The Dreams in The Witch-House is a short story / novella by H. P. Lovecraft, part of his Cthulhu Mythos. I read it for the R.I.P. Challenge. I can’t believe I read so few horror-ish books for R.I.P. this year, but I am going to spend this last week making up for all the lost time.
I’ve always said, that the one thing that I love about Lovecraft’s stories, is the way he dives right into the mystery, horror and absurdity of the situations his characters are in. I also like how there is usually one lead character and the story revolves around his experiences with something beyond reality. It’s as if he strips off all the elements that may complicate a story, many characters, dialogues, small plot twists and other fluff and focuses the entire plot on the one thing that he does extremely well: intrigue and terrify the readers.
This story was no different. It is a tale about Walter Gilman, a student of mathematics and folklore, who moves to the Witch House, a place where the witch Keziah Mason lived after she escaped from Salem. Like all the previous occupants of the place, who mysteriously died prematurely, Gilman begins to suspect that he is being haunted by her. He spends nights dreaming feverishly of alien worlds and indescribable evils till he eventually encounters the witch and her freaky, rat-like familiar.
“May Eve was Walpurgis Night, when hell’s blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds. It was always a very bad time in Arkham, even though the fine folks up in Miskatonic Avenue and High and Saltonstall Streets pretended to know nothing about it. There would be bad doings, and a child or two would probably be missing.”
I had read about Lovecraft somewhere, before I had actually ever read his books and the article said, that the only way to enjoy Lovecraftian horror was to leave your brain aside and believe everything he throws at you. I don’t think that is very accurate now, because it doesn’t include the fact, that Lovecraft makes it very easy for the readers to believe in all the things that would seem ludicrous when written by most other writers. He has the uncanny knack of making just about anything seem completely realistic. It may be true, though, that not everyone can enjoy his books, but I do think everyone ought to try at least a few stories; you never know, you may actually like them.
If you like Lovecraft, if you’ve read anything by him and are used to his style, this is quite a good story. If you haven’t, you should, but this is not the best place to start. The first book I read by Lovecraft was The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, his only novel, and I would suggest that to first-timers, mostly because it is easier to get used to all the absurd, when it is novel-length. And of course, if you happen to read any similar authors or books on such cosmic horrors, recommendations are welcome!