|"The Rats in the Walls"|
|Author||H. P. Lovecraft|
|Genre(s)||Horror short story|
|Published in||Weird Tales|
|Media type||Print (magazine)|
|Publication date||March, 1924|
In 1923, an American named Delapore, the last descendant of the De la Poer family, moves to his ancestral estate in England following the death of his only son during World War I. To the dismay of nearby residents, he restores the estate, called Exham Priory. After moving in, Delapore and his cat frequently hear the sounds of rats scurrying behind the walls. Upon investigating further, and through recurring dreams, Delapore learns that his family maintained an underground city for centuries, where they raised generations of "human cattle"—some regressed to a quadrupedal state—to supply their taste for human flesh. This was stopped when Delapore's ancestor killed his entire family in their sleep and left the country in order to end the horror, leaving the remaining human livestock and a surviving relative to be devoured by the rats inhabiting the city's cesspits.
Maddened by the revelations of his family's past, a hereditary cruelty and his anger over his son's death, Delapore attacks one of his friends in the dark of the cavernous city and begins eating him while rambling in a mixture of Middle English, Latin, and Gaelic, before devolving into a cacophony of animalistic grunts. He is subsequently subdued and placed in a mental institution. At least one other investigator, Thornton, has gone insane as well. Soon after, Exham Priory is destroyed and the investigators decide to cover up the existence of the city. Delapore maintains his innocence, proclaiming that it was "the rats, the rats in the walls", who ate the man. He continues to be plagued by the sound of rats in the walls of his cell.
Long after writing "The Rats in the Walls", Lovecraft wrote that the story was "suggested by a very commonplace incident—the cracking of wall-paper late at night, and the chain of imaginings resulting from it." Another entry in Lovecraft's commonplace book also seems to provide a plot germ for the story: "Horrible secret in crypt of ancient castle—discovered by dweller."
Steven J. Mariconda points to Sabine Baring-Gould's Curious Myths of the Middle Ages (1862–68) as a source for Lovecraft's story. The description of the cavern under the priory has many similarities to Baring-Gould's account of St. Patrick's Purgatory, a legendary Irish holy site, and the story of the priory's rats sweeping across the landscape may have been inspired by the book's retelling of the legend of Bishop Hatto, who was devoured by rats after he set fire to starving peasants during a famine (a story referenced in the legend of the Mouse Tower of Bingen).
Parts of Lovecraft's story bear a striking resemblance to Carl Jung's famous "house" dream (told to Sigmund Freud in 1909, though not well known before 1925): the descent through one's historically-stratified ancestral family home to a Romanesque cellar; lifting a hidden slab; descending stone steps to a prehistoric cave littered with bones, broken pottery, etc.
Leigh Blackmore has posited that one surface feature of the story may be found in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", in which Roderick Usher comments that so abnormally sensitive is his hearing that he "can hear the rats in the walls".
The Gaelic quoted at the end of the story is borrowed from Fiona Macleod's "The Sin-Eater". Macleod included a footnote that translated the passage as: "God against thee and in thy face… and may a death of woe be yours… Evil and sorrow to thee and thine!" Lovecraft wrote to Frank Belknap Long, "[T]he only objection to the phrase is that it's Gaelic instead of Cymric as the south-of-England locale demands. But as with anthropology—details don't count. Nobody will ever stop to note the difference." Robert E. Howard, however, wrote a letter in 1930 to Weird Tales suggesting that the language choice reflected "Lluyd's theory as to the settling of Britain by the Celts"—a note that, passed on to Lovecraft, initiated their voluminous correspondence. The Cymric-speaking area at that time covered not only Wales, but all of the island below Hadrian's Wall, with Gaelic only being spoken north of the Wall.
S. T. Joshi points to Irvin S. Cobb's "The Unbroken Chain" as a model for Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls".  In his essay, Lovecraft writes, "Later work of Mr. Cobb introduces an element of possible science, as in the tale of hereditary memory where a modern man with a negroid strain utters words in African jungle speech when run down by a train under visual and aural circumstances recalling the maiming of his black ancestor by a rhinoceros a century before."
"The Rats in the Walls" is loosely connected to Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos stories; toward the end, the narrator notes that the rats seem "determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth's centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players." In this reference to Nyarlathotep, the first after his introduction in the prose poem of the same name, the entity seems to have many of the attributes of the god Azathoth.
Before moving to Exham Priory, Delapore lives in Bolton, Massachusetts, a factory town where the title character of "Herbert West–Reanimator" performs some of his experiments. The town is also mentioned in "The Colour Out of Space"; it is not thought to be the same place as the real-world Bolton, Massachusetts.
Later Mythos writers have suggested the Magna Mater ("Great Mother") worshipped by the Exham cult was Shub-Niggurath (though in the story itself multiple references are made to Roman goddess Cybele, known as Magna Mater).
The story was rejected by Argosy All-Story Weekly before being accepted by Weird Tales; Lovecraft claimed that the former magazine found it "too horrible for the tender sensibilities of a delicately nurtured publick [sic]". The publisher of Weird Tales, JC Henneberger, described the story in a note to Lovecraft as the best his magazine had ever received. It was one of the few Lovecraft stories anthologized during his lifetime, in the 1931 collection Switch on the Light, edited by Christine Campbell Thompson.
It is notable in that Lovecraft uses the technique of referring to a text (in this case real life works by Petronius and Catullus) without giving a full explanation of its contents, so as to give the impression of depth and hidden layers to his work. He later refined this idea with the Necronomicon, prevalent in his Cthulhu Mythos stories.
Equally important to the later development of the Cthulhu Mythos was that it was a reprint of this story in Weird Tales that inspired Robert E. Howard to write to the magazine praising the work. This letter was passed on to Lovecraft and the two became friends and correspondents until Howard's death in 1936. This literary connection became reflected in each author adding aspects from the other's works to their own tales and Howard is considered one of the more prolific of the original Cthulhu Mythos authors.
Kingsley Amis listed "Rats" (along with "The Dunwich Horror") as one of the Lovecraft stories "that achieve a memorable nastiness". Lin Carter called "Rats" "one of the finest stories of Lovecraft's entire career." S. T. Joshi describes the piece as "a nearly flawless example of the short story in its condensation, its narrative pacing, its thunderous climax, and its mingling of horror and poignancy."
American gothic fiction is a subgenre of gothic fiction. Elements specific to American Gothic include: rationality/rational vs irrational, puritanism, guilt, Das Unheimliche (strangeness within the familiar as defined by Sigmund Freud), ab-humans, ghosts, monsters, and domestic abjection. The roots of these concepts lay in a past riddled with slavery, a fear of racial mixing (miscegenation), hostile Native American relations, their subsequent genocide, and the daunting wilderness present at the American frontier. American Gothic is often devoid of castles and objects which allude to a civilized history. Differentiating between horror and terror is important in the study of these texts.Bolton, Massachusetts
Bolton is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Bolton is in eastern Massachusetts, located 25 miles west-northwest of downtown Boston. The population was 4,897 at the 2010 census.Cthulhu
Cthulhu ( kə-THOO-loo) is a fictional cosmic entity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft and first introduced in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu", published in the American pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928. Considered a Great Old One within the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities, the creature has since been featured in numerous popular culture references. Lovecraft depicts Cthulhu as a gigantic entity worshipped by cultists. Cthulhu's appearance is described as looking like an octopus, a dragon, and a caricature of human form. Its name was given to the Lovecraft-inspired universe where it and its fellow entities existed, the Cthulhu Mythos.Dark Adventure Radio Theatre
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre is a series of radio dramas produced by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. They are produced in the style of 1930s radio drama, and the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre resembles a Mercury Theatre production hosted by the fictional "Chester Langfield" and "sponsored" by "Fleur-de-Lys Cigarettes". However, the character "died" of emphysema after the fourth production (The Shadow Over Innsmouth) and was replaced by the equally fictional "Erskine Blackwell," the new "sponsor" being "Forhan's Toothpaste." In the 2014 production, The Dreams in the Witch House, the sponsor became "Bub-L-Pep", a lithium-based drink. The series features casts of professional actors and original music. The CD releases include four prop documents, such as newspaper clippings, etc., from the show.
Currently released productions:
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: At the Mountains of Madness (2007)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Dunwich Horror (2008)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Shadow Out of Time (2008-10-01)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Shadow Over Innsmouth (2008-12)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Call of Cthulhu (2012-11)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (2013-03)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Color Out of Space (2013)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: Herbert West - Reanimator (2013)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Dreams in the Witch House (2014)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: Imprisoned with the Pharaohs (2014)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Horror at Red Hook (2015)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: Dagon: War of Worlds (2015)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: A Solstice Carol (2015)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The White Tree (2016)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Thing on the Doorstep (2016)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Brotherhood of the Beast (2016)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Haunter of the Dark (2017)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Rats in the Walls (2017)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (2017)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: Bad Medicine (2018)
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: Masks of Nyarlathotep (2019)Fire vampire
Fire vampires are fictional characters in the Cthulhu Mythos. The term refers to two distinct types of beings: the Flame Creatures of Cthugha, created by August Derleth, and the Fire Vampires of Fthaggua, created by Donald Wandrei.H. P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (US: ; August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American writer who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. He was virtually unknown and published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, but he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors of horror and weird fiction.Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, where he spent most of his life. Among his most celebrated tales are "The Rats in the Walls", "The Call of Cthulhu", At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow over Innsmouth, and The Shadow Out of Time, all canonical to the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft was never able to support himself from earnings as an author and editor. He saw commercial success increasingly elude him in this latter period, partly because he lacked the confidence and drive to promote himself. He subsisted in progressively strained circumstances in his last years; an inheritance was completely spent by the time he died, at age 46.H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society
The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society or HPLHS is the organization that hosts Cthulhu Lives!, a group of live-action roleplayers for the Cthulhu Live version of Call of Cthulhu. Founded in Colorado in 1984, it is now based in Glendale, California. Their motto is Ludo Fore Putavimus ("We thought it would be fun").HPLHS produces a number of Cthulhu Mythos films and sound recordings, under its Mythoscope and Mythophone labels, respectively. They also offer props, both for sale and for free download.Necronomicon (film)
Necronomicon (also called H. P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead or Necronomicon: To Hell and Back) is a 1993 French-American anthology horror film. It features three distinct segments and a wraparound directed by Brian Yuzna, Christophe Gans and Shusuke Kaneko and written by Gans, Yuzna, Brent V. Friedman, and Kazunori Itō. The film's ensemble cast includes stars Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Payne, Richard Lynch, Belinda Bauer, Maria Ford, Dennis Christopher, Gary Graham, and David Warner. The extensive special makeup and animatronic effects were supervised by Tom Savini and were created by John Carl Buechler, Christopher Nelson, and Screaming Mad George.
The three stories in the film are based on three H. P. Lovecraft short stories: The Drowned is loosely based on The Rats in the Walls, The Cold is based on Cool Air, and Whispers is based on The Whisperer in Darkness.Nona (short story)
"Nona" is a short horror story by Stephen King, first published in the 1978 anthology Shadows and later collected in King's 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.R'lyeh
R'lyeh is a fictional lost city that first appeared in the H. P. Lovecraft short story "The Call of Cthulhu", first published in Weird Tales in June 1928. In the story, R'lyeh is a sunken city in the South Pacific and the prison of the entity called Cthulhu.
The nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh…was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults.Shakespeare by the Sea, Newfoundland
The Shakespeare by the Sea Festival is an annual event that runs throughout the months of July and August in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada that presents outdoor productions of the plays of William Shakespeare, as well as pieces related to the province and culture.The Festival is under the governance of Shakespeare by the Sea Festival Inc., a community-based, charitable organization that produces and promotes artistic works with a focus on William Shakespeare.The company mounts site-specific productions in a variety of venues that may change from season to season.Shakespeare by the Sea, Newfoundland is listed as a Major Festival in the book Shakespeare Festivals Around the World by Marcus D. Gregio (Editor), 2004.Sleep No More (anthology)
Sleep No More is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye, the first of three similar books in the 1940s. It was first published by Rinehart & Company in 1944. Featuring short stories by H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and other noted authors of the macabre genre, many of the stories made their initial appearance in Weird Tales magazine. The anthology is considered to be a classic of the genre, and is the initial foray by Coye into the field of horror illustration.Supernatural Horror in Literature
"Supernatural Horror in Literature" is a long essay by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, surveying the topic of horror fiction. It was written between November 1925 and May 1927 and revised during 1933–1934. It was first published in 1927 in the one-issue magazine The Recluse. More recently, it was included in the collection Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1965).
Lovecraft examines the beginnings of weird fiction in the gothic novel (relying greatly on Edith Birkhead's 1921 survey The Tale of Terror) and traces its development through such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe (who merits his own chapter). Lovecraft names as the four "modern masters" of horror: Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, M. R. James, and Arthur Machen.
An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia terms the work "HPL's most significant literary essay and one of the finest historical analyses of horror literature." Upon reading the essay, M. R. James proclaimed Lovecraft's style "most offensive". However,
Edmund Wilson, who was not an admirer of Lovecraft's fiction, praised the essay as a "really able piece of
work...he had read comprehensively in this field—he was strong on the Gothic novelists—and
writes about it with much intelligence". David G. Hartwell has called "Supernatural Horror in Literature", "the most important essay on horror literature".Swineherd
A swineherd is a person who raises and herds pigs as livestock. The term has fallen out of popular use in favour of pig farmer.The Black Mass
The Black Mass was a horror-fantasy radio drama produced by Erik Bauersfeld, a leading American radio dramatist of the post-television era. The series aired on KPFA (Berkeley) and KPFK (Los Angeles) from 1963 to 1967, on an irregular schedule. Bauersfeld was the Director of Drama and Literature at KPFA from 1966 to 1991.
Bauersfeld's sound designer for most of the episodes was John Whiting, KPFA's production director. Their collaborations were later credited in a Ph.D. dissertation with "keeping radio drama alive in America in the 1960s."
Music for the series was by several Bay Area composers, including KPFA's Music Director Charles Shere, a composer and music critic who later wrote books on American composers and also serves on the board of the Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.
Bauersfeld's Black Mass productions were an influence on writer-producer Thomas Lopez (ZBS), who noted, "In the 1960s, I was inspired by someone at KPFA in Berkeley, Eric Bauersfeld. who did a series called The Black Mass, adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft and such. He helped me a lot. I consider Eric my mentor. He also did some fine Eugene O'Neill plays for radio."The Descendant (short story)
"The Descendant" is a story fragment by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, believed to have been written in 1927. It was first published in the journal Leaves in 1938, after Lovecraft's death.The Moon-Bog
"The Moon-Bog" is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in or before March 1921. The story was first published in the June 1926 issue of the pulp magazine Weird Tales.The Outsider (short story)
"The Outsider" is a short story by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written between March and August 1921, it was first published in Weird Tales, April 1926. In this work, a mysterious individual who has been living alone in a castle for as long as he can remember decides to break free in search of human contact and light. "The Outsider" is one of Lovecraft's most commonly reprinted works and is also one of the most popular stories ever to be published in Weird Tales.
"The Outsider" combines horror, fantasy, and gothic fiction to create a nightmarish story, containing themes of loneliness, the abhuman, and the afterlife. Its epigram is from John Keats' 1819 poem "The Eve of St. Agnes".Whipple Van Buren Phillips
Whipple Van Buren Phillips (November 22, 1833 – March 28, 1904) was an American businessman from Providence, Rhode Island who also had mining interests in Idaho. He was most notable as the grandfather of H. P. Lovecraft, whom he raised with his daughters and encouraged to have an appreciation of literature, especially classical literature and English poetry.