H.P. Lovecraft was known for writing a ton of stories and letters to his friends. In fact there is a joke floating around that if he lived in today’s time, he would get flagged as sending spam from his email. This might give you an idea of how much he wrote back in his day. With such a vast collection of stories to choose from, it’s difficult to say where to begin. With our list of Best HP Lovecraft stories, we are here to help you choose your first entry into the world of Eldritch Horror (strange or unearthly; eerie story that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock).
The Shadow over Innsmouth
One of Lovecraft’s more famous stories, The Shadow over Innsmouth, tells the tale of a student on a tour of New England. He sees a piece of exotic jewellery in a museum and learns that it is from the nearby decrepit seaport of Innsmouth. He travels to the decrepit town and sees disturbing events, eventually running into a local resident who tells him the dark secret of forgotten Innsmouth. The Shadow over Innsmouth is a good entry to the world of Lovecraft for people who don’t know his work.
The Call of Cthulhu
The story that have inspired the Cthulhu Mythos, The Call of Cthulhu, is one of Lovecraft’s most famous works and is one of the stories that introduces us to The Great Old One, Cthulhu, and the Necronomicon, two of Lovecraft’s most famous creations. The story is told through the point of view of multiple characters. The Horror in Clay tells the story of Henry Anthony Wilcox, a student at Rhode Island School of Design, who base a statue that he is making, on delirious dreams of “great cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror.” In the Tale of Inspector Legrasse, he investigates the activities of what is known as the Cthulhu Cult.
At the Mountains of Madness
At the Mountains of Madness is one of Lovecraft’s longest stories. It tells the tale of an expedition set out by the Miskatonic University to the Arctic and what explorer, Dr. William Dyer of Miskatonic University, finds there. The story is told by Dr. William Dyer where he details events of the expedition in the hope to deter future explorers who wish to visit the continent.
Fun fact: At the end of the novella where Danforth cries “Tekeli-li” as they flee from the arctic, this is actually a quote from Edgar Allen Poe’s story: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
The Thing on the Doorstep
The Thing on the Doorstep is another classic entry into the world of H.P. Lovecraft. It tells the story of Daniel Upton, the story’s narrator, and the rumour that he killed his best friend Edward Derby. The story follows his account of what happened to try and prove his innocence and that he’s not a murderer. He speaks of his friend’s life and career, his wife, Asenath Waite and how he and his wife got married. Asenath brings with her three unpleasant servants from her home Innsmouth.
Fun fact: The house in the story is based on the real Crowninshield-Bentley House in Salem, Massachusetts.
The Statement of Randolph Carter
Another classic from H.P. Lovecraft, The Statement of Randolph Carter, tells the tale of Randolph Carter who with his friend, Harley Warren, went in search for a ancient graveyard. Warren believes that there is a portal from the surface world to the underworld through which demons can travel.
Fun fact: The character of Randolph Carter is actually based on H.P. Lovecraft himself.
The Outsider is one of my favourite H.P. Lovecraft stories out there. I will not give away too much as the ending is what makes this story very memorable. I have always thought that if done correctly The Outsider would be an amazing short movie to watch. I don’t think people would want to watch it from a first person’s perspective though.
The Outsider tells the tale of a man stuck in an old eldritch castle. He doesn’t know how he got there or what he is doing there, but he wants to get out.
Dagon is a personal favourite of mine, although it doesn’t really tell you much about Dagon himself. It does give you an idea of the Deepones and their way of life. You can read this before or after The Shadow over Innsmouth, but I would suggest reading The Shadow over Innsmouth, as you will have a better idea of what’s going on.
Dagon tells the tale of a man who shipwrecks on a island that doesn’t exist, which descends into the island, finding a canyon in which there is a giant monolith, covered in unfamiliar hieroglyphs.
The Rats in the Walls
Possibly my favourite stories from H.P. Lovecraft – The Rats in the Walls tells the story of a descendant of the De la Poer family who moved from Massachusetts to his ancestral estate in England, known as Exham Priory. Unfortunately the estate has fallen into ruin. He starts restoring the old family estate much to the dismay of the locals. Soon after moving in, he and his cat hears rats scurrying behind the walls of the estate.
The Music of Erich Zann
The Music of Erich Zann tells the tale of a university student who is forced, due to a lack of funds, to take lodging in the only place he can afford. In a strange part of the city he has never seen before on a street named “Rue d’Auseil” he finds an apartment in a nearly empty building – the only lodger in the building is an old mute German man named Erich Zann. Erich Zann plays the violin in the local orchestra, lives on the top floor of the apartment and at night plays strange melodies never heard before.
Fun fact: In 2009 Alexey Voytenko composed “The music of Erich Zann” for a violin solo – which fits into the theme of the music Erich Zann would have played perfectly.
Another great entry for those new to the world of H.P. Lovecraft is Pickman’s Model. It tells the story of a friend of Richard Upton Pickman who paints and creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed but are so horrifying that his membership of the Boston Art Club gets revoked. He himself is also shunned by his fellow students. Pickman eventually shows his friend his personal gallery hidden away in a rundown backwater slum of the city. As they delve deeper and deeper into the work of Pickman, the room seems to get darker and darker as they progress.
The Dunwich Horror
The Dunwich Horror is another great entry for those new to the world of H.P. Lovecraft. The story takes place in the isolated, desolate and decrepit village of Dunwich. It tells the story of Mad Old Whateley and Lavinia Whateley who gave birth to their son, Wilbur Whately, and the strange events surrounding his birth and development. Wilbur grows at an abnormal rate reaching manhood within a decade. The locals shun the Wilbur farmhouse – the Whateleys buy more and more cattle yet the number of the herd never increases and the cattle in his field become mysteriously afflicted with severe open wounds.
Fun fact: The story of The Dunwich horror has been adapted into a film version in the 1970’s and has been published as a comic by IDW Publishing.
The Haunter of the Dark
The Haunter of the Dark is another great entry into the work of H.P. Lovecraft and is a must read for any fans of Cosmic / Eldritch horror. The Haunter of the Dark is the last story published by H.P. Lovecraft before his death in 1937. The story takes place in Providence, Rhode Island and centres on the Church of Starry Wisdom. The cult uses what is known as the Shining Trapezohedron to summon a terrible being from the depths of space and time.