Appeared in: Weird Tales, February 1928
Upon the death of his grand-uncle, Francis Weyland Thurston is given a key to a mysterious box of letters and artifacts that tell a chilling tale of bizarre and seemingly connected incidents building up to an apocalyptic event.
Among the documents is an account of a troubled art student in New York whose strange dreams manifested in a bas-relief of a cyclopean city of “titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror”. Other accounts are of wicked cults in New Orleans and Greenland centered on human sacrifice to a winged, octopus-like idol.
Thurston decides to continue his grand-uncle’s research and tracks down the widow of a Norwegian sailor whose vessel ran aground on a strange island previously uncharted. There they discovered a ‘cyclopean’ city strewn with seaweed and unwittingly awake the monstrous Cthulhu who has slumbered for eons in his sunken kingdom.
Although Lovecraft considered the story to be one of his lesser works, the tentacled Cthulhu has become the figurehead of the author’s entire literary career and the story is an excellent example of ‘weird fiction’. The ‘Cthulhu Mythos’, coined by publisher August Derleth, is a shared universe based on the pantheon of the ‘Elder Ones’ created by Lovecraft and expanded by fellow Weird Tales alumni Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Derleth himself and Robert Bloch among others. The Mythos is as popular as ever with anthologies and games coming out every year, keeping Lovecraft’s bubbling imagination a current element in pop culture.
The story was adapted in 2005 as an excellent independent production by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLS) in the style of a silent movie circa 1928.