Where to Start with H.P. Lovecraft, the father of Cosmic horror

Known as the father of Cosmic horror, Howard Phillips Lovecraft invites you to explore the fears that are born in the unknown part of the universe and even beyond it.

Born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island, H. P. Lovecraft spent much of his life immersing himself in its rich history and folklore. His passion for writing emerged early on, and he began contributing essays to the United Amateur Press Association.

In 1913, his critical letter to a pulp magazine sparked his involvement in pulp fiction, setting him on a path to becoming a prominent writer in the speculative fiction community. Lovecraft’s stories found a home in pulp magazines like Weird Tales, where his distinctive style and cosmic horror themes gained recognition.

H. P. Lovecraft’s stories are characterized by cosmicism and the insignificance of humanity in the face of cosmic forces. His works often explored themes of civilizational decline and the fragility of anthropocentrism.

Relatively unknown during his lifetime, Lovecraft corresponded with other writers of his time whom he encouraged to borrow from him. By doing this, his style and ideas became rapidly influential among fans and authors of the horror genre.

An influence that is so prevalent to this day that even the fact that he is known for being prejudiced towards non-white ethnicities and cultures has not diminished the impact of his stories through the years. But you need to be aware of his views because they are in plain sight in his work. That and the fact that female characters are mostly relegated to be passive and, obviously, there’s a lack of representation of minorities.

H. P. Lovecraft’s bibliography is mostly composed of short stories and novellas. He also wrote poetry, criticism, and philosophical texts, and collaborated with many contemporaries.

You want to ask: Where to Start with H. P. Lovecraft’s stories? Here is a list of twelve stories to read.

H.P. Lovecraft Stories To Read

The Call of Cthulhu (1926)

The story follows an investigation into a cult and an ancient cosmic entity. Through inherited papers, the narrator unravels a recurring theme of the cult’s worship and the existence of Cthulhu, a malevolent creature residing in R’lyeh. As the investigation progresses, disturbing encounters and global events connected to Cthulhu’s influence are revealed. The narrator realizes the imminent chaos that would ensue if Cthulhu were to awaken.

At the Mountains of Madness

The tale of an Antarctic expedition that uncovers ancient horrors. As scientists explore the mysterious mountain range, they discover the remains of an extraterrestrial civilization, witnessing bizarre and terrifying creatures. The explorers gradually unravel the truth behind the city’s demise and the cosmic entities that once inhabited it. As the horrors escalate, the expedition members struggle to maintain their sanity and escape the deadly secrets hidden within the mountains.

“It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.”

― H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

The Shadow over Innsmouth

The story follows a protagonist who visits the coastal town of Innsmouth and unravels its dark secret. The town’s strange inhabitants, with their peculiar fish-like features, and the mysterious cult they belong to, gradually reveal their sinister connection to ancient sea creatures. As the protagonist delves deeper into the town’s history and his own lineage, he faces a horrifying truth and becomes entangled in a desperate struggle to escape the clutches of the Innsmouth horrors.

The Dunwich Horror

The story of a rural town plagued by a mysterious and invisible creature. As strange occurrences unfold, a local family’s dark secrets are revealed. Wilbur Whateley, a deformed and sinister young man, seeks to bring forth an ancient entity to wreak havoc on the world. With the help of occult knowledge and forbidden rituals, he unleashes a terrifying abomination upon Dunwich. The townspeople and a group of investigators must confront this monstrous horror and prevent its catastrophic plans from coming to fruition.

The Colour Out of Space

This is about the aftermath of a strange meteorite crash in a rural area. As the meteorite dissolves, it emits an indescribable and otherworldly color that begins to contaminate the land and its inhabitants. The surrounding plants and animals wither, mutate, and exhibit bizarre behavior, while the people who come into contact with the color suffer physical and mental deterioration.

“It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.”

― H.P. Lovecraft, The Colour Out of Space

The Whisperer in Darkness

An epistolary tale where a professor engages in a correspondence that uncovers sinister extraterrestrial beings and their plans. Through letters and documents, the professor learns of the existence of strange entities known as Mi-Go and their nefarious activities in the remote hills of Vermont. As the professor delves deeper into the mystery, he becomes entangled in a dangerous web of alien encounters, government conspiracies, and the looming threat of cosmic horror.

The Shadow Out of Time

This is about a professor who recovers lost memories and realizes that his mind has been occupied by an ancient extraterrestrial entity. The story explores his investigations into his missing years and the revelations of the entity’s connection to a prehistoric civilization. As the professor uncovers the truth about his past and the nature of time, he confronts the horrifying realization of his own insignificance.

The Haunter of the Dark

This story revolves around a writer who becomes obsessed with a church in Providence, Rhode Island. The church houses a malevolent entity that feeds on light and seeks to manifest in the physical realm. As the writer delves deeper into the mysteries of the church, he risks summoning the ancient evil and unleashing chaos upon the world.

The Rats in the Walls

This is about an inheritor of an ancestral Gothic mansion who discovers a horrifying secret beneath the house. As the protagonist delves into the subterranean tunnels, they encounter swarms of rats and uncover a dark history of their family’s involvement in gruesome rituals and human sacrifice. The revelations ultimately lead to a shocking and terrifying climax.

“My searchlight expired, but still I ran. I heard voices, and yowls, and echoes, but above all there gently rose that impious, insidious scurrying, gently rising, rising as a stiff bloated corpse gently rises above an oily river that flows under endless onyx bridges to a black putrid sea. Something bumped into me – something soft and plump. It must have been the rats; the viscous, gelatinous, ravenous army that feast on the dead and the living…”

― H.P. Lovecraft, The Rats In The Walls

The Thing on the Doorstep

This is a tale of possession and psychological horror. The protagonist recounts the disturbing events surrounding his friend’s marriage to a woman with a dark secret. As the narrator becomes entangled in the story, he realizes that his friend’s wife possesses an uncanny ability to switch bodies with others.

Herbert West—Reanimator

This is a series of interconnected stories that follow the experiments of Herbert West, a medical student obsessed with reanimating the dead. Each story explores a different phase of West’s gruesome experiments, from his early days in medical school to his increasingly desperate and disturbing methods.

Nyarlathotep

This is a short story in which an unnamed narrator recounts a series of encounters with a mysterious figure known as Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. The narrator describes witnessing Nyarlathotep’s mesmerizing and unsettling performances, where he incites chaos and madness among the crowds. As the story progresses, the narrator realizes that Nyarlathotep is not merely a performer but an ancient and malevolent entity with a dark purpose, spreading destruction and terror wherever he goes.