‘The Lurking Fear’

Having recently reread the title story, and in the interest of the season, I thought I would share some thoughts here. Those of you who have read ‘The Lurking Fear’, by H.P. Lovecraft, will know already the dark majesty of the story. Those of you who have not have some catching up to do, it would seem…

The premise of the story is quite simple: the narrator, having heard rumours of a horror on Tempest Mountain, visits the Martense Manor at said location with the intention of uncovering what is occurring there. The narrative is broken down into four serials, in which form it was originally published through Home Brew.

Where the story works so well is in the nature of the horror it explores. Lovecraft marries fears of the dark, the night, storms, claustrophobia and the unknown, to name but a few, into an atmospherically arresting story that grips its readers. These fears are innate and primitive, ensuring that his story strikes chords with as many readers as possible.  The impact of these psychological tricks is evidenced by the number of spin-offs, stories and films inspired by ‘The Lurking Fear’. My favourite of these is British horror film The Descent, although that is perhaps a post for another time.

Whilst much of the horror in ‘The Lurking Fear’ is atmospheric, Lovecraft does not disappoint us when it comes to the climax of the story. I will not disclose spoilers here for fear of ruining the ending for others, but I will say that the nature of the revealed horror is repulsive in every respect. Like the dark and the storms and the claustrophobia that he explores, the horror plays on primitive, psychological fears and reflexes, ensuring the readers’ revulsion.

The story fascinates me because it terrifies me. Its use of very real fears to accompany the weird is a technique that should not be ignored, especially when considering the literary merit of horror and means of integrating horror elements into literary and/or contemporary mainstream fiction. Certainly it is worth trying to emulate, if any writers fancy their hand at experimenting with its impacts. It is not just monsters that scare. It is the darkness; in the sky, beneath the ground and inside us all. And if that darkness turns us into monsters, then so be it.