The Lurking Fear

The Lurking Fear

Infobox short story |
name = The Lurking Fear
author = H. P. Lovecraft
country = United States
language = English
genre = Horror short story
publication_type = Periodical
published_in = Home Brew
publisher =
media_type = Print (Magazine)
pub_date = Jan-Apr, 1923

"The Lurking Fear" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft in the horror fiction genre. Written in November 1922, it was first published in the January through April 1923 issues of "Home Brew". [cite book | last = Straub | first = Peter | title = Lovecraft: Tales | publisher = The Library of America | date = 2005 | pages = p. 823 | isbn = 1-931082-72-3 ]


Like "Herbert West--Reanimator", earlier published in "Home Brew", "The Lurking Fear" was solicited by editor George Julian Houtain expressly to be published as a serial. Unlike with "Herbert West", however, Houtain ran recaps of the story so far with each installment after the first, relieving Lovecraft of the need for objectionable repetition.

Plot summary

The story is split up into 4 chapters:

I. The Shadow On The Chimney

The narrator, hearing tales of a "lurking fear" upon Tempest Mountain, takes two men with him to investigate. They camp inside the deserted Martense Mansion as a lightning storm approaches, and feeling strangely drowsy, they all fall alseep. The narrator wakes up to find both his companions missing, and in a flash of lightning sees a demonic shadow cast upon the fireplace chimney.

II. A Passer In The Storm

Continuing his investigation, the narrator teams up with Arthur Munroe, another journalist. The two find as much information as they can on the Mansion and environs, until they find themselves trapped by yet another storm. Bunkered in a small cabin, they witness a bright flash of lightning. Arthur looks out the window to survey the damage. The narrator, curious as to why Arthur is still staring out the window, turns him to find his face chewed off.

III. What The Red Glare Meant

As the narrator digs upon the grave of Jan Martense, he describes the history of the Martense family. Upon reaching the coffin, he continues to dig, and subsequently falls into a burrow. He crawls along, until he sees two eyes reflecting his torch-light in the darkness. Yet another lightning-strike causes the tunnel to cave in above the beast and the narrator has to dig his way to the surface. He spots a red glare in the distance that he learns was a cabin that the hillside squatters had set alight with one of the beasts inside.

IV. The Horror In The Eyes

The narrator continues to search for more clues, until it occurs to him that peculiar mounds of earth lead out in lines from the Mansion. He finds a burrow entrance in the basement as another storm approaches. Finding a hiding place, he watches as countless creatures crawl from the hole. He shoots the last over a clap of thunder, and upon closer inspection, notices the creature's heterochromia and realizes that the deformed, hair-covered creature is in fact a relative of the Martense family.


The narrator

The unnamed narrator describes himself as "a connoisseur in horrors", one whose "love of the grotesque and the terrible... has made my career a series of quests for strange horrors in literature and in life."

He reports that following his encounter with the lurking fear, "I cannot see a well or a subway entrance without shuddering"--an example of the phobias that often afflict Lovecraft's protagonists as a result of their experiences.

George Bennett and William Tobey

Described by the narrator as "two faithful and muscular men...long associated with me in my ghastly explorations because of their peculiar fitness."

Arthur Munroe

A reporter who comes to Lefferts Corners to cover the lurking fear, he is described as "a dark, lean man of about thirty-five, whose education, taste, intelligence, and temperament all seemed to mark him as one not bound to conventional ideas and experiences."

The name Munroe may derive from Lovecraft's childhood friends, the brothers Chester and Harold Munroe. Harold had gotten back in touch with Lovecraft a little more than a year before "The Lurking Fear" was written, and they had revisited a clubhouse they had constructed together as boys. [Joshi and Schultz, pp. 160, 175-176.]

Gerrit Martense

Gerrit Martense is "a wealthy New-Amsterdam merchant who disliked the changing order under British rule". He built the Martense mansion in 1670 "on a remote woodland summit whose untrodden solitude and unusual scenery pleased him." His descendants, who are "reared in hatred of the English civilisation, and trained to shun such of the colonists as accepted it," are distinguished by having one brown and one blue eye.

Martense is an old New Amsterdam name; there is a Martense Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, near Sonia Greene's apartment where Lovecraft stayed in April 1922. [Joshi and Schultz, pp. 59, 160.]

Jan Martense

Jan Martense is "the first of Gerrit's descendants to see much of the world"; he joins the colonial army in 1754, after hearing of the Albany Congress, a meeting that attempted to unite the North American colonies. When he returns to the Martense mansion in 1760, he is treated as an outsider by his family; he finds he can no longer "share the peculiarities and prejudices of the Martenses, while the very mountain thunderstorms failed to intoxicate him as they had before." When a friend looks for him in 1763, his relatives say that had been struck by lightning and killed the previous autumn; when the friend, suspicious, digs up Jan's unmarked grave, he discovers "a skull crushed cruelly as if by savage blows."

The Jan Martense Schenck house in Flatbush, built 1656, is the oldest surviving house in New York City. [Joshi and Schultz, p. 160.]

Robert Suydam in The Horror at Red Hook lives in a "lonely house, set back from Martense Street."


Comparing it to Lovecraft's earlier story in "Home Brew", Lin Carter said that while "The Lurking Fear" is "a more serious study in traditional horror, it lacks the light, almost joyous touch of 'Herbert West.'" [Carter, pp. 28-29.]

ee also

*The Lurking Fear (film), a 1994 film adaptation



*Lin Carter, "".
*S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, "An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia".
*H. P. Lovecraft, "The Lurking Fear", "Dagon and Other Macabre Tales".

External links

* [ "H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Lurking Fear'"] , The H. P. Lovecraft Archive; publication history
* [ "H. P. Lovecraft: The Lurking Fear"] , Text of the short story.

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