H.P. Lovecraft

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"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

"...all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large."
H. P. Lovecraft

The best known author of the Cosmic Horror Story and the origin of Lovecraft Country, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) is considered perhaps the greatest of all horror fiction writers, rivaled only by his idol Edgar Allan Poe. An antiquarian eremite, he was more fond of books than of people, very much like most of his protagonists. There is, however, no official record of Lovecraft ever encountering anything corporeally eldritch, as much as some fans wish it were all true. To this day you can find at least a half dozen different fabrications of Lovecraft's wholly fictional Necronomicon. He credited his night terrors[1] with providing most of his inspiration; both night terrors and the filmy, oily membrane between waking and sleep factor heavily in his various works.

Although Lovecraft had a very happy childhood by his own account—his rich grandfather, mom and aunts gave him just about everything he wanted including free run of the family library—his early years were marked by loss. His father went insane (from syphilis) and died when Lovecraft was about eight. His grandfather died and his money was mismanaged by relatives, leaving the family penniless. Lovecraft's mother also went insane and died in a mental hospital. In his adult years he drifted in and out of poverty (mostly in), ate cold beans out of cans, lost his wife, and ended his life with cancer of the small intestine.

On the other hand, he was a member of the United Amateur Press Association and made many friends by correspondence, and when possible he would travel to meet them, journeying all up and down the east coast and even venturing into Canada. He was an amateur astronomer and antiquarian, a tireless walker and lover of all things ancient and strange. He was a professed atheist, but loved the Gods of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and as a child had prayed to them.

He earned most of his living as an editor and ghostwriter. He was reluctant to sell his own stories, fearing they would not be well-received, but he was a prolific correspondent with other writers of the time, including Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith (not to mention the teenage Robert Bloch), and heavily rewrote many of their stories for them, inserting his own themes. Lord Dunsany, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert W Chambers' The King in Yellow, and Arthur Machen are frequently cited as major influences on Lovecraft's work.

No summary of Lovecraft's life is complete without a mention of his passionate devotion to cats and to his home town of Providence, Rhode Island. He only owned one cat in his lifetime, but fed and named every alley cat he found. His words I Am Providence are engraved on his tombstone.

As the quote at the top shows, Lovecraft might be considered a real life Nietzsche Wannabe. He also expressed racist and xenophobic views, though he was opposed to the racial violence of Nazi Germany. Even after he married a Jewish woman, Sonia Greene, he often made anti-semitic remarks—in response to which she gently reminded him with whom he was sleeping. Many of his early stories and poems contained overt racial slurs, mostly aimed at immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. One of the "horrors" he intended to creep out his audience was miscegenation—racial impurity, which he considered "degenerate"—again, a commonplace societal fear at the time, especially in the New England states where opposition to interracial marriages was higher than in the South.[2]

Lovecraft's stories featured not so much fear of people of different (non-White) skin colour, but distaste aimed at "mental, moral and physical degeneration" (a concept prevalent at the time) due to in-breeding, interbreeding with non-human creatures, or even immoral acts such as cannibalism. In his stories such degeneration could afflict the lower classes (The Horror at Red Hook) and inbred rural communities (The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow over Innsmouth) as well as upper class families (Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, The Rats in the Walls, The Lurking Fear).

On the other hand, Lovecraft's stories, especially the Dreamland stories, featured protagonists with dark skin of which he speaks quite highly, and Lovecraft was a great admirer of the civilizations of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. He differentiated between people of "noble" appearance and heritage and civilized behaviour contra "degenerate" individuals or tribes, independently of ethnicity or skin-colour. He thought that immigrants to the U.S. should keep their original language, dress and customs, not discard them and try to become "Americanized", because this made them look vulgar.

It has often been suggested that he only incorporated so much racism in his stories because they stemmed from the element that proliferates all of his works: fear of the unknown. He almost singlehandedly invented a new cosmology, but instead of being one based on science and progress, it was instead full of otherworldly horror and blind, raving deities. While most people of his time were entranced by the technological innovation produced by the Industrial Revolution, Lovecraft was deeply suspicious of modern technology and the poorly-understood powers it vested in mankind. All of his work resonates with the terror of the newly-discovered magnitude of the universe, which in the early period of his life was believed to consist entirely of the Milky Way. Einstein's theory of relativity opened a door into teleportation, time travel, alien geometry, and radically altered peoples' notion of space-time itself, while the discovery of pre-Cambrian fossils and Wegener's then-new-and-controversial hypothesis of continental drift brought the notion that the Earth was far older than previously believed, and that even the shape of the continents was not set in stone. All of this was subtly addressed in Lovecraft's stories of alien horror, and of the remains of ancient civilizations lost to the abyss of geological deep time.

The dizzying speed of progress of his time was compounded by an expansion of the unknown. Each new development, instead of reducing the number of questions as had been expected by pre-modern philosophers, instead compounded them exponentially. Leibniz had hoped that the entire world could be described by reason, and that this is the best of all possible worlds—a possibility utterly abolished during Lovecraft's writing period. Each new discovery only increased humanity's knowledge of its own ignorance and insignificance, encouraging a nihilistic atmosphere, and this is perhaps the central theme of Lovecraft's incisive fiction. For fiction done by others in his literary mythos (and the Lovecraftian setting as a whole) see the Cthulhu Mythos.

Despite some controversy over whether most of his works are genuinely public domain, they're all invariably available online somewhere. The letters are harder to get ahold of (and expensive as hell, check out Abebooks), but they're well worth the search.

The stories for which he is remembered include:

  • At the Mountains of Madness—Scholarly expedition to Antarctica discovers ruins of a city built by Ancient Astronauts and has close encounters with formless horrors and giant hairless penguins, incidentally proving that "It Gets Better" can be used to great effect.
    • Guillermo del Toro (the director of Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth) had a screenplay prepared, although it will be quite a while before anything comes of it, what with one thing and another. Although it had Tom Cruise and James Cameron involved, it was cancelled in light of The Wolfman reboot flopping.
      • The film Alien V. Predator bears a remarkable similarity to At The Mountains of Madness...
        • John Carpenter's The Thing is even closer. Indeed, a genealogical connection is plausible: the film is an adaptation of John W. Campbell's short story "Who Goes There?", published in Astounding Stories in 1938. Campbell—who became editor of Astounding that year—would surely have been reading it in 1936, when it published At the Mountains of Madness.
  • The Call of Cthulhu -- Cthulhu briefly wakes, and fills the dreams of men with madness. The first and best-known Lovecraftian Tabletop RPG is named after it and reprints the story in full.
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward—Long dead Necromancer steals the identity of his identical great-great-great-grandson. After his descendent brings him back to life, the necromancer kills him. The source of perhaps one of the most solid pieces of advice for anyone messing with sorcery: "Do not call up that which you cannot put down."
    • Also used in the Roger Corman film, 'The Haunted Palace'.
  • The Dunwich Horror—Invisible abomination terrorises the Massachusetts countryside.
    • Filmed in 1970 as a not-entirely-faithful Cult Classic starring Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee. Yog-Sothoth!
      • There was also a 2009 remake by the Syfy Channel - again starring Dean Stockwell.
  • The Colour Out of Space—A toxic meteorite that's of a colour Not of This Earth devastates a small farm in Massachusetts. Lovecraft insists upon using the English spelling, as always.
    • A big part of the inspiration for the "Weeds" segment (starring self-professed Lovecraft fan Stephen King) in Creepshow.
    • Plot also used in the movie 'The Curse', starring John Schneider, Claude Akins, and Wil Wheaton. Rather faithful to the original, under the circumstances.
    • Faithfully adapted in 2008 as a black-and-white movie called Die Farbe (The Colour) by Sphärentor Produktion, a group of independent German film makers. The only colour in this black-and-white movie is the alien colour. The movie is 85 minutes long, with some cut scenes in the extras, filmed in both German and English language, and has been shown at various film festivals in Europe and USA and at German roleplaying conventions from 2010 to 2012. The setting was moved from New England, USA, to forested southern Germany, with several layers if narration and three time frames of events. The framing story is set in the 1970s, with an American narrator who is looking for his father, a former G.I. who as a young man served in Germany during WWII and now returned there and disappeared. When the son tries to reconstruct what drove the father back to this region of Germany, he stumbles over historical events that the locals wish to keep buried. The father's narrative (as told by a German ex-soldier who met the father) is set in 1945, when the Americans investigated an abandoned farmstead, which itself becomes the framing story for yet another narrative: The German ex-soldier, returned from the front to his home village to find his own family gone, tries to warn the American soldiers not to approach the abandoned farm and its well and the wasteland of its devastated farmlands, because of the "curse". He recalls the events set during the 1920s, of the meteorite from space that brought the colour to Earth. This narrative comprises the main story and is identical with the events in Lovecraft's story.
  • The Shadow out of Time—One of his best-regarded stories. Strange creature from the deep past swaps bodies with a modern-day scholar, followed by the latter's subsequent investigations into the years he can't remember.
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth—Man visits a Town with a Dark Secret and finds something fishy in his family tree.
    • This one was the primary inspiration for the video game Dark Corners of the Earth, which takes place in Innsmouth.
    • Also loosely adapted into Dagon, only set on the coast of modern-day Spain.
    • Also part of a long sequel series by various authors, Shadows over Innsmouth.
  • Pickman's Model—A degenerate artist gives one of his former friends a glimpse of the horrible secret behind his disturbing subject matter.
    • Has been adapted a number of times into short movies by various independent film makers from different countries, movies which were collected on DVD as part of The H.P. Lovecraft Collection (Part 4) by Lurker Films, Inc.
  • Cool Air—A boarding-house resident who likes, for some reason, to have it very cold in his apartment goes into a panic when his swamp cooler breaks down; his next-door neighbor soon begins to wonder where the smell is coming from...
    • Cool Air and Pickman's Model were made into episodes of Night Gallery.
      • Unfortunately, Night Gallery insisted on adding a female love interest and Damsel in Distress for Pickman to the episode. Not only that, the story was combined with Innsmouth, only with rats instead of fish.
    • Also was adapted as one of the segments in the anthology film Necronomicon, with, of all people, David Warner as the star.
    • Another quite faithful indie film maker adaption of Cool Air can be found in The H.P. Lovecraft Collection (Part 1) by Lurker Films, Inc.
  • The Rats in the Walls—The narrator, a man from New England, buys an old keep in England that belonged to his ancestors (and which was erected at the site of much older Roman and iron-age temples) and discovers a horrifying family secret that drives him insane.
  • The Whisperer in Darkness—A science fiction First Contact story with strong horror elements. A scholar and his pen pal friend discover a colony of sinister fungoid space-faring aliens in the mountainous rural backwaters of New England in 1930.
  • His Dreamland stories, among them "The Cats of Ulthar", The Silver Key, Through the Gates of the Silver Key and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
    • Kadath, it should be noted, encompassed a number of characters from Lovecraft's other stories, Pickman's Model in particular.
  • Herbert West -- Reanimator—A Mad Scientist develops a serum that can revive the dead. Probably best known in its gory, darkly comedic film adaptation.
  • The Music of Erich Zann—A student, seeking cheap accommodation, takes a room underneath a strange, mute cellist who plays unnatural music late into the night. He considered this one of his best stories, as he managed to avoid his usual tactic of explaining everything (read: the tiniest explanation of anything is not even alluded to).
    • Fans often assume he's trying to appease Azathoth, though, since The Demon Sultan is known to enjoy spooky music.
  • And most terrifyingly of all, Cats and Dogs, an essay on why cats are better than dogs.
    • Well, aren't they? "You threw the stick, you can get it yourself!"
  • Apart from these, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society and other fan groups have produced A Shoggoth on the Roof, a musical based on the Cthulhu mythos (the initial score was that of Fiddler on the Roof, but it was modified after lawsuits). Considering Lovecraft's aforementioned anti-Semitic leanings, this is actually rather hilarious.

For a mostly-complete list of film adaptations, see Lovecraft on Film. For the comic book about Lovecraft, see Lovecraft.

Subjective Tropes can be found here.


Tropes used throughout Lovecraft stories include:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

  • Author Avatar: Abdul Alhazred, Wilbur Whateley, Edward Derby, and Randolph Carter particularly, although most of his protagonists were somewhat autobiographical.
  • Author Phobia: Much of what Lovecraft wrote was motivated by his own nightmares and personal phobias. Among the ones less likely to evoke similar feelings in readers nowadays were his fears of non-white Anglo-Saxon people and miscegenation. And fish.
  • Back from the Dead
  • Badass Bookworm: The three professors in The Dunwich Horror.
  • Badass Normal: A strange non-human example. The Elder Things, despite being ordinary carbon-based lifeforms instead of being made of extradimensional exotic matter like most of the gibbering horrors of the Cthulhuverse, actually managed to win a stand up fight against the big green himself.
    • Well, not so much win as last out long enough for cosmic forces, by pure chance, to force Cthulu and his spawn into a deathlike slumber. Still impressive none the less.
  • Based on a Dream: Not only were many of Lovecraft's stories based on dreams he had, but the characters within his works often created art or writing based on their dreams.
  • Black and Grey Morality: There are three races Lovecraft describes who don't want to outright consume or obliterate humanity (by desire or nature): the Mi-Go, the Elder Things, and the Yithians. However:
    • The Mi-Go think nothing of extracting the brains of people and putting them in containers to take them travelling around the universe to enlighten them, whether they like it or not.
    • The Elder Things created humanity itself as the result of a genetic experiment and view humans as little more than playthings to examine and dissect.
    • And the Yithians - who seem the nicest - only care about gathering and preserving knowledge in addition to saving their own lives. They fled their own dying world by stealing the bodies of intelligent beings of Earth's distant past, swapping minds with and dooming those beings to die in their place. They also think nothing of swapping minds with other beings througout history to learn about different ages while the displaced victims live for years in alien bodies, only to return to the old lives which invariably have been ruined by the Yithians' actions. The Yithians also plan to jump to new bodies of intelligent insects to escape death, dooming those insects to die in the Yithians' old bodies. Their one saving grace is their committment to fighting the race of [half-polypous creatures that invaded Earth, who would happily consume humanity and anything else alive - and even then the Yithians only fight to save their own necks.
    • Frankly, Lovecraft stated that human norms and morals simply do not apply to the Universe at large, so it's more like Blue and Orange Morality.
  • The Blank: The Nightgaunts.
  • Body Horror: The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
    • The Colour Out of Space has shades of this as well.
  • Bowdlerize: The cat from Rats In The Walls (named after Lovecraft's own, we might add) is never called what it was in the original story in adaptations.
    • The closest anyone's dared get was in the 1972 Skull Comix version, where it's "Nigaman".
    • This is handled quite brilliantly in the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company audio drama version. Here the cat's name is changed to Voodoo, which ties it into a throwaway line from the book about the narrator's cousin becoming friends with a bunch of former slaves after the Civil War and getting into voodoo which caused the family to disown him.
  • Brick Joke: In The Shadow Out Of Time the narrator loses conciousness while giving a lecture at the beginning of the first chapter. At the end of the chapter and several years later he wakes up muttering about economics.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Version 1 The Call of Cthulhu.
  • Cats Are Magic: In Lovecraft canon, specifically The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, the cats of the Dreamlands can travel to the Moon on their own power and have a secret language. They worship Bast and aid the hero in his quest. The only thing the Earth-cats fear are the cats from Saturn, who are even more powerful than they, but are in league with the Eldritch Abominations.
    • In general, you can judge your safety in the Dreamlands by the proximity of cats --
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted: Cats are helpful and only mean when humans are mean first. Lovecraft was a cat-lover, so anyone who messes with them will get their comeuppance!
    • In fact, he occasionally gets into a downright Cute Kitten mode.
  • Celibate Hero: All of them!
    • Well, a few mention having wives, but that's about it.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The Trope Maker
  • Crapsack World
  • Creator Provincialism: Much of his work takes place in New England due to being raised in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Creepy Child: Wilbur Whateley.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Comically exaggerated in Sweet Ermengarde.
  • Did Not Do the Research: While most of the apparent inaccuracies in Lovecraft's work are a result of Science Marches On, there are a few plain old screwups. One notable example of faulty research on Lovecraft's part is The Picture In The House. What's interesting is that it's not so much that he didn't do the research, but that he did it from a faulty source. The story revolves around a vintage copy of Pigafetta's Regnum Congo, a chronicle of early European explorers in Africa. The story makes a point of mentioning the cannibals shown in the illustrations are oddly Caucasian-looking. The problem is that the illustrations in Regnum Congo are nothing of the sort and depict Africans who actually look African. This is because Lovecraft never actually read the book, he only knew of it from an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica which included the offending illustrations. This mistake may have actually been somewhat fortuitous in the context of the larger Cthulhu Mythos, as it forms a possible connection with Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family, featuring an African tribe that had crossbred with albinistic Frazetta Men to produce a light-skinned race that may or may not be the originator of all the white people in the Cthulhuverse.
    • If you know anything about Lovecraft or his views on racial purity and the inferiority of the African, you'd quickly reason he could not possibly have intentionally wanted to suggest that Caucasians are descended out of/from African tribals.
      • That alone may indicate that he did just that. He was writing horror, and the idea would have certainly been horrifying in his mind. Also, there were many scientific discoveries he found distasteful, yet didn't reject out of emotional reasons. He might well have written the story to deal with his own issues in learning about the genetic connection between the Africans and the Caucasians. Not to mention that he had no trouble in writing about degenerate, barbaric white people, and did it with far greater frequency than lauding against the blacks.
      • Actually this counts for an entirely different reason, Lovecraft didnt actually care that much about miscegenation at this point in his life but he inadvertently was correct because he did not research this, the primary belief among biologists who believed evolution thought Humanity originated in Asia at the time.
    • There's really nothing inherently horrifying or sanity-shattering about non-Euclidean geometry, although it can be mind-bending. This was known even in Lovecraft's time. Architect and painter Claude Bragdon, a contemporary of Lovecraft, saw non-Euclidean geometry as a reflection of the intrinsic mathematical harmony of the universe and an important component in design.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Although this usually clashes with Lovecraft's Cosmic Horror Story message, he used it occasionally: most notably, the monster beneath The Shunned House is killed by pouring sulfuric acid over it.
    • There is also the trio of Miskatonic professors, who went and kicked the Dunwhich Horror's ass and sent him crying to his dad. Literally.
  • Downer Ending: at the end of the great majority of his stories the protagonist dies, becomes insane or loses. Or a combination of the three.
    • Some tended to have bleaker endings: The protagonist actions has no importance whatsoever and they remain sane, now with the knowledge of all horrors that exists.
    • Subverted very hard in some stories, though, most notably "Celephais". There is a hint of a possible Dying Dream interpretation in the story itself but in "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" it is revealed that the whole thing counts, giving "Celephais" officially one of the happiest endings ever. The same goes for Poetry and the Gods, which very strongly implies a happy ending for the whole world.
  • Dream Land: Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories, inspired by the works of Lord Dunsany, are set in a world which can be entered through dreams. "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" suggests that each planet has its own dream land, and there are some locations where the dream land and waking world intersect.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By
  • Eldritch Abomination: Lovecraft's gods and cosmic horrors are unfathomable by human minds—he pretty much invented the trope as we know it.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: Asenath Waite, Wilbur Whateley, and the de la Poers are human (or human-ish) examples; the Deep Ones and the Elder Things are also despised by mundane animals.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: "Do not call up that which you cannot put down" is the advice given to the necromancer from "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." He doesn't listen, and it costs him big.
  • Evil Is Visceral: Many things are "squamous," which means scaly or looking like a close-up of a layer of skin cells.
  • For the Evulz: Nyarlathotep, one of the few Eldritch Abominations who seems to take active interest in humanity, seems to love messing with people just because he can. Although in some stories he is simply the guardian of hidden lore, in The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, he's intentionally cruel. In the prose poem "Nyarlathotep," he tours the country driving people insane with scientific exhibitions. His purpose is never clear. In general, he's so powerful that his cruel actions are analogous to a child burning ants with a magnifying glass.
  • Fish People: The Deep Ones.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Trope Namer.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and others.
  • He Also Did: Most of his fans would be surprised to learn Lovecraft tossed off a few light comedic pieces, including parodies of Horatio Alger-type stories and heavy-handed anti-drinking screeds.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Used In-Universe in many stories.
  • Heroic BSOD: Very common. Even a fleeting glimpse at an Eldritch Abomination can have bad consequences....
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Edward Derby and the narrator, Herbert West and his Watson-esque assistant, Walter Gillman and Frank Elwood, St John and the narrator, Randolph Carter and Harley Warren, the dudes from Hypnos...
  • Hollywood New England: Lovecraft was a Yankee Patrician to the core. He famously proclaimed "I am Providence."
  • Human Sacrifice
  • Humanity's Wake
  • I'm a Humanitarian
  • Infant Immortality: Notably averted: While children are a rarity in Lovecraft's fiction, chapter three of "Herbert West--Reanimator" mentions a missing child who is strongly suggested to have been eaten by West's latest zombie creation. Even worse is the fate of the unnamed kidnapped child in The Dreams in the Witch House, whom the protagonist Gilman fights off the titular witch to protect. The child is killed by Brown Jenkins who bites through the infant's wrist even whilst Gilman kills Keziah.
  • Inspired By - The house from The Shunned House actually exists, as did Jacques Roulet, the psychotic French 'lycanthrope' from the short story. Of course, the two never really had anything to do with each other, and H.P. Lovecraft only chose to write about the house because it was pretty creepy looking.
  • Interspecies Romance - The Shadow Over Innsmouth and Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, without the romance but all the Squick.
  • In the Blood: Many of Lovecraft's protagonists are doomed to commit their ancestors' crimes and suffer from their insanity.
  • Irony: As stated above, he had anti-semetic views earlier in his life, yet he married a jewish woman.
  • Jerkass Gods: Nyarlathotep is a dick. See the ending of Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. The other Lovecraftian deities aren't really jerks as they don't even notice our existence.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Randolph Carter is described in Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath as loving small black kittens more than anything in the world. This works to his advantage when he gets kidnapped by aliens.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Dunwich Horror and The Rats in the Walls approach this trope.
    • And "The Thing on the Doorstep" definitely uses it. The narration points out that though the hero is celibate, book-wormish, obsessed with late hours and forbidden topics, he has as yet not seen any abomination capable of destroying his sanity.
    • No no, the perfect example of Lovecraft Lampshade Hanging is The Unnamable.
    • Sweet Ermengarde is a boatload of lampshades being thrown around like frisbees.
      • Sweet Ermengarde is Lovecraft's My Immortal (that is, if you subscribe to the belief that My Immortal was intended as a parody of badfic).
    • A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson is basically a long exercise in Lovecraft poking fun at himself for his tendecy at Purple Prose and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
  • Long Title: Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family. To Lovecraft's distaste, it was retitled The White Ape when it was first published.
  • Mad God
  • Mad Scientist: Herbert West is the most notable, but there are others—usually in the guise of Mad Magicians, or Mad Scholars, though.
  • Scenery Porn: One of his longer works, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward revels in Scenery Porn of Providence, Lovecraft's hometown (his love of which was previously mentioned).
  • Mars Needs Women: And usually men, too.
  • Mysterious Antarctica—Visited in At the Mountains of Madness.
  • Mind Rape
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: His stories didn't feature any romantic subplot (neither, for most of the time, female characters).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Lovecraft may well be one of the trope makers; "The Music of Erich Zann" is perhaps his best example.
  • Not of This Earth
  • Not So Different: one of the non-humanoid alien species, in a strange way.

After all, they were not evil things of their kind. They were the men of another age and another order of being. Nature had played a hellish jest on them.... Scientists to the last — what had they done that we would not have done in their place? ... Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn — whatever they had been, they were men!

  • Organic Technology: Used by the Old Ones to generate energy and breed shoggoths for construction purposes. They even use nuclear weapons in an attempt to destroy Cthulhu. It doesn't work.
  • Our Ghouls Are Different: Lovecraft popularized his own version of ghouls as a secretive living species, rather than undead or demons.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: Most of his aliens who aren't just plain Eldritch Abominations fall under this trope.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The enormous vampire from The Shunned House manifests itself as a cloud of yellowish, man-eating fog.
    • The necromancers from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward also have to practice vampirism for some months after they've been reanimated in order to become fully alive again. One of them lives in an old castle in Transylvania.
    • And the Whateleys' herd of cows keep getting these weird incisions, and they look kind of anemic.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: Made fun of in the poem,"Pacifist War Song.
  • Pet the Dog: The Yithians may be body-snatching Starfish Aliens, but that doesn't stop them giving their victims balloon rides.
  • Posthumous Narration: "The Picture in The House" ends with the narrator discussing house was struck by lightning, killing him and the old man.
  • Puny Earthlings
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Yithians.
  • Purple Prose: In this case it's purple in the sense that an oozing infected bruise is purple. Fans enjoy it as part of the appeal.
  • Ragnarok Proofing: ruins of both the unbelievably old Elder Thing and Yithian civilizations—even books for the latter! -- have been found remarkably intact .
    • Of course, consider the Elder Things were immortal and the Yithians traveled through time, if anyone could build things to last it would be them.
  • Reality Subtext: Many of the stories have hidden dimensions if you know something about the author's life, but most disturbingly in The Dunwich Horror.
  • Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum: The mysterious meteorite in Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space is an example of this.
    • Well, they only had early 20th century science at their disposal, and the Phlebotinum they took for studying evaporated in a matter of days.
  • Science Marches On: Lovecraft identified the Semitic god Dagon with his Deep Ones, based on a then-widely-accepted etymological link to the Hebrew word for "fish". Modern anthropologists consider this a coincidence, and the historical Dagon is now believed to have been a god of agriculture.
    • The stories The Colour Out of Space and At the Mountains of Madness are also heavily affected by eighty years or so of progress since they focus on scientific investigations of strange phenomena. Most notably the fact that there are no Alien Geometry mountains or giant, albino penguins in Antarctica.
    • Whenever referring to human evolution, one of the first hominids to be mentioned is Piltdown man, which, of course, turned out to be a hoax.
    • Ironically, at the time he was writing based on the latest science of the day, and strove for accuracy. He was even oddly prescient of a few things.
    • For example he supported and included the Continental Drift Theory in his stories which is of course widely accepted nowadays but rejected by most scientists in his time.
    • In an inversion, he wrote about a ninth planet in our solar system mere months before Pluto was discovered. In one of his correspondences, he quipped that "Maybe it is Yuggoth".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Cthulhu, among others. Often self-sealed.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Lovecraft himself was the Sensitive Guy (for a given measure of "sensitive") to Robert E. Howard's Manly Man. They never met in person, but became friends via correspondence.
  • Shout-Out: Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, Harry Houdini and some of Lovecraft's other friends became characters in his stories.
    • Robert Blake in The Haunter of the Dark doesn't end up well—a playful Take That from Lovecraft to his young admirer Bloch.
      • To be fair, a character named Howard who is a recluse in Providence ends up dying in one of Bloch's stories. "The Haunter of the Dark" even references that story. Both stories also begin with dedications to the other author.
    • A few of Lovecraft's stories refer to the works of Arthur Machen, both directly (the librarian in The Dunwich Horror mentions The Great God Pan by name) and indirectly (look for "Voorish signs," among other incongruous phrases).
    • "The Shadow out of time" mentions Crom-Ya, a barbarian chief who lived around 15,000 B.C. This is a homage to Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard's most famous character.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Type 1, almost invariably.
    • Made worse by the fact that the few female characters who have any personality at all are usually one of the following: a) possessed by ancient sorcerers, b) eldritch abominations in disguise or c) sinister witches in league with mentioned abominations.
      • Though some people believe the narrator for Cool Air was a woman despite (or possibly because of) never having their gender referenced.
  • Stealth Parody: Reanimator was a work of commissioned Frankenstein ripoff that Lovecraft was doing for the cash. By the last few chapters, it's increasingly apparent that Lovecraft was just going "Fuck it" and purposefully making it as absurd as possible. It's a credit to the man's writing talent that it's still creepy.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Elder Things, the Mi-Go, the Great Race of Yith, and many others.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien
  • Sufficiently Advanced Technology or, rather, Sufficiently Advanced Science, in "The Dreams in the Witch-House"
  • Surprisingly-Sudden Death: Pretty much anytime Cthulhu shows up. Most notably in The Call of Cthulhu when the sailors stumble upon the non-Euclidean structure in the sea. One of them climbs on and prods it for a bit; a tentacle reaches out, grabs him, and devours him. The rest soon follow and only two sailors survive, one of whom goes batshit insane from looking at Cthulhu. A boat injuring Cthulhu proves enough of an inconvenience to stuff him back in the can, averting the end of days.
  • Take That: New York. Lovecraft hated New York and made it apparent. If you want to know what he thought of New York, read He.
  • The Taming of the Grue: You can buy Cthulhu plush toys, and there's a meme with a Cthulhu carrying a bouquet of roses captioned "Cthulhu needs love too!" The video Adventures of Li'l Cthulhu, the games "The Stars Are Right", "Munchkin Cthulhu", etc. plays being driven insane by the touch of the Elder Things for laughs.
    • The Cthulhu plush toy is lampshaded and parodied in the animated short "Cutethulhu."
      • Some people, in an attempt to make Cthulhu scary again (or perhaps more truthfully, make him both funny and scary), say that the more Cthulhu plushies you own, the less painful your death will be if He Awakens during your lifetime.
  • Time Abyss: a city in Antarctica, continually inhabited since the world was young.
  • Time Travel: a method made even more disturbing by its hypothetical possibility.
  • To Create a Playground For Evil: The cult in "The Call of Cthulhu" seems to have aspects of this:

Then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.

  • Tomato in the Mirror
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Necronomicon, trope popularizer.
  • Troll: When he found a student mistaking the abbreviation "ibid." for the name of some famous ancient Roman Lovecraft found this so funny that he went and wrote a whole story about Ibid just to mock the student.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The shoggoths in "At the Mountains of Madness", and the reanimated corpses (if the men that created them could be called "masters") in "Herbert West - Reanimator".
  • Tropes Are Not Bad: Lovecraft turns Purple Prose into an art form.
  • Uncanny Valley: Used extensively In-Universe. If the antagonists are human, expect the protagonist to described them as "strange".
  • The Unpronounceable: Lovecraft loves names that are nigh-unpronounceable due to the fact that they were not intended for humans to speak. His most popular name is Cthulhu. Lovecraft transcribed it as either "Khl ûl'hloo" or "Kathooloo"; fans often use "Kuh-THOOL-hoo". Then again, even the pronunciations described by Lovecraft were said to be the closest approximation of the true name human vocal ability could produce. So, in essence, any human saying it can never pronounce it right.
    • Which is probably just as well for reality as we'd like to go on knowing it.
  • Unreliable Narrator: a lot of the first-person narration in his stories either become more maddened as it progresses, or has the narrator repeatedly questioning his own sanity and memories.
    • Moreover, narrators who are still sane (i.e. in denial) tend to describe the creepiness that surrounds them, then blithely—and wrongly, and often fatally—attribute it to some mundane cause.
  • We Are as Mayflies: The Eldritch Abominations are apparently ageless and outside of time.)
    • The Dreams in the Witch-House even featured a human who had learned how to travel to spaces beyond time, and remained unageing, save for the brief visits she made back to Earth once a year.
  • Was Once a Man: The title monster from "The Beast of the Cave."
  • Weirdness Censor: Eldritch Abominations and other space aliens can usually appear to anyone they choose, but this trope is the basis for "From Beyond."
  • Wretched Hive: New York City is presented like this in The Horror of Red Hook and He, mainly because of all the immigration.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: In Reanimator, they're close to Romero zombies, right down to the spine being the weak point, akin to regular zombies having the head as the weak point. Notable because it was published decades before Romero became famous, as a Frankenstein parody.
  1. while similar to nightmares, they are actually the result of a sleep disorder
  2. note that the racial slurs are far less common in his later stories, as Lovecraft moderated his views.