‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ by H.P. Lovecraft

Death… and beyond!

“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect…”

I know, I know, that I should stop at twelve – that to press on any further is nothing but sheer madness and a blatant – nay, blasphemous! – transgression of Personal Anthology Guidelines… But if the fates smile and Jonathan turns a blind eye and allow me this moment of folly to choose one last story (and an unlucky thirteenth story to boot!) the reader will come to learn of an eldritch world where distinctions between the male and female form, between youth and old age, between life and death itself! become hideously intwined… 

(To say much more would be to spoil the twists and turns of this nasty little story – and I’m already worried that I’ve said too much already – but I shall just add that ‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ is not only also my favourite Lovecraft, but is an ideal starting point for new readers who just fancy reading a good old-fashioned-and-genuinely-quite-chilling horror story without getting too bogged down in the bottomless swamps of the Cthulhu Mythos. Though there are far worse swamps to get bogged down in, if you ask me…)

First published in Weird Tales, 1937. Collected in H.P. Lovecraft Omnibus 3: The Haunter of the Dark, Victor Gollancz 1951. Available to read on the HP Lovecraft website here

‘Dagon’ by HP Lovecraft

Simultaneously the most marvellously dramatic yet most coolly detached opener in short story history:

I write this under appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more.

In fairness, almost any Lovecraft would do if you’re looking for that signature mix of the histrionic and the weirdly formal, but “Dagon”takes my top spot mostly thanks to its no-holds-barred horror sequences and the tantalising early elements it contains of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. A morphine-addicted man recounts a terrible past encounter on the open ocean, all the while preparing to fling himself from the window as “a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it” becomes more and more apparent. Lovecraft’s grotesque and squelching imagery is second to none and ‘Dagon’ is a perfect encapsulation of his inventive powers. A masterful invocation of the things that haunt us, “especially when the moon is gibbous and waning”.

First published in The Vagrant, November 1919. Widely collected, including in The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales, Penguin Classics, 2002, and The Complete Fiction of HP Lovecraft, Chartwell Classics, 2016, and available to read online here