The Haunter of the Dark

The Haunter of the Dark

Infobox short story |
name = The Haunter of the Dark
author = H. P. Lovecraft
country = United States
language = English
genre = Horror short story
publication_type = Periodical
published_in = "Weird Tales"
publisher =
media_type = Print (Magazine)
pub_date = December, 1936

"The Haunter of the Dark" is a horror story in the Cthulhu Mythos genre. Written by H. P. Lovecraft in November 1935, and published in the December 1936 edition of "Weird Tales" (Vol. 28, No. 5, p. 538–53). It is a sequel to "The Shambler from the Stars", by Robert Bloch, and Bloch wrote a third story in the sequence, "The Shadow from the Steeple", in 1950.


Lovecraft wrote this tale as a sequel and reply to "The Shambler from the Stars" (1935) by Robert Bloch, in which Bloch kills the Lovecraft-inspired character. Lovecraft returned the favor in this tale, killing off Robert Harrison Blake (aka Robert Bloch) [Carter, Lin. "", pp. 116–7, New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1972.] . Bloch later wrote a third story, "The Shadow from the Steeple" (1950), to create a trilogy. [Ibid, pp. 123.]

In Blake's final notes, he refers to "Roderick Usher", an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", which Lovecraft described in "Supernatural Horror in Literature" as featuring "an abnormally linked trinity of entities...a brother, his twin sister, and their incredibly ancient house all sharing a single soul and meeting one common dissolution at the same moment." "An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia" suggests that this interpretation is the key to understanding the ending of "The Haunter of the Dark": " [W] e are to believe that the entity in the church--the Haunter of the Dark, described as an avatar of Nyarlathotep--has possessed Blake's mind but, at the moment of doing so, is struck by lightning and killed, and Blake dies as well." [S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, "An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia", p. 106.]

Plot summary

The story takes place in Providence, Rhode Island and revolves around the Church of Starry Wisdom. The cult uses an ancient artifact known as the Shining Trapezohedron to summon a terrible being from the depths of time and space.

The Shining Trapezohedron was discovered in Egyptian ruins, in a box of alien construction, by Professor Enoch Bowen before he returned to Providence, Rhode Island in 1844. Members of the Church of Starry Wisdom in Providence would awaken the Haunter of the Dark, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, by gazing into the glowing crystal. Summoned from the black gulfs of chaos, this being could show other worlds, other galaxies, and the secrets of arcane and paradoxical knowledge; but he demanded monstrous sacrifices, hinted at by disfigured skeletons that were later found in the church. The Haunter of the Dark was banished by light and could not cross a lighted area.

The Shining Trapezohedron is a window on all space and time. Described as a "crazily angled stone", it is unlikely to be a true trapezohedron because of the Old Ones' penchant for bizarre non-Euclidean angles. It was created on dark Yuggoth and brought to Earth by the Old Ones, where it was placed in its box aeons before the first human beings appeared. It has further history in Atlantis and with the Pharaohs of Egypt, until it was finally unearthed and brought to New England.

After the death of Robert Blake, who came to grief after discovering the Shining Trapezohedron and deciphering texts about it from ancient evil cults, the artifact was removed from the black windowless steeple where it was found by a Dr. Dexter and thrown into the deepest channel of Narragansett Bay. It was expected to remain there, under the eternal light of the stars, forever; yet, Robert Bloch's sequel, "The Shadow from the Steeple", proved that Nyarlathotep had cheated Dexter, forcing him to peer into the stone and actually throw the stone into the bay, where the eternal darkness of the depths gave the Haunter the power to remain perpetually free; it used this power to merge with Dr. Dexter and make him one of the world's leading nuclear scientists-in charge of atomic investigation for warfare.


Robert Blake

Robert Harrison Blake is a fictional horror writer who first appears, unnamed, in Robert Bloch's 1935 story "The Shambler from the Stars". In Lovecraft's sequel, "The Haunter of the Dark", Blake dies while investigating the Starry Wisdom cult of Enoch Bowen. Lovecraft modeled Blake on Bloch, but also gave him characteristics that evoke Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft himself.

Blake's death is the starting point for another sequel by Bloch, "The Shadow from the Steeple" (1950). Blake's fiction is referred to in Ramsey Campbell's “The Franklyn Paragraphs” (1973) and Philip José Farmer's “The Freshman” (1979).

Enoch Bowen

In Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark", Enoch Bowen is a renowned occultist and archaeologist who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1843, Bowen earned some measure of fame when he found the tomb of the unknown pharaoh Nephren-Ka. A year later, Bowen mysteriously ceased his archaeological dig and returned to Providence where he founded the Church of Starry Wisdom. He dies circa 1865. He also appears in "The Shadow from the Steeple", Robert Bloch's sequel to "The Haunter of the Dark".

Ambrose Dexter

In "The Haunter of the Dark", he is referred to only as "superstitious Doctor Dexter", who threw the Shining Trapezohedron into "the deepest channel of Narragansett Bay" after the death of Robert Blake.

In "The Shadow From the Steeple", Bloch's sequel, the darkness of the bay's bottom gives Nyarlathotep the power to possess Dr. Dexter (who is given the first name of Ambrose). The possessed Dr. Dexter takes a position on a nuclear physics team developing advanced nuclear weapons.

Connections with other tales

* The Shining Trapezohedron is mentioned as having being fashioned on Yuggoth, an outpost of the Mi-Go mentioned in "The Whisperer in Darkness".
* "It (i.e. The Shining Trapezohedron) was treasured and placed in its curious box by the crinoid things of Antarctica", suggesting a connection with the Elder Things from "At the Mountains of Madness".
* The serpent-men of Valusia also held possession of the Shining Trapezohedron at one point, connecting it to the Kull tales of Robert E. Howard.
* The "catacombs of Nephren-Ka" are mentioned as the haunt of ghouls in "The Outsider", and Nephren-Ka is mentioned as the Pharaoh who built a temple with a lightless crypt to the Shining Trapezohedron "did that which caused his name to be stricken from all monuments and records".


John Coulthart illustrated the story, which was published in 1988 and reprinted in "H. P. Lovecraft's The Haunter of the Dark".


* Lovecraft, Howard P. "The Haunter of the Dark" (1936) in "The Dunwich Horror and Others", S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1984. ISBN 0-87054-037-8. Definitive version.

*cite book|first=Howard P.|last=Lovecraft|year=1999|title=More Annotated Lovecraft|chapter=The Haunter of the Dark|origyear=1936|editor=S. T. Joshi and Peter Cannon (eds.)|edition=1st|publisher=Dell|location=New York City, NY|id=ISBN 0-440-50875-4 With explanatory footnotes.


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