon to be a real book, and to this day, libraries and bookstores still receive queries, asking if they have any copies available.

Lovecraft was probably inspired to create the Necronomicon by Robert W. Chambers’ book, The King in Yellow, which features a fictional book of evil also named The King in Yellow. Like the Necronomicon, the made-up King in Yellow contains such unspeakable content that it drives its readers insane once they’ve read it. Lovecraft absorbed many aspects of The King in Yellow into his fiction. Lovecraft also encouraged others to write about his characters, monsters, and mysterious settings … and decades later, many of today’s horror writers still do, including myself.

If you’d like to see some of the Cthulhu Mythos books I’ve written over the years, you can check out my author’s page at Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Mark-McLaughlin/e/B008QCY4TC

Many of my latest tales of Lovecraftian horror, co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr., can be found in these collections:

HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos. Paperback available on Amazon:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1791560520/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1791560520/

THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT & More Lovecraftian Nightmares. Paperback available on Amazon:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1795518367/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1795518367/

NIGHTMARES & TENTACLES: 13 Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. Available on Kindle Unlimited:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09LRH6S4T/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09LRH6S4T/

I also wrote INJECTABLES: A NOVEL OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR, which is available as a paperback and on Kindle Unlimited:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08JVMS26R/
UK:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08JVMS26R/ 

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Top 13 Lovecraftian Movies *Not* Based on the Cthulhu Mythos

by Mark McLaughlin

Part 1: What Gives a Movie a Lovecraftian Flair?

There are plenty of great movies based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos. And, there are many, equally entertaining movies of a Lovecraftian nature that aren’t based on his stories – but they have a lot in common with his works, so they are often associated with him. 

What elements make a movie appear to be Lovecraftian? Basically, if the movie features any of the usual trappings one might find in a Cthulhu Mythos story, that will forge a connection in the minds of viewers. Those elements can include:

1. Hideous life-forms with tentacles and/or misshapen bodies. These life-forms can include otherworldly gods with strange, polysyllabic names. Monstrous, otherworldly oceanic beings also give off a Lovecraftian vibe. A shark movie like JAWS would not be considered Lovecraftian, since a shark is simply a large, ferocious beast out of nature. 

2. Gateways to Hell-like alternate dimensions. PHANTASM, with its bizarre, barren dimension of evil hooded minions, provides a great example. 

3. An evil book with unholy powers. Lovecraft’s age-old grimoire, the Necronomicon, plays a pivotal role in the Cthulhu Mythos, since it’s the Bible of Lovecraft’s universe. If a horror movie has an evil book in it, chances are, the filmmakers were trying to capture that Lovecraftian Necronomicon vibe.

4. Lost races and human regression. Folks who have devolved into subhuman or fishlike creatures are essential to Lovecraftian fiction. The Lovecraft stories The Rats in the Walls and The Shadow over Innsmouth are prime examples. 

5. Obscure pagan cults and rituals. A movie about a Satanic cult, like THE DEVIL’S RAIN, would not be considered Lovecraftian because it concerns Christianity. THE OMEN would not be considered Lovecraftian for that same reason. The sinister, inhuman cult in THE VOID is extremely Lovecraftian. 

6. Egyptian horror. Lovecraft’s character Nyarlathotep is an essential element of the Mythos. The androgynous god Ra in the movie STARGATE is an example of a Nyarlathotep-like being, though less sinister than Lovecraft’s character. If the horror element is just the presence of mummies, that’s not enough to regard the movie as Lovecraftian. Mummies are really just undead folks, and Lovecraft covered the topic of the undead extensively in two stories (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and Herbert West–Reanimator) that had nothing to do with mummies. 

Part 2: Honorable Mentions
Below, I list the top 13 Lovecraftian movies that are not based on the Cthulhu Mythos. But before I do, here are some honorable mentions.

GHOSTS OF MARS (2001), written and directed by John Carpenter, tells of malevolent Martian spirits who enter and possess human visitors to the red planet. The combination of science-fiction and undead alien souls has a strong Lovecraftian feel to it. QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, 1967, (also known as FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH) also concerns malevolent Martian spirits. In this movie, alien spirits have come to Earth and they begin to possess humans. The Martians look like a horrific cross between gargoyles and locusts.

Many of director John Carpenter’s movies, like THE THING (1982) and its 2011 prequel of the same name, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., have a Lovecraftian feel to them, since they feature shape-shifting, otherworldly monsters. But, they are ultimately great monster movies, without the surreal or mystic complexities to be found in true Lovecraftian movies. John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987) also had a Lovecraftian feel to it, but it concerned a Satanic cult, not a pagan or otherworldly cult, as one might find in a Lovecraft story.

The PHANTASM franchise, which began in 1979, features a strong mix of horror and science-fiction elements, including gateways to a dimension of evil robed creatures, as noted above. STARGATE (1994) features an androgynous, evil pharaoh, reminiscent of Nyarlathotep, also noted above. 

THE MAZE (1953) is a black-and-white 3D movie about a family curse, and the plot has a few elements in common with The Shadow over Innsmouth. BLACK SUNDAY (1960) is reminiscent of Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Both feature a deceased practitioner of the dark arts who strives to take the place of a look-alike modern descendant. 

Part 3: The Top 13

I now offer you the top 13 movies that appear to be Lovecraftian, but aren’t – revealed in reverse order. I also provide the year in which each was released.

13. MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS (1958): Most people probably would not associate this movie with Lovecraft. Even so, I think Cthulhu Mythos enthusiasts would enjoy it. A scientist accidentally discovers a way to turn life-forms into devolved/prehistoric versions of themselves. The pseudo-science of this B-movie epic is delightfully bizarre. 

12. THE CAT CREATURE (1973 TV movie): I’ve always loved this moody film. The title monster is an Egyptian shape-shifter, and in one of its forms, it reminds me of Nyarlathotep when taking on a human form. Also, the tone of the movie, like that of some of Lovecraft’s stories, is reminiscent of a detective mystery. Lovecraft wrote during the era of pulp magazines and many of his stories featured the breathless tone found in mystery tales at that time. 

11. THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956): Lovecraft wrote frequently about lost races, secret societies, and beings that dwell in darkness. With that in mind, THE MOLE PEOPLE is entertainment pay-dirt for anyone who enjoys Lovecraft’s work. It’s a thrilling adventure set deep underground in Asia, where a race of albino Sumerians dwell in an ancient stone city. The Sumerians have enslaved a grotesque mutant race of mole-like humanoids, who make great pseudo-Lovecraftian creatures.   

10. GARGOYLES (TV movie, 1972): Like THE MOLE PEOPLE, GARGOYLES is an exciting tale about a lost race. I rank this one a notch higher than THE MOLE PEOPLE because it works to establish the fact that gargoyles are a part of human history. We learn that long-ago memories of the gargoyles are what led to humanity’s belief in demons. That assertion actually makes the movie seem more real – because it makes sense. The gargoyles do look demonic.

9. HELLRAISER franchise (first movie 1987): HELLRAISER, as most horror movie fans know, is about the Cenobites, a cult of sadistic pleasure-seekers who visit Earth from their Hell-dimension. The Cenobites are always working to bring recruits into their realm of horrors. The cult has a highly sexual, pain-oriented manifesto, which detracts from the more Lovecraftian themes.

8. DAGORA, THE SPACE MONSTER (1964): Dagora is a gigantic, jellyfish-like space creature that feasts on carbon in its many forms. This Japanese movie monster is quite interesting, but it never really captured America’s imagination as Godzilla did. Dagora looks very much like a jellyfish and so has no eyes. Audiences probably would have connected more with the creature if it had been given expressive eyes. Still, the movie is well-developed and entertaining. 

7. THE GREEN SLIME (1968): THE GREEN SLIME comes alive with a swarm of tentacled, one-eyed, human-sized monsters, all invading a busy space station. The single red eye of each monster gives them a savage, evil look … far more malevolent than eyeless Dagora. The movie is unintentionally campy, but I rank it fairly high because it doesn’t skimp on the monsters. It trots out a veritable space-army of rubbery mini-Cthulhus, and that makes me smile. 

6. THE BEYOND (1981): This brooding Italian horror is reminiscent of Dreams in the Witch House. A woman inherits a hotel which may also hold a gateway to a Hell-like dimension … just as the witch house offers access to an evil realm. The film is surreal, nightmarish and mesmerizing, and the presence of a grimoire entitled Eibon amps up the Lovecraftian mood. The Cthulhu Mythos includes a grimoire called the Book of Eibon, but that name is probably the most that the two fictitious books have in common.

5. GODZILLA franchise (first movie 1954): Like Cthulhu, Japanese movie monster Godzilla is a gigantic, dragon-like horror that rises from the sea to destroy humanity. Also, both Godzilla and Cthulhu can hibernate for great lengths of time. Many of the later Godzilla movies are campier than the original, and so, are less Lovecraftian. Godzilla’s universe also features many other oversized monstrosities, just as Lovecraft’s universe features more creatures than just Cthulhu. A rival studio released a different movie series about GAMERA, a gigantic turtle – but let’s face it, a turtle isn’t all that scary. Most Gamera movies were aimed at younger, pet-turtle-loving viewers.

4. ALIEN franchise (first movie 1979): The monster in this movie franchise isn’t as big as Godzilla, but it is far more terrifying. Its appearance is completely unearthly, and more insectile than humanoid. It is also a ravenous eating machine, a predator with no concern whatsoever for other living beings. It does not try to connect with its victims in any way. In that regard, the Alien is just like Cthulhu, who has no concern whatsoever for humans. 

3. EVENT HORIZON (1997): EVENT HORIZON presents the concept of a haunted house in outer space, a spaceship being the house. The movie fulfills that vision with horrendous, Lovecraftian gusto. What we have here is a spaceship that has visited a Hell-dimension … and brought back some of that Hell with it. After all, can anyone dip into a universe of evil and emerge unscathed? It’s a gloriously dark, multi-layered movie that has become a cult classic.

2. THE VOID (2016): Speaking of cult movies…. THE VOID is, in fact, a cult movie about a cult. A small town is besieged by the robed followers of an unearthly religion, and before long, a group of people find themselves trapped in a hospital. The followers have black triangles for faces and are genuinely disturbing. Tentacled monsters and horrific rituals are plentiful in this nightmarish adventure throughout the film. The movie is practically condensed cream-of-Lovecraft soup, with all the things you love about the Cthulhu Mythos, boiled down into a thick, savory bisque. 

1. This list began with a John Carpenter movie (in the Honorable Mentions section), and ends with one: IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994): I’ve watched this one several times, and it never disappoints. I always notice something new with each viewing. What we have here is a robust horror film with thinly veiled references to the works of Lovecraft and Stephen King. This movie is the ultimate Lovecraftian meta-fiction. But really, isn’t a meta-fiction, in itself, a surreal concept worthy of Lovecraft himself – an unearthly story within a story? IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS captures the very essence of insanity: not being able to tell fact from fantasy. It also features macabre mysticism, passageways to other dimensions, ghoulish monsters, and of course, plenty of tentacles. 

So there you have it: my top 13 Lovecraftian movies not based on Lovecraft. If you love the works of H.P. Lovecraft as much as I do, perhaps you might enjoy reading my tales of Lovecraftian horror, co-written by Michael Sheehan, Jr.:

HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS: 24 Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos. Paperback available on Amazon:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1791560520/ 
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1791560520/ 

THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT & More Lovecraftian Nightmares. Paperback available on Amazon:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1795518367/ 
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1795518367/ 

NIGHTMARES & TENTACLES: 13 Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. Available on Kindle Unlimited, forthcoming as a paperback.
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09LRH6S4T/  
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09LRH6S4T/  

These books are all companion volumes, and many of the tales are continuations of Lovecraft’s best stories. In addition to co-authoring the books, I also created the cover art for the books. I feel the effort was well worth it.

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NIGHTMARES & TENTACLES: 13 TALES OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS

by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.
US: $5.00 / UK: £3.74. Available on Kindle Unlimited.
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09LRH6S4T/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09LRH6S4T/

NIGHTMARES & TENTACLES presents 13 tales of Lovecraftian fantasy and horror, written by collaborators/best friends Mark McLaughlin and Michael Sheehan, Jr. Many of these are longer stories, some are older stories by Mark McLaughlin, and some are more recent stories that haven’t appeared in previous McLaughlin/Sheehan collections. Previously, most of these stories were only available in anthologies or short Kindle collections. NIGHTMARES & TENTACLES has been compiled for the convenience of readers who enjoy a robust selection of Lovecraftian tales. It will be released first on Kindle and then as a paperback.

Stories in NIGHTMARES & TENTACLES include Shoggoth Apocalypse by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.; Stainless Steel Sarcophagus by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.; Pyramid of the Shoggoths by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.; Horrors of the Trash Island by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.; The Idol in the Hedge Maze by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.; Just Another Afternoon in Arkham, Brought to You in Living Color by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.; and more.

McLaughlin and Sheehan are the authors of the Lovecraftian paperback collections, HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS, THE HOUSE OF THE OCELOT, THE PRISONER OF CARCOSA, and CITY OF LIVING SHADOWS. McLaughlin is the author of the Lovecraftian novel, INJECTABLES, as well as the horror novels, HUMAN DOLL and THE HELL NEXT DOOR.

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INJECTABLES: A NOVEL OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR

INJECTABLES: A NOVEL OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR by Mark McLaughlin



FREE on Kindle Unlimited:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08JVMS26R/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08JVMS26R/
Paperback edition forthcoming.

Theresa Bishop just isn’t happy with her appearance. She doesn’t like her face or her body – but she can’t afford plastic surgery. When she finds out about Mother Sharps, she is delighted. At her unlicensed clinic, Mother Sharps performs miraculous cosmetic procedures using only three injectable solutions. Best of all, she charges bargain rates for exceptional results.

But, there is more to Mother Sharps than people realize. She is a high-ranking member of the Esoteric Order of Dagon church and her family is connected to the Deep Ones, an aquatic race living in the underwater city of Y’ha-nthlei off the coast of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Her injectable solutions are also linked to many of the Miskatonic region’s most disturbing secrets.

When a procedure conducted at Mother Sharp’s clinic spirals out of control, a massive, unspeakable monstrosity is brought to life. Mother Sharps sides with a new ally to prevent the creature from endangering countless lives in New England and beyond. INJECTABLES combines and continues concepts found in the H.P. Lovecraft stories, “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “Herbert West–Reanimator.”

Bram Stoker Award-winning author Mark McLaughlin is the author of the novels, HUMAN DOLL and THE HELL NEXT DOOR, and the story collections, THE WEIRD WORLD OF MARK McLAUGHLIN MEGAPACK®, EMPRESS OF THE LIVING DEAD, and BEST LITTLE WITCH-HOUSE IN ARKHAM. Also, Mark has written many Lovecraftian tales with his best friend, Michael Sheehan, Jr., including the story collection, HORRORS & ABOMINATIONS.

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Great Reviews for HUMAN DOLL: A NOVEL

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING ABOUT MY NOVEL, HUMAN DOLL (be sure to visit the book’s Amazon page to read the complete reviews):

✮✮✮✮✮ “Sharp satire about plastic surgery addiction. … McLaughlin’s satire is not cruel. By humanizing his characters with compassionately-drawn back stories, he makes it clear that there are reasons people become addicted to plastic surgery … Camp and smart, readable in one or two sittings. It’s essentially what MYRA BRECKINRIDGE would have been if it was written as a horror novel.”

✮✮✮✮ “Author Mark McLaughlin courageously went out on a limb with this one with an unusual cast of characters seldom represented in mainstream horror fiction. This is quite different. HUMAN DOLL delves into the culture of Drag Queens and plastic surgery.”

✮✮✮✮ “Mark has decided to go the giallo route, and gave the world a novel that I can only describe as Dario Argento meets drag queens. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say, it is a fast paced thriller with an ending you won’t see coming. Well worth your time.”

✮✮✮✮✮ “Interesting characters in unique situations … Definitely the more I think about the story, the more I recognize the layers that I missed the first time that I read it. … I think it’s a fun read, overall and I am glad I decided to check it out.”

HUMAN DOLL: A NOVEL by Mark McLaughlin.
FREE on Kindle Unlimited: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085XN8D8P/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0863VPT35/
Feel free to visit the HUMAN DOLL Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HumanDollANovel/

Bram Stoker Award-winner Mark McLaughlin is the author of the novels, HUMAN DOLL and THE HELL NEXT DOOR, and the story collections, THE WEIRD WORLD OF MARK McLAUGHLIN MEGAPACK® and EMPRESS OF THE LIVING DEAD. Also, Mark has written many Lovecraftian tales, both solo and in collaboration with his best friend, Michael Sheehan, Jr.

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The Hell Next Door: A Novel

Hell-Next-Door_Cover

 

YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR HAS A SURPRISE FOR YOU….

THE HELL NEXT DOOR: A NOVEL by Mark McLaughlin
FREE on Kindle Unlimited: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08CST5KFN/
Paperback edition forthcoming.

Miles Cooper is surprised when the workers in three moving vans drop off expensive furniture at the empty house across the lane. One of the items is a huge black door with a beautiful face carved on one side and the image of a skull on the other. He befriends the new residents of the house – a young man and his three aunts, all of whom share a bizarre secret.

So begins an adventure that crosses dimensions, taking Miles to Hell and back. He learns the shocking truth about what really happens to human souls in the Afterlife, and discovers that Heaven, Hell, and the human world are all threatened with destruction. To save those he loves, he must work with both angels and demons to defeat a rampaging, ravenous evil.

Bram Stoker Award-winning author Mark McLaughlin is the author of HUMAN DOLL: A NOVEL and the story collections, THE WEIRD WORLD OF MARK McLAUGHLIN MEGAPACK®, EMPRESS OF THE LIVING DEAD, BEST LITTLE WITCH-HOUSE IN ARKHAM, and HIDEOUS FACES, BEAUTIFUL SKULLS. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies. Also, Mark has written an abundance of Lovecraftian tales, both solo and in collaboration with his best friend, Michael Sheehan, Jr.

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The Weird World Of Mark McLaughlin MEGAPACK®: 28 Stories By A Master Of The Macabre

WW-MM-MP

Kindle: 347 pages for only 99 cents. Start reading today: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BK3N4SH/
Paperback edition forthcoming.

National publisher Wildside Press releases landmark MEGAPACK® fiction collections by top horror, science-fiction and fantasy authors. Writers who they’ve featured in the MEGAPACK series include Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert Silverberg, Fredric Brown, R.A. Lafferty, Philip K. Dick, Andre Norton, and Bram Stoker. Their latest MEGAPACK® release comes from Mark McLaughlin, author of HUMAN DOLL: A NOVEL and HIDEOUS FACES, BEAUTIFUL SKULLS.

The introduction from the publisher:

Who is this Mark McLaughlin person, and why should you read him? Mark–whom I’ve had the pleasure of publishing for nearly 20 years now–is one of those unique voices in the horror field. He doesn’t tread the safe (or even sane!) path, but goes off in quirky directions, and he’s happy to have company along the way. And while he’s poking around the oddest places, he finds humor in the outrageous and the unsettling. Vampires? Of course. Zombies? Definitely. But these are never quite the monsters you’re expecting. Don’t take my word for it. Here are some other opinions:

“In the most devious manner, McLaughlin’s stories achieve a high degree of demonism by perpetuating a sinister ‘humor’ at the gallows of the human comedy.” (Thomas Ligotti)

“Listen up. Noel Coward is back. Salvador Dali is back. Dylan Thomas is back. And they’re all rolled into one in the shape of Mark McLaughlin who writes stories that are wonderfully witty, surrealistic and ineffably strange. Absolutely fabulous…. If your palette is jaded, come to the feast that is Mark McLaughlin.” (Simon Clark)

“McLaughlin’s tales are laugh-out-loud assaults on consensus reality.” (Paul Di Filippo, ASIMOV’S)

“Reading Mark McLaughlin is a little like stepping out of the door of an airplane in mid flight. The view is pretty amazing, but the shock of impact may do you in…gruesome, funny and touching. Top that: anybody….” (TANGENT)

So, dig in and enjoy these 28 tales by one of the modern masters of the macabre!

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HUMAN DOLL: A Novel

Human-Doll-Cover_Border_03-15-20HUMAN DOLL: A Novel by Mark McLaughlin
FREE on Kindle Unlimited:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085XN8D8P/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0863VPT35/ 

One by one, America’s most beautiful celebrities are dying. The murders are diabolically orchestrated so that the victims are subjected to extreme bodily destruction. These victims are all guests or cast members from two TV shows – a medical reality show and a talent competition for drag queens.

Male model December Storm appears as a guest on both shows. Dubbed a ‘human doll’ by the media, he regularly receives plastic surgery to enhance his looks. He is the founder of a modeling agency called HeadTurners, and is becoming one of America’s most popular, compelling celebrities. A private investigator is hired to look into the murders, and soon, it becomes clear that December needs to beware. He might be the next celebrity to die.

Mark McLaughlin’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies. He has written fiction and poetry collections for many publishers nationwide. HUMAN DOLL: A Novel is the first solo novel of this Bram Stoker Award-winning author.

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