Published by Del Rey
H.P. Lovecraft needs little introduction, so I’ll just leave it with “arguably the most important horror writer of the 20th Century.” His Chthulu cycle of stories is still going on today, thanks to the many writers he influenced. What may not be known; however, is that in addition to writing many short stories, Lovecraft also assisted other fledgling writers of his time. This assistance ranged from writing advice to re-writing stores. The Horror in the Museum collects many such stories, stories where Lovecraft’s assistance was more of a re-writing than anything else. My only other foray into Lovecraft’s writing was Black Seas of Infinity, the superb collection edited by Andrew Wheeler and published by the Science Fiction Book Club, so I was looking forward to reading this one.
Before the stories begin; however, introductions by Stephen Jones (one of the world’s leading horror anthologists), S.T. Joshi (THE authority on Lovecraft), and August Derleth (Lovecraft’s literary executor) outline the stories and Lovecraft’s role in each story’s gestation. When the stories properly begin, The Green Meadow (with Winifred V. Jackson) sets the mood for the majority of the stories in the book. The story is brief, but touches upon many of the elements common to the stories in the volume. A man is confused by the otherworldly powers with which he comes into contact. The second story The Crawling Chaos, also with Jackson, does much the same and goes to greater depths to establish a pre-human history of darkness and intelligence unknown to the wider world. The Last Test, (with Adolphe de Castro) is a solid story that has more of the Lovecraftian elements – the Dark Gods, secret texts, cults, and dark deeds. The terror in this story is of human deeds, rather than dark powers of the past.
The Curse of Yig, (with Zealia Bishop) is another story of elder beings, though humans of today have a much more intimate relationship with them. One wonders if David Cronenberg was inspired by this story prior to his re-make/re-imagining of The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum in the late 1980s.
I was particularly enthralled by The Mound, (again with Zealia Bishop). Here, the story goes into great detail about an ancient civilization that is “just round the corner” or in this case, “under the mound.” The story is one of the lengthier in the collection, which allows Lovecraft (as he was more or less the ghostwriter on this story), to go into great detail about this civilization – K’n-yan. Like many of the ancient civilizations from Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos, the people who inhabit K’n-yan are travelers from distant galaxies who settled in Earth. Cthulu itself is mentioned in the course of the story.
The story which lends itself as the title of the collection – The Horror in the Museum – is in some respects, a straight-forward ghost story, and may even have a familiar feel to modern readers. One man is (more or less) dared to spend the night in the museum because of his doubts about the macabre goings-on in said museum. Of course his doubts are disproven by the story’s end. This story, like The Man of Stone, feels like a great episode of The Twilight Zone.
Perhaps my favorite story, and the most enthralling, was Out of the Aeons, which was co/ghost-written by/for Hazel Heald. This story, too, deals with an artifact in a museum. In this case; however, the artifact is a mummy and has a somewhat mythically storied past. The Black Book, an ancient text (not too dissimilar to the Necronomicon), indicates this mummy might be an ancient hero (T’yog) from one of Lovecraft’s lost civilizations. There are faint shadows of an Arthurian flair to this hero, as some of his people thought his return would mean an end to the dark times under Ghatanotha. The narrator isn’t the only one to think that, because of the Black Book, the mummy could be T’yog.
This newly re-issued edition with a great cover by John Jude Palencar is a worthy addition to any horror reader’s shelf and a must have for fans of Lovecraft. How these stories stand up next to Lovecraft’s better known stories attributed only to himself is a comparison I cannot judge fairly. However, I do know the stories in The Horror in the Museum are dark, evocative, thrilling, and enthralling.
© 2007 Rob H. Bedford
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