The Whisperer in Darkness is a 26,000-word novella by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written February–September 1930, it was first published in Weird Tales, August 1931. Similar to The Colour Out of Space (1927), it is a blend of horror and science fiction. Although it makes numerous references to the Cthulhu Mythos, the story is not a central part of the mythos, but reflects a shift in Lovecraft's writing at this time towards science fiction. The story also introduces the Mi-go, an extraterrestrial race of fungoid creatures.
|"The Whisperer in Darkness"|
|Author||H. P. Lovecraft|
|Genre(s)||Horror, science fiction|
|Published in||Weird Tales|
|Media type||Print (magazine)|
|Publication date||August 1931|
The story is told by Albert N. Wilmarth, an instructor of literature at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. When local newspapers report strange things seen floating in rivers during a historic Vermont flood, Wilmarth becomes embroiled in a controversy about the reality and significance of the sightings, though he sides with the skeptics, blaming old legends about monsters living in uninhabited hills who abduct people who venture too close to their territory.
He receives a letter from one Henry Wentworth Akeley, a man who lives in an isolated farmhouse near Townshend, Vermont. He affirms that he has proof that will convince Wilmarth that he must stop focusing on the race's existence. The two exchange letters, including a record of the extraterrestrial race chanting with human agents, who worship several beings, including Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep, the latter of whom "shall put on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe that hides".
The agents intercept Akeley's messages and harass his farmhouse nightly. Akeley and the agents exchange gunfire and many of Akeley's guard dogs are killed. Although Akeley expresses more in his letters, he abruptly has a change of heart. He writes that he has met with the extraterrestrial beings and has learned that they are peaceful. Furthermore, they have taught him of marvels beyond all imagination. He urges Wilmarth to pay him a visit and to bring along the letters and photographic evidence that he had sent him. Wilmarth reluctantly consents.
Wilmarth arrives to find Akeley in a pitiful physical condition, immobilized in a chair in darkness. Akeley tells Wilmarth about the extraterrestrial race and the wonders they have revealed to him. He also says that the beings can surgically extract a human brain and place it into a canister wherein it can live indefinitely and withstand the rigors of outer space travel and shows proof to Wilmarth. Akeley says he has agreed to undertake such a journey and points to a cylinder bearing his name. Wilmarth also listens to a brain in a cylinder as it speaks of the positive aspects of the journey and why Wilmarth should join it in the trip to Yuggoth, the beings' homeworld. During these conversations, Wilmarth feels a vague sense of unease, especially from Akeley's odd manner of buzzing whispering.
During the night, a sleepless Wilmarth overhears a disturbing conversation with several voices, some of which are distinctly bizarre. Once all is silent, he creeps downstairs to investigate. He finds that Akeley is no longer present, but the robe he was wearing is discarded in the chair. Upon a closer look, he makes a horrifying discovery amid the folds of the robe which sends him fleeing the farmhouse by stealing Akeley's car. When the authorities investigate the next day, they find nothing but a bullet-riddled house. Akeley has disappeared along with all the physical evidence of the extraterrestrial presence. As the story concludes, Wilmarth discloses the discovery from which he fled in terror: Akeley's discarded face and hands. These were utilized by something inhuman to disguise itself as a man. He now believes with a dreadful certainty that the cylinder in that dark room with that whispering creature already contained the brain of Henry Wentworth Akeley.
The narrator of the story, Albert N. Wilmarth is described as a folklorist and assistant professor of English at Miskatonic University. He investigates the strange events that followed in the wake of the historic Vermont floods of 1927.
Wilmarth is also mentioned in Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, where the narrator remarks that he wishes he hadn't "talked so much with that unpleasantly erudite folklorist Wilmarth at the university." Elsewhere, the story refers to "the wild tales of cosmic hill things from outside told by a folklorist colleague in Miskatonic's English department."
Wilmarth is the main character in Fritz Leiber's "To Arkham and the Stars", written and presumably set in 1966, when the now-septuagenarian professor is chair of Miskatonic's Literature Department. Leiber describes him as "slender [and] silver-haired", with a "mocking sardonic note which has caused some to call him 'unpleasantly' rather than simply 'very' erudite." He acknowledges keeping "in rather closer touch with the Plutonians or Yuggothians than perhaps even old Dyer guesses." Wilmarth remarks in the story, "[A]fter you've spent an adult lifetime at Miskatonic, you discover you've developed a rather different understanding from the herd's of the distinction between the imaginary and the real."
Robert M. Price describes Wilmarth as "the model Lovecraft protagonist. ... Wilmarth starts out blissfully ignorant and only too late learns the terrible truth, and that only after a long battle with his initial rationalistic skepticism."
Henry Wentworth Akeley is a Vermont folklorist and correspondent of Albert Wilmarth. Henry Akeley became a noted academic, probably in the study of folklore. His wife died in 1901 after giving birth to his only heir, George Goodenough Akeley. When he retired, Akeley returned to his ancestral home, a two-story farmhouse in the Vermont hills near the slopes of Dark Mountain. In September 1928, he was visited by Professor Wilmarth, who was researching bizarre legends of the region. Shortly thereafter, Akeley disappeared mysteriously from his mountaintop home—though Wilmarth believed that he fell victim to the machinations of the sinister Fungi from Yuggoth. Some scholars, including Robert M. Price, have suggested that the possible creature masquerading as Akeley is actually Nyarlathotep, due to a quote from what the Mi-go chant on the phonograph record: "To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told. And He shall put on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe that hides, and come down from the world of Seven Suns to mock..."
In his sequel to "The Whisperer in Darkness", "Documents in the Case of Elizabeth Akeley" (1982), Richard A. Lupoff explores the overlooked possibility that perhaps Akeley did not fall prey to the Mi-go as is generally supposed, but instead joined them willingly. Lupoff also proposes that Akeley was the illegitimate son of Abednego Akeley, a minister for a Vermont sect of the Starry Wisdom Church, and Sarah Phillips, Abednego's maidservant.
Akeley is mentioned in The Whisperer in Darkness as the son of Henry Wentworth Akeley. According to The Whisperer in Darkness, George moved to San Diego, California, after his father retired.
The 1976 Fritz Leiber story "The Terror From the Depths" mentions Akeley being consulted at his San Diego home by Professor Albert Wilmarth in 1937.
"Documents in the Case of Elizabeth Akeley", a 1982 sequel to The Whisperer in Darkness by Richard A. Lupoff, describes Akeley, inspired by the evangelist Aimee McPherson, starting a sect called the Spiritual Light Brotherhood and serving as its leader, the Radiant Father. After his death, his granddaughter Elizabeth Akeley took over the role.
In 1928, Lovecraft took a trip through rural Vermont with a man named Arthur Goodenough. During his jaunt, he met a local farmer with a name that bears a striking resemblance to the ill-fated character of Lovecraft's tale: one Bert G. Akley.
A largely unknown man who is allied with the Mi-Go, or the Outer Ones and is connected with both the disappearance of a local farmer, a man named Brown, and the security of the Mi-Go camp. He aided Wilmarth upon his arrival in Brattleboro and took him to Akeley's home. Afterward, Noyes is seen and heard sleeping on the sofa during Wilmarth's escape.
The following passage from The Whisperer in Darkness lists the names of various beings and places that occur in the works of Lovecraft and other writers:
I found myself faced by names and terms that I had heard elsewhere in the most hideous of connections—Yuggoth, Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Yog-Sothoth, R'lyeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur, Yian, Leng, the Lake of Hali, Bethmoora, the Yellow Sign, L’mur-Kathulos, Bran, and the Magnum Innominandum…
Among the more obscure names mentioned here are:
In "The Whisperer in Darkness", narrator Albert Wilmarth initially dismisses those who believe that nonhuman creatures inhabit the Vermont hills as "merely romanticists who insisted on trying to transfer to real life the fantastic lore of lurking 'little people' made popular by the magnificent horror-fiction of Arthur Machen." This line, Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price argues, is an acknowledgement of the debt Lovecraft's story owes to Machen's The Novel of the Black Seal (1895). He writes:
I would go so far as to make essentially a rewriting, a new version of Machen's. In both cases we have a professor, an antiquarian, following his avocational interests in what most would dismiss as superstition on a dangerous expedition into a strange region of ominous domed hills. He is lured by a curiously engraved black stone which seems a survival from an elder prehuman race now hidden in those mysterious hills. ... Lovecraft splits the role of Machen's Professor Gregg between Professor Wilmarth and the scholarly recluse Akeley. ... [I]t is Akeley, not the Professor, who eventually disappears into the clutches of the elder race. Wilmarth remains behind to tell the tale, like Machen's Miss Lally.
Price points out parallel passages in the two stories: Where Machen asks, "What if the obscure and horrible race of the hills still survived...?" Lovecraft hints at "a hidden race of monstrous beings which lurked somewhere among the remoter hills". Where Machen mentions "strange shapes gathering fast amidst the reeds, beside the wash in the river," Lovecraft tells of "certain odd stories of things found floating in some of the swollen rivers." Price suggests that Machen's reference to accounts of people "who vanished strangely from the earth" prompted Lovecraft to imagine people being literally spirited off the Earth.
As noted by critics like Price and Lin Carter, The Whisperer in Darkness also makes reference to names and concepts in Robert W. Chambers's The King in Yellow, some of which had previously been borrowed from Ambrose Bierce. In a letter to Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft wrote that "Chambers must have been impressed with 'An Inhabitant of Carcosa' & 'Haita the Shepherd', which were first published during his youth. But he even improves on Bierce in creating a shuddering background of horror—a vague, disquieting memory which makes one reluctant to use the faculty of recollection too vigorously."
The idea of keeping a human brain alive in a jar (with mechanical attachments allowing sight, hearing, and speech) to enable travel in areas inhospitable to the body might have been inspired by the book The World, the Flesh, and the Devil by J.D. Bernal, which describes and suggests the feasibility of a similar device. The book was published in 1929, just a year before Lovecraft wrote his story.
In addition to being a textbook example of Lovecraft's characteristically non-occult brand of horror, in an age when the genre consisted almost entirely of ghosts, vampires, goblins, and similar traditional tales, "Whisperer" is one of the earliest literary appearances of the now-cliché concept of an isolated brain (although the alien brain case is not transparent as with later cinematic examples of this trope).
The story retains some seemingly supernatural elements, such as its claim that the alien fungi, although visible to the naked eye and physically tangible, do not register on photographic plates and instead produce an image of the background absent the creature (an impossibility by any known laws of optics, though a trait commonly attributed to vampires), although the story does mention that this is possibly due to the creatures' fungoid and alien structure which works differently from any known physical organism. It is stated that the electrons of these fungoid aliens possess a different vibrational frequency that would require the development of a novel technique by a chemist in order to record their image.
In a letter to the January 1932 Weird Tales, Donald Wandrei praised The Whisperer in Darkness, as well as "The Seeds of Death" by David H. Keller and the stories of Clark Ashton Smith. Robert Weinberg claimed the story's ending was "predictable". However, Weinberg also praised "the detailed buildup" of The Whisperer in Darkness, arguing it created "the superb mood that needed no surprise to make it a classic of fantastic horror" .
Cthulhu is a fictional cosmic entity created by horror author H. P. Lovecraft
Cthulhu may also refer to:
EntertainmentCthulhu (2000 film), an Australian horror film by Damian Heffernan
Cthulhu (2007 film), an American horror film
H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu: The Whisperer in Darkness, a 1990s comics mini-series
"Cthulhu", a song by Therion from Beyond Sanctorum
"Cthulhu", a song by The Acacia Strain from Continent
"Cuttlefish of Cthulhu", the codpiece worn by Dave Brockie, lead vocalist for the heavy metal band GWAROtherCthulhu (Pluto), the largest dark region on Pluto
Cthulhu (genus), a symbiotic microorganism that lives in the guts of termites
C'thulhu (assassination), an assassination dark web site
Hastur (The Unspeakable One, The King in Yellow, Him Who Is Not to be Named, Assatur, Xastur, H'aaztre, or Kaiwan) is an entity of the Cthulhu Mythos. Hastur first appeared in Ambrose Bierce's short story "Haïta the Shepherd" (1893) as a benign god of shepherds. Hastur is briefly mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft's The Whisperer in Darkness; previously, Robert W. Chambers had used the name in his own stories to represent both a person and a place associated with the names of several stars, including Aldebaran.Hounds of Tindalos
A Hound of Tindalos is a fictional creature created by Frank Belknap Long and later incorporated into the Cthulhu Mythos when it was codified by August Derleth. They first appeared in Long's short story "The Hounds of Tindalos", first published in the March 1929 issue of Weird Tales. Lovecraft mentions the creatures in his short story "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1931).K'n-yan
K'n-yan (or Xinaián) is a fictional, subterranean land in the Cthulhu Mythos. The underground realm was first described in detail in H. P. Lovecraft's revision of Zealia Bishop's The Mound (1940), in which it is discovered by the 16th century Spanish Conquistador Zamacona. Lovecraft also mentions K'n-yan in The Whisperer in Darkness (1930) and in his revision of Hazel Heald's "Out of the Aeons" (1935). The people of K'n-yan are sometimes referred to as the "Old Ones", a term of variable meaning in Lovecraft's fiction.Lovecraft Country
Lovecraft Country is a term coined by Keith Herber for the New England setting, combining real and fictitious locations, used by H. P. Lovecraft in many of his weird fiction stories, and later elaborated by other writers working in the Cthulhu Mythos. The term was popularized by Chaosium, the producers of the Lovecraftian role-playing game Call of Cthulhu. Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi refers to the area as the "Miskatonic region", after its fictional river and university, while Lovecraft biographer Lin Carter calls it Miskatonic County, though Lovecraft indicates that at least some of his fictional towns were located in the real-life Essex County of Massachusetts.In its 1998 supplement Dead Reckonings, Chaosium defined Lovecraft Country as "a land located in the northeast of Massachusetts. The most important portion stretches along the Miskatonic River valley, from Dunwich in the far west to where it enters the Atlantic Ocean between Arkham, Kingsport, and Martin's Beach." These locations, along with Innsmouth, are a list of the most significant locations in Lovecraft Country.
Sometimes the phrase is used in a more inclusive sense, encompassing not only northeastern Massachusetts but also the southern hills of Vermont (the setting of The Whisperer in Darkness) as well as Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, where he set such works as The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Haunter of the Dark.Mark Ellis (American author)
Mark Ellis is an American novelist and comic-book writer who under the pen name James Axler has written scores of books for the Outlanders paperback novel series and other books, as well as numerous independent comics series.Mi-Go
Mi-Go are a fictional race of extraterrestrials created by H. P. Lovecraft and used by others in the Cthulhu Mythos setting. The word Mi-Go comes from "Migou", a Tibetan word for yeti. The aliens are fungus-based lifeforms which are extremely varied due to their prodigious surgical, biological, chemical, and mechanical skill. The variants witnessed by Akeley in "The Whisperer in Darkness" look like winged humanoid crabs, and do not resemble yeti.
Mi-Go are first named as such in Lovecraft's short story "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1931). However this is considered an elaboration on earlier references in his sonnet cycle Fungi from Yuggoth (1929–30) to descriptions of alien vegetation on dream-worlds.
The Mi-Go have appeared across a range of media set in the Cthulhu Mythos.Miskatonic University
Miskatonic University is a fictional university located in Arkham, a fictional town in Essex County, Massachusetts. It is named after the Miskatonic River (also fictional). After first appearing in H. P. Lovecraft's 1922 story "Herbert West–Reanimator", the school appeared in numerous Cthulhu Mythos stories by Lovecraft and other writers. The story "The Dunwich Horror" implies that Miskatonic University is a highly prestigious university, on par with Harvard University, and that Harvard and Miskatonic are the two most popular schools for the children of the Massachusetts “Old Gentry”. The university also appears in role-playing games and board games based on the mythos.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.Pnakotic Manuscripts
The Pnakotic Manuscripts (or Pnakotic Fragments) is a fictional manuscript in the Cthulhu Mythos. The tome was created by H. P. Lovecraft and first appeared in his short story "Polaris" (1918). They are mentioned in many of Lovecraft's stories, including "The Other Gods" (1933), The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926), The Whisperer in Darkness, At the Mountains of Madness (1936), "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", The Shadow Out of Time (1936) and "The Haunter of the Dark". The manuscripts are also referred to by other Mythos authors, such as Lin Carter and Brian Lumley.
The Pnakotic Manuscripts are noteworthy for being the first of Lovecraft's fictional arcane books. More Lovecraft stories mention the Pnakotic Manuscripts than any other fictitious "forbidden book" -- including the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, the Book of Eibon (a.k.a. Liber Ivonis), Comte d'Erlotte's Cultes des Goules and von Juntz's Unassprechenlichen Kulten -- except the fabled Necronomicon.Shub-Niggurath
Shub-Niggurath, often associated with the phrase “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”, is a deity in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. The only other name by which H. P. Lovecraft referred to her was "Lord of the Wood" in his story The Whisperer in Darkness.
Shub-Niggurath is first mentioned in Lovecraft's revision story "The Last Test" (1928); she is not described by Lovecraft, but is frequently mentioned or called upon in incantations. Most of her development as a literary figure was carried out by other Mythos authors, including August Derleth, Robert Bloch, and Ramsey Campbell.
August Derleth classified Shub-Niggurath as a Great Old One, but the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game classifies her as an Outer God. The CthulhuTech role-playing game, in turn, returns to Derleth's classification of Shub-Niggurath as a Great Old One.Stephen Blackehart
Stephen T. Blackehart is an American actor, author and producer.The Festival
"The Festival" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft written in October 1923 and published in the January 1925 issue of Weird Tales.The Whisperer in Darkness (film)
The Whisperer in Darkness is a 2011 independent film based on the H. P. Lovecraft short story of the same name, directed and produced by Sean Branney, Andrew Leman, and David Robertson and distributed by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. It was shot using Mythoscope, a blend of vintage and modern filming techniques intended to produce the look of a 1930s-era film. According to the film's website, the filmmakers intended to capture the look of "classic horror films of the 1930s like Dracula, Frankenstein and King Kong".Tsathoggua
Tsathoggua (the Sleeper of N'kai, also known as Zhothaqquah) is a supernatural entity in the Cthulhu Mythos shared fictional universe. He is the creation of American writer Clark Ashton Smith and is part of his Hyperborean cycle.
Tsathoggua/Zhothaqquah is described as an Old One, a god-like being from the pantheon. He was introduced in Smith's short story "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros", written in 1929 and published in the November 1931 issue of Weird Tales. His first appearance in print, however, was in H. P. Lovecraft's story "The Whisperer in Darkness", written in 1930 and published in the August 1931 issue of Weird Tales.Whispers in the Shadow
Whispers in the Shadow is a gothic rock band from Austria, formed in 1996. The band's name is inspired by the story The Whisperer in Darkness by H. P. Lovecraft. The lyrics deal mainly with occult and mystic concepts.Yuggoth
Yuggoth (or Iukkoth) is a fictional planet in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. It is deemed to be located at the very edge of the Solar System.