“The Dunwich Horror” is a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, first published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales. It takes place in Dunwich, a fictional town in Massachusetts and is considered one of the core stories of the Cthulhu Mythos. Although Lovecraft first mentioned “Yog-Sothoth” in the novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, it was in “The Dunwich Horror” that he introduced the entity as one of his extra-dimensional Outer Gods. It is also the tale in which the Necronomicon makes the most significant appearance, and the longest direct quote from it appears in the text.
Lovecraft’s main literary sources for “The Dunwich Horror” are the stories of Welsh horror writer Arthur Machen, particularly The Great God Pan and “The Novel of the Black Seal“. Both Machen stories concern individuals whose death throes reveal them to be only half-human in their parentage. The name Dunwich itself may come from Machen’s The Terror, where the name refers to an English town where the titular entity is seen hovering as “a black cloud with sparks of fire in it”. Lovecraft also takes Wilbur Whateley’s occult terms “Aklo” and “Voorish” from Machen’s “The White People”.
Lovecraft also seems to have found inspiration in Anthony M. Rud’s story “Ooze” (published in Weird Tales, March 1923), which also involved a monster being secretly kept and fed in a house that it subsequently bursts out of and destroys. The tracks of Wilbur’s brother recall those seen in Algernon Blackwood‘s “The Wendigo”, one of Lovecraft’s favorite horror stories, Also, Ambrose Bierce’s story “The Damned Thing” involves a monster invisible to human eyes, much like the Horror.
In the isolated, desolate and decrepit village of Dunwich, Wilbur Whateley is the hideous son of Lavinia Whateley, a deformed and unstable albino mother, and an unknown father (alluded to in passing by mad Old Whateley, as “Yog-Sothoth”), and strange events surround his birth and precocious development. Wilbur matures at an abnormal rate, reaching manhood within a decade, locals shun him and his family, and animals fear and despise him (due to a smell he gives off). All the while, his sorcerer grandfather indoctrinates him into certain dark rituals and the study of witchcraft…
Lovecraft took pride in “The Dunwich Horror”, calling it “so fiendish that [Weird Tales editor] Farnsworth Wright may not dare to print it.” Wright, however, snapped it up, sending Lovecraft a cheque for $240…